Monday, March 4, 2024

Career Change: An Unlikely Conversion from Films to Needles

September 5, 2011  
Filed under Profiles / Interviews

Text and Photos by Bethany Nauert —

russell brownRussell Brown is not your traditional Acupuncturist. He doesn’t believe in all the clichés that normally accompany Americans who wax philosophical about Eastern traditional medicine. Hesitant to even own a pair of billowy yoga pants, he finds it deranged when Americans use words like “Namaste” and “Love and Light.” Russell towers over you with his dark hair and blue eyes, and has a tattoo of soaring birds covering his entire left arm—not what you’d expect to see at a doctor’s office. But don’t let his striking façade fool you—he is a true healer.

Graduating from UC Berkeley, Russell worked several years in the entertainment industry. One morning, over breakfast with his brother he overheard someone discussing acupuncture. After a bit of prodding, he made the decision to change his entire career. “After working several years in feature film development on such near-Academy Award winning films as The Fast and The Furious franchise, Not Another Teen Movie, and Cruel Intentions, I pendulum-swang the other way and quit my job on a whim to become a licensed acupuncturist.”

Approaching the practice of this medicine in a much different manner than his peers, Russell’s office offers a very different appeal than the every day acupuncture office. There are no zen fountains that annoyingly drip in the background, and the whole space is designed like the inside of a home. The office of Poke Acupuncture is a curation of artwork, books, vintage décor and furniture and fresh flowers. During your treatment after he fills you with needles, you will be wisped to sleep to the sounds of Ryan Adams, Iron + Wine, and Jose Gonzales (no cheesy Asian flute and harp music here). “I try to employ more of the science that grounds Traditional Chinese Medicine than the faux-Asian zen-ness, woo-woo hippie-ness, or strip-mall sketchiness that would personally make me uncomfortable as a patient.”

The irony of inserting a needle directly into the painful part of your body seems scary to most people. However Russell is careful and very thoughtful to explain the process of his treatment. He has many ideas and suggestions about how to remedy various ailments. Visiting Poke will surely surprise any non-believer, and I promise you’ll enjoy the experience.

acupuncture space

20 Questions with Russell Brown About Life in LA

1). How long have you been an Angelino?

My whole life. I was born and bred in the Valley.

2). What part of Los Angeles do you live in?

I live in Hollywood, by Runyon Canyon.

3). What turns you on the most about this city?

Sitting outside at breakfast in January. Eat it, NYC.

4). What turns you off the most about this city?

Year-round sunshine can often make me feel like I have the responsibility to be social and friendly every day when I could actually use a good month or two of hibernation, like all of nature’s creatures.

5). Favorite place to eat Sunday brunch?

GRUB in Hollywood. Grub is to bacon what some famous artist is to really really tasty, greasy but sweet art.

6). Most overrated venue?

Drai’s on Hollywood Blvd. 4 inches of cloth does not a dress make. Also, I didn’t die for the Street Art exhibit at the MOCA. It was huge yet I still walked away learning very little about the art form.

7). Who is your favorite local artist?

Karis Wilde, mind-boggling hula hooping performer. Google her. Amazing. John Arsenault, next huge photographer.

8). If you were going to move, what would be your next destination?

My license prohibits me from leaving California so I’d go with San Francisco.

9) Name something you wish would change here.

I’m done with SUVs. There is NO reason to be excessively contributing to the gasoline crisis so that you can have more cargo room for your Dirty Chai. The jig is up on this trend.

10). Favorite time of year in LA?

Every time of year in LA is the same. THAT’S why we live here.

11). Where to go for the best happy hour?

The Log Cabin.

12). Best flea market?

Anyone who says the Rose Bowl has never been to the Pasadena City College Swap Meet. It’s the same vendors but free AND in the shade.

13). What is the best exhibition you’ve seen here?

Josh Beckman’s SEA NYMPH at the Machine Project last fall. He built an actual ship wreck in a Echo Park’s finest performance and educational space, complete with a crystal cave inside the deck.

14). Where is the best place to go on a first date?

Coffee at Café Tropical in Silverlake, then a stroll around the Reservoir, with a little bit of making out in the Silverlake Meadow. Yes, that was a real date and it was magic.

15). Favorite of all the tourist spots?

Disneyland. But go on Super Bowl Sunday, which is secretly Disneyland’s least-trafficked day. Damn, did I just say that out loud?

16). Best venue to see a live show?

I do love the Hollywood Bowl. It’s so… civilized.

17). Name a hidden LA gem that has not been taken over yet.

The Classroom LA in Echo Park. Terrarium building classes every Saturday, amongst other genius crafting classes. They are doing such a great thing for the community there.

18). If LA had a subway system like New York or bus system like San Francisco, would you use it? Or would you stick with your car?

I’d use it if it went somewhere I actually needed to go. I don’t need to go from Culver City to Union Station.

19). Biggest (but most true) cliché about LA?

Hipsters bringing kale salad to potlucks. I was at a BBQ in Echo Park this weekend that served seven different types of kale salad and one box of cookies.

20). What mark do you want to leave on the world?

The reason I became an acupuncturist and opened Poke is to be able to serve the community and offer a hand to help each other out. We all exist in separate little cars here in LA but, in fact, we are all rivers racing to the same ocean.

For more info on Poke, visit

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