The 'Toledo' show gets a second look
Los Angeles Times December 11, 2008
Casual clubbers are forgiven in advance if they think they've entered a night-life wormhole this month. Burlesque and gritty blues-and-jazz-influenced music are back in vogue all over town, perhaps as a result of a faltering economy that harks back to the Depression era.
Consequently, some Angelenos are taking a fresh look at long-running, music-and-burlesque experience "The Toledo Show," which plays Thursday night by special arrangement at Hollywood nightclub-restaurant hybrid the Kress. Partly responsible for the new popularity is a movie opening Friday in limited nationwide release, "Dark Streets," which features the soul cabaret's frontman, Toledo Christopher Dimon (a.k.a. Toledo Diamond).
"We never went away," said Dimon before his long-standing weekly gig at Santa Monica venue Harvelle's on Sunday. His "Toledo Show" played all over Los Angeles for the better part of the last decade before settling in the small 4th Street lounge the last five years.
"But we've evolved," the husky-voiced ringleader said with a laugh.
This month, the Toldeo Show is suddenly back on some night crawlers' radar, thanks in part to a tie-in with a small production company who is using the band to market the film, in which Dimon appears and plays a pivotal role.
Andrea Balen, one of "Dark Streets' " producers, said Dimon, though not a professional actor, was a natural pick for the role of Prince in the film, which is sold as a sort of noirish, blues version of "Moulin Rouge."
"Once we met Toledo, we stopped auditioning people," Balen said before the Sunday show (the film's female lead, Bijou Phillips, also performed with the "Toledo Show" band Sunday and is expected to sing again Thursday at the Kress). "He was perfect [as Prince]."
However, it's fans of the real Prince who might enjoy "The Toledo Show," which is sex-soaked and funky. The entire experience is akin to listening to the famed musician's "Black Album," with dancers, called "dames" in the show, bumping and grinding near audience members at certain junctures during the evening. And while the original numbers the band performs rarely elevate to anything as catchy as a tune written by his Purpleness (Dimon's vocals aren't for everyone), the experience is what the Toledo Show is all about.
And while jaded L.A. nightlife veterans may scoff at the Toledo Show as a poor man's version of the (now closed) nightclub Forty Deuce, others say the show is underrated.
"It's artistic and different," said Jackie O'Neill, 34, in Sunday night's crowd. "You can see live music all over L.A., but you can't always see a real show."
— Charlie Amter/L.A. Times
photo by Ringo H.W. Chiu/L.A. Times