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Getting the L.A. story

New York arts magazine Paper visits Melrose -- and creates a scene.

December 10, 2005|Daniel Hernandez | Times Staff Writer

FUN, creative, and most importantly, cute.

It was hard to get away from that word this week when Paper magazine -- New York's pioneering style and culture publication -- landed here for a five-day stand of music, fashion, art and low-impact sports.

"The crowd last night was so cute. Not fashion cute, but creative cute. Cute," Paper co-founder and co-editor Kim Hastreiter said after Tuesday's opening night party. "To have a party that good and that cute, and not have a movie star, it's like a relief."

Paper came out West to check up on Los Angeles, and Los Angeles -- or a certain slice of it -- came out to check out Paper. Paper's been in Los Angeles before, but this is the first time it's brought the entire operation out here.

A roomful of reliable L.A. fashionistas, rockers and media types greeted the arrival of Paper and what the magazine calls its "cultural department store" at the ACME gaming shop and gallery on Melrose Avenue. Mark "The Cobra Snake" Hunter took pictures. The Hearts Challenger ice cream truck provided tasty treats outside. Bar service was provided by BeautifulBartenders.com. The magazine is bringing together L.A. artists, musicians, DJs, designers, curators and other creative types for panels, "fashion wrestling," themed aerobics sessions and lots of picture taking at the Paper Project L.A. site on Melrose. The result of all this will be Paper's first all-L.A. issue, due in February. The editors say it will celebrate the West Coast as a place that the East Coast can consider a fountain for inspiration. Especially at a time when the boho, do-it-yourself spirit is getting tougher to locate in rapidly Disney-fying Manhattan.

"L.A. is much funkier, in the best sense of the word, than New York. There's no, like, poor young creative people in New York anymore," Hastreiter said. "Whenever I come here, it really reminds me of what I miss."

"The whole graffiti street art world, a lot of it is here now," added co-editor David Hershkovits, who with Hastreiter founded Paper in downtown Manhattan in 1984 as a fold-up poster. "There's so much going on here. It has its own scene, and it doesn't need validation from the mainstream media for it to be good."

On Wednesday night, L.A. band Foreign Born played in the sleek, colorful space, followed by rapper Mickey Avalon, a white guy in glam-rock makeup.

Last night, a panel discussing "the ascension of transgression" featured L.A. artists Shepard Fairey, Camille Rose Garcia, Mr. Cartoon and Paper's senior editor and art critic Carlo McCormick. Tonight, for the closing party, the L.A. experimental art-pop band and international art world darlings Los Super Elegantes are playing.

A pair of identically dressed, pale-faced New York artists known collectively as Andrew Andrew followed Paper to L.A. this week to DJ during the day and interview partyers at night for special podcasts, available at the magazine's website, www.papermag.com."What's your idea of heaven?" Andew Andrew asked the gathered scenesters one night.

"My idea of heaven? ... Probably involves a lot of vodka," said one respondent. "A real nice Spanish-style cabana, basically."

"Mine is the guy walking around in the green jacket with the fur-lined hood," said one male voice.

("It's amazing how many people lived in New York and then moved out here," Andrew Andrew -- one of them, at least -- commented later. "It's something in the water. We're convinced.")

Photographer Torkil Gudnason is shooting a special "Tribes of L.A." photo spread for the upcoming issue, featuring more than 20 locally grown "tribes," such as "Eastside Betties," "The Krumpers," "Sexy Vegans," "Black Hollywood Wives" and fashion designer and notable L.A. scenester "Brian Lichtenberg and all his kids, who have a whole look," Hastreiter said.

Digging far and wide for L.A.'s distinct subcultures and bringing them together is to be expected of Paper, said Laurie Pike, editor of LA.com and one of the first staffers at the magazine when she lived back East. Paper has built its reputation on highlighting not what's trendy but what's original and unique, often well before such things become certifiably hip. And there seems to be no better place to unearth a new underground these days than in Los Angeles, Pike said, partly because New York is so saturated with, well, itself.

"Everything feels so cannibalized instantly [in New York]," Pike said. "Nothing happens without 5,000 bloggers writing about it and covering it....And in L.A. you still happen upon these original stories that no one else is covering."

Naturally, some are a little skeptical of Paper's stand in L.A., even among the achingly cool who have eagerly shown up to the nightly parties anyway.

"Paper ran out of ideas and New York socialites, and so, here they are, trying to do an issue," said Nina Phixion, a stylist and member of the band Ponce de Leon, during Wednesday night's "Hipster Heaven" party.

"L.A. is the old new New York!" shouted Loren Granic from nearby.

The scene around them was a gaggle of mini bold-face names and L.A. scenesters (Jesse Camp, Steve Aoki, James St. James) wearing cascading assemblages of homemade jewelry and outfits constructed to suggest whimsical stock characters that exist only in the closets of certain L.A. imaginations: The retro goth flapper. The futuristic space pirate. The Guatemalan stewardess.

"We're the place to be in the winter when it's cold everywhere else," Phixion explained, raising her glass. "It's December, and you can show some skin here."

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