John Rabe and Julian Bermudez: Radio Host and Art Curator Are a Private Couple in the Public Eye
On a Saturday morning, Rabe and Bermudez drink coffee out of Heath mugs at their kitchen table after staying up until 3 a.m. watching the extended version of the last film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Their modest house, off the Arroyo Seco Parkway in Mount Washington, is well-lived-in and warm. From the top of their terraced backyard, outfitted with an antiques-filled man cave, you can glimpse the U.S. Bank building downtown and Griffith Observatory. A couple of koi mingle with Morning Edition host Steve Julian's goldfish in a pond that Rabe constructed below. Three Irish terriers wag their welcome to any visitors.
They pride themselves on the harmony and fluidity of their lifestyle. For years after they started dating, much to the confusion of many of their friends, Bermudez kept his West Hollywood apartment as a sort of "steam valve" for their relationship. They wrote their wedding vows privately and didn't share them with one another beforehand. They travel with few details worked out in advance — yet they don't fight on road trips.
"To understand us is to understand our drive for exploration, our curiosity," Bermudez explains. "We don't get a cup of coffee down the street and sit there for five hours. There's too much to see."
Colorful magnets on their refrigerator chart their travels together: Yosemite, Paris, New York, Istanbul, Troy, Trieste. Large paintings adorn the living room walls, and little artworks accent most surfaces. Bermudez gets wide-eyed when he speaks about the artists, a combination of L.A.-based emerging talents and established names — among them Enrique Castrejon, Shepard Fairey, Camille Rose Garcia, Graciela Iturbide, Todd Schorr, Adam Silverman and Edward Walton Wilcox.
Rabe points out one of his favorites. It's a somber painting by a Cal State Long Beach B.F.A. student, Atsumi Okano, a sort of variation of the traditional cherry-blossom imagery in a minor key, painted in the wake of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
It's "a perfect example of how art intersects with news," Rabe says.
Or, perhaps, a perfect example of how Julian intersects with John.