Saturday, April 23rd at the 2005 L.A.Times Festival of Books -
My husband surprised me with a huge bouquet of mixed flowers, and my favorite German chocolate cake from Gelson's.
My daughter even picked some flowers for me and gave me all her orange Skittles, because she doesn't like them so much but knows they're my favorite flavor in the bag.
For dinner, we made our own pizza, including the dough, from scratch. I bought most of the ingredients (mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, parmesean, romano and marinara sauce) from Cavaretta's Deli ( 22045 Sherman Way, Canoga Park 818-340-6626), but made our dough from scratch (It takes a while, but well worth it) and cooked it on our pizza stone. It was spectacular!! ( the pizza tasted way better than it looks)
April 23, 2005
Creative Nonfiction Panel -
Saturday morning, I received one of the last tickets for the creative nonfiction panel, consisting of authors Patricia Hampl, Michael Dirda, Ann Patchett, Mark Salzman and Joe Lelyveld.
Listening to these well spoken, interesting and witty authors was so inspiring and informative that an audience member even asked the panel, "Do you find writing to be a form of therapy, because you all seem so incredibly healthy and articulate?" True. All of them spoke only pithy, pertinent pearls of wisdom (Oh, I love alliteration!) worthy of wrapping quotes around...but of course, I arrived without a pen.
Bullwinkle's Rocky -
After getting some spicy tuna rolls with extra wasabi and chopsticks, I sat down for lunch on a lawn right next to the stage where June Foray (the voice of Rocky the Squirrel from "Rocky And Bullwinkle" - one of my favorite cartoons, along with "Fractured Fairy Tales") was answering children's questions. One older boy asked, in his best booming Bullwinkle impersonation, "Were you also the voice of Natasha?" to which Ms. Foray responded, "Excuse me?" Then, after hearing the question clearly, she let loose with her deep Russian Natasha voice, "Must get squirrel, Dahlink."
Authors I Met & Books I Bought -
I then walked the campus investigating the different booths, and found Angel City Press's booth, full of California and L.A. related books, where I picked up a copy of "Curbside L.A." by Cecilia Rasmussen.
Next, I bought "Wild L.A.: A Day Hiker's Guide" by John McKinney - a book composed entirely of L.A. County specific hikes, which I'm really excited about since I tend to stick to my usual walking areas: Solstice Canyon, Malibu Creek Park and Stoney Point, to name a few. In the book the author included the distances of each hike, clear details on which directions to take, as well as some great history about each area. (The author, John McKinney, in photo signing my book.)
Then I made a fool out of myself when I saw Marcia Wallace, an actress from one of my favorite shows as a kid, "The Bob Newhart Show," at a book signing table. I asked if I could buy one of her books... Duh! But, in my defense, I was a little flummoxed by seeing someone I grew up watching on T.V. Ms. Wallace was so sweet, she and her equally lovely friend, Carol Wood - writer and webmaster, somehow ended up asking me about my daughter and if I write, and I, of course, was only to happy to answer. But once I left, I glanced down at the book cover of Marica Wallace's book "Don't Look Back We're Not Going That Way!" and read "How I overcame a rocky childhood, a nervous breakdown, breast cancer, widowhood, fat, fire and menopausal motherhood..." I wished I took time to ask her more about herself, rather than gush about the television show she was on decades ago. (Below right, Ms. Wallace having to wait for my camera's three second delay.)
Finally, I thought about attending the Carrie Fisher interview with Sandra Tsing Loh, but then decided to listen to Laurie Notaro read from her new book "We Thought You Would Be Prettier." The self-named "dorkiest girl alive" (Laurie, I can relate!) had the audience howling, while simultaneously dealing with the wind knocking over her book display sign and reading aloud how she resorted to flipping off an 8-year-old summer camp kid at her YMCA. (Laurie Notaro, below)
Every time I see a Woody Allen movie, I hope for a glimmer of Annie Hall, Sleeper, Bananas, Broadway Danny Rose, Radio Days, Hannah And Her Sisters, Husbands And Wives, Crimes And Misdemeanors, Bullets Over Broadway - heck, even Take The Money And Run or Play It Again Sam. Melinda and Melinda was none of them; not even close.
I think I've seen too many Woody Allen movies so that l'm hyper-aware of his characters' perfectly choreographed stutters and quirks; I've seen them in different form over and over again so often that I no longer see real people conveying emotions, but, instead, Woody the puppeteer manipulating the actors with strings from above. The actors' mouths move but I only hear Woody's voice.
I'd read good things about Will Ferrell in this part, but, again, I just see Will playing Woody's nervous character, with all the same nervous ticks, phobias and comic timing; he appeared to be doing a cutesy-neurotic imitation of Woody - imagine Ferrell's Elf character with phobias and a frustrated sex drive.
And the two parallel story lines were no help; neither the tragic version nor the comic version interested me. Melinda as a tragic character didn't get my sympathy. And Melinda's comic version simply seemed crazed and pathetic, and, unfortunately, not too humorous.
Regarding the other actors -
Radha Mitchell: Probably did the best she could with the characters written (both versions of Melinda).
Chloe Sevigny: Has so little charisma, she sapped my energy; every time she appeared on screen my eyes grew heavy and I felt the urge to yawn.
Amanda Peet: Came off as a low-budget Diane Keaton. (note to Woody: There's one Diane Keaton.)
Johnny Lee Miller: What's up with casting him as Chloe Sevigny's husband? His character plays an actor, and is referred to during the film as "the most charismatic actor" during his university days, but he just comes off as a waspy, whiney slime-ball. Wow! Horrible casting there. Who did he sleep with to get that part?
And every other actor was poorly cast, in my opinion, for parts that were all unrealistic and unsympathetic. If these are the type of people (selfish, pompous, whiney wasps) Woody knows in Manhattan, I'm staying in Los Angeles.
When I can feel my butt going numb and begin to wriggle in my seat - as I began doing in the first third of Melinda And Melinda - that means I am aware of my surroundings (I am in a movie theater watching actors struggle), rather than immersed, a disembodied part of the experience, lost in a story. My butt test never fails; if I need to wriggle it, I'm not into the movie. Then I begin noticing the too expensive Manhattan apartment, the stilted speaking, the agitated movements... this was a real butt wriggler!
With all that said, the two women seated next to me seemed to enjoy it. They got quite a few laughs out of Melinda And Melinda's comic portion, but they also reeked of alcohol fumes...which might explain their enthusiasm. Maybe after a couple shots of tequila I, too, would have liked the movie.
Here's Roger Ebert's review of Melinda and Melinda. Ebert seems to believe that Allen's work is beyond the general public's understanding, and only a cinema aficionado such as himself can fully understand the film's nuances and deeper meaning. No, Mr. Ebert, I did understand the concept. I simply didn't like much about it, and not because I was frustrated there was no beginning or ending, as Ebert mentions.
I've been watching a "reality" show on the Style Network called "Hot Spot:The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel," where viewers get to follow the renovation of the Roosevelt Hotel. On last night's show, the people involved in the renovation were patting themselves on the back for a job well done. Cut to: reality - the place is not yet finished.
I went to check out the updated hotel this afternoon hoping to have a drink by the pool, but the bar wasn't even opened; not a bottle nor a glass could I see - only a generous amount of wood dust sprinkled about.
Even without my poolside cocktail, the Roosevelt remains an elegant oasis since the renovators were required to preserve the Roosevelt's historic features; for that, we historic landmark lovers can let out a sigh of relief.
(photo on left, looking through Roosevelt's front door to Hollywood Bl.)
Entering the sedately lit and opulent Spanish Colonial lobby after leaving the blare of noise and
light on Hollywood boulevard, is always, for me, like stepping back into Greta Garbo's era, while the pool area is so light and mid-century modern sleek - I could imagine Marilyn Monroe slink by leaving a trail of Channel No. 5. in her wake.
Walking through the Roosevelt, I'm happy to see it remains an elegant haven amidst glittering sidewalk-stars and imbedded handprints. I just expected that it would be fully completed, as that Style Network show made it seem. But as many things in Hollywood, not everything is quite as it appears on screen - and that's just reality.
(The pool photos show David Hockney's 1980's mural on the bottom of the pool.)
(The two photos above are of the lobby's ceiling, originally painted by A.T. Heinsbergen, and then restored by Heinsbergen's son.)
Last night, my husband said he would go buy "The Godfather" DVD for us to watch if I made an Italian meal to go with it. Since I was only a little kid when the film came out in '72, I - I'm embarassed to admit - had never seen "The Godfather." And since the rain, once again, was coming down, the trade of a meal for a movie sounded like an offer I couldn't refuse.
I returned from Trader Joe's with their unbelievably good prepared dough, some mozzarella, fire roasted tomatoes, basil and a bottle of Italian red wine. After letting the dough sit, I kneaded it into a round, sprinkled on olive oil with pressed garlic, spread on some tomatoes, basil leaves and slices of mozzarella as I sipped some wine, then baked the pizza for a half an hour at 350 degrees. It came out bubbling, golden and crisp, but soft inside...it was, I've got to say, the best pizza I've had in a long time.
While the rain poured, we turned off all the lights, put on "The Godfather," then movie's score swelled out of the darkness. I then became immersed into the life of the Corleones.
I sat silent until baby-faced, ex war-hero Michael Corleone just finished popping bullets into two men in Louis' Restaurant over plates of pasta..."Go, go! Get out-a there! Hurry!" I sat up with clenched fists and yelled at Michael - who stood over the dead men too long.
My husband looked at me like I'd gone over to the dark side. "You realize he just shot two people, right?"
After we turned the lights back on, and pulled the DVD out, I returned to the slightly more rational person he knew. That's also when I remembered we could have had a true mafia meal from a cookbook I picked up at a garage sale called "The Mafia Cookbook," by Joe Cipolla, published in 1970. Inside are recipes with names, such as: Beet It! Pig's Guts dell'Uomo de Fiducia, Bloody Murray, Blood Shots alla Nicola Barone....
Actually, this one - Vermicelli Greaseball - would have been perfect considering it's an initiation dinner and last night I was initiated into the family of "The Godfather." Well, maybe not. But I have been wanting to see that film for thirty years and now I can finally say I have.
Feeling like I finally became an Angeleno when I could merge onto the 101 during rush-hour traffic, without breaking into a sweat and racing heart palpitations.
Getting mugged one late Friday night in the parking lot of the Hollywood Athletic Club, then having a record producer in a limo come to my rescue by calling the police on his car phone (This was a way cooler tale before cell phones).
Flirting with Kevin Costner while working as an extra on "No Way Out."
Having my roommate break down in sobs in the middle of a 405 traffic jam on a hot summer day, swearing she would leave this "damn city!". She did.
Working as an entertainment business manager's receptionist, it was my duty one day to keep two battling, just divorced soap opera stars from seeing each other, even though the wife was in the manager's office behind closed doors and the husband insisted on waiting.
Spilling a tray of drinks on Ted Danson's shirt while playing a cocktail waitress for a movie of the week.
Inching my way over Laurel Canyon in morning rush-hour traffic, neck-in-neck with Charlton Heston in the other lane.
When I finally learned exactly which area code belonged to what neighborhood, only to have many of them change and new ones added.
Drinking too much, then passing out in a booth at the Italian restaurant across from Canter's with John Cusak and producer Eric Barrett, after which they drove me back to my apartment and carried me up to my door. (my roommate thought she could fix me up with John C. But I don't think I impressed him much.)
Running into a bleary-eyed Robert Downey Jr., more than once, while club-hopping in the '80s.
Going to a Bar Mitzvah and being seated between Rick Davies of Supertramp and a writer from the show, "90210," and getting the scoop on who in Hollywood had plastic surgery - way before I knew of this site.
Window shopping with my daughter in Beverly Hills, we passed two blond women with their faces covered in white gauzy bandages and some more women sipping Champagne as they had their make-up done in Barney's. We gasped at the designer key-holders with price tags more than my monthly car payment, and watched a shirtless guy stand in an intersection in the middle of traffic proceeded to strip off his surf shorts and run naked in circles - all within an half-hour span.
Knowing no one in my life that works at a job where wearing a tie or nylons is required.
Going to the beach in Malibu, pulling into the only parking spot available - from which Flea with the Chili Peppers just pulled out, then sitting on the sand between movie Producer Brian Grazer and his family and a pouting Victoria Secret model and her bully of a surfer boyfriend.
Making eyecontact with Roger Daltrey, whom I had a huge crush on during his cascading-mane-of-golden-curls days, as he entered Whole Foods and I was leaving.
Going on auditions and being the only female waiting who wasn't over five-feet-ten inches tall, blond with fake boobs.
Hearing the same pick-up lines, over and over (in my single days): "I'd like to take photos of you," and/or "Would you like to come up to my place to read my script?" Always asked with the assumption that a young female will believe any fool can advance her career as long as he has a camera, a script or a business card which states he's a Hollywood big-wig.
Getting used to people scanning the crowd at parties while I'm trying to make eyecontact and have a conversation, which makes me begin speaking jibberish to see if they're listening, and when they nod knowingly - I go and refresh my drink.
Stopping at a light on Sunset and Laurel, and looking over to my right to see Dennis Woodruff-Actor politely tip his hat to me.
Visiting a friend and seeing Angelyne's hot-pink Corvette convertible parked in their neighbor's suburban driveway.
Having June Lockhart, of "Lassie" and "Lost In Space," ask to use the phone on my desk, when I worked as a receptionist.
Running into old sitcom stars while doing errands: Marion Ross and Kirk Cameron at the ATM, Scott Baio at Sharper Image, and Jody from the "Family Affair" (Who looked just like he did as a kid), while reaching for blueberry muffins at Vons. Seeing them in person is an entirely wierd experience - something like crawling into a T.V. tuned to the T.V. Land channel.
Taking a writing class from a well known ex rock-groupie, where everything was talked about without judgment: sex, drugs, S&M... but when she mentioned she went on a blind date and the guy showed up wearing khakis, the room of women gasped in horror. There are few things that shock those related to the rock world, apparently wearing khaki on a date is one of them.
Having a large movie crew, scouting locations, come into my home to inspect it to for use in a future production. I was asked if I would mind being put up in a hotel for a few weeks, and if they could they paint the walls a different color.
Yep, my house and my dog got discovered. But, me? I’m still waiting.
(Below I've included the Spicy shrimp and Chicken sate recipes. They were both amazingly good, and great for entertaining since they can be made ahead of time.)
We had our friends, Todd and Francine, over for a barbecue and margaritas Saturday night. After a few rounds of drinks along with the details and photos of their "Married People Gone wild!" Las Vegas weekend, we sat down to eat a huge amount of food: spicy-sweet shrimp with mint dip, chicken sate with peanut sauce and cucumber salad in rice vinegar dressing.
(photo on left: property of Francine, from their Las Vegas weekend)
The shrimp were sweet with a bite, then cooled with the mint sauce - tasting of Indian and Thai influences. I made so many of these skewers, I never imagined we'd finish them all. But we did. This is one of my new favorite dishes. The shrimp went well with the chicken sate - which were really moist and intensely flavored with the teriyaki-ginger marinade, which were even more flavorful when dipped in peanut sauce.
Look at these two...just short of celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary. Who says people don't stay married these days?
The following Monday night Fran sent me an e-mail thanking, and flattering, me for the amazing food, for which I can't really take entire credit - other than not mangling the recipes. Both the spicy shrimp and chicken sate recipes I found on Epicurious.com. Each of these dishes were great because they could be prepared earlier in the day, and left to marinate, which meant I was able to hang-out with people rather than stay sequestered in the kitchen slaving away.
My friend Todd, an architect normally, played drums with a band for an ASCAP Rhythym & Soul show at Pearl Restaurant (once Luna Park) in West Hollywood. No cameras were allowed. Did that stop me, rebel that I am? Nope. Without the use of my flash, the photos came out blurry.
After all that rythym and rebellion I was hungry. We headed over to Carney's for chili fries (so-so oily fries, but good chili). My Carney's shot is blurry because I had a few watered down twelve dollar drinks at Pearl...$12.00... as in cash, money, mullah!!! I could have bought six bottles of Trader Joe's Two-Buck Chuck for the price of one of their drinks.
Other than breakfast with friends, Marv & Lisa, at the Country Deli in Chatsworth, it's been all work and little play. Below is Lisa and one of the Country Deli's murals (Is it just my imagination or does that cowboy look Rastafarian?)