Whether you see her crossing Sunset Boulevard or she’s popping up on your screen, L.A.-based singer and actress Yasmine Kittles seems to be everywhere. Not only is she the frontwoman of her own band Tearist, but she collaborates with everyone from Ryan Adams to Former Ghosts, Eric Wareheim from the comedy duo Tim and Eric, and many more. From music to acting, she does everything from her home base in Silver Lake. With that in mind, we asked her to give us an glimpse inside her neighborhood and let us in on her main haunts.
1. The Sweat Spot In 2010 Ryan Heffington created The Sweat Spot, a dance studio with the goal of teaching adults of any level in a non-competitive environment, with Heffington himself teaching as well. He and I met when our bands played together. Tearist was just starting out and playing our first shows, and Ryan was in a band called We Are The World. They would perform an intricate choreography fully disguised in masks and cloaks, hiding their identities and genders. It was incredible. He became a big supporter of my band, and we played a few more of our first events together. I went into Sweat Spot not having taken a dance class in years and not having seen Ryan in years either. I was just going to sit in and watch. Ryan happened to be at the studio and teaching that day and said “Fuck you. You’re dancing.” It was Advanced Jazz.
If the name Ryan Heffington doesn’t sound familiar to you — it should. Ryan is responsible for the incredible choreography of Sia’s “Chandelier” and most recently, Sia’s “Elastic Heart.” I cannot watch either of these videos without either getting goosebumps or crying. I believe he has changed the way people see dance as well as the power it can have in the world of music videos.
2. Army Navy Surplus Store You can find this landmark at 3228 Sunset Boulevard at the corner of Sunset and Hyperion. It was featured in the 1993 movie Falling Down with Michael Douglas and unlike much of Silver Lake, it’s still standing in the same location and with the same interior. When I first moved here I remember feeling starstruck by the place. It was like I was seeing the Eiffel Tower… but no one knew the movie or what I was talking about, much less understand my awkward fanaticism. I mean… This was my Elliot Smith wall.
I won’t spoil what happens in the store… If you haven’t seen the film… See. It. Now. Most of it takes place in and around these parts, which makes me feel kinda warm inside. (And yes, I do realize I just said that an army navy surplus store featured in a film about a man snapping and killing people made me feel warm. I’m fine with that.)
3. The Music Box Steps The stairs beginning on Vendome and ending at Descanso were made famous by the comedy duo of Laurel and Hardy in the 1932 short The Music Box where the two struggle to carry a piano up, like, a million stairs, because that, obviously, makes sense. One piano, two guys, a million stairs… Let the comedy ensue.
If you’re over the age of 87 you’re absolutely gonna love it… I mean, if you remember it… and are still mobile… and Descanso is super bumpy, so you might have a tough time. But it’s not hard to spot. You’ll see the sign… I mean, if you can see that far… .. you know what — I’m going to stop.
I live around there, so I usually catch myself begrudgingly for some reason feeling like I have to mention these stairs… It, usually, goes something like “Oh yeah. And these are the Music Box stairs. You know… From that one Laurel and Hardy where they had to carry a piano up, like, a million stairs? You didn’t see it?” This is often followed by “Oh. I’ll have to check that out.”
No one does. It’s weird. Why do I feel like it’s my duty to mention this movie?
4. The Bathroom at Local Local is a great place for brunch or just to pop in for some of their amazing iced coffee. (Gotta love a place with never-ending free iced coffee refills.) The staff is extremely friendly and… Honestly, I’m sick of people telling me of/ trying to find “a good brunch spot.” Let’s stop all this and just get into it.
Let’s talk about the bathroom. You can tell a lot about a place based on their bathroom. I’m talking about much more than just the cleanliness… I’m talking about that moment when you are sitting on the toilet and realize you gotta get your phone out and take a picture- not of yourself- of that bathroom. Local is that spot.
I highly recommend you eat at Local, and go into that bathroom. In that bathroom you will find the most unsettling (mostly amazing) mannequin of a young boy. He has no arms, a hole in his chest and looks to have been cut into two parts. Often times he stares directly at you… down into your eyes, into your soul — as you sit on the toilet wondering what is happening to you. Other times he is in another position. It’s terrifying. It’s incredible. It keeps me coming back for more.
5. The stairs at Micheltorena and Sunset
This is kind of a hidden jewel, but they are quite an attraction, mostly, because they are, actually, unavoidable. I have never, actually, gone up the stairs, but maybe the not knowing is part of what makes it more mysterious… For about five years there was a shopping cart chained to the railing at the bottom of the stairs. For some reason this comforted me. The cart is gone now… I miss him.