Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Reigning Men: Fashion in Menswear, 1715-2015

"Reigning Men" exhibit at LACMA
Karen and I attended a fascinating members-only lecture about men's fashion at the LA County Museum of Art (LACMA), Monday night. We learned about the Macaronis—as in, Yankee Doodle "stuck a feather in his cap and called it 'Macaroni'"—who were young British dandies, who toured Italy in the 1800s and loved eating pasta so much that they called themselves "Macaroni"! Their signature fashion statement included colorful garb and mile-high hair. Who knew?

We also heard about LACMA's 5-year search for an authentic zoot suit, which they were finally able to purchase for a record-breaking $78,000 (yikes!) through a New York auction. You can read more about it here.

Following the lecture, we were given after-hours access to the "Reigning Men: Fashion in Menswear, 1715-2015" exhibition, which ends August 21. At first, LACMA curators thought they would have to include some women's fashion to add color and spice. But no need. As you can see below, the exhibit is fabulous as is. (Click on images to enlarge.) Highly recommended.

A Macaroni, sporting colorful waistcoat,
boutonniere, and tall hair 

Modern version of a colorful jacket
and vest

Dandies from the 1960s, 1800s, and today

Remember the '60s?

Broad-legged pants

The famous zoot suit: more
broad-legged pants

Incredible robes


Hugh Hefner, anyone?

Amazing Hawaiian shirts from the 1950s

Wool suits--dig the crazy horn hat! 

Tapestry suit

Who says men's clothing is boring?!

Coat of many colors!

Amazing jacket

Men about town

Hip cats


Covered in mother-of-pearl buttons

Camouflage and what our lecturer 
called "anti-camouflage"

Did you know that men used to cinch 
their waists also?

An array of swimwear (or not!)

And, of course, no wardrobe is complete without 
some fancy kicks

Friday, June 03, 2016

Hillary in Culver City

Hillary Clinton, fighting for us
Tim woke me at 6AM.

“Hillary Clinton is speaking in Culver City today,” he casually mentioned.

“WHAT?!?!?” I yelled, leaping out of bed to check the computer.

Sure enough, she was appearing at West L.A. College, just a mile from where we live. Doors were opening at 8:30AM. The computer asked me to RSVP. I clicked YES, hoping it wasn’t too late. (How did I not know about this sooner?) Tim, who never attends political rallies, also RSVP’d after I told him the rally was free.

Our next decision: How to get there? We decided to walk and so left the house at 7:30AM. We followed the line of cars onto campus and knew we were in the right place when we saw media vans huddled around the gymnasium. A short line (mostly women) waited to get in. We stood at the end. “I hope more people show up,” Tim whispered.

 Media vans on West L.A. campus

For the next hour, we watched as campaigners and media outlets worked the line. California’s primary election is in four days, so people were needed to staff Hillary phonebanks this weekend. The woman behind us signed up. Several reporters had microphones ready to interview anyone who looked intelligent enough to talk about the election. We were interviewed by both John Baird, from all-news radio station KNX (my favorite!), and a French cameraperson, who freelances for CNN.

At 9AM, we started heading toward the gym doors. We entered the building only after going through a metal detector. A large hand-scrawled sign indicating RESTROOMS pointed to the left. We stepped right into the gym. The space was small.

“I’ve never been this close to Hillary before!” the phonebank woman exclaimed. 

 Happy to be inside the gym

Everyone was ecstatic. Tim found a place to sit, while I staked out a spot to stand on the floor. We ended up back by the media cameras, a half-court away from the dais. We then waited another hour as more people piled in. Loud music, controlled by a female DJ, blasted overhead. Today’s theme was all about woman power!

 Tim in front of media cameras

At 10:20AM, the first of several (10? 15?) women told us why she was voting for Hillary Rodham Clinton. The speakers were appropriately diverse: white, Hispanic, African-American, transgender, politicians, two different union leaders, and several celebrities, including Mary Steenburgen, Debra Messing, Elizabeth Banks, and Sally Field. Each spoke for about 5 minutes. Their message was not new, but their delivery was invigorating (lots of talk about love, interestingly enough). The main objective was to energize the base. We were obviously already on board—it was now our task to convince others.

 Elizabeth Banks speaking, Debra Messing at far right

Hillary finally emerged at 11:30AM. As usual, she was lovely, energetic and committed, speaking in support of families, healthcare, gun control, and education. The crowd went wild. She spoke for about 10 minutes before joining the audience to shake hands. By then, about 1000 people had jammed into the gym—no way would we get close enough to shake her hand—and so we headed home. 

 Hillary on the dais

Me with Hillary in the background
Now on to the White House!

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Frozen at DCA

Crowds outside the Hyperion theater, waiting to see Frozen
I have a confession to make: I'm not that big a fan of the Disney movie Frozen. Sure, we saw it when it was first released in theaters, but only once. And, as much as I like the main song, "Let It Go," I've never memorized the lyrics and so can't sing along, like everyone else I know.

Still, when I read the review of the new Frozen musical at Disney California Adventure (DCA), I immediately told Tim we had to go before school lets out for the summer. So I emailed my BFF Karen, who loves theater, and the three of us agreed to go today.

We left the house at 9AM, to avoid the bulk of early rush-hour traffic. By 10:30AM, we were standing in front of DCA's Hyperion Theater, trying to figure out where to line-up for the first show of the day, two hours later. We were told to either pick-up a Fastpass ticket, for which we were already too late, or come back at 11AM to get on the stand-by line. I noticed that people were already seriously loitering around the theater in hopes of getting on line; so I sent Tim and Karen off to ride "Soarin Over California" one last time,* while I waited for the official Frozen queue to begin.

Ten minutes later, I was told to wait across the street, which I dutifully did, as more and more people started to crowd in front of the Hyperion. At 11AM a cast member announced that the official line would start forming at 11:30AM. I stood under a tree with two young women, never taking my eyes off the closed entrance to the official waiting area. Fifteen minutes later, the doors opened as I yelled to the gals, "The doors are opening! We've got to go right now!"

Too late. About 50 people, who had been milling around the doors, shoved their way in as we squeezed into the flow. I called Tim and warned that they needed to get back to the theater ASAP. I then advanced to the point-of-no-return where, we were admonished, all members of one's party had to be present or they could not get in. I proceeded and hoped for the best for Tim and Karen. Turns out they were too late to join me. Instead, they decided to wait at the very end of the stand-by line, though their chances of actually seeing the show were slim at best.

 Fastpass-holders inside the official waiting area

Stand-by for Frozen is exactly that: seats are guaranteed only for Fastpass-holders. If there are empty seats once everyone else has filed in, then the stand-bys get to go in, one party at a time. We became more and more discouraged as more and more Fastpassers lined-up within the queuing area.

Finally, at 12:20PM—10 minutes before the show was supposed to begin!—the theater doors opened as the ticket-holders rushed in. The rest of us held our collective breath, awaiting our fate. Then, with a loudpeaker announcing overhead that show time was only two minutes away (!!), a Disney employee came over and started letting us in, counting each person so not to overrun the seating. I waved to Tim and Karen as I trudged up three enormous flights of exterior stairs. Once inside the theater, it was everyone for her/his self as we scrounged for open seats. I found one on the end of an aisle—perfect! I then texted Tim. He and Karen had given up and were heading to lunch.

The stage: first view of Arendelle
The show was highly entertaining, with lots of dancing, singing, and a special brand of Disney effects. Olaf, the snowman, and the reindeer Sven were life-sized puppets and particularly fun, adding humor to a story that can be a bit sad. But the highlight was Elsa's big number—"Let It Go"—which the audience was obviously awaiting in anxious anticipation. As soon as the first notes of the song began, there was an audible buzz in the theater. Frozen fans were not disappointed. 

 Final scene

The Hyperion's last show, Aladdin, played there for 13 years, so you've probably got lots of time to see Frozen. However, if you're chomping at the bit, I advise getting to the park early enough to grab Fastpass tickets, so you won't have to suffer the trauma of standing by. I got in, but am guessing the other 300 people in line behind me did not.


*On June 17, one of Tim's favorite rides, "Soarin Over California," will be replaced with an international version called  "Soaring Over the World." A sad day, no doubt, in our household . . .

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Capitol Records Tower

VIP tour pass
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Capitol Records Tower, one of the most iconic buildings in L.A. Distinctly round—like a stack of LPs—the Tower is HQ to Capitol Records, creative home to Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Bobby Darin, the Beach Boys, Barbra Streisand, and many of our other favorite performers. Interestingly, the Beatles never recorded here as a group, though Capitol did release their early albums (produced in the U.K.) stateside.

 Magnificent: one of my all-time favorite 
L.A. buildings

To celebrate the building's 60th anniversary, several two-hour tours were announced a few weeks ago and quickly sold-out. But not before we bought tickets. At 11AM today, a group of ten of us were treated to an intimate and rare look inside Capitol's recording studios, located in the heart of Hollywood. Our tour guides obviously had a field day assembling exhibits to thrill and amaze us. Here's just a small portion of what we saw:

Entering the inner sanctum—no artists recording today

Tim and vintage audio console still used to record
contemporary performers, like Paul McCartney and
Katy Perry

Vintage microphone still in use

Me and the mic Dean Martin is using
in the photo below (mood lighting!)


Tim and hero Frank Sinatra's 

The organ Billy Preston played on Let It Be with the 
Beatles at Abbey Road Studios

Though the Beatles never recorded at Capitol as a group,
they did hold a famous press conference here after
playing the Hollywood Bowl. Me and George Harrison
with one of the mics the Boys used. (Can you find my
Beatles pin?)

To me, all audio consoles look alike. But, judging by the group's
reaction, this one is apparently special: a 1970s Neve 
still in use today.

More old equipment still used . . .

One of the highlights was getting to see a master
disc being cut for a vinyl 45. This is the machine that
cuts the masters from which vinyl records are (still being) made.

All done, we were escorted out the back door
to the parking lot. What an unforgettable, 
once-in-lifetime experience!

Expo Line to Santa Monica

Waiting for the train to Santa Monica
The long-awaited extended Expo line lightrail, from Culver City to Santa Monica, finally opened yesterday. We, of course, had to be among the first to ride it. 

The new rail was due to open at noon, so at 11AM we walked two blocks to Sepulveda Blvd. to catch the northbound #6 Culver City bus to Pico. We arrived at the lightrail station 15 minutes later to find police cars and a line of people, of all ages and creeds, waiting to get on the train. As one seasoned passenger said, "They're here for the novelty, but will never ride it again!"

 Waiting on line

 Tim advising older riders how to get senior fares

On the platform

We were allowed onto the platform at 11:50AM. Everyone was jubilant. A trolley promptly arrived a few minutes after noon; but our cheers quickly turned to boos when we realized it wasn't in service. We waited another 10 minutes for the real first car to arrive. But again more disappointment when the doors opened and there wasn't room for even one person to get on. We ended up waiting half-an-hour, when we finally squeezed our way onto the third set of cars. By some miracle, I snagged a seat next to a young man who had never ridden the lightrail before. He was on his way to work and had no idea where to get off. After two false starts, he exited. I saw him on the platform, looking confused, as we zipped by.

 New trolley to Santa Monica--love the color!

No room for us!

 The first train to L.A.

Fun decorations

Heading north

We finally got on--Tim holding tight
We arrived in Santa Monica after about 20 minutes. Hundreds of people were waiting on the other end to catch the train to downtown L.A. We decided to eat lunch, in hopes the crowd would subside. Turns out we were overly optimistic. Still, it was worth the wait. Santa Monica may be only 8 miles from Culver City, but driving there is always a nightmare. Though not ideal, taking the trolley, from now on, will be a complete joy.

Waiting to go home