"Tales of the American" filmmakers Pamela Wilson and Stephen Seemayer interviewed more than 100 artists, musicians, writers and others who have lived, worked and partied in and around the American Hotel over the past four decades. As new development and a growing population drasticallhy change the downtown landscape, Wilson and Seemayer hope to preserve memories of the vibrant art community that flourished there in the 1970s, '80s, '90s and early 2000s. These are the people who created the Arts District. Their recollections will be released (in alphabetical order) below and on a new YouTube channel, Tales of the American Interviews.
In 2008, Jim Fittipaldi and his Bedlam art salon moved into the space that had been home to Al’s Bar until its demise in 2001. “No one in Downtown would think of that as Bedlam,” Fittipaldi said. “They’d just think of it as Al’s Bar, it would be Al’s Bar, I guess, forever!” Fittipaldi, an avid art collector and a painter in his own right, forged many friendships in the community he called “the greatest neighborhood I’ve ever lived in.” (Click on photo to watch interview.)
In 1989, TV art director Jim Fittipaldi turned his Downtown L.A. loft into a speakeasy, hosting all-nighters of cocktails, poker, music and conversation. With a dress code and “no plastic cups,” Bedlam was a sophisticated alternative to the punk vibe at Al’s Bar. In 2001, Bedlam moved to 6th Street and blossomed into a legendary, if unpermitted, nightspot. A fan of gangster lore, Fittipaldi said, “What we were really doing was racketeering! (Click on photo to watch interview.)
Miriam Feldman (known as Mimi) moved downtown to a loft at 3rd and San Pedro streets in 1981 after graduating with an MFA from Otis Art Institute. While her work belies a subtle subversiveness, Feldman says she was “just an old-fashioned painter” in a burgeoning community of performance artists, provocateurs and punk rockers. She paid her rent by serving beers at Al’s Bar, where she met her future husband, gallery director Craig O’Rourke. (Click on photo to watch iinterview.)
In 2010, designer Ramiro Fauve was renovating Cole’s, L.A.'s oldest bar. Tired of the commute from Woodland Hills, he took a room at the American Hotel, joining a historic art community at Traction Avenue and Hewitt Street in the Arts District. From his second-floor loft, Fauve had a bird’s-eye view of the changing neighborhood, and his dog — Cash, the Hewitt Husky — became a social-media star on Fauve’s window sill. (Click on photo to watch interview.)