Ok Go: My top ten video countdown

My top-ten countdown of the best OK Go videos. Enjoy!

I’ve been a fan of the band OK Go since forever. Well, since about fifteen years ago, give or take, which is forever in internet terms, and it was the internet that I first found them. One of my coworkers found a video on YouTube of a band doing choreography in a backyard, and it was immediately catchy.

The song was called A Million Ways, and disregard the 2009 date on that video link, because that was a later up-rezzed version. The original was never meant for public consumption. Basically, it was a practice video the band shot in order to learn the choreography created by lead singer Damian Kulash’s older sister Trish Sie.

That was it. Just a practice video so they could learn the steps for a live show. Except that, somehow, the tape was leaked out by parties unknown, and it became a huge viral hit way back in the day.

That was when the band realized, “Hey, we could make something of this,” but, more importantly, “We should be the ones in charge of it,” and so a legend was born.

Over the ensuing years, OK Go proceeded to crank out a phenomenal series of videos of increasing complexity and head-exploding realities if you took a second to realize what they had to do to shoot them. Every single one involved a combination of music, mathematics, logistics, timing, talent, physical endurance, and a lot more.

I was there to watch when every new one came down the pipeline and watched in stunned amazement. They had started to slow down with their release schedule as they got involved in new educational projects, but then COVID put a stop to that, and their last video that I know of came out in May, 2020 — a collaborative done “separately apart” by the band for the song, All Together Now. It’s simple and direct and yet, as always with OK Go, a monster of planning, timing, and editing.

They’ve actually done a ton of videos, but I was recently inspired to go through the collection and come up with my personal list of their top ten. This list just represents my opinions and your mileage may vary. If you have a different order, or a different #1, please let me know in the comments.

But before we get to OK Go proper, I have to start with…

Honorable Mention

In 2013, OK Go and Saatchi & Saatchi teamed up to invite young filmmakers to create a video for their new song I’m not Through. The winner was Nelson de Castro, in his first film made out of college, and, as everyone agrees, he managed to match the OK Go aesthetic perfectly in this one.

Full disclosure: When I first saw it, I thought it had been made by the band as well, and they just chose to either sit out from appearing in it or were there, but wearing the masked unitards. Nope. This was a complete original, and if it actually were an OK Go production, it would be a lot higher on the list.

Now, speaking of the list itself, here we go:

10. Obsession

Although a later video and still complicated behind the scenes, this one is nonetheless a lot simpler than many of the others, hence the lower score — although all of the paper used in it was immediately recycled to benefit charitable causes.

The concept: Let’s turn 570-ish printers into a gigantic pixel-display, each one cranking out one sheet of colored paper at a time, the “programming” managed by carefully stacking the sheets in each tray, and then also timing how slow or fast each printer’s feed mechanism puts out the sheets and using a bit of stop motion like End Love, plus a little wire work.

I don’t know how many takes this one took, but I can only imagine that every single “Paper Jam” alert was a director’s nightmare.

9. The One Moment

This is kind of the bookend to go with #7, End Love, which was shot over the course of several days in a park in Los Angeles via stop motion and occasional slow motion. In this video, we first see it in real time, which was 4.2 seconds, believe it or not.

Of course, it’s impossible to see what’s really going on in such a short timeframe, so it rewinds and repeats in super slow-motion. How slow? A series of ballistic explosions of paint-filled pots that flew by in the original practically allow us to time the shells that are causing them, and although I’m sure he’s not aware of it, Damian blinking before being hit with a water balloon was probably an instant before impact in his reality, but we see it as his right eye closing before the balloon is anywhere near him.

There’s a whole other level of synchronization going on in this one, but you’ll just have to pay close attention to Tim and Andy during the slo-mo parts. And be amazed that Andy didn’t shit his pants, given where he was standing in relation to the whole set-up.

8. White Knuckles

For emotional reasons, this will always be one of my favorites despite being so simple. It’s just the guys, dressed in all white, on a non-descript photo-set, and the props all seem to have come from IKEA.

What makes it is that they do the whole video with a bunch of expertly trained dogs who enter and exit and do their stunts as the four humans do their part and lip-sync the tune. Whoever trained the humans trained them well, but keep your eye out for the goat, which you will not spot the first time around.

Bonus points: Proceeds from this one went toward homing rescue dogs.

7. End Love

In terms of sheer performer and crew torture, this one must be the winner, and it was fairly early in their video career. Concept: The band is in Echo Lake Park in Los Angeles, and the video alternates between stop-motion animation and some slo-mo.

There were no shortcuts here, either. Shooting began in probably mid-afternoon, but then continued into evening and night, and baked into the story is the night portion where, clearly, each band member took a shift staying awake (and being shot in stop motion) to watch over the others as they all slept rough in sleeping bags in the park.

In the morning, they at least got to indulge in a couple of slow-motion moments of jumping and moving before moving on to even more intense moments of being human stop-motion models.

The best part of the whole thing? At some point, a random goose decides that it wants to get in on the action and, unlike any other goose know to human kind, this one is not an asshole. Maybe he just wanted his big break. In any case, for what must have been the last few hours of the shoot, that goose stuck to the boys like glue, and even seemed to be doing their choreography. Amazing.

6. This Too shall Pass

This is one of OK Go’s more iconic videos because it encapsulates so much of what they’ve done elsewhere in one place. In this one, they create a Rube Goldberg Machine in a two-story warehouse with its sole purpose being to blast four different colored paint cannons at the boys in the band.

It starts out small, with Tim launching a toy firetruck at some dominoes, but then it all gradually builds from there, culminating in a piano drop, a sledge-hammer smashing a TV set (playing a familiar scene), a car being launched down a ramp backwards, and so on, until the aforementioned paint cannon blast.

At the same time, it’s a rather beautiful and encouraging song. It only doesn’t rate higher because OK Go went even further with their videos.

5. The Writing’s on the Wall

Kind of a spiritual companion piece to This Too Shall Pass, this video also involves an elaborate two-story warehouse contraption, but this one is more intimately linked to the lyrics and meaning of the song.

In it, the singer is realizing that his current relationship is pretty much over. He just hasn’t been paying attention to… the writing on the wall. The conceit of the video fits that perfectly because it takes us through a series of images and illusions that only work from one POV.

Or, in other words, it’s all about perspective. One slight shift, and what seemed to be the “truth” vanishes.

4. Needing/Getting

Another elaborate machine. In this one, the band and crew turn a compact car (some kind of Chevy) into a rolling musical instrument, and it all seems to have been done in real time.

The band sings and performs inside. Meanwhile, Damian does some serious stunt driving, Tim harmonizes and, in the back, Andy and Dan are the ones pulling the levers at the right time to deploy the exterior fins, paddles, spoiler, and other doodads in order to interact with the track at the right time and keep the melody going.

And yes, this one must have been a monster to set up, since it involves sections of dirt track lined with old pianos, or guitars, or tuned water barrels, or dangling glass bottles. And, before the show really gets going, it starts with the gentle tinkle of a music box provided by metal rectangles dangling from the front bumper, striking pins on ground plates below.

The planning needed behind it all is mind-boggling.

3. Here It Goes Again

A nostalgic favorite, this is the video that OK Go made after A Million Ways leaked. And while it’s a simple bit of DIY, once again choreographed by Trish Sie and with nothing too complicated, it achieved what they wanted. This OK Go video went truly viral and the rest was history.

If it’s not ringing any bells, here’s the description you do know: “Guys dancing on treadmills.”

And that’s all it was in all its complicated simplicity — eight treadmills lined up side-to-side and end to end, each one running in opposite directions. Add Trish’s simple but impressive choreography, roll camera and done.

It was a mere hint of what the group would eventually do, but I put it at number 3 because of its nostalgic place in my heart, plus none of the others would have happened without it.

2. I Won’t Let You Down

A cast of thousands, some Honda unicycle-thingies, a single-shot video filmed via drone, all of it set on a Honda factory campus in Japan. What more could you want?

It’s also a great song with a catchy tune and some meaningful lyrics. Throughout, our POV changes from an eye-level view of the boys and their back-up performers to dizzying overhead shots, finally ending with a super-elevated shot that turns all of the performers into what is basically a gigantic LED board flashing out its messages via colored umbrellas and extreme coordination.

And then the drone keeps going up, above light cloud-cover and into total silence to give us an extreme aerial view of Japan until the image does about a 270° turn and then fades out.

1. Upside Down & Inside Out

Speaking of “high-flying,” this is the winner. Taking Ron Howard’s tricks from Apollo 13 and going them one better, OK Go enlisted the help of the Russian version of the “Vomit Comet,” calculated out how to fit the song into the available time of free-fall, then took to the air to create a truly amazing piece.

There are no special effects here. What you’re seeing is true free-fall, which simulates zero gravity, 27 seconds at a time, with about four or five minutes in-between. The band had to divide the song into a bunch of chunks, stopping and starting in between, and so on.

It’s too complicated to explain here, but there is a BTS video explaining it all.

But first, just enjoy this and let your mind be blown, because it’s what OK Go does.

Image Source: Paul Hudson, (CC BY 2.0), via Wikimedia Commons

Christmas Countdown, Christmas Is Here!

Merry Christmas with greetings from OK GO.

Christmas Day

OK Go right to it. One of my favorite bands for oh so many reasons — start your education here — but they combine math and science and music and create amazing videos as well as give back to the community and they are (mostly) L.A. locals and I couldn’t admire them more if I tried. So, with no further ado, here is their way pre-fame Christmas wish for you all on this Christmas Day.

Check out the previous post, or start the countdown to 2022!

The Saturday Morning Post #14, Part 7

Here is the penultimate installment of the L.A. social event of 2029. You can catch up to last week’s installment here or start at the top here.

TAKING HOPE

Fumiko had wanted to leave after the reception, but her nephew Haru had convinced her to stay and come down to the concert, and they’d been there ever since Maná and Natalia Jiménez had taken the stage at 6:30. Haru was a little pissed that they’d missed OK Go’s full show. On the other hand he did get to see their private number after the wedding, and he had made his aunt hang back so that he even got to high-five the quartet, especially his favorite, Andy, who also signed his program and took the time to have a short, friendly conversation.

Even though she didn’t understand Spanish much when it didn’t have to do with sizes and colors of cloth, Fumiko still seemed to enjoy the first act, and she seemed absolutely beside herself when Bette, Cher, and Barbra took the stage.

When A-Pop came on, she seemed a bit… confused.

Meanwhile, Alice and Edna had stayed, and Edna commented to Alice when the kids came on, “Damn. They’re hot. Probably all gay, too, but so what?”

“I… don’t know about this,” Alice muttered.

“What? They’re pretty good dancers and singers. Enjoy the show.”

“The one on the right, okay. He’s fine. And the one on the left. But…”

“But? Oh, damn. Is this one of those cultural things that my privileged white ass is missing?”

Alice just nodded, and then she noticed Fumiko, standing just to the other side of Haru. Of course, she didn’t know their names. All she knew was that Fumiko was giving her the same hateful look that she was shooting back, while the boy looked completely neutral, if not a little startled by Alice.

“Care to explain?” Edna asked. “Sincere question.”

“Thai boy on the right, everybody likes them. Chinese boy on the left, my home team. In between? Japan, Korea.”

“Sigh. So, in Western terms?”

“Think… World War Two, and you’re American. The Thai boy on the right? Canada. Everybody likes them. Chinese boy on the right? G.I. Joe. Your home team hero. In between? Germany, then Italy, in that order.”

“Okay,” Edna replied, “Except that nowadays, Americans don’t hold any particular grudges against Germans or Italians, although we still like Canadians. And the Thai. And now I know what you’re talking about, and it has to do with Nanking, doesn’t it?”

Alice just sighed and nodded. “It has everything to do with it.”

Edna took a deep breath, then threw up her hands. “I understand. I mean, I don’t agree with it, but I have absolutely no place to try to explain. Obviously. All I can say is just try to enjoy the concert, and how those four boys are working together so well.”

“I know,” Alice said, “But… it can be so hard with a reminder.” She nodded toward Fumiko.

“Or so easy if you just say ‘Hello?’” Edna asked. “No, sorry… sorry. I’m just going to shut up and maybe move over there to watch the show. You enjoy the rest of the evening.”

Edna moved off to the side, and she felt really conflicted. Honestly, she had no place saying anything about whatever deep-seated ethnic tensions existed between Chinese, Japanese, and Korean people, even several generations removed. That would be like the Sultan of Brunei telling her how to feel about that whole British/Irish thing, given her ancestry.

On the other hand, it had really taken her aback to see clear racism in a person who wasn’t white. She didn’t think that such a thing was possible. She still didn’t. This had to be something other than that. Or maybe not. Maybe it was just another example of her actually being racist. Either way, it made her preconceptions spin, so she had to step away and just enjoy the music.

This didn’t keep her from watching as Alice and Fumiko gave each other the side-eye. Of course, Edna had no idea who Fumiko was, nor did she know who the young man with her was. She assumed that he was her son.

Toward the end of the concert, the young man finally walked right up to Alice, despite Fumiko trying to stop him, but he was insistent, and they exchanged a few brief words, Alice finally suddenly looking at him, incredulous, then at Fumiko, who glanced away proudly. Alice nodded to the young man, touched his shoulder, then walked over to Fumiko and got her attention, at which point she bowed deeply. Fumiko seemed legitimately shocked, throwing her hand over her face and leaning back but, after a moment, she stepped away from Alice backwards, and bowed even more deeply.

Edna had no idea what was going on, but it seemed to be progress, and the young man was beaming. In that moment, A-Pop were singing their finale, a song in English with the lyrics:

We know no borders and no countries

Religions don’t exist at all

Age and race and lies like these

Should never build a wall

All our genders are social fiction

All our sex is just some friction

Out with the old, and hey there newbies…

Let’s go have a ball!

The two women looked at each other, seeming to acknowledge the lyrics, then stood upright, paused for a moment, and walked away, leaving the young man to stand there looking very confused and sad. Edna wanted to run over and hug him, but didn’t, not knowing what was appropriate to do.

What she hadn’t heard was what had been said. Haru went to Alice and said, “My aunt knows of you, because she met that white woman you helped, and after she heard that story, she told me, ‘Haru, I don’t care if she’s Chinese. She has a charitable heart. I truly admire her.”

Alice said nothing, but just looked at Haru, incredulous, then past him at Fumiko, who glanced away and Alice knew that it was in embarrassment and shame. She nodded to Haru, touched his shoulder in a gesture of thanks, then went to Fumiko and did the only thing she knew to mitigate the woman’s shame because, truth to tell, Alice was suddenly feeling a lot of shame herself for having hated someone on sight who, clearly, admired her actions. Once Fumiko glanced her way, Alice bowed deeply, as she knew that this was a sign of respect among the Japanese.

Unfortunately, Fumiko seemed taken aback by this gesture, covering her mouth, eyes wide, gasping audibly and stepping back. She bowed even more deeply, and Alice understood that they really weren’t communicating as equals, because now they were in a struggle over who could say “sorry” the hardest, even though Alice knew that she was clearly in the wrong.

They stepped apart, regarded each other sadly, and then walked away. Haru couldn’t help but take the last lyrics of the song to heart…

Out with the old, and hey there newbies…

Let’s go have a ball!

As the line repeated, Haru looked up toward the stage, and realized that Li-Wei seemed to be singing it right to him, then noticed that the boys were marching down the steps, repeating the last lines alternately in unison in each of their own languages in turn — and Li-Wei was practically eye-fucking Haru. The only thing Haru knew to do was make strong eye contact, smile, and then do his best demure school-girl by tossing his hands in front of his face, giggling, and looking away.

Of course, there was no way that Li-Wei heard the giggle, and Haru wasn’t even sure that he’d understand that the move was a gigantic come-on. He didn’t even know whether Anime, or its successor Simume, had even made it to China. Or was Li-Wei just a Chinese boy from the west?

And then the Thai boy on the end announced, “Who wants to have a ball with us?” and Haru felt someone grab his hand. It was Li-Wei, and the other three were grabbing people from the crowd as well. Hiroji and Seojun grabbed two very pretty girls their own age. Hiroji’s was black and Sojun’s was most likely Eurasian. Haru wasn’t sure, but he suspected Vietnamese with at least one if not two American grandfathers courtesy of the tail end of that failed war. As for Kiet, he found a man who was probably old enough to be his grandfather, or at least his father, and one that Haru could not find subjectively attractive in any way, shape, or form. Then again, who was he to judge? And he tried as hard as he could to block his grandmother’s words about Thai men from his mind. She hadn’t been kind.

Well, hell. She hadn’t been kind about any kind of Asian other than Japanese, or anyone who wasn’t Asian at all. Haru had always found this odd, since his grandmother was sansei. Her parents were the first generation born in America. She was the third. She was as American as George Washington.

Of course, her big criticism of Thai men was, “Oh, they’re all just fags,” which had really hurt Haru, although he was afraid to say anything about it. That changed when he told it to his favorite auntie, Fumiko and, upon hearing the news, she went off on a tirade against Gran Shizuka, who was her mother, in front of the rest of the family.

That made for one tense and awkward birthday party for Fumiko’s sister Fukumi, who was Haru’s mother. But once Fumiko began berating Shizuka for basically tossing hatred on her own uncle, Masakatsu, now deceased, but who had always been openly gay, she won the argument, and Shizuka fled the party. It was only the intervention of Fukumi that kept the woman from going full-on drama gramma by pretending to perform an ancient suicide ritual.

“Really, mom?” everyone heard Fukumi say from the hall. “We’re in America. We’ve been in America for damn near 75 years now. Nobody does this shit anymore. Not this homophobia, and not this gutting yourself because you got embarrassed. Now grow the fuck up and come back to the goddamn party.”

From that day forward, Haru seemed to be Gran Shizuka’s favorite, so he had high hopes that people could change. And if that was whom Kiet loved, more power to him. Haru was absolutely loving the fact that he was being dragged by the hand back up to the top of the steps — one of the chosen few — by this hot Chinese-American boy who was probably at least half a dozen years older than him, but that was okay. At nineteen, Haru was tired of being a virgin, and he had a feeling that tonight he was going to lose his V-Card to an international superstar.

After a few choruses of wild dancing at the top, the song suddenly turned slow and the lights became muted and colorful, and Li-Wei pulled Haru in close, leading as they did a slow and sensual fox trot.

Haru really hoped that Li-Wei wouldn’t feel the raging boner in his pants, but then Li-Wei pulled Haru in by the small of his back, which was when they pretty much realized that they were both hard as hell.

“What are you doing after our show?” Li-Wei asked him, staring deeply into his eyes.

“You…?” Haru muttered, a breathless question.

Li-Wei pulled him closer. “Oh. I’m Li-Wei. And you?”

“I know,” Haru replied, feeling immediately stupid, then adding “Haru” after an awkward pause during which he couldn’t remember his own name.

“Well then… when this song ends, the exit is right across to City Hall doors, and then we get our own private elevators down to the limo, and to our hotel suites. But once we get there, I think I know where the entrance is.”

Li-Wei moved his hand and grabbed Haru’s ass, hard, one finger slipping as far up his crack as Haru’s trousers would allow. Haru just moaned a little and looked up at Li-Wei with hungry eyes.

“Oh… Senpai,” he sighed, not knowing what else to say.

“I’m getting to like you more and more by the second.” Li-Wei smiled back down before adding, “Kōhai.” Haru’s knees went weak and he almost turned into a manga character right there. He was equally bowled over by a Chinese boy knowing something that he thought only Japanese people and white American weeabos knew. Then the song ended, and the band and their insta-dates marched off towards the doors to city hall, but the evening and rest of the next day were only just beginning

* * *

The Saturday Morning Post #14, Part 2

This week continues the closing novella, told in third-person, in which everyone comes together. Since a lot of us are still locked up, I think I’m going to share a bit more of this one in a few installments, since this part is 20,000 words or so. You can catch up to last week’s installment here or start at the top here. Last week, we set up the Southern California social event of 2029, the wedding of the mayor’s daughter at Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral in Downtown L.A. Now, the wedding is about to begin.

TAKING HOPE

It all began with the procession, because there was no “Here Comes the Bride” or opening hymn. Instead, a lone flute played a mournful tune, and then there were drums at the back of the house — yes, Alejandra thought of it in those terms, because she at least fully understood how the Church created western theater out of older Roman and Greek traditions, and how Mass and a play both were rituals, and she was going to take full advantage of it. The drums were pure Aztec and they played a few bars from house left before the first mind bend happened, and accordion music started up on house right.

Yep. Native American ritual drumming combined with a goddamn polka and, as they had discovered in rehearsal, the two went together so well it was ridiculous. Right as the audience was looking around in confusion, the entertainment entered from both sides. Down the outside left aisle came the Aztec dancers in full native regalia — feathers and fringe and fierceness. Down the right side, came the Bavarians, in lederhosen and dirndls. The two sides could not have been more different, but the two together could not have been more L.A.

To be honest, even Alejandra started sniffling at this point. It was just so sublime and incredible, unexpected and yet absolutely appropriate. As one reporter would describe it later, “This American wedding of the century could not have been a better representation not only of how Los Angeles has put itself back together a mere five or so months after a major disaster, but of how the country has done the same in almost a decade since we came to the edge of another Civil War, but averted it when unity finally prevailed.”

As all of the other performers gathered together and knelt in front of the bema, four of them mounted it — two men doing the Schuhplattler, which is that famous Bavarian dance that involves slapping the knees and thighs, jumping in the air, slapping the knees and thighs again, and then slapping each other. A young woman in traditional dress with sleeves and leggings decorated in red feathers took her place above them. Her face was covered in white make-up embedded with shimmering glitter in red and green that caught and reflected the light. From somewhere, the smell of incense began to fill the room, a mixture of sage and pine. The young woman watched them, arms lowered. Meanwhile, another woman came to stand above all of them, dressed as the Aztec Xochiquetzal, the goddess of beauty, love, fertility, flowers, and vegetation, and the patron of arts, weaving, and prostitution.

The woman portraying the part is young and beautiful — she was actually Miss Hispanic California 2028 — and the lyrics of the old song La Bikina described her perfectly: “Altanera, preciosa y orgullosa…” Well, the way she played the character, at least. She held a bouquet of flowers in one hand (Jackson had convinced Alejandra to use green carnations, even though they were not indigenous) and had a headdress made of bird’s feathers. In legend, those of Quetzalcoatl, the flying feathered serpent, but since those didn’t exist, Jackson had made a deal with Fumiko to contract another vendor in the garment district to obtain seagull feathers and dye them in shades of cyan, teal, seafoam, forest, and Kelly green. Although slightly harder to get, they were the better choice, because crow feathers — also the more indigenous choice — would need to be bleached first, and that would just soften them and ruin the effect. He had considered peacock feathers, but to some people they represented bad luck. Besides, those wouldn’t read as Quetzalcoatl at all.

Finally, Miss Hispanic California, whose name was Kathy Ruiz, was decked out in a lots of gold jewelry, which was entirely authentic and loaned by a shop down on 7th that was next door to the 24-hour Walgreens.

It was a stunning tableau, made more amazing by the lighting by world renowned and award-winning designer Dan Weingarten, abetted by the crew from CTG, the jewel of the Music Center (and Culver City), not to mention the amazing tech set-up in the cathedral.

Yeah, only in L.A. would a Catholic sanctuary have lights and sound that would give a Broadway theater a run for its money.

But the performers hit their places, the lights did their thing, and the two white guys were downstage slapping each other silly as the two women hovered above them in contrasting colors, Xochiquetzal looking increasingly upset even as the woman with red feathers appeared more sad.

“Moketsa!” the goddess suddenly cries out, and the young woman raises her red-feathered arms high. “Aufstehen,” an offstage voice cries, and then the men stop slapping each other. They make eye contact with the most profound sense of forgiveness before they hug. The woman curves her arms around them without touching, then pulls away, turns abruptly and bows to Xochiquetzal, who gives a gesture of benediction. The woman nods, turns back, and moves in a ritualistic way. She circles the men twice to the left, twice to the right, then stops above them, raises her arms, and lets out a single shout. She raises her arms above her head, slowly lowers them to be by her sides, then sharply turns to her right, moves a few steps, turns to her left, then marches out. The men follow without ceremony, then Xochiquetzal raises her arms.

“Tlasojtlalistli. Paxia. Tlauelkaktli.”

There’s a dramatic light change, the music stops, and they all exit in the brief moment before the processional of the bridal party finally starts.

And no. It’s not “Here Comes the Bride.” That would be too obvious, and, besides, the bride and groom have taste and a sense of humor. They enter to Beyoncé’s Single Ladies, but, of course, it’s not recorded — the lady herself is performing live from the back of the ambulatory, the entire wedding party comes in doing the choreography, and the crowd goes crazier than Dodger fans after Stefanie Lopez hits another homer.

The best part about the choreography is that it takes the wedding party the whole length of the song to make it to the altar, and in their outfits, it just looks spectacular. Alejandra thinks, “Jackson outdid himself,” and makes a mental note to give him and his assistant an extra bonus because of this moment.

The priest and altar servers leading the way are also doing the choreography. There was the added bonus of Father O’Malley, a middle-aged man who’s gayer than Christmas, leading eight teenage boys and girls in cassocks down the aisle first and doing the same choreo. The cute young blond (but of-age one) up front is O’Malley’s partner, but everyone knows it, and Pascale and the  padre are rocking the hell out of it. So is everyone else.

After the bride and groom and wedding party, both families follow but, while Valentina and her soon-to-be husband Chris, along with the groomsfolk and bridal party and both fathers make it up onto the bema, the song runs out, so the extended family is left to change the dance and we get another olidie — Born This Way by Lady Gaga. Valentina was a fan of the oldies, after all.

The rest of the ceremony proceeded in a more traditional fashion, although typically for a Catholic service in L.A., the readings and sermons were an equal mix of Spanish and English. Father O’Malley himself had attended seminary in Mexico, and his first assignment was to a church in Puebla, which was really the only place in that country where Cinco de Mayo was a holiday, because that’s where the original events happened.

Once O’Malley had come back to L.A., the celebrations here made him feel like he was back in what he considered his second home, especially all around La Plaza, El Pueblo, and Olvera Street downtown, right across from Union Station and a stone’s throw… well, a Metro stop from the cathedral.

One of the unique things about Southern California in general and Los Angeles in particular was that the city had never lost its Spanish heritage, and even more so had never lost its Mexican heritage. After all, this was part of the western third of what was now the United States that used to be Mexico before it was taken from them by the U.S. Sure, there had still been racist pockets of people here and there, but mostly in Orange County and until the end of the last century the west end of the Valley, but those people had all fled to the even more conservative and racist Simi Valley once everything north of Victory and west of Reseda became very Hispanic.

That was all before what Father O’Malley termed the American Troubles, thinking back to what his ancestors in Ireland had gone through about forty years earlier. But after the events that the press had dubbed Retribution and Reconciliation, the bigots and racists seemed to disappear from public life completely. Of course, a lot of them had simply died because of their own bad decisions, but that was all in the past now.

“Funny how the mind wanders when you’re doing something you’ve done a billion times,” he thought as he snapped out of his reverie having not missed a beat or a word of the Gospel (he had chosen John 15:12-16), and was very present as he delivered his homily, very cannily basing it on Mark 10:25: “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God,” but rather than playing it as a straight condemnation of wealth — mustn’t piss off the guests too much — he steered it toward a description of the difficulties a marriage could face as two people suddenly tried to follow a single path.

“And especially,” he noted, “Dos personas de dos mundos diferentes, two people from completely different worlds.” This became a meditation on how embracing differences only made the world stronger, and the only way for two threads to make it through one needle was for them to wind themselves around each other. And in the real world, if you sewed that way, one thread around the other would create a thing of greater beauty, because both colors would show in a spiral and make the whole cloth much more interesting.

Jackson and Finley both looked at each other at this one and smiled, and Finley knew that Jackson was getting ideas — although it would be damn hard to pull off on a standard sewing machine, and hella expensive to do by hand.

“Dos hilos, una vida; dos mentes, un corazón; dos almas, un verdad,” he said. “Two threads, one life; two minds, one heart; two souls, one truth: Valentina and Chris unidos, united.”

Once the wedding part of it was over, the rest of the Mass still had to happen, and this was when a lot of the press took their lunch break. They hadn’t been invited to the pre-ceremony luncheon.

When it finally came time for the recessional, the song was I Won’t Let You Down by OK Go and yes, the actual band was performing that one live, too. Their costumes, also designed and created by Jackson on Alejandra’s commission, reimagined them as Edwardian gentlemen, but each one themed to the vibrant primary colors that they had been splattered in at the end of their video for This Too Shall Pass, released nearly twenty years earlier.

It was known as the “Rube Goldberg” video because of the elaborate jury-rigged machine that followed the tune and led the viewer through a warehouse of insane contraptions until that one moment when the band members were shot with paint cannons — Andy in yellow, Damian in blue, Tim in red, and Dan in green. Jackson put each of them in elegant morning dress all of similar cut, but each one made from fabrics in five different hues of the chosen color — swallow-tail cut-away coats the darkest; pinstriped pants slightly lighter with the stripes matching the coat; shoes slightly lighter again (in suede), laces matching the pants; cuff, collar, and tie lighter still; and shirt in the most pastel version of the color. Cufflinks and tie-tacks contained the appropriate gemstone — in order, citrine, sapphire, ruby, and emerald.

Almost as an afterthought, he gave the four-button coats surgeon’s cuffs with piping just above to match the pants, figuring that the band would unbutton them and that they would add just a touch of visual flair to their playing as their shirt sleeves flashed beneath. He had figured correctly.

While the wedding party didn’t ride out on Honda unicycles a la the video for I Won’t Let You Down, they did all twirl umbrellas. The bride, groom, best man, and maid of honor had white umbrellas with a red spiral winding from the center, while the rest of the wedding party had solid red umbrellas — yet another incidence of the costume planning colliding with the props to follow Alejandra’s hidden theme, which was also a direct reference to the band’s classic video for the song they were now playing. Alejandra and Jackson had both nixed the idea of having anyone do a quick-change into a Japanese school-girl outfit from that video, though. That would have been too much.

And then it was on to the reception, which was in Grand Park, and in two parts. South of Hill street, on the City Hall side, was the public celebration, everyone invited, and absolutely free — admission, food, beverages, games, dancing, entertainment, whatever. North of Hill up to Grand right below the Music Center was the private party, guest list only, and where Alejandra would be soaking the millionaires and billionaires throughout the course of events. Various bands had been scheduled to play on the landing at the top of City Hall’s steps from one in the afternoon onward — easily viewable by the people south of Hill, and particularly south of Broadway, but a bit farther away and occluded to the hoi polloi north of Hill, especially by the red and white party tents that had been set up to make the rich not have to look at the poor — in their minds — but which Alejandra had intended for the opposite reason: so that normal people didn’t have to look at the rich assholes who were literally above them topographically, but which she considered completely beneath them socially.

She had arranged for her special VIP guests to be told, “Come to the reception for the food, then duck out and go down the hill right after the cake to party with the real people. You’ll enjoy that one a lot more.” That schedule was a lot more interesting and diverse, and was publicized in all of the social media posts and posters like so:

11:00 a.m. — 12:00 p.m………………………………………………… Mick, Paul, Keith, and Ringo

Hot off of their Beat the Stones Farewell Tour, half of two famous bands that have become an even bigger legend together give a preview taste of their upcoming final U.S. gig at Amazon Dodger Stadium.

12:30 p.m. — 2:00 p.m…………………………………………….. Meghan Trainor featuring MIKA

“Daft by Design.” Join Meghan Trainor and MIKA as they team up to celebrate and lament love, loss, life, and lollipops.

2:30 p.m. — 4:00 p.m……………………………………………………………… Red Hot Chili Peppers

A special command performance in honor of the royal wedding on the palace steps from 2:30 thence to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, the Twenty-Third of September Two Thousand and Twenty-Nine.

4:30 p.m. — 6:00 p.m…………………………………………………………………………………… OK Go

We’re playing the wedding, but wanted to share with our fans, so we asked and the mayor got the county to let us put on our own show for you all. It’ll be interactive with giveaways and all the usual OK Go fun. DL the App for the full AR experience. See you there!

6:30 p.m. — 8:00 p.m…………………………… Maná with Natalia Jiménez and Special Guests

¡Les invitamos! Domingo el 23 de septiembre, 2029. Ven a la fiesta y disfrútenla, pero por favor no nos falten las dieciocho y media hasta las veinte en el pórtico suroeste del palacio municipal en un concierto corto por todos.

8:30 p.m. — 10:00 p.m………………………………………………………………… OMG OG-a-y-cons

Darlings! Join the last of the red-hot Mamas as they show you they’ve still got it as these Divine Divas revisit their greatest hits. They may be the original generation gay icons, but they are still iconic to this day, and to everyone. Barbra. Bette. Cher. Combined, there’s over 254 years of talent on that stage.

10:30 p.m. — 12:00 a.m………………………………………….. Shakira with Maluma and Pit Bull

¡Ven y bailen con nosotros en un espectáculo muy especial! Nuestros anfitriones serán Argelia y Omar. Tendremos muchas sorpresas, camisetas, carteles, y otros grandes premios. Y presentaremos un estrella invitado/a tan famoso/a que no podemos mencionar el nombre.

12:30 a.m. — 2:00 a.m…………………………………………………………………………………… A-Pop

The world phenomenon boy band that has taken all of Asia by storm is now conquering the west. Treat your eyes and ears to their decadent music and looks as they show off for you in public!

2:00 a.m. — 4:00 a.m………………………………………………………………. DJGomes and VJBDJ

Electro Beats cultivating the House vibe with flavored Italo Disco Cuts on top as we scratch the old skool vinyl with the latest AR and spin hits from the last 75 years of American, Euro, Latin, and Asian pop, rock, dance, disco, EDM, and anything else you can think of. Come with your dancing shoes on and your mind wide open and expect anything to happen.

OMG OG-a-y-CONS had been a compromise. Alejandra had wanted to call it “Octetris,” since all three of them were in their 80s, but they had all rejected the idea — although not as vehemently as Barbra and Cher had rejected Bette’s suggestion of “Octopussies.” Instead, they came up with “OMG OG-a-y-cons.” It was awkward, but if you read it slowly, it scanned, and this turned out to be the most popular event of the evening, despite the stars being a good fifty or sixty years older than most of the audience.

After they wrapped up at midnight, it was a dance party with DJGomes and VJBDJ that went until four in the morning, although the rich people side of the reception would have wrapped and gone off in their limos at eleven p.m. The DJs had wanted to call their show “EDM-Night Shamalamadingdong,” but the county had rejected that idea as culturally insensitive, so they went with their names.

Everything happening on City Hall steps and the southern part of Grand Park had been arranged and paid for by the county as a wedding present to the bride and groom, and also as a trade-off, since Grand Park was actually county-owned and maintained…

To be continued…

Image source: The Ezcaray Reredos altar carving, Our Lady of Angels Cathedral, Los Angeles. © 2017 Jon Bastian. All rights reserved.

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