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My LA to Z: Alex Cohen
The co-author of Down and Derby: The Insider’s Guide to Roller Derby takes us along on her fitness routines and favorite haunts
Photograph courtesy Rich Dean
Alex Cohen is one tough cookie. By day, the longtime NPR reporter hosts All Things Considered on 89.3 KPCC. At night she transforms into Axles of Evil, ace roller derby skater for L.A’s Derby Dolls where she claws, jams, and clotheslines alongside 150 other skaters at their indoor stadium near downtown.
I spend the first part of every morning in Griffith Park for my boot camp called Morning Crunch. We meet every day by the merry-go-round and go to different areas for running, calisthenics, and strength training. I hate gyms and think it’s so much more invigorating to exercise in the fresh air among the trees, coyotes, and jackrabbits. Sometimes we use the playground, doing lunges and jumps in the sand. The monkey bars are hard if you’re an adult! Even if you’re a derby skater.
Galco’s Soda Pop Stop
I love taking people to Galco’s. It’s an old school grocery store that has basically been gutted and filled to the gills with soda, vintage candy, and booze. I’m a huge fan because where else can you find about eight different varieties of ginger beer and sasparilla? I also love the look of those old school soda pop bottles and candy cigarettes and Abba Zabba. I’ve even used some of his sodas for cocktail mixers.
Barnsdall Art Park
One of my new favorites of late. In the summer they put on wine tasting and special events. This amazing spot is right off Hollywood Boulevard and they also have an incredible kids art programs. It’s very family friendly. I lived in Silver Lake for years and had no idea it existed. You have to climb up the hill and people don’t get out of their cars.
Lucha Va Voom
It’s burlesque and wrestlers at the Mayan. It’s like the Reese’s peanut butter cup: sheer perfection. If you splurge and go for ringside seating there’s always the chance you will have a wrestler in your lap and spill your margarita. My favorite is Cassandro, the transvestite wrestler with a heart of gold. His move is to try and hump the other wrestlers and thereby make them uncomfortable. There are lots of pinup girls and tattooed biker boys there, too. They do a little hot rod parade around the Mayan before the show.
Silver Lake Reservoir
I run around the Silver Lake reservoir with my husband. It’s the kind of place that makes you forget that you’re running, with the views and these beautiful houses that I wish I could afford. It has a really nice mix of people. I like the vibe. It’s very representative of that area and I run into friends all the time with their happy dogs at the dog park. Sometimes I might reward myself by going down to the Silver Lake cheese shop.
I would definitely give a shout out to Bar 107, which is owned by a derby skater. They do things like “Pantless Fridays” and have a live version of the Match Game in the bar. There was a rocking horse thing on top of the photo booth and I had the great pleasure of seeing a derby girl asked if she’d like to have a ride on the pony on top of the photo booth. The next thing I knew, the crowd had her up there. Derby people like to drink.
The Atwater Village farmers’ market is so good. I live nearby and I love it. There’s a ton of amazing places but Bigmista’s Barbecue is my personal favorite. They sell something called Pig Candy that’s cured with sweetness and spiciness and that bacon is crack. Mrs. Mista is this sassy awesome lady who won’t reveal any recipes. I can highly recommend the Moinkballs, spicy meatballs that come with a blueberry chipotle sauce that’s out of this world.
The Crazy Hook is so awesome. We derby ladies like to do a little thing called “Sailor Saturday,” where we put on our nautical finest and cruise the oceanic bars of greater L.A. At the front door you’re greeted by these Pirates of the Caribbean statues that are excellent for taking pictures with. They have Kim Chi and tofu which pairs brilliantly with the bread box that is covered in butter and syrupy goodness. It is literally a box of bread. It is so bizarre. Who came up with that idea? It’s awesome! They serve drinks in giant beakers like the ones in high school chemistry classes, but they are tubes of beer. Again, brilliant.
Derby Por Vida
Derby Por Vida is for folks who want to do derby but don’t have the time or are afraid of getting hurt. Basically, we teach you how to roller skate and we’ve got gear you can borrow. Classes are $10 a pop, which is a steal, and are taught by Derby Dolls. We teach you the basics: How to fall, how to jump, how to hit.
Ludobites is totally mindblowing. Years ago I had the pleasure of eating an amazing meal by Ludo Lufebvre when he was at Bastide and then I heard about this pop-up restaurant. It’s so good you’ll want to try everything. He has this amazing octopus dish over polenta served with a jelly cube made from the octopus juice, and his mustard ice cream was amazing. When you’re lucky enough to bag an impossible reservation you’re just giddy with excitement. It’s like when the Rolling Stones go on sale.
Gold Class Cinema
It’s like the Cadillac of movie theaters. You sit in these deluxe reclining orange Barcaloungers. They bring you a pillow and blanket and you can eat and have cocktails during the movie. You check in and you get escorted down several escalators to a big lobby and bar area with young, beautiful, hip staff with short dresses and black boots—definitely the sexiest movie ushers I’ve seen in L.A. It’s a real movie-going event experience.
Images courtesy of (in order): (1) facebook.com/morningcrunch, (2) sodapopstop.com, (3) barnsdallartpark.com, (4) facebook.com/luchavavoom, (5) flickr.com/spotreporter, (6) myspace.com/bar107, (7) bigmista.com, (8) yelp.com/sarahf, (9) facebook.com/derbyporvida, (10) ludolefebvre.com/ludobites, (11) flickr/danperry.com