Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Rogue's Gallery

We’ve been fans of Ricky Jay since he played the cameraperson in Boogie Nights, one of my all-time favorite movies. Since then he’s appeared in David Mamet’s Heist and numerous other movies, the HBO series Deadwood, and was a recently revealed clue to the mystery behind the current TV show FlashForward. But he is probably best known for being a master sleight-of-hand artist as well as scholar and collector of curiosities.

Several years ago we saw Ricky speak at the UCLA library, where he described his fascination for all things unusual and deceptive: e.g., 19th century automatons, carnival folk, notorious card sharps, and illusionists. A few years later, we bought front-row tickets for Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants, an intimate show where he performed the most amazing card tricks either of us had ever seen. We talked about it for weeks.

On Tuesday, we attended the opening night of A Rogue’s Gallery, Ricky Jay’s latest show. The performance was hugely engaging, even though we were seated in the very last row of the balcony (comp tickets for making a donation to the Geffen Playhouse’s education fund). In addition to his usual card tricks and fetes of mental magic, Ricky projected images of 108 posters, playbills, and other paper items—a mere fraction of the marvelous ephemera he has collected—which then led to amusing tales of sword-swallowing women, lion-tamers, and other interesting characters. All in all, a highly entertaining evening.

A Rogue’s Gallery is playing at the Geffen till January 10. Go see it if you like parlor tricks and/or good ol’ fashioned storytelling.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Season's Greetings 2009

Looking back on another memorable year!

Highlights and accomplishments:

Vacationed for a week in Philadelphia and NYC; spent the weekend in Phoenix for baseball spring training; remodeled the garage into a sparkling new outdoor den/storage area; became charter members of the new Grammy Museum, where we’ve already attended several amazing events, including interviews with Brian Wilson and David Letterman’s bandleader Paul Shaffer; helped build studios for ESPN’s new radio station in downtown L.A. (Tim); chaired the committee that planned the 2009 statewide California Library Association conference (me); and met actor extraordinaire Neil Patrick Harris (be still my heart!).

What we’re grateful for:

Family, friends, jobs we love, and good health; living in Culver City, L.A.’s most happenin’ neighborhood; our cats Beanie and Cecil, who are now 9 years old and continue to bring us joy; and our new great-nephew Henry Nash Clark (thanks Beckie and Steve!).

What we’re looking forward to in 2010:

Trips to Portland and Washington D.C.; playing with our new Apple computer (thanks Santa!); and watching the wildflowers bloom in our yards next spring.

Have a wonderful new year. Our love to all!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Mary Poppins

I was only 10 years old when I had my appendix removed in 1964. I remember the pain and my mother crying. But I also remember, quite fondly, the book that kept me company while I was in the hospital: Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers. It was the first full-length novel I read and was thoroughly enchanting. We had seen the movie, which came out earlier that year, but there was something quite captivating about the book’s Mary Poppins. She has held a special place in my heart ever since.

One of the reasons I subscribed to Ahmanson theater season tickets this year was to see Disney’s musical adaptation of Mary Poppins. I originally had tickets with Karen, but had to change dates because of out-of-town guests. So I went by myself last night (Tim is not a fan of the nanny). I had a third-row center seat—absolutely perfect. It was me and lots of parents with young children—and on a Wednesday night, too!

The play was wonderful, though slightly different from the movie. For one thing, this Mary is a lot less snooty than Julie Andrews and seems to genuinely care about her two wards, who are also very good in their roles. Bert is terrific and brings the house down during “Step in Time,” when he (spoiler alert!) dances upside-down on the stage ceiling. It was completely breath-taking! Mary also flies several times, which is exciting, especially for those of us afraid of heights. But the biggest thrill, of course, is “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” Almost every cast member was on stage dancing and miming the letters of my favorite word when I was a kid. I wanted to scream the lyrics, but somehow managed to keep my mouth shut. The audience went wild.

As wonderful as Mary Poppins is, I always cry at the end when she (last spoiler alert!) leaves—partly because I wish she and Bert could stay together, but mostly because the magic is ending. The play is on till February 7. I highly recommend getting tickets right now before Mary flies off again.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Garage Remodel (pt. 2)

The workers are now gone and the remodel done. Now all we have to do is move everything into our wonderful new cabinets and paint inside and out. Thanks to Garage Envy and Mark's Windows for doing such a terrific job!

More photos in a couple of weeks when it's all done!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Hollywood book-signing

File this one under “only-in-L.A.!”

Tim and I went to a book-signing last night at the fabulous streamline-moderne Crossroads of the World, Sunset Boulevard’s earliest (1936) outdoor mall. The centerpiece was Los Angeles: Portrait of a City, a gorgeous new coffeetable book by Jim Heimann and former state librarian Kevin Starr, whom I know professionally. We were greeted by klieg lights and some 200 people dressed like they were going to an old-time movie premier; but, unfortunately, no Dr. Starr.

Still, there was plenty of other local literati to ogle, including Diane Keaton, looking very much like her alter-ego Annie Hall, Rodney Bingenheimer, former rock DJ and subject of the excellent documentary Mayor of the Sunset Strip, and Hugh Hefner, wearing a suit and sporty fedora. Hef’s entourage did a good job of shielding him from the rest of the crowd—which was just as well since he’s looking pretty old and frail these days. At one point, we saw his attractive blonde assistant (girlfriend?) yelling in his ear, “DO YOU WANT TO WAIT HERE WHILE I CALL FOR THE CAR?,” so we figured he’s also now hard-of-hearing.

Champagne and several alcoholic beverages flowed freely, but there was nothing to eat. We milled around and chatted with colleagues, who also happened to be there, while keeping our eyes peeled for hors d’oeuvres. Finally, after about an hour, a young woman walked our way carrying a tray of square food.

“What are these?” Tim asked her.

“Focaccia,” she answered, as if we were children. “It’s like bread, but with truffles on top.”

I rolled my eyes and popped one in my mouth. Tasty, but hardly a meal.

We looked at each other and started heading toward the door. No use trying to be hip when your stomach’s growling! So we grabbed our book, bid Hollywood adieu and drove straight to our favorite pizza joint in Culver City. Two slices of cheese, please!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Stay-cation (11/6-11/15)


What would you do if you were spending a week in Los Angeles? Well, we started our nine-day stay-cation by eating (of course!) at The Oinkster in Eagle Rock, one of Guy Fieri’s featured “diners, drive-ins and dives.” Those are shredded pork sandwiches and twice-baked fries in the before-and-after photos—yummm-eee!


We’re all about mid-century living, so naturally we took the L.A. Conservancy’s tour celebrating the 50-year anniversary of 1960s architecture in Los Angeles. It started at the Proud Bird, a funky restaurant surrounded by old aircraft, including the orange rocket Chuck Yeager flew when he broke the sound barrier in 1947. Located on the eastern end of LAX, the Bird is the perfect spot to watch planes land while wolfing down Sunday brunch.

From the Proud Bird, we drove over to the Flight Path Museum, the former Imperial Terminal building where many VIPS and local sports teams board chartered airplanes. Now a free museum open five days a week, the Flight Path chronicles the history of LAX through photographs and fascinating artifacts. Most of the stewardess mannequins were dressed in their finest polyester suits and miniskirts. We also got to board an old DC-3 plane permanently parked behind the museum. Though we never left the ground, the thought of flying in such cramped quarters made me (relatively!) happy for today’s much larger—if less glamorous—737s.

Our next stop was the Theme Building, LAX’s iconic hub that looks like something out of the space-age cartoon, The Jetsons. Turns out it was actually modeled after Martian spacecraft in the 1953 movie War of the Worlds (who knew?). Built in 1961, the Theme Building is currently undergoing renovation after a chunk of concrete fell off one its four arched legs. Retrofitting won’t be completed till next year; still, we were able to go up to the observation deck, which has been closed since 9/11. The view of the entire airport was magnificent.


Although I’m a loyal member of the L.A. County Museum of Art (LACMA), the thought of driving up to mid-Wilshire—one of the most congested parts of the city—is sometimes just too much to bear. So it’s been a while since we’ve visited the museum. However, Tim and I were sufficiently intrigued by an exhibit celebrating the 20-year anniversary of the collapse of the Berlin Wall that we spent much of Tuesday at the museum and environs. I loved the permanent display of old L.A. light standards that now greets LACMA visitors. We were also impressed by the Wall, which has been temporarily installed across the street.

The best part of the day, though, was (finally!) getting into Mozza, possibly the best—and therefore, most popular— gourmet pizzeria in all of Los Angeles. The trick is to go at 2PM on Tuesday. But even then, it was crowded. We were lucky to snag two seats at the counter, where we watched mesmerized as the cooks assembled and baked at least 20 pizzas while we were sitting there. Very entertaining and, of course, the food was amazing.

The rest of the week

In addition to running around and eating, we also met with friends, went to two plays, caught up on tivo, and saw five movies (a new world’s record even for us): An Education, the well-acted story of a 16-year-old student who has an affair with a con artist in the early 1960s; A Serious Man, the Coen brothers’ darkly funny semi-autobiographical film about growing-up Jewish in Minnesota; 2012, the ridiculously improbable yet fun disaster movie that revels in destroying Los Angeles and the rest of the world; Fantastic Mr. Fox, a truly wonderful stop-motion film that features the voices of George Clooney and Meryl Streep; and Women in Trouble, an extremely low-budget flick, starring some of my favorite actresses from TV shows Friday Night Lights, 24, and Entourage.

It was a fabulous week and only a taste of what it will be like once we retire. Only ten more years to go!!

P.S. Does anyone know what this is? (Tim is not allowed to guess!)

Garage Remodel (pt. 1)

We love our 1400 sq. ft. house, but after almost 13 years living here, we’ve pretty much reached critical mass on space. The simple act of buying a new set of towels can send me into a frenzy of reorganization as I endlessly cope with inadequate cabinets and closets. Plus our office, where I spend most of the day (I work at home), is a disaster area with books and files piled all over the floor. Desperate, I began seeking a solution. I didn’t have to look very far.

Like many people, our garage has slowly become a dumping ground for every nonessential thing in our lives: old furniture that’s too good to donate to Goodwill; mementoes from deceased family members; leftover tiles and linoleum from our kitchen remodel four years ago; boxes and boxes of Christmas ornaments (I swear they’re like rabbits, reproducing on their own every year between January and November); and, of course, my extensive collection of mint-in-box action figures from several Star Trek movies and TV series (!).

To make matters worse, the original homeowners had divided the garage into two sections by building a wall down the middle. On the left was space enough for one small car (ha!); on the right, a dark, musty workbench for tools, gardening implements and countless breeds of spiders. In other words, lots of wasted — but precious — space. So we held a big yard sale and called Garage Envy for a remodeling estimate. Three weeks later, we’re in the midst of converting our useless old garage into what we hope will be an attractive den/storage area. See for yourself . . .

The view from our new garage window. Stay tuned for more . . .

Sunday, October 25, 2009

October 2009

Did you ever have one of those months when you were too busy to breathe, let alone post blog updates. That’s our October! Here’s a thumbnail review of what we’ve been up to . . .

Cosmic Conjunction (10/4): The season of giving started early this year with a benefit concert on the lawn outside the Griffith Observatory. Wolfgang Puck provided dinner (honey-stung chicken with heirloom tomato and peach salad, potatoes, a corn Madelin, and red velvet cake), while we listened to music selected and conducted by Arthur B. Rubinstein, best known for directing various movie and TV soundtracks. The highlight was a new composition, fittingly called “Observations,” narrated by Leonard Nimoy. Hearing Mr. Spock relate the story of the birth of the cosmos, under a glorious harvest moon, was complete heaven on earth!

Sports Museum (10/8): ESPN cosponsored a fundraiser at the Sports Museum of Los Angeles, so naturally we went even though we didn’t know much about the cause, Junior Achievement of Southern California, before entering the event. Turns out both the Junior Achievement, a volunteer-based organization that teaches kids financial literacy, and the Museum, a 32,000 square-foot facility that holds the largest private collection of sports memorabilia in the world, were fabulous. Plus we got to see basketball great Kareem Abdul Jabbar, who apparently just stopped by for a snack. He’s very tall! For more details, click here.

Cocktails at Union Station (10/10): One of Tim’s favorite food critics is Pulitzer Prize winner Jonathan Gold, columnist for the L.A. Weekly. We’re also big fans of Zócalo Public Square, a nonprofit that presents local lectures and screenings in an attempt to broaden civic discourse. Their programs are provocative and always free. To help support Zócalo, Jonathan Gold hosted a cocktail party fundraiser at Union Station, one of downtown L.A.’s most beautiful architectural landmarks. Catering the event were several of the city’s trendiest restaurants: Mozza, Cut, Church & State, Palate, Providence, The Gorbals, Comme Ça, and Rivera. Tim is more a beer man and I don’t drink alcohol at all, so the whole cocktail thing was lost on us. But we did pretty much get drunk on the food: pig burgers (yum!), bufala & alici salad, bacon-wrapped Matzo balls, tortilla florales, and butterscotch budino. Tim also tried the pork terrine with pickled shitake, clam fritters, tuna tartare, and steak tartare sliders—all of which are outside my particular (some would say “peculiar”) taste palate. The best part was sharing a small table with Kevin Roderick, author of two of our fave L.A. books, Wilshire Boulevard and The San Fernando Valley. We managed to talk to him quite normally without gushing like the two star-struck fans we were.

Hollyhock House (10/13): A few days later, we got the opportunity to attend a preview screening of Visual Acoustics, a new documentary about our architectural photography hero Julius Shulman. The movie was screened at Barnsdall Park in east Hollywood, site of Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous Hollyhock House. Although both of us have lived in Los Angeles almost our entire lives, neither of us had ever toured the Hollyhock House, so we were thrilled to see the film as well as one of Wright’s most famous L.A. masterpieces—and all on the same night. Built of concrete, the house was magnificent, if a bit sterile (typical FLW). The doc was wonderful, too, and made us even sadder that Julius had just recently passed away.

Actors' Gang benefit (10/17): Though Tim had by now declared “no more fundraisers!,” even he couldn’t resist half-price tickets to a Sarah Silverman and Tenacious D concert benefiting the Actors' Gang, a Culver City-based theatrical group directed by Oscar-winner Tim Robbins. The event was held at the intimate Ivy Station, a former trolley stop that now houses a 99-seat theater. It was quite the scene. Not only were we on the older end of the demographic spectrum, we also didn’t wear black, which is apparently the hip color for young concertgoers. I may not have been cool, but at least I didn’t roast (like everyone else!) in my pink summer dress. Tenacious D was outrageous. Led by insane comedic actor Jack Black, the two-person group performed hysterical heavy metal parodies on acoustic guitars, while most of the audience sang along. I loved every minute.

Paul Shaffer (10/21): Pianist extraordinaire Paul Shaffer has lots of stories to tell. As the former bandleader on Saturday Night Live and David Letterman’s musical director for the past 27 years, he’s met and played with almost every rock and pop star alive today, plus a few who are no longer living. On Wednesday, he made a stop at the Grammy Museum to recount some of the stories found in his new book, We’ll Be Here for the Rest of Our Lives: A Swingin’ Show-Biz Saga. We couldn’t resist seeing him. And lucky for us, too, because he was absolutely terrific—very funny and a brilliant raconteur. I can’t wait to read his book.

So that’s it so far. There are still five days left in October. Tim is hoping the Angels will make it into the World Series and I’ve got a big conference at the end of the week. But the really big news, which I’ll probably blog about next, is that, on top of everything else, we’re remodeling our garage! Stay tuned for news about the demolition later this week . . .

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Emmys 2009

It is no secret that Tim and I love TV. In fact, if we didn’t have tivo we’d probably never leave the house at night for fear of missing our favorite television shows!

No surprise then that we were ecstatic when we heard that this year’s Emmys show was being broadcast from the Nokia Theatre in the same complex where Tim works. All week long he sent me photos of the red carpet being rolled out and bleachers set-up. We kept our fingers crossed that the red carpet would be laid right in front of his office window and, sure enough, it was! We immediately decided to watch the pre-show festivities from the 2d-floor conference room.

The ceremonies started at 5PM, so we left the house before 1:30PM. Traffic around the theater was a nightmare; but because Tim had wisely acquired a special parking pass (for employees only), we got waved onto streets that were otherwise closed to the public. We had to pass through several groups of guards and then wind around Israeli-style barriers into the parking lot. At the top of the stairs was a small staging area with Entertainment Tonight banners. Everyone was dressed in black and even the camerapeople were wearing tuxedos. We had obviously arrived.

By the time we picked-up lunch-to-go downstairs, it was 2:30PM. We set-up camp in the conference room—fabulous view of the red carpet right below our feet. A few unknown women were posing for photographers before entering the theater, so I went to the staff room to eat my salad.

I was halfway through lunch when Tim yelled, “Quick, Babe. It’s Ben from Lost!” And that was that. I ran back down the hall. One of Tim’s coworkers joined us in the conference room. For the next two hours we yelled out stars’ names and debated exactly who we were seeing (several false Katherine Heigl and January Jones sightings!). I was most thrilled to see my latest hero Neil Patrick Harris, who is tonight’s master of ceremonies, and William Shatner, who skipped the photo line altogether. It was all very exciting and now I’m just counting the minutes till the show begins here at 8PM. Here are just some of the beautiful people we saw (click on each image to see better).

Michael Emerson (Lost) and wife Carrie Preston (True Blood)

Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men) and Fred Armisen (Saturday Night Live)

Neil Patrick Harris and crowd

Jason Siegel (How I Met Your Mother)

Jim Parson (far left) (Big Bang Theory) looking on at a wilting Christina Hendricks (far right) (Mad Men)

Jessica Lange (nominated for Grey Gardens)

The gang from Entourage

Jon Hamm (Mad Men) and woman in strange Obama dress

The red carpet

Drew Barrymore looking absolutely stunning

Rainn Wilson (far left) (The Office) and Jane Krakowski (30 Rock)

Julia Louis Dreyfus (New Adventures of Old Christine) (far left) and Sally Field (Brothers and Sisters) (far right)