In Search of Fairfax


Due to its central location and its seemingly intimate sense of community, the Fairfax neighborhood became a prime destination for Generation-X hipsters and young urban professionals during the 1990s; it was within this context that the nightclub Largo emerged as a symbol of “cool culture" on Fairfax Avenue. Upon its opening in 1989, “Cafe Largo,” (the original name) received much positive publicity for its poetry readings, its cabaret shows, and its late night dining options. Mark Flanagan bought the club in 1992 and helped to reinvent Largo as an intimate performance space for up-and-coming comedians and musicians. Indeed, regulars included comedy rock duo Tenacious D, singer-songwriter Aimee Mann, as well as stand-up comedians Paul F. Tompkins and Patton Oswald. In June of 2008, the 120-seat venue on 432 Fairfax Avenue closed and Largo relocated to a larger space at 366 N La Cienega Boulevard. 

Fairfax had attracted counterculture types since the 1960s but the "cool Fairfax" scene of the 1990s was quite different because, in many ways a sign of the changing demographics, there was little interaction between the old timers and the newcomers.  While located in the midst of a historically Jewish neighborhood and frequently featuring stand-up performances from Jewish comedians such as Sarah Silverman and Larry David, Largo was predominantly insulated from the dwindling though still identifiable Jewish character and composition of the neighborhood. According to the Los Angeles Times, “that’s because the younger, hipster crowd that frequents it [Largo] and other clubs on the street, such as Dime, come out at night, when many in the community’s aging Jewish population are at home.” 

One notable exception and contentious instance of co-mingling occurred in 1992: while Largo was scheduled to host a poetry reading and fundraiser for Palestinians, the planned event drew the ire of the militant Jewish Defense League, who threatened to cause “trouble” if the event was not canceled. Explaining his opposition to the the planned event,  Jewish Defense League leader Irv Rubin noted, "for them to have an event of that kind in the Fairfax district is akin to bringing a cheese sandwich to a bar mitzvah." While mainstream Jewish organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League spoke out against the Jewish Defense League and police assured protection, the event was ultimately canceled. 

Sources: Duke Helfand, " 'Work in Progress' Mixes Old and New on Fairfax," Los Angeles Times, November 29, 1996; Nancy Hill-Holtzman, “Arab-Americans Say JDL Forced Event’s Cancellation Tensions, Los Angeles Times, August 19, 1992; Natalie Nichols, “Cover Story; Forget the Velvet Rope,” Los Angeles Times, January 17, 2002; Gina Piccalo, "Alt Comedy as the New Mainstream," Los Angeles Times, August 30, 2009. 


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