Karl: What’s today? The 14th? It’s May 14th, I’m here with “Char,” and we’re enjoying brunch at Basix.
What’s your occupation?
Char: Freelance Designer.
Karl: What type of design?
Char: Costume and jewelry.
Karl: How’s that been going for you in LA?
Karl: You’re all over the place aren’t you? I mean your jewelry.
Char: Oh yeah, it’s all over the country, and Puerto Rico.
Char: And Hawaii. *laughs* Off this continent! Yeah, no, everywhere from North Carolina to San Francisco, Illinois and Minnesota, but mostly west coast.
Karl: And you started here in LA, right?
Char: Yes. The first store that I was in was on the Cahuenga Pass on the way over to Burbank. So Burbank I guess. The second store, when I first started to really put it out in stores “for real,” was in Venice, and that’s still my best store.
Karl: And what are some of the more interesting costume-design projects you’ve worked on?
Char: “Super Dave,” I think, was the best one, I mean, the most exposure. And you know, everyone knows who Super Dave is. *laughs* And I’ve done a lot of theater. Now I’m doing infomercials and commercials more than anything else, just ’cause they’re short and fast and I can still do my jewelry business. It’s more styling than costume design, which is fine too, because I like shopping. *laughs* Less stress. I mean it’s way less creative, but it’s less emotional for me, so that’s good. I’m not torturing myself over it.
Karl: Feel free to dig into your food, *points to Char’s untouched salad* No one’s going to hear the audio, they’re just going to read what you said. *wink*
Current relationship status?
Char: “Living with boyfriend…” who’s unemployed.
Karl: Unemployed teacher.
Karl: Where do you guys live?
Karl: I hear K-town’s pretty hoppin’.
Char: Not really. We call it “Korea-juana.” *sips diet coke* And actually, the people who used to live upstairs, who got kicked out, tried to break into our apartment. They got kicked out really fast after that. They preyed the bars off the window… you know there has to be one bar… there’s a mechanism inside so that if there’s a fire, you can jump out the window. And he somehow preyed that away while we were sleeping and…
Karl: Oh my God!
Char: Yeah, he was all wasted. My boyfriend opened the blinds and was like, “What are you doing?” ‘Cause the guy was standing right there, looking up at him. *laughs* And then he stumbled upstairs and went to bed. We told our landlords and they… First they were, really defensive, like it was wasn’t their business, but then they kicked him out.
Karl: That’s terrifying.
Char: And then one of the landlord’s kids moved in upstairs which is awesome, because he takes out the garbage, and is super-quiet. There’s no noise. There’s not like, crazy Mexican-underground railroad going on upstairs, which I had a very strong suspicion was going on. Not even joking! There were so many people coming and going, I was like, “What the hell is going on up there!” *laughs* So, yeah… we live in Koreatown right now… It’s sure hoppin’ with something’. *explodes into hysterical laughter* Not the hip vibe you’d think.
Karl: How long have you been in LA?
Char: Uh… 10-years.
Karl: What brought you here?
Char: School. I went to FIDM, and I came out here for fashion. And I didn’t even think of LA as a place that I would settle and live. Not that I’m settled, really, but, that I would live in for any extended period of time, ’cause I didn’t even know that they made movies here and this whole industry. I was just like, “Okay, I’m going here for school. I don’t know anyone and I’ll be back to the east coast within a year or two.” And then I ended up staying here, and having, you know, being exposed to all the stuff that I’m doing now. The design and the creativity, I didn’t even really know that it existed. I had no idea. I wasn’t one of those people who are like, *in exaggerated, stoned, surfer-voice* “I’m moving to Los Angeles to work in movies.” I had no clue what Hollywood was, it never entered my mind that is was a place that I would ever be. It’s really weird.
Karl: *sips coffee* Alright, Char, tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do in your free-time outside of work.
Char: Um… *thinks* I go to yoga. I go hiking… which is a cool part of LA.
Karl: Yeah? Tell me about yoga.
Char: Okay, so I do Bikram yoga, which is yoga you do in a 100° to 110° room, for 90-minutes, and it’s 26-poses that… The concept is that you’re cutting off blood supply to one part of your body, and then when you finish the pose after doing 60-seconds to 2-minutes, you let the blood rush back in, and it does all this crazy stuff to your body. Its cool! Bikram is a real-person, who is still alive, and his school-of-yoga is actually in LA, on La Cienega. But I went by there yesterday and I think it’s closed. He must’ve moved somewhere else. He’s a real person, that’s alive still, it’s his concept of yoga and he teaches it to people here. So it’s kind of like, his central, which is very strange. *pause* He’s from India!
Karl: Well, that validates it then.
Char: Totally. Yeah, and I mean, it’s a really… It’s way different than other yoga, but I think it’s great! I don’t like other yoga, I’m not into the incense and namas-de, and the whole thing. This is something that’s… you’re meditating on what you’re doing and you’re totally focused for 90-minutes straight. Like, I can’t do that otherwise. There’s no way for me to meditate, or focus in on something, other than work, for that long. You know? *laughs*
Karl: My therapist has been trying to get me into yoga for a long time.
Char: Try Bikram, because, it’s like a workout too, you’d like it. It’s a time-commitment, that’s the only thing. But… I go to a class at 6 a.m. They have classes throughout the day, and there’s studios all over the place. Where do you work?
Karl: Manhattan Beach.
Char: Yeah, there’s one in Manhattan Beach I used to go to.
Karl: You would go all the way down there?
Char: When I lived in Venice, I went to that one.
Karl: So you’ve been doing this for awhile.
Char: Off and on, yeah. My sister was really into it and would do it everyday. And then she did something to her hip so she had to stop. But, I’m not doing it that intensely.
Karl: What changes have you seen in the 10-years that you’ve been here?
Char: Um… *thinks* When I first moved here, and I had a guy that I was dating, that lived really close to here, he used to live really close to here. And it was, West Hollywood was, a predominantly gay *whispers the word “gay”* area. And I think that people have moved in here with their kids and everything, ’cause maybe it was considered a “safe area?” You know? And, it IS different. My friend, since then, has turned gay, and then moved out of this area. Now he lives over in Hollywood. But, I think that the shopping has changed a little bit, that’s something that I notice. You know, along Santa Monica, used to be all like, gay-dude stores. And now it’s more of a mix of clothing stores and art stores and stuff like that. It’s really obvious.
*waiter pours Karl more coffee*
I used to not go, there was no… If you wanted to go out to a bar over here, especially between La Cienga and San Vicente, it was all gay-bars. And now you can walk down the street and it’s not like, I’m the only girl there, when it really used to be. It’s funny that I would be walking down the street with my “guy-that-I-was-dating” who then turned out to be gay, and I’m like, “Why do you live over here?” *laughs* Now it all makes sense.
I don’t know about changes in this area. Well, another thing is, I remember when the bars on La Cienega were totally normal and easy to get into. Now they’re this big scene, you have to wait in line and it’s totally annoying. I never would’ve been let in years ago, with my dreads, had they been so full of themselves.
Karl: No kidding! Even Barney’s Beanery got a red velvet rope a few years ago. I think Tom Leykis caused that curse.
So… Do you think that everybody moved here with kids, because it’s safe, or do you think the crowd that was here 10-years ago…
Char: …has kids now?
Karl: Yeah, now has kids?
Char: It might be that.
Karl: A little of both maybe. ‘Cause it is a nice place to raise kids. I can see it attracting people with kids.
Char: Now, it’s pretty expensive to live over here. But it used to be… I lived here at one point and it was reasonable. I had a big house with my boyfriend, a 2-bedroom, and it was only $1400. That same house now is probably like $3K. It had a washer and dryer, we had parking, it was on Huntley, right near the Pacific Design Center, which is a really nice neighborhood. But at the time, the rent was totally reasonable.
Karl: I didn’t realize it had spiked that much.
Karl: What do think about all that, and about everything we just mentioned? Did you like it better then or do you like it better now?
Char: Uhh… I’m indifferent. It’s just different. There are different neighborhoods that are becoming more gentrified, and nicer to live in that were scary before. And now neighborhoods that were so desirable to live in, like the South part of Beverly Hills, I would never want to live here now, just because it’s so inconveniently located.
Karl: Well, do you see that happening with K-town too?
Char: Definitely. For sure. There are still rough parts, and streets that I wouldn’t want to walk down by myself in the middle-of-the-night. But my street, even though it’s not the ideal place for me because the neighbors bug me, my street is totally safe.
Karl: Yeah, from what I’ve heard, Koreatown is gentrifying pretty quick.
Char: But, it’s still… like… I mean, we joke about it, but it’s still just a step above Mexico, even on my street which is pretty safe. There are still apartments that are like, 12-people, all living in the same place, in a 1-bedroom apartment. That’s crazy, like… that’s why it’s so crowded on the streets in that area, because they have, as far as parking goes… 12-people shouldn’t be living in a 1-bedroom apartment with one parking spot. Then there’s going to be too many cars. So it seems like a lot more people than it should be still. But, I think… Like, I know my landlord, when I moved over there, was SO excited to have a single girl living in this apartment. He gave me such a great deal on the apartment that I don’t want to move. I mean I do, but the apartment is SUCH a great deal. And it includes utilities, has a washer and dryer.
Waiter: Still working on your salad?
Char: Yes. *takes a bite of salad* So, yeah. I remember when I lived here, and I broke up with that guy, we broke up, I was looking at apartments by myself, and I looked in my neighborhood, and a 1-bedroom, that was a huge 1-bedroom, was like $650-$700 at the time. Now it’s like $1200.
Karl: Well, where did you used to go out, if you did, and where do you go out now?
Char: I used to go out to, well, I’m the kind of person who has one-place they like to go, and I went to Daddy’s which was on Vine, which is no longer. They closed it because they were building the W there. *pause to chew* And so I don’t go out anymore. If I go out, I go to the Cat Club to see my friend’s band play. We just went the other night, that’s like, a social thing for me. I’m like, “Oh there’s a purpose for me going.” Or we go to Bar Lubitsch on Santa Monica and… Ogden maybe? It’s a vodka bar, they have bands that play there. It’s a little bit over-priced but they’ve got really nice booths, and live music, and it’s not like shoulder-to-shoulder-packed. I go out for music and that’s it. I don’t go out to just, get drunk anymore.
Karl: Yeah, we’ve probably outgrown that, huh?
Char: Totally. *laughs* Dude, I get hungover from drinking like 1-drink. Oh, by the way, my boyfriend saw me drunk for the first time at a wedding recently, and he was, like, appalled.
Char: He was like, “What are you doing? You’re trying to embarrass me!” I was like, “No, I was just drunk, dude. I have no idea.” *laughs* I was like, “I thought I was funny.” He was like, “You were pouting!” I was like, “Yeah, I get that way.” He did not know what to think. He was like, “Oh, I thought you were, like, mad at me.” I was like, “No, I was just wasted, I barely remember what was going on.” *laughs*
Karl: Yeah, my wife and I can’t stand each other when we’re drunk.
Char: Oh, I can’t stand him when he’s drunk. *laughs* But I think that’s a good sign. Who wants to be in a relationship where you have to be drunk to make sense?
Karl: Yeah, all the resentment comes out. *laughs* It gets so ugly.
Char: Well, I know married couples who are wasted all the time. I think something’s wrong with that. I’m not judging, but I wouldn’t want to have that relationship. *laughs*
Karl: Describe the general attitude of the community here.
Char: I think, well, it depends. I feel like it’s just normal here. There are other parts of town that are more… stuck up. If you go to like, Echo Park, people are so, *exaggerated “stuck-up” voice* “Oh, I have such a chip-on-my-shoulder.” I feel like West Hollywood is just…
Char: Chill. Yeah. All different types of people. Everybody working in different types of fields. Not just Hollywood. Everyone’s not talking about their movies, or the job their working on, there’s more of a mix.
Karl: I’m always impressed with how many people here don’t do anything all day.
Char: Well, they’re freelance, so… Sometimes you don’t work. You know what always strikes me too? I think a lot of people here, don’t have to work. Like, their parents are loaded, and they are independently wealthy or whatever, and they literally don’t have to have a job. And so they just shop and are just a total consumer. You know? And that’s great for me, because I want them to consume my product. But I get so bitter about it sometimes. *laughs*
Karl: Has the place gotten better or worse?
Char: I think it’s just different. And I’m not, like… I don’t hate it or love it any more than I used to, I’m kind of just the same… Like there’s certain things about West Hollywood that I love, and there are certain things that I just can’t stand.
Karl: Do you think it’s lost or changed it’s identity? It had a very defined identity a decade ago. Do you think it still has that identity?
Char: It definitely has a touch of it. Not as strongly. It’s not as strongly, a boy’s town.
Karl: So it turned into a regular neighborhood?
Char: When my boyfriend moved here, he was like, “What are those S&M, guy-shops that I see?” And I’m like, “Oh yeah, that’s boy’s town.” But its not as… I mean, 10-years ago you’d drive down Santa Monica and you were like, “OH MY! Where am I?” It’s not as much now.
Karl: What would you like to see more of or less of?
Char: Like what?
Karl: What do you think would make this city better? Or… getting rid of something would make this city a better place to live.
Char: *thinks* I don’t know… I mean, the amount of homeless people is, like, fine, whatever, I don’t get people asking me for money TOO much, you know, like having to fend them off. I think if I were working in, or going to different parts of town more, I would, but I just kind of, don’t go to those places. Or I’m not around them enough to be bothered by it. The intersections that have the homeless-people always at them, you know, like the one in front of the Beverly Center. There’s always people… You know, when I HAVE to go there, I notice… and am like, “Why is that person begging for money and they have an iPod?”
Karl: Right. I drive through that intersection every morning.
Char: And they’re in that little lane in the middle.
Karl: Yeah, that’s a hot place. I bet they fight over that spot actually, bet there’s a lot of tension around that median.
Char: But… The restaurants are still… I still come over here for sushi, and to go to certain stores, and certain restaurants. I go to Hugo’s a lot, which is like, that’s like staples that are here, and have been for a long time. Hopefully that doesn’t change. I don’t think it will, I think it’s more established.
*waiter brings check*
Karl: Are you happy here?
Char: Yeah. I like it.
Karl: You’ve done pretty well.
Char: The only thing that really worries me is, I’ll have to rent an apartment forever, and I feel like I’m just throwing away my money. I don’t even want to think about it, but if you think of how much money you pay in rent over 10-years, and not owning. You could own a place. But it just seems impossible for somebody like me who’s freelance. I don’t have a huge amount savings, I don’t have a 401K, I don’t have health care.
Karl: Well, it’s a total market for a first-time buyer right now.
Char: If I would’ve just had it together enough, when I moved here, to buy a house, they were so fucking cheap! And now, it’s just, unbelievable. Even in Venice, and Venice was a tough area, like gangs. I had my first job in Venice, and my boss would make me park right next to the door. She’s like, “I don’t want you walking down the street after dark. If you’re here late, move your car over there, don’t walk across the street.” Because it was really gangy. And now it’s so freaking’ expensive. And, I mean, it’s cool down there, it’s like this cool architectural… all these different houses and concepts, and it’s really cool, but it’s totally not reachable for a normal person.
Karl: So what will this place be like 10, 20-years from now?
Char: I don’t think it’ll change that much. I mean, the industry is not going anywhere. It’s like movies aren’t suddenly gonna… I mean they’re definitely making movies in other places, and making it attractive to make movies in other places, but it’s not going to leave here. And the fashion industry that’s here is staying here. It’s cheaper than in New York, to manufacture things here just because of the rent prices. And people are turning more toward manufacturing things in the U.S. so I think that’s bringing business here, for that industry. So I don’t know. I’m not really great at seeing trends for the future, like, even in my own life, I don’t know what the next 10-years will bring.
Oh! One thing that’s really changed, I should mention, is the weed stores. You can’t walk a block without seeing a pot store. It’s crazy! Like, there’s more pot-stores in LA than there are Starbucks and MacDonalds combined.
Karl: Are you sure? Really?
Char: Isn’t that weird? There’s like, over 500 in LA-proper. *laughs* It just blew up so fast.
Karl: Yeah, I haven’t gotten my card yet. *laughs*
Char: *laughs* You know what, I haven’t either because I am fine buying it from people that I buy from for cheaper than they sell it in the store anyway. I don’t need the novelty. A lot of my friends are into it, and I’m just like, “You know what…”
Karl: Well, my friend, Chris, he’s a big fan…
Char: I guess it’s convenient, and you get your choice of a whole slew of different things. I just haven’t gotten to the point that it’s necessary yet.
Karl: He says he went in there, and he got his prescription, and he walked out feeling like he had just done something wrong. *laughs*
Char: That’s the other thing, I’m scared to go get my prescription. And I have like valid things to get it. I have horrible food allergies, if I eat gluten or something, literally the only thing that helps me is to get stoned. Because it helps the digestion, I don’t know.
Karl: Well, I don’t think you have anything to be afraid of.
Char: Uh, I don’t know. I’d be in there, and be like making up some story and they’d be like, *exaggerated authoritative voice and waving finger* “YOU CAN’T GET IT!” Even though they give it to every-single person. *laughs*
Karl: At Halloween, the one up the street waves people in.
Karl: Well, those are all my questions. Anything crazy happen over the last 10-years you want to share before I turn the recorder off?
Char: I just think the most stereo-typical thing that could happen was that I dated a guy that turned out to be gay. When that happened, I was like, “I am a cliché!”
Karl: That’s devastating, right? You were in-love with the guy.
Char: I don’t know if I was in love with him as much as I was obsessed with him because I couldn’t have him. There was this mystery that he wouldn’t let me in on. But, in the month after-the-fact, I was like, “Oh my God, I’ve become a cliché of Los Angeles.” This all happened in West Hollywood on Alfred Street. In the thick of it all, I didn’t realize what was going on. How dumb was I? But… It’s better. He’s better free and… gayly walking around town. *laughs*
Karl: How long did you date him for?
Char: Off and on for 4-years. I didn’t live with him. We would, be dating, and then we’d break up for some reason or another, and he would literally flee the city, and like, go to New York, or go home for months-at-a-time, because he couldn’t handle what was going on. He couldn’t tell me, obviously. And this went on for 4-years. He’d even come and cause problems with other people that I was dating. And they would be like, “Well, he is so into you, and you’re still into him.” With two different people, it caused problems. And then he’d sweep in afterwards and save me, and be there for me, and we’d be dating again. And then I just got it out of him at one point. Something happened. I knew that something sketchy was going on, and all of a sudden I just knew what it was and, like, yelled, “Are you gay” at him until he said, “Yes!” *laughs* And in hindsight, it was all very dramatic, I fell down on the floor and cried. There’s nothing like that, like wondering what is going on and you don’t know. It answered so many questions.
Karl: Did you think he was cheating on you or something?
Char: No, I thought that he didn’t think I was attractive enough, so I was obsessively exercising, and fasting, and he didn’t like my dreadlocks so I cut my dreadlocks off. And just everything. I thought that I wasn’t good enough for him, when really it was just that I was…
Karl: A girl.
Char: A girl. So I would NEVER be good enough. *laughs* I laugh about it now, but after he told me, I went through these stages of grieving. But I’m definitely distanced from him now. And, that’s fine. For a long time, I had to have him in my life, but now I’m just kinda like… *shrugs* It’s fine.
He’s fucking crazy. I don’t need it. I’m trying to be stable. *laughs* TRYING to be.
Karl: Are any of us, really?