Monday, August 22, 2005

It's A Steal... Literally

You might have to dig deeper soon to find cheap knock-off merchandise in downtown's Santee Alley, the L.A. Times reports.

A while back I accompanied Maria and a friend who was on the hunt for fake Kate Spade bags -- and was amazed by the sheer number of knock-offs being sold right out in the open. Last year, I sensed that vendors were already feeling the heat: On another trip to the fashion district, I'd approach people selling pirated DVD sellers -- and they'd suddenly hide their wares as they eyed me coming (apparently I resemble an MPAA goon).

Back to the report: Apparently police on Friday raided one store, Joi Fashion (on S. Los Angeles near 11th) in the biggest Santee Alley sting yet. The LAPD "seized counterfeit handbags, glasses, belts and other accessories," the paper reported. "If the merchandise had been real, authorities said, it would be worth about $18 million."

"At the time of the raid, floor-to-ceiling shelves were brimming with handbags, many of them marked with the Chanel, Gucci, Prada or Dior logos," the paper added.

According to the Times, downtown Los Angeles has become second only to New York's Canal Street as the nation's counterfeit capital. And the LAPD says organized crime has been connected to the bogus goods.

Speaking of deals, Sunday's L.A. Times mag investigated the pop culture morgue that is the 99 Cents Only Store.

The author of the piece, Riley Ray Chiorando, writes that "when a trend, a product or a celebrity's time is long past, the terminus of its slide is often a 99 Cents Only shelf."

Chiorando visited 99 Cents Only stores in North Hollywood, Miracle Mile, West Hollywood and Hollywood and found these items collecting dust on the shelves:

Queen Amidala Galactic Body Wash, Phantom Menace Book Covers

"The Incredible Hulk" Gift Set

"Shrek 2" M&M's Minis Dispenser

"Fodor's Pocket: Istanbul" (2001 edition)

"Jump the Shark: When Good Things Go Bad," by Jon Hein

David Hasselhoff's "Bail Out" DVD

Official Major League Soccer Figurine Key Chains

"Memories of Madison County: The True Story of My Romance With Robert James Waller," by Jana St. James

"Ozzy Knows Best: An Unauthorized Biography," by Chris Nixon

Digimon Official Fan Club Carrying Case, Pokemon Battling Coin Game Holder

Barney Sidewalk Chalk Featuring Barney and Baby Bop

Boy Band items: "Backstreet Boys: The Official Book," *NSYNC "No Strings Attached" poster book, *NSYNC "Official Tour Merchandise" thank-you notes and autograph books.

Spice Girls Figurines: Posh, Sporty, Baby, Scary

Disney cast-offs: "Jungle 2 Jungle: A Junior Novel," by Nancy Krulik; "George of the Jungle" movie scrapbook; "Atlantis: The Lost Empire" reusable sticker book; "The Country Bears: The Junior Novelization"; "Lion King 2: Simba's Pride" Pez dispenser; Energizer "The Lion King" collectible squeeze lights (Timon and Pumbaa)

"SpongeBob Squarepants" Pez Dispensers (Squidward and Patrick)

The Barbi Twins 2005 16-Month Calendar

"Stuart Saves His Family" Original Soundtrack

Anna Kournikova's "Basic Elements: My Complete Fitness Guide" Video

NBC "Celebrity Christmas" CD

Anne Geddes & Celine Dion "Miracle: A Celebration of New Life" 2005 Desk Calendar

"Drudge Manifesto," by Matt Drudge and Julia Phillips

Christina Aguilera 2005 calendar

What Chiorando doesn't add: It's these items that make 99 Cents stores the unofficial place to buy ironic birthday gifts.

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