"Tales of the American" filmmakers have interviewed more than 100 artists, writers, musicians and others with ties to the American Hotel, Al's Bar and the Los Angeles Arts District. Their memories span more than 70 years.
Bassist Mike Watt is a singer/songwriter and co-founder of the bands the Minutemen, Dos and Firehose. He has also written several rock operas, including one about falling ill while playing at Al's Bar. "I got sick before that," he says, "but Al's is where I got the symptoms, so it's memorable for me."
As a student at Otis Art Institute in the early 1980s, Tara Fondiler got a job bartending at Al's Bar. Soon after, she moved into the American Hotel above, at one time or another living in a room on every floor. "It was fun," says the painter, who now lives in Maui and recently came back to stay at the newly renovated hotel. "I got to listen to music and hang out with artists. That's more than money could ever buy."
In 1977, Bruce Moreland and his late brother, Marc, founded the seminal L.A. punk band Wall of Voodoo. The rock musician and songwriter, whose latest venture is Ravens Moreland, regularly appeared onstage at Al's Bar, not just with Wall of Voodoo, but also as part of Nervous Gender, the Weirdos and Concrete Blonde.
As a drummer and guitarist, Stephen Reed has played with several bands over the past three decades, including Carnage Asada, Legal Weapon and the Devil Dogs. He first came to Al's Bar as the sound technician for Firehose in 1990. "At first, I thought Al's Bar was kind of trashy," Reed says. "Of course, with time, I grew to love it."
When Teresa Grenot moved into the American Hotel in 1984, she didn't tell her parents. "They had a different view of this area," the Glendale College librarian says. Despite its reputation at the time, Grenot "felt amazingly safe" in the neighborhood — now the center of L.A.'s Arts District. "Nothing bad ever happened," she says. "No one ever bothered me."