What happens when two of the most respected entrepreneurs and couple in the NoHo Arts District, Kevin Bailey and James Mellon, decide to open up ‘a church’ in Studio City? Everything fantastic!
Kevin and James have been married for 28 years, but it’s Kevin who tends to do the speaking for the both of them.
I sat down with Mr. Bailey at the Republic of Pie & Coffee to discuss how his husband’s church went from a small congregation and grew to over 350. What do you do when the building capacity has hit its limits? Kevin puts everything into perspective.
Waide- (Munching on my salad) Thank you so much for recommending Republic… This is my first time here. So, I’m curious… when did your role as an entrepreneur begin in NoHo Arts District?
(Note: Forgive me, but, Republic of Pie & Coffee serves one of the BEST Cesar Salads I’ve ever had!)
Kevin- We started in 2004. James, my husband and partner, came to me and said, ‘you know how we’ve always wanted to own a theatre’… and I said, ‘do we really want to own a theatre?’ But, at that time, the building was the American Renegade Theatre and it was a theatre we had attended and also rented for our own productions. The owner was at a time in his life where he wanted to sell and approached us saying ‘you should buy this building.’ The absolute truth is, after the course of one meeting, James and I sat down and said, ‘let’s figure out a way we can do it.’ We had to go through an approval process with the city, which had loans on the building. But, from that December date, which would have been 2003, and by the time tax date came by, April 15th 2004, that was the date we closed on the building.
It was the desire to have in one location, our theatre life and our spiritual life all under one roof. And my husband, being a minister, wanted a place to have his own congregation growing, that would be, if you will, Art Spaced. We wanted to be a spiritual community but with an arts’ emphasis. You know, which combines, for both of us, our two passions. There’s that notion that if you can dream it, if you can conceive it, you can make it happen. It was something we spent a great deal of time dreaming about, conceiving of, and through no other design… it happened….
W- Right time. Right place.
K- Yeah… I think so. And at the time, 2003, look… we were still on the earlier side of the NoHo Arts District’s coming of age. It had already been a very active thriving Arts area many many years before us. Once the millennium sort of hit, it just really started to take off in this area. These high rises that are everywhere now, within three or four years… BOOM! In one sense, what used to be known as the armpit of the city… it had all fallen into disrepair, and all of a sudden, I think, for developers, it was like where can we get the most bang for the buck? And overnight it was like BUY NOHO! Within five, six years, high-rises, apartments… and still going up everywhere in this area.
W- How did Global Truth Center begin?
K- Again, my husband… this is the part I always chide him and say, ‘he’s ruined our life, but not really.’ We’re both Broadway actors by trade. We both came out to L.A. in 1993-94 by way of a little musical he wrote that played at a theatre in Hollywood, then known as the Tiffany. We fell in love with L.A…. He was already on the verge of a life’s change. He was already delving deeply into ‘self-help.’ A quest for all things Spiritual. He wanted to make the world a better place. He fell madly passionately for what is called Science of Mind. We started attending services at the Los Angeles Church For Religious Science. Overnight, he was taking classes and throwing himself into it. Overnight turned into six years and he had completed course work and a Dissertation to become a minister. I always laugh… he went away on one of those incredible religious retreats that people go away on, and he came home one day late in the 1990s and said, ‘I think I want to be a Minister.’ I said, ‘Why?’ He said he had this epiphany while he was away on retreat and it’s what he thought he believed his next journey must be. I said, how is this going to affect your acting, writing, directing… He said he didn’t know… so, he became a Staff Minister at the church we were attending and that lasted for many years… then, when the building became available… he was set to have his own church.
W- Now… that brings us to a good segue… your new home… Let’s talk about that.
K- For all of us in the art’s world out here… those of us who mange to live and survive the downturn of 2007-8-9… and stay afloat through it… and watching so many of the Arts organizations literally close their doors, close shop… organizations that had been here twenty years of longer… it certainly seemed like a depression to me, if you want to call it a recession… whatever. When you’re going bankrupt, it doesn’t feel like a recession. It certainly feels more like a Depression. We weathered it. It gave way to the lovely rein of Mr. Obama’s second term.
W- … How do you feel about Obama?
K- I love Obama’s rein. I’m very proud he is my President. I won’t go into politics, it’ll bore your readers! I’m as horrified as anyone else is about what’s happening. At least the people I know and love are horrified. There’s clearly people who are not horrified… I’m horrified. I can’t even imagine where this is going to put the Arts with this new Administration… Anyway… we sustained steady growth with 2011-12-13-14 through to 2016. We found ourselves in a position to sell the building because we outgrew it. It’s also heart breaking. We could no longer grow without selling our building. Our congregation had grown to 250 strong. Half the congregation couldn’t get in on Sundays anymore. And we wanted to do bigger productions. The building was too small. We’re here at Lankershim and Magnolia, now we’ve moved to Lankershim and Riverside. That’s barely moving in L.A. It’s pretty darn close. It’s on the property of a beautiful Jewish Reform Congregation, Temple Beth Hillel… they have for us a 300 seat flexible theatre space. So, we’ve gone from having 99 seats to having 300 seats… and we live in Studio City.
W- How do you see the NoHo Arts District evolving within the next 24 months?
K- Those companies that are established and rooted here, have a challenge to stay current and keep up with the growth of the area. And it is sad to see some of the smaller Mom & Pop Arts organizations struggle. As rents go up… it pushes them out. Those that can stay will become more relevant to the area. They will become the deep roots. North Hollywood is becoming its own ‘Destination Village.’
W- We’re gonna shift gears here…
W- What’s your favorite movie?
K- My favorite movie… this is going to be a shock for you… my favorite movie, really is, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” In all absolute seriousness. Long before everyone got ‘retro-OOO it’s back!’ … I love it! I watch it every year.
W- Favorite color?
W- Favorite book?
K- OK… it is what it is… it has to be “The Lord of The Rings.”
W- The whole series?
K- The whole series.
W- Your Happy Place Song?
K- The music that impressed the most amongst my young self… coming out and all… I can say that I have every single Karen and Richard Carpenter album ever pressed. You can say they’re my favorite group, too!
W- Thank you, Kevin! This has been great… and the salad’s not so bad either.
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