30 June 2009

My Top Ten Entertainment Experiences of 2008

This is waaaay over due at this point. Believe it or not, this post has existed as a draft since January 5th. What has taken me so long to finish it? "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans," man.

A refresher on the rules:

This encompasses not only the source of the entertainment (i.e. movie, burlesque show, concert, etc.) but also -- and more importantly -- the experience surrounding the event in question.

For instance, I really enjoyed Role Models, the movie starring my twin brother Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott. One of my favorite movies of 2008. However, the experience of going to see the film was average. Compare this to when we caught Revenge of the Sith a couple of years back at the Arclight in Hollywood, and representatives of the 501st legion of Stormtroopers were in attendance with Darth Vader. That was an entertainment experience to write home about!

So I realize this is a bit late, but here goes (in no particular order):

1. Kubrilesque

There were so many good burlesque shows in 2008, it is truly difficult for me to pick just one. But Kubrilesque was an incredible experience for a number of reasons. First, it was pretty early on in our journey into burlesque. We were still meeting people, getting to know the scene. Red performed in a couple of group numbers, as Alex in the tribute to A Clockwork Orange (and she's the hottest Alex ever) and in the Busby Berkeley-inspired 2001: A Space Odyssey extravaganza. So we were right in the thick of it, meeting new people.

Kubrilesque was presented at Cafe Fais Do-do, one of my favorite venues in Los Angeles. (I wrote glowingly of it in my review of Sound and Fury's Sherlock Holmes and the Saline Solution.) Red and I cajoled a large number of our theatre family to attend both nights, so there was that social aspect of the thing, the opportunity to share something we enjoy with people we love.

The Eyes Wide Shut number really hit on the second night, and was a transcendent experience for me. Crystal Swarovski's emergence towards the end was made all the more dramatic by the stark, flat lighting in the main ballroom.

2. Underbelly screening

Princess Farhana is a rock star, and to be invited to this screening was a distinct honor. The documentary is fantastic. We also met up with Celeste, one of Red's buds from the belly dance scene.

Putting on the sports jacket and driving out to a Hollywood landmark (The El Cid was reportedly built by D.W. Griffith) for the L.A. premiere of documentary film ... there was a moment there where I thought, "Wow! We've arrived. This is the sort of thing you do in Hollywood!" What a great night, schmoozing with friends and fellow artists and enjoying the belly dance acts that Farhana presented after the screening. That's what I call a night out on the town!

3. Xmas Smackdown

Kismet. That's how I describe this evening. Red had the opportunity to fill in for Penny Starr, Jr. for one night of this fun show. It was an evening of music and comedy with the very funny Mike Nutter and Cynthia Carle, featuring the Smackdown Singers, and storyteller Cindy Caponera. Red stripped to "Silver Bells" as performed by the Singers.

This all took place at Hallenbeck's General Store in North Hollywood, and I hope I get the invite for the next go 'round. I've since seen Nutter perform his twisted song "Baby Shredder" at Penny Starr, Jr.'s Victory Variety Hour. He's my kind of nut.

4. John Mayer

Yeah, I'm cheating. There were three John Mayer events this past year, and it's impossible to pick just one for this list. They did have one thing in common: The Fans.

First was the screening of Where the Light Is, his latest concert film. In December 2007, John Mayer played a concert for Toys for Tots. Three sets: John Mayer acoustic, the John Mayer Trio, and John Mayer with his full concert band. A remarkable evening that we missed due to a holiday office party. Naturally, when the opportunity presented itself to watch the concert on the big screen, we jumped at the chance.

The screening was at the Bridge multiplex, a cinema down towards Long Beach. Maybe it's in Venice ... I'm a little fuzzy. I know it's to the south and west of where we live. Great place! Some of the theatres have wait staff to fill your popcorn and soda orders. But they serve "real food" as well, and sell adult beverages. Very classy!

This was a fan club event, so we saw the film with John Mayer die hards. Met some really cool people that night!

The second morsel of John Mayer awesomeness came in the form of his Irvine concert. Fan club seats, and we were close to a fan club member who we've run into several times at concerts. She's great! It's so cool to make that kind of friend. The only thing you have in common is this one interest (John Mayer) and that's reason enough to be effusive when you see them again.

I also got to meet Brett Dennen when he autographed his cd for me. I have a newfound respect for people who ask for autographs.

Finally, we got to attend the second annual John Mayer holiday show. It was just Mayer onstage, no band, keeping us entertained for a couple of hours. It was our first journey to the Nokia Center and the new LA Live. Very slick place, completely and utterly disconnected from the rest of the city.

John Mayer, onstage alone, for a few hours. Really, no description would do it justice, but it was a bit like hanging out with that friend (or brother, or cousin) who's insanely talented at something and just watching them play through a set list. Very low-key and casual. The fans were incredible; I found myself chatting with complete strangers before and after the show like they were old friends.

5. Weezer Hootenanny

For a few hours, Pamela and I, along with dozens of other geeky Weezer fans, were members of Weezer. It's true: Rivers told us so.

6. Polly Peabody's show at Tangier

This was a stand-out event for one reason: Jewel of Denial. She's an English language teacher by day, and invited some of her students to the show. They were incredible; supportive and proud of their teacher. Burlesque can be so heartwarming at times!

7. Toy Puppet Theatre day at Disney Concert Hall

I got an email from a puppeteer friend telling me he was performing as part of a Maya Angelou poem-brought-to-life at this festival. That was enough reason to go. When I saw that Chicago's Redmoon Theatre would be performing "Once Upon a Time (or The Secret Language of Birds)" AND Laura Heit would be performing with her matchbox circus, the deal was sealed. Toy theatre is magic. The Disney Concert Hall is a beautiful place, and a wonderful setting for these miniature masterpieces.

8. The Bernini exhibit at the Getty Center

The last time I saw Bernini's work, it was summertime in Italy. The time spent examining these gorgeous marble sculptures was meditative and refreshing.

9. Tarantino Night at the Monday Night Tease

This is sort of cheating, but not quite. Although I was a part of this evening, I was able to enjoy most of it. It was my first introduction to the comedy stylings of Michael "NSFW" Schmidt, aka "The 40 Year-old Boy."

10. Pin-Up Girls

Without a doubt, the most incredible entertainment experience of 2008 for me. It's not that I wrote and directed it. Sure, that was cool. It was watching the show every night (I missed Act I twice) and watching the cast grow into their parts. It was seeing the faces coming and going from the house.

So that's that. Really freaking late, but done.