Victoria Looseleaf is an LA icon. She is and always has been a whirling dervish, part smart dance critic and part madcap doyenne. She is an award-winning arts journalist whose bright sparks explode into fireworks.
The name, "We shortened it from Looseleafkowitz!", may fit her style, but it's her serious journalistic cred and internet chops that has allowed her to stay relevant in today's tumultuous times. She is a comet.
As a noted dance critic, Victoria Looseleaf was once asked if she ever danced. She replied glibly, "Of course. I studied at Florence Shapiro School of the Dance, a charm school in Shaker Heights, Ohio."
It's this deadpan humor that, when coursing through her thousands of profiles, interviews, reviews and feature stories, makes Looseleaf's writing unique. She is old school professional.
Those in the dance world speak their own language. "Don't get me started," the tall, thin redhead exclaimed, "but one online writer referred to a famous ballerina as 'principle' dancer instead of 'principal.' And not just once, but twice. I let him have it. More so, after he said it was a typo. Hah!"
Indeed, when Looseleaf was recently interviewed on Studio Vox's "Get Famous Fridays," Amanda Slingerland asked if she had any advice for aspiring writers.
Looseleaf replied, "Don't use SpellCheck!"
As one of the last of the great freelancers, Looseleaf has been a regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times since 1996. She also writes for KCET Artbound, Dance Magazine, Artillery, Performances Magazine, the New York Times and other outlets, including her blog, The Looseleaf Report.
Always succinct, in a recent critique for Australia-based Fjord Review, Looseleaf likened American Ballet Theatre's new production of "The Sleeping Beauty" to an episode of "Hoarders," one that "might best be experienced after downing a couple of NoDoz."
That review was sandwiched between in-depth interviews Looseleaf had done with Tony Award-winning choreographer and 2010 Kennedy Center honoree, Bill T. Jones and filmmakers Kate Johnson and Maria Ramas for their award-winning documentary on the late dancer Mia Slavenska.
A Thoughtful, Educated Critic
"Keeping objective and balanced is not always easy," explained Looseleaf, "and people sometimes think you're jaded. But I go to each performance with an open mind, wanting to love it."
Looseleaf said some of her reviews, if not exactly prompting death threats, have, however, resulted in a bit of hate mail. "Who wants to go to a dance performance and see somebody have their hair washed onstage?" asked Looseleaf rhetorically, referring to an L.A. Times review she wrote wherein an audience member was pulled onstage to be soaped-up and blown dry.
"I mean, where is Warren Beatty when you need him," Looseleaf said, referring to the actor's film, "Shampoo."
Criminology to Harpnosis
In whatever way she writes about the arts, the self-proclaimed "Deadline Queen," comes to her profession somewhat circuitously: She has a bachelor's degree in psychology with a criminology minor from UC Berkeley and a Master's of Fine Arts in the Performance and Literature of the Harp from Mills College. Combining those fields, Looseleaf performed solo concerts with her harp in prisons.
"I decided I didn't want to be Clarice Starling," she recalled, "so I toured Europe and Japan, and then released two albums - "Harpnosis" and "Beyond Harpnosis.""
Used for de-stressing purposes, Looseleaf said the albums were endorsed by medical professionals, an Oscar-winning actress and athletes. "When I lived in Laguna Beach, I gave a copy of "Harpnosis" to my neighbor, O.J. Simpson," recalled Looseleaf. "Obviously, it didn't take."
Through it all, though, Looseleaf was always writing. Living in New York in the early '80's, she was working on her first novel, "Stalking the Wild Orgasm." She was also coached by Harpo Marx's teacher, Mildred Dilling the Harpist.
Looseleaf had been encouraged to move to L.A. It was circa 1986 and Looseleaf began studying with legendary poetry teacher, Jack Grapes, who published, "A Looseleaf Notebook, Vol. 1."
She was also still performing on the harp, with gigs including funerals and Beverly Hills brisses. "I used to play, "I've Got You Under My Skin," much to the chagrin of the well-heeled attendees," recalled the writer.
While honing her harp and poetry act in art galleries and long gone legendary clubs such as the Lingerie and Lhasa, Looseleaf began producing and hosting a cable access TV show, "The Looseleaf Report," which aired in L.A. and New York for 22 years.
Harpnosis to Cable Show Host
Having taped more than 400 shows, Looseleaf began by covering the underground art scene. She also played the harp and sang original songs, with "I Turned Gay in Acapulco (For a Day in Acapulco)," eventually becoming the cable access show's closing tune.
Then there were Looseleaf's monologues, performed with illustrator/rim shot drummer, JT Steiny. She also had a sidekick for a number of years, Eric Malone, with the duo offering recurring segments such as, "Who's Dead Now?"
A regular roster of performers that did comic, music and literary bits included LA Mudpeople founder/poet/artist, Mike Mollett, performance artist/actor John Fleck, "Venereal" comic, Rube Reuben (Charles Schneider) and author Richard Meltzer.
In fact, the then-nascent superstar made his first talk-show appearance on "The Looseleaf Report," with crime novelist James Ellroy waiting in the green room for his on-air chat. When the author took his seat opposite Looseleaf, Ellroy asked, "Cute kid - who is he?"
This Leonardo DiCaprio video makes a splash on the internet every six years or so; after all, it is Leo's first time.
Looseleaf went on to pen "Leonardo: Up Close and Personal," a bio for Ballantine Books, which was in the Top 50 Amazon titles a month after its release in 1998.
"It's no Ulysses," Looseleaf said dryly, "but when Random House put out its fall titles that year, the L.A. Times' classical music critic, Mark Swed - he was a colleague of mine from Mills College - called to congratulate me. Swed said - and I quote - "I didn't know you wrote a biography of Leonardo DaVinci.""
Looseleaf laughed, adding, "My name was getting out there and the show turned me into a kind of major minor celebrity."
Victoria Looseleaf and The Looseleaf Report are classics. Here is superstar guest Timothy Leary.
This is a fascinating interview with Ray Bradbury. Click Here.
The educated critic Looseleaf reviews the Dance Biennale 2012. Click Here.
Major Minor Celebrity
It also led to a slew of writing jobs, including a stint at the Downtown News - when little was happening in the urban core. Looseleaf also covered dance and music for La Opinión, the Spanish-language daily newspaper, where she was translated - no easy feat considering her idiosyncratic style.
"I reviewed an L.A. Opera production of "Samson and Delilah," she recalled, "and had written, 'Enter Samson (Plácido Domingo, with more chest hair than Austin Powers and kneeling with the agility of a porn star...')...' I was thrilled when I bought the paper and read the words, 'estrella de porno.'
"Not to worry," said Looseleaf, "the singer still talks to me. We had a terrific interview last December in Valencia, Spain, where I was invited to cover the opening of that city's opera season at the Palau de les Artes and he was singing and conducting in two productions. Unfortunately, when I got home I learned that the director had been fired and arrested for financial malfeasance! There went my Plácido interview."
With her distinct Cleveland voice, Looseleaf was an on-air reporter for KUSC-FM Radio. Over five years, the list of bold-faced names she interviewed included Chris Pine, "The Book of Mormon" creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, John Leguizamo, Jane Fonda, Javier Bardem and "Birdman" director Alejandro González Iñárritu.
During that time Looseleaf also penned broadcast scripts for the L.A. Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, as well as profiling the world's top musicians, among them piano superstars Lang Lang and the Labèque sisters, and violinist Joshua Bell.
She Likes What She Does
"I'm innately curious, I love artists and I love to write," said Looseleaf, who was also program annotator for the Geffen Playhouse for two years, as well as for the L.A. Master Chorale. During four seasons with the Chorale, her quirky take on the music always sparked interest, if not controversy. Only Looseleaf would dare to describe composer Gabriel Fauré as "a babe magnet."
When asked if she had any favorite interviews, Looseleaf replied: "The Flying Russian from Cirque du Soleil. He was so thrilled to be on my TV show that he fell in love with me and ended up flying around my apartment instead of under the big top in Santa Monica."
"I also loved my interview with the mime, Marcel Marceau. He called me from France and I absolutely could not get him off the phone."
After receiving a Lester Horton Award for "Furthering the Visibility of Dance" in 2006, Looseleaf began filing datelines from countries ranging from Abu Dhabi, Argentina, Greece, Spain, Cuba and France, to Italy, Poland, Israel, Austria, Holland and Germany.
Looseleaf was also an adjunct professor of dance history at several colleges, including five-years at USC. Looseleaf said she loved teaching inquiring young minds.
"Millennials! You can't live with 'em, you can't teach 'em. No, no, that's not really true," added Looseleaf quickly, "it's just that when they try taking notes during a performance with their iPhones, it's definitely a challenge."
For those interested, Looseleaf is currently teaching a series of writing workshops and can be reached through Facebook.
Recently, she's been featured in a trio of documentaries: One was about DiCaprio for German TV (her voice is dubbed); in another, "Children of Giant," Looseleaf talks about her late friend and mentor, Ivan Moffat, who co-wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay for the 1955 film, "Giant;" and the third is a film directed by Adam Soch about the late theater director Reza Abdoh, who died of AIDS at 32 in 1995.
Abdoh had been a guest on "The Looseleaf Report," in 1991, so seeing herself in that footage and on the screen these days, Looseleaf said, "is kind of a jolt. But it's fun," she pointed out," and since I'm in the process of getting my archives digitized, it's very cool to look at the old shows and see what a slice of L.A. history they really are."
These days Looseleaf is also producing and curating Salon 3.0 (co-hosted by Joanna Cottrell), modeled after Gertrude Stein's Parisian gatherings.
"They're evenings of intimate conversations with artists about work, life, love, luck, beauty, booze and what-have-you," said Looseleaf, rattling off a guest list that include performance artist Barbara T. Smith, poets Linda J. Albertano and Laurel Ann Bogen, as well as painters Chaz Guest and Julienne Johnson. Music is part of Salon 3.0, too, with stellar names such as cellist Robert Een, jazz saxophonist Vinny Golia and WildUp's vibraphonist Jodie Landau bringing their talents to the mix.
This year the bi-monthly gatherings have featured Iranian composer/vocalist Sussan Deyhim, sculptors Stuart Kusher and Robert Heller and painter/writer Mary Woronov, as well as muralist Andre Miripolsky, with future Salonistas including artist/photographer Harry B. Chandler, Lili Hayden and a site-specific duet from Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre.
With L.A. having become the hotspot for art, Looseleaf is working on a fine arts web series, "ART NOW," with Emmy-award winning producer Larry Gilbert.
Another major endeavor has Looseleaf teamed with former tango maestra Linda Valentino, who is opening Downtown Dance and Movement in LA's happening South Park district. Besides offering social dances and classes in all genres, the studio will be home to the non-profit Looseleaf Performance Space, featuring twice-monthly productions of dance, music, pop-up art exhibitions and readings.
And speaking of readings, Looseleaf recently launched herself as a writer of satiric fiction. Contributing to the anthology, "Gen F," which features some 30 L.A. writers, Looseleaf, by all accounts, wowed with her short story, "The Oudist." The world-trotting story is wild and engagingly told at a break neck speed.
With the revolving Gen F troupe, Looseleaf has been reading at various galleries and bookstores around town, including Beyond Baroque, Book Soup and Stories in Echo Park. Looseleaf often fills the role of MC.
As editor, working with her on Gen F was a gas. Victoria Looseleaf has a historic sense of humor and style. All of her great experiences and pedigrees create a real life cyclone of fun.
After her close friend, actor/writer/painter Taylor Negron died in January, Looseleaf was asked to speak at a memorial tribute at the Comedy Store.
"I was extremely nervous about having to be on the same bill with comics like Sandra Bernhard, Larry Miller and Paula Poundstone," admitted Looseleaf. "I didn't even want to enter from backstage, because I thought I would trip coming out from behind the curtain.
"So I entered from the side and when I got to center stage, I couldn't see the audience because of the lights. But I could hear the laughs and held my own. People came up to me afterward and suggested I go into stand-up."
With Looseleaf, anything's possible. These days, however, when she's not going to and writing about dance performances, symphonies, operas, theater or art, Looseleaf can be found working on a play, "Scott and Zelda On Ecstasy," and on her fictional memoir, "Men and Other Natural Disasters."
"I've had so many past lives, no wonder I'm so tired in this one," Looseleaf said. "Seriously, sometimes I feel like I'm living my life on Tesla's Insane Mode. I go from 0 to 70 in less than three seconds." Looseleaf paused for a beat before adding, "Doesn't everybody?"
Gordy Grundy is an artist and arts writer. His visual and literary work can be found at www.GordyGrundy.com.