Sunday, July 20, 2014

The One Where We Meet Celebrities

We almost got to be part of the audience for a taping of @Midnight. Almost.

We're fans of the show and had "priority" tickets to see a taping. The tickets were supposed to guarantee us a spot. Nope. A huge crowd turned out that evening to get into the show. The seats filled up with about a dozen of us priority ticket folks left out.

Yet, there was still hope. Some of the guests of the VIPs were nice enough to give up their seats to let about a dozen of us in. My wife and I barely made the cut. We were about two minutes from getting into the show when Anne Wheaton, wife of Wil Wheaton, one of the comics that night, showed up. We got bumped out of the audience, but we allowed to watch it on a monitor backstage.

The comics we almost saw: Wil Wheaton, Aisha Tyler, and Kevin
Pereira. Kevin say hi to everyone backstage before going on.

We had no one but ourselves to blame for not getting in. Had we shown up 10 minutes earlier, we would have made the first cut. Five minutes earlier and we would have made the second. Despite knowing this - and my respect for Anne's work on behalf of animals - I had the urge to do a Sheldon Cooper-channeling-William-Shatner scream of "WWWHHHEEEAAATTTTONNNN!!!!!"

While backstage, I see the man himself — Chris Hardwick. Now in my fantasy, I would have spoken to Hardwick, made him laugh, leading to more conversation, and ultimately, friendship. Through him, we would have met Felicia Day, and through her, Joss Whedon, Neil Gaiman, Nathan Fillion, the cast of Mythbusters, and other celebs. We would all hang out on Saturday nights.

What I expected to happen was Chris would address every one backstage with a "Hey, thanks for coming out," before going on stage.

What actually happened was that I was gesturing to my wife to show her Chris was in the room. Chris, about to talk with a friend of a friend, thought I was gesturing at him and gave me a polite, perfunctorily nod as if to say "Yeah, I see you." He finished talking with the friend and headed out onstage.

I thought my wife would say something like "He's cute" or "He looks smaller/bigger than he does on TV." What she actually said was "I'm disappointed with his jacket."

Chris and the panel of comics just killed it that night. Much of the good stuff, however, was rather blue (two phrases for you — clit balls and hobo cum) and didn't make on air. Nerdist posted a link to some of the stuff the TV audience missed here.

We had a good time, got a couple of free @Midnight t-shirts and a promise of an email for VIP tix to a future showing. I won't believe the tix promise until I'm sitting with the audience and the cameras are rolling.

On Saturday, we were at the Emmy Costume exhibit at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (henceforth referred to as FIDM). This is a great exhibit featuring about 100 costumes from 20 different shows including Sleepy Hollow, Orange is the New Black, Agents of SHIELD (I refuse to do the little dots. It was an effort to make "shield" in caps), Downton Abbey, and Masters of Sex. And it's free, people.

I was in the midst of jockeying for position in the media horde during the exhibit preview when I found myself alone with the gorgeous Ming-Na Wen of Agents of SHIELD. On the show, Ming-Na's Melinda May is always scowling and looking tough. I was totally unprepared to see such a radiant smile. I melted like butter in a hot skillet.

She was a great interview — gracious and funny (on show costume designer Ann Foley — "she's great — but she didn't make my tits big enough. Oh, I bet you're going to make that quote big, aren't you?") Later in the evening, she and a friend sat on the same bench with me and my wife. Squee! I even wiped some water off the seat for her. Hey, I would have done that for anyone, not just for a fanboy hottie.

Imagine her sitting next to you on a bench.

Later, I went hunting for actor Michael Sheen. I didn't interview him. I just shook his hand and told him I loved him Frost/Nixon. He was very gracious too.

Ming-Na and Michael knew they were walking into an area filled with media, so they were prepped and ready to be at their best. Still, I can tell when someone talks to you not because they want to, but because it's part of their job — I'm looking at you Penn Jillette. I can also tell when someone is genuinely nice — I'm looking at you Joseph Teller. Ming-Na and Michael are the latter. I suspect Chris Hardwick is the same, but it's hard to tell from a brief nod from someone about to hit the stage.

Celebrities don't owe us a chat or an autograph or time for a picture. The only thing they owe us — and this goes for everybody on this planet — is this: don't be a dick. Some badly fail at meeting this minimum standard for humanity - Bieber, Brand, and LaBeouf come immediately to mind.

It is a great joy when someone whose work you admire turns out to be a damn fine bloke or bloke-ess. My admiration for Neil Gaiman, which was pretty damn high already, soared when I followed his posts and interviews during his trip to Jordan to meet with Syrian refugees at the request of the United Nations refugee agency.

Now, I have no idea what Michael Sheen and Ming-Na Wen are really like. They could have bodies buried in their basements for all I know. I do know that for a brief moment, they engaged me, smiled, and were gracious. And for that, I'm now an even bigger fan of both of them.


Back to the original purpose of this blog. There's some cool, cheap date opportunities out there, people. There is so much stuff I just want to cry at the things I can't get to. Here's some things I think are worthy of your consideration:

- The fore-mentioned FIDM Emmy Costume Exhibition opens to the public July 22 and runs through Sept. 20. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. It's free.

- Shakespeare in Griffith Park. The Independent Shakespeare Company is back this summer, performing Twelfth Night and Taming of the Shrew. This is a great bunch of performers and the setting in the meadow of the old zoo grounds is terrific. Pack a picnic and show up early. It's free, but you will be hit for a donation. Give what you can. Let's keep these guys going.

- Going Retro. On July 27, the Wilshire Ebell Auditorium is hosting a show celebrating music from 1900 to the 1930s. Presented by the Los Angeles Theatre Organ Society, this show will feature the retro ensemble Janet Klein and Her Parlor Boys (regulars at the Cicada Club), ragtime pianist John Reed-Torres and theatre pipe organist Tony Wilson. As of this writing, Goldstar had discount Tix.

- The Bob Baker Marionettes are doing a free show on Aug. 6 at the Levitt Pavilion in Pasadena. These folks are masters of a vanishing art form. Again, pack that picnic and get there early.

Lots of fun stuff going on. Get out there and enjoy life.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Movie costumes, a shuttle, and music

Sorry for the long gap between posts. A back injury and lingering cold kept me and the mrs. home for much of the past two months. We're only just now getting out and about.

One of our more recent dates was to see the opening of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising "Art of Motion Picture Costume Design." This is FIDM 22nd time hosting this exhibition and I believe it's their best.

There are some 100-odd costumes from more than 20 movies included in the exhibition, ranging from "The Invisible Woman," about the woman who was mistress to Charles Dickens, to "The Great Gatsby" to sci-fi adventures, including "Star Trek: Into Darkness" and "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire."

At the reception I had the good fortune to interview Michael Wilkinson, an Oscar nominee for his work on "American Hustle." Michael said he spent eight months researching the 70s for ideas for the clothing, including looking at arty photographs of the time and perusing mail order catalogs. He nailed the look.

Several of the "American Hustle" costumes are included in the exhibit, some that Michael built from scratch and some that among his finds in storage units and rental shops. One of his finds as a vintage Bob Mackie dress worn by Amy Adams. The dress, Wilkinson said, made Adams "feel like a million dollars."
Costumes from American Hustle.

Next to the motion picture exhibition is a smaller, but no less stunning exhibition of 19th Century Wedding dresses from the Helen Larson Collection. There are 10 gowns on display, one from each decade of that century, and accompanying accessories that are of the period.

The dresses are part of a mind-blowing 1,400 piece collection that Larson assembled over 50 years, beginning in 1946. FIDM is trying to raise $2.5 million to buy the collection from Larson's estate. Are hopes are with FIDM in acquiring the collection. It would be nothing short of tragic to see it sold off piecemeal.
Dresses  from the Helen Larson Collection.

FIDM's exhibitions are free. The movie costume exhibition runs through April 26. FIDM's galleries are located at 919 S. Grand Avenue (corner of 9th and Grand). The galleries are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays.



If you haven't gone to see the space shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center, you need to put a visit on your must-do list. The orbiter is beautiful and inspiring. And how often do you get to walk up to a real manned spacecraft?

Endeavour, up close.

You need to get timed tickets in advance to see it, but they are only a couple of bucks apiece. You will have a line (a line that traverses much of the center), but it moves very quickly. Space-related artifacts on display include Endeavour's tires from its last landing, a real mission control center (from the Rocketdyne folks who monitored the first minutes of launch), and, of course, the ever-popular space potty.

The science center makes for a great day outing. Parking runs about $10. We like taking the Metro Expo Line, which saves us the parking fee and the often horrible traffic around Exposition Park.


The second half of MUSE/IQUE's "Uncorked Series" will start on Monday, Feb. 24 with the presentation of Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Spring." MUSE/IQUE's is partnering up with A Noise Within, a very fine repertory company, for this show.

Here's a description of the show from MUSE/IQUE: "Aaron Copland’s 1945 Pulitzer Prize winning composition Appalachian Spring sounds like America - gutsy, beautiful, complex, and always emerging to new ambitions. MUSE/IQUE musicians with a wild collection of instruments team with dancers to revive the visceral WWII energy of the music while our collaborators at A Noise Within provide dramatic surprises in their stunning performance space that literally brings the action right to the audience."

The show will be A Noise Within's theater at 3352 E Foothill Blvd in Pasadena. The theater is right off the 210 Freeway and there's plenty of free parking.

This definitely isn't a cheap date with tickets at $50 each (sometimes you can find discounts on Goldstar), but we got our money's worth at two of the previous Uncorked shows we went to. I also put forth a recommendation because of the work these folks do in bringing music to foster kids.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

In Our Own Backyard

Sometimes it takes someone from out of town to show you what you are missing in your own backyard.
Esotouric (the folks who do the great crime and literary L.A. tours) did a special, one-off bus tour of the Antelope Valley and Kim and I were invited to go along. Sadly, Kim couldn't make it, being both under the weather and overworked. (I know, how is this a date when I'm missing the most important component of a date - the wife?)
The Antelope Valley Indian Museum.
The tour, in honor of Esotouric co-founder Richard Schave's birthday, was hitting the Western Hotel in Lancaster, the Indian Museum in Lake Los Angeles, and the Ripley preserve in the western AV. I was able to tag along for two of the three attractions - Ripley will wait for another day.
Let me say upfront that the Western Hotel  is not a destination attraction by any means. However, it's worth a visit if you happen to be in the area (it's located at 557 West Lancaster Blvd). It's only open on the second and fourth Friday and Saturday of each month, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.

Schave described it has having a "great collection of 1900s Americana" and "being one of the most visible links Lancaster has to its heritage."
Built in the 1880s, the hotel is the oldest surviving building in Lancaster. Speculators, travelers, mule skinners and British lords are among the guests who used the hotel. Between 1905 and 1913, construction crews of the Los Angeles-Owens River Aqueduct were housed at the hotel. 
The cost to stay at the hotel was once $1 per night.
I suspect, but cannot prove, that it was also used by the crew of Cecil B. DeMille's 1923 The Ten Commandments. DeMille shot the chariot race scene on nearby Rogers dry lake bed. I saw a 1923 newspaper article that mentioned two merchants being rousted out of bed at 4 o'clock on a Sunday morning by DeMille's people seeking bread.
The hotel fell into disrepair in the 1970s, but was rescued by the Western Hotel Historical Society and other concerned residents and reopened as a museum in 1988. 
Some of the campaign items used to save the hotel.

The museum is now listed as California Historic Landmark 658.
In front of the hotel is a monument erected in 1999 to honor the Tuskegee Airmen. Also nearby is one of the granite "Aerospace Walk of Honor" monuments, honoring Edwards Air Force Base test pilots. For those unfamiliar with our humble town, there many such monuments up and down the boulevard, honoring such aviation greats as Chuck Yeager and Neil Armstrong.
Prior to the Esotouric tour, I had been at the Western Hotel once in my 25 years of living in this valley. I had no idea the Tuskegee airmen monument even existed, despite the fact I've driven by the hotel literally hundreds of times.
This was a nice gesture by the city.
The Antelope Valley Indian Museum blew my mind. I hadn't been there in over 20 years and I had forgotten what a marvel it is. 

It is a folk art wonderland inside of a Tudor-revival chalet built in and around a rock formation.The house has seven different roof elevations. The boulders of Piute Butte serve as the floor of the upper floor, a staircase, and as the walls of the rear portion of the house.

The museum was created by Indiana-born Howard Arden Edwards, a self-taught artist, anthropologist and lover of Native American culture, according to our local newspaper. Edwards was also a theatrical set painter, a college instructor, and a daredevil and circus clown.

He acquired the property under the Homestead Act and in 1928 began building a home among the boulders of Piute Butte.
One of the ceiling panels.

The upper floor was dubbed the Antelope Valley Indian Research Museum, an area where Edwards displayed his collection of prehistoric and historic American Indian artifacts. According to the museum's website, Edwards interpreted his items in a way that he thought would be instructive and entertaining for visitors. Some of his imaginative descriptions can still be seen in displays in the museum's upper gallery, now called California Hall.
California Hall.
While his collecting methods were, to be polite, controversial, Edwards did amass a remarkable collection.
You can see how the home was built on the rock cropping.

In 1939, Grace Wilcox Oliver bought the home. Oliver added to the collection and turned some of the rooms into exhibit areas. It's my understanding - and if anyone knows different, please let me know - that Edwards came back and provided additional art work for the museum during Oliver's tenure as owner. It's also my understanding that the museum was, briefly, a dude ranch at one point.

 The museum would eventually become part of the state park system in 1979. Schave credits Edra Moore, the museum's first state employee, and current curator Peggy Ronning for turning the site from "curiosity roadside attraction into a proper state museum."
"The museum really is a work of art," Schave said.

Here's how the museum's website describes its collection: "In the 1980s, the State Parks designated the museum as a regional Indian museums, representing the cultures of the western Great Basin (east and southeast of the Sierra Nevada Mountains). Material culture from local archaeological discoveries is occasionally added to the collections."
One must have the right neck wear for a wooing.

In won't be another 20 years before I go back. In fact, I might be back there on Dec. 14. The museum is hosting "Holidays on the Homestead" from 5 to 8 p.m. that evening. The museums' website says the event is an "old-time country holiday celebration" The event is expected to include a chili cook-off, a country craft boutique, homestead-era holiday d├ęcor, and cowboy songs and poetry performed around a blazing bonfire.

Again, from the website: Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for ages 6-12, and ages 5 and under are free. Only cash or checks will be accepted for event admission and boutique purchases. The event is a fundraiser for the non-profit Friends of the Antelope Valley Indian Museum, which is helping to keep the museum open.
 The museum is located in northeastern Los Angeles County. It is 17 miles east of the Antelope Valley Freeway (State Highway 14), on Avenue M, between 150th and 170th Street East. Go East on Avenue K or Palmdale Boulevard and follow the signs to the museum. Or exit Pearblossom Highway (138) at 165th Street East and travel North.

(as you're going down 150th, you might notice a gas station and cafe that kind of looks familiar. That's Club Ed, a film set that's been used in scores of TV shows, movies, and commercials)

The Antelope Valley Indian Museum is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Admission is $3 for adults (cash or checks only).

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Cars and Coca Cola

Sorry about the delay, but various commitments and ailments have kept me away - and right as I was promising more posts. Sigh. One way to guarantee you won't write is to promise you will. As Yoda would say, do or do not. There is no try.

Here's a couple cheapies, but goodies, for you.

A while back, Kim and I visited the Nethercutt Museum, which has an amazing collection of vintage cars. The Nethercutt, located in Sylmar, has two buildings - the museum and the collection, which has very limited days and hours and can only be seen through a guided tour. We're saving the collection for another day.

According the Nethercutt's website, the museum showcases more than 130 of the world’s greatest antique, vintage, classic and special interest automobiles including many top winners of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

Among the treasures spanning four floors in the collection’s original facility is one of the world’s most outstanding assortments of beautifully restored antique, classic automobiles. They are showcased in an exquisite re-creation of an opulent automotive grand salon of the 1920's and 1930's. An amazing collection of automobile mascots, antique furniture, clocks and watches, and one of the world's finest collections of Mechanical Musical Instruments are displayed in our music room.

A 1955 Austin Healey

The collection was created by J.B Nethercutt, who made his fortune working with his aunt, the founder of Merle Norman Cosmetics.

The collection began in 1956 with the purchase of two cars: a 1936 Duesenberg Convertible Roadster for $5,000, and a 1930 DuPont Town Car for $500, both needing total refurbishing. According to the collection website, Nethercutt ending up taking 18 months and spending over $65,000 to restore the DuPont Town Car. The car would claim the "Best of Show" award at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

The Duesenberg and the DuPont are still part of The Nethercutt Collection.

I wonder if this MG ran better than my wife's car.

Nethercutt opened the museum in 1971, which has been free to the public since its opening. Nethercutt died in 2004 at age 91. The collection website quotes Nethercutt as having said: “The recognition and preservation of beauty has been a major focus of my life. It would suit me well if what people remembered about me was, ‘Where he went, he left beauty behind.’”

I'm no gear head, but I can appreciate beauty and elegance in design. Many of these vehicles are simply stunning. There is also a collection of hood ornaments.

 The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The museum does have reduced holiday hours. It will be closed from Nov. 28 through Dec. 2 and again from Dec. 22 to Jan. 6.

The collection will also be closed on those dates. The viewing of the collection is available Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 10 am. or 1:30 p.m. They recommend make reservations well in advance.

The museum is located at 15151 Bledsoe Street in Slymar. The collection building is right across the street. Visit their website or call (818) 364-6464 for more information.

El Grande de Coca Cola

Not long ago, Kim was telling about a date she had in the 1970s when she saw a comedy called El Grande de Coca Cola at the Roxy. The date was less than satisfying, but the show was fantastic, she said. Almost by magic, a couple of days later I saw discount tickets for a new production of that show by the Ruskin Group Theatre at the Santa Monica Airport.

I snagged a couple of comp tickets ($14 with service charge. Really, Goldstar? $7 a ticket service charge on comps?). With a glass of wine each at the show, our date came to $25.

Set somewhere south of the border, El Grande is about a family putting on an "international" variety show. It features Senor Don Pepe Hernandez (Ron House, who actually appeared in the original run in 1973), in a hairpiece that looks like a small mammal, as the emcee. The troupe is comprised of his family - two man-seeking daughters (Lila Dupree and Nina Brissey) and his two nephews (Aaron Jackson, a rubber-faced actor who reminded me of a young Peter Lorre, and David Lago, an Emmy winner from the soap The Young and the Restless).

The show is a fast-paced, broad slapstick comedy conducted in cognate Spanish. If you don't like physical comedy, stay away. It is 75 minutes of absolute silliness. Afterward, my cheeks hurt from laughing so much.

Hopefully, that date was much more satisfying than her first at that show.

As of this writing, Goldstar has discount tickets ranging from comp to $12.50 for shows on Dec. 6 and Dec. 7.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Halloween and L.A. at Great Heights

Our latest date was a mix of splurges and freebies. And it was quintessentially L.A.
The view from the 34th floor of the Bonaventure

Kim and I had planned to spend Halloween night at the Cicada Club from the moment we heard they were throwing a party. We decided to build a long weekend around the event.

For our base, we chose the Biltmore, just up Olive Street from Cicada and the hotel where we spent our honeymoon. We love the Biltmore, which is celebrating its 90th anniversary. If you're looking for a spectacular room, this is not the hotel for you. If you looking for history, for beauty, and, for the lack of a better term, "L.A.-ness," the place to go is the Biltmore.

The Biltmore has hosted prohibition bashes, the Academy Awards,  presidents, and the Beatles. Its been featured in scores of movies and TV shows. In fact, of the three times we've stayed their, there was filming on two visits, the first was for the TV show 24 and this time Pierce Brosnan and Selma Hayek were there filming a movie called How to Make Love Like an Englishman.

We were able to use to get a room for $160 a night. Had I acted sooner, I could have gotten the room for $120, but I waited to pull the trigger. Lesson One: be ready to act when you see a deal.

One other quick word on the Biltmore and rates. The second time we went there, we took advantage of their "Now, Then, and Again" package which included an afternoon tea and a walking tour of the hotel offered by the L.A. Conservancy. I mention this because the package is being offered now starting at $200. The Victorian Tea alone is $45 a person. The package is only good for Saturday night stays. Definitely worth considering.
A great place to see the lights is the 34th floor lounge

After Kim finished teaching her last class of the week, we headed to downtown L.A. and checked in. After a quick nap, it was off to the party. Cicada, once again, was awesome. The idea was this was a Halloween party in the 1930s. Most people got the idea and ran with it. Costumes included Charlie Chaplin, an aviator whose date came as the airplane, Cleopatra, a newsie (who held onto his newspapers all night long), Gomez and Morticia (the comic debut in '38 so it was in keeping with the theme), Bonnie and Clyde, and a 30s movie director.
We opted to go Venetian Carnival this year.

A few people didn't quite get the idea, like the greaser, the Star Trek guy (we can let him slide because the band's bass player was dressed in Spock ears and had a Star Fleet emblem on his shirt), and a couple that looked like they came off the set of Mad Men (they got a pass too because they had the look down and were freakin' beautiful). You can see some of the costumes on this video on Vimeo.

I won't go into detail on the party. You can check my earlier post on Cicada to get a feel for the night.

 After sleeping in Friday morning, we headed out to Grand Park to see the altars set up for Dia de los Muertos. There is almost always something going on in Grand Park and that something is always free. During the week, the park offers yoga classes, lunchtime concerts, and, on Tuesdays, a farmers market. Their next major event there is a New Year's Day celebration, but they do keeping adding to the calendar.

After viewing the altars, we made our way to City Hall. The public entrance is on the Main Street. After going through security and getting visitor stickers, we took an express elevator to the 22nd floor and then caught another to the 26th floor, which has portraits of the city's mayors going back decades.

Up one more floor is the main attraction - an observation deck. On this particular day, the air quality was fairly good, allowing us to see almost to the ocean. If you're downtown on a weekday, this is something you need to check out.

After lunch, we headed back to the Biltmore for a swim. The Biltmore's pool was modeled after the luxury ocean liners of the day. There is beautiful tile work depicting mermaids and Neptune.

Our dinner was a bit of splurge, but the setting is one of the most romantic in all of Los Angeles - the revolving cocktail lounge on the 34th floor of the Bonaventure. We arrived about a half hour before sunset and then enjoyed a leisurely meal while watching the sunset and then the lights of the city coming on as night arrived.
My little mermaid

As I said, it was a bit of splurge. A small pizza, fries, and a couple of beers apiece set us back (with tip) nearly $80. But remember, you are paying for the setting and the sights.

So there's two great ways to see the city from great heights - the City Hall observation deck for free and the revolving 34th floor cocktail lounge, which could set you back quite bit depending on what you eat and drink.

Love the tiles and colors of the Biltmore pool
Our long weekend ended on Saturday with a visit to Olvera Street, which was packed for Dia de los Muertos festivities. We came, however, to see the America Tropical mural.

The mural was painted by David Alfaro Siqueiros, described by the people at the mural's interpretive center as being an artist who believed wanted his work to be reflective of the environment where it was created.

He had been commissioned to paint a tropical scene, which everyone thought would a tranquil scene. What Siqueiros painted was a crucified Indian peasant surmounted by an American eagle. It generated outrage and within a couple of years it was given a whitewashing. A few years later another coating of whitewash was applied.
The view from the observation platform.

In 1988, the Getty Conservation Institute and the City of Los Angeles began an effort to revive the mural. It was only just last fall that the mural was seen by the public for the first time since the 1930s. The whitewash has slowly been removed. Lacking color photographs of what the mural looked like, it was not repainted. What you see is Siqueiros' original work.

What it looked like in the 30s
Admission to the mural is free, but the interpretive center hours are limited to 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. The interpretive center is in the Sepulveda House, 125 Paseo de La Plaza.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hollywood Bites

For our very first Hollywood tour, Kim and I decided to eat our way across the sights.

We spent a recent Saturday on Sites and Bites, a food tour of Hollywood offered by TOURific Escapes. Trish Procetto and her husband Matt Rubenstein own the company. Both had lost their jobs during the recession (he was a corporate pilot; she worked for Mattel) and have since re-invented themselves as tour guides.

Trish, talking about the prints at Gauman Chinese Theater

“I want out guests to feel like they have been taken care of for four hours,” Trish said.

The tour group met in the Roosevelt Hotel, built in 1927 and financed by a group that included Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and Louis B. Mayer. The hotel was the site of the very first Academy Awards in 1929. It was also the home for a couple of years of Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn supposedly still haunts the hotel.

The hotel’s pool was the site of Marilyn’s first magazine shoot. Today, the pool is popular with young hard bodies. If you want to stroke your libido – or feel bad about your body – go check out the pool.

We start out on foot, crossing Hollywood Boulevard to visit Grauman’s Chinese Theater (technically, it is now called the TCL Chinese Theater). I’ve been by this place dozens of times, but never stopped to look at all the names, handprints, and footprints in the cement in front of the theater.
One for the Potter fans.

The prints include the bare feet of Shirley Temple, the droid footprints of R2D2 and 3CPO, an inscription from Humphrey Bogart that reads “Sid may you never die till I kill you,” the horseshoes of Trigger, and the glasses of Harold Lloyd.

The area is filled with people dressed as characters from movies or as movie stars, hustling bucks from tourists wanting a photo. I hear the going rate is $5 a shot. I heard one family got snookered for $20. I prefer just to watch. One of the odd sites of that day was seeing Chewbacca walking into the coffee shop across the street.

Our first food stop was Crumbs Bake Shop for cupcakes. The place is right next to Muhammad Ali’s star on the Walk of Fame, which has the distinction being the only star mounted on a wall rather than on the sidewalk. Trish said the star was mounted off the ground for religious reasons. A People magazine story quoted the champ as saying he didn’t want people who didn’t respect him trampling on his name.

Our next stop was the Dolby Theater, formerly the Kodak Theater, and the site of the Academy Awards ceremonies. We posed for shots on the staircase the stars use in entering the awards ceremony and then headed up for a view of the Hollywood sign.

From the Dolby, we took a van to our next food stop, a new Mexican place on Hollywood Boulevard, the Loteria Grill. We all sat at the bar so we could see the cooks prepare our food fresh. We had chicken and pork on tortillas with fresh guacamole.
Loteria is the creation of Jimmy Shaw, who was born in Mexico City. Shaw started the restaurant, initially as a stand at the Farmer’s Market in Los Angeles, to provide authentic regional Mexican food, rather than Cal-Mex or Tex-Mex food.
The photo doesn't do it justice. This was awesome.

At Loteria we sampled beef and pork staco, chicken sopes, chips & guacamole and homemade lemonade.

The food was great and this is now on my radar for anytime we’re in Hollywood and looking for a bite.

Our other food stops include:

- Mozza2Go, a pizzeria on Melrose with a clientele that includes everyday Joes, soccer moms, and movie stars. We sampled the Margherita, Aglia Olio (garlic & oil) and salami pizzas.

- Greenblatt’s Deli, a combination liquor store (an extremely well stocked one at that) and deli on Sunset near the Laugh Factory. The place is cattycorner from the offices of the Directors Guild and apparently is frequented by Hollywood types making deals and writing scripts. One of our waiters that day had some minor TV credits, including getting staked in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The deli makes a fantastic pastrami sandwich. We also had coleslaw, pickle spears (crisp ones. I hate wimpy pickles), and black-cherry soda. Definitely one of the highlights of the day.
Great pastrami.

- John Kelly Chocolates. Oh. My. God. Great. John Kelly (named for its two owners, John Kelson and Kelly Green) is a chocolatier to stars and movers and shakers. While we were there, the only name they dropped was Hilary Clinton, but I’m sure their clientele are well-heeled. We sampled a variety of truffle fudge flavors, including some topped with sea salt. Quite good. You do pay premium prices for their chocolate (prices go down the more you buy), but it is well worth it.

- Mashti Malone’s, a Persian ice cream shop. They get points for having unusual flavors, including herbal snow and pomegranate.

Sights along the way included the elementary school Michael Jackson attended (it now as an auditorium bearing his name), the Viper Room (where River Phoenix O.D.), and the Capitol Records building. Much of the tour is spent along Hollywood Boulevard, Sunset, and Melrose.

If you’re looking to explore Hollywood, whether you’re a tourist or a local, this tour is a great alternative to slew of buses and vans driving around Hollywood.
Bad photo. Guess I have to back and shoot again.

The Sites and Bites tour is offered Wednesday to Saturday. It normally costs $99 a person, but they are offering it for $85 this fall. Kids under 10 are $59. For more information about this tour and others, check out their website:

Another great site

One of my favorite blogs to tap for date ideas is The blog’s author, Jolene, decided she wasn’t going to sit around and be bored, so she went out exploring L.A. Her goal is to come with up 365 outings. She’s over 270 now.

She just recently announced that she and her family were moving to Hawaii, but vowed to continue the blog until she reached 365.

The blog can be searched by month or by neighborhood. The outings run from hikes to major attractions to offbeat curiosities. She just recently had a baby, so the newer entries are family focused and a bit brief.

There’s a gold mine of ideas here and definitely worth checking out.

Quick hits:

Opera. Goldstar has discounts available for a few of the performances of L.A. Opera’s production of Verdi's Falstaff. Haven’t seen this yet, but it is on our schedule. It’s described as an “unabashed celebration of Merrie Olde England's lusty days and bawdy nights.” Goldstar has tix ranging from $31 to $203 (normally $52 to $270).

Aerial act. Mental Head Circus will be performing Nov. 10 and Nov. 15 at the King King Club, 6555 Hollywood. It’s a mix of aerial acts, vaudeville, and cabaret. Kim and I saw this a few months back (lucky me, I had won tickets for it). We found the acts to be both amazing and sexy. The show we saw could have used a dramatist to pull the various threads together, but still it was a great night. Goldstar has discount tickets for $20 and $30 (normally $40 and $60).

Crime and literary tours. I’ll be writing soon about our latest outing, a trip on Esotouric’s Raymond Chandler tour. We’ve done two of their tours now, Chandler and The Black Dahlia. Both were great. Tour guides Richard, Kim, and Joan are well versed in the seedy side of Los Angeles. There’s a couple of Esotouric tours coming up in November, their Charles Bukowski: Haunts of a Dirty Old Man (Nov. 9) and their East Side Babylon (Nov. 16) crime tours. There are discounts available from Goldstar that brings the price down from $58 a person to $29 (not counting Goldstar’s fee).

Another plug for Muse/Ique. As of this writing, Goldstar still had discount tickets for the next entry in Muse/Ique’s Uncorked series, "Girl/Band," which will be held Nov. 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the Avon Distribution Center, 2940 East Foothill Blvd. Tickets are $50 each, but Goldstar has them for $20 (with their fees, it'll be closer to $25). From what we saw of the series opener, that's a good value for your entertainment dollar.

This group also does music outreach to foster kids. We recently met Julie Rogers, the team leader for the outreach program and a violinist. She is an absolute delight. 

The program for "Girl/Band" will open with a screening of the documentary "Girls in the Band," directed by Judy Chaikin. The documentary traces the history of all-girl bands from the 1930s through present day, exposing sexism and racism faced by the women who have broken through primarily male music bastions.
A performance by "fiery female jazz musicians" will cap the program.

Charles and Vaud. I continue to promote two of our favorites, Charles Phoenix and Vaud and the Villains. Both have shows on tap over the next few weeks. If you’re looking for a unique way to view the holidays, check out Charles’ annual holiday slideshow. If you want to be blown away by a great band, Vaud and the Villains will gladly punch your ticket.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

MUSE/IQUE and Raymond Chandler

Just a couple of quick items today.

In my last post I mentioned MUSE/IQUE’s November Uncorked series. I just found out about a more immediate show, this Monday, Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. at Pandora on the Green, 33 West Green Street in Pasadena. The show, a Motown-inspired concert, is also a benefit for Union Station Homeless Services, a San Gabriel Valley social services organization that provides assistance to the homeless and low-income families.

The show will feature Motown mashups by MUSE/IQUE, Pasadena's "counter conventional" orchestra led by conductor and artistic director Rachael Worby, the legendary Ellis Hall (formerly of Tower of Power) and an energetic lineup of virtuoso Motown musicians, artists and guest stars. Tickets include hors d'oeuvres and a dessert reception.

As of this writing, Goldstar had tickets for $20 (plus their fee).

Kim and I have now gone to two MUSE/IQUE events and enjoyed both. We are also very impressed with the organization’s KIDS/IQUE! Program, which brings live music to foster kids. This is the description from the organization’s website: “We visit foster care facilities throughout the season and ask the children to join us for each show because their presence and spirit enriches our audience and diversifies the energy of every live performance.”

Kim and I met KIDS/IQUE! program team leader, and MUSE/IQUE violinist, Julie Rogers at a recent dinner. She is an absolute delight – and a rocking musician as well.
Julie Rogers

MUSE/IQUE is just a little over two years old now. I’m looking forward to seeing this organization grow and reach more kids.

Here again is the information about the November show:

The next entry in the Uncorked series, "Girl/Band," which will be held Nov. 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the Avon Distribution Center, 2940 East Foothill Blvd. Tickets are $50 each, but Goldstar has them for $20 (with their fees, it'll be closer to $25).

The program for "Girl/Band" will open with a screening of the documentary "Girls in the Band," directed by Judy Chaikin. The documentary traces the history of all-girl bands from the 1930s through present day, exposing sexism and racism faced by the women who have broken through primarily male music bastions.

A performance by "fiery female jazz musicians" will cap the program.

Raymond Chandler

Want to go on a date with us? We’re cashing in another of Kim’s tour gift certificates, this time to go on Esotouric’s Raymond Chandler tour this Saturday. As it turns out, Goldstar happens to have discount tickets for this one: $29 (again, not including Goldstar’s fees). The regular price is $58.

We did Esotouric’s Black Dahlia tour awhile back and had a great time. Tour guides Richard Schave, Kim Cooper, and Joan Renner are very knowledgeable about Los Angeles - its literary figures and its crimes. You'll see mentions of them and Esotouric in the LA Times and Los Angeles magazine. The tour will hit such sites as the Los Angeles Athletic Club, the Larry Edmunds Bookshop, the Hotel Van Nuys, Paramount Studio’s gates, and a Chandler-themed gelato stop.