Has L.A. gotten the mag it deserves?

By CATHERINE SEIPP  |  Nov. 17, 2003 at 5:22 PM
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LOS ANGELES, Nov. 17 (UPI) -- There's a long tradition in Los Angeles of local media trying to be funny about local institutions and falling flat. The new L.A. humor magazine L.A. Inneundo is a welcome surprise in that it actually hits the mark.

That's because its two creators go very much against the L.A. grain in that they aren't afraid of ruffling feathers or hurting feelings. And they're not above shooting ducks in a barrel.

"We're fond of bad writing," says L.A. Innuendo's Richard Rushfield, sitting with co-editor Stacey Grenrock Woods by the courtyard pool outside Innuendo headquarters -- Rushfield's one-bedroom West Hollywood apartment.

"Fond" is something of an understatement. Rushfield in particular is so devoted to the comic aspects of bad writing that at the Nov. 5 L.A. Innuendo stage show, which he and Woods hope to take to the Aspen Comedy Festival, he performed a dramatic reading, set to music by Pachelbel, of what he considers "the worst celebrity profile ever" -- an old GQ cover story about starlet Charlize Theron.

Rushfield clipped it for his files three years ago, correctly figuring it would come in handy.

"The scene from her body of work that most spooks me," he reads out loud in a smarmy drone, "is that unsettling moment in 'The Devil's Advocate' in which she stands up in church, drops a sheet to reveal her pneumatic curves and informs Keanu Reeves that she has just had sex with Satan."

"The image haunts me because" -- Rushfield pauses to point out that here comes that inevitable moment where the GQ reporter brings himself pointlessly into the story -- "the spot where the scene was filmed happens to be in the same church, in the same pew, where my great-aunt sat during my wedding."

The show also includes a dramatization of an actual development meeting for a new Denzel Washington film called "Man On Fire."

"We got an audiotape of the meeting," Woods explains. Hollywood meetings are audiotaped as a matter of course. "You wouldn't make a videotape unless you were really into yourself," she adds.

The second issue of L.A. Innuendo, which debuted in August with a 30,000 circulation, has just been distributed at coffee hangouts, used record stores and comedy clubs from Pasadena to Venice, with a few outposts in the Valley.

Lainnuendo.com, which also has much of the content, lists locations.

Inevitably but not inaptly, the magazine has been compared to Spy. Like the late, great Spy magazine, L.A. Innuendo is both scolding and addictively funny, with an alienated insider's sensibility that usually hits the mark, but there the resemblance ends.

Spy was a slick national magazine with a New York focus and tight but respectable budget. L.A. Innuendo, a labor of love for Vanity Fair contributing editor Rushfield and Daily Show correspondent Woods, is 40-odd pages of purposely raw looking newsprint.

Rushfield and Woods pay neither the writers nor themselves. They also don't charge for the magazine, which is distributed free.

"Half the reason we started it is to give voice to our own ideas and general disgruntlement," says Rushfield, "but also we knew all these talented comedians, and there's no real outlet for them."

These include standup Andy Kindler, who "diagnoses America's softening funny bone" in the current issue. "If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to film it for a reality show, who cares?" Kindler theorizes. "But if a tree is shoved up someone's a-- in a Farrelly Brothers movie, it's genius."

And Craig Anton, who in "Diary of a Lost Sitcom" recounts his "usual screentest comedown: smoking, crying, dumping a bucket of animal feces off the Barham overpass, crying, quitting acting, calling my old girlfriend, calling my old sponsor."

The cover story for the new "Hollywood Goes Hollywood" issue is the sublimely absurd photonovel "Zooey Deschanel, King of Hollywood."

Regular features inlude the pseudonymous Jade Oppenheimer-Levin's pitch-perfect "D-Girl Confidential" column. (Oppenheimer-Levin is an actual development executive in Hollywood.)

"I'm sorry if after three lemon drop martinis and two amazing hours of conversation (I so appreciate a man who went to film school but also took classes outside the major. That is awesome) it's wrong to give in to someone physically," Oppenheimer-Levin writes. "Because that stuff happens, and I'm not about regrets. ..."

Next issue sees the return of "Free Is Too Much," a regular takedown of the alternative local newspaper L.A. Weekly.

"Well, it's just the overall drabness of it," sighs Rushfield about the L.A. media scene. "There's no fight or spunk. From the Times to Venice magazine, it's all like something written by the Topeka Chamber of Commerce. It all smacks of such insecurity, like it's such a precious thing that anybody writes we have to encourage it. I'd like to hear some name-calling and finger-pointing."

And no, he adds, the Times's star columnist Steve Lopez has not livened up the paper: "He's the archetype of the phoned-in, self-satisfied, cliched attempt at cliché-debunking that passes for edgy prose among our calcified activist class."

Or, as Andy Kindler puts it: "It doesn't bother me that the L.A. Times is owned by a huge faceless corporation based in Chicago. Eventually, everything will be owned by Viacom, so why fight it?"

What makes L.A. Innuendo rather groundbreaking is that it's the first humor magazine aimed at and based in L.A. That's a risky proposition here in the land of the deeply psychotherapized, where journalists have been traditonally loathe to snipe at sacred cows lest they be called mean-spirited.

Both Rushfield and Woods look bemused at this notion. "We don't have that problem," says Woods drily.

The two friends and publishing partners are soft-spoken and reserved in an way that seems faintly East Coast prep school, but actually both are L.A. natives.

Rushfield, who is so buttoned-down he only recently bought a bathing suit, grew up in Pacific Palisades, where he attended Crossroads, followed by Hampshire College in Massachussetts. He worked as a political organizer for Dukasis and Clinton before becoming a journalist in the mid-'90s. He's never been in his own apartment building's very inviting looking pool, an odd fact he attributes to the trauma of being chased by angry surfers as a kid.

Woods, who now lives in Los Feliz with her music producer husband, is from Sherman Oaks, where she went to Grant High and then Cal State Northridge. She's been the Daily Show's only L.A.-based correspondent for six years, and despite her demure style also writes a comically rude sex advice column for Esquire.

Rushfield and Woods often come up with story titles before they've considered writers or actual content. "Like Larchmont Avenue Babylon," says Rushfield, about pieces he'd like to see. "Or Cargo Shorts Mafia -- guys who sit at the Coffee Bean all day talking on cell phones, wearing baseball caps and cargo shorts."

Bohemian Silverlake -- where, full disclosure, I happen to live -- is a favorite target. TV writer Michael Sonnenschein contrasts "peppy, modish West Hollywood gay" with "embittered, paunchy Silver Lake gay" in the new issue's "Silverlake Party Guide" -- partly because the Coffee Table restaurant on Rowena threw out the stack of L.A. Innuendos Woods had dropped off.

So another possible story assignment is "Who's Snottier: Rodeo or Rowena?"

"Silverlake has always had a sort of precious existence, which means it's ripe for satire," Rushfield explains.

Also, Woods points out, "We're all about starting wars with people who don't know who we are."

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