"Tales of the American" to Open on March 30

The Downtown Independent to Screen Documentary About the American Hotel, Al's Bar and L.A.'s Arts District

“Tales of the American” — a new documentary about the Downtown Los Angeles arts scene from the makers of “Young Turks” and Executive Producer Michael Connelly — will open Friday, March 30, 2018, for a one-week run at the Downtown Independent.


“Tales of the American” tells the story of the American Hotel, located at the heart of what has come to be called the Arts District.


Built in 1905 as the city’s first hotel for African-Americans, the modest brick building at the corner of Traction and Hewitt has always been a haven for society’s outcasts, a magnet for colorful characters and a hotbed of creative energy.


From 1980-2001, it was the home of Al's Bar, a legendary dive where punk bands like Black Flag, X and Nirvana played before finding fame and fortune.

Narrated by KPCC’s John Rabe, “Tales of the American” features archival photos and footage, and interviews with artists, musicians and others who lived, worked or played at the American Hotel.


Filmmakers Stephen Seemayer and Pamela Wilson have captured the history of a landmark, and the free spirit of a creative community now facing the challenges of gentrification.

The Stories

Filmmakers Stephen Seemayer and Pamela Wilson have interviewed more than 80 residents, former residents and neighbors of the American Hotel. "Tales of the American" will weave together their stories and memories of nearly four decades in what is now known as the Arts District in eastern downtown Los Angeles.

The History

Built in 1905, the American Hotel was originally intended to provide a haven for black travelers and entertainers in the early 20th century, when other downtown hotels were segregated. It has withstood several earthquakes and the groundshaking punk scene that once rocked Al's Bar on the ground floor of the hotel.



The Setting

Originally surrounded by factories, warehouses and train tracks, the corner of Traction Avenue and Hewitt Street is now the hub of what the City of Los Angeles terms its Arts District. The brightly painted walls sport graffiti as well as sanctioned murals on streets that now are home to cafés, galleries, restaurants and theaters.


The Legacy

The infamous punk-rock dive Al's Bar, where bands such as White Stripes and Red Hot Chili Peppers played before fame found them, was located on the ground floor of the American Hotel for 21 years. Also, several exciting, if short-lived, L.A. art groups, such as 50 Bucks, Bedlam and Deep River Gallery, at one time called the hotel home. 

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© Tales of the American / Seemayer Studios LLC 2014