Years ago I was reading the LA Times and was struck by the absolute beauty of a house that was being profiled for the Home section, or whatever it was called at the time. It was painted all sorts of Kahlo colors, with exquisite tile mosaics throughout, and looked like just about the most serene and happy house on Earth. I actually cut out a huge picture of the front door and glued it into my journal as something I would like to aspire to one day in a home of my own. I would think about it from time to time, and wonder about the woman who created such a haven for her family.
I met Rose Portillo and her man, Roger Bowers, through my good friend, Shane. We'd see each other at various Shane functions over the years, and I would always find myself raving about her from our fun and enthusiastic conversations. Then Rose and Roger offered to host Shane and his Bride To Be, Jenny's, engagement party at their home. The night arrived, and as we parked on the steep road in Silver Lake, and walked up the sidewalk and through the gate, my jaw dropped as I immediately recognized the front doorway from my journal all those years before! I KNEW the cool lady with the cool house!!!
Who got even cooler when she told me that every year she and Roger host a Dia de Los Muertos party on November 2nd. Which I've now attended each year since the discovery, and it is so beautiful, warm, welcoming, and touching that I find myself looking more forward to it than even Halloween. (Especially this year for some reason, I was kind of a Halloween Scrooge. The Grinch Reversed.)
The centerpiece of the house, and the party, on November 2nd is the Altar to honor all the Lost Loved Ones. You can bring a picture, a bottle of their favorite hooch, a letter, a candle, whatever item you choose to remember your dearly departed with. Looking over the photos - some yellowed and bent with age and handling - and reading the notes ... brings on emotions in you, but then you look around at all the LIFE and COLOR all around you in the house and you realize that life is a CELEBRATION - and that is the very best way to give tribute to those people (or pets! There's a whole little altar for a pet rabbit!) now gone from our lives. So we party!
Rose, her Mother, and friends make home-made tamales and salads, and other delectable dishes show up all night to join them. The entire house is decked out with Day Of The Dead people and paintings, and the yard is an array of color and sparkle too. The house is from 1927, and is the same house that baby Rose was brought home to, as it was her Grandparents' place. When they passed on, she moved in and has been creating her masterpiece inside since 1995. Your eye cannot stop moving - even in the bathrooms - as there are tiny details adorning literally every inch of the walls, ceilings, floors, all of it. She has also taught the art of mosaic to at-risk L.A. youth, showing them that things that are broken (tiles, pottery, humans) can still be useful and create beauty.
Rose is also an accomplished actress, and has a production company, About Productions, with whom she is this instant in the middle of co-directing and writing the play, Bleeding Through, running now through November 22 at the Shakespeare Festival LA. It's about the ghosts of Angelino Heights, where more cinematic murders have taken place than anywhere else in the world. I'm going. Come with!
The ghosts were out at Rose and Roger's house last night too - in a good way. The colorful warmth of their home welcomed revelers both living and not. And a good time was had by all.