In 2000 and 2001, I  covered offbeat cultural figures around Los Angeles in the column “Sidecar” column for New Times LA, an alternative weekly published from 1996 to 2002.  Here is a selection of those articles.

Cosmic Masters of Los Angeles
“It would happen. He wouldn’t go out of his way to levitate.”

The Sidewalk Astronomers
“Come see the Moon! Come see the moon,” Dobson cries as he hands out flyers on the observatory lawn. With his long white hair and theatrical manner, he could be an old carny or a doomsday pamphleteer…

A Dead Bigfoot Leaves No Choice
“And if it happens that I’m the lucky one to capture a Sasquatch,” he says breathlessly, “the world will praise me and say, aren’t we glad we had someone stubborn enough to continue on with the quest!”

The Cake Lady: Beneath the Icing
Her faith in God strengthened her, and the Mini-Cake Museum became a sort of sanctuary. There amid the cakes and sugarcraft curios, she’d hide herself away. “Sometimes I’d go there and cry, or I’d just scream out loud to release all that tension.

Angry Puppets, Disney Avenged
Why is Francis Creighton so concerned with clearing the deceased millionaire’s name that he performs his own play every Sunday — for free — sometimes even marching cast and puppets through the bowling alley in a pre-show effort to round up non-paying customers?

Elysium Nudists Have Nothing to Hide
Shifting nervously from foot to foot, David is wearing only scholarly glasses and Birkenstocks, and seems somewhat embarrassed by a compliment on his thoughtful article on nudism and the Bible.

Venus in Furs
Some lifestylers draw their animal egos; others commission sketches. And others choose to transform their own appearance by dressing in costumes, or “fursuits.”

Naughty Monkey
And there was another problem. The chimp had developed a suckling fixation for Davis. “I’ve always been embarrassed, with my shirt off that I’ve got bigger nipples than other guys got. But I couldn’t stop him, and it pacified him to some extent.

Mondo Video, Sanctuary of Sleaze
On some days video rental seems like a sideline to Mondo’s de facto role as halfway house. Today’s visitors include Bunny Boy, a stout black man conversing in an unintelligible falsetto with a plush rabbit, and Rocketboy, a bearded giant, outfitted in a homemade super-hero uniform.

Death’s New Hollywood Digs
All told, there will be roughly 400 items on display including collections of antique coffins and funereal mementos, grisly crime scene photos, clothing soiled in a Florida electric chair, a Laotian funeral float used in the last rites of a high-ranking Buddhist monk.

From Calabasas with Love
Collector Danny Biederman sends the CIA spy toys they wish they’d invented.

Back in Black
Lifting the Veil on the Hollywood legend of Rudolph Valentino’s post-mortem admirer, The Lady in Black.

Who Stole Tatoo & Other Mysteries Of The Wax Museum
“Singh used every trick in the book of hucksterism: crazy promotions, giveaways and mimes, skateboarding gorillas, and an original Munchkin hanging out front as tourist bait.”

Widney High’s Outrageous Stars 
“Facts About Life,” sung in a grim slur by Daniel Brattain, a blind and retarded child, is a laundry list of the violence and oppression that plagues the students daily. For the boy’s teacher, the effect is particularly chilling, since Daniel died shortly after the song was recorded.