Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Your Summer Pop Song of 2009 Is...

... David Guetta and Kelly Rowlands, "When Love Takes Over"

The song barely beat out Madcon's "Beggin" (which was my pick)... I find "When Love Takes Over" to be pretty boring myself.

Overall, voting was low for the poll, which makes me assume that none of the picks excited you that much. Here's how the poll wound up:

"Other" picks included "Who's Got Your Money?" by Tina Parol, "Blame It on the Alcohol" by Jamie Foxx (really? Really?), "Poker Face" by Lady Gaga (probably too old to be a summer song), "Love Game" by Lady Gaga, and "Gimme Sympathy" by Metric.

Eagle Rock Welcomes New Kids Store, while Atwater Village Loses a Boutique

(Photo by Luis Lopez)

Given the state of the economy, we've been trying harder lately to support the local businesses close to us, including the boutiques in Atwater Village and Eagle Rock. Even in the best of times, small, specialized stores will sometimes struggle -- so during recession times, I'm not sure how any of them stay in business. Hence our desire to help.

I've hit Atwater Village's Amelia Fitzwater many times for birthday and holiday presents... and was sad to learn that the store is closing its doors next month. Writes owner Imara:

The decision was not an easy one to make, however, with the slow economy, loss of a partnership, low sales and now with the much anticipated arrival of my first child, it seems like the time for a change is now!

The doors will closing Sunday, July 26th. We will be having our Final Sale July 7th-26th. This will be a store wide sale. EVERYTHING in the shop - from all merchandise to fixtures, tables and bookshelves, everything is for sale! 25%-50% off. Bring cash and you never know what extra deals can be made!

In happier retail news, we're happy to welcome the new Kumquat Outlet to Eagle Rock's string of toddler/kid-friendly stores at the corner of Colorado and Eagle Rock Blvds.

As we wrote three years ago, that short stretch of Eagle Rock is possibly the most toddler-friendly location in town. After all, there's Swork Coffee (with its kids play area) at the corner, as well as kids stores Twerps and Rockin' Kids (which also has a small play area) close by. Indoor kids playground Peekaboo Playland is also down the street, having just relocated into a larger space on Colorado.

It was that proximity to those like-minded stores that led the designer behind the baby/toddler clothing designer Kumquat Baby to open a store in the 'hood as well.

Kumquat is selling a ton of back stock at relatively cheap prices -- we managed to get a pair of baby pants for $6.

The owner's brother writes on his blog:

The inside is bright and airy... Among the products for sale at a reduced price include many of Wendy's classic patterns such as the elephants and pandas. As for the fixtures, most are stock Ikea, but arranged in a really clean, smart manner. It was really important for the space to be both kid and parent friendly, with space for strollers as well as a bunch of toys and books and mini-sized furniture in the front area.

Kumquat Outlet is located at 5054 Eagle Rock Blvd. Call for hours: 323-254-5074. (Kumquat Outlet pics by Martin Wong.)

FREE L.A.: More on the Summer Concerts at Pasadena's Leavitt Pavilion

As we wrote last week, one of the best Summer deals in SoCal happens virtually every night at Pasadena's Levitt Pavilion, where free music and dance performances take place. Grab a picnic and watch from the lawn.

Wednesday nights are geared toward the kids, and last week Maria and the Blogger Preschooler headed over there to watch Bob Baker's Marionettes. A true living L.A. treasure, Baker (above) was there to perform, along with several proteges.

The kids were enthralled. And unlike the last time we caught the show, when Evan was just a baby, this time the puppets didn't freak him out.

Not every show is nearly as crowded, but parents and kids were out in force last week to catch a rare free show from Baker and his marionettes.

It's different shows each week. Here's what's on tap for this week:

Childrens Night (every Wednesday at 7): Aaron Nigel Smith and The FUNdamentals Band

Patchwork of America (every Thursday at 8): Delgado Brothers

World Rhythms (every Friday at 8): Emilie Simon

Jazz (every Sunday at 7): Barbara Morrison

Victory Garden

A few months ago Maria decided to do something with a patch of dirt that has sat, untouched, in our backyard for a few years.

Now, if the bottom falls out, at least we know we'll be able to live off of cucumbers and tomatoes. The strawberry plant hasn't yielded nearly as much.

Monday, June 29, 2009

License Plate of the Day: Are We Dancer, or Are We Uman?

Franklin Avenue reader Kevin submitted this one, which seems to answer the Killers' recent question, "Are we dancer, or are we human?" In this case, a vote for "I Am Uman."

Secondary explanation: This plate is actually much deeper than we think, as this motorist makes the bold statement that "I am you, man."


Third possibility: There's nothing deep to this plate at all. Quite simply, this car is owned by a dude named Uman.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Retro Friday: In Memory of Michael Jackson

Above, the 1980s Pepsi commercial featuring Michael and his brothers... as well as Alfonso Ribeiro. (Yes, pretty sad to see Michael replace the words to "Billie Jean" with lyrics pimping Pepsi.)

Footage from the 1984 Grammy Awards when Michael Jackson, with Brooke Shields and Emmanuel Lewis in tow, cleaned up with the trophies.

And here's the ad that ran in the U.K. on ITV1 to promote the upcoming "This Is It" series of 50 concerts in London... which will now never happen.

The Best Photo in History

Franklin Avenue friend Rich Brown writes, "at last a good excuse to revisit one of the greatest photos of all time." Yikes!

An Early Look at the New School on the Ambassador Hotel Site

They destroyed Los Angeles' landmark Ambassador Hotel. Now, if there's any consolation, the LAUSD is at least making an effort to pay tribute to the legendary hotel by re-creating the famed Paul Williams coffee shop, as well as modeling the school's auditorium after the Cocoanut Grove.

I guess it's something. LA Mag's Chris Nichols was contacted (he has a rare color photo of what the coffee shop looked like) and filed this report (at the LAMag site) on his visit to the Ambassador site:

The main building was demolished in 2006, but vestigal remains (very vestigal) were retained and are being restored. Other elements are being recreated, and that’s why I got a call.

Being a collector of vintage Los Angeles ephemera, I had what turned out to be the only color photograph of the Paul R. Williams-designed coffee shop at the hotel in its prime. South Pasadena-based restoration architect Mark Stankard is rebuilding this lost dining area as a teacher’s lounge in the new school and planned to match its 1940s colors and finishes.

During our visit Mark showed off the west wall of the Cocoanut Grove, the entrance canopy, and the original driveway pylons that have been retained and are being restored. The main auditorium, modeled after the Cocoanut Grove nightclub, will be on the same site as the original. Along Wilshire, workers swarmed all over the sign tower, which will once again feature elaborate water jets and a replica of the classical nude sculpture that welcomed visitors. This time she’ll be draped in a “negligee” added by the Denver-area sculptor. Much of the Wilshire frontage, including the driveway, will become a pocket park complete with art installations of tile and benches inspired by the hotel that feature a repeating soundtrack of music from the Grove and ghostly, disembodied memorials from long ago visitors.

Go to the site (scroll down) to read more -- including a bizarre-o Sharon Stone story.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

R.I.P. Michael Jackson: Make Sure You Mourn The Right Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

RIGHT Michael Jackson -- the singer, who passed away today at the age of 50.

WRONG Michael Jackson -- the radio personality, who's still very much alive.

Sadly, though, you're gonna have to wait a day before you can actually visit the REAL Michael Jackson's star. It's currently covered up by "heavy equipment" -- because of tonight's premiere of "Bruno."

The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce is suggesting that mourners head to the Jacksons' star instead:

HOLLYWOOD, CALIF- Flowers will be placed on the Walk of Fame star of entertainer Michael Jackson tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. at 6927 Hollywood Boulevard. Due to an event occurring at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre where his star is located, the star for Jackson is covered. Because of heavy equipment near the area and for safety reasons press and fans will not be allowed in the area this evening. Anyone who would like to pay their respect to Michael Jackson can visit The Jacksons star which is located at 1500 Vine Street near Sunset.

The Chamber of Commerce, though, adds that you shouldn't start congregating around the star of the OTHER Michael Jackson:

The star located at 1541 Vine street is NOT the star of recording artist Michael Jackson who passed away today. The star at that address is for Radio Personality Michael Jackson.

The star for The Jacksons IS located at 1500 Vine Street.

FRANKLIN AVENUE IN NEW YORK: Dreaming of Shake Shack

The hotel we usually stay at in New York is just around the corner from Madison Square Park -- the home of the famed Shake Shack.

Think In-N-Out style burger -- but with a buttery, toasted bun. Add a black-and-white shake to the mix, and you're set.

Yes, you have to wait in line for quite a while -- but head there during non-peak times. Oh, and bring one back for me. I don;t care if you have to cart it all the way back to L.A. Thanks!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

FRANKLIN AVENUE CONTEST: Lucha VaVoom, This Thursday at the Mayan

Lucha VaVOOM is coming back to The Mayan on June 24 and June 25 -- tonight and tomorrow night. Some details on this round of shows:

The glorious debut of mini Cassandro, a death-defying aerial pole dance routine by Gypsy Roze, and enough luchadores and ladies to make any jaded Angeleno want to strip down and jump in the ring: Lucha VaVOOM is back!

Fresh off the heels of their sold-out Cinco de Mayan fiesta, Lucha VaVOOM is gearing up for their 21st show, the summer spectacular “We Got The Beat,” taking place at the celebrated Mayan Theater in Los Angeles June 24 and 25. Tickets are on sale now at Ticketweb.com or at Wacko in Los Feliz or Brat in Santa Monica.

Wanna see the "sexed-up, adrenaline-fueled collision of the finest in Mexican wrestling, titillating striptease and cunning linguistics"? We've got a pair of tix for ya for Thursday's show -- but since we're running short on time, email us ASAP at franklin_avenue(at)yahoo(dot)com. Winners will be informed Thursday morning. Go, go, go!

FREE L.A.: If You're Hungry for Dessert, It's a Good Time to Be Here

:: New "Spanish fritter" shop Xooro -- pronounce it "Sure-oh" -- is opening its second location, on Melrose. (The fledgling chain is also in Santa Monica.)

For you and me, "Spanish fritter" = "gourmet churro." Good enough for me. Even better: The new store will be handing out FREE CHURROS TONIGHT, June 24, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Xooro is located at 8360 Melrose, #107, West Hollywood.

:: Pinkberry is introducing two new flavors for Summer: Coconut and Passion Fruit.

To introduce the new swirls, Pinkberry is handing out free samples on FRIDAY, June 26, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

:: The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf had been running a contest to determine which special Ice Blended drink its stores should feature over the Summer.

The winner was "Instant Karma," described as a "Nutty Creme Caramel." To celebrate the pick, Coffee Bean stores will be passing out free 12 oz. samples of "Instant Karma" on JULY 1 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The Return of Summer Concerts at Pasadena's Leavitt Pavilion

If you're looking to save a few bucks but still get that Hollywood Bowl-style experience, Pasadena's Leavitt Pavilion concert series has just gotten underway. The outdoor band shell features live jazz, world, folk and Latin performances all summer long.

The best part: It's free. Pack a picnic.

Maria and Blogger Preschooler frequently visit the Leavitt on Wednesday nights for the weekly Children's night. Tonight, the famed Bob Baker Marionettes take the stage. Show starts at 7 p.m.

The Leavitt Pavilion Pasadena is in Old Pasadena at Memorial Park, right off the Fair Oaks exit from the 210 freeway, and on the corner of Walnut and Raymond. There's a Gold Line stop right there at Memorial Park (as well as a playground, in case the kids get bored).

Wednesday Poll: What's the Pop Song of Summer 2009? (Part II)

Last week, we asked you to submit finalists for Pop Song of Summer 2009. This week, we'll find our winner. Vote above! And there's still a space to add your own pick.

Meanwhile, Over on Twitter

I must admit, I resisted Twitter as long as possible. But now that I'm hooked, I've finally realized that it's the perfect home for my inane observations.

If you're not following Franklin Avenue on Twitter (and why not? Go over and follow us right now!), here are a few highlights from the past week:

E! anounces that it "will no longer cover the misadventures of 'Speidi,' until the pair does something truly newsworthy." So never, right?
5:10 PM Jun 22nd

Resolutions today with Villaraigosa, Chris Brown and Jon & Kate. Egads, what will we talk about the rest of the summer?!
2:12 PM Jun 22nd

Villaraigosa not running for governor. Had Googled the bios of Sacramento's local TV news reporters. Not interested.
1:29 PM Jun 22nd

We'll find out in a moment whether Villaraigosa is running for govern...zzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Oops, sorry. Don't care enough to finish this Tweet.
1:00 PM Jun 22nd

Just got the latest copy of EW. Ryan Reynolds is now the mag's "new favorite leading man." Really, EW? I mean... really?
4:30 PM Jun 19th

Good Morning America has hired "The Bachelor's" Melissa Rycroft. Wait.. oops, GMA just changed its mind. Can't catch a break, huh, Melissa!
2:00 PM Jun 17th

Turns out those are "Grey's Anatomy" fans there at the Coliseum throwing things at police. Man, are they PISSED that T.R. Knight is leaving.
1:55 PM Jun 17th

Was the crowd at the Laker Rally booing Mayor Villaraigosa, or shouting "LU! LU!" in honor of his KTLA galpal?
1:04 PM Jun 17th

"Lost" exec producers Cuse/Lindelof on Bravo's "Top Chef Masters" tonight. Strangely, this episode was actually taped seven years from now.
11:50 AM Jun 17th

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Casey Kasem Stops Countin' Them Down

BLOG: Casey Kasem

It's a real end of an era: According to Radio-Info's Tom Taylor, radio legend Casey Kasem will end his final countdown show, the Adult Contemporary-targeted "American Top 20," on the July 4th weekend.

He writes:

The current Adult Contemporary American Top 20 will wind up over the July 4th holiday weekend – a meaningful anniversary for Casey. His quintessentially “American” show debuted on a July 4, back when he created the franchise in 1970.

L.A.-based Eric Weiss has repped Casey for years and he tells me that "Casey and Premiere agree" that this is the time to end the AC show. That gives Casey time to do his other work – voiceovers, cartoons, you name it.

Eric says "Casey has turned down a lot of stuff over the last few years" that he can now look at. From Premiere's side, it can re-deploy the fairly large production staff behind AT-20 into other gigs – and save a few bucks.

Weiss says Kasem has maintained his high standards up to the end of production – "He's worked as hard doing this week's countdown as he did 29 years ago." I just wanted to pay tribute to one of the great radio pros ever, and a guy who inspired countless people to think "Gee, maybe I could be on the radio, too."

Casey was one of my childhood heroes -- yep, I was always a radio/TV geek, and thought he had the best job ever, counting down the hits. As a kid, I'd religiously listen to "American Top 40" each week, writing down the chart position and title and artist of each song on the countdown. (These days, you can just look that stuff up on the Internet. Gah, I feel old.)

Casey left "AT40" in 1989 after a contractual dispute with the show's owner, ABC Watermark. Shadoe Stevens took over, while Casey launched his own show, "Casey's Top 40." It wasn't quite the same, though -- and Shadoe's "AT40" was gone by 1995.

Later, in a twist of luck, the ownership of "AT40" reverted back to Casey (as one of "AT40's" founders) after ABC Radio failed to keep its copyright on the show current.

Casey rightfully once again became the host of "American Top 40" -- but handed the show over to Ryan Seacrest in 2003. Gah, again. At the time I wrote:

Thanks to my job, I had the chance to meet and have lunch with my childhood idol years later. I even have Casey's home number tucked away somewhere. And even though he's a little slower with age, he remains a true class act.

Now, I'm not delusional. I know Casey's gotta give up the mike at some point. But Ryan Seacrest?! The idea of the Star 98.7 afternoon guy/ "American Idol" host taking over my beloved "AT40" pains me to no end.

Of course, top 40 radio is very different than it was back in Casey's heyday. The good news is Premiere Radio Networks continues to distribute those classic 1970s and 1980s Casey "AT40" countdowns to radio stations and satellite radio.

In other words, even though he won't be recording new countdowns anymore, Casey's voice will always be there, reminding us to keep our feet on the ground -- and to keep reaching for the stars.

Test Driving the Sprinkles Cupcake Van

Just a few days after the Los Angeles Times wrote about the new Sprinkles Cupcakes van, we got to experience it first hand Monday afternoon outside the Variety Tower.

Parked on Wilshire (and looking in particular to target Los Angeles magazine, also in our building), the Sprinkles Mobile was passing out free cupcakes -- and I couldn't pass on that.

In addition to some regular flavors, the Sprinkles Mobile was offering up special seasonal flavors: Key Lime and Raspberry. I tried the Key Lime -- nice, with a tinge of tartness. (By the way, a reminder: Those signature Sprinkles dots are edible. But don't. They taste horrible.)

The cupcakes disappeared like, well, hotcakes. Free will do it every time.

The one downside: The cupcakes cost more than they would in the store, notes the L.A. Times:

Cupcake fans will pay a premium for the service. Individually boxed, the treats will sell for $4 each, 75 cents more than what Sprinkles charges at its stores.

The van, which can hold 1,500 cupcakes, will also hit some malls and places like the Malibu Country Mart. It will do Hollywood events -- it took a test run to the set of the HBO television show "Entourage" -- and will be available for hire by private parties.

Sprinkles plans to announce most of the stops via the bakery's Twitter account.

Indeed, it seems like Sprinkles regularly enjoys giving away cupcakes -- keep up with their Twitter account for more details.


I may have to put my Dunkin' Donuts pursuit in order to lobby for something even more pressing: We need to introduce the Kati Roll Co. to Los Angeles.

After all, we gave them Pinkberry (for better or for worse; I don't mind the stuff, even though it's horribly overpriced), so it's time for a return gesture.

The Kati Roll is a street food that is simple to produce, but is quite elaborate in taste. According to the New York-based chain, a Kati Roll is "a spicy mixture of meat and vegetables rolled in Indian flat-bread." It's great for a quick snack or a meal. And the locations are open late.

Our friends Hank and Lisa turned us on to The Kati Roll Co. while in New York last month; we were immediately sold. The partha flat-bread was nice and thin, and the fillings had a nice, flavorful kick. Most fillings could come with or without egg; although the egg added more flavor and heft to the fillings, i was actually fine without.

Varieties we chose included the Aloo Masala roll (spicy potato mix), $4.25 (or two for $7.50); the Achari Paneer roll (Indian cottage cheese marinated in spicy pickle), $5.25 (or two for $9.50); the Chicken roll ($4.75, or two for $8.50).

The Kati Roll Co. has been around since 2002, so I'm embarrassed I'm only learning about it now. Coming back to Los Angeles, I checked all over the Internet to find a similar joint. Pasadena's Akbar Cuisine claims to a Chicken Kati Roll... but we haven't investigated to see if it's similar just yet.

So far the chain has just three locations: Two in New York and one in London. C'mon, folks, let's speed it up. Los Angeles is waiting!

The Mystery of Those Shipping Containers at the Sepulveda Dam

(Photo by Michael Owen Baker/Daily News)

Rest easy -- the city didn't decide to start storing empty shipping containers at the Sepulveda Dam (although, given its past assaults on Los Angeles' historic sites, I wouldn't have been surprised).

You've probably seen it while passing by the Sepulveda Dam near the 101/405 interchange: Piles and piles of shipping containers, with scaffolding on top. It almost looked like the set up to a music festival stage to me. Thankfully, it's just temporary, according to the Daily News.

The paper writes that the stack of containers -- at least five stories tall -- is a part of a top-secret film shoot there, known only by its code name: "Rasputin." Most believe that "Rasputin" is code for the real movie shooting there: "Iron Man 2."

Writes the paper:
Hollywood insiders, masters of cinematic deception, have refused to even acknowledge the colossus next to one of the busiest freeway interchanges in the nation.

"If I can comment I'll let you know," said an email sent by a not-for-attribution official of Paramount Pictures, distributor for the "Iron Man" films. "But for the most part they haven't let me say a word about anything."

However, another person familiar with the set said it will support a massive "green screen," used to film actors in front of digitally produced backgrounds for special-effects filmmaking.

For the past week, motorists driving through the 101/405 interchange have craned their necks to see the growing block of containers just south of the Art Deco bulwark.

The Army Corps of Engineers, which administers the dam, issued a film permit for "Rasputin Locations." Many movie bloggers view that as code for "Iron Man 2," a Marvel Comics superhero action sequel starring Robert Downey Jr., set for release next May.

"They do have a permit," said Jay Field, an Army Corps spokesman in Los Angeles. "They are working with FilmLA. We have had our environmental, our engineering and our safety staffs review the permit application and have agreed there would be no problem.

"There will be no impact to the dam structure, or its operational capability, as well as an environmental impact."

But like a typical Hollywood mystery, FilmLA, which supplies local permits for TV and film productions, said it had not green-lighted a Sepulveda Basin shoot.

The shoot will continue until August, the paper wrote.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Partying Like It's 1885 at Glendale's Historic Ard Eevin House

The invite not only promised a trip back to 1885, but a trip back to 1885 Louisville. Yep, it was time for the annual theme party thrown by Los Angeles magazine's Mr. L.A., Chris Nichols (yes, two posts within a week!)

Last year, he took partygoers back to 1940s Union Station.

This time out, Glendale's historic Ard Eevin house doubled as the site of a 19th century Kentucky Derby celebration.

Built in 1903, the Ard Eevin is the sister to El Miradero -- which now houses the Brand Arts Library. The house, which is still occupied and privately owned, was designed by Nathaniel Dryden.

One of the great things about Chris' party is that the majority of attendees commit to the theme. (Sadly, not me -- I didn't come dressed in period garb. But I was in the minority.) As Eating L.A.'s Pat notes, trying to come up with a circa 1885 outfit was much tougher than last year's 1940s theme. Yet most pulled it off. Had I planned, I would have grown a Chase Carey handlebar moustache for the occasion.

Besides Pat, I also ran into Friends of Franklin Avenue Ellen Bloom and Scott Lowe. Maria opted to stay alone

Mint Juleps were the drink of choice on the porch, while various meats (ham, fried chicken, corn bread, etc.) could be found in the dining room.

In the back, hand-churned ice cream.

Also popular: Horse-drawn carriage rides around Ard Eevin.

Talk of the party? Well, there was a lot. But when I arrived, everyone kept asking me one thing: "Did you see the Ghostbusters?" And here they are: Decked in full ghostbuster gear, circa 1885. (Below too.)

Why Ghostbusters? Well, these creepy period ghosts, of course.

Thanks to Chris for the invite. How does one top this? We'll find out next year...

Press Release of the Day: Boobies Edition

I don't know what blows my mind more about this release: A) That they just completely made up this stat without any sort of proof whatsoever or B) that they misspelled "recent."

The release:


Breast Jobs Rank Number One As The Best Graduation Gifts For Girls

As the bell rings and school lets out many high school grads are headed to the doctor’s office to recoup their graduation present.

Breast enlargements have become the most popular graduation gift in resent times, even surpassing requests for a car, as young women use the summer vacation period to go under the knife before college.

No longer are females requesting expensive jewelry, European summer vacations, or other trinkets to commemorate the completion of school. They instead wish to fulfill a long term dream of undergoing a breast augmentation and feeling more self confident.

Breast augmentation surgery is one of the most sought after cosmetic enhancements globally. Breasts are one of the only parts of the female physique which do not allow for natural improvement, shape or enhancement. You can’t change the size with diet or exercise and there is only so much you can achieve with a push-up-bra, but a breast augmentation gives a woman the chest she has always desired.

Cosmetic surgeon, Dr Lloyd Landsman, has experienced this growing trend first hand at his New York clinic.

“I have definitely had more requests for breast graduation gifts of late. This is nothing new but this type of procedures is becoming more popular among this age bracket. In the 1990’s the big thing was nose jobs, now it is breast augmentations. It’s been especially busy now that school has just let out for the summer. This is something young ladies have put a lot of thought into and discussed with their parents and then, after careful consideration, parents agree to pay for the surgery as a graduation present.”

Dr Landsman is happy to be interviewed and provide his expert medical opinion on this topic.

Wait, shouldn't he be busy right now shoving breast impants into the cavities of thousands of graduating high school seniors?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Retro Friday: O.J.'s White Bronco Chase, 15 Years Later

Yes, believe it or not, it's been 15 years since that day when viewers around the country were glued to their screens, wondering what would become of O.J. Simpson. It's wild to think that he now sits behind bars... but not for those 1994 murders.

I was an intern at Newsweek in New York that summer; I remember being glued to the TV in the Business section editor's office, watching along with everyone else. O.J. was obviously the cover of the magazine that week; it became an ongoing debate, how many weeks would O.J. wind up on front? We also watched as the competition, Time, took its lumps for artificially darkening the mug shot of Simpson.

Where did all of you catch the O.J. chase?

Taking the Pepsi Challenge, Circa 2009

It all started when Los Angeles magazine's Chris Nichols -- located 20 floors below yours truly at the Variety Tower -- shot over an email about the new "Pepsi Throwback."

Chris knows I'm a fan of limited edition flavors and versions of popular foods and beverages. Pepsi Throwback is being promoted as a nod back to the time before high fructose corn syrup. (Strangely for Pepsi, the implication is that yep, back in the good ol' days, Pepsi was made with sugar -- and boy, was it better.)

He happened to pick up some on the road, having failed to see it so far on L.A. supermarket shelves. (Since we mostly shop at Trader Joe's, I haven't noticed if Pepsi Throwback is here.) It was time to sit down and decide once and for all: Is there a big difference, taste-wise, between sugared cola and high fructose corn syrup cola?

Pepsi Throwback is made of "sugar," according to the bottle. Not "cane sugar," but just "sugar." (Turns out it's a mix of beet sugar and cane sugar.) At least it wasn't high fructose corn syrup.

I dropped by the Los Angeles magazine offices with a regular can of Pepsi. So after inviting another one of Chris' colleagues -- who wanted to remain anonymous -- we went about the blind taste test.

It wasn't hard at all to figure out which was which. (Another person who happened to walk by also took the challenge -- and quickly guessed correct.)

The Pepsi Throwback was definitely a tad less sweet, and didn't contain as much of an aftertaste. But the regular Pepsi tasted more like... well, Pepsi.

The final verdict had me leaning toward the Pepsi Throwback, while Chris and his co-worker seemed to lean more toward regular Pepsi. I usually avoid Pepsi at all costs, but wouldn't mind trying Pepsi Throwback again. (Thanks to Chris -- and happy birthday too! -- for instigating this experiment.)

For a much more thorough review of Pepsi Throwback, check out BevReview's take.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Latest L.A. Radio Ratings: A Top 40 Battle Heats Up

The May Arbitron ratings are here, and so far both heritage top 40 KIIS-FM and upstart KLSX-FM "Amp 97.1" are co-existing peacefully.

But it's still shaping up to be an interesting race. KIIS is a strong No. 1 among listners 6+, with 5.3% share of the audience -- up from 4.9 in April. KLSX isn't too far behind now, in a tie for fourth place with a 3.9 share (along side Spanish KLVE and Adult Contemporary KOST).

In second is strong talker KFI (4.9), followed by oldies KRTH in third (4.3).


We may have our Kogi BBQ truck -- and now all of its imitators -- and our famed taco trucks. But New York appears to be obsessed with the idea of selling gourmet food out of a truck.

Witness the Dessert Truck, which I encountered one night while walking around the East Village.

Located at St Mark's Pl (8th St) and 3rd Ave. from 6 p.m. to midnight every day of the week, the Dessert Truck has several rich, indulgent treats for sale.

I chose the Warm Molten Dark Chocolate Cake ($5). The cake includes olive oil and chocolate center; hazelnuts and sea salt. For an extra $1 you can have a scoop of ice cream as well.

There was no ice cream available when I ordered, which was fine. The sea salt was the perfect counter-balance to the sweetness and richness of the chocolate.

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