Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swanky

 
My friend from Lexington, Kentucky, Pam Taylor, was visiting Los Angeles this week for a conference. She slipped away from the conference on Tuesday and we went to the coffee shop at the Beverly Hills Hotel for lunch. It was great catching up with Pam and I always welcome an excuse for lunch at one of the best counters in LA.
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They still have the over-the-top banana leaf wallpaper up.
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Monday, April 27, 2009

Theatre Obsessives, Get in Line


Last week I went to the ArcLight movie theater in Hollywood to see "Every Little Step," a new documentary about the musical "A Chorus Line."

Focusing on the recent Broadway revival, this documentary follows several dancers as they audition for a role in the musical (which is about dancers auditioning for a role in a musical -- very meta!)

The film also includes footage from the original "A Chorus Line" as well as interviews with production staff and cast members (like the incomparable Donna McKechnie -- the original "Cassie.")

It's heartbreaking to watch some performers not make the cut and thrilling to see some make it to the Great White Way. I found it especially touching because I remember seeing several of them on stage when I caught the recent Broadway revival.
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Thursday afternoon I had lunch with GeezBob at one of Los Angeles' classic Mexican restaurants -- El Cholo.

Such great food! Opened in the 1920s, El Cholo is going strong despite the economy.

It's a little hard for me to believe I first went there nearly 30 years ago, in 1980. One of my political mentors, Roman Buhler, used to enjoy having "strategy sessions" at El Cholo, not far from the USC campus. At the time, those dinners just seemed like the "height of sophistication" to me. (Getting served margaritas at 17 years of age probably didn't hurt my opinion of the place either.)
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Saturday afternoon I stopped off at the Southern California Junior Statesmen Spring State Convention. It's always energizing to see high school students interested in political issues.

I sat in on a debate: Resolved, the legalization of marijuana should be an issue left up entirely to the states.

It was fascinating to watch the main speakers trying to figure out how to persuade the crowd to their side.

The main Pro speaker, Matthew Hanson of Marywood-Palm Valley High School, started out by trying to change the subject. He argued the debate wasn't about whether marijuana should be legal or not, instead he wanted to discuss the importance of states' rights. (OK, he gets points in the Junior Statesmen scorebook for that -- but it was clear that "states' rights" was not the reason more than 100 students picked this debate to attend out of the 7 debates happening at the same time.)

The main Con speaker, Nadia Mokhtari of Burroughs High School, didn't take the bait and shrewdly ignored the states' rights issue. Instead she went with a myriad of reasons the federal government should decriminalize marijuana and had the crowd in the palm of her hand. (Given the age demographics of the room it was a pretty pro-pot crowd.)

Hanson, in his closing remarks, astutely recognizing he was getting creamed completely changed his arguments and went with the notion that the federal government will never legalize marijuana and instead, we the brilliant people of the great State of California should take the matter into our own hands and take care of it for ourselves -- we shouldn't have to wait for the federal government to legalize marijuana.

And in a stunning turnaround, the audience voted something like 120 to 10 in favor of the resolution.

I was impressed!
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Saturday night I went to the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood to see "The Seafarer" by Conor McPherson, starring John Mahoney.

This Irish play certainly was better than most of the Geffen's recent presentation, unfortunately that's not setting the bar very high.

Lots of swearing and drinking seems like such an Irish cliche. I really can't explain why this show was nominated for a Tony for Best Play in 2008. Must have been a weak year.
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Monday, April 20, 2009

Ethel Merman's Cameo in Airplane

Tips for Managing a Tough Interview

A Search for Reality


Last night I went to see Octavio Solis' unsettling new play "Lydia" at the Mark Taper Forum.

Previously performed at the Denver Center Theater and the Yale Repertory Theater, this is a show I don't think I'll forget for a long time.

Set in El Paso in the 1970s, it's about a dysfunctional family of first and second generation Mexican immigrants completely thrown off-balance when their their teenage daughter is seriously injured in a car accident. With a daughter left in a near-vegetable state, they hire a young illegal immigrant (Lydia) to provide household help. And then the secrets start to come out....

Beautifully written, the play, at times, is almost dream-like as the daughter, Ceci, reverts from her condition to narrating the story.

Many of the performers are new to Los Angeles, having originated their roles in the show in Denver.

The ending is so startling the audience just sat in the dark for a few seconds before beginning to applaud. The young woman sitting in front of me was so affected by the play she sat with her head in her lap crying as the audience left the auditorium, comforted by her mother.

Good live theater has the power to touch the soul unlike any other medium.
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Before the show GeezBob and I visited "L.A. Live," the new entertainment complex next to the Staples Center and the Nokia Theater in downtown Los Angeles.

The developers have touted their creation as a new Times Square for Los Angeles. How rare for someone in public relations to overreach.

Opening a handful of restaurants and bars and laying down some flat concrete does not a "Times Square" make.

For folks heading to Staples or the Nokia Theater who want more than stadium nachos, L.A. Live offers some options. But I can't imagine why anyone else would ever go there.
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We had dinner at "The Farm of Beverly Hills," one of the new restaurants at L.A. Live.

It's one of those small chain-corporate restaurants where nothing is "wrong" with the experience but at the same time it's completely uninteresting and bland.

Yes, the food was hot and the service was good. It was overpriced. Just like restaurants at hundreds of malls across America. Eat up, suckers.
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The restaurant is filled with interesting doo-dads from farm life. For instance, this scale was placed in the middle of the large dining table next to ours. Unfortunately, these real farming artifacts just make the restaurant seem even more fake.
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Thursday, April 16, 2009

One Way Journey


Had a good lunch today with GeezBob at Cassell's, one of the last old-fashioned burger joints in the mid-Wilshire section of Los Angeles.

When I first moved back from Washington, DC to Los Angeles I lived two blocks away, but it's been years since I've been to Cassell's. It's still good, but a little dirtier than I remember.

You order at the grill and push your tray down the counter. After you get your sandwich you pass by the "buffet" on the way to the cashier. The "buffet" consists of burger condiments (all home-made at Cassell's), potato salad, cottage cheese, pineapple chunks and peach halves. Big signs warn: only one trip through the buffet, so don't even think about going back for more peach halves.
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Supposedly the secret to Cassell's excellent hamburgers is their adjustable, slanted broiler. The chef raises it to put the beef near the flame and lowers it to removed the cooked burger. Since the cooking surface is slanted the grease runs off.
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Monday, April 13, 2009

End of the Line

For the first time since 1991 I didn't go to Opening Day today at Dodger Stadium.

I'm completely burned out on the Dodgers. Their new owners -- Frank and Judy McCourt -- are transparently greedy in the way they are running the business. Prices are completely out of control. The crowds are unruly and they keep stuffing more and more people into the same space (a record 57,099 today).

Who cares if they beat the San Francisco Giants 11 to 1 and a Dodger (Orlando Hudson) hit for the Cycle -- the first Dodger to do so since 1970. Oh well!

I'll still listen to games on the radio if I'm in the car and occasionally turn on the game on TV, but I have absolutely no interest in spending my money to go to Dodger Stadium.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Snacktime

Note to self: Swimming with the dolphins -- good idea. Swimming with the polar bears -- bad idea.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Word of the Day: Coulrophobia

I feel a little bad about myself for finding this so hilarious. Of course, I also feel bad for Mr. Giggles.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Out and About


Saw an interesting play -- "The Prodigal Father" -- Saturday night at the Celebration Theater in Hollywood.

Lots of Daddy issues!

An older redneck man, with the beginning stages of Alzheimer's, shows up at his son's Chicago apartment and announces, "I'm living here now." A lifetime of suppressed emotions are released.
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GeezBob and I had a great lunch Thursday at the H.M.S. Bounty -- one of the last "two-martini lunch" spots left in mid-Wilshire (which used to be filled with them).

I probably haven't been to the Bounty in more than 10 years (though I used to live around the corner from it between 1989 and 1994). The food was a lot better than I remember it being.

Friday, April 03, 2009

A Three Hour Tour

Mary Ann from Gilligan's Island demonstrates how to peel a potato without using a potato peeler.