Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Where to be Merry: Am I Black Enough Yet? @ The Hollywood Fringe Festival

I had no idea what to expect. I had never been to the ComedySportz Los Angeles Theater on Seward Street, which sits on the edge of a quiet, residential neighborhood. I had never even heard about the 2nd Annul Hollywood Fringe Festival, and I certainly didn’t know any of the actors in the play I was about to watch.

But what I did know was that the play’s title had instantaneously jumped out from an email I had read a couple of days ago and held my attention hostage. The title insisted that I find the answer to the question it proposed, so this past lazy afternoon of a Sunday, I obediently complied and went to the opening performance for Am I Black Enough Yet? (A.I.B.E.Y.?).

In A.I.B.E.Y.?, five talented actors explore the complexities of being black; being black in America and while abroad…as an African-American and as a member of various countries in the African Diaspora. Through nine eloquent scenes that take us from the Parisian dressing room of an expatriate jazz player, to a modern 3rd grade classroom and everywhere in between, A.I.B.E.Y.? brings to life the challenges, idiosyncrasies and ironies of what happens when the world views you as “black,” no matter the era, no matter the location, no matter if you identify yourself as black or not.

I appreciate the play because throughout its 85-minute run, it always holds your interests, always keeps you on the edge your seat. You're laughing, yes, but also reflecting on deeply rooted stereotypes and cultural assumptions. You chuckle, you cringe, you vigorously shake your head and you stare in disbelief at the stage. You might even uncomfortably shift in your seat (I know I did).

To be able to connect with such a range of raw emotions in such a short amount of time truly reflects the ingenuity of the playwright Clinton A. Johnston and also of the cast.

Speaking of the cast, the actors (pictured below to the left*) are brilliant. Each and every one of them impressively expresses the depth of his or her acting capabilities. Nika Williams pulls off a mean Nigerian accent just as easily as she slips into a buttery French accent. J. Patrick Wise sophisticatedly portrays an urbane college student, while later easing effortlessly into the role of a jaded expatriate. I could go on and on, but my point is that everyone commits to his and her different characters very well.

But please don’t think you’re going to passively watch them do all the work! From the opening of the first scene when the cast magically turns audience members into “black people,” you participate in this ensemble as well. You’ll converse with your neighbor, answer questions and maybe even find yourself asking: are you black enough yet?

In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb as that I think if we’re honest, most of us have at some point in time asked ourselves: “Am I (pretty/athletic/smart/ethnic/rich/skinny/thick/awesome/any other preferred adjective) Enough Yet?” If we’ve fallen into any socially constructed category – whether we’ve wanted to or not – we’ve had to deal with figuring out our place in that category. So while the focus is on “being black,” the themes in this play are quite certainly universally relatable.

So if are you in the mood to check out a great play and to support the local performing arts, then I highly recommend getting tickets to “A.I.B.E.Y.?” But you better hurry – there are only three more performances: tonight, Wednesday, 6/22 at 7pm; Saturday, 6/25 at 5pm; and Sunday, 6/26 at 5pm.

See you at the next show!

Miss Wilson’s Tips
- A patio all the way in the back is a great place to hang before the show. There’s a shop with cute t-shirts, other knick-knacks and sweet snacks (pictured to the left).
- Hurry! You only have thr
ee more chances to see the play: tonight, Wednesday 6/22 @ 7pm; 6/25 @ 5pm; 6/26 @ 5pm.
- “A.I.B.E.Y.?” is part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival, which runs until next Sunday, June 26th. Other one-person shows, dramas, comedies and other performances from the emerging arts scene will be available for your viewing pleasure. Here's the festival's

More information:
Held at the ComedySportz Theater

733 Seward Street

Los Angeles, CA 90038

*photo courtesy Tulani Watkins

Friday, June 17, 2011

Where to Drink: 1st Annual International Lambrusco Day @ Cube Café

We celebrate so many special occasions and holidays throughout the year, ranging from the well known right down to the blatantly peculiar. There are the obvious ones, like Thanksgiving Day…But then there are the more unique ones – like Bad Poetry Day (August 18th) and National Night Out (August 2nd; I must celebrate that one this year for sure). And in case you were unaware, it’s actually National Flip-Flop Day today, so make sure you throw on those havaianas at some point before midnight.

Let’s add another holiday to the list this year.

Next Tuesday, June 21st, for the first time ever, International Lambrusco Day will be celebrated – all the way from the rugged hills of Italy to the comfortable, cozy urban oasis called Cube Café right here in Los Angeles.

I was recently invited to Cube Café to try out their Lambruscos in honor of the upcoming new holiday. Situated on La Brea Blvd. in West Hollywood, it’s quite a lovely, quaint social destination, with interior walls painted an earthy red hue. The warmness that emanates from the decor serves as the perfect backdrop for innovative Italian-inspired/California-influenced dishes, such as the hearty Mortadella Tortelloni in Parmesan Brodo with Spring Peas (pictured to the right).

Aside from cooking up impressive fare with fresh, rare, organic ingredients, the café has more than 400 Italian wines to sip on – including a wide variety of Lambruscos, like the Lambrusco Frizzante 'Amarcord,' pictured to the left. For International Lambrusco Day, two specific Lambruscos will be featured at discounted prices by the glass, the half-bottle or the full bottle: the Medici Ermete Lambrusco “Concerto” and the Rinaldini Lambrusco “Vecchio Moro.” Suggested food pairings will be available for each lambrusco, but I highly suggest selecting Cube’s Spicy Fried Chicken (pictured to the right, below). It’s a wonder how the chicken itself is so tender and juicy, while the skin remains delightfully crispy. Oh, and the brown butter mashed potatoes are so creamy, they instantly melt in your mouth!

International Lambrusco Day or not, I just really adore the vibe at Cube Café. It’s casual enough for dinner or a couple of glasses of wine with friends, yet classy enough for date night or to commemorate a special occasion. Whatever the circumstance, I feel like Cube can rightly accommodate wine (and/or dining) needs.

So, I’ll see you there for International Lambrusco Day, and perhaps another time as well!

-Miss Wilson

Miss Wilson's Tips
- What is Lambrusco? OK, I’ll be honest. Before coming to Cube, I had never tasted a Lambrusco myself. But it’s basically an Italian red wine. I personally think it’s delicious, and it has a wide range of characteristics, from smoky (i.e., the Lambrusco Frizzante ‘Concerto’) to smooth (i.e., the Lambrusco Frizzante ‘Ross All’ Antica’).
- Just a heads up – the menu changes weekly, every Thursday.
- You must try a cheese platter. I really appreciate how the names of the cheeses are written on the black board on which the cheeses are served. It makes exploring new cheese options not only fun, but also educational.
- The private dining room in the back is a great option if you’re looking for a place to have an intimate gathering (pictured below).

For more information:
Cube Café
615 N. La Brea Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
323.939.1148 ext. 1

Friday, June 10, 2011

And Where do You "Where To?": The Ice-T and Coco Wedding Vows Renewal edition

Last Friday, June 3rd, I headed to the W Hollywood for Ice-T and Coco’s red carpet wedding vows renewal ceremony. These two lovebirds (pictured to the left) were decked in all white attire and appeared intensely in love, serenely delighted to celebrate ten years of marriage. They briefly – and I mean briefly – paused to pose for cameras before rushing right into the ceremony, so I unfortunately didn’t get to speak with them directly. However, I did have the chance to speak with some of the guests, who ranged from family members to colorful personalities like Archbishop Don Juan, the event’s officiator.

In my conversations with these guests, two things struck me the most:

Number one. Each and every person gushed about how strong the love between Ice-T and Coco is. As someone who’s only familiar with Coco from her racy photos in the blog world and with Ice-T from the West Coast music scene and his Law & Order: Special Victims Unit appearances, I’ll admit that I don’t know much about either one of them, let alone their personal relationship. So I was really impressed to hear all of the kind words that guests used to passionately described their marriage.

Number two. In true Wilson’s Guide fashion, I quizzed everyone on their favorite hang out destinations, and many Hollywood and West Hollywood venues made the cut. It’s always interesting to find out which part of Los Angeles people prefer to play.

So read on to see where these lovebirds’ family members and socialites chill, and to hear some of the humorous insights on life they had to offer. Also tune in to the E! Channel to watch the new reality show Ice Loves Coco, starting this Sunday, June 12th, 10:30 PST. Coverage from their wedding vows renewal will be in one episode.

Shout out to Ice-T and Coco for making it ten years, especially in a city where the divorce rate is estimated to be as high as 70%. May you celebrate another ten years, again and again!

- Miss Wilson

P.s. - a BIG THANKS to Miss Tulani for taking such great photos. Follow her on Twitter at @ms2lany!

Little T (Ice-T’s 18-year old son. If only I were about ten years younger. Seriously.)
Where he “Where To’s” in LA: “I like to go to The Grove. I like sushi so I go to Katsuya a lot. I go to Versailles and of course Wing Stop.”

Why he was excited for this ceremony: “It’s a lot of fun because I’ve seen so many people that I haven’t seen in years, and it’s like this is the first time when everyone from both sides of the family have actually come together.”

Tina Austin (Coco’s lovely mother. Such a sweet lady.)
Where she “Where To’s” in LA: “It’s been a while since I’ve been out here, but we did go to Boa last night. Need I say more? It’s fabulous. I would say go there.”

Her thoughts on the ceremony: “I’m thrilled. I couldn’t be more happy. I missed the wedding because they eloped. They said, ‘we’ll renew our vows where everyone can see’ – ten years later [she laughs]. But they love each other like the kind of love you don’t see very often, and they talk about everything. They honestly admire each other and I admire that he’s [Ice-T] very soft. A lot of people don’t know that about him.”

Tommy “Tiny” Lister (Talented actor with decades of experience, and of course, Deebo from Friday and Next Friday.)
Where he “Where To’s” in LA: “9200 Sunset. Boa. That’s my place. I’m with Abrams [Abrams Artist Agency] on the 11th floor, so everything is 9200 Sunset with me. My manager Sydney Cowan takes me to SoHo. Everything is 9200 Sunset. That white Bentley of mine looks real good pulling up at that address.”

On his friendship with Ice-T: “I’ve done five films with Ice-T and he done slapped me upside the head for about three of them. We did a movie called Body Count with me, him and Alyssa Milano. I couldn’t get nothing right, so he slapped me upside the head. You can trust that together with Ice Cube and Ice-T, it’s a good time for me. Ice Cube and Ice-T is two of my favorite people. I had to be here for my boy.”

To-Tam & To-Nya Sachika (The Sachika Twins. Celebrity fashion designers and good friends with Coco.)
Where they “Where To" in LA ... and NYC:

To-Tam: Drai’s is good.

To-Nya: I have to admit if you know any other places that are better, we’d love to know [laughs]. Now in New York, I could tell you hands down everything.

To-Tam: In New York, there’s so many places. All the hotels are nice. The Standard Hotel is great. Empire Hotel is great as well.

To-Nya: The smaller clubs are better in New York.

To-Tam: The Zanzibar.

To-Nya: Restaurant-wise, I love Abe & Arthur’s in the Meat-packing [District]. It’s a really, really good restaurant. Bagatelle, a French restaurant in the Meat-packing, is also really good. Del Frisco’s is a good restaurant. It’s a steakhouse.

To-Tam: We love eating.

To-Nya: And we love art. And I think for me, food can be cooking or a culinary art. It's just an art.

What fashion articles every woman should have in her closet: To-Tam: “The little black dress that can be transformed for daytime or nighttime. The perfect blazer to wear a little tank top or have boots on, giving you a little edge and classiness. And of course the perfect pair of jeans. So important. You can wear them anywhere, all the time. You look young, comfortable. It’s the one piece that goes anywhere.”

Archbishop Don "Magic" Juan (There's just so much to see on him, from head to toe, hand to hand, arm to arm.)
Where he “Where To’s” in LA: “Usually I’m fellowshipping with Snoop Dogg. We just sit over at the Doggy Den while he makes music. We just sit up and chop up some game and entertain one another. Chuuuch.”

On his infamous cup and how to get one: “Well here, this is just the royal chalice, my personal glass. Also I have my royal staff, you know what I mean, and I have my royal Bible. And we have females here for better living. Debbie the Glass Lady made my glass and the glasses for Lil Jon, Snoop Dogg and Pamela Anderson. I gave Pamela one personally, and I’d been wanting to present Snoop with one for the first time. Once he got it, everybody seen and wanted one. But you just order it from the lady. And if you a personal friend of mine or there's something we did together, then I would get you one.”

Tila Tequila (Who could ever forget her wild reality show A Shot of Love with Tila Tequila?)
Where she “Where To’s” in LA: Miceli’s. It’s this Italian spot in Studio City. When you go there, you have amazing Italian food, but it’s also like American Idol. They have all these singers who are like [she demonstrates, singing in an opera voice]. They put on this fantastic show. I’m surprised not many more people know about it, but it’s a lot of fun. It’s a great environment for when you’re having dinner…But sometimes when you’re trying to have a conversation and they’re all up in your ear, you’re like ‘Hey, shut up a little bit’ [she laughs].”

Advice for a successful relationship: “I think you need to be able to first of all trust each other, but also allow each other to be your individual selves. You shouldn’t be co-dependent of each other. If somebody wants to do this, you have to support them. Otherwise, you feel suffocated and they start to stray, cheat, things get boring. I’ve settled down quite a bit. I’m seeing someone right now and looking forward to starting my own family soon. You just go with the flow and right now I feel like that motherhood sounds really nice. It’s been calling my name.”

Marc Live (Ice-T’s longtime friend, business partner and creator of the new reality show, Ice Loves Coco.)
Where he “Where To’s” in LA: “I like Geisha House. I love the W [Hollywood]. It’s fabulous. And when I’m in LA, I’m a burger and hot dog guy, so I love Carney’s. And my favorite nightspot is The Standard on Sunset.”

What to expect in Ice Loves Coco: “I’ve been with Ice for 17 years, producing his records, on stage with him. There’s a lot of me in the show having relationship problems, and Ice and Coco giving me ideas and letting me know what and what not to do. And there’s a brand new song that she’s doing. It’s just a lot funny stuff with Spartacus their dog, and a lot of interesting stuff. It’s hard because I don’t want to give anything away, but you will love it. It’s like no reality show you’ve seen. A lot of glamour, a lot of glitz, a lot of cars, a lot of reality, a lot of truth. It’s a great, great show.”

Friday, June 3, 2011

And Where do You "Where To?": Joe Buys

A couple of months ago after attending the BRKN RBTZ concert at The Roxy, I snuck upstairs to the On the Rox venue for “Spring Jam 2011,” a special music showcase put on by Yoo-N-LA Magazine. As I crept through the dim hallway and meticulously climbed a flight of steep steps, I remember hearing a low, rumbling flow of words, accented by live hip-hop infused drums, guitars and bass.

I was let out into a cozy bar area where a handful of guests slowly sipped cocktails and gathered in groups. And in the center of the room on the stage shrouded in the bright spotlight, I had a clear view of the source of the energetic, silky verbal rhythms I had heard on my way in: it was Joe Buys. In an understated black tee, jeans and fresh kicks, he passionately spit line after line, verse after verse. His persona, his musical style, his delivery were all as smooth as whipped butter, as he seemed to effortlessly articulate each word with artistic precision. Talk about a performance! Before I even knew his name – or the name of his song for that matter – I found myself swaying and nodding to the music. He was just that good.

After the show, we met. Did the whole networking thing and swapped business cards. And if I was ever so impressed by his musical capabilities, I was even more astounded with his lively, joie de vivre spirit and his charming personality. He was so warm and gracious, so easy to laugh and crack jokes with.

So if I was ever so amazed by his personality, I was really taken aback by his “hustle.” Before the sun had even risen the next day after the showcase, I had found a good-humored email in my inbox from him. And throughout the following days, everything he promised to get to me, he delivered swiftly and professionally. Committed to his craft and willing to put in the work both on and off the stage? Now that’s rock solid.

With all this said, I wish him the best of luck and can’t wait to see where he goes in the future. In the meantime, check out where he likes to hang now that he's an L.A. resident. And of course, don’t forget to check out his music, website and blog. It’s all soooooo dope!

See you at his next concert!

Miss Wilson: Where is your favorite spot to go in LA?
Joe Buys: You can pretty much find me where the food is. I’m kind of a homebody. If I go out, it’s usually for music purposes – maybe like the El Rey, obviously The Roxy, but I’m pretty chill as far as the undergrounds spots. Like this is kind of my scene. Or I’m just posted up watching hoops at the crib.

Miss Wilson: Who’s your favorite team?
Joe Buys: Well I’m originally from Michigan so I’m a Pistons fan. The Pistons are my team. But I like all hoop! I like the Lakers, the Clippers... pretty much, I just like good basketball.

For more information:


Twitter: @JoeBuys