"I love bringing legitimacy to the weirdo," says Lenora Claire. She works with Doron Orfir, the casting director behind hits like Jersey Shore, to bring larger-than-life personalities to the small screen. Claire's specialty is casting from within various subculture groups. She knows that world well. The vivacious redhead has spent years working in L.A.'s creative underground. She has hosted nightclub events. She curates art shows. Her best known efforts are "Golden Girls Gone Wild," featuring erotic depictions of the famed television characters, and "Bettie Page: Heaven Bound," a tribute to the late pin-up artist. She also hosts the podcast "The Obscenesters" on TradioV.
When she's not working, Claire spends time people-watching, checking out art and investigating some of the city's best-kept entertainment secrets. A native of the San Fernando Valley, who currently lives in Los Feliz, she also likes to explore her own neighborhood on foot. With her bright red hair and collection of black dresses, Claire can be hard to miss as she walks down the street. She spends time chatting with local business owners and checking out the local scene. "I feel like I'm the unofficial mayor of Vermont," she says. We asked Claire for her weekend entertainment and shopping tips.
You know a lot about pin-up art. Where in L.A. is a good place to find pin-up art? Anything that's sort of erotic in nature, there are very few places that show it. Even if it's tasteful erotic, like pin-up style, there isn't a gallery. I guess if you like that stuff, you can go to La Luz de Jesus and they have books at Wacko. There isn't a gallery that does solely pin-ups.
What art galleries do you like?
I like a lot of the shows that Merry Karnowski does. That Greg "Craola" Simkins show that she did was fabulous. I like Corey Helford. I think that there are a lot of great pop surrealists artists are there. I think that La Luz de Jesus is great only because it's really accessible to people. Because they have the bookshop connected to it, people can go there for Christmas presents or something. They wander in and they see art. I love that because people who wouldn't normally be into art walk in there and they're exposed to something. It's also really cool for emerging artists. They do group shows with a lot of people, so a lot of people their start there. Even though it's not a place for really fine art, it's a place that's really accessible, which I think is cool.
Where do you like to go to see movies? Who has a good selection of cult films?
I love Cinefamily. I think the with the films they curate there, they do an amazing job. If I feel like an exploitation film, no one does it better than New Beverly. For the experience, I love Cinespia and going to see the Hollywood Forever screenings. I was so mad that when I was in the hospital, I missed "American Psycho." A couple of years ago, they did "The Holy Mountain." I love Alejandro Jodorowsky. To be able to see "Holy Mountain"-- one of the greatest films of all time-- projected on the wall of a mausoleum of Hollywood Forever was such a beautiful experience. It is like a picnic, it's a community of people. I love that shared experience. I think that it is so cool that they took away the usual feelings behind a cemetery and made it a fun, enjoyable place for people to watch film and have a shared experience.
What else do you suggest for entertainment?
I think that people should go see Bob Baker Marionettes. I can't be a bigger advocate for that place. The nostalgia factor is unbelievable. It's really fabulous, especially if you go there as a single person. The parents are going to think you're the biggest creep ever, sitting on the floor, eating your ice cream with the kids, but the show is still amazing. Bob Baker's stuff has been so great since the '60s. The Cleopatra puppet blows my mind every time he brings her out. She has big boobs and she shakes and it's so funny. To see kids having this real, live entertainment moment and interacting with the puppets is such a beautiful thing. The puppets are so beautifully handcrafted and a lot of them are the original ones from the '60s and '70s. They still use the original music choices that were popular then.Sometimes you feel like you're in a time capsule when you're there. It's a great date spot. I don't know why more dates don't go there on a Sunday and watch a puppet show.
The other thing that I think is a great thing to do in L.A. is my friend Scott Michaels' tour Dearly Departed. Scott has this almost Kenneth Anger level of knowledge of history and all things Hollywood Babylon and fabulous and outrageous. I started going when I was 18 years old, back when it had a different name and was in a hearse. Now it's in a coroner's van. It's been upgraded. It takes you to all sorts of mystery and scandal stuff around Los Angeles, so he'll take you to the Black Dahlia burial, where she was dumped. He'll also take you to the George Michael bathroom, so there's all this kind of stuff that I would want to see. If I have someone visiting Los Angeles, I always take them on that tour. I've probably done it 20 times and I'm not sick of it. Did you know that Ed Wood had an office over the Vista? Ed Wood had an office over the Vista Theatre. I didn't know that either, but that's the kind of amazing stuff that Scott Michaels' tells you when you're on the tour. It's the kind of history that I want to hear about.
Another thing that I think people should do is go to the Hollywood History Museum. No one has been there. It's in the old Max Factor building and the first thing you see, which blows my mind, is that there's the Redhead Room, the Blonde Room and the Brunette Room. It has Lucille Ball's make-up in the Redhead Room. You walk through the rest of the museum and Pee-Wee's bicycle is there. Mae West's costumes are there. You can go inside Hannibal Lecter's cell. You can sit inside of it. They have maybe a 10-feet by 10-feet dance floor from Ciro's, the famous nightclub.
Where would you go if you wanted a random celebrity sighting?
I always see people at Figaro, which I would go to anyway because it's right on my street. I've seen Kiefer Sutherland there. I always see tons of people there. I had the best celebrity sighting. I saw Angelyne at Albertson's checking out the watermelon. I always see people at Little Dom's. I love to go to brunch at Little Dom's. Patton Oswalt must live there. I see him there constantly. The best place I have ever been for celebrity watching in my life is [songwriter] Allee Willis' Christmas party. Before I was friends with Elvira, she was there. Paul Ruebens was there. Julie Brown was there. Scott Thompson from Kids in the Hall was there. RuPaul was there. If you are lucky enough to be invited to an Allee Willis house party, anyone celebrity that I would care to see, that's where they are. The best celebrity sightings are at Allee Willis' party. Short of that, Little Dom's or Figaro.
Where do you shop for black dresses?
I buy almost almost of my clothing from Stop Staring! Alicia [Estrada] is amazing. My favorite thing about Stop Staring! is that they are vintage reproduction dresses made from modern fabric. Old fabric doesn't really have the stretch, so you get the beautiful design, which is classic, with four-way stretch material. If I want something really special made, I go to Marco Marco. They're right across the street from Miceli's. Marco Marco is fabulous. They do RuPaul's clothing. They make a lot of my costumes for me. They made my Dolly Parton costumes. They do other stuff, day wear, too. They did my 30th birthday dress. They're really cool guys.
What are some good places to go out on a Saturday?
Heretic Salon, that's where I get my hair done. I literally picked my apartment so that I could be walking distance from my salon. If you like unusual color, or you do dreads or extensions, they do everyone's hair. If you have any kind of alternative hair, you have to go to Heretic Salon. I love Wacko. I really do. Just for books and gifts and stuff, it's really fun. I like Necromance too. That's an obvious one, but it's really great. If you want Victorian mourning jewelry or an albino peacock, that's where you would go.
Jenette Bras is where "the alphabet begins with D." It is the only place in Los Angeles where, if you have big boobs, you can find a bra. The best part about Jenette Bras, other than that they have an unbelievable selection of lingerie for busty girls, is that it is owned by the woman who played Private Vasquez in "Aliens." She was also in "Near Dark." I love that she makes lingerie fun. You don't feel like you're going into a brothel, but you don't feel matronly either.
You don't drive, right?
No, I've never driven in my life, which is weird for someone who grew up in L.A. What do you suggest for getting around without a car? Live in Los Feliz. I live where I live because I can walk to my hair salon. I can walk to House of Pies or Fred 62. I can walk pretty much anywhere I want to go. I like walking everywhere because I know my neighbors. I walk down Vermont and shopkeepers run out and say hi to me. I think people need to get to know their neighborhoods and find little gems in their neighborhood. That's why I like living in Los Feliz. If you're a non-driver, you can walk and live and exist and do all kinds of fabulous things within a mile.
Do you have a cab company that you prefer?
I take Yellow Cab. There's no particular reason. Every time I enter a taxi cab, I feel like I'm getting a reverse "Taxicab Confessions." I'm getting their confessions. I don't know what that is. A lot of people say they like Uber, but I'm on a BlackBerry because I'm loyal like that, so I can't do Uber.
You had a web series where you interviewed people at donut shops. What are your favorite donut shops?
I'm a non-donut eater, but for personality, you can beat Tang's. They play chess there on Friday and Saturday nights. There are always the kookiest people. My favorite thing about donut shops -- the reason why I did it -- is because, usually, if you get drunk and kicked out of a bar or it's after 2 a.m. If you go to donut shops late at night, you get into really weird, funny conversations. If you're looking bizzaro conversations in the middle of the night, definitely Tang's, right across the street from Akbar, is the place to go.
What are your favorite places to eat?
I love Casita del Campo. I love that there's a theater underneath. Underneath it is the Cavern Club Celebrity Theater, where you can see Selene Luna do her show or Wham! The Musical or Chico's Angels, the Latino drag show. I love that there's a place where you can go and get the best chips and salsa-- and being an L.A. girl, chips and salsa are essentia l-- and then you can go see a drag show. Afterwards, a drag queen will come up with her crooked wig and have a margarita with you. To me, that's the greatest restaurant of all time. I'm not a fan of the food, but I also love the atmosphere at House of Pies. There's a table there with bullet holes in the window. I always sit at that table, that's like my table. I never get anything really complicated there -- just a grilled cheese -- because there's really no point. It's really strange. They did this half remodel, where half of it looks like the airport and the other half looks like how it did in the '60s. If you want to people-watch, go to House of Pies in the afternoon. I'm really not much of a foodie. People get really intense about food. I go for places with atmosphere. It's all about the people-watching. I don't care about the food. Are there any bars and clubs that you like to go to? All the great, shady gay bars in L.A. are gone now, which bums me out and I'm not really a drinker. If I'm going on a date, then maybe a nice glass of wine at Figaro. I like the Dresden. I love the restaurant side of the Dresden. If you go to the restaurant side, it was built by a guy who was a ship designer, so you feel like you're on some luxury yacht from the '60s.
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