Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Great Los Angeles Ice Cream Shortage of 1909

Add Aug. 30, 1909 to the list of terrible dates in Los Angeles history. That's the day Los Angeles ran out of ice cream. The Los Angeles Times flashes back to that dark moment in city history:

In the middle of a heat wave, Angelenos rushed to buy ice cream by the gallons as merchants struggled to keep up with demand.

"It is estimated that more than $20,000 was spent by the public during the day in its effort to keep cool by the ice-cream route," The Times reported. (That's about $410,600 in today's dollars.) "In the residence districts the peddlers of ice cream ran out of every stock early in the morning, and it was almost impossible for them to replenish their supplies."

"In some cases the wagons made several trips from distant points to the factories, each time obtaining but a portion of the stock they required," the newspaper said. "The peddlers found it unnecessary to ring their gongs to attract trade: women and children flocked to the curbs and clamored for the dainty.

"Reserve stocks of ice at the factories melted away at the rate of hundreds of tons an hour, and crews at the manufacturing plants were put on double time in an effort to meet the demand.

Thankfully, an ice cream drought would never happen in our modern era. Think about that the next time you opine for the "good ol' days."

Trader Joe's Report: Granny Smith Apple Slices

I generally rave about all things Trader Joe's -- witness this post (or this one). But the grocery store isn't immune to occasionally stocking some duds as well.

That's the case with TJ's new Granny Smith Apple Slice. The bag promises toasted, lightly salted apple slices. But what you get are chewy, barely baked dried apple pieces that rarely crunch (the salt isn't noticeable). The chips get stuck in your teeth; overall, it was a pretty disappointing buy. They can't all be winners, I suppose, but in this case I was expecting something completely different.

My Evening With the Purple One

Prince has somehow remained the same age for 15 years

As Emmy parties go, in my 11 years (!) covering the annual event, I'd have to say it was one of the best (if not the best) I've ever attended. This year's Entertainment Tonight Emmy party (co-sponsored by People) boasted a musical performance by Prince -- who played for a full 90 minutes.

What's more, the overly cautious fire marshal closed the party's doors (at the Mondrian Hotel's Skybar) way too soon, as Variety's party wrap up notes. That meant for a much less crowded audience than you'd expect (there was easily room for another 100, maybe 200, people, and the place still wouldn't have felt packed). For those of us who managed to make it in, it meant getting up close and personal with his Purple Badness. Joe and I managed to work our way up toward the front by the end of the show.

Of course, being so close to Prince on stage upped the wow factor -- but the performer still puts on a great show, even if you're not within spitting distance. Most of the songs were unfamiliar, but still funky enough that you didn't care. And every once in a while he'd throw in a familiar crowd pleaser to keep the crowd pumped -- "Kiss" (changing the lyrics from "You don't have to watch Dynasty to have an attitude" to "Desperate Housewives"); "If I Was Your Girlfriend"; "Seven"; "Cream"; "Purple Rain"; and others, ending the show with a truncated version of "Let's Go Crazy."

On stage, Prince's backup singer/dancers (who were either twins, or dressed to look like twins) made enough of an impression that I began to mentally pitch the reality show "Who Wants to Be a Prince Back-up Singer?" (I mean, you gotta admit, he always seems to find hotties who can dance and carry a tune quite well). Meanwhile, a few feet away from me in the crowd were Seal and Heidi Klum.

Because we caught the full 90 minutes of Prince, we never made it to any other of the Emmy events. But it was worth it -- I'd never seen Prince live, and had always wanted to. Not a bad way to finally check that off my "to-do" list.

(Prince photo: People mag. Not from the Sunday night ET/People party, however.)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Worst Pun-Driven Business Name in Los Angeles?

There's no shortage of terrible, pun-filled business names in Los Angeles. "The Merchant of Tennis" on La Cienega. "Lawrence of La Brea" rugs on La Brea. And many, many more.

But really, the worst of them all has to be "The Best Little Doorhouse in Town," located on Sepulveda in West L.A. -- complete with a logo that even copies the movie its inspired by, "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas." Dreadful!

Santa Clarita Is (Was?) Burning

Driving north on the 405 through the Sepulveda Pass yesterday, I caught this view of smoke (courtesy the fires burning in the Angeles National Forest near Santa Clarita) over the mountains.

The fires were expected to be contained by today.

Doubting Vincent Thomas

A few years ago I ranted here about the fact that most Angelenos don't know the name of our city's tallest building (also known as the tallest building west of the Mississippi). It doesn't help that the skyscraper has shifted names from the Library Tower to the First Interstate World Center back to the Library Tower and now to the U.S. Bank Tower.

But I digress. I have another one: I've asked several people in recent days if they know what the Vincent Thomas Bridge is, and where it's located.

I've gotten mostly blank stares in response.

C'mon, people! As most of you know, Los Angeles can lay claim to the state's third largest suspension bridge (behind some "Golden Gate" thingy up north, and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge).

The Vincent Thomas Bridge -- yeah, that emerald suspension bridge in San Pedro -- was back in the news this week after a cargo ship crane struck it. Luckily, notes the L.A. Times, the damage was minimal:

Officials said the four-lane bridge, which connects San Pedro and Terminal Island, was closed for inspection about 4:45 p.m., shortly after the incident was reported. California Department of Transportation engineers were dispatched to the scene but found only slight damage to a catwalk beneath the bridge, said Theresa Adams Lopez, a spokeswoman for the Port of Los Angeles.

There were no reported injuries.

According to the Port of Los Angeles' Vincent Thomas Bridge website, the structure is also the first welded (not riveted) suspension bridge in the United States, and the only suspension bridge in the world supported entirely on piles.

July 2006 Playlist -- Finally!

A little late, but here goes, my mix from two months ago...

July 2006

Standing in the Way of Control-- The Gossip (4:16)
Melt Your Heart-- Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins (2:50)
Mama's Room-- Under the Influence of Giants (3:46)
Free-- Gnarls Barkley (2:16)
Closer to You-- Brandi Carlile (2:54)
Put Your Records On-- Corinne Bailey Rae (3:36)
Off the Record-- My Morning Jacket (3:23)
Out of LA-- The Dollyrots (3:14)
Throw it All Away-- Zero 7 (5:21)
Blink-- The Blue Scholars (3:54)
Holding Me Down-- Toby Lightman (3:20)
The Funeral-- Band of Horses (4:45)
Yesterdays-- Junkie XL (3:56)
Sunday-- Sia (4:17)
Jeruselem-- Steve Earle (4:11)
Babylon-- Naked Rhythm (4:49)
Dreamland-- Third World (3:31)
Basically-- Gnarls Barkley (2:32)
To The Woods-- Division Day (4:11)
Signs of Life-- Every Move A Picture (3:46)
Assisted Suicide-- DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid & Dave Lombardo (3:16)

(For a complete list of Franklin Avenue's playlists, back to 2001, check out our Choice Cuts blog.)

Monday, August 28, 2006

Press Release of the Day: K-Fed Gets a Job Edition

Nevermind the news that K-Fed is guest starring on "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation." What's up with CBS legitimizing allegations (proven untrue at the recent Teen Choice Awards) that Kevin Federline is a "rapper"?!


Performer and rapper Kevin Federline will guest star on an upcoming episode of CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION, Thursday (9:00-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

Federline will portray an arrogant teenager who harasses the CSI team as they investigate a series of brutal tourist beatings that are taking place throughout the Las Vegas area. Nick and Warrick are confronted by Cole Tritt, (Federline), an arrogant teen who hassles them while they work a crime scene.

Friday, August 25, 2006

MTA Votes for Confusion

Looks like the MTA board wimped out and scrapped plans to call its new light rail train (between USC and Culver City) the "Aqua Line." Bowing to bizarro pressure from City Councilman Bernard Parks -- who grew rather obsessed over the issue of the line's color designation -- the train will instead be known as the "Expo Line."

Never mind that every other MTA train is named after a color -- Red Line, Blue Line, Green Line, Gold Line.

But the debate isn't over yet. The next question the MTA has to determine, believe it or not, is the color of "Expo." MTA still wants the color of "Expo" to be aqua on maps, while Parks wants the line's color to be "rose."

I think both would just add to the confusion. If you're not going to name the line "Aqua" or "Rose," riders may confuse those colors with the Blue Line or Red Line.

Aren't there bigger issues the MTA board should be debating? Notes the Daily News:

"At some point this board has gotten to listen to the people and not politicians ... but the hundreds and hundreds of people that have advocated for this and want this. And I think it's a slap in their face and a slap in the staff's face," said MTA board member and Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, calling the debate "unseemly."

"I have resented the minimal amount of time I have had to spend on this, roped in to spend on this. But it is serious in one sense, it telegraphs to the community what our worldview is about how we make decisions."

MTA officials say even after laying down 73 miles of rail and subway, they have never faced such a drawn-out debate over a color designation.

In fact, moments after the board spent nearly an hour debating colors, it quietly and unanimously voted in favor of naming the leg of the Red Line that runs from Union Station to Wilshire and Western the Purple Line. It also adopted silver as the color to designate the El Monte express busway and the bronze for the Harbor express busway.

Coming Soon to a Jay Leno Monologue Near You

This is the kind of thing that plays into every stereotype outsiders have about Southern California. (And it doesn't help that it's tailor-made for the usual too-obvious "They're nutty out here" jokes by the likes of Jay Leno.)

Dateline Beverly Hills: According to the L.A. Times, city officials are considering replacing the brand-spanking new concrete sidewalks on Rodeo Drive with... granite (can't wait to see people slipping on their asses after a rainstorm):

City Manager Roderick Wood wants to start jack-hammering the dull concrete sidewalks along Rodeo Drive and surrounding streets — home to some of the world's fanciest boutiques including Prada, Gucci, Cartier and Tiffany — and replace them with glimmering Kenoran Sage granite pavers.

Never mind that the city just wrapped up a $16-million, two-year streetscape makeover that included new concrete sidewalks.

"Places like Las Vegas and Dubai and enclaves like Vail and Martha's Vineyard and developments like the Grove, Century City and South Coast Plaza are eroding the base of the long-established markets and specifically in Beverly Hills," Wood counseled the City Council this week.

"The greatest peril in today's luxury market is for one to rely on history only to become history."

Rodeo Drive's new concrete walkways would be "a very nice addition in Riverside or Indio," Wood said. But "even in places like Fresno," far-sighted officials have begun jazzing up their city streets.

Ooh, SNAP! Riverside? Indio? You gonna take that smack? (Sorry, Fresno, but he's got a point in your case -- you do blow.)


The Long Beach Press Telegram is reporting (via LA Biz Observed) that chicken chain Chick-fil-A is preparing a big push into California.

Locally, Chick-fil-A already has locations in Redondo Beach (at the South Bay Galleria), Cerritos (the Los Cerritos Center), Torrance (Del Amo Fashion Center) and Long Beach (a free-standing building on Carson St.), as well as several locations in Orange County and the Inland Empire.

But the chain -- famous for its Closed-on-Sunday policy -- is now eyeing a much bigger presence:

(President/COO Dan)Cathy told the group about the chain's aggressive expansion plans for California, and he said to expect another dozen locations to open in the state by the end of 2007.

"We know that in the state of California, there's a potential to double the size of our company," he said. "We're very bullish on California."

Of the company's 1,253 locations, fewer than 20 are in California, according to company estimates.

Based on sales, Chick-fil-A is the second-largest quick-service chicken restaurant chain in the United States and credits itself with being the first to introduce chicken nuggets into the eating lexicon.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Valet Inflation

Rising gas prices aren't the only jacked-up expenses for L.A. communters. I don't know if you've noticed, but the average restaurant valet parking fee seems to have risen across the area.

The new norm appears to be $5.50-- as witnesses today up and down La Brea, at spots like Luna Park and Sonora Cafe. The higher end can be found in Beverly Hills, where the price of valet at Mr. Chow is $7. Add a tip, and parking becomes an almost $10 proposition.

I still remember moving to Los Angeles ten years ago and being shocked, shocked by the idea of paying $1 to park in the Beverly Center lot. What?! Pay to park in a mall parking lot? I avoided it as much as I could by parking across the street at the Beverly Connection (free for 90 minutes) and then popping across the street.

Now, of course, $1 seems quaint -- the going rate for Hollywood & Highland, the Grove, etc. is $2.

Enter the Purple Line

The Daily News revisits City Councilman Bernard Parks' obsession with the new Metro Aqua line, which he thinks should be called the "Exposition Line" -- despite the fact that every other train line is named after a color.

We wrote about it last month, noting Park's obsession with dropping the well-liked "Aqua" designation. He also wants the line to be "rose-colored" on Metro maps -- adding to the confusion, since the line doesn't go anywhere close to Pasadena, home to the Rose Bowl and Rose parade. Yeah, I know, there's a rose garden in Exposition park -- but c'mon. Parks is spending way too much time fretting over this. Aqua makes sense, especially if the line eventually hits the ocean, as planned.

Meanwhile, the MTA was set to vote Wednesday night on finally decided to rename one of its two red lines. As you probably know, the red line subway actually consists of two different spurs. I always thought it was odd that there were two different routes with the same name -- and apparently, it also tripped up many a rider:

The MTA says passengers are too easily confused by the 17-mile line, which is really two separate lines. One runs from Union Station to the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue and the other operates from Union Station to Hollywood, finally jumping over to the San Fernando Valley.

How long until the MTA runs out of colors? I suppose they could always just buy a 64 pack of Crayolas. Can't wait for the "Burnt Sienna line."

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Last Days of Robinsons-May

We're now just days away until the complete disappearance of the Robinsons-May brand. Macy's officially rebrands the remaining stores on Sept. 9 -- and with that, Los Angeles' era of homegrown department stores ends.

Where's the reaction? Los Angeles has greeted the news with a yawn. Compare that to Chicago, where the city is up in arms about losing a true civic tradition, Marshall Field's (especially its State Street flagship) to Macy's.

Here's the site put together by Chicago's Fields Fans, who are staging a protest on Sept. 9 in a last-hope effort to convince Federated to reverse its decision to kill the Marshall Fields name.

Mitch Glaser has been covering the demise of the Robinsons-May brand since it was first announced last year, and had this to say:

While Macy's is new to many markets, it has been familiar to Southern California shoppers for nearly a decade. Having absorbed both Bullock's and The Broadway, two legendary Los Angeles retailers, Macy's West is now ready to consume Robinsons-May, a regional chain that was itself a product of retail mergers. At its end, Robinsons-May was nearly identical to May's other regional chains but represented the proud histories of predecessors J.W. Robinson's and The May Company.

The end of Robinsons-May has cost the Southern California region thousands of jobs through the closure of its headquarters and more than two dozen stores. In addition, mall operators are faced with the challenge of replacing vacant "anchor" spots at many of their key properties. Furthermore, all consumers are at a disadvantage because there is one less competitor on the retail scene. Yet the rise of Macy's star in the region has garnered little attention from anyone here in Los Angeles.

Across the region, Macy's has already removed the "Robinsons-May" signs off the side of stores, adding in the Macy's sign but temporarily covering it with a sheet that reads "Robinsons-May" (see above). Come Sept. 9, a quick flick of the banner, and the name change will be complete.

(Photo from this Flickr stream.)

Press Release of the Day: Viral "Lost" Edition

The line between real life and the fake one depicted on the TV show "Lost" continues to blur. ABC will be passing out Apollo Bars on Aug. 25, Sept.9 and Sept. 19 at the Santa Monica Pier:


Free Apollo Bars to Be Distributed for a Limited Time In Select Locations Across the U.S., U.K., Australia And Asia

What once was lost, now is found… Apollo Bar, the scrumptious chocolate bar developed in the 1960s by M. David Benson, has been enjoyed by generations of consumers. For those who’ve yet to taste Mr. Benson’s bars, your opportunity to “discover what’s inside” awaits. Beginning Wednesday, August 23, free Apollo Bars will be distributed while supplies last in select locations throughout the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Asia. The Apollo Bar is manufactured and distributed by the Apollo Candy Company, a subsidiary of The Hanso Group.

From August 23 through September, the Apollo Candy Company will distribute free Apollo Bars in cities throughout the U.S., including New York, Los Angeles, Washington DC, and Chicago. For a complete list of dates and locations where people can get their free Apollo bar, and for more information on the Apollo Candy Company, please visit our website at

Of course, the bars are real -- but the Apollo Candy Company isn't. "M. David Benson" is a tribute to ABC's marketing chief, Mike Benson.

L.A.'s Days of Infamy

Another great game from the L.A. City Nerd: What was the worst day in Los Angeles history?

The Nerd times it to the upcoming release of the "Bad Day LA" video game, although I suppose we could also time it to L.A.'s upcoming 225th birthday. Says the Nerd:

I would say that, in the last 225 years, the worst day in the history of the City of Los Angeles could be any of the following:

October 24, 1871

August 11, 1965

April 29, 1992

Perhaps there are other days in Los Angeles History that are worse for a specific region (the Valley: January 17, 1994), a specific neighborhood (Bel-Air: November 6, 1961) or for a specific sector (old "Hollywood elite": April 1, 1995). Or maybe, it's your personal worst day.

In case you didn't know, all three dates are attached to riots that scarred the city for years to come.

October 24, 1871: The Los Angeles Chinese Massacare

August 11, 1965: Start of the Watts Riots

April 29, 1992: Start of the Rodney King verdict riots

The Nerd asks what you would add to the list. Of course, the March 12, 1928 collapse of the St. Francis Dam, which ultimately killed more than 400 people, was a terrible moment in L.A. history; so have been earthquakes through the years, most recently, of course, in Northridge. What else comes to mind?

Brown Derby Days

Pat already did an excellent write up at this past Saturday's Southern California Restaurant Historical Society meeting, but I wanted to write a brief blurb as well.

I arrived in time to hear Rebecca Goldman give a thorough recount of the Save the Derby group's successful journey to save the last remaining one-time Derby home, at Los Feliz and Hillhurst (now home to the Derby nightclub and Louise's).

The event, which attracted a crowd of at least 50, probably more, was held at the now-saved Derby. Also giving speeches were former Ambassador Hotel publicist Margaret Burk, who recounted the famed Derby-shaped Brown Derby across from the hotel (now home to a strip mall, with remnants of the derby building on the second floor); Mark Willems, who wrote the book "The Brown Derby Restaurant; LA Observed's Kevin Roderick, who provided more historical background (including details of the phantom Brown Derby that lasted a year at the site that would become Perino's); and DJ and voice over artist extraordinaire Gary Owens, a class act who dined so frequently with fellow celebs at the Brown Derby that he had plenty of stories to tell.

Then there was Brown Derby caricaturist Jack Lane -- who's still a bundle of energy even in what must be his 80s -- sharing stories about the celeb faces he once sketched for the walls. In one story, he told of a hard roll food fight that Lucille Ball started in the dining room. He also said that he'd sketch each celeb on pad with a grease pencil; he'd then go back and re-do the drawing in ink. He saved every single one of those grease pencil sketches, and still has files full of drawings that would likely be worth a fortune.

Organizers also put together a video of film, TV and even animated works featuring the Brown Derby (both shot at the restaurant and re-created on soundstage); and passed out the original Cobb Salad recipe, as well as slices of the restaurant's famous grapefruit cake. Alas, I had to leave before grabbing a bite of the cake. Thanks to LA Time Machines for inviting me to the event; check their site for future meetings.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Guide to Pledging KCRW

KCRW's listener drive has wrapped up, and I almost missed making a pledge. Donating to KCRW is a science, especially when you can't afford more than the $50 level.

Under KCRW's new computerized pledge system, phone line volunteers can't offer you a premium unless it has been mentioned on air -- and you may be waiting a while for the DJs to mention a $50 premium. What's more, the free "bonus premiums" -- think subscriptions to Newsweek or Los Angeles magazine, or gift certificates to places like Baja Fresh -- only pop up every once in a while.

It's even more rare for both opportunities to pop up at the same time. I spent a good deal of the weekend phoning the KCRW volunteers and asking them (a) If a free bonus premium was available at the moment and (b) if any $50 premiums were available beyond the standard single CD.

I came close several times: Saturday afternoon, KCRW was offering a $50 gift certificate for Jody Maroni sausage (for a $50 pledge! not bad), but the only bonus premium was a year's subscription to "Wine Spectator" magazine. Sunday morning, the station was offering a $50 gift certificate to Storyopolis children's book store -- but no bonus premium.

Finally, at 4:55 -- right at the end of "The A-Track" -- I hit gold. Not only was KCRW offering a year's subscription to Newsweek as a bonus premium (which I have now scored for the past three years), but for $50, I landed dinner for two at California Canteen.

Number One Quote of the KZLA Switch

From Sunday's L.A. Times story about the demise of country radio in urban markets like L.A.:

"I almost threw up, I was so upset," said longtime KZLA listener and Mission Viejo resident Ruth Rogers, 53. "I think it's racist. This is becoming a nation of minorities. I'm not going to turn on my radio anymore. Country music promotes patriotism and family values, and they've replaced it with something that just promotes money and hate."

I'm sure irony is completely lost on this woman. (How does anyone with any self-awareness follow up the line "I think it's racist" with "This is becoming a nation of minorities. I'm not going to turn on my radio anymore." ?!)

And by the way, where does she find the "hate" in songs like the Black Eyed Peas' "Let's Get it Started"? Mindless, yes. Crappy song, absolutely. But hateful?

MEANWHILE, Emmis is finally streaming country music on its KZLA website -- although it's not like country listeners sitting at a computer didn't already have plenty of choices when it came to online sites streaming country. And rumors abound that local stations are mulling a switch to country to fill the void -- but I'll believe it when I hear it.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Rate-A-Restaurant, #111 in a series

Restaurant: West

Location: 170 N. Church Lane, Los Angeles, California 90049

Type of restaurant: Italian steakhouse

We stipulated: Along with a few other bloggers (including Josh at la.foodblogging, we were invited to try out West – the restaurant on top of the brand new Hotel Angeleno, once a Holiday Inn but now a chic boutique hotel right where the 405 and Sunset Blvd. meet. It’s a rare treat for Maria and me to actually head out for the evening without Evan, but a comped meal at a new hotspot was worth the babysitter.

They stipulated: With no real street parking in the vicinity, valet parking is pretty much your only option – and it’s not a flat fee, so be warned as you’re lingering that it might cost you.

What we ordered: Roasted Beets ($5), Tuna tonatto ($12), Lime-soaked sea scallops (with cilantro; $12); Maine Lobster Bolognese (tagliatelle and mascarpone; half dish, $15); Porcini Gnocchi (half dish, $13); Small T-bone steak ($36); side of spinach and whipped parmesan potatoes ($6 each); dessert: White chocolate soufflé ($12)

High point: Beyond just getting to do the meal itself? The restaurant’s views, which stretch from the ocean to Century City and beyond. West is on the 17th floor of the Hotel Angeleno, and puts its clear line of sight to good use. We scored a table by the window and arrived just in time for sunset. As for the food, we fell in love with short rib ravioli – which we hadn’t even ordered, but chef Josh Moulton had sent to our table (la.foodblogging’s Josh experienced the same thing during his dinner). Moulton clearly knows the dish is a winner. The tender meat balances nicely with the pasta.

Low point: I love lime, and I love scallops, but this dish was too fishy for my taste. The surprise appearance of the short rib ravioli also momentarily threw everyone off, as the waiter at first thought the kitchen had screwed up. We said it was fine – we didn’t need the gnocchi anyway, we had more than enough food. Still, the gnocchi came anyway, so what were we to do? Stuff our faces further.

Overall impression:West’s menu is made up of both small plates (think tapas) and large plates, as well as anti pasti and crudo. The steak was almost an afterthought by the time we got to it – I’d say either cut down on the small plates or stick to the small plates and forget about the steak. (Again, go with the short rib ravioli). The waiter made a point to highlight the steak, but it was a little tough and a tad disappointing. Menu’s definitely pricy, but if you handle it right, it shouldn’t cost much more than a usual night out. And the view is probably worth the few extra bucks.

Oh yeah, we chose wisely when it came to dessert: The white chocolate soufflé. Light, airy, sweet.

Chance we will go back: Perhaps for a special moment (Anniversary? Birthday?), but it’s not the place for a spur-of-the-moment dinner – nor is it baby-friendly.

(For a full roster of Franklin Avenue's restaurant reviews, check out our companion Rate-A-Restaurant site.)

Rate-A-Radio Station: "Movin 93.9"

Following up on our ongoing coverage of KZLA's flip from country to adult contemporary lite dance (I just made that up), I've been listening a lot to the new "Movin 93.9" to get a feel for its sound.

My verdict? Pretty disappointing, and way too safe. I know, I'm not the target female 28-40 listener. But the station seems to be offering a product that its target audience has already been getting from KBIG 104.3 or KHHT "Hot 92.3." Rather than playing much in the way of new music, "Movin 93.9" focuses heavy on recurrents you've heard hundreds of times before -- Is it really exciting to hear Madonna's "Like a Prayer" for the umpteeth time? Other than perhaps a Rihanna song thrown in for good measure, "Movin's" playlist sounds a lot like KBIG (although, even KBIG airs more aggressive dance programming late at night and on the weekend).

What's worse, I don't understand "Movin' 93.9's" heavy dose of late 70s/early 80s tunes from the likes of Earth, Wind and Fire. If you're really going after the 28-to-40 crowd, do you really want to dip that far back for your playlist? There are plenty of songs from the late 80s and 90s to supplement current hits; I'd focus on making the station sound fresher. "Superfreak" doesn't do it.

Despite all that, Movin's new website only emphasizes current artists -- such as Beyonce, Gnarls Barkley, Shakira, Outkast, Justin Timberlake, etc. What does the station want to be? A gold-oriented AC, or a hit-driven contemporary outlet?

Vegas Comes to Santa Monica

A drive to Santa Monica Airport's Barker Hangar vs. a drive to Las Vegas.

The road to Vegas, you get the Baker thermometer, the Primm outlets, Zyzzx Road, that one strange barely-stocked middle-of-the-desert convenience store, that long-abandoned water park in the middle of nowhere (what were they thinking?!), the Highway Stations, and, of course, Beautiful Barstow.

Trip only takes five hours -- ten, if there's a massive traffic accident. Santa Monica? Half-hour, tops, on the 10.

Santa Monica: the easy choice, especially this Saturday night. The Barker Hangar is host to Drink/Eat/Play's "Vegas in L.A." event, which benefits the Step Up Women's Network.

Cozmocard is throwing the event, in conjunction with and OpenTable.

The event will feature wine tastings and food from some top L.A. restaurants, including 25 Degrees, Angelini Osteria, La Terza, Blue on Blue, Leda’s Bake Shop, Literati II, Border Grill, Lina Park, Café Surfas, Cha Cha Cha, Chocolat, Ciudad, Red Pearl Kitchen, Breadbar, and many more. The Vegas theme includes a casino and lounge (with DJs, natch), as well as a silent auction.

Event is this Saturday, Aug. 26 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.; tix ($85) include $250 worth of casino money. VIP tickets ($135) include VIP lounge entrance, $500 in casinop money and a gift bag. Details here.

We Decipher Viral Marketing Billboards, So You Don't Have To

You may have seen this billboard around town -- it asks very ominously, "What Happened in There?" and directs the curious to Only They

What is it? An ad for ABC's upcoming drama "The Nine." (Good pilot, by the way -- one of my picks for New Shows to TiVo.) The series revolves around nine strangers who bond after survivng a bank heist gone bad -- but only through flashbacks (a la "Lost") do we slowly figured out what kind of bad stuff happened during those hours.

The giveaway on the billboard: The second "e" in "happened" is a backwards "9."

Yes, you'll be seeing more of these kinds of sneaky billboards as the fall TV season approaches. It's not enough to just tell you what's on TV anymore, they now want to make you work for your promo messages -- perhaps figuring you'll feel more invested by the time you get the pitch, and more likely to watch as a result.

Project Beetle

Not being much of a nature guy, I'm not familiar with this beetle: It's large, with a shiny, almost metallic green outer body -- hell, it looks like it's wearing some sort of creation from "Project Runway." Looking fierce, beetle!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Los Angeles Times' Pull-Quote of the Week

From Friday's story on Paris Hilton:

"I don't think there's ever been anyone like me that's lasted. And I'm going to keep on lasting."


Friday, August 18, 2006

Country Fans Protest -- Well, Three of 'Em Do

The orphaned KZLA country fans are attempting to rise up -- but it doesn't look like it's having much impact. Got this press release this morning:

(PRWEB) August 18, 2006 -- KZLA Country listeners are up in arms over the drastic change made by Emmis Communications today right in the middle of the mid-day show hosted by Shawn Parr.

Though a few country stations are left on the air in Southern California, KZLA was the most listened to country station in America based on listener count.

Artists like Toby Keith, Keith Urban, Tim McGraw, Gretchen Wilson and Faith Hill will no longer have a format available to them to get their music heard in one of the most populated cities in the country...

Karen Oliver, another KZLA listener is actively protesting this move. "We are asking every Country Artist to help make a stand against this format change. We have lost country music in Los Angeles and as artist they know that means it will be ever harder to get their music heard." She continues with yet another suggestion, "I think the big names like Toby Keith, Tim McGraw, Reba should band together and purchase a station out here and let's do this the right way."

Protests will be taking place Friday, August 18th at 10 am outside the KZLA studio at 2600 W. Olive Ave, in Burbank.

Call me crazy, but I'm not so sure Toby Keith and Reba are looking to get into the L.A. radio broadcasting business.

As for the protests, a poster to checked it out this morning:

I just drove by and saw three people standing out in front.

Country fans, you're going to have to do better than that!

Doughnut Hole

I still remember the night in early 1999 that a bunch of us piled in the car and drove down to La Habra.

Where? We'd never heard of the city, let alone ever considered making a trip there. But hidden down there was the first-ever Krispy Kreme outlet in Southern California. We had to make the trip.

We arrived late on a Saturday night, and the line snaked out the door. After a 20 minute wait, we picked up a dozen glazed and headed back to the car -- where we immediately snacked on the goodies. Each of us probably had four. A tad woozy from the sugar high, we still proclaimed them the food of the gods.

We made one or two more treks to La Habra, but soon after, Krispy Kremes started popping up all over Southern California -- and in locations much closer than La Habra. Sadly, as Krispy Kreme over-expanded in Southern California, the original La Habra location suffered.

Now, the region's very first Krispy Kreme -- which sold 20 million doughnuts and made $9 million in sales in the first year -- has shut down, reports the L.A. Times:

Southern California franchisee Great Circle Family Foods blamed the closing on carb-conscious customers and changing tastes. It also cited turmoil at Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc.'s North Carolina corporate headquarters, where former executives were accused of cooking the books to inflate profit and boost the sagging stock price.

Whatever the reasons, James Glass, an analyst with CIBC World Markets in Boston, put it bluntly: "People just won't line up for doughnuts forever and ever."

The store that started the local craze gradually became unprofitable, with sales falling to about a third of their original level, one employee said.

Krispy Kreme was in some sense a victim of its own success. The quick proliferation of stores — seemingly opening by the dozen — made it harder for individual locations to get by. The La Habra store closed as part of a retrenchment in the last year that has left Great Circle with 17 Krispy Kremes, down from a peak of 31.

Thankfully, the location closest to us -- in Burbank's Empire Center -- remains open. Whew!

Wax On, Wax Off


The L.A. Business Journal reports that Madame Tussaud's is planning a new wax museum in Hollywood -- which would make two in the neighborhood (the Hollywood Wax Museum has been there since the 1960s).

According to the story, Tussaud's would build a new home in the parking lot next to the Chinese Theater -- although, I gotta wonder, aren't there enough existing buildings in Hollywood that could be rehabbed and turned into Tussaud's new home (maybe not, but it's a shame that more existing buildings in Hollywood have yet to be revitalized). From the story:

Plans call for a $55-million, 40,000-square-foot museum to be located on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Orange Drive, the site of what is currently a parking lot directly west of the Mann Grauman’s Chinese Theater.

The U.K.-based Tussaud’s Group, which already has U.S. outlets in New York and Las Vegas, filed an application with the Los Angeles City Planning Department about a week ago. The company is now an official member of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, as well.

“They’ve been working for at least two or three years to find a location in Hollywood, so they’ve kept this quiet for awhile,” said Leron Gubler, executive director of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. “If they’re coming to Los Angeles, this is right where they should be – in Hollywood.”

Tussaud’s arrival will, of course, make Hollywood the only city with two wax museums. The Hollywood Wax Museum has been at 6767 Hollywood Boulevard since 1965. The chamber’s Gubler thinks there’s room in town for two.

(Link via LA Biz Observed.)

Press Release of the Day: Thicke of the Daytime Edition

Thank you, CBS, for the perfect birthday present (Aug. 31, fyi): Alan Thicke makes his daytime drama debut. I think I echo America when I say, "Finally."


Actor Alan Thicke will make his daytime drama debut on THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL, Wednesday, Aug. 30 and Thursday, Aug. 31 on the CBS Television Network. Thicke guest stars as outspoken talk show host Rich Ginger, of "The Rich Ginger Show," where Donna Logan has her first big television interview as the lead model for Forrester Creations' "Brooke's Bedroom" lingerie line. Thicke appears in scenes with Ronn Moss (Ridge Forrester), Lesli Kay (Felicia Forrester) and Jennifer Gareis (Donna Logan).

Best known for his role as Jason Seaver on the television series "Growing Pains," Thicke has a long list of film and television credits, including "Yes, Dear," on the Network, "Half and Half" and "7th Heaven." Additionally, Thicke has a notable list of composing credits, having scored the theme songs for such hit television shows as "The Facts of Life," "Diff'rent Strokes," "Wheel of Fortune," "Celebrity Sweepstakes," "Whew!" and "The Wizard of Odds."

What? No mention of "Thicke of the Night"?!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

BREAKING NEWS: KZLA Dumps Country and Goes Dance/Rick Dees

Los Angeles no longer has a country station -- KZLA, which billed itself as "America's Most Listened-To Country Station," has dumped the format in favor of a dance-leaning top 40 sound. The new station has been dubbed "Movin 93.9."

But here's the biggest news: The format change comes as Movin 93.9 brings in Rick Dees to handle its morning show.

As you know, Dees has been without a radio home since he and KIIS-FM parted ways in March 2004. Since then, he's continued to host his "Weekly Top 40" countdown, as well as a Latin-flavored version of that show (heard locally on Latino 96.3).

The format change was sudden, and quite jarring to listeners. KZLA simply played the Keith Urban song "Tonight I Wanna Cry" at 10:18 a.m., followed by the Black Eyed Peas' "Let's Get It Started" at 10:25 a.m. Here's how the playlist looked, according to

Yeah, I'd say that's a pretty jarring transition.

KZLA's regular country music website is still up, but I assume that will be altered by the end of the day. The format change probably makes sense for KZLA owner Emmis Communications. Emmis also owns hip-hop Power 106 (which once was a dance station, so it knows the format) -- and selling Power 106 and Movin 93.9 as a package is probably more attractive to advertisers than trying to sell a hip-hop station and a country station in the same breath. But there still won't be overlap -- top 40 KZLA will attract older women (think 25-54), while Power hits the younger teen and 18-34 crowd, so the stations won't cannibalize each other.

The station's chief competiton will be Clear Channel's KBIG 104.3, which has evolved to become a more dance-leaning adult contemporary station. More to come!

UPDATE KZLA finally added a message to its website (which strangely, still lists its old airstaff and country music format), noting that the station plans to start streaming the country format online and on the station's HD2 signal:

Dear Faithful KZLA Listeners:

KZLA is working to make country music available to everyone as soon as possible. Coming soon KZLA will be streaming live on and is currently available on HD Radio. We encourage you to join our "Country Club" fan base to get the latest updates on KZLA streaming, music, concerts and of course, COUNTRY BASH 2006 on Saturday October 14, 2006.

Tickets for the Bash go onsale Saturday, August 26, 2006 at 10am at all Ticketmaster locations and on We encourage you to come out and show your country pride by attending this concert to show that southern California loves country!

Kind of an odd final sentence -- who are they trying to show that Southern California loves country? The Emmis execs who dumped the format?

Meanwhile, if you're curious about the "Movin" sound, here's the webpage from Alan Burns & Associates, which markets the format. It's too bland for me, but obviously I'm not the target listener:

Women love rhythmic music. And starting in the mid to late ‘80s, young radio listeners began to prefer rhythmic music over other styles.

Those listeners are adults now! Women who were between 12 and 24 in 1989, for example, are 28 to 40 years old today. They grew up on Top 40 hits that were primarily rhythmic.

The Movin™ target is that segment of 28-40 year-old women who feel too old for hip-hop, but are bored with rock-based Hot AC and not ready for traditional AC.

I love that blanket statement -- "Women love rhythmic music." Apparently Movin' thinks women also love the Black Eyed Peas, because the station appears to be playing a song by them virtually every hour.

On days when conditions are right, L.A. radio listeners can pick up KFRG ("K-Frog") from the Inland Empire. Otherwise, you'll either have to purchase a satellite radio or an HD radio tuner to still hear country radio in L.A. I'm doubtful another station will pick up the format any time soon here.

L.A.'s Crazy Real Estate Market Goes Reality TV

Bravo's been heavily hyping its new show "Million Dollar Listing" (produced by the fine folks at World of Wonder) as a real-life soap opera set in the "high stakes, cut-throat world of real estate and closing the deal" in Los Angeles.

From WOW's description:
It's the personal dramas, the insanity of it's quirky cast and the insider tips aspiring homeowners and home buyers will learn that will keep viewers glued to the television each and every week.

The episodes are hour-long, self-contained stories that resolve every week with the sale of a single home. We'll see the intense work an agent puts into moving the hot listing of the week, along with the mental, physical and comical juggling acts required to keep their personal lives afloat. The drama heats up as homeowners and potential buyers lose their minds and possibly their shirts as they handle the pressure of one of the largest and most emotional transactions of their lives. It's real estate at the speed of television.

That's all fine, but I have a quibble with the show's title. "Million Dollar Listing"? Sad to say, but that's a three bedroom, two bath in Studio City. If this show really is about the expensive real estate in hot spots like Malibu, the title ought to be "Ten Million Dollar Listing."

Meanwhile, TLC's "Property Ladder" is actually representing the current reality of Los Angeles' softening real estate market, almost in real time.

The show, set in Los Angeles, focuses on first-time home flippers. They're usually way over their heads, spend much more money than they expect and are forced to scale back from their original grand ideas. (Host Kristen Kemp does a great job giving the flippers a reality check, complete with raised eyebrow and condescending disapproval.)

Still, Los Angeles being Los Angeles, even the most inept flippers still managed to score at least $100,000 in profit, as buyers seemed readily available... until "Property Ladder's" latest batch of shows.

My, how things have changed. The first-time home flippers are still inept, are still spending over their budget and are still having to scale things back. But when it comes time to put the house on the market, they're waiting... and waiting. Some have still managed to sell, after taking a price cut, but I've seen at least two episodes in which the show had to wrap things up without a sale. Keep in mind these episodes were taped in April, so things are even worse now.

Yikes. Even before the stalled market, "Property Ladder" served as a wake-up call to anyone who has ever thought about flipping a house for fun and profit. It was never fun, but at least the profit was there. Not anymore. The age of the flipper has come to a close.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

You Scream, I Scream, We All Scream for Panorama

When the Velaslavasay Panorama lost its Hollywood home to the wrecking ball two years ago, I thought it was the end of the line for the quirky attraction. The Velaslavasay Panorama is based on the 19th century panorama art form, which "encircles the spectator with a 360-degree painting of a continuous scene, affording the viewer an opportunity to experience a complete sensory phenomenon."

But the Velaslavasay Panorama lives, and has even found larger digs: The Union Theatre, just north of Exposition Park and the Historic West Adams district (on 24th Street Between Hoover Street and Vermont Avenue). They're presently refurbishing the theatre and installing a new exhibit, so it's not yet regularly open to the public.

But here's a perfect chance to check out their new home: The Velaslavasay Panorama is holding its annual ice cream social this Sunday, Aug. 20, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Ice cream will come from Mashti Malone's.

A $10 donation will include games, prizes, music and ice cream. Proceeds will go to the Velaslavasay Panorama Refurbishment Fund.

Entertainment will come from Erik Newman, "The Reluctant Aviator," and his aerial bicycle. And music will come from someone who may be familiar to certain Friends of Franklin Avenue: Banjo player Charlie Cox, a street performer who regularly plays outside the La Brea Tar Pits. Players on 2003's Mike's Birthday Race were required to find Charlie at one point during the race and listen to a song; Charlie then gave them a clue card.

More details from the Velaslavasay Panorama's site:

Through donations from the public and grants The Velaslavasay Panorama’s upcoming major panoramic exhibit is in the works and, although not yet open, will shortly be on view to all. The Panorama’s carnivorous plant display, elegant gazebo, and sinister foliage garden will, however, be on display for everyone’s enjoyment.

In the interim before our panoramic exhibit is open, The Velaslavasay Panorama will continue to host events. In addition to the Ice Cream Social, The Panorama’s past events have included film screenings and presentations that vary from Automata’s toy theatre productions and silent film screenings to craft circles.

Meanwhile, the Hollywood lot where the Panorama building once stood still sits empty -- sadly, a common story in Los Angeles, where buildings are cleared for new development (think Coulter's Department Store on Wilshire -- which has been an empty pit for decades, or the Philharmonic Auditorium downtown -- a parking lot since 1985). Whole Foods was originally slated to move to the spot, but pulled out.

The Velaslavasay Panorama
1122 West 24th Street
Los Angeles, California
(213) 746-2166

The Panorama's original Hollywood location

Sploid Goes Splat

Sorry to see the demise of Sploid, the cheeky news site from the Gawker folks that had been edited by Ken Layne.

Sploid had been a sort of "The Daily Show" for the internet. Its use of photos, links and commentary said a lot in a little bit of space -- sometimes highlighting stories or thoughts you wouldn't have seen anywhere else. It's a shame Gawker couldn't find a buyer for the site; the archives will remain, Layne says, in the off-chance that a buyer eventually does come forward.

For now, though, Layne leaves us with this:

Just like YouTube, Lebanon, Joe Lieberman, newspaper circulation and airline travel, Sploid is being demolished.

It is a great victory for bullshit peddlers everywhere ... if they had any idea Sploid existed.

Shut down, laid off, on the nickel, run out of town, shown the door, eighty-sixed, suicided, under heavy manners, finaled by the fuzz, down in the hole, out of the groove, sadder than a map, under the Hoover blankets, taking a bank holiday, riding the rails to Hungry Town, brought down and fought down.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

You Say It's L.A.'s Birthday?

You may remember how we realized back in April that L.A.'s 225th birthday was fast approaching, prompting us to ask, Where's the party?!

City Council president Eric Garcetti told us about the annual Walk of the Pobladores, in which participants walk the 9 miles from the Mission in San Gabriel to Olvera Street, and party there afterwards.

The Walk of the Pobladores is on again this year, and will be held on Labor Day -- Monday, Sept. 4 -- starting at 7 a.m. The walk is free, and Maria and I are seriously considering doing it (complete with Evan in stroller). Any of you interested in joining us? Email us, or comment below. (Check out the entry form, and take a look at the walk route.)

Meanwhile, it doesn't look like Los Angeles will do much beyond the usual Walk of the Pobladores, despite the 225 milestone. LA City Nerd points us to Los Angeles' paltry official 225th anniversary site and proclaims it pretty sad:

For the second largest City in the Nation, this is all they could come up with: City's 225th Birthday website.

And with this City's array of diversity, businesses, and skills... the only company they could get to sponsor was Disney - a Burbank-based company.

I'm sure we'll hear more in the next few weeks, but initially, it looks pretty meager to me.

I'll admit it - it makes me sad the City couldn't pull it together for the 225 - it could have been as great at the bicentennial. I guess this City's focus isn't the City right now.

(And how about that horrible clip-art cake they're using as the "logo" (above) on the website and the awkward looking flyer? The City does employ graphic designers, but maybe the organizers didn't know that.)

Gotta agree about the design -- it's slapped together with little thought. Perhaps the city should inquire about the services of a certain design girl.

Meanwhile, to add insult to injury, check out the misspelling at the top of the Los Angeles 225 website:

Happy Birthday, City of Los Angles!

An Ode to Tofu

We spent Sunday in Little Tokyo, celebrating our favorite Los Angeles street fair: The annual Tofu Festival. It was hot, and there weren't quite as many free offerings as last year... but we still had a great time.

Why do we love the Tofu Festival? It's the food. 45 booths offered just about every variation on the tofu theme (and plenty of alternatives for meat-hungry patrons). There's also the novelty factor: A tofu festival? For those in the know, it makes perfect sense. But I told plenty of people last week about the event -- and a majority just didn't get it.

What can I say -- it's their loss. The tofu festival seems to grow each year, and this edition -- the 11th annual event -- was no exception. Check out this crowd:

Still, the food lines moved quickly. Maria and I spent $20 on tickets ($1 per ticket; most entrees were two tickets) and immediately started scouting the booths.

Above, one of our favorite picks, the Tofu Meatball Sandwich (which included some turkey), at just 1 ticket, from the House Foods America Corp. Also, a lettuce cup with flavored tofu and walnuts (2 tix), from Maggi Taste of Asia.

Other picks included: Gourmet tofu delight (including a tofu nugget and shu mai) from Soyafarm USA; tofu pate in a bread bowl, from Toby's Tofu Plate; Spicy Stir Fried Basil Tofu, from Thai Tofu Nirvana; and one of our faves, Grand Marnier Marinated Strawberry and Fresh Mint Julienne on Tofu, from Maison Akira (below).

Disappointingly, Curry House wasn't serving my favorite from last year, the Curry Chili Tofu Dog. And we were also disappointed that House Foods wasn't passing out free soy milk, as it had last year (when we took home several half-gallons). Still, there were bargains to be had. The best came from WholeSoy, which was selling full pints of their frozen yogurt (made with soy, natch) for just two tix. We took home two pints: Strawberry, and Lemon Ginger.

Sadly, we didn't hit several booths we hoped to try, such as the tofu tostadas (above).

We also didn't make it to the Saturday night Blackalicious concert; we were there on Sunday afternoon, in time for the 66th Annual Nisei Week Japanese Festival parade, which took place on 3rd Street (below).

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