Featured Artist

Kelly Zirbes Kelly Zirbes

She'll  run the Los Angeles Marathon in March, 2000, and afterwards, she'll take the stage with her band, Kelly's Lot.

Kelly Zirbes was two years old when her mom brought her from Minneapolis to San  Gabriel, California, near Pasadena. Bad area at the time. Five kids and a single mother, they lived in ghettoes till their mother moved up, founding the Truman Employment agency twenty years ago. It's now run by Kelly's brother, and mom still lives in nearby South Pasadena.

Kelly had her first guitar when she was 12, wrote poetry at age 6, made up songs; her mom bought her that guitar, and she taught herself  how to play it. She played around with her fingers without always knowing what she was playing. "I strum it and that sounds cool.  One try to learn the proper  way to play: Kelly took a class at Pasadena City College class when she was 21, but it wouldn’t take. Three days later she was gone. These days, she sings the vocals and lets the band play. Still, she plays at least three 3 songs with her guitar -- "Joan of Arc" "I don't Understand," and " Broken Man."

This has been going on for awhile. At her recent 20-year reunion at San Gabriel High, friends reminded her that she had a trio in high school who sang Simon & Garfunkel's "Sounds of Silence." After high school she went to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on a scholarship, where she majored in Civil Engineering, then changed to Construction Engineering dropped out after 2 and a half years. She started playing the guitar and jamming. She cites her early influences: Janis Joplin, Etta James, Blues, Tom Jones, (I love passion) Heart, Joe Cocker, Bruce Springsteen and Aretha.

In 1982 Kelly got back to L.A. where she modeled for boating and motorcycle magazines, "the token skinny brunette, not the one with the boobs --- not the buxom blonde." She did some acting at a small theater on Hollywood's Melrose Ave., performed in half a dozen plays. Still looking like a kid, she was cast as Anne Frank when she was 22. "The Diary of Anne Frank" played in Encino at a community playhouse on Balboa and Ventura Boulevards in the San Fernando Valley just over the hill from L.A. "-- people thought I was 16 years old."

This led to an indie film "IFO" (Identified Flying Object) made by a German filmmaker who never released the movie theatrically, but had it shown on cable). She was working on a show with Dick Clark Productions when she got "Taft Hartley'd," and that was over. Kelly picked up the trade papers, saw an ad in Dramalogue: "Go To Japan And Sing." Since she wanted out of  L.A. at that point, she did. Since she loved Cat Stevens songs, she gave them "Moonshadow." They said, "You leave in 2 weeks." Waitaminute! The gig was a regular deal where she'd have to get up there and sing a lot of songs. Kelly hit the library, where she Xeroxed sheet music, happy to find the likes of  John Denver songs, with guitar tablature charts over the music. Then it was The Wine Bar in Kobe, where she played for 3 months. Soon after she got there, she fell down a flight of steps and had a concussion. She played on regardless. Meanwhile, her days were free to do other things. They liked her looks in Japan, and so she modeled about three times a week, earning enough to go home and be able to live on the money 6 months.

Back in Los Angeles, she began acting again, but felt that she was more of a tomboy and didn't exactly like to walk in heels or wear makeup. Close, but no cigar. Not much happening, as far as Kelly was concerned, till she met a guy and moved to Canada with him -- Toronto. No, that didn't work out. Kelly was so miserable that she made no music. She realized she had allowed herself to be taken away. She found a job as a waitress and in hindsight describes that period as "the darkest time in my life,"  from Japan to Toronto.

Time to come back to Los Angeles. Home. She worked at the family employment agency, got herself a job in the car business, eventually owned a car lot in Marina del Rey for 2 years, Westwood 2 years, and no joke, acquired business acumen. Hard to intimidate a businesswoman who bought and sold cars. There were 70-90 used cars on the lot. "I don't know why I did it, but I would never trade that experience."

Still, there was that guitar, those songs, there was open mike at Highland Grounds, Common Grounds,  any open mike in L.A., she was there, singing her own songs. Then a gig at The Breakaway in Mar Vista by Inglewood and Venice, a full 45-minute show, Kelly, her guitar, and a guitarist. She felt like she was slowly waking up.

One day she closed the car lot. A guy was looking for someone to sing with.  They played a few gigs, he said -- "You gotta meet this girl, the bass player for Precious Metal!" She was Alex Rylance. They soon got a quartet together; called their group the Ya-Yas. This lasted for 6 months, and Alex convinced a friend, composer J. Peter Robinson, to produce the Ya-Yas' demo. Around this time the group became Kelly's Lot.

Kelly's Lot was booked into the Troubadour. A friend, sound engineer Perry Robertson, recorded the gig on DAT, and it became a CD called "Live from the Troubadour," got them college play. They burnt a few Kelly's Lot Live from the Troubadour CDs, shopped them to record labels, so far not much action on that front. Then in an 8-month period in 1998 the group recorded "Test Drive," their first CD release, which is now available on the internet (http://www.kellyslot.com).

Kelly's Music Video Party is the latest project for entrepreneurial Kelly, it's a contest held at The Gig in West Los Angeles. At each of four video showcase nights, seven indie band videos will be shown. Three  videos will be chosen each night, for 12 finalists. The first date is in November.

Judges for the first contest are: Nina Blackwood original VJ on MTV, Tom Kidd from Music Connection Magazine, Kerry Marsico from TVT Records, Los Angeles, Victor Webster, who plays "Nicholas" on "Days Of Our Lives" for the November 10th show; there will be other judges on future Video showcases -- searching for the best indie videos; in search of the best independent artists. Future dates include December 15. Finals are scheduled in March.

Also in March, Kelly will be running the Los Angeles Marathon, and will be performing with her band after the Marathon. Other musicians will run the 5K at the marathon and will perform during the 5-hour gig. The bandstand will be located 6 short blocks from the finish line. Kelly notes that all proceeds from the musicians who run will go to Stop Cancer... The Next Generation, an organization that raises money for seed grants for USC and UCLA cancer research. Other projects will follow. "Live from  Hallenbeck's" CD proceeds will also go to Stop Cancer... TNG"
Kelly - marathon runner

Right now, it's marathon training, as an adjunct, helping run and exercise dogs from a shelter in Burbank. "These dogs don't get out of shelters unless volunteers come to help walk and run them. I'm out there running anyway. She needs a few "fluffers" to help out by preparing the dog, you pet a dog, then let Kelly run with it. These dogs need two different people to get them ready for fun.

These days, Kelly listens to... "classical music." In Los Angeles, the way to handle potential madness due to freeway traffic is to turn on KKGO 105.1, the local Mozart outlet.

What does she look at, and think of as beautiful?  "I look at people's houses, watch people sitting on patios, the mailmen giving them their mail, watch people carry on their daily lives. I love what life is... the daily exchange with people.... I'll walk down Lankershim, Magnolia, I love the streets. I'd rather run the streets than run on the beach."

As for hope, for Kelly, it's,  "I hope that I can affect and help more people -- success -- if you've made a difference in somebody's life... I like when people come up to me and say, "that song did this to me."

Article by: Aida Pavletich
Aida Pavletich is a Los Angeles writer and videographer.

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