Sunday, August 31, 2003

Mike's Birthday Race 2003

McTEAM WINS THE FIRST-EVER MIKE'S BIRTHDAY RACE!

Eight teams... 16 clues... 12 locations... 77 miles...

Teams embarked Saturday on an all-day race around Los Angeles organized by Maria and me (Mike) and inspired by TV show "The Amazing Race" and early 80s cheesy movie "Midnight Madness."

They rode the train around Travel Town. They climbed the rock wall or rode the high wire bike at the California Science Center. They found a book at the Central Library. They made it to the roof of the downtown Standard hotel. Sampled wines at the San Antonio Winery. Met a street musician at the La Brea Tar Pits. Took a pit stop at El Cholo. Sang karaoke in Koreatown. Visited the Museum of TV and Radio. Found Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Jr.s' gravesite at Hollywood Forever. Crashed the Farmers' Market. Made it to Hollywood and Highland. Took the Metro to the Pantages Theater. Found Buster Keaton's star on the Walk of Fame. Phoned Mike's parents in Oklahoma City.

And finally, made it to Michael's Room bar in Los Feliz.

All told, the race took about 7 hours. Tired and sweaty, the teams toasted Mike's 30th birthday... and surprise guest Phil Keoghan (host of the CBS reality show "The Amazing Race").

UPDATE! First photos are online -- The Juice team member Travis has posted an excellent album of shots from the race here. More pix to come! Thanks, Travis! And anyone else who has shots, please email them in!

Here's how the teams wound up:

First Place: McTeam (Jess, Jeff, Tony, Becky, Pang-Ni)
Second Place: The Juice (Travis, Lance, Emmie)
Third Place: Team Northwestern (Marc, Ann, Aaron, Taskuo)
Fourth Place: Team Twentysomething (Geoff, Amanda, Lisa, Helen, Denise)
Fifth Place: The A-Team (Andrea, Yvette, Louie, Tom)
Sixth Place: Team Adobo (Jason, Mark, Peachy, Aris, Catalin)
Seventh Place: Hacks and Flacks (Matt, Paul, Keith, Leslie)
Eighth Place: Team Goose (Todd, Susanna)

Check out the official Mike's Birthday Race website to find the race was planned out, including where the clues were handed out (and who handed them out), what the clues said -- and where teams were sent.
30
It's Mike's birthday today. Happy Birthday Mike!
VMA Spectacle
Been so busy with two big projects on top of one another at work and planning Mike's birthday event that we completely missed MTV's Video Music Awards show. Early friday morning, the Madonna opener was the topic du jour by the water cooler. I can hear everyone talking about it loud and clear from my office as I bitterly complete my deadline.

I knew that MTV would have it on heavy rotation so on this fine Sunday morning, I finally saw what the big hullabaloo was. It was a spectacular sight as Madonna and her bitches perform Like A Virgin/Hollywood complete with choreographed steps and girl-on-girl kiss! Down boys.

Of course, the flavor-of-the-moment Fab Five was in the audience strutting and singing along but the sight to be seen was that of Mary J. Blige's disgusted face as X-tina came out in her virgin whites.

Missy Elliot saved the performance in the end making you wonder at the genius of Madonna and how she stays ahead of her time.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Arnold: Not Beholden to Celebrity Interests
Hollywood seems to be rallying 'round every candidate but gang bang afficiando (Oui, 1977) Arnie Schwarzenegger.

The L.A. Times chronicles the latest in the race to garner campaign contributions for this recall election.

Latest Hollywood/entertainment types to join in include Univision CEO Jerry Perenchio and his wife, who are playing it safe by contributing the max $21,200 each to Cruz Bustamante, the same amount they did to Schwarzenegger last week.

Arianna Huffington, meanwhile, has "Good Will Hunting" producer Lawrence Bender on board ($21,200).

But Schwarzie (Mr. "No Outside Contributors, I Promise") has so far only picked up money from very un-Hollywood types (save Perenchio, hardly a Hollywood insider) such as an energy investor and an Orange County businessman.

My favorite contribution news comes from Peter Ueberroth, who's picked up $21,200 from legendary former TV exec Grant Tinker, and $5,000 from "television personality Maurice Povich."

That's right, it's Maury! Perhaps this is a ploy to get Ueberroth on a future episode of "Maury," sandwiched between segments on the teenage lesbian strippers and the divorced dad who doesn't know his girlfriend is his daughter. Can't wait!

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Baja Mess
You gotta feel sorta bad for the marketing staff at Baja Fresh, which cooked up what it thought would be a smart way to introduce the restaurant chain's new line of "Bare Burrito" bowls: E-mail coupons for a free bowl (with purchase of a $1.99 drink).

Problem? The campaign worked too well. Friends sent the e-mail to other friends, who forwarded it to co-workers, etc. Suddenly everyone was getting their free bowls at Baja Fresh. Again and again. That's right-- because it was an email coupon, you could print it out countless times.

Hell, that's what I've been doing. I've bought at least eight bowls. My desk is covered in plastic Baja Fresh sippy cups. And it's not over. The bright marketers at Baja Fresh decided to conduct the campaign through September 20!

The chain obviously didn't realize what it had unleashed until it was too late. A note on the Baja Fresh website is now pleading with consumers to stop abusing the email coupon:

"Thanks for your enthusiasm, but... Our Bare Burrito offer is designed as the coupon clearly states: "Limit one per customer." The e-mail may be used one time only and may NOT be copied and used again and again. Please help us prevent further abuse so that we can continue to make exciting offers available in the future."

Who wants to guess that Baja Fresh won't be sending out "exciting offers" via email again anytime soon...
KCBS Yankers
Man oh man, how I wish I had heard about this last week. According to Ron Fineman's website, a group of wacky Atlanta DJs crank called KCBS' morning news show, pretending to be Arnold Schwarzenegger.

KCBS for some reason didn't check it out--and put the impersonator on the air! Kent Schocknek and Suzanne Rico conducted an interview with who they thought was Arnie (a really good impersonation, by the way), who was complaining about taxes before letting them know they've been had.

Fineman has the audio on the website, in which Faux Arnie tells Kent and Suzanne, "When they go to bed, people have the fear they're going to be taxed before they go to sleep. And the other thing, is, if you listened to the Regular Guys in Atlanta you'd know that you guys are BEING PRANKED! Ha Ha! I love it!"

Kent then quickly chimes in: "That's what we thought. OK, we've cut off the audio." (Said while you can still clearly hear Faux Arnie laughing.)

I'm suprised stations aren't more vigilant about these pranks. It's not hard to ask for a number to call back, just to make sure it's truly the person in question! Particularly because it's so easy to impersonate Arnie!

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

It's A Gas, Gas, Gas
Here's a website where one can check out where to get the cheapest gas in this city. At last check, the cheapest gas today is at the Burbank Costco for $1.85 a gallon. The most expensive? $2.39 at MB Oil in Manhattan Beach. The data on losangelesgasprices.com shows gas prices within the last 60 hours.
So That's What He Talkin' Bout
Pull out a few tissues and read the Washington Post's lengthy and rather sad profile of gubernatorial candidate Gary Coleman.

All Gary wants is some acceptance. That, and for people to stop saying "Whatchoo Talkin' Bout!" to him. He hates that.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Rock Over London, Rock On Chicago!
I'm sad to learn that Chicago legend Wesley Willis has died.

Who was Wesley Willis? Let's let the website www.monzy.org describe:

Wesley Willis is 6 foot 5, weighs between 300 and 350 pounds, and likes to greet people with a headbutt. Shortly after he made his first album, he was diagnosed with chronic paranoid schizophrenia, and he now claims to have "schizophrenia demons" in his head that take him off of his "harmony joy rides" to put him on "torture hell rides".

He lived on the streets of Chicago, homeless, selling his city landscape line drawings and playing music on his late 80's Casio keyboard from K-Mart. After saving for a while, he pulled together the money to cut a few albums, and suddenly his musical career took off. Willis was "discovered", and is now an artist under Dino Paredes and the major record label American Recordings. He has released at least 20 albums as a solo artist and with his punk rock band, the Wesley Willis Fiasco, and has over 400 songs in circulation.

You might think that fame and riches would have spoiled Willis, but this isn't the case at all. The background music in nearly all of his songs is still provided by the same demos on his Casio keyboard. You may find it rather lazy of him to use the keyboard's built-in music, but this isn't the case either -- Willis makes sure to press the "fill-in" button at regular intervals. Besides, the focus of Willis' compositions is not on the cheesy synth music, but on the lyrics. Just so that you can get an idea of Willis' lyrical genius, let's take a look at the words to one of his most popular songs, "Alanis Morissette":

You are a rockin' maniac.
You are a singin' hyena.
You are a rock star in Jesus' name.
You can really rock Sadam Hussein's ass.
You are so lovable to me in the long run.
ALANIS MORISSETTE!
ALANIS MORISSETTE!
ALANIS MORISSETTE!
ALANIS MORISSETTE!


Wesley would even end every song with a different ad slogan -- such as "Leinenkugel Beer-- It's Out There!" and "Kentucky Fried Chicken -- We do Chicken Right!" He put out literally hundreds of CDs during his lifetime, all emblazoned with his art (usually of the Chicago skyline and "El").
We used to play Wesley's music on WNUR (Wesley was big in the mid-90s) -- and I had the pleasure of meeting Wesley several times, where I always received a head butt from him (ow, it was painful. He's a big guy.)

I've also seen him perform at a party, as he played his Casio and went through his notebook for lyrics. At the end of the night, he even asked around for a ride home.

Wesley, you'll always rock Saddam Hussein's ass.
Gas Goes Indie
The current price spike at the gas pumps (I haven't seen anything under $2 in the past few days) has forced me to look closer at gas stations all around town -- and notice an interesting phenom.

It seems that more and more gas stations are suddenly eschewing their franchise status to go indie. A Mobil station at La Brea and Beverly is suddenly "Jack's Top Fuel." A Shell station on Sunset has become "Sam's Sunset Fuel" in the past year. I spotted a Chevron station on Vermont that has gone indie.

The franchise-gone-indie stations are easy to spot: The stations still look like they're a part of Mobil, Shell, 76, etc. (same designs, signs, etc). Only the names have been changed.

Is it a trend? Or are there always a handful of franchise gas stations that will eventually try to go it alone? What are the benefits, especially in this age where indies are being squeezed out of almost every industry (entertainment, of course, being top of mind)? Let's get Jack or Sam on the phone.
Reigniting the Past
Culver City's Helms Bakery becomes the latest landmark to restore its grand neon rooftop sign.

The Alvarado Ave. area, near Macarthur Park, still represents the best of L.A.'s old neon signs (most of which adorn apartment buildings). My personal favorite is the yellow-and-blue design on the Royale Wilshire (this picture, taken in the daylight, doesn't do it justice).

The neon signs are also a nice touch even when the building has gone on to other uses -- such as the Helms Bakery, now home to furniture stores and the Jazz Bakery club. Another good example: the Westlake Theater, overlooking Macarthur Park. Long since turned into a swap meet, the sign at least reminds you of an age when the building was an actual functioning theater.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Fab Five Frenzy
One of the things the "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" Fab 5 has taught me is that hair gel is so eighties. The next morning, I hurriedly checked the medicine cabinet, because the goop I put on my hair looks suspiciously like gel -- and I wanted to hide it if it was. Whew. Turns out it is liquid texture, so everyone can breathe a sigh of relief.

But not John Verdi, the New York Port Authority cop that was the recent fashion victim on "Queer Eye." USA Today reports that Verdi got in trouble for saying that he was a police officer on the telly, and because he let some civilians (Carson and Thom) wear his uniform.
Takin' It to the Streets
Here's something to fan the one-way rivalry San Francisco has with Los Angeles: Our steepest, drivable street (33% grade) is steeper than theirs (31.5% angle).

According to the Times, Eldred St. in Highland Park boasts the title of L.A.'s steepest street. But quite a few in Silver Lake and San Pedro boast steep angles as well. We've driven quite a few of them in Silver Lake, where you can trick yourself into believing you're riding a roller coaster.

Life on steep streets affords beautiful city and mountain views, residents say -- just be sure to use your parking brake.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Make PBS Fixture Suze Orman Figure Something Out!
Orange County PBS outlet KOCE-TV is dangerously close to being sold to a group of bible-thumpers.

According to the L.A. Times, religious broadcasters Trinity Broadcasting (home of the purple-haired lady you've seen while flipping past Channel 40) and Daystar TV have each offered to buy KOCE for $25 million cash -- which is 2 1/2 times the amount offered by a combined bid from KOCE Foundation and Los Angeles' PBS affiliate KCET-TV.

Reports the Times: The five trustees of the Coast Community College District, which owns KOCE Channel 50, are now faced with the decision of whether to sell for the highest price or to sell at a discount to a group that would continue Public Broadcasting Service programming, along with local shows.

Save Bert and Ernie!
Obsessed with PL8TS
As much as we drive in Southern California, you can't help but start wondering about the license plates you encounter on the road.

Or at least, I can't. But I'm odd that way. For years it's been bugging me: Which came first, the blue California plates, the "Golden State" plates, the plain red/blue on white plates, or the now-standard script-based plates (with "California" written on top in a hurried cursive design).

That's where one of my latest web finds, California License Plates - CALPL8S comes in (thank you, Google!). It's an extensive history of the California license plate from 1953 and on.

The site tells you everything you ever wanted know (and plenty of info you never thought you wanted to know) about the California license plate. The still ubiquitous blue plate, for example, was in service from 1969 to 1987 -- which is why you still see so many on the road, even though they haven't been issued in 15 years.

And the famous "Golden State" plate, the one with the sun (and immortalized in the opening of "L.A. Law"), was the official state plate for just nine months in 1987. Prior to that, it had been a special plate since 1982, meaning you could order it for a small additional charge (similar to today's Lake Tahoe, kids and other special plates).

Apparently the state decided it was too expensive to produce that plate, however, which is why it was quickly replaced by the simple, utilitarian red/blue on white "embossed" plate. The current script plate, also known as the "lipstick plate" (for the way "California" is scrawled in red ink), came into use in 1993.

Webmaster David Haber, who runs this site is... how should I put this delicately... obsessed with collecting the history of California's license plates. Which is why I love this site.

It's even continually updated, as Haber spots new license number combinations on the road (his highest spotted plate yet, seen on August 19, began with the number/letter combo "5DES"). One last bit o' trivia: California plates recently began starting with "5," now that they've exhausted plates beginning with the number "4."

There. Go amaze your friends with your vast California license plate knowledge.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Rate-A-Restaurant, #24 in a series

Restaurant: Edendale Grill

Location: 2838 Rowena Avenue

Type of restaurant: Classic American

They stipulated: Reservations were strongly suggested.

What we ordered: Crab Cakes with tequila-lime sauce and Calamari for appetizers; grilled Seabass with asparagus (Maria); Salmon with creamy dill sauce (Mike)

High point: This beautiful restaurant had a cool and lazy atmosphere -- perfect setting for a nice dinner with some fun friends and naughty conversations. The tables on the outside patio were nicely spaced out, not crammed together to get the maximum capacity.

Low point: Some of the smoke from the cigarette-loving patrons were blowing in our area... not much, but an annoyance just the same.

Overall impression: A solid restaurant, impressive without trying so hard. Both the fish we ordered were good, not fishy at all and the crab-cakes and calamari were yum!

Chance we will go back: Yes, I must try the pot pie next time.
News Blues
Looks like the local TV news outlets are going to have to find a way to fill their time with (shudder) real news.

According to the LAPD, car chases are dramatically down this year. In second quarter 2003, police went on 76 pursuits -- down from 202 from the same period in 2002.

LAPD officials, under new chief William Bratton, had pledged to reduce the number of pursuits it conducted.

Don't worry, I'm sure local news outlets can make up for lost time by turning their attention more toward their other favorite topics, such as porn on the internet... or police pursuits in other cities.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Inland Invasion
The alarm went off at around 7:30 am yesterday morning to Kevin and Bean announcing KROQ's Inland Invasion III concert at the Glen Helen Pavillion. Even in our sleep-induced haze, the lineup kept us interested: Echo & The Bunnymen, The Cure, Violent Femmes, Psychedelic Furs, Duran Duran... the list goes on and on. I love the 80s.
He Said, She Said
Latest on the fight to save the Ambassador Hotel, from the Downtown News: The Los Angeles Conservancy believes that L.A. Unified "skewed a recent report and misstated cost estimates in favor of a plan to demolish the landmark and build new schools."

The paper reports that LAUSD claims tearing down the hotel would cost $95 million less than preserving the hotel. A firm hired by the Conservancy, estimated the difference at $46 million.

LAUSD will make its final decision in the fall. Should it choose to tear down the historic hotel, expect a bitter fight.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Rantings and Ravings
There's definitely a discussion to be had over the pros and cons of trade journalism. Too bad Luke Ford, who opened up the discussion in the comments section of L.A. Observed, instead went off on a breathtakingly bizarre rant:

Could someone please explain to me how any self-respecting journalist could go to work for a trade publication? You've become a prostitute. You are only allowed to write on stuff that the industry permits to you. You've handed over your manhood at the door and you don't get it back until you leave. Trade papers are all whores. Those who work for them are whores. Trades never do any serious investigation of their industries. They cheerlead. They don't investigate news.

Gimmie a break. Trade reporters at Variety and the Hollywood Reporter cover the TV and film industries in the same vein as their counterparts at the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and (gasp) the Los Angeles Times.

Entertainment journalism may be a bizarre beast, in which relationships are balanced with the need to get the real story (not unlike covering politics). But us hacks in the trades compete with -- and frequently scoop -- the business reporters at the major dailies.

Variety, for example, broke the story that Viacom was purchasing CBS. The paper also uncovered the fact that some film studios were putting their own employees in TV ads, as if they were normal audience members. When most of the press was still going ga-ga over ABC's "Who Wants to be a Millionaire," Variety was reporting about how the show was losing viewers and headed toward a collapse. And it recently wrote about how writers are getting screwed by the new economics of TV.

As a whole, the trades covered the rise and fall of Mike Ovitz's empire. The debates over deregulation at the FCC and in Congress. How and why networks were demanding ownership stakes in TV series, as well as how and why the independent TV studios disappeared. The awkward relationship between News Corp. and Viacom regarding UPN. Our ratings reporter at Variety slices and dices the numbers better than anyone, and is beholden to no one. The list goes on.

While consumer publications don't have the space or the resources to cover the nitty gritty details of the entertainment business, the trades are the place to go deep inside and explain what it all means. Who's making money and who's not. Whose job is safe--and who's heading to the chopping block. Why some shows are canceled, and the reason why certain films have flopped. Some stories are positive, while others may piss people off. Just like any publication covering any beat.

Check out any press tour, or go backstage at an awards program. It's the trade press (and their business-oriented brethren at the newspapers) that ask the tough questions.

The consumer folk, meanwhile, are too busy chasing down whether or not Ben Affleck really slept with a prostitute. TV news, for its part, does virtually no real reporting about the entertainment business.

The trades aren't perfect, not by any stretch of the imagination. But they're home to journalists who want the time and space to cover the industry with some depth.
Fun With Radio
It's that time of year where the atmosphere is just right to tune into radio stations from further away, such as San Diego or Ventura County.

When conditions are good, FM signals will skip off the ionosphere, expanding their reach. Such is the case with several powerful border stations, such as XTRA-FM 91.1 ("91X").

Licensed to Tijuana, the modern rock station (currently celebrating its 20th year) is a nice alternative to KROQ (even though it's programmed by Clear Channel!). The music mix is a little broader than KROQ's current narrow focus. And I can't get enough of the station ID, played once every commercial break: A woman announcing the station's call letters, XTRA, and city of license in Spanish ("equis tay errra ah ... Tijuana, Baja California, Meh-heee-co!")

And because it's based in Mexico, the station's power is able to far exceed what's generally acceptable in the U.S.

I used to be able to listen to 91X throughout most of the year, until a religious radio station plopped a transmitter on the 91.1 frequency in the valley. Now you can only pick up 91X occassionally -- which is why it's such a rare phenomenon to be able to pick it up so crystal clear right now.

Keep an ear out for several San Diego stations right now, including hip-hop 90.3 XHTZ ("Jammin' 90.3"), rock 101.5 KGB, AC 92.5 XHRM ("Magic 92.5").
Flash On, Flash Off
While driving down Glendale Blvd. to downtown in recent months, Maria and I had noticed the sudden appearance of bright, red flashing lights atop four tall antenna towers.

We couldn't figure out what it was or why they were there; I kept assuming an alien ship had docked above North Alvarado Street in Echo Park. ("Independence Day," anyone?)

Turns out the lights were put there in June atop the four radio towers, which are owned by Spanish-lingo Radio Unica. And the residents aren't too happy.

The L.A. Times reports that neighbors -- some of whom live on hills and share a same line-of-sight with the flashing lights -- are angry. In response, the FAA will allow Radio Unica to tone down the lights' brightness by 90%, and stop the flashing.

Saturday, August 16, 2003

Overheard on KCRW
During the station's pledge drive, KCRW normally plays taped testimonials from musicians and celebs urging listeners to send in their checks.

Last night I heard recently passed sultan of love Barry White urging listeners to "join me in supporting 89.9 KCRW."

This means one of two things: A) KCRW is available in the afterlife, and/or B) Barry White ended up in hell, where KCRW's pledge drive never ends. I shudder to think.

Friday, August 15, 2003

There Goes Perino's
I had a chance to step inside the legendary Perino's (scroll down for image) restaurant a few years ago when Fox threw a party there, reviving the joint for the night.

One of the old Hollywood haunts, where entertainers like Frank Sinatra would hang, Perino's has sat empty on Wilshire Blvd. for years. The restaurant, closed since 1985, is ocassionally used for parties and TV/movie shoots, but is yet another ghost from Hollywood past.

It's still sort of sad to learn that developers plan to tear down Perino's to make room for a new apartment building.

The new complex will pay homage to Perino's by reflecting the restaurant's decor, and will even be named Perino's Apartments. But it's yet another piece of L.A. past that's about to be erased.

Whenever I pass by (which is about every day, on the drive home), I imagine giant flood lights outside and Hollywood starlets in mink shawls -- accompanied by a Rat Packer or two -- climbing out of their cars and strutting inside.

A romanticized image, I know. And I suppose a classy apartment building simply makes more sense on the site than an aging, empty shell of a restaurant.

But you can now add Perino's to the Brown Derby, Chasen's, and countless other restaurant structures that are now relegated to L.A. history books.
Julie/Julia
The Julie/Julia Project has been a daily blog read for awhile now, as I follow Julie Powell power through Julia Child's "Mastering The Art Of French Cooking." The end of the project is near for Julie... Our New York friend Betong turned me on to a recent New York Times article about her.

Reading The Julie/Julia Project has inspired me to try more recipes from the collection of cookbooks I have (cookbooks are "Maria's porn," as Mike would say).

I've symphatized when things haven't gone well in the kitchen for Julie; when she's had to take the subway while hauling bags of groceries; when she's paid $10 for 2 artichokes at Dean and DeDevil as she calls it; or when she attempts to re-make something that failed the first time she made the dish. I toasted with her as she drank her vodka gimlets or enjoyed her lovely husband Eric's Spicy Thusdays.

Her loyal readers have all been very supportive, as we wondered in the beginning why The Food Network hadn't knocked on her door and offered a show. We even fantasized about her one day meeting the great Julia Child in the flesh. Well, things have been stirring up for our Julie: She's been featured on some local papers and I hear a book deal is in the works. Bravo, Julie!
Koppel Yankers
Phone prankers continue to embarrass news outlets while covering live events, yet these networks can't resist putting unscreened callers on.

Ted Koppel was pranked last night during ABC News' coverage of the east coast blackout, although as you can see and hear [here], it doesn't seem like Ted is even ever aware.

The prankster, who claims to be "Bob Dobbs" from the New York Transit Authority, manages to work in a plug for his website, thankyoufortakingmycall.com, a stunning four times.

On the site, "Bob" actually sells videos of his prank phone calls to various news outlets both local and national. The Koppel goof appears to be his most impressive stunt yet.
No Spak Attack
Alas, one of my favorite candidates for governor, 100-year-old Mathilda Karel Spak, won't be on the ballot.

Still, that's not keeping the feisty Spak from running. She's now promoting herself as a write-in campaign. The L.A. Times reports that she's still assembling "her kitchen cabinet of advisors, including a boyfriend 25 years her junior."


Thursday, August 14, 2003

Embarrasing Moments Wrap-up

Seems a number of friends have had some embarrasing laundry revealed in public lately... to boot:

:: Melissa reunited with long lost pal Ben on a recent episode of Classmates - The TV Show (syndicated). The show makes like she still has a crush on Ben, even though in real life (what? I thought these reality shows were real life!) she's already got a steady. But that's TV for ya.

:: Mayrav gives hubby Glenn (author of "Beemer" -- now in stores, go buy it!) a very public bitchslap in her latest OC Register column -- for not buying her diamonds.
Writes Mayrav: This past Hanukkah the nagging of my friends helped to finally persuade my husband to buy me jewelry. So he did: a plastic necklace and rhinestone earrings. Blue rhinestone earrings set in surgical steel. I had bought him a PlayStation 2.
Glenn, you got a damn book published. Go buy your wife something shiny.

:: Capitalistpig Jonathan and TheStreet.com have both dropped nasty lawsuits that they'd filed against one another.

Good stuff!
Bearer of Bad News
I don't know why we even dream of one day owning a house. The L.A. Times reports today that median prices for a home in Los Angeles County hit another all-time high last month.

$328,000. Up more than 23% from last year.

Thing is, I'd love to find a home for $328,000. We'd go for it in a heartbeat. It wouldn't be easy, but we'd find a way.

But the truth of the matter is, that's the county median price. If we wanted to stay in Los Feliz/Silver Lake, you're talking $650,000 for a fixer-upper.

Ahh, the renting life.
Phun with Photos
L.A. blogger Tony Pierce incorporates photos on his site better than just about anyone else out there.

Check out his latest photo essay, "the day president bush got impeached." (In case you're wondering what to do, just keep clicking on the photos.)

Where does he find these shots?

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

TV Two-fer
You can also catch me on E! News Live tonight (7 p.m. ET) dicussing the "Everybody Loves Raymond" supporting cast's grievances.

I'm sorry. I'll stop invading your small screen now.
Mike-the-Media-Whore Programming Notes
Catch me pretending to know what I'm talking about tonight on the syndicated Celebrity Justice.

The CJ folks wanted to know about the FCC's equal time provisions, and how Arnold's candidacy (along with the candidacy of Gary Coleman, Fr. Guido Sarducci and others) might affect local TV stations.

The answer: Very little. Entertainment mags like "Entertainment Tonight" and "Celebrity Justice" are considered news by the FCC, so they can keep on breathlessly pounding the Arnold beat without worrying whether Mike Schmier, Mathilda Karel Spak or Cruz "Bust A Move" Bustamante will demand equal time.

As long as local stations don't air "Diff'rent Strokes" repeats or the broadcast version of "Terminator 2," they'll be OK.

Now, here's where it gets dicey:

-- What about ads for "Terminator 3"? Since those are ads, stations simply have to offer other candidates the opportunity to buy ads at a similar cost.

--How about that Christmas episode of "The Simpsons" guest starring an animated Gary Coleman, playing himself as a karate-chopping security guard ("Whatchoo talkin' about, Moe? [Gary turns to face the audience] Whatchoo talkin' 'bout, everyone!")
If local outlet KTTV-11 plays that episode, will Bill Simon and Arianna demand that animated versions of them be played on the station?

--Say a local station airs the Tommy Lee Jones/Anne Heche goofy disaster flick "Volcano." In one scene, flying lava sets an Angelyne billboard on fire. Would that trigger equal time demands by porn candidate Mary Carey?

Celebrity Justice will air 11:30 p.m. tonight on KCAL-9 and repeat Thursday morning at 11:30 a.m. In New York, it will air Thursday morning at 10 a.m. on WNBC-4.
You Have Got To Be Kidding Me
Life was so simple when I was growing up. Back then Barbie, Ken and GI Joe were the dolls (we called them dolls) to have. Lately, we've seen the toy market saturated with all kinds of action figures from Beyonce, Kelly and Michelle of Destiny's Child to all the X-Men characters.

Would you believe that KB Toys is pre-selling the George W. doll? It's $39.99, if you can believe it.

What's the world coming to?

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

I Lost My Voice
Mike: You haven't been blogging in a while.
Me: I know.

((awkward pause))

Me: You've been overblogging... about the recall, everytime I look there's another entry from you.
Mike: I know.

The truth is, I did lose my voice both literally and figuratively. I had laryngitis and have been too tired to blog about anything exciting. The upcoming recall election is exciting enough and Mike has been having fun writing about it. I even read our blog on the latest about the elections.

But, as Schwarzenegger says, "I'll be back."

Soon.
A Candidate for Me!
Those of you who know me know that I'm still kicking myself for not seriously finding a way to raise $3500 and get my name on the ballot.

Sure, it would have been a cheap ploy for attention, but this list of 200 or so candidates is fast becoming some ultra-exclusive fraternity. I see Governor candidate mixers in their future. A party with Fr. Guido Sarducci, porn star Mary Carey, Angelyne, Gary Coleman and Arianna? Awesome!

OK, so I'm not on the ballot. But I come close: Meet Mike Schmier, a Democrat running for Guv. He's a school trustee and attorney with no prior elected office experience.

Mike Schmier, Mike Schneider. Close enough.
Remembering "The Mighty Met"
Speaking of radio, Don Barrett's LARadio.com site chronicles the rise and fall of legendary L.A. freeform station KMET (94.7 FM).

KMET, known as "The Mighty Met," is still fondly remembered in the market as one of the most successful album-oriented rock radio stations in the country.

Writes Barrett: For those of you who arrived in L.A. after 1985 or weren’t paying much attention to the radio during the 70s and early 80s, KMET was arguably one of the top 7 most important music stations in the last half century – KMPC (MOR), KFWB (Top 40), KRLA (Top 40), KHJ (Boss Radio), KIIS (CHR) and KROQ (Alternative). KMET stood alone as the pantheon of free-form radio, consistently beating its archrival, KLOS.

But Hollywood is all about perceptions. And the perception is that KMET reflected the disenfranchised, the hippies, free love, dopers and those who loved sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. But the appeal of KMET crossed all demographic lines. An April/May 1978 ARB, listed KMET as the #1 station in Persons 12-49.


Ruth Seymour's Revenge
Ahh, pledge time at public radio station KCRW. It's a time to donate money so Nic Harcourt can buy a few more import CDs featuring moody Belgian bands and Jason Bentley can sustain his raging Ecstasy habit. (Just kidding, boys!)

For years I ignored the pleas of Nic, Jason and (especially) General Manager Ruth Seymour, preferring to donate any money I could to my college radio station, WNUR.

I finally gave in two years ago. As grating as they are, I actually don't mind the pledge drives that much. Perhaps it's because at WNUR we were always scraping by and truly needed those pledge drives to survive.

I have fond memories, believe it or not, of coordinating those drives at the station. It was a tremendous effort to organize volunteers, collect free food to feed those folks, organize premiums, design a new T-shirt (the year I ran the station we got cartoonist Lynda Barry to design our shirt -- it was awesome!), and, most importantly, mail out those pledge forms.

Of course, there's little similarity between the massive machine that is KCRW and the student-run nature of WNUR (even though we had a pretty healthy signal, hitting Chicago). KCRW is a well-oiled factory, collecting millions of dollars every pledge drive. We, on the other hand, collected $50,000 in a good year.

And if we managed to cash all the checks. Yup, we'd frequently find checks throughout the year that we had somehow forgotten to cash. How I miss college radio!

Monday, August 11, 2003

Stranger than Reality
Have I not been saying that reality producers should stand up and take notice of the bizarre recall election?

Finally, someone has. The Game Show Network announced Monday it will produce the special "Who Wants to Be Governor of California? The Debating Game."

The special, which will air Wednesday, Oct. 1 at 9 p.m., will chronicle five candidate/contestants (Angelyne appears to be one of the players) who will debate game-show style (complete with buzzers). The winner will land a campaign contribution prize of $21,200, the maximum corporate contribution allowed by California law.

I don't know how they're going to narrow it to five. I'm hoping it will be a mix of the B-level celebs and quirky unknowns.

MEANWHILE... Now that Arnold Schwarzenegger has released his tax returns, I'm calling on Gary Coleman to do the same. Apparently the demand is there: Someone Google'd our site today looking for "Gary Coleman tax returns." Sorry, intrepid web surfer, you won't find Gary's reported income here... yet.

C'mon, Gary, what are you hiding? That you squandered your fortune in collecting choo-choo trains? We, the people of the state of California, demand to see your returns!
Rate-A-Restaurant, #23 in a series

Restaurant: Vert

Location: Hollywood and Highland complex, 4th floor (6801 Hollywood Blvd, Suite 411)

Type of restaurant: French/Italian

They stipulated: That you walk through the semi-depressing Hollywood and Highland complex to get to the restaurant. Vert was actually in a perfect location for us, since we were planning on seeing a movie at the Chinese 6 Theater afterward. And thanks to the live "Vox Lumiere" show that's performed at night in the Hollywood and Highland courtyard, the center was at least filled with people -- a rare sight at the failed center. But it's still depressing to walk through and realize the developers squandered what could have been a true Hollywood gathering place.

What we ordered: Fritto Misto with Garlic Aioli (appetizer); Sauteed Sole Grenobloise with Potato Puree (Maria); Grilled Tuna with Basil Potatoes, Marinated Tomotes and Arugula (Mike)

High point: The Fritto Misto was a mix of seafood and veggies battered in tempura -- you truly can't go wrong there. The other entrees were actually quite well done as well. The vibe was good -- like the green decor; you truly forget you're at the Hollywood and Highland center.
Plus, they took our KCRW card. Without any grief. That's rare in itself. (15 percent off, excluding beverages.)

Low point: We lost our waiter for a little while. That's a problem when you're on a schedule -- our movie was waiting, and we wanted to get some coffee before we went inside (a movie after 10 p.m.? Believe it or not, neither of us fell asleep!)

Overall impression: A nice oasis inside the Hollywood and Highland... you can appreciate that Wolfgang Puck is taking a chance by opening a fine restaurant in Hollywood. I remember not too long ago when your only option in that neighborhood was Hamburger Hamlet. Bleech.

Chance we will go back: Vert's a nice "dinner and a movie" place. So I'm sure we will... although I don't know if I can stomach paying Mann Theaters $10 for a movie again, so that part of the equation may be out.
A Candidate with Life Experience
I know I've been stumping for Gary Coleman, but as the list of gubernatorial candidates reaches 200, I think I've found another alternative.

Her name is Mathilda Karel Spak. She's a Northwestern graduate with a bachelor's degree in business. And she's 100 years old.

Spak, who's been retired since 1960 (that's right -- she's been retired since my parents were in elementary school) was most recently an "ambassador" for the 99 Cents Only stores (when she was 99). Spak tells the L.A. Times: "They're some very important and wealthy people. But I'll fight it out. With my experience at (nearly) 101 years old, I can outlive all of them."

(By the way, if you haven't yet, turn to page A36 of the Sunday L.A. Times-- the shot of Spak chatting it up with porn actress Mary Carey, as both wait at the county Hall of Records in Norwalk for their paperwork, is priceless.)

The L.A. Times compiled a list of candidate bios in Sunday's paper. There's a great mix of ordinary people with celeb names (Richard Simmons, Michael A. Jackson and my favorite, Robert "Butch" Dole) as well as candidates who managed to throw a plug for their business in as their middle name (David "Renaissanceamerica.org" Johnson, Todd Richard "The Bumhunter" Lewis).

There's also candidates hoping to be confused with name politicians (Dan Feinstein, S. Issa) and another one who shares the name of a Fox 11 anchorman (John W. Beard).

Finally, no one seems to have noticed that Father Guido Sarducci has entered the race! Yup, Don Novello -- who played the Father through the years, and also authored "The Lazlo Letters" -- has entered the race!

Sunday, August 10, 2003

The Circus
Deadline to file for governor was yesterday. Alas, I never did mount a serious effort to get $3500 or enough signatures.

But 158 did. The L.A. Times reports on several last-minute candidates, including former "Loveline" host and current Rick Dees sidekick Jim "Poorman" Trenton.

But you gotta love Arianna Huffington's tactics. When Schwarzenegger appeared at Norwalk's County Clerk office yesterday, there was Arianna, ready to conduct interviews while the Kindergarden Cop was inside, filing to run.

Saturday, August 9, 2003

The Candidate Who Said Too Little
Did any of his advisers warn Arnold Schwarzenegger that he would actually have to articulate his position on important issues facing the state?

The L.A. Times reports on Arnie's non-answer answers:

Here's Arnie on "Good Morning America," asked about whether he supports gay marriage: "I don't want to get into that right now."

Asked about aides quoted as saying he was open to tax increases: "I can't imagine anyone on my team said that."

Asked about how he planned to attract new business to California: No answer.

Asked if he would disclose his tax returns: Schwarzenegger fiddled with his earpiece and said he could not hear the question.

Asked by "Today's" Matt Lauer about the energy crisis, the slumping economy, people leaving California, Schwarzenegger gave his stock "Gray Davis sucks" answer: "Well, I think the first and most important thing is to know that it takes leadership, because Gray Davis is saying he has the experience and all of those things. We have seen now what happens. He has sold himself as the man that has experience you cannot buy. What happened with all his experience? Look at the situation we're in right now."

That's Arnie's platform? That Gray Davis blows? Listen, there are few Gray Davis fans out there. But let's face it. Our state's crisis is bigger than Gray Davis. California is not the only state in crisis. Our entire nation is running up a massive deficit. I love a circus as much as the next person, and can't wait to see a ballot with Gary Coleman, Angelyne, Gallagher and Peter Ueberroth on it. But this is also just plain embarrassing.

Friday, August 8, 2003

What Do You Think, Chick? Chick? You There?
Sorry, CNN, Chick Hearn's not available to speak about Kobe Bryant right now.

From IMDB's Studio Briefing:
The Los Angeles Lakers said Thursday that the team is considering traveling with two public relations representatives on road trips to field questions about the Kobe Bryant case. Team spokesman John Black indicated that a second spokesman might be necessary to deal with non-sports reporters who may want to focus on legal aspects of the case.

The team's unease may have been highlighted Thursday when a CNN reporter working on the Bryant case phoned the Lakers' publicity office and asked to speak to legendary Lakers announcer Chick Hearn, who died a year ago.

Fun With Recall
You just gotta love Cruz Bustamante's name. Say it with me: BUSTAMANTE! I could say it all day. Bustamante. Bustamante. Bustamante. Bustamovte. Bust A Move! That's why I like it! Cruz is reppin' some late 80s old school poppy hip-hop!

C'mon, everybody, in your best Young M.C. pose: "Don't just stand there, Bustamante!" (C'mon Cruz, ready made campaign slogan right here, buddy!)


Just another absurd installment about this absurd election.
Programming Note
Our favorite gubernatorial candidate, Gary Coleman, appears tonight on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live to discuss his platform and strategy (including the fact that he has no strategy).

Coleman was also a guest on KROQ's Kevin & Bean Show, where the DJs for once didn't seem to get the joke. Coleman knows his candidacy is a lark.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking -- deadline to file is tomorrow. Larry "Your Mattress is Free!" Miller, I'm serious, get your papers ready.
Don't Mess With Chino
Apparently some folks in the backwater hick town of Chino (in San Bernardino County) are upset that new Fox drama "The O.C." depicts it as a backwater hick town.

"People here are upset by it," City Manager Glen Rojas told the L.A. Times, noting that the city has moved beyond its image of a dusty, smelly town with dairy farms and a state prison. "Those things are such a small part of Chino."

Thursday, August 7, 2003

Arnold (Drummond) vs. Arnold (Schwarzenegger)
OK, one more thing about Gary Coleman's awe-inspiring run for governor: It frightens me just a bit that, as of now, I know more about Coleman's platform than I do Schwarzenegger's.

Coleman, for example, is pushing for a flat state tax: "This is the entertainment capital, one of the richest statest states in the union. Why not have a flat tax? Why are we trying to tax businesses out of California?"

Here's Coleman on energy: "Along with solving the California power crisis, I want to start building more windmill farms."

And on the business climate: "California is the most legislated state in the nation. That's not very inviting to IBM and Xerox and Ford. I would definitely have a panel of professionals, legal people working on changing that."

I'll I can say is... Todd Bridges for Lt. Governor!
Fact and Fiction, Arnold... Fact and Fiction
Anyone else find it odd that Schwarzenegger -- whose bizarre campaign so far seems to be based on "cleaning out those Bozos in Sacramento (a "Simpsons" style parody of a real campaign stance if I ever heard one) -- told Jay Leno Wednesday that he wanted to "pump Sacramento up"?

Arnold, you forget: That's not your line. It's "Saturday Night Live's" Hans and Franz (Dana Carvey and Kevin Nealon) -- parodying you -- who used to say, "We want to pump (CLAP!) you up!"

In other words, Arnold is impersonating a group of comedians who were impersonating him.

I suppose it's no worse than Ronald Reagan thinking he actually served in the military (it was a movie role, Ronnie). But Ah-nold really needs to cut down on the cutesy "Hasta la vista," "I'll be back" and "You've been terminated" lines. I mean, really. But I suppose that's what will get Arnold fans to the polls.
Tonight at 11... Actual News!
Sacramento Bee political columnist Daniel Weintraub has been at the forefront of covering the California governor recall circus, which he writes today may actually be a good thing for civic discourse: "More people will be talking and thinking about California politics and government than ever before," he notes.

I actually agree -- These last few days I've found myself talking politics with people I normally never talk politics with. And last night, watching KCBS, KNBC and KABC's newscasts, I was heartened to see that they LED their programs with Arnold's announcement and other recall news.

Considering Kobe Bryant was arraigned that day, that's nothing short of a miracle. I saw reporters actually talking politics on the local newscasts! Wow! (Yeah, it took a celebrity -- Schwarzenegger -- to make it happen, but still...) Quite a change for these car chase, crime-obsessed local news operations.
Whatchoo Talkin' Bout, Arnold?! (And Gallagher too!)
Yeah, yeah, Arnold Schwarzenegger's running for Governor. Yeah, it's a shocker.

But hello, here's the real story: GARY friggin' COLEMAN is running!

Now, if you've been paying attention, you know I've been pushing for the entry of kitsch B-list stars like Gary Coleman (see my August 1 post) for some time. Looks like others had the same idea. The Oakland-based alternative newspaper the East Bay Express got the $3500 and 65 signatures and drafted Coleman, who was more than happy to file. According to Gary, the papers were sent in Wednesday and he'll officially be on the ballot. Yes!

Here's what I write in Thursday's Variety:

The candidacy of the former "Diff'rent Strokes" star hadn't been expected. It should resonate with the fans-of-cheesy-early-'80s-sitcom-stars-turned-E!-True-Hollywood-Story-subject constiuency. Coleman told Daily Variety he wouldn't give up his candidacy, even though he believed Schwarzenegger had a lock on the campaign.

"I think the election is over," Coleman said. "People will be coming from all around the world to cast their vote for Schwarzenegger. He'll win."

Coleman's campaign includes a call for a state flat tax as well as a move toward alternative energy resources.

"I do have some valid, serious ideas and opinions, and I think there is a chance I could win," he said.

Asked "whatchoo talkin' 'bout," Coleman said his platform was two-fold: "I say, people first, corporations second, and I'm the least qualified guy who could probably do the best job."

Other famous -- and infamous -- candidates on the ballot include billboard bimbo Angelyne (a recent Hollywood mayoral candidate as well) and alleged comic Gallagher, whose watermelon-smashing antics wowed easily amused crowds in the 1980s.

As printed on his Web site, Gallagher's platform includes seceding from the union and requiring the Spanish version of the Star Spangled Banner sung at 50% of all state sporting events.

Wednesday, August 6, 2003

Procrastination!
Maria and I got married nine months ago.

I finally mailed our very last thank you note today.

You can start scolding me now.

But the wedding odds and ends aren't over yet: We still haven't ordered our photos. It's a much more daunting job than we expected. How do you choose 25 shots out of 500? (Slight exaggeration, but there are a lot of photos.) Let's just hope our photogs haven't skipped down by now, chuckling and spending our money on a new identity south of the border.
This Is Only a Test...
Ahh, looks like the City Council's getting a little nostalgic for the Cold War.
The group voted Tuesday to consider reviving the city's air raid sirens for use in the event of a terrorist attack (or natural calamity).

One problem: The sirens haven't been used since 1986. You've probably seen them around town, rusted and warn. What's next? The return of propaganda films in schools warning scared youngsters to "duck and cover"?
The Return of Angels Flight
Angels Flight -- the historic, vertical railway that shut down two years ago after a fatal crash -- may re-open sometime next year.

The downtown landmark has been closed since Feb. 1, 2001, when a car on the railway (located on the side of steep Bunker Hill) broke loose and sped backward, where it smashed into another car. An 83-year-old man was killed.

According to the L.A. Times, a final report by federal investigators blames the accident on faulty mechanical and brake systems, as well as poor oversight.

The paper reports: Angels Flight also lacked backup track brakes and a safety cable that could have stopped a runaway train. Investigators noted that those design features are common on hillside trains, sometimes called funiculars, such as Angels Flight.

Several agencies were found at fault by the National Transportation Safety Board, including the L.A. Community Redevelopment Agency, which brought Angels Flight back to life in the 1990s. (First built in the 1900s, Angels Flight was thrown in storage in the late 1960s to make room for modern development.)

The CRA told the paper that the Angels Flight cars have been repaired, and that it hopes to raise enough money to reopen the attraction in 2004.
Halloween in August
Retail stores have hit an all-time low now that they've started putting up Halloween products in the middle of summer. I was at the Glendale Galleria doing a little shopping when I noticed that Halloween had already started at the Robinsons-May. I did a double-take and had to really think hard and even convince myself that it was August and not October. Hell, it's August f@&%ing 5, what's up with all the Halloween stuff? Can't we just enjoy the summer months while they're still here?

Tuesday, August 5, 2003

Oh See
Admit it-- you've missed those sudsy dramas about beautiful, angst-ridden white teenagers of privilege living in Southern California. That niche has been woefully empty since "Beverly Hills 90210" and "Saved by the Bell" said farewell.

Looks like your prayers have been answered, fans of Brandon and Dylan, or even Zack and Screech ("Saved by the Bell" a sudsy drama? Play with me here). "The OC" premieres tonight on Fox (9 p.m./8 central). Think "90210" without those Very Special Episodes where the Peach Pit gang learn the true meaning of Thanksgiving by inviting in a few homeless folk for the night.

O.C. Register pop culture man Steve Lynch (who, I just learned courtesy Mayrav Saar's excellent new OC Register column, is moving to New York) chronicles the recent TV and movie projects set in Orange County.

Noting that Hermosa Beach fills in for the actual O.C. in "The O.C.," Lynch sizes up the new show: It's just like the real Orange County – if you happen to be the children of rich parents reveling in debauchery, sex and tasty waves.
Recallapalooza Con't.
Latest news, courtesy L.A. Observed, comes from the website
Run Arianna Run, which reports that Arianna Huffington will likely declare her candidacy today or tomorrow.

What that might mean to the Democrat or Republican vote is anyone's guess. Arianna's been quite the quick change figure in the last few years, going from managing her ex-husband's deeply conservative run for Senate to becoming one of the Bush Administration's loudest critics.
Crapaccino
You gotta admit, the vandals have a sense of humor in San Francisco. The SF Chronicle reports that 17 Starbucks were targeted Sunday night by a group of vandals, who smeared 'soapy paste' on the coffee shops' windows.

The paste said things like "For Lease," making it look like the Starbucks locations had gone out of business:

Christine Eden-Graves, an employee of the Starbucks at 390 Stockton St., said she arrived at work to find the store's windows painted with something white and adorned with a "For Lease'' sign. Other signs had been posted as well, she said, but those were confiscated by police.
Reality Blogs
Put aside the blatant (and I mean blatant!) product placement in NBC's new reality series "The Restaurant," and it's not a bad show. Reality guru Mark Burnett knows how to edit footage into some pretty compelling stuff.

And you've got to love a reality series where the protagonist -- in this case, celebrity chef (and Maria fave) Rocco DiSpirito -- comes off as quite an ass. And the show makes it seem like his new restaurant, Rocco's, is a complete disaster.

This being reality TV, of course, things aren't quite what they seem. Certain events are re-shot for the camera, and plenty of things (there's that pesky product placement!) are re-voiced later.

All of this is currently being documented by several of the show's waitstaff (who, shocker, are all aspiring actors and actresses) on their own personal blogs. As far as I can tell, this is the most extensive blogging by a reality show's contestants as the show is airing. I'm assuming it's with the network and producers' blessing -- some of the sites have pictures and links to the official NBC "Restaurant" site.

Courtesy MSNBC's Weblog Central, here are some castmember sites:

Gideon Horowitz (he's the guy from the first episode who was first in line to interview for a job, and more recently broke his elbow in a fall captured by the cameras)

Lola Belle (bartender; seen frequently smoking, and rarely behind the bar)

Uzay Tumer (another waiter)

For what it's worth, all three castmembers/waitstaff say Rocco's getting a bad rap on the show so far -- and they particularly take pains to point out that restaurant general manager Laurent, portrayed on the show as a heartless French man, is actually a good guy.

Monday, August 4, 2003

Battlefield Hollywood
Elie Samaha -- film producer best known for financing flops such as John Travolta's Scientolopic "Battlefield Earth" (and for being the ex-Mr. Tia Carerre) -- has leased the abandoned Fox and Vogue movie theaters in Hollywood.

Samaha, a one-time Studio 54 bouncer who now runs his Franchise Pictures shingle, made his fortune starting the Celebrity Cleaners chain and opening clubs such as the Roxbury (and later, the Sunset Room) before turning his attention to the film industry.

According to the L.A. Business Journal (sorry, no link), which writes about the deal in this week's issue, Samaha will sublease the Fox and the Vogue from Mann Theaters, which was leasing the empty buildings from their owners. Samaha wouldn't comment to the LABJ, but it's believed he'll turn the theaters into club or concert venues -- much more in the direction Hollywood has been heading. Let's face it, anything is better than just letting these boarded-up theaters continue to decay.
Auld Lang Blah
City officials still seem shocked, shocked that their millennium New Year's Eve plans were such a bust. Yet I, or anyone, could have told you that months before Dec. 31, 1999.

What did city figures expect? There was no buzz whatsoever, no hype, no central gathering place, nothing. Lighting up the Hollywood sign? Yawn. Parties situated around town, rather than one big hootenany? Obviously a plan to make sure we lived up to our reputation as apathetic Angelinos (you know, the party poopers who shut down their bars promptly at 2 a.m.).

But as the Downtown News reports, the city's going to try it again this New Year's Eve. But this time, it's going to be in one spot-- downtown's Civic Center, with the new Disney Concert Hall as the backdrop. The city hopes to attract 30,000 people with live music, fireworks and food.

I'm dubious about it all, however. The theme, "Legends of Los Angeles Pop," will focus on music from the '50s to the '80s. And according to the paper, instead of the Times Square ball, "a towering angel could descend when midnight arrives."

Uh-oh, this is starting to sound more like an parody from The Onion.

Saturday, August 2, 2003

Movies About Los Angeles (One in a series)
A month or so ago I wrote about the Sunset-Vine Tower, which has been a ghost building after a fire shut it down in late 2001. The tower is the centerpiece of Earthquake, the all-star 1974 disaster flick released by Universal Studios.

I caught the movie on AMC the other night. Actually, I TiVo'ed it, so I could fast forward through and "power watch" it (the TV movie's three hours, after all, and I just couldn't see myself devoting so much time to such cheese).

Oh, and what a movie. Charlton Heston as a rich businessman who must choose between his young mistress and his aging wife (Ava Gardner). Victoria Principal as a troubled young woman with a big afro wig. Richard Roundtree, fresh off "Shaft," as a race car driver in a lightning-emblazoned jumpsuit. Walter Matthau, in an uncredited role, as a wacky drunk. Lorne Greene as the company man whose Sunset-Vine office is destroyed. George Kennedy as the kindly police officer--and the only major character to survive through the end.

The movie goes through pointless dramatics for the first half-hour. Fast forward to the first quake. Ahh, life before computer graphics. It's sometimes a little too obvious that these are minature buildings, freeways and dams collapsing (the climax comes when Hollywood's Mulholland Dam-- here named the Hollywood Resevoir Dam-- crumbles, spewing water into the city) -- but that's part of the charm. That, and Victoria Principal's huge afro wig. Why is she wearing that thing? We're never quite sure.

Ultimately, Los Angeles crumbles, thanks to a 9.9 quake. And it crumbles a little too easy. (NBC will air a disaster movie next season in which a 10.5 quake hits Los Angeles -- causing California to split from the rest of the country. Can't wait.)

Anyway, points to the movie-makers for killing off some of the film's main characters -- a no-no in that era, when movies were supposed to end on a fairly upbeat note. Otherwise, this is pure early 70s drivel. Honestly, it makes the more recent Los Angeles-set Tommy Lee Jones disaster flick "Volcano" look like a masterpiece.

But that should only make you want to check it out more. Scour AMC's listings, or put it in your "wish list" if you've seen the light and bought a TiVo.
Vocabulary School
Referring to Gov. Davis' campaign last year, which got a wee bit nasty, fellow Democrat and Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer has come up with a new term: "puke politics."

Friday, August 1, 2003

Suge Knight Update

The Death Row labelmeister is (check one):

[X] Back in prison

[ ] Out on parole

Yup, for the third time in seven years, Suge is back in the pokey, this time for assaulting a valet at the White Lotus -- a violation of his parole. Suge, I know it's cool to have street cred and all, but this is just getting ridiculous.
Election-palooza
So far more than 200 people have filed to run in the Governor recall election.

So far, so good. But only 200? I'm a little disappointed. Angelyne seems to be the best B-list candidate so far. Where's Gary Coleman? M.C. Hammer? The rest of the casts of "The Surreal Life" and "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here"? Now that Ahhhnold's not running, let's get some (ahem) star power in here!

But here's some good news: Larry Flynt has filed to run as well. (The Hustler publisher knows good publicity when he sees it -- read his Death to Bill O'Reilly press release below). Let the Circus begin!