See this man Angelinos? No, I mean really. SEE THIS MAN? This is a griot. Yes, yes I realize that he is not of West African origin --well, actually he is... WE ALL ARE. But this man friends, is one you should get to know.
Now for those of us theatre fairies, we've known this mad genius for many many years now. And you cult film buffs must add White Boyz to your Netflix queue. For you newbies: this is Mr. Danny Hoch, hailing from planet Brooklyn. He is one of the greatest American performers in my humble opinion. He is an actor, playwright, director, pied piper of storytelling and purveyor of hip hop.
Last week I had the great pleasure of meeting Mr. Hoch after his brilliant new show Taking Over at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in tres chic Culver City. Stop laughing. Culver City is chic. Look at all the new restaurants! galleries! I mean have you been to their police station? One of the nicest I've ever been in, that's for sure. State of the art fingerprinting-- Wait, not that I've been in a lot of police stations...just a few. Never mind. I lusted after this man y'all (I don't mean that in a gross way) but I simply couldn't get enough! I had such a visceral reaction to Taking Over that I wrote the man a fan letter. Pretty dorky, eh?
Where was I, oh yah. GO SEE THIS EFFING PLAY. Taking Over is a one man show written and performed by Danny, but I can tell you it feels like going to see an old fashioned Broadway melody of 1939. Where they cuss and use every racial and offensive epithet you can think of. A dope ass set, booming sound scape, and clever costuming. I doubled over in my front row seat damn near bussin' a nut while I witnessing an ensemble of players twirling, singing (rapping in this case), acting, flying, and simply dazzling me. Mind you, the stage was crowded with characters all coming from one dude. (And for the record I cannot for the life of me understand how it is this man is single. Oy.)
Don't get it twisted, this ain't show ain't for everybody; although I think it should be on everyone's "to do" list. He's pretty relentless. He tackles many issues, mainly gentrification in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. He chronicles the so called maturation of Williamsburg from hypes being stabbed in broad daylight to yuppies sipping on free trade coffee and gobbling croissants. Now, I'm from Chicago. Westside born, Southside raised. I grew up in the hood (Washington Park) and can be a rah rah bitch when necessary. I pride myself on how quickly I can snatch off my earrings when I think some fool is trying me. My mamma taught me how to shank a fool at a very young age. One can never truly forget hood ethics. But I must admit I've slid into being a bit of a buppie. I'm sipping on miso soup and listening to Al Jarreau as I type this (tuff life right?) I eat at trendy local eateries, scour vintage shops for the best finds, BLOG, use products free of chemicals, and love the newly rehabilitated dilapidated brownstone/greystones in Chicago and New York. I've even dreamed of owning in a brownstone in Harlem--oops I mean North Manhattan. Harlem Heights. Yah, those are those bullsh*t names the gentrifiers are calling it.
(Oh and for the record they're water bugs, not roaches. Rodents, not rats. I could go on and on.)
But back to Chicago---my mom still has a home in Washington Park. The gentrification has quite begun, but they've raised taxes in hopes of procuring the 2016 Olympic bid. And it doesn't hurt that President Obama has a home 7 minutes away.
But I gotta be real. I'm so frustrated that there are no grocery, book, nor health food stores. If you want any of that you've got to cross the square and go to Hyde Park. It pisses me off that for years we've been lived like crabs in a mf barrel in an undeserved community and NOW they're hiking the taxes? GTF outta here. Mind you, you can't buy a cab in that neighborhood. You can't walk around the corner and grab a salad, attend a book signing or any of that buppie sh*t that I like to do. I wanna buy Prosecco from the wine shop and not Andre from the liquor store gatdammit.
Yeah, you heard me. I'm praying that my mother's neighborhood will become gentrified. I pray for the day that I see a doggy day care, gay neighbors, for rent signs that say NO SECTION 8, restaurants that deliver, newly planted trees and of course I want to see the neighborhood peppered with white people. Why? Because the cops respond to neighborhoods with white tax payers who walk their dogs at 12 midnight and don't appreciate 5 nwords standing in the middle of the GD street playing some wacked out rap music and not hard working, church going, tax paying Obama voting black folks in Washington Park. Although I should mention there is a white couple just 4 doors down. But they some Canaryville/Bridgeport ex-partriots. And they some weed tokin', crystal meth fcking hypes, so they don't count.
I want my mother to leave in peace. Sure everyone wants that, but I'm blogging about what I know. Don't get me wrong. There's some hood mores that I thank God I have. I still duck on New Years Eve no matter where I'm celebrating, turn my rings around and tuck in the gold chains when walking thru foreign lands, and can identify faster than the speed of lighting whether or not the fried catfish or chicken is any good. But fcuk man...my mom is getting into her golden years, and I want her to have some peace. I want her to be able to WALK to the grocery store and not the damned liquor store for milk and bread (ORGANIC MILK AND BREAD). I want her to be able to walk to the independent owned bookstore to buy the new TD Jakes on tape, Ebony magazine, and Chicago Reader.
I know gentrification displaces families, but I'm tired of the madness. Are fruits and veggies only relegated to the gays? the yuppies? the buppies? I'm writing this blog from sunny California in the very much gentrified neighborhood of Venice so you see it's everywhere. Venice has a colorful past, and make no mistake you can still get yo sh*t cracked open in this hood. Don't let the pretty store fronts fool you.
Okay, go see the GD play. It's well done people. Mr. Hoch remains one of my favorite creators and I add him to this short list of heroes:
Jean Michel Basquiat
and Mr. Danny Hoch
Ciao for now...