69-year-old Howard Mordoh was out nearly every night at a concert. Now, he’s sheltering in place at home, dabbling in fine dining and conducting solo dance parties.
If you go to shows in L.A., then you’ve likely seen him: silver hair flowing in the air, arms waving about in a nonstop series of funky moves. That’s L.A.’s own dancing man — or Valley native Howard Mordoh.
Legend has it that if the dancing man is at your concert, then it’s the best show of the night. His friends call him “Front Row Mordoh.” He’s 69 years old and retired, but as a former clinical lab scientist, he once showed up to work at 5:30 a.m. after pulling an all-nighter to see Prince play past dawn at the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel.
“I went out almost every night before the pandemic,” Mordoh says from his home office in Woodland Hills, fully decked out in Coachella memorabilia — he’s been to nearly every desert festival.
Among his final pre-quarantine concerts? Patti Smith at Walt Disney Concert Hall and the English band Keane at the Dolby Theatre. “The last one was a really big one — Tame Impala at the Forum — I was thinking when I was there that this might be my last show,” Mordoh says. “I was supposed to go to Seattle the next day … and we were going to go see kind of like a male version of Lady Gaga, his name is Dorian Electra. And then I was supposed to go see an old band — Wishbone Ash.”
Then, the coronavirus hit the Pacific Northwest — the first COVID-19 cases reported in the U.S. occurred north of Seattle — and the shows were canceled. “All of a sudden I’m getting these refunds for everything. I didn’t realize how much money I was spending on concerts.” Mordoh says. “So, now, suddenly I got an extra, like, $3,000 on my American Express card. And the cancellations keep coming.”
He’s spending a lot of those refunds on fine dining. “I’ve been going to these fancy restaurants spending my money on food instead of music,” Mordoh says. He’ll feast on a five-course dinner from Providence, or a French omelet from Petit Trois in the Valley. “I like to go to Dialogue, Melisse, and sometimes I go to the beach first and try and go body surfing while I’m waiting for my order,” he says. Mordoh has an app on his phone, called Surfline, where he regularly checks the waves.
Lately, he’s also turned to hiking around his Woodland Hills neighborhood. Sometimes his partner of nearly 40 years, Ken Warren, will join him. “We met in some bar in Silver Lake,” he says. “It was right by the corner of Vermont and Melrose, it’s called the Faultline now — it was called The Stud.”
The way Mordoh tells it, Warren was walking by, and he thought he was hot, so he followed him into the bar. A month later they moved in together, and have been a couple ever since. “Our first date was Oingo Boingo at the Whisky,” Mordoh says.
Before quarantine, he often went to shows solo or met up with friends. “Ken doesn’t like going to shows anymore. I burned him out, and also because of my weird celebrity,” says Mordoh. “They push him out of the way to come and dance with me or whatever.”
Jen Fodor, the host of the podcast I Love Music, was so struck by Mordoh’s sweet moves and friendly nature while she was out at shows that she is currently working on co-directing a documentary starring him. “He mentioned once that he’s like a professional audience,” Fodor says. “He’s the world’s biggest concert enthusiast. And he loves to listen to the music and dancing is one way he gives back — putting good vibes into the atmosphere and the crowd.”
Mordoh been captured dancing with Alana from Haim at the band’s sold-out show at the Greek Theatre and featured on the Hollywood Palladium’s Instagram grooving to Diana Ross.
The new local psych-pop band The Know shot a music video for their song “Someday Maybe” at the beginning of 2020, and they tapped Mordoh to star and dance in a sun-soaked backyard party. “He’s a staple of the L.A. music scene,” says The Know band member Jennifer Farmer. How does she describe his dance moves? “Eclectic… and eccentric, he really stands out,” Farmer says.
Mordoh also stands out on the road. His license plate reads LAROKRR. “I couldn’t get LA Rocker but it’s close enough that it’s been stolen twice,” he says.
Lately, he’s been tuning into virtual concerts at home. At the beginning of quarantine, he was even livestreaming himself dancing and broadcasting it on his Facebook page, where he goes by LA Rocker. “After a while you miss seeing it live,” he says. “It’s really hard.”
He admits that he feels like everything is upside down — and he’s battling waves of depression, sleeping too much and nightmares.
“The most relaxing thing about all of this is that when a show goes on sale or there’s a presale — and you’re rushing to get on the computer and your adrenaline is going and you don’t know if you’re going to get what you want. That stress is all gone,” Mordoh says. “I always prefer for them to reschedule it for next year because then I already have the tickets.”
He’s resisting any urges to not buy tickets for next year — but he does has a vision for our current moment. “My friends are doing a documentary on me… We went all over all the venues in LA. And they filmed me dancing in front of all them,” he says. One of the venues was the tree-shaded outdoor setting of the Hollywood Bowl, which led to Mordoh to a revelation. “What a great place to do a social distancing concert — to get a bunch of your friends together,” he says. “Bring your boombox, and we all dance at the Hollywood Bowl.”