Friday, October 31, 2008

Retro Friday: Has Anybody Seen Tim Curry's Tamborine?

Here's a classic... and by classic, I mean "another cheesy 80s movie telecast over and over again on cable back in the day." Remember the Halloween-themed TV movie "The Worst Witch"? (Charlotte Rae -- yes, Mrs. Garrett -- and Fairuza Balk were among the stars.) Here, Tim Curry croons "Anything Can Happen on Halloween," including the fantastic line, "Has anybody seen my tamborine?"

Thursday, October 30, 2008

"'Jacko' Lantern" And Other Creations: It's the Wilshire Courtyard Pumpkin Contest, Part III

And one more round of pics from the annual Wilshire Courtyard pumpkin carving contest. Here are a few entries from the East building, which includes E! and other Comcast nets:

My favorite: "'Jacko' Lantern," by E! Networks News Cam.

"Jack-O-Womb," by E! True Hollywood Story. Hmm, a statement on Prop 4?

"Eddie Lives," by Comcast/E!

"Engineers Gone Mad," by the Engineering Dept.

"Valet Jack," by the Wilshire Courtyard Parking Dept. Nice use of orange cones and valet tickets.

"Humpty Dumpty," by E!

"Dr. 90210," by Wilshire Courtyard Security


"Holly Would..." And Other Creations: It's the Wilshire Courtyard Pumpkin Contest, Part I

Joe the Plumber And Other Creations: It's the Wilshire Courtyard Pumpkin Contest, Part II

Joe the Plumber And Other Creations: It's the Wilshire Courtyard Pumpkin Contest, Part II

"Joe," by the Weinstein Company

"Dia De Los Muertos," by Rebel Entertainment Partners

"Bloody Bunny," by Brierley & Partners

"Cheez Louise," by ASG Media

"Crave for Change," by Comcast Entertainment Networks on-air promo

"Mommy! Is That You?" by Comcast Networks IT Ops

More from this year:

"Holly Would..." And Other Creations: It's the Wilshire Courtyard Pumpkin Contest, Part I

"'Jacko' Lantern" And Other Creations: It's the Wilshire Courtyard Pumpkin Contest, Part III

"Holly Would..." And Other Creations: It's the Wilshire Courtyard Pumpkin Contest, Part I

It's an annual tradition here at Franklin Avenue: We chronicle the Wilshire Courtyard pumpkin carving contest, as the mostly media-related tenants in the complex attempt to put their spin on the traditional Jack-o-lantern.

Some early entries:

"Herman," by Universal McCann

"Holly Would...," by BWR/Ogilvy PR

"Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater," by Initiative

"Vulture in a Cage," by RBI

"Jack-Meister," by Wenner Media

"Jack-O-Lantern in a Box," by Fox TV

More from this year:

Joe the Plumber And Other Creations: It's the Wilshire Courtyard Pumpkin Contest, Part II

"'Jacko' Lantern" And Other Creations: It's the Wilshire Courtyard Pumpkin Contest, Part III

A few blasts from years past:

2007's contest

2006's contest

FRANKLIN AVENUE CONTEST: Eagles of Death Metal on "Jimmy Kimmel Live"

(Pic by Chapman Baehler.)

The Eagles of Death Metal are set to perform a few songs on ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live," this Monday, November 3.

Performance is on the outdoor stage -- and Dangerbird Records has asked us to help pass out some tix. Interested? Email us right now at franklin_avenue(at)yahoo(dot)com.

The Eagles of Death Metal's "Heart On" is out right now on Downtown Records. Check out their MySpace page here.

PRESS RELEASE OF THE DAY: Maury Povich's Erection Election Special

Leave it to Maury Povich to remind us what's really important on election day:


Hit Syndicated Talk Show Host Maury Povich Is Transformed Into A Presidential Candidate And Has An Election Day Special Of His Own; "Time To Vote! Born Man Or Woman?"

New York, NY – October 30, 2008 - Hit syndicated talk show "Maury," is holding its own election on Tuesday November 4th, allowing viewers all across the USA an opportunity to cast an important ballot.

While most broadcast and cable networks will be focused on the presidential election that day, Maury Povich will be dressed up and acting "presidential" as viewers will be offered an Election Day alternative, "Time To Vote! Born Man or Woman?" This special episode features some transgender candidates, as well as others who were born as women, strutting their stuff in front of the show's live studio audience. The audience and viewers at home will be able to vote on whether the candidates are really women or men in disguise.

Viewers at home can participate and have their vote counted by logging onto to

"This is probably the most important election in our country's history...not that the one with Barack Obama and John McCain doesn't count," joked host Maury Povich. "Our goal, after a very long and tough presidential campaign, is just to have a little fun with our studio audience and viewers at home."

The Great Los Angeles Walk 2008: Update

The response has been great so far -- I'm expecting the biggest turn out yet for our third annual Great Los Angeles Walk. There's still plenty of time to join in -- just email us to let us know you're coming!

To answer the two most frequently asked questions: Is it free? Of course. And is this a fundraiser of some sorts? Nope. The only cause here is "just 'cause." We walk because we love Los Angeles, and there's no better way to see the city up close than on foot, along with other fellow Angelenos.

Now, two notes:

-- Time's running out to order a shirt, if you want to wear it during the walk. According to Cafe Press, it takes 7-9 business days for the shirts to arrive via the cheapest shipping method. Check out our Franklin Avenue Cafe Press store to order. Again, we don't make any money off these; as a matter of fact, we're doing this through Cafe Press so that we don't have to deal with money, period.

-- Our Facebook event page is up. Feel free to head over there and join the list.

-- We're taking recommendations (or even better, looking for eateries that might be willing to partner with us) on where to hold the after party in Santa Monica, and where to gather for lunch in West Hollywood. Suggestions? Email or comment below.

See you Saturday, Nov. 22 at 9 a.m. sharp at Union Station!

Santa Monica Cracks Down on Outdoor Exercisers

(Flickr pic by btmeacham.)

A few years ago, Maria and I used to travel to Santa Monica to climb up and down the famed Santa Monica steps. (We usually preferred the Franklin Hills steps closer to our home... but you can't beat those ocean breezes.)

But with so many people turning the neighborhood surrounding the steps into their personal gyms, the nearby residents have had enough. Writes the L.A. Times:

In response to homeowners' complaints, Santa Monica police two months ago started warning those who exercised on the medians that they were violating a 1970 city ordinance. Residents had griped that the affluent neighborhood had been overrun by groups of people who sometimes showed up with exercise benches, balls and boom boxes -- creating a sort of outdoor Gold's Gym.

"The median has turned into a de facto park," said Jim Sweeney, an area resident who along with neighbors complained to City Hall about 18 months ago.

The story notes, though, that the exercise buffs aren't letting go without a fight.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pasadena's Bar Celona Gets a Menu Makeover; Plus, Mixologist Damian Windsor Needs Your Vote

The scene: Pasadena's Bar Celona, which threw a tasting event Tuesday night to celebrate the four-year-old restaurant's new menu.

As overseen by Chef Josef Centeno (Opus, Lot 1), the new menu is being hyped as offering "new excitement and a new attitude" to the restaurant. It'd been a few years since we last checked out Bar Celona... and since Old Town Pasadena is close to Franklin Avenue HQ, I decided to enlist my friend Tony and check it out.

Upon arrival, we headed straight to the bar, where famed mixologist Damian Windsor (above) was concocting his creation, "Montresor & Fortunato." The sweetish drink includes sherry, Grand Marnier and vermouth (recipe below), and the olives are a nice touch.

Windsor's drink is among the finalists in Travel + Leisure's Beverage Arts Challenge, and it gets my vote. (Granted, I haven't tried the others. But Damian was cool, and I love his former home -- downtown's Seven Grand.)

Meanwhile, the food passed around was heavy on the fried side; our favorites included the pork croquetas (above), which included goat cheese -- which I'm normally not a fan of, but they work here.

Least favorite item, probably the breaded anchovies (above). But other tapas included peppers with sea salt; pork shoulder, chicken liver and salmon conservas; whipped salt cod and potato on grilled bread; grilled shrimp; chicken empanadas; and more. I only wish that we could have sampled off the restaurant's new entree menu as well.

Meanwhile, we also got the rundown on the restaurant from co-owner Karen Huang, who told us that business was surprisingly good, despite the down economy.

Among those we chatted with or saw in the crowd: Ritz Bites' Jessica Ritz; Eating LA's Pat Saperstein; Eater L.A.'s Lesley Balla; Gumbo Pages' Chuck Taggart; and Thrillist's Jeff Miller, among others.

Bar Celona
42 East Colorado Blvd.
Pasadena CA 91105

Vincent Price Would Be Proud: Angelenos Pull Off a "Thriller"

They pulled it off -- the L.A. chapter of "Thrill the World" performed the Thriller dance on Saturday in front of crowds at Hollywood and Highland. And as you can see above, they did a pretty good job.

The LA Weekly was there, and files an extensive report. A highlight:

This Los Angeles chapter of "Thrill the World '08" -- across the globe, dances in 91 cities in 12 countries took place the same day -- was up and at 'em at an hour that ought to make the dead crawl back into their tombs and whimper. In an attempt to hold the world record for the most people to do the "Thriller" dance at one time, dozens of aspiring zombie strutters gathered in the bowels of the shopping complex's garage -- level 6E to be exact -- with coffee and donuts, makeup and hairspray, costumes and boomboxes to pump up, dress up, and get in last minute practice.
Just before 11 a.m., they began the lurch up to the bright plaza and took their places to the initial bewilderment, and giddy delight of wandering shoppers and tourists.

Check it out -- including the photo gallery.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Experiencing "The Summer We Never Had"

(Flickr pic by Irene Tong.)

My business lunch conversation today ranged from industry topics to, well, more industry topics. But the first order of business: Discussing just how gosh durn hot it is out there. Is it really late October?

Now, according to the Los Angeles Times -- well, at least the 3 people who still work there -- we're experiencing the second hottest October since 1877. We've now experienced eight days over 90 degrees this month -- more than any other year except 1965:

"It's the summer we never had," said William Patzert, a climatologist for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge.

The average daytime temperature in downtown Los Angeles this month has been 84.3 degrees, he said. September's average high temperature was 83.2 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

"In September we only had two days over 90," Patzert said.

The warmest October in Los Angeles' recorded history -- an average of 84.5 degrees -- was 1965, when Southern California was blasted by hot, dry Santa Ana winds. On Oct. 23 of that year, Los Angeles had a temperature of 100 degrees. In San Diego, firefighters were busy battling three blazes amid the October heat wave.

Of course, we've seen two major bouts of fire this month. Not helping matters: We've seen eight months now of essentially no rain. That, combined with the intense heat, means conditions are ripe for more fires.

Who Will Be Left to Write the Los Angeles Times' Obit?

The cuts keep getting deeper at the Los Angeles Times, as LA Now's Veronique de Turenne was among the 75 staffers handed a pink slip on Monday, along with film critic Carina Chocano, scribes Lynell George and Agustin Gurza, and many others.

Cuts represented 10% of the paper's editorial side. That's getting to be a rapidly diminishing number... but of course, the paper is rapidly diminishing in size.

A sidenote: The paper has gotten so thin now that my home's sprinklers now regularly soak it all the way through. Not too long ago, there were enough ads and sections that at least the meat of the paper wouldn't get wet. Not anymore.

Scenes from a Halloween Festival-Dominated Weekend

This is what happens when you have a 3-year-old around Halloween time. You start attending Halloween carnivals and festivals. Three, to be exact, this weekend. On Friday night, it was trick-or-treating around Atwater Village's Glendale Blvd., where merchants passed out candy and costumed kids crowded the sidewalks. On Saturday, we headed to Pasadena, where the Kidspace Museum held its annual Halloween Festival -- more crowded than I expected. Then on Sunday, we managed to secure tix to the Halloween festival, sponsored by Variety and others, that served as a fundraiser for Camp Ronald McDonald.

Some pics from our weekend (sorry, no pics here of Blogger Preschooler in his fireman costume):

One of the creepier kid costumes in Atwater Village

On the left, another creepy kid outfits

Spotted in an Atwater Village shop window: "Hopey," the Hopeful Giraffe

Inflatable attractions at the Kidspace festival

Costume contest at the Kidspace festival

Monday, October 27, 2008

Cheers, Trader Joe's! Jeers, Trader Joe's!

Yay to Trader Joe's for introducing Country Pumpkin Spice Granola. I could eat bags and bags of this stuff. Actually, I have, which is why we picked up three bags this week alone. I can do without the raisins (easily removable)... but the rest is pure, pumpkin-y, granola-y goodness. Sprinkle on yogurt, or just devour straight from the bag.

(Flickr pic by Consumatron.)

Boo to Trader Joe's for no longer stocking frozen tamales. The TJ tamales were the perfect quick snack -- and were one of Evan's favorite foods as well. Sadly, according to a TJ's employee, the distributor no longer has a contract with the tamale manufacturer and so... no tamales. Memo to TJ's: Find a new tamale distributor, fast!

License Plate of the Day: I Saw The Sign (And It Opened Up My Eyes) Edition

Here's a great one courtesy the Space Cowgirl. Really? There's an Ace of Base fan out there who was compelled to honor their favorite Swedish band via vanity plate?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Six Years Ago Today...

Yep, it's been six years... and they've been awesome ones. (Below, where we made it all official -- Union Station, Oct. 26, 2002.)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Retro Friday: Shatner and Walter, Still At It

"Boston Legal" star William Shatner and "90210" matriarch Jessica Walter (she'll always be the Bluth matriarch to me) star in this short-lived 1965 series, "For the People." I dunno what I like more -- the goofy opening credits, the shots of young Shatner and Walter, or the ad for Parliament cigarettes.

FREE L.A.: Kid-Friendly Halloween Events

We're big fans of the annual trick-or-treat event in Atwater Village down Glendale Blvd. It's a great dress rehearsal for the following week's real Halloween trick-or-treating (plus, we get extra use out of that Target costume), and it's a great way to see the neighborhood up close.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Hugo's will be passing out tacos to big kids and small.

The event, now celebrating its 5th year, is free. Over 68 businesses are participating -- so yeah, that's a lot of candy.

Event takes place THIS FRIDAY from 4 to 5:30 p.m. More details here.

This weekend, Pasadena's Kidspace museum holds its annual Pumpkin Festival. As you can read above, the event is completely free, and features a pumpkin patch, carnival games and music from the likes of Peter Himmelman. The festival takes place Saturday and Sunday, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Celebrating Hancock Park's Crazy David Statue Guy

LA Citybeat is throwing a party to celebrate Norwood Young, who recently appeared on the cover of the free weekly's best of L.A. issue.

Wait, so who's Norwood Young? He's an R&B singer. But more importantly, he's the owner of this home:

(Flickr pic by Santos.)

Yep, Young owns the crazy Hancock Park home (at 3rd and Muirfield) with all of those David statues. He calls it "Youngwood Court." The paper writes:
LA City Beat Magazine named Young as the “Best Thing in Hancock Park” because his home is “an architectural tribute to beauty, art, glamour, fantasy, flamboyance, and living out loud.” The publication also praises Young for “a refusal to stay silent, to hide one’s talents or one’s love of Michelangelo. A disdain for blending in, for conforming … .” Young was featured on the cover of the September 25, 2008 issue (Volume 6/Number 39) of LA City Beat Magazine.

And after 13 years of rumor, controversy and lawsuits, change is in the air. The dust has settled. And Young and his digs, Youngwood Court, are finally embraced by the neighbors.

“During this exciting climate of political change and tolerance, I deem the induction of ‘King of Hancock Park’ a personal victory; not only for me, but for other individuals who’ve been ostracized and criticized because they would not compromise,” said Young. “This is the most rewarding experience of my life,” he added. “I painfully fought for 13 years to stand for something, and because of this recognition by LA City Beat Magazine and their readers, I no longer feel my fight was in vain.”

Young’s home has been the subject of rumor, controversy and lawsuits, due to the neighbors feeling that Young’s personal taste was not suitable for the neighborhood and that he was a rock and roll intruder, making headline news in the media. The late, great attorney Johnny Cochran defended his right to live in the neighborhood and decorate his house, according to “his taste.” Young reigned victoriously, and the case was thrown out of court.

Still, that didn’t stop the bullying, nor the bullets (yes, there have been bullets shot at his home) and media headlines, weighing in on his decorative taste as “Art or Eyesore?” The neighbors made suck a ruckus, the story actually made national headlines across the country! This was a humiliating intrusion of Young’s right to privacy.

Determined, Young fought a good fight and won. Today, “Youngwood Court” is part of LA’s pop culture. It’s even included as part of Hollywood’s tours of famous homes.

LA Citybeat is throwing an event on Nov. 2 to crown Young as "King of Hancock Park."

It's Not "Funny, Ha-Ha," It's "Funny, the L.A. Times Is Considering a Comic Strip About Domestic Violence"

The Los Angeles Times is trying out another round of comic strip contenders, as it mulls where to keep or dump "For Better or For Worse." Now that "For Better" artist Lynn Johnston has decided to re-tell her strip back from the beginning, papers like the LAT aren't so sure readers will be interested.

But is this a better replacement? Between Friends, "a contemporary comic strip that celebrates the essence and angst of three forty-something women friends."

A strip that, at least this week, is centering on an abusive husband and his tortured wife, along with the conflicted friend who's in the middle? People, it's called the "funnies."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Blurring the Line Between News and Commercial

Local news orgs have been criticized in the past for ocassionally embedding commercial messages into the middle of newscasts (the late Ron Fineman frequently chronicled such instances on his website).

But I can't remember seeing anything as blatant as this: KCBS morning traffic reporter Vera Jimenez is busy chronicling the mess this morning on the 405, which was partly closed in the Sepulveda Pass due to brush fires. After spending a few serious minutes discussing the traffic snarls, Jimenez suddenly brings up her recent test drive of a Lincoln MKS (not so coincidentally, KCBS' morning traffic coverage is sponsored by SoCal Lincoln dealers, whose screen bug remains on the lower left-hand corner throughout). Cut to video of Vera, hanging out inside the vehicle and extolling the virtues of the car. Then cut to weather.

Granted, Vera's not a regular reporter, but covers traffic for the station. Nonetheless, this kind of mid-newscast ad placement, featuring a station's on-air traffic reporter, is bound to give journalism purists a heart attack.

I asked a KCBS insider about the spot, and they admitted that it was a bit awkward, especially given the placement. That person conceded that it was an "experiment, but not necessarily something we'll be doing in the future."

Maria's Thursday Three

1. The Story: As a long-time listener of NPR, I was thrilled to discover American Public Media's "The Story," hosted by Dick Gordon, while we were driving through Vermont and New Hampshire a few weeks ago. Filled with first-hand accounts, "The Story" gives listeners a chance "to understand events through the experiences of real people." Their recent series on "Bankers, Brokers and Bandits" gives a good perspective on current events-- I originally thought it would be depressing to listen to but it somehow made me think positive on the outcome of our economy. Podcast download? Check.

2. Amai Tea House: If you are ever in New York City, please visit Amai Tea House. Their Matcha Tea Latte is just heavenly and the baked goods are extraordinary, you'll probably not see their offerings anywhere else. I've been following Kelli's blog for years and her spot in the Gramercy Park area is a sweet haven in a big city.

3. Los Angeles Magazine: Los Angeles Magazine still floats my boat. Sure they have the best guides in restaurants and shopping but their editorial is just superb on all things Los Angeles. Chris Nichols' column is riddled with all the nerdy details about L.A. you always wanted to know and their investigative story on the Zankou Chicken empire, for instance, provides you with a rare insight on a complex family. The celebrity content? Minimal-- how refreshing!