Is there history on Skid Row?

Directed by John Malpede and Henriëtte Brouwers

June 22, 23 and 28, 29, 2002
from 1 till 5 pm.
Free to all
at 112 Winston Street
(between 4th and 5th off main Street)

About the Project

Is there history on Skid Row? was created around the theme of the social creation and re-creation of the neighborhood in Los Angeles know as Skid Row. We rented a store front so the performance and installation was on view and open for the people to drop in for five minutes or four hours.  All kinds of audience showed up: people sitting across the street; area workers; security guards; truck loaders / unloaders; store sales people and shop owners; yuppie loft dwellers; LAPD’s core audience; and passers by.


  • “The further Adventures of Captain Saveahoe” by R.C. Mantley
  • “The ‘Carceral’ City: Skid Row, Los Angeles” by Troy Ragland
  • ‘Blue Thunder’ from “Olympic Update: Homelessness in Los Angeles” by John Malpede (1984)

Installation videos created by Michiel Hoving: 

Project History

The Skid Row area of Los Angeles is undergoing a major transformation. We rented a storefront on Winston Street, right at the edge of gentrification.

We used many approaches and artistic media to document the history and to explore the present moment / forces and issues that will shape the future of the area.  We covered the wall space with historical photos and documents; conducted live interviews with long time service providers, shopkeepers, area residents and arts funders; and showed video interviews of other people living and working in the area.  We focused considerable attention on the emerging issue of the recent dramatic increase of women and children in the area and conducted video interviews with service providers that work with women in the area.  Women in the company gave live performance accounts of their experiences and the experiences of women in Skid Row.

Other live performances, written by company members, dealt with the problems of drugs in the area; the constant surveillance and “prison without walls” feeling of the neighborhood, and the shrinking of the neighborhood – as more and more people are consolidated into a smaller and smaller area, due to development of adjacent areas. Through this tapestry of offerings, a multifaceted look at the past, present and future of the Skid Row area was created.

Special live interviews were conducted daily and were conducted in between live performances. Von Gregory, owner of Gigi’s Gift Boutique, spoke about his arrival in Los Angeles as a crack addict and transformation from drug-user to businessman. His boutique, the only store in the Skid Row area selling new, unused items, caters to those living on the streets and in SROs. Jeff Dietrich, co founder of the Catholic Worker of Los Angeles and the Hippy Kitchen gave an historical overview of the area from his 25-year’s-in-the-area perspective. Caron Atlas and Claire Peeps (Durfee Foundation) gave instruction on how to secure funding for arts projects. Geoffrey Gilbert-Hammerling, sociologist and former assistant director of SRO Housing, spoke about the transformation of Skid Row housing.

Blue Thunder


MoTo and me, we just came from Los Angeles.  And on behalf of the city of Los Angeles, home of the ‘84 Olympics, and the homeless capital of America, MoTo and I have been asked by the L.A.O.O.C., (the Los Angeles Committee for the Organizing of Olympics),  to travel this land during the Olympics and tell the people of our land this Olympic Update Report.  And they asked us to do this.  And they paid for us to do this.  They gave us one-way bus tickets to travel America and come here.  They gave us one way bus tickets.  They paid for them.  And this is called Greyhound therapy.

We were in Los Angeles  for the Olympics.  What the Olympics were like, the Olympics were like the movie Blue Thunder.  Blue thunder was in Los Angeles.  And just like in the movie there were super helicopters, like Blue Thunder, from the LAPD Skywatch watching down from the sky.  There were Olympic helicopters everywhere.  All over the city.  the shinny ones — not the puffy helicopters that are round like balls, but the long ones like blue thunder, that look like giant grasshoppers and can see through walls.  they can point right at you, and they know how cold or hot you are.  And they can find you and shoot you down just because you’re warm, thinking the wrong thoughts.  (And you thought there weren’t any more of them because in Blue Thunder Roy Snyder shot them down with an old-fashioned bubble helicopter, and got the tape to the T. V. station that showed how they were going to look through walls and go into your mind and read it even when you were sleeping).

But now there are Olympic helicopters and they fly over the city and sit on the sides of skyscrapers like the 17 year locusts — like when  the 17 year locusts came and covered all the trees in Ohio.  and they ate, ate, ate, ate, ate all the leaves of off all the trees in all of Ohio.  And now the Olympic helicopters, they sit on the sides of the buildings reading thoughts and looking for terrorists.  And the LAPD they come down in to the skid row park at 6th and Gladys, across the street from the Hippy kitchen and the Regal Hotel, and they make everyone lie down on the ground with their heads behind their hands.  And they talk thru their walkie talkies to the Olympic helicopters.  And the Olympic helicopters read the minds of the people lying on the ground and they signal the LAPD and the LAPD take them away.  they take them away and they put them in jail so that we can have the Olympics.

If you’re a terrorist you can pretend you’re not by thinking cool thoughts all day long.  But when you fall asleep, the terrorist thoughts will come back into your mind and the Olympic helicopters (no matter where you are) will feel the heat and they will find you.  And now that all the terrorists have been plucked up and carried off to jail by the Olympic helicopters, you can get a bed at the Weingart Center or the Midnite Mission.  And before the Olympics you hardly ever could and you’d have to sleep outside in a box. Box, box, box, all around the Midnite mission on Los Angeles Street.  Box, box, box, back into the alley in your box.  And that’s o.k.  It’s good, because if you’re sleeping there with everyone in boxes, you’re not going to get into any trouble.  — Like the old lady who slept all alone in the goofy car she decorated with balls in the vacant lot over on 5th and Wall.  She got cut up.

LAPD Interviews The Catholic Worker’s Jeff Dietrich

HsRJeffDMy name is Kathy Shepard and this is Mr. Jeff Dietrich. Jeff Dietrich is doing a very important work in the community. I’d like to thank you first for this service. I think it’s wonderful. How long has your group been on skid row?

Jeff: The Los Angeles Catholic Worker is part of the Catholic Worker movement which was founded in 1933 by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin. So we’re part of a larger movement within the Catholic church -the lay Catholic movement- that started during the depression in 1933.

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  • Performers:
    Ibrahim Saba, Rickey Mantley, Chas Jackson, Floyd Harris, Alexander the Poet, Karen Alexander, Catherine Shepard, Jennifer Campbell, Kareem Muhammad, Virgil Wilson, Eric Ruben, Yoho Myrvaaghes.
  • Other contributors:
    Troy Ragland, Jenny Smith, Jeanne Syqui, Michiel Hoving, Ann Elizabeth Armstrong, Robert Bell, Tamar Korn, Sarah Danforth Eaton, Stefanie Adcock, Scott Macintosch, David Michalek, Joy Anderson, Athena, Ann-Sophie Morrissette, Julia Carnahan, Kevin Higa, Henriëtte Brouwers, John Malpede.
  • Special Guests:
    Geoffry Gilbert-Hamerling, Phd.: sociologist, principal Polis Consulting Group, Santa Monica, formerly Assosiate Executive Director SRO Housing Inc.; Von Gregory: Owner of Gretchen’s Gift Joint, 453 S. san Pedro; Caron Atlas: independant arts consultant; Claire Peeps: Durfee Foundation and Jeff Dietrich: Los Angeles Chatholic Worker.

Project Funders

Funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Cultural Affairs Department of Los Angeles.