Monday, April 25, 2011

TMZ and Valentino (from March)

The Tuesday after the Academy Awards I picked up a friend who lives just off San Vicente, and we headed out to dinner at a favorite hot spot.   I hadn't made reservations,  but knew we could probably get seats at the bar.

Luckily when we arrived there were two seats at the center of the bar and we settled in and ordered a glass of wine before looking at the menu.  One of the bartenders (the other was off for the night)  greeted me warmly and said he had just been thinking about me the day before while driving in my area.  He was happy to see me.  As we were talking,  my friend, who has never been to this restaurant, was looking around at the crowd and getting a little giggly, whispers a little too loudly about what great hair the young bartender had and how she'd like to run her hands through it.  I was a little mortified and pretended not to hear her and hoped he hadn't either.

In this particular restaurant (like others in the area) you have to reserve in advance to get a good table and, in my experience, rather than a "not so good table,"  the bar is an excellent place to be.  The two regular bartenders are great and take good care of me when I drop in spur of the moment, like tonight.  

We were on our second course (pasta and truffles) when I looked up and noticed there was a group of men still standing just past the reservation desk.  They had been waiting for a while.  Looking closer,  I immediately recognized the tanned,  very well dressed man and his white haired partner.   I  said nothing to my friend (fearing another loud reaction) and continued eating,  when a few minutes later she says to me (more quietly this time, thank goodness)..."Doesn't that guy look like he could be Valentino's double?"  I grinned and told her that it WAS  the  "last emperor"  and, like everyone else, he had to wait until his table (the best one in the house to see and be seen) was ready.   She almost didn't believe me but finally started tittering a little...a giggle kind of thing,  when she realized it was true.  She is a fan of his and I realized he was probably in town to dress some of the Oscar beauties and  enjoying a few nights in L.A.  before returning to Italy with his consort.

The Last Emperor and some muses.
One of the nice things of coming to this particular establishment, besides certain dishes on the menu, is the fact that the owner goes out of his way to be complimentary, always remembers the last time I was there,  how long it's been and even what I wore on the last occasion, which surprises me.   Like a certain type of Italian man,  he makes one feel beautiful, but in a very warm, easy way.  He is a gracious host, always,  to ALL of his patrons, but he somehow manages to wander back to talk to me at least four or five times during the evening.  He always approaches with lowered eyes, then when he looks at me he has a wicked little twinkle in them and you can see vestiges of the young man he once was.  Even in his  broken English this person manages to charm his guests, a great asset and one of the reasons this place does so well.

Four courses, two and 1/2 glasses of wine, one espresso and a limoncello later, we were getting ready to leave, my friend still very much in awe of having seen Valentino, when our host comes over one final time.  He takes out two little cups and pours us another limoncello on the house,  before taking my hand in both of his, kissing it and saying good by.  He tells me he wishes his English was better so he could make himself better understood.  I smile and tell him he does well enough, but will teach him English if he will teach me Italian.  We strike a bargain, all the while knowing that we both know it is precisely that lack of English that gives him charm and allows him to be who he is.

A few minutes later, as I waited for my car at the valet,  one of two young fellows who was standing around,  approaches and asks if he can interview me.   I grinned from ear to ear when in response to my inquiry, he tells me he is from TMZ.  I looked fairly good, wearing a fitted black wool jersey dress, a cashmere sweater and boots but realized it had probably been a slow night (after all the pre-Oscar festivities)  and his inexperience drove him to take a chance in case I was some kind of celeb.  Or perhaps it was my double again (we all have a double somewhere).   I thought to myself he probably didn't even KNOW who Valentino was, much less that he was in the restaurant with his entourage.   I simply smiled and told him to say hello to Harvey.   The kid got a little wide eyed and said "I'm surprised someone like you even knows about TMZ."   I didn't  have time to ask him what he meant because the valet, having brought my car around, was impatiently holding my door open and waiting for his tip.

As I drove off, I could tell my friend was impressed by the encounter (if not by the whole evening).  She looks at me, then back at the kid and suddenly we both burst out laughing.

Between Valentino, TMZ,  a lovely dinner,  and the savvy attention of a smart restaurateur,  I was a very relaxed and happy person who, after dropping my friend off,  drove home humming "I Feel  Pretty."

It was one of those nights...

Songs out of tune, the words always a little wrong...Canzoni Stonate

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Book of Mormon - A Profane and Hilarious Look at Religion

Well, I finally managed to get some tickets to the "sold out" Book of Mormon, the hottest ticket on Broadway these days.  I've been looking online for decent seats at a fairly reasonable price and not willing to spend $600 a ticket to sit in center orchestra, finally settled for less.   Used to the larger venues in L.A., I'd forgotten how small the Eugene O'Neill theater  is and how good most of the seats are.  In row H on the side, we had a fabulous view of the stage for Sunday's evening performance.

And what a performance!

First a warning to those of you who are dogmatic about your religion and unable to have a sense of humor about the absurdity of some religious tenants.   This show is NOT for you.  However, if you have a sense of humor and understand that life itself is sometimes absurd and that it is never easy to extrapolate the same set of rules that make sense in one society to another, then you will enjoy the very clever and witty musical satire by the creators of South Park.

South Park should be the clue here.  If you get the humor of the long running, popular TV program, you will have no problem laughing at the hilarious profanity that goes along with the plot of the young Mormon boys, fresh out of training and ready to go out and spread their gospel to the world and running up against the realities of life and the failings of their faith, as they are assigned, not to Orlando, the Disneyesque view too many Americans have of the world at large, but to modern day Uganda, with it's tribal wars, rampant Aids, extreme poverty and the constant threat of the various warlords that terrorize the villages and impose their own brand of "religion" in the form of female circumcision and mutilation.

This is where faith runs up against the wall of ignorance about things we take for granted and at the same time, the built in intuitiveness of some of the locals who sometimes "get it" past our own understanding, so mired are we in the surety that our way is the "only way."  The show tells us to forget "The Lion King" view of Africa.  This isn't it!
The Mormon lads work as pairs, and the overachiever and top of his class is naturally paired with the gung ho, "oh boy, I have a friend" underachiever  nerd, whose own knowledge of the basics of his religion is a little nebulous and what he doesn't know of the stories, he intersperses with his own fantasy heroes to make it more palatable and user friendly to the native peoples.

I won't tell you more, but this play is the real thing,  a big musical in the Broadway tradition, with a hysterically funny plot, some very graphic lyrics and, ultimately, a very nice message.

One must take the bitter with the sweet with The Book of Mormon, and the naysayers who said this would not play to the wider audiences are perhaps again putting people in boxes, the lesson here being that our common humanity is more important than our dogma and that with a sense of humor, even about God, who,  if you believe in him, has the most absurd sense of humor of all and, if we are created in his image....he passed it down to some of us so that we would understand that laughter is a good thing and especially when we laugh at the absurdity of some of the tenets of organized religion, no matter which kind and where it comes from.

I highly recommend this show, but leave your pomposity at home, please.   The standing ovation of the audience indicated that enough of them did, and although you may be a little rocked at first, you will not be disappointed in the entertainment value of a very lush and funny Broadway musical.

My hats off to Matt Stone and Trey Parker!

Songs out of tune, the words always a little wrong...Canzoni Stonate

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Dalai Lama...

... when asked what surprised him most about humanity:

"Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives
... as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived."

Songs out of tune, the words always a little wrong...Canzoni Stonate

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Dressed To Kilt - A Grand Finale Worth the Ticket Price

As we've done for the past few years, D and I attended DTK last night.  We got a late start, missing the pre-party included in our VIP tickets, due to the fact that D was on deadline with a job and the director kept calling her back on the project.

I had squeezed my size 4 figure into a sized two black dress and added a black belt (instead of the customary pin) to hold up my Grandfather's family tartan and decided it would do, when I discovered there was a small tear under the arm.  As D waited for the umpteenth call, I quickly changed into a fitted black skirt and sweater and discarding the family tartan,  grabbed a silk shantung red and black tartan, wrapped it around my waist and made a very presentable bow.

I went out to flag a taxi while D sent in her final work, and we took off for the event, arriving minutes before the fashion show was ready to start.  Luckily this year, with a change of venue, there were VIP seats and we found some in the third row, me holding them while D went to the bar to get a couple of glasses of Glenlivet neat.

The show was lots of fun, as usual, which is more than I can say for the after party, most of which we skipped in favor of going for a late dinner elsewhere.  It was a disappointment over the previous few years after parties, which were at separate venues.  I am sure the organizers will get an ear full from some of the ticket holders.

I was fine with having paid for VIP tickets and missing both the pre and after parties, because the show itself and the  hoopla surrounding it was good fun and worth the price of the tickets, especially for a charitable event.   Part of the hoopla was due to the surprise grand finale in the form of cheeky (pun intended) Scottish actor Brian Cox and his Championship Season co-stars Kiefer Sutherland, Jason Patric, Chris Noth and Jim Gaffigan, who marched down the runway in Scottish dress, paused at the end and gave a five man "Scottish salute" to the delight of the audience.

The Champions(hip) Season Co-Stars
As most of you will know (especially if you've followed any irreverent, wily Scots such as Brian Cox himself and his younger counterparts Gerry Butler and Ewan McGregor),  a Scottish salute calls for a flipping of the kilt and showing your backside, or as I call it,  "putting your best face forward."   Some others call it a "kiss my ass" gesture, depending on who the recipients of the gesture  are.   In this particular case, it could have signaled a little of both, but a great grand finale to the show, depending on how far the participants bent and where the recipients were seated.  It was a very revealing look at a another side of some very playful actors.
Beginning the Scottish Salute
Chris Noth, not having enough of it, repeated the maneuver before ducking behind the stage, to additional applause.

All in all, a relaxing and humorous evening.  Later over some pasta and salad after midnight, we decided  it was the perfect ending to a very stressed beginning.

Next year, dear Dressed to Kilt organizers, put a little more thought into the after party.  After all the flowing liquor,  being held at a venue where you can get some food,  as well as dance, if you are so inclined,  really makes it nice.  People don't mind paying even more for a VIP ticket if you get treated as a VIP.

Billy Connolly
More Photos from the evening's show.
Model-Actor Marcus Shenkenberg

Songs out of tune, the words always a little wrong...Canzoni Stonate