BJ Panda Bear’s Liquid Euphoria
Written by Sarah Oestreich (Editor) @Sarah_Oestreich
Liquid Euphoria draws its name and inspiration from 1980s films
Downtown 81, Slaves of New York, and Liquid Sky.
On the evening of Sunday, August 10th, LA’s newest pop-up shop opened its doors. Sorelli Presents BJ Panda Bear’s Liquid Euphoria features vintage and contemporary clothing and art from a number of artists and designers.
As described in a previous Issue Magazine article, the month-long event’s organizer BJ “has his hands in a little bit of everything: he is a blogger, stylist, DJ, and the blonde Asian you see at every party.”
From this description, you might easily—and falsely—assume that he is a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. While able in many areas, BJ could be called a curator of experiences. Each of his diverse projects is carefully crafted to promote multi-sensory adventures for its respective audience.
This specialty is on full display in his recent collaboration with Juliana “Juju” Sorelli. A filmmaker by trade, Sorelli’s aesthetic tends to skew towards the surreal and absurd but is still grounded in something relatable. She describes her work as “equal parts old Hollywood [and] rock ‘n’ roll and distills from them a sardonic and dreamy universe.”
And this is reflected in both Sorelli’s films and the collections at her store, The Evil Rock n’ Roll Cat.
You could easily drive right by The Evil Rock n’ Roll Cat. Located in a small house on Las Palmas Avenue in Hollywood, the only signs are of a small cat hanging above the doorway and a neon heart shaped “open” sign that resembles a “Mom” tattoo. Equal parts gallery and store, the Cat showcases clothing, accessories, posters, books and other items you can’t find anywhere else.
Born in Beverly Hills, Elterman is a photographer known for shooting such rock music legends as The Runaways, the Sex Pistols, Queen, the Ramones, Kiss, The Who, Blondie, Robert Plant, David Bowie, and Rod Stewart, among others.
While popular in Japan, the 1970s female rock band The Runaways never garnered widespread success. They did, however, open for The Ramones, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Cheap Trick, and Van Halen. The group was the subject of the 2010 self-titled film biopic with Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning starring as band members Joan Jett and Cherie Currie, respectively.
Also known as 1981 film, also known as New York Beat Movie, the 1981 film featured Jean-Michel Basquiat and other residents of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, with most playing versions of themselves. Due to financial problems, Downtown 81 didn’t go into post-production until 1999 and was finally released in 2000.
SLAVES OF NEW YORK
Directed by Academy Award nominee James Ivory and based on the short stories of the same name by Tama Janowitz, Slaves of New York was released in 1981 to little fanfare, despite starring Bernadette Peters and featuring other notable actors including Steve Buscemi, Anthony LaPaglia, and Stanley Tucci. The film went on to become a cult classic, mainly in the LGBT community.
Made for only $500,000, 1982’s Liquid Sky combines the 1980s punk scene with science fiction. The film’s low budget led to those involved wearing many hats: Slava Tsukerman co-wrote, directed, produced, edited and composed music for the film; Nina V. Kerova wrote, produced, casted and acted; and in addition to contributing to the screenplay, Anne Carlisle starred as the film’s two main characters, one male and one female.
Last month the Cat hosted its first exhibition, which featured renowned photographer Brad Elterman and his iconic 1970s photographs of The Runaways, along with props from the 2010 film and clothing from that era. Next up for the Cat: the ‘80s.
Liquid Euphoria draws its name and inspiration from1980s films Downtown 81, Slaves of New York, and Liquid Sky. The three movies focus on the lives and struggles of the decade’s artists in gritty downtown Manhattan: they are extremely poor, many are homeless, and all go unappreciated by mainstream society. Their existence is in stark contrast to the moneyed crowd who live above 14th Street. Drugs, violence, and crime are everywhere.
Downtown 81’s story closely resembles the life of its star, Jean-Michel Basquiat: he cannot sell his art, gets evicted from his apartment, and goes to clubs with the intention of wooing women just so he has somewhere to sleep.
Slaves of New York portrays the 1980s art scene as full of talent and promise but with little recognition or monetary reward.
The collections—which BJ refer to as “luxified punk”—reflect the rebellious and rule-breaking sensibility and spirit of punk but are made with expert craftsmanship and high quality materials.
Liquid Sky is a bit more fanciful. Producer and director Slava Tsukerman was intrigued by the NY art scene but was not a part of it, which was reflected in the film: there are drugs (for those of you who don’t know, “liquid sky” is a slang term for heroin), violent beatings, multiple rapes, drag… Oh and did I mention aliens who vaporize humans post-coitus?
Although based in truth—some more than others—these films are sensationalized versions of 1980s New York. Downtown 81’s writer Glenn O’Brien admitted that his “film is an exaggerated version of life.”
The pop-up shines a light on these false representations of history. The films took creative license with facts and at some point, groups of young people started to believe the fabrications were true.
“I had a conversation with a friend,” BJ tells me, “about all these kids in New York now who are in art school and emulating an ‘80s New York that never existed.”
And thus, Liquid Euphoria was born.
The designs for sale are perfectly encapsulated by a line in The New York Times obituary of 1980s designer Stephen Sprouse, who coincidentally did the costumes for Slaves of New York: “mixing uptown sophistication in clothing with a downtown punk and pop sensibility.” The collections—which BJ refer to as “luxified punk”—reflect the rebellious and rule-breaking sensibility and spirit of punk but are made with expert craftsmanship and high quality materials.
During the pop-up’s short run, you will be able to purchase pieces from some today’s best young designers, including Los Angeles-born and British-trained streetwear designer Shaun Samson. Samson’s CV is quite impressive: he has worked on four collections for Jeremy Scott and was featured during London Fashion Week. While his line may usually be a bit out of your price range, items have been heavily discounted for this event only. So snatch them up while you can (and before I do).
There are also goods from Together California, a brand that prides itself on creating “active glam wear that is made in the USA and fairly traded and sustainable.” Lily Chehrazi and Benedict Barrett’s line combines the former’s fashion background (Lilly Pulitzer, Patricia Field) and the latter’s nature photography into colorful and environmentally-minded products. (BJ swears that “the leggings frame the ass perfectly.”)
You will also find clothing by Bratzdoll.Tendency, BruceL, and U.S Alteration, graphic silk scarves by Manner Market, and neon art installations by Dan Regan.
Don’t wait to long to visit. In true pop-up style, blink and you’ll miss it.
Sorelli Presents BJ Panda Bear’s Liquid Euphoria
August 10 – August 31, 2014
The Evil Rock n’ Roll Cat
1608 N Las Palmas Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Open 6 days a week
1 pm – 7 pm
Parking: Street or Paid Lot across Las Palmas