What if you set up for a big party and no one came? That was the idea — purposefully — at LA Live Wednesday evening, as “One Voice: A Day for Action in Los Angeles” had a coterie of organizations representing unemployed or furloughed live-events workers set up more than 50 banquet tables and almost that many klieg lights in the plaza outside the Microsoft Theater… for strictly sad, symbolic purposes.
The empty tables and underutilized lights stood as a backdrop for a succession of speakers from decimated businesses in Los Angeles, mostly representing various rental and catering companies whose work has ground to a complete halt, although Social Distortion singer Mike Ness added some punky celebrity presence to the rally.
Only media reps were invited into the otherwise secured plaza to hear the speakers. But the public was invited to make its presence known, via a drive-through demonstration of unemployed workers that circled the block and honked and waved signs in passing the otherwise shut-down restaurants, clubs and theaters on Chick Hearn Court.
The outcry/cruising was sponsored by the National Independent Talent Organization (NITO), the Live Events Coalition and California Events Coalition, advocacy groups urging legislators to the support the Restart Act and other pieces of legislation that could support those whose livelihoods are tied to black-tie events or performances, generally judged to be among the last people who’ll be allowed to get back to work as quarantine conditions ease.
“Each of the 48 lighting fixtures represent 250,000 live events professionals who comprise the 12 million members within our workforce,” said a sign explaining the field of lights behind the guests.
Ness reminisced a bit at the beginning of his impromptu speech. “We started this band about 40 years ago,” he said, “and I ran around the streets of downtown L.A. It didn’t look anything like this.” Noting that Social Distortion would have just been coming off a seven-week European tour if all had gone as planned, he noted that he had been impacted — the band just got together to rehearse for the first time since things went south in March — but also listed some of the professions associated with touring that have zero income right now, like security, booking agents, guitar and drum techs, catering and hospitality people, and, of course, merch sellers. Admitting that he could probably weather the storm himself, Ness said that “you can’t help but wonder how these people from the bottom up are surviving.”
“I remember when we had a recession,” Ness added, “and it was real easy to tell myself that ‘Well, people always need two things: they need alcohol and they need entertainment, like the Depression. And we can survive that.’ And this feels different to me.”
L.A.-based country singer Annie Bosko belted out an inspirational ballad to close the proceedings as the cars and trucks lined up around the corner on Figueroa were allowed to begin their celebratory parade and blow off steam by laying on their horns.
“Executing something like this in the middle of a pandemic while we all don’t have our revenue streams is not an easy fete,” said Alexandra Rembac of Sterling Engagements in a thank-you letter to participants following the event, adding that “the delivery, regardless of this new temporary normal, was seamless, fierce and filled with so much purpose.”
Earlier in the day, NITO held a town hall meeting for members with Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vermont), the original Democratic sponsor of the House version of Save Our Stages Act (H.R. 7806), and Charlie Anderson, senior advisor for tax and economic policy in the office of Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colorado), who spoke about the RESTART Act (S.3814) that was authored by Bennet.
Information on NITO’s actions to help live-events workers come through the crisis can be found here.