Friday, April 6, 2012

The 1% For the 99%...? New Math, Old Money

It was the last day of March and just a little chilly in Los Angeles. I was on my way down to the corner of Fourth and LaBrea, where an event that was promised in an email from to be something other than an "ordinary rally or day of action, it's a celebration of the 99% that will bring Hollywood together with activists and artists from all walks of life." That, and the description of readings by Val Kilmer as Mark Twain, art on display from Shepard Fairey, a speech by Van Jones and Jason Alexander (from Dunston Checks In) on hand as HuffPo's "roving reporter" sounded less than Occupy-like, on first, second and even third readings. 

I decided to go down with a recorder and check out what was happening, and talk to a few of the folks at the event, which was called "All In For The 99%."

The building wasn't marked incredibly well - just some arrows directing you around to a back entrance. The only thing that indicated there might be something artistic going on in the location was a large silver Lenin head with an acrobat poised on top. It looked something like this:

Metro Santa Claus and Topo Gigio

I was following arrows and looking for the entrance when I ran into an open gate that lead to exterior stairs. I took a chance and ducked inside, climbing a few flights of stairs and entering, essentially, the V.I.P. holding area. I looked around but didn't see anyone I knew or any of the celebrities I was expecting based on the email, so I walked past a security guard, making sure to ask him a question on my way out, to establish that I was already in. This is a classic way to gain access to off-limit areas when you accidentally happen into them, as I often do.

I left the holding are and joined the main floor, which was very warehouse art gallery in appearance. An area rug with several comfortable chairs and loveseats was in the center of the room. 

The Revolution will be Sanitized.

At one end, a stage, with about 50 or so chairs facing it, and someone playing guitar and singing. I glanced up. Nope, not Tom Morello, who one expects could turn up at almost any Occupy event.

I decide to take a few pictures and talk to some people.

The 99%. In their exclusive art gallery.

 I was looking around to figure out who I wanted to interview first, when a young African-American woman came up to me and asked me to sign a petition. I asked her who she was with, and she told me she was gathering signatures for Time For Change Foundation ( Her name was Camile and I asked if I could speak with her. She took me over to the Executive Director of the Foundation, Kim Carter, and I interviewed the two of them.

You can hear the entire show from the event here:

Robbie Conal's "OCTOPII WALL STREET [The Metaphornication of the Orthodoxymorons]" - sale price $40,000

 After talking with them, I caught audio from Vanessa Carlisle, who was reading her piece from (another sponsor of the event). The piece is called "Occupant", and dealt with her arrest the night Occupy LA was evicted from City Hall. Definitely check her story out. We spoke after her reading, and I was going to catch her for an interview after a panel and a Q&A session, but at some point, I missed seeing her again.

During her reading, a guy I described as "kinda agitated" comes over and clarifies a point she makes about being on a form of probation. Missing the metaphor, he explains that she would have to be convicted to be on probation. He's somewhere in the picture above, back to the camera.

"Untitled" by Alia Penner

After her reading, I saw a man down front holding a sign with some statistics about how few people are voting in mid-term Congressional elections. I drew him aside and spent a bit of time talking with Lawrence Gaughan, the Founder and CEO of Gov360 (  He has some great points about the desire for a complete overhaul of the current system, which suffers from a lack of participation.

I went back in to listen to Van Jones, formerly an adviser to the Obama administration, speak. Very entertaining and emotional, he gives a good speech. He stuck around afterward to sign copies of his new book, Rebuild The Dream.  I spoke with his PR person, and hope to have him on the show someday soon.

Jill Greenberg's "Apocalypse & Carnival"

 During Van's speech, I saw an Occupier I worked with on the Demands & Objectives committee, Jason Rosenkrantz. I asked him to talk, and interviewed him for a few minutes about his reasons for coming out, which included a concern that the Occupy Movement was going to be co-opted by the Democrats, in the same way Republicans took over the Tea Party. We also talked about the change - the transition from Revolution to art galleries and speeches on a nice weekend afternoon in Los Angeles.

Continuing to look around, I ran into Jason Alexander (all right, all right - George from Seinfeld) and asked him for an interview. He was very nice, but begged off, as he was beholden to two different groups he was working for (I assume HuffPo was one). I spoke to his handler, but wasn't able to get him to speak on-mic. I checked on imdb later, the Internet Movie Data Base, and I see that he is listed on a film project called "All In For The 99%." Not sure what it is - with the list of performers involved, it seems legit, but what he was doing that day had the feel of a mockumentary approach, almost, at least the little bits I witnessed.

The last couple of guys I ran into were absolutely fascinating, and are pretty well known with in the Livestream and Ustream communities of Occupy - Geoff Shively and Tim Pool. Tim is pretty well known for his 20+ hours of non-stop coverage during the eviction of OWS from Zucotti Park, and Geoff ended up coming on my show the following Tuesday, April 3rd, and had some incredible stories to share about his efforts to help get the word out in Syria, Libya, Turkey and other spots around the world. That episode is definitely worth a listen.

There was a break in the action, and I had been at the event for a couple of hours so I packed up and moved on. Later that night Moby came in to play some music, and then Tenacious D provided some tunes. Here's a video of them performing "City Hall":

 All in all, a very different feel as Occupy moves into its next phase of existence. It's a way to bring new people into the Movement, most definitely - but is it leaving the heart of the Movement behind?  Hard to say. But, like anything Occupy, it should be interesting watching as it develops.

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