Events

2018 Vulture Festival Los Angeles: Sunday

For pop culture junkies, it’s easy to go way too hard at the Vulture Festival knowing that you could be getting the inside scoop on Syfy’s Deadly Class one moment and touring Grand Central Market with Phil Rosenthal and Nancy Silverton the next. We learned our lesson from last year and paced ourselves accordingly on Sunday, focusing on a handful of the festival’s returning “signature” events. Read on for some of our favorite moments from Day Two.

Amber Tamblyn and Roxane Gay Host Feminist AF

There’s nothing like a good walkout jam, and co-hosts Amber Tamblyn and Roxane Gay nailed it with a throwback to M.I.A.’s “Bad Girls” as they took the stage alongside guests America Ferrera, Ada Limón and Carmen Maria Machado for their Feminist AF reading series. Gay began by reminding the audience that just last week, 110 women were elected to the United States Congress. This transitioned nicely into a reading of “Be a Good Boy,” from the collection Forty-Four Stories about Our Forty-Four Presidents; the flash fiction piece centers around an intimate moment between John F. Kennedy and his wife Jackie in their White House bedroom as John considers how the building does not feel like home.

Poet Ada Limón captivated the audience with “How to Triumph Like a Girl,” a visceral evocation of female strength through the image of an “8-pound female horse heart.” Though the poem was written several decades ago, it was recently published in her collection Bright Dead Things and won a 2015 Pushcart Prize. Carmen Maria Machado followed with her self-described “hit single,” “The Husband Stitch,” from Her Body and Other Parties. The story—whose title refers to an extra stitch given during the repair process after a vaginal birth, supposedly to tighten the vagina for increased pleasure of a male sexual partner—plays on the schoolyard tale of the girl who wears a mysterious green ribbon around her neck.

Pants-sharing BFFs America Ferrera and Amber Tamblyn closed out the reading series, each sharing intimate, emotional essays. Ferrera read an excerpt from her personal contribution to an anthology she recently edited, called American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures; the essay discusses a trip to Honduras when Ferrera encountered her estranged father’s grave by happenstance. Tamblyn followed by taking us back to Election Night 2016—a night she spent at the Javits Center in Manhattan amongst fellow Hillary Clinton supporters, watching “Katy Perry anxiously chew[ing] on a celery stick.” Tamblyn’s essay, from her upcoming collection Era of Ignition, follows her journey through carrying a pregnancy to term post-election and her worry about keeping her daughter safe in this world. She ended her reading by playing a recording of her daughter’s heartbeat, eliciting heavy sighs and a smattering of sniffles from the audience.

Off Book: The Improvised Musical Podcast Live!

At this point, our Vulture Festival experience wouldn’t be complete without an absurd musical number from Rachel Bloom. Thanks to Jessica McKenna and Zach Reino of Off Book—an improvised musical podcast, just like the tagline says—a lucky handful of folks got to experience just that, in an oddly fitting velveted lounge in the basement of The Hollywood Roosevelt.

McKenna and Reino are forces of improv nature, spinning a hilarious melodic tale about Disneyland’s Tower of Terror ride right before our very ears. There was fantasy! There was drama! There was a song about STDs! At one point, they even sang a number about being forces of literal nature with McKenna’s “Lightning” and Reino’s “Thunder” shepherding special guest Bloom along in her role as “Hurricane.” I can definitively say that I’ve never seen or heard anything like it. And, as McKenna and Reino told the audience, it’s impossible to experience that exact musical ever again.

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Pop Culture

An Abandoned Sports Authority Transforms into a Disneyland-Lover’s Dream Exhibit

 

I was listening to a radio interview with Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard the other day about the rapid changes he’s observed in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, his home for the past twenty years. Gibbard noted that his sadness over the morphing urban landscape isn’t directly due to buildings being demolished or shops closing down. Rather, he feels that his memories are connected to physical places and grieves as these familiar haunts—and with them, his memories—begin to disappear.

I couldn’t help but think of Gibbard’s analogy about “plugging your hard drive into physical places” when I first heard of “That’s From Disneyland!” a super-sized exhibit of Disneyland memorabilia owned by music agent Richard Kraft. When Kraft’s brother Dave passed away, he rediscovered their shared childhood moments at The Happiest Place on Earth. Rather than contenting himself with a set of mouse ears or a snow globe of Cinderella’s castle, Kraft began to collect vintage souvenirs and rare artifacts from Disney Parks, eventually amassing more than 750 items over the next two decades.

Kraft’s collection is currently on display in—drumroll, please—an abandoned Sports Authority in the San Fernando Valley. Much like a fairy godmother, famed auction house Van Eaton Galleries has turned the space into a 20,000 square foot pop-up exhibit, where guests are invited to get up close and personal with items such as a once-submerged giant sea serpent from “The Submarine Voyage” ride, José the animatronic Enchanted Tiki Room bird, and all four Original Haunted Mansion Stretching Room paintings. An intimate theater space, dubbed “Club Kraftland,” is located directly above the makeshift gallery and hosts a handful of special ticketed events throughout the remainder of the exhibit’s run.

Personally, I do very much enjoy Disneyland, but to an extent—as in, my once-a-year gratis trip courtesy of a friend who does fancy lighting stuff down at Disney World in Florida. That said, I’m always curious about people who are into Disney. Even more so, I’m absolutely fascinated by the kind of Disney-a-holic who would drive all the way to an abandoned sporting goods store in Sherman Oaks and stand in line to see a bunch of old stuff that used to be in a theme park.

After hanging out with some super fans at last Saturday’s Club Kraftland event, however, I began to understand a bit more about Disney fandom, nay, obsession. The notion of memory being inextricably tied to a place—and said place being The Happiest Place on Earth—seemed to be true for almost all of the folks I encountered at the event, “Hanging Out With Paul Scheer: Disney Edition,” including Scheer’s guests: Jeff Garlin (The Goldbergs, Toy Story 3, and Wall-E), Ben Schwartz (Parks & Rec, Ducktales), Rachel Bloom (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Robot Chicken), and Allie Goertz (musician and editor at Mad magazine).

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The event, a Disney-centric version of Scheer’s monthly Largo show, seemed much like a two-hour, adults-only version of show-and-tell. Bloom, a native of Manhattan Beach, brought her parents Shelli and Alan, who became even more devoted to Disneyland long after they could use their daughter as an excuse to go to the park. Meanwhile, Garlin told a cringe-worthy story about the connection between his eldest son’s circumcision and a suspicious foil envelope thrown into the moat surrounding Sleeping Beauty’s castle (you do the math).

Club Kraftland is set to host two more events: “Maltin on Movies” with film critic Leonard Maltin and his daughter Jessie in conversation with Disney legend Floyd Norman, tonight, August 22nd; and “A Whole New World of Alan Menken,” a charity concert featuring legendary Disney composer Alan Menken, on Friday, August 24th. Additionally, “That’s From Disneyland!” will culminate in a two-day auction of the entire collection over the weekend, since, as Richard puts it, he’s ready to “let it go.”

“That’s From Disneyland!” runs through August 24th and is open from noon to 8 p.m. Entrance to the exhibit is free. The two-day auction will be held on Saturday, August 25th and Sunday, August 26th. A portion of the proceeds from the auction will go to the Coffin-Siris Foundation and CHIME Institute, two organizations that work with children with developmental disorders. For more information about location, tickets to Club Kraftland events, and the auction, please visit their website.

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Events

2017 Vulture Festival Los Angeles: Sunday

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Am I completely and totally exhausted from all of the excitement of the Vulture Festival this weekend? Yes. Is my head still spinning from all the dazzling insight I’ve learned about my favorite pop culture obsessions? Yes. Would I do it all again next year? Absolutely. Read on for some of the highlights from Day Two.

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Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: 100th Song Celebration Sing-A-Long

If you haven’t already watched the comedic genius that is The CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, do yourself a favor this Thanksgiving holiday and watch an episode or two (or ten!) of the critically acclaimed cult favorite. The Vulture Festival event was a little less like sitting through your typical panel and a little more like finding yourself in the middle of a musical theater rehearsal—albeit one that features folks from network TV alongside 400 super-eager extras.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend co-creators Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna, along with cast members Vincent Rodriguez III, Scott Michael Foster, Donna Lynne Champlin, Pete Gardner, Vella Lovell, Gabrielle Ruiz and David Hull treated a packed audience to some tasty trivia about the cast, a peek behind-the-scenes of some of the show’s most memorable musical numbers, and, of course, those promised sing-a-longs.

A few fun facts: Rodriguez, who plays Josh, auditioned for his role by accompanying himself on the guitar while singing and rapping “Thugz Mansion” by Tupac Shakur. Why such a bold move? For one, he had the song ready from his audition for the Broadway musical Holler If Ya Hear Me. Bloom added that the audition instructions asked for them to “showcase musical ability such as singing, playing guitar, or rapping” and mused that Rodriguez had understood it to mean he had to do all three, all at once.

On the other hand, Hull, who plays White Josh, auditioned for the role of Greg but didn’t even get a callback. However, the casting director noted that he “kind of looks like a white Josh” and decided to create that role if the show ended up going to series. However, Hull wasn’t notified that a part was being written for him, and it wasn’t until much, much later that Hull received a call about White Josh.

As for the sing-a-long, I hate to say that you had to be there, but well, you really had to be there to experience the magic that comes from belting out “Let’s Generalize About Men,” “Getting Bi,” and “West Covina” with the cast. But, a small consolation for those who couldn’t attend—Paula’s new song, “Very First Penis I Saw,” debuted at the festival, and it, my friends, is an absolute delight that is coming to your TV very soon.

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American Vandal

The ever-lingering question of “Who drew the dicks?” was asked once again during the American Vandal panel, featuring stars Jimmy Tatro and Tyler Alvarez, co-creators Dan Perrault and Tony Yacenda, and showrunner Dan Lagana. Although many—including friends of Tatro and Alvarez—are still confused as to who was actually guilty of the crime after the show’s premiere on Netflix, the creators felt pretty certain they had answered it in the season finale.

“We feel like we told you exactly who did it,” Lagana argued. “[We] just had Peter (Alvarez) have a moral compass at the end, saying, ‘If I didn’t have hard evidence, me definitively saying who did it on camera in my doc would make me no better than the school system…but I have my theory!’ It’s like, that’s his theory! That’s who did it!”

However, the answer to the bigger of question of what’s in-store for Season 2 of American Vandal remains more elusive. All Perrault and Yacenda would share is that it will take place at a brand new, preppy high school, with Peter and Sam (Griffin Gluck) investigating yet another hilariously absurd crime.

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Lena Waithe and Common Unveil The Chi

The festival concluded with an advance screening of the upcoming Showtime drama series The Chi, followed by a discussion with creator and producer Lena Waithe and executive producer Common. Officially premiering on January 7th, The Chi follows the lives of folks living in the South Side of Chicago. The show deals with a number of difficult, yet extremely important social justice matters, and with the pilot episode, Waithe puts one of these issues at the forefront of the conversation: Why do black bodies have to die before their lives start to matter?

Before you think that this is just another one of those way too serious, didactic TV dramas, think again. At its core, The Chi has a joyful heart—not to mention a sense of humor snappier than a Chrissy Teigen clapback—though this doesn’t quite come through in the show’s premise, nor its heavy-handed teaser trailer. Both Waithe and Common grew up in Chicago, which undoubtedly allowed for them to create an authentic portrayal of, for better or worse, one of the country’s most notorious locales. This reputation is not entirely unwarranted—and the show doesn’t shy away from that fact—but The Chi also depicts the South Side as a complex, nuanced place with a robust cast of characters and stories that you can really sink your teeth into.

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Events

Get Your Pop Culture Fix at Vulture Festival Los Angeles

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Calling all pop culture lovers: Are you feeling a little empty inside after realizing you blew through the new season of Stranger Things this Halloweekend? Did that fresh new trailer for Annihilation leave you chomping at the bit for Natalie Portman’s next performance? Perhaps you’re already missing the cast of Scandal even though there are still three episodes left? Or maybe you’ve been holding out all these years for the chance to ask Damon Lindelof about the ending of Lost…and the meaning of life? If so, the folks at Vulture Festival Los Angeles have you covered.

Just like its NYC-based cousin, Vulture Festival Los Angeles has one hell of a stacked lineup. Besides the talent mentioned above—Natalie and Kerry?!?–the festival features the likes of Ava DuVernay, Ryan Coogler, Sofia Coppola, Roxane Gay, Amber Tamblyn, Issa Rae, Lena Dunham, Ed Helms, Owen Wilson, Zach Galifianakis, Ted Danson, Jonathan Ames, Robert Pattinson, and a whole bunch of other ridiculously cool people.

What’s more, the weekend-long festival offers a wide variety of pop culture panels, screenings, and other awesome—if slightly absurd—events. There’s an 8:30 a.m. private tour of The Broad art museum with New York magazine and Vulture senior art critic Jerry Saltz. There’s a scavenger hunt across Hollywood with the stars of Search Party. There’s even a 100th song celebration sing-a-long with Rachel Bloom and the cast of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

And to top it all off, tickets to most events are only $25 and include access to the AT&T Vulture Lounge poolside at The Hollywood Roosevelt and a free drink. If you’re in more of a “treat yo self” mood, however, a limited quantity of all-access Vulture Passes are available for $495.

Vulture Festival Los Angeles is going down on November 18th and 19th at The Hollywood Roosevelt and a handful of other venues in the L.A. area. To see the full lineup or to purchase tickets, please visit the Vulture Festival website.

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