Sunday, April 29, 2007

Star Sighting of the Week: Wm. Shatner

In which we veritably scream (on the inside), Captain Kirk, holy cow!

So I'm getting my coffee at the very fashionable coffee house called Aroma Café in Tujunga Village just about an hour ago. In front of me in line is a broadly-built man medium height, with short, wiry salt and pepper hair, wearing a rather tatty red (or was it blue?) T-shirt, black track pants and Tevo scandals. I can't see his face as he's got his back to me.

I'm always kind of disgusted with the slovenly way people dress when they come to this very nice, and rather upper-crust, establishment. I know it's early Sunday morning but still, it's Sunday morning. Does "Sunday best" mean nothing anymore? I guess not. Ciao, civilization. We hardly knew ya.

Anyway, the fellow is further irritating me by negotiating, at length, with the young man behind the counter for an egg dish that's not on the menu. I hate that. But the fellow's voice is familiar, like that of someone I've known for years, but with that grumbly, phlegmatic, early morning growl to it. Suddenly, it dawns on me that that I might be irritated at William Shatner (I never forget a voice), but I dismiss that notion as I've never seen him in the 'hood and no one has told me he lives nearby*.

Finally, another counter-jumper -- the pretty, dark-eyed one (you know who I mean) -- comes the rescue and motions me over to the register, so that I'm now standing abreast of the mysterious stranger. I glance over, do a double-take, and stare. Sure enough, Captain Kirk, with puffy it's-too-early-in-the-morning-eyes, is standing right next to me.

Inside, my hearts skips and beat. I turn back to the counter girl who flashes a knowing smile: she's caught me with my mouth agape. Beaming to be in The Presence, I order my coffee. She serves it up and says, "Have a great morning!"

I say, "Thanks! I already have!"

She says, "Alright!"

Had it been anybody else, even someone like Quentin Tarantino or Madonna, I'd have shrugged it off. But it was Captain Kirk! In his grubbies! Wearing sandals! Ordering eggs! Irritating me!

I mean, William Shatner has, in a sense, been with me all of my life. First on Star Trek TOS (The Original Series), on T.J. Hooker (with flashbacks to The Outer Limits and about a million other guest-starrings throughout the '60s and '70s), and then as the captain of the new Enterprise (NCC-1701-A) of the movies -- Khaaaann! -- and lately as the spokesperson for, as himself in a wonderfully self-deprecating part in Free Enterprise, and as a delightfully smarmy lawyer on Boston Legal. He's always been there, somewhere. Above all, he's always been Kirk, commander of the Starship Enterprise, the man who boldly goes where no man has gone before... and captures the imagination.

Hurray for this Little Hollywood… this little Studio City.

*Addendum: A coeval at the office tells me that Mr. Shatner, in fact, lives right up the hill from me. Expect a picture or two, soon, though not an address.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Travels North

In which we visit the old town and some old friends

Cupid's Bow & Bay Bridge

Flew up to old 'Frisco last week for a little R&R mixed with a little business. The occasion that took me north on the company dime was the Web 2.0 Expo at Moscone West, April 15 to 18, but I went up a day early to spend time with friends in Bagdad-by-the-Bay.

Pleased I was to see that the new BART extension to the airport had been completed and took the train into the city. From Civic Center Station I took the Muni Metro to Castro Street Station where, after getting a quick pop in the Twin Peaks bar, caught a taxi to my friends' new flat in the Western Addition, where I was to spend the night. It had rained hard earlier in the day, causing my flight to be delayed. I was glad of it later, however, as the rain had washed all the smog and fog away, leaving the sky a crisp, crystalline blue -- a rare and wonderful thing in San Francisco. It gives the city a magical light.

Dave & AliciaAlicia and Dave are old friends. I lived with them in Oakland a while before moving to Alameda. They moved back to the city earlier this year after getting a sweetheart move-in deal from a friend. (It's the only way people not investment bankers or born rich can afford San Francisco anymore.) Theirs is a lovely, classic S.F. Victorian railroad flat, complete with bay window, all decorated in Alicia's funky-retro style and Dave's own original artwork. And they have three adorable little terriers plus two cats.

We hung out a while and chatted and then I went over to Golden Gate Park to look at the new De Young Museum, designed by Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron. It looks like an aircraft carrier that's been hit by an Exocet missile. Over time it is supposed to aquire a green patina that will make it blend with its surroundings. Until then they should just call it the Nimitz.

De Young

It's spacious and nicely lit inside, however, and brings off the collections quite nicely. Across the way, the Academy of Sciences & Steinhart Aquarium is undergoing renovation and redesign by second-string hipster architect, Renzo Piano (who is also re-doing the LACMA). The new roof was being installed which is made of living turf. Talk about blending in. The heck with green patinas. Just go for the sod.

We supped that night at S.F's Luna Park and afterward attended a tango concert by Tango No. 9. The music was beautifully accompanied by tango dancers. Damned sexy, that. My friend Catherine plays violin in the band, so you should by one of their CDs. Catherine's husband, Mitchel and her son, the Schmee (almost 3), also looked in.

We were met at the show by Annie Wilson. Annie runs a fashion-related weblog called Poetic & Chic and is a fan of my column, The Sophistocrat, on A former marketeer for Louis Vuitton, she's now with Williams Sonoma. Oh, and she's a charming gal with a great sense of humor, one that packs a wallop. She's also a tri-athlete.

After the show we headed into the dark underbelly of the Tenderloin for cocktails at Bourbon & Branch, a speakeasy-style den that requires reservations and a secret password. It's partly the brainchild of Todd Smith, the former maitre'd of Enrico's fame, and a host and night-life entrepreneur of singular merit. I sipped a few vodka, cucumber and mint cocktails based my own Ketel One Special Gimlet, which I had invented while keeping bar at Enrico's back in another life. Hilarity ensued.

Stache's for everyoneNext day, with only a slight hangover, I checked into the Hotel Adagio, near the conference center, and did a little work and later some shopping. That evening I motored over to the East Bay with Alicia and Dave to enjoy barbecue with the Talley family (Mr. Ted, Kristen, Olivia & wee little Kevin) and a few other friends, including Catherine, Mitchel and Ely, mentioned above as the Schmee, and Beth.

pthpthpthpth!That morning Alicia, Dave and I had gone out and bought little gifties for the kiddies, which included a set of false mustaches. Hilarity again ensued when these were brought out, but mostly among the adults.

Tango No. 9
Rating: ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠
What's not to like about the slippery, sensuous music of "the dance of love?" I may be a little bias here, but I think Tango No. 9's the bee's knees. Sue me.

Bourbon & Branch
(Call for location)
Rating: ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠
The best fresh-made cocktails in town in an atmosphere that would make Walt Disney green with envy. And I worked for the bastard (Walt, I mean), so I know.

The New De Young Museum
Rating: ♠ ♠
50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive,
Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

While the space is nice and the tower view compelling, the old museum set off the collection just as well and without all the pretension. And the damned thing looks like the Nimitz from the outside. Don't get me wrong, I like the Nimitz. But why would you house a collection of largely 19th century art in an aircraft carrier?

Spending Time with Great Old Friends in Baghdad-by-the-Bay
Rating: ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

So Long, Kurt

In which we say goodbye...

Breakfast of Champions was my first. Slaughterhouse Five and others came after in short order. I remember the first time I cracked Breakfast of Champions.

This is a tale of a meeting of two lonesome, skinny, fairly old white men on a planet which was dying fast.

I must have been in the 7th or 8th grade. The neighbor kid from across the street, who was a little older than me, had read me a few passages both dark and funny. He loaned it to me. I was hooked immediately. I read on, amazed, because I'd never known that anyone could write this way and still have it considered literature, let alone art. Before then my literary education had been Tolkien, a little science fiction and whatever "young adult" drivel they tried to shove down my throat at school. Literature had seemed so high sounding -- even the science fiction -- full of big values and grand themes. I still love that kind of literature, too, but Vonnegut helped me to look at the world in a new, perhaps more personal and less abstract way.

I'll miss the old bastard. You will , too.

Ciao, Kurt. If there's a heaven, I hope you're eating your breakfast of champions with Isaac Asimov and Hunter S. Thompson and the rest.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Southland Oddities: The World's Most Beautiful House

Or not

Most Beautiful House
That's what I dubbed this place after I first saw it a few weeks after moving to the Southland back in 2004: The World's Most Beautiful House. But it was already known among Angelenos as the House of David, and it sits on a corner of 3rd street near Rossmore in Hancock Park. The current owners have really pimped this Zsa-Zsa Gabor-style '50s ranch house in true Greek Renaissance style, with a veritable parade of copies of Michelangelo's David, ornate grill work, Ionic columns that hold up nothing, and busts of Roman Emperors.

Often parked out front is an SUV painted an iridescent orange and purple -- sweet! To top it all off, at Christmas time they cover the lawn with faux snow and give all the Davids Santa caps. Don't believe me? Check out Ken McCown's pics on Flickr.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Find Arts (in L.A.?)

In which we pimp the launch of a new southland fine arts resource

Friend Christian Chensvold, of fame, where I write a column, has launched a new web venture called The new site will be a comprehensive guide to fine arts in the greater Los Angeles area -- a much-needed resource for all of us artsy-fartsy types who need an upper-crust breather from the constant pop-culture pounding that comes out of the Hollyweird machine. will cover classical music, opera, ballet and dance, museums and galleries, and all the other tony, high fallutin' stuff that goes on down here but is roundly ignored by the mainstream press and media. (And there's a surprising lot of it going on.)

Last night with Chenners I attended the Los Angeles Ballet in its inaugural season for a performance of Ballanchine dances that included Stravinsky's "Agon." It was damned fine and tightly danced with some truly stand-out performances. I only yawned once. I look forward to many more such evenings in the future.

Southlanders should visit early and often. Be sure to utilize the calendar function in the right column, which has all the important dates all in one place.