Don Bauder 7:49 p.m., May 22
Black Dahlia Musical Opens at Bootleg Theater
The Chanteuse and the Devil’s Muse, a new play with live music written and directed by local celeb David J (Bauhaus, Love & Rockets), debuts this week at the Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles, running through October 1 before moving on to the Million Dollar Theater in November.
The play focuses on the connection actress and jazz singer Madi Comfort had to the Black Dahlia case. A regular in the Hollywood scene, Madi was connected to major players like Duke Ellington, who wrote the classic “Satin Doll” about the young singer. She and Elizabeth Short had traveled in some of the same circles.
In this theatrical staging, the music works as a framework around which another related story is interwoven; that of torch singer, Madi Comfort. According to the press description, "Will her police interrogation reveal a dark secret that will finally unlock the mystery of the Black Dahlia murder?"
The murder and dismemberment of Elizabeth Short in 1947 has been one of Hollywood’s biggest mysteries. It has been written about in numerous books, dramatized for the big and small screen, and now David J is giving the story his own twist.
The Chanteuse and the Devil’s Muse revisits the Black Dahlia song cycle that David J originally composed in collaboration with Ego Plum (Ebola Music Orchestra, The Gogol Project) for the independent feature film The Devil’s Muse.
Starring Daniele Watts as Madi Comfort (two-time NAACP Award-winner and Ovation Award nominee)
Douglas Dickerman as Lt. Frank Jemison
Vangeline as the Ghost of Elizabeth Short
Special Appearances by Tracey Leigh
Live Music by David J, Ego Plum (Ebola Music Orchestra), and Ysanne Spevack (Smashing Pumpkins)
The production also features acclaimed Butoh performer, Vangeline.
Here's some local-centric trivia about Elizabeth Short's brief San Diego sojourn, just before heading toward her destiny in L.A.
According to Donald H. Wolfe's 2006 book The Black Dahlia Files, in December 1946, soon-to-be-murdered actress Elizabeth Short was found sleeping at downtown San Diego's Fox Aztec Theater by a clerk, after a screening of The Al Jolson Story. Short had arrived in San Diego broke and couldn't afford any other place to sleep.
A clerk at the Fifth Avenue theater invited Short to stay at her home over the next couple of weeks, until the actress made her way toward L.A. and into history. Her mutilated body was discovered January 15, 1947.
Miss Short’s visit to the Aztec, however, may not have been to see the Jolson film after all — a local theater history blogger at http://www.myspace.com/SanDiegoCinerama has found the below ad, showing what WAS playing at the Aztec the week before Short went to L.A.
Strangely, and somewhat disturbingly, the movie Short almost certainly saw was actually THE BLUE DAHLIA.
Betty Short historians, take note. As far as I know, this odd twist to the Black Dahlia story was completely undiscovered until SanDiegoCinerama’s research surfaced.
David J. Haskins, better known as David J, was the bassist for the gothic British rock band Bauhaus and a co-founder of Love and Rockets, named after a popular comic book series.
After Bauhaus split, he released his first solo records, Etiquette of Violence and Crocodile Tears and the Velvet Cosh. He also played bass on two Jazz Butcher albums, and was a member of the Sinister Ducks, alongside comic book writer Alan Moore (Watchmen, V For Vendetta, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, From Hell, etc.). He also released a collaborative single, “Armour” b/w “Nothing” with artist and poet Rene Halkett, of the original Weimar Bauhaus school of art and design.
In 1985, J, his brother Kevin Haskins, and Daniel Ash formed Love and Rockets, though he maintained his solo career, releasing Songs from Another Season and Urban Urbane. He also released one of the first #1 hits from the newly created Modern Rock Tracks charts, with “I’ll Be Your Chauffeur.”
J participated in a Bauhaus reunion tour in 1998, which included a date at the San Diego Civic Theater. Love and Rockets broke up in 1999. Following what was billed as a one-off performance of Bauhaus at the 2005 Coachella concert festival, that band reformed for a successful tour of the Americas in late 2005 and Europe in early 2006.
In 1995, J joined local cello player Joyce Rooks (who in the seventies and eighties played guitar and sang with San Diego groups like the Cockpits, the Dinettes, and Trowsers) and Don Tyler to make up the instrumental ensemble Three, whose first album was Evocations.
Another collaboration with Rooks was an ensemble called Cabaret Oscuro, who came and went around 2001.
After moving to North County San Diego around 2003, he started work on the instrumental score for an independent film about Elizabeth Short directed by Ramzi Abed, entitled The Devil’s Muse. He also began turning up around town as a DJ at various events, as well as once joining a Bauhaus tribute band onstage at the Casbah.
He composed the original music for a stage production of Samuel Beckett’s Cascando in 2005. In 2008, J released Go Away White with his Bauhaus bandmates, as well as reuniting Love and Rockets, who played at Coachella Music and Arts Festival that same year.
Also in 2008, J wrote and directed a stage play, Silver for Gold (The Odyssey of Edie Sedgwick). “It’s part one-woman show [and] part rock concert, replete with avant-garde minimalist staging and video imagery,” says J. Sedgwick is best known as Andy Warhol’s onetime muse whose beauty and descent into tragedy have become the stuff of pop-culture legend.
“Writing Silver for Gold,” says J, “it felt as if I had entered into a subtle psychic relationship with this beautiful dead girl, and she was actively encouraging me to write. She became a bright light that glowed all the brighter whenever I started to create. It was as if she was feeding on the attention. This might sound highly fanciful, but that is how it felt. Edie was enduring in her ultimate role, that of the muse.”
Some incidental music for the production was provided by Marcelo Radulovich, of the local Trummerflora arts collective. J collaborated again with Radulovich for a 2010 single, “Hank Williams to the Angel of Death.”
In early 2011, his seven-inch single “Tidal Wave of Blood” b/w “Blood Sucker Blues” was released, taken from his planned goth-inspired concept album Not Long For This World.
J worked on the seven-inch alongside Shok, a former member of Thrill Kill Kult. The inspiration behind the record came from a side project that J and Shok had collaborated on with former Concrete Blonde singer-bassist Johnette Napolitano.
A single from Not Long For This World was released in early 2011, “Tidal Wave of Blood.” He also recently collaborated with local girl duo the Glossines for the song “The Bottle, the Book, or the Dollar Bill.”