They Only Play Asian Stuff: Centering Korean Culture in LA & Regional Ignorance

Los Angeles is a funny place.
After my amazing ramen/movie night at CGV Cinemas, I went to read my Santa Cruz Noir book (OMGZ Susie, it’s SO GOOD! I’M DYING) & have a cocktail at Frank & Hank’s (thought of you, my beautiful love Michelle).

Some girl at the bar next to me asked about the book since I was having such visceral reactions to it, so I read her a passage over the pounding gangsta rap.
Girl: WOAH. THAT’S SOME BRUTAL SHIT GURL. And you’re laughing?
Me: Well, yeah. I recognize all the locations in the story and…it’s gory dark murdery stuff but…very brilliant!
*She took a picture of the book*
Girl: Imna have to get that.
Me: Oh you need to, 100%.
Girl: So what were you up to tonight?
Me: I was over at CGV down the street, watching a great movie.
Girl: The movie theater over there?!?!? *points towards the door* WHY??? THEY ONLY PLAY ASIAN STUFF. OH BUT LIKE HAVE YOU WATCHED ANY ASIAN HORROR.
Me: *having great difficulty not making life imitate art & make like one of the killers from Santa Cruz Noir*
Yeah. It was weird. And racist. And frustrating. CGV is a great theater. My favorite next to the New Beverly, actually.
I love K-town so very much. I am usually the only white person at the movies I go see and until a while back when I cut my hair into my current “punk rawk” look, I was given a lot of “What are you doing here?” expressions. I find it endlessly fascinating that my hairstyle has changed how I am treated but that’s a whole other conversation.
Back to CGV. I didn’t mind anyone looking at me with the “you don’t belong” expression. I knew that I was entering a non-white space. I belong from the perspective of being from LA and having grown up a few blocks away but…it is not my space. It is, however, the only location in LA that I can see these films and I desperately enjoy Korean cinema, from the soap operas to the gritty procedurals to the gruesome horror. I think the only genre I’m not into is the bubble-gum rom-com and even some of those I like!!! But when I go to CGV Cinemas in K-town I am very aware, as an Angeleno, that this may be my city but this is not my space.
The older Korean couples on date nights love me though. Maybe they think I’m a weirdo sitting alone with my concessions sighing and crying at that historical romcom with them. But I also think they appreciate having younger people in those movies (sometimes those films have a bit of an older draw). Maybe they just think I’m confused and I ended up in the wrong theater? I love seeing how many older couples do go to the movies together and enjoy the experience just like it was “the old days.” I feel like when I go to CGV, people there are really there for the experience and my heart soars.
I always feel really good in those theaters. Everyone there is going to the movies intentionally.
There’s a difference between going to the movies as something to do and going to the movies intentionally. You can do both (many do) but the people I see going in and out of CGV are people I want to go to the movies with. The audience for Believer last night was great. Maybe not super rambunctious like an average US action-movie audience, but they laughed loudly at funny lines and it certainly felt like a community. Which is what I need in a movie going experience and a movie theater.
CGV is really special because like many movie theaters that used to exist in Los Angeles, it offers culturally specific materials that cannot be accessed anywhere else. Korean films on the big screen. And not just on the big screen, but a REALLY DAMN BIG SCREEN. The seats are nice, the sound is great, they have 4 hours of free parking.
And, as I schooled Bar Girl, CGV doesn’t “just play Asian stuff.” More specifically, their focus is on the Asian community (the Korean community to be exact). White folks, or English-speaking anyones, are 100% secondary. But that doesn’t mean that they are not welcome or cannot attend. It just means that they are not the central audience for CGV and that is a breath of fresh air in this world. Yes, I am aware that CGV is a Korean company so obviously that is their focus but still. It’s really great to have this theater HERE IN LOS ANGELES.
Bar Girl was shocked when I told her that they are currently showing Deadpool 2 and I saw a trailer for the next Incredibles movie as well as the new Jurassic Park. She had completely tossed the theater to the side. Hi ignorance and total unwillingness to explore your own neighborhood (she said she lived in the area). Sure, these films have Korean subtitles, but that’s fucking great! This is something called ACCESS. Why shouldn’t everyone be able to see movies? And why shouldn’t we all be able to see as many amazing movies as we can? The fact that I was able to go and see Believer (Lee Hae-young, 2018), the remake of Johnnie To’s masterful Drug War from 2012 is so exciting to me! And by the way?
                      BOTH VERSIONS OF THIS MOVIE ARE AMAZING!!

They’re playing a comedy at CGV starting on June 22nd. The trailer looked INSANE. I cannot wait. So glad that they take MoviePass. I know that I sound like an ad for CGV (I don’t mind) but I’ve always said that it’s like the Korean Arclight but cheaper. And take a chance if you live in LA, come see a Korean movie with me. They are really great.

See how your calendar is looking for this beauty…. I’m excited AF.

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Eric Caidin: Los Angeles Legend, Hollywood Cultural Treasure and My Friend

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Got the stupid phone call earlier today. I had just woken up. My cats hadn’t even switched positions from where we went to sleep the night before.

I did the same thing that I did when I got the phone call that Sherman Torgan died. I was so dead silent that the person on the other end had to check if I was still there. In fact, it was the same person who told me in both cases.

I argued with my friend: “Are you sure? This isn’t a rumor or a mistake?” I knew it wasn’t. “You’re absolutely positive? This CAN’T be true. This is not someone we can afford to lose. We really need him.” Which was a mixture of the oral historian/archivist/scholar in me speaking but the Film Friend saying: I really need him. I’m going to miss this man so fiercely. He changed my life. Who will I see and hug now at film events? Who can I giggle with in that way we did?

My friend on the phone, who had his own extremely intimate relationship with Eric, was good with me. But he assured me that it was not a mistake. I said that maybe we brought it on by talking about people we had lost over the weekend. Was it our fault? “No, Ariel, it’s not our fault. He had a heart attack. We are not responsible.”

I still feel responsible. If I hadn’t brought that topic up last Saturday, would Eric still be with us? I know I’m not responsible. But I also keep wanting to wake up from some stupid nightmare and have this be false information. However, after seeing an article already published in Los Angeles magazine…I guess it’s not somnolence-related.

I wish all of you could have met Eric Caidin. I’m sure many of you did, perhaps for more than 20 years. I can only claim to have been Film Friends with him for 13-14 years. But my first introductions to Grindhouse Cinema were through him. And I had no idea what the term meant. Like zero clue.

Original storefront for Hollywood Book & Poster

Original storefront for Hollywood Book & Poster

Eric Caidin owned and ran Hollywood Book & Poster in the very center of Hollywood for years. In fact, it was only within the last year that it closed (due to raised rents, go figure). The plan was for HB&P to relocate to a highly popular spot in Burbank for themed boutiques, certainly one that would have been well-suited to Caidin’s years of hard work and skilled curation of motion-picture themed collectibles. As a woman who has grown up in this city and watched as places like Book City, C.C. Brown’s and other signature Hollywood Blvd landmarks disappear, this was sad. But I was also excited for their new future since I believed in the “Caidin Touch.”

If you watched Eric at a Convention or at a Q&A, if you had him hand you a flyer for a Kiddee Matinee at the New Beverly or any of the umpteen thousand projects that he did aside from running that shopyou would see something that we are lacking in 2015: THE ULTIMATE SHOWMAN.

Eric in his

Eric in his “milieu” at a convention! Always on & always “on it”!

He didn’t do a little bit of everything, he did a LOT of everything. And he knew about everything. While kids need google now and barely anyone remembers using real encyclopedias or card catalogs, Eric Caidin was a walking encyclopedia. And not just on horror films or exploitation- but on all kinds of cinema/pop culture. And on wrestling?? Expert!! And I. Love. Wrestling. Eric and I had so many conversations about the squared circle. In fact, almost every time I saw him- New Beverly, Noir City, running into him at random film screening- if there was some random wrestling thing (mainly Mexican Wrestling, but a good deal of other stuff too) that he was involved in, he would tell me about it and ask me if I wanted to go. Hindsight is 20/20, of course, and I hate that it is, but I am sure as hell sorry that I never watched wrestling with Mr. Eric Caidin.

A favorite personal Eric Story:

Many years ago, I’m down at Comic Con to present on a panel. As usual, I go by the Hollywood Book & Poster table to say hello and chill out and have some laughs with Eric. The day goes on, and Caidin says:

“Hey- you wanna go to Mexico with me tonight and get some wrestling masks and go to a match?”

UM, OBVIOUSLY. So the hall closes, we get into a van, park at the border, get a cab into Mexico. The match was a bust, we spent about an hour driving around TJ with Eric, laughing and listening to him talk to the cabbie, trying to figure out where there might be some Lucha. There was none. We went to a stadium and there were some guys outside who talked to us, told us there was a bullfight? No lucha. We got back in the cab. We returned to the main drag.

“Oh well. So much for that. Got this GREAT place to eat though.” So Eric Caidin took us to a place called “Tacos Not Drugs.” Still the best molé I have ever eaten. I don’t know what happened to the pictures that we took, which is sad. They had a “Tacos Not Drugs” stand-up with places for you to put your face. What a night.

But Eric was a Los Angeles Film Community Raconteur, in the very best sense of the word. Every time I saw him at a film event, I was overjoyed at being in his presence and at getting to bask in his experience and knowledge. Because he was one-of-a-kind and he genuinely loved film.  I spent a few hours at the final party of the Noir City party in 2014 listening to him tell me great stories that just made my jaw drop. And I just kept hugging him and asking him: “How do you even exist? Are you writing these things down? These stories are so fantastic?” And he just shrugged and told me another, while patting his fabulous film-related tie. Another thing- I loved Eric Caidin’s ties. NO ONE COULD EVER ROCK THAT THREE STOOGES TIE LIKE CAIDIN. And no one should ever try. End. Of. Story.

This tie was the best ever. No one could wear this like Caidin.

This tie was the best ever. No one could wear this like Caidin.

We joked about gangster pix and decided to try to take a gangster picture together that night. It didn’t quite work, but we had such a great time.

Eric Caidin- the bandit!

Eric Caidin- the bandit! With another AMAZING Three Stooges tie!

My Film Friend <3

My Film Friend ❤

I suppose when you hear of someone close to you dying you need to process it in certain ways, right? I want to remember the times that I had with him and our fabulous personal relationship, but that was personal.

No one reading this will know the singular joy I felt when I saw him at festivals or events. And I don’t get to do that ever again. That’s fucking painful. He gave great hugs. I like good hugs.

I always brightened because I recognized a Fellow Traveler. And by that I mean someone who engaged in the world of cinema for the Right Reason (and yes, there is One Right Reason): because you love and enjoy it and it makes you happy. It entertains you.

Many people knew Eric without “knowing” Eric. He was one of the founders of the Grindhouse Cinema screening series at the New Beverly Theater where he would show up, always wearing that baseball cap and that jacket that he loved (which was probably one of the 10 ugliest pieces of clothing that has ever been invented), and introduced so many forgotten film titles with Brian Quinn. This much-loved film series still continues and was an education for many cinephiles over the years. Before there was Cinefamily and their cult-screenings, before Cinefile even existed with specialized sections, there was Grindhouse night at the New Beverly. The only thing in LA that was comparable was Mondo Video but….that’s a whole other thing and that was a video store.

Grindhouse night at the New Beverly was one of the most flavorful and unique things that Los Angeles repertory theater culture has ever had. Sherman Torgan knew that, Michael Torgan recognized it, and it remains there today, albeit in a slightly changed capacity. But Eric Caidin’s influence on the minds and eyes of so many audiences in the Los Angeles area is hard to gauge. It’s expansive. To give you a slight idea, here are a few images from past calendars:

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Speaking from a media archiving standpoint, Eric Caidin was an exceptional person. He curated ephemera in a remarkable manner for fans and special interest groups for many years and was a specialist in this area. His masterful ability to engage “lost” Hollywood personalities and recenter them within a space that made them feel special was a gift that not everyone has. Because of his own love, admiration and fandom for the work that he was presenting, he was able to show respect for the materials showcased and the people that he interviewed or who came to his booth during the multitude of conventions that he would attend. Whether it was Rowdy Roddy Piper, Vampira or Ann Robinson, Caidin was a scholar and a gentlemen…albeit in a Monsterpalooza baseball cap most of the time.  But really- who is the arbiter of what scholarly or gentlemanly aesthetics should be, anyway? The man was a rock star and we will always remember him as such.

In 2015, when fandoms seem to be more about the “haters” and which fan item is better than another, Eric Caidin never pursued such folly. Thus his cultural power and ability to gain love from us made him legend. This icon who celebrated media so brightly and spent his life sharing that adoration with others is gone. And that sucks.

Men like Eric Caidin don’t “just happen.” He programmed the works posted above and was completely jazzed about the recent slew of Kiddie Matinees that he had going at the New Beverly. He handed me a flier from one of them and talked excitedly about how I had to come. “All in 35mm! You’ll love it, Ariel. It’ll be a great afternoon!” and then started telling me about the other ones that he was planning.

Eric Caidin was the most joyful Talker I’ve ever met not standing on the ballyway.

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Eric Caidin attended the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival this past weekend and passed away after having what I have been told was a lovely meal with some of my other most dear and closest Film Friends. One of the things I have come to cherish about my years with Eric was seeing him at the Festivals- TCM, Noir City, AFI, you name it. We’d dish, talk about what we’d seen, who we thought was good, all the filmy things. It was good to talk to him because there was no ridiculous drama. It was great and I felt like I was talking to an adult. All we talked about was what was important: film content, quality of print, similarity to other films, quality/calibre of performance, things that are so very valuable in a conversation. He would inevitably bring up something I hadn’t heard of. I would inevitably forget it and have to ask him next time what it was that we were talking about the last time we talked. Sometimes he’d remember, sometimes not. But such is life.

Something in me says that “if he was gonna go, at least it was after a fabulous weekend of seeing film noir and Q&As with Norman Lloyd and Jon Polito, and being with loved ones. That’s exactly the way I’d wanna go.” The other part is saying, “dammit, what was the last thing/movie we talked about?” and is terribly sad that there won’t be a “next time” refresher for whatever it was.

Thank you Eric Caidin. I still can’t believe you are gone. This is going to take a while.