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On June 13, 2012, it was announced that after more than 50 years of family management, the King Eddy Saloon had been sold and would be closing at the end of the summer. This news has been received with great concern by the many people who consider this last Skid Row bar to be an essential part of the cultural and social life of downtown Los Angeles, as well as a place of pilgrimage for fans of the great Los Angeles novelist John Fante, whose anti-hero Arturo Bandini famously squandered his first royalty check on the b-girls of the King Eddy’s basement speakeasy.
LAVA co-founder Richard Schave loves the King Eddy, and has done extensive research on the place and its role in LA’s literary and cultural history. In addition to the John Fante connection, it is the last bar standing in the neighborhood where novelist James M. Cain came to soak up the vernacular speech that he adapted into the hard-boiled American lingo of his breakout novel The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934).
In recognition of the importance of the King Eddy as a place of abiding human comfort and cultural significance, LAVA is pleased to present this free, site-specific screening of Alina Skrzeszewska’s short film Last One Left: The last skid row bar in Los Angeles and its patrons: a few brief life stories (USA/Germany 2010, documentary, color, 23 min.). The director will be present to answer questions after the screening.
DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT: “I had no idea what to expect when I first moved into one of the old residential hotels on the Nickel, Los Angeles’ most notorious neighborhood. It began with pure curiosity and the desire to plunge into something seemingly foreign that nevertheless felt strangely close to me. Rundown hotel rooms where you could hear your next-door neighbors fighting; streets crowded with people waiting for the bus to a shelter; bars filled with the weathered faces of old alcoholics: I was irresistibly attracted to the mysterious and colorful sadness of such places. But it wasn’t the sadness itself that fascinated me. Rather, it was something that emerged out of the sadness, out of desperation, anger, hurt. I would call it the tender beauty of the broken or fractured. The people I met in Downtown Los Angeles had all made choices that brought them there – even if they differed wildly. All of them came as outcasts of some sort and fell into a whole society of outcasts. Life here is fragile. Surviving another day or another year can be a miracle. But oddly, the realization of this fragility immediately turns into its opposite. It becomes the realization of the incredible resources of strength we as humans have, and, beyond that, the realization of the radical freedom at the core of our existence: the freedom to choose between good and evil, between life and death, between love and apathy. The people who live on the Nickel are not simply victims, but subjects of their own lives. A beauty that stems from resilience of spirit speaks through their distinct faces, their language, their music and their movements. The Nickel can never be captured in just one narrative. What makes it unique is the intense clash of simultaneous narratives. Together, these stories paint a picture of the city as a place of attempted escape from the pressures of a society that is no longer bearable.”
ABOUT THE FILMMAKER: Alina Skrzeszewska was born in Wroclaw, Poland. During the politically charged years after the outbreak of the Solidarity movement her family emigrated to West Germany, and Alina grew up in Munich. She studied Stage Design and Art & Media at the University of the Arts in Berlin, and received an MFA in Film & Video from the California Institute of the Arts. She is the recipient of a 12 months DAAD grant, a Nipkow fellowship, and multiple scholarships from CalArts and the University of the Arts in Berlin. Alina’s work meanders between essayistic and documentary forms. Her films often talk about fringes, borders and boundaries: be they spaces that carry borders within them, or people whose lives are somehow fractured. The award-winning Songs from the Nickel (2010) is her first documentary feature. It won multiple prizes for BEST FILM and has it has screened at more than 25 international film festivals all over Europe, North America and in South America. Currently, Alina is working on two new film projects about Downtown Los Angeles.
LAVA co-founder Kim Cooper says: “Anyone who cares about the fragile coral ecosystem that is the culture of this city should make a visit to the King Eddy this summer, while it’s still under the Croick family’s ownership. They’ve made a haven in a very hard part of the city where folks who don’t have much money can feel respected and safe. That means everything. As we lose these ports, we lose our community and our history. Once that’s gone, it will never come back.”