The Michigan Daily
Friday, April 13, 1990
Los Angeles Poverty Dept.
tells nothing but the truth
by Donna ladipaolo
S KID Row in Los Angeles is a
grim, notorious neighborhood inhab-
ited by a large portion of the city's
50,000 homeless. It is also the
home of the first performance group
in the nation to consist mainly of
homeless and formerly homeless
people: The Los Angeles Poverty
LAPD was founded in 1985 by
New York performance artist John
Malpede, who moved to Los Ange-
les and began working on Skid Row
as a legal advocate for the homeless.
When he saw the absence of com-
munity arts programs, he started
holding free workshops and talent
shows in the parks and shelters.
More than 70 people became in-
volved with the community projects,
and from that collaborative enthusi-
asm grew the core group of the
Now LAPD has about 14 mem-
bers, a racially mixed collective of
men and women, street wanderers
and schooled artists. Others drift in
and out; the group's doors always
Instead of showing the cold pes-
simism most people associate with
homelessness, the members of
LAPD are known for their witty,
somewhat bawdy and at times ram-
bling depiction of people surviving
on Skid Row. According to the
members of the troupe, the idea is to
show the "real deal" instead of a
cosmetic portrayal of homelessness.
The group's performances have
received praise from the trendy art
mags, from L.A. Weekly's Theater
Award to a write-up in New York's
Artforum magazine. In 1989 LAPD
was the winner of the esteemed
As Mark Durant, an art critic
from San Francisco, wrote, "Do not
attend an LAPD performance expect-
ing any, sad, weepy, sage and polite
commentary on poverty. LAPD is
alive and angry, smart and not about
to be patronized."
LAPD has also come to be seen
as a model because of its association
with the Inner City Law Center, a
non-profit agency serving the indi-
As our country continues its half-
hearted attempts to provide adequate
shelter and services for the homeless,
LAPD opens their doors and, with
their revealing style of theater, their
lives. Back in Los Angeles, the
troupe is ready to provide people
with a performance home.
But acknowledging the troupe's
work and sensing their great passion
and commitment also raises ques-
tions about the role which theater
can play in our own lives. How
committed are we to theater? What is
its role in social change? How
committed are we to action?
LAPD has been known to adress
these questions in creative ways.
Through theater they are able to
assert themselves while enabling
others to also take notice.
The Los Angeles Poverty Depart-
ment will perform LAPD INSPECTS
AMERICA: PHILADELPHIA at the
Trueblood Theatre, Saturday, April
14 at 7:30. The performance is
free. John Malpede, Artistic Direc-
tor and member of LAPD will con-
duct a three hour workshop on Sun-
day April 15 at 10:am. For a place
in the workshop, contact Buzz
Alexander by leaving a message at
764-6330 or a note at 1631 haven.
by Peter Shapiro
o W! Ow! Ow! For those who
think that "Cold Sweat" and
"Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" are
too intellectual or that Screamin'
Jay Hawkins is too stable or that
Little Richard is too sedate, there's
Barrence Whitfield and the Savages.
Whitfield is an absolute
whirling dervish of a performer
who thinks that grunting, scream-
ing and heavy panting are far more
expressive in a way that no set of
Dylan lyrics ever could be. Anyone
familiar with "Surfin' Bird" should
know what I'm talking about.
Whitfield's moans sound more like
expressions of demonic possession
than a Lux Interior-style of hiccup-
ping and whooping to prove
studliness. Whitfield also has a cer-
tain aesthetic of sweat, bulging
veins and flailing body parts that
redefines "gut bucket." There are no
Springsteen "effort equals honesty"
pretensions here; this is get drunk,
completely lose your head and
thrash around a bar for a couple of
hours kind of music.
The Savages - consisting of
Milton Reder on guitars, Dean
Cassell'on bass, Seth Papas on
drums, Bruce Katz on piano and
David Sholl on saxophones -
give a new meaning to "Rip it
Up." Polish? What the hell is that?
Some songs are meant to be played
with sloppy King Curtis sax solos,
Little Richard-style keyboard bang-
ing and James Brown guitar licks
with the metronome on 200 beats
per minute. All of those songs are
in the Savages' repertoire. They
cover all sorts of absurd ditties
from a long-gone era when "Papa
Oo Mow Mow" meant something
more than mere onomatopoeia.
Their originals are similar - re-
workings of Ike Turner and his
Rhythm Kings tunes with titles
like "Juicy Fruit," "Sadie Green"
and "The Girl From Outer Space,"'
complete with a Led Zeppelin par-
He's shed his star-shaped glasses, but not his star quality: Barrence
Whitfield's energy could power Ann Arbor for a week.
BARRENCE WHITFIELD AND
THE SAVAGES play at the Blind"
Pig tomorrow at 10 p.m. Cover is
$6 at the door.
Hey Stevie, where' re you going
with that guitar in your hand?
r - - - - -
rN THE SPOTLIGHT
The Soviet rock band Gaza, in
town for a while as the first North
American event of the Surface to
Surface: Rock not Rockets music
exchange initiative, is having an
open reception in the third floor
Conference Room in the Modern
Languages Building today from 3-5
p.m. All are welcome and refresh-
ments will be served.
Also, Azamat Iseboyev, guitarist
with Gaza and the Cultural Programs
Director of the Moscow State Uni-
verisity student group PAGANEL,
will present selections of Soviet
rock music tonight at 9 p.m. on
by Brian Jarvinen
A good blues record can do wonders
for the soul when you're, well, blue,
but watching a blues guitarist in
action is something else. Stevie Ray
Vaughn & Double Trouble have
recorded some soothing tunes in
their time, but seeing them live on
stage is the real cure for the, well,
Stevie Ray Vaughn hails from
Austin, Texas, a town known for
supporting the blues at bars like the
famous Antone's. Vaughn played in
various Austin bands throughout the
'70s, but didn't gain much recogni-
tion until he wowed audiences at the
1982 Montreux Blues & Jazz Festi-
val with an extended, incendiary jam
of the old blues tune "Flood Down
in Texas." Listening to this today,
(the tune can be found on the At-
lantic Blues: Guitar compilation), I
am struck by how talented Stevie
was, even before this show led to a
His first album, Texas Flood,
followed soon after. The lead track,
the rocker "Love Struck Baby,"
gained Vaughn a foothold on rock
radio (the video even made it onto
MTV two or three times), a rare feat
for a modern blues guitarist. But
then people like Johnny Winter and
See VAUGHN, page 8
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