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editor's note: see sidebar about Lori Donato keeping the live music alive at MJ's on Sunday afternoons (skip 8/4/13, back on 8/11/13).
Sunday, July 7th was the one year anniversary of Piano Sundays at MJs, when Lori Donato and other entertainers would play the piano while various participants would sing old time classical show tunes. It's been a favorite Sunday afternoon event that many patrons have come to look forward to.
Unfortunately, that was also the last day for the event. The swirling, mirror-squared disco ball hung from the ceiling, and on the platforms suspended from the ceiling by heavy chains were two old-fashioned phonographs illuminated by multicolored spotlights. Strewn around the ancient record players were vinyl 78 speed discs which were likely collector's items. Fern-like fronds were also spotlighted around the room. And the bartenders were very busy.
Kevin Beaty (at right), one of the key figures in putting the weekly show together explained why it was being discontinued: "It takes three hours to set everything up and two to tear it down, and financially we couldn't afford to keep swinging it. We've recorded most of the shows on IPOD. I'm hoping we can do a CD." Beaty estimates that he and his group brought about $2200 into MJs each Sunday when they performed.
Many of the Sunday afternoon patrons used to frequent The Other Side, another neighborhood piano bar which closed last year and catered to an older crowd. Piano Sundays at MJs will definitely be missed. Manny Hernandez, 58, who currently lives in Los Feliz, sat at the bar with his eight-year-old-dog, Princess, who resembles a coyote and loves everyone who walks by and pets her. " It's been a place that brings back memories. It's relaxing, I've loved the music,and everyone's been friendly. I'm disappointed that it's being changed."
Diane McDonald also will miss the event: "I liked the fact that I knew so many people-- carry overs from The Other Side. I've liked Kevin. He's always made me laugh."
Mary Adair, of Mount Washington, who trained as a singer for the Los Angeles Opera Company, now works as a physician's assistant for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. That afternoon, she sang "Summertime" in soprano with Lori Donato at the piano --accompanied by David Fortin on the trumpet. "I love that they have had older performers who have been in the theatre, singing from the heart. Many of these people are really famous," Adair said.
Indeed, seated in the audience was Scotty Bowers, author of a Hollywood tell-all book, "Full Service," which came out last year. With him was his wife Lois. The focus of this story was Piano Sundays and so the writer decided to leave them alone. And Janet S. Blake serenaded Kevin Beaty with "You Make Me Laugh."
Another Piano Sundays regular will also miss the weekly show. "We're going to miss this really bad," lamented Pat Russell of West Hollywood." It's like Cheers. This is my church. Where am I going to go on Sundays?"
Lori Donato has also enjoyed playing piano at MJs as she used to at The Other Side: "I love this community, and it has been a great way to give back for all the support and friendship I've experienced through the years. I love to entertain, bring joy to peoples' lives, and provide a place 'to forget about life for a while,' as the song goes . It makes me very happy."
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