Thursday, March 30, 2006

Our Buddy Greg

I intentionally didn’t label this as “MY Buddy Greg” because that would be selfish.

Greg had many, many friends. He was a fixture in the neighborhood, and he “belonged,” if you will, to all of us.

I never knew Greg’s last name, but I considered him a friend. He passed-away very unexpectedly last Monday morning after working his shift at the Sherman Oaks Newsstand (at the corner of Van Nuys and Ventura boulevards). You’ve probably seen him a million times as you passed the intersection: he was in his late fifties… always wore a ballcap… and, of course, sported his trademark ZZ Top beard.

I first met Greg about five years ago when I moved into the area. Looks can be deceiving; I took him to be a tough guy (probably because of his beard). I shoulda remembered what my Mom taught me as a kid about people: Don’t judge a book by its cover. That was Greg. From the start, I discovered he was a softy. He always had a joke to share, or an interesting observation. To be certain, he always had a smile or a 'hello' for you. Greg was the same with others; his modest up-bringing in Riverside didn't allow him to pass judgment on the people he met. It didn't matter if you were a panhandler or a producer... in Greg's eyes, we were all equals.

Did I mention that Greg always had a small crowd gathered around him— no matter the time or the condition of the weather (we used to joke about the temperature on the big electronic sign across the street that was always off by about 10 degrees)? Getting a magazine was secondary to the laugh you could share with the guy. He worked 3 to 11... and was a great way to wind-down your day. You could always count on him being there, Sunday thru Thursday.

Until this past Monday.

My wife and I have a toddler-aged son; in his two years on this planet, he’s already considered Greg to be one of his best buddies. Taking a walk to visit his ‘Uncle Greg’ every afternoon was the high-point of each day.

On my way home at night -- and on days I couldn't stop at the stand -- I used to give Greg a beep on the car horn. It was our daily ritual. I never got a wave-- but I always DID get a super-cool finger point back in return.

Still another thing to miss.

Did I mention that Greg was a hot rod enthusiast? He used to get our little guy miniature models of souped-up jalopies... and don’t think we didn’t appreciate his generous gestures to our son (especially knowing what Greg probably took home each week working at the stand).

What’s it all mean?

Well, damnit, it means that whoever said, ‘cherish each moment’ got it right. You never know when it'll all end. It also goes to show that extending a simple gesture – such as a smile or a kind word -- can have a huge, positive, impact on the lives of those you touch.

Our son is going to miss his daily afternoon walks to go see ‘Uncle Greg.’

I think we all will.




Jewel of the Neighborhood'
Burgess, newsstand clerk, dies
By Dana Bartholomew, Staff Writer

SHERMAN OAKS - He brought smiles to the faces of passing motorists. Heard the cares of customers. Handed out toys to children. And for decades was a fixture at the landmark Sherman Oaks Newsstand. Gregory Mark Burgess, the artist clerk whose smile had cheered passers-by at Van Nuys and Ventura boulevards since the early 1980s, died Monday of a heart attack. He was 59.

News of his death raced this week across the blogosphere... drew calls of condolences from Jay Leno's office... and shocked a Sherman Oaks community longing for the ZZ Top-like hot-rodder perched each evening with a copy of your favorite news mag or paper.

"He was the jewel of the neighborhood," said Jon Crowley, a TV producer, writer and director who lives near the 57-year-old stand. "He knew everybody. He cared for everybody. He belonged to everybody. "He was the outdoor bartender... but instead of pouring a drink, he'd pour out words of wisdom."

Burgess, a native of Columbus, Ohio, was raised in Covina and the inland town of Perris, where he developed a life-long love of hot rods, Harleys and high-heeled curves.

A hell-raiser, he raced drag bikes, wrenched on top-fuel dragsters-- and spent at least one night in jail for joy-riding the fire chief's car.

In the early 1980s, Burgess got his curbside job at the Sherman Oaks Newsstand. For awhile he sold magazines on Melrose Avenue and became a distributor. Then he returned to become the sage of Sherman Oaks.

And if he didn't know your name, he would always greet you as simply as "Bud," or "Pardner." Sunday through Thursday, rain or shine-- Burgess always had a joke. A smile. Some advice. Or a copy of your favorite "Forbes" or "Easy Rider" tucked beneath the register. Leno of "Tonight Show" and Max Baer of "The Beverly Hillbillies" were regulars.

Toddlers walking by with moms got hot-rod toys that Burgess made at home. Teens who spilled their troubles referred to him as "Dad." And the crush of motorists, if they weren't pulling over for the latest edition, saw Burgess twinkle and point in their direction.

When he wasn't peddling news, the man whose favorite artists are Jackson Pollack and Von Dutch loved to tour art galleries, cars shows or create "rockabilly" art with homemade frames. His company, Scavenger Enterprises, fashioned model cars.

On Sunday, Burgess complained of being tired. Early Monday, he complained of chest pains to his longtime girlfriend, Adriana Guidi, then collapsed in their apartment a mile from the stand. He died soon afterward at Sherman Oaks Hospital.

Burgess is survived by a son, Timothy Burgess, 24, of Upland; a daughter, Kimberly Burgess, 33, of Covina; and a granddaughter. No service is planned. Guidi said she hopes to arrange a hot-rod show in his honor.

Once, when eyeballing art in Orange County, Guidi said Burgess noticed a statue of a famous Laguna Beach greeter.
"He said, 'When I take the dirt nap, they'll put a statue like that for me at the newsstand."'

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

World's Oldest Celeb Passes

Hollywood Thoughts marks the sad passing of one of the world’s most interesting celebrities…

While known internationally, he obtained rock-star status in India where he was considered a national icon.

His celebrity derived mainly from his slow and easy-going personality… but was also due to his incredible longevity.

His name was Addwaita— which means “the one and only” in the Bengali language. When Addwaita passed last Wednesday, he was reported to have been 250 years old. He was the world’s oldest living inhabitant.

A bit of background…

According to Indian official Subir Chowdhury, documents exist to prove that Addwaita was brought to India as a youngster by English sailors from his native Seychelle Islands in the 1700’s. For a time, he lived with Lord Robert Clive (pictured above) of the East India Company—where it was whispered in private circles that he was a sort of “play thing for the Lord’s personal enjoyment.” Clive, of course, was instrumental in establishing British colonial rule in India before he finally returned to England in 1767.

Over time, the pair had grown distant, so it came as no surprise when Addwaita chose to not follow Clive to Britain. Instead, Addwaita preferred to stay in India where he continued to reside at Clive’s former garden estate. Addwaita remained there until moving into his current -– and only -- home in 1875.

Addwaita was a confirmed vegetarian, and most consider that to be his secret to longevity— even though he was, for most of his life, a ‘big guy’ who weighed nearly 260 pounds. Ultimately, liver failure was the cause of Addwaita’s passing.

Caretakers had noticed that he hadn’t been feeling well, and had been keeping an eye on him. They discovered his lifeless body early Wednesday…

…in his enclosure at the Calcutta Zoo.

Addwaita was an Aldabra tortoise. And that, as they say, is the rest of the story.

(Last known photo of Addwaita)



Addwaita was significantly older than Harriet, a 176-year-old Galapagos tortoise who lives at the Australia Zoo. According to the zoo's Web site, Harriet was taken from the island of Isla Santa Cruz by Charles Darwin in the 19th century.

Aldabra tortoises come from the Aldabra atoll in the Seychelle islands in the Indian Ocean, and often live to more than 100 years of age. Males can weigh up to 550 pounds.

Monday, March 27, 2006

HR4437: Sunset-Gower Studios Overrun By Protestors

The lead line might be a bit of an overstatement, but from approximately 9:00am until twelve noon today, the Sunset-Gower Studio gates were blocked at times by thousands of passing high school-aged protestors. By our informal count, over 3,000 students proceeded eastbound along Sunset boulevard; it was a snaking line of marchers that stretched as far as the eye could see (or at least as far as Vine). The teenagers -- escorted by dozens of LAPD officers on the ground and in the air -- were marching in protest of the federal government's pending immigration legislation, HR4437.

Of the several students we spoke with, most seemed to be from nearby L.A. High-- home of the Mighty Romans. Nary a Roman (or even a caucasian) was spotted in the sea of faces; the crowd was almost exclusively comprised of Hispanic and Latino students. The group was vocal, but well-behaved (being eyed by cops dressed in riot gear -- billy clubs drawn -- could be considered an inducement, we suppose, for being on one's best 'protestor-like-behavior'). A report on a local news channel suggests that the walkout was organized, in part, by postings on several sites.

When Hollywood Thoughts contacted the Dean's office at LA High, a school official confirmed that student's had taken it upon themselves to organize the walk-out against the administration's wishes. Hmmm... a demonstration put together by a group of passionate teens... or a huge ditch day the likes of which haven't been seen since Ferris Buehler sang 'Twist & Shout'? The answer, we think, lies along the lines of gender...

When the coeds were questioned about their motives for marching, we were given serious and thoughtful responses. The males in the group, however, tended to reply with answers along the lines of, 'We're outta school all day, bro!'

To be honest -- and politics aside -- we're just happy that the word, 'Bro' is still in use among America's youth (regardless of their indigenous or immigrant status). Anyone got a Maui & Sons tee?

Hollywood Thoughts wonders how much of an influence the currently running HBO film "Walkout" is having on the demonstrators? Do we have Washington to blame for the mass truancy... or Edward James Olmos???

The high school walk-outs are happening all over the country today, and come on the heels of massive demonstrations throughout the nation this past Saturday.

Here's a thought that isn't exclusive to Hollywood: Why isn't the media giving serious coverage to these demonstrations? Protests these big rival any seen at the outset of war in Iraq... yet are being pushed to the back pages of our largest newspapers. In Los Angeles alone, over 500,000 protestors descended upon the civic center. Based upon the 2000 census, that's over one-third of the city's entire population; doesn't that qualify for better, more consistent coverage of an issue that concerns such a large portion of our society?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Will The New Wonder Woman Please Get Lost!

Nobody seems to be connecting the dots on this one, so please allow us to complete the picture for you...

Seems that "Lost" star, Evangeline Lilly is mentioned in this month's Esquire Magazine (and numerous other reputable sources) as being on the 'short list' of ladies being considered for the title role in Joss Whedon's new 'Wonder Woman' flick.

Guess who else is in the running? Evangeline's 'Lost' co-star, Michelle Rodriguez. At one point this week, Rodriguez was actually listed under the WW cast list on the imdb site (since removed).

Wow... both are great choices.

Wow. That's gotta bring some tension to the Hawaii set, dontcha think?

(By the way, check-out the mysterious Lost fan, The Thumb Guy, who has been gaining prominence on the outrageous Tabloid Baby site (which stems from the controversial book) Tabloid Baby by Burt Kearns (writer-producer of the current DVD comedy, Cloud 9. The Thumb Guy has a fun, new Lost fan site); check them all out...

Second Shuttering For Schwab's


Looks like Schwab's has seen its second coming... and now, closing.

While the Hollywood Thoughts staff took a lunchtime stroll down Sunset boulevard last week, one of our sharp-eyed interns noticed that the windows at Schwab's were all covered with butcher paper. At the time we guessed that filming might be going-on inside, and that a crew was trying to keep lookie-loo's at bay by blocking the view from the sidewalk.

That was a week ago. The windows remain covered-- but they've taken-on a creepy, 'Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore' patina (as in: "We had a Denny's-style-menu-with-Patina-prices-and-that's-why-we-went-belly-up").

If, in fact, it's time to say, 'buh-bye' to Schwab's, it would come as no surprise: the decor was cold, and so was the demeanor of many of it's staff. If some smart lad with a deep pocket wants to buy the rights to the name, they'd be best advised to try and do a faithful knock-off of the original Schwab's decor & layout. Make the new place homey... install a fun counter... and make reasonably priced comfort food (Gimme a chocolate shake!). Think: Johnny Rocket's but with an honest-to-god pedigree.

Speaking of the original Schwab's, it's original location was at Crescent Heights & Sunset boulevard-- roughly where the Virgin Megastore is located today (BTW: The famous 'Garden of Allah' hotel was located across the street where the McDonalds now sits. Like the old Joni Mitchell song says, 'They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.'). And, no, Lana Turner was NOT discovered at the Schwab's soda counter... she was spotted by a talent scout at a soda counter near her Hollywood High School campus.

We've tried calling Schwab's everyday this week, with no avail. A property management spokesperson told HT that they thought Schwab's ownership was considering a "re-think" on its concept.

I think, kiddies, it's time to look around for a new lunch spot.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Ode To Maverick, Ice Man & The Tomcat

The U.S. Department of the Navy announced last week that the venerable F-14 Tomcat fighter is to be completely retired by this coming September. You remember the Tomcat, don't you? It's the featured "player" in the 1986 Tom Cruise movie, "Top Gun."

Over 600 of the twin-engined, swing-winged fighters (maximum speed of 1,544mph) were produced between 1970 and the early 1990's. Most F-14 squadrons will take delivery of its replacement, the F-18 "Super" Hornet in the coming months. The VF-31 "Tomcatters" squadron will retain their F-14's until August, making them the last to fly the famous fighter.

Of historical note, the last Tomcat to be catapulted from an aircraft carrier probably happened last Saturday (March 11th) aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt with the VF-213 Black Lion squadron.

For all of you military-aviation buffs, the Tomcat started life as a JOINT venture between the Navy and the Air Force. The two branches of the military were in need of a fighter, and decided to share their R&D dollars to contain the high costs associated with creating a high-tech aircraft from scratch.

It wasn't much of a surprise when politics entered the picture and the two forces couldn't agree on anything. The whole project went millions of dollars over-budget... and up in flames. From the ashes of engineer's blueprints, both the Navy and the Air Force developed their own dual-engined, swing-winged fighters (the Navy's F-14, and the Air Force F-111 Aardvark, retired in 1996).

There will be a major reunion of pilots, mechanics and supporters of the Tomcat September 20-23, 2006.

Most of the remaining F-14's will be destroyed, while a few will be shipped to museums.

As a parting shot, we re-print part of an interview with Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary about their feeling that "Top Gun" is one of Hollywood's least-known -- and best -- gay-themed movies:

"You've got Iceman, and all his crew.
They're gay, they represent the gay community...
and they're saying, "Go the gay way."
"Then you've got Maverick, right? He's on the edge, man.
He could go either way.
"Kelly McGillis--
she represents heterosexuality.
She's saying, "No, no, no!
Go the normal way;
play by the rules."
That's what's going on
throughout that whole movie.
"Mav goes to her house, all right?
It looks like they're going to have sex.
They're just kind of sitting back,
he's takin' a shower and everything. But they
don't have sex! He gets on the motorcycle,
drives away. She's like, "What the
hell, what's going on here?!?" Next scene
you see her, she's in the elevator,
she's dressed like a guy. She's got the cap on,
she's got the aviator glasses,
she's wearing the same jacket
that the Iceman wears. She's like,
"Okay, this is how I gotta get this guy...
this guy's going towards the gay way, I gotta bring
him back through a little subterfuge.
I'm gonna dress like a man."
That's how she approaches it-- she makes herself
more appealing by dressing like the Iceman.

"The movie's ending REALLY gets the point
across when they fight the MIGs at the end.
Mav's passed over into the gay way and
they are now this gay fighting force.
And they're beating the Russians--
the gays are beating the Russians.
And it's over, and they land, and Iceman's
been trying to get Maverick the
entire time, and finally, he's got him, all right?
And they're all hugging and kissing and
happy with each other, and Ice comes up to Maverick,
and he says, "Man, you can ride my tail, anytime!"
And what does Maverick say?
"You can ride mine!" Swordfight! Swordfight!"

Continuing that theme, take a look at the Topgun spoof, Brokeback Squadron.

Godspeed, Maverick... and remember one of the best lines from the flick: "You don't own that plane, son. The taxpayers do. So don't let your ego write any checks your body can't cash-- or you'll be flying a cargo plane full of rubber dog shit out of Hong Kong."

Words to live by...

Monday, March 13, 2006

Bette, Bettie, Betty Page is Alive, Alive, Alive!

After reading this weekend's LA Times article on Bette Page, Hollywood Thoughts decided to do a little snooping to see if we could uncover recent photos of the mysterious Ms. Page...

Our readers are surely acquainted with this real-life icon and how she changed views of sexuality. It's also prettty widely known that in recent years she prefers to not have her photograph taken ("...I want people to remember me when I was young...").

With all due respect to Ms.Page, we think she still looks great. Because so few people have seen any new shots of Betty, we consider it our contribution for the good of the community to reveal a few shots taken in the last 2 or 3 years.

The first is a mugshot from a scrape with the law in the 1980's. The others are from parties held at the Playboy Mansion.

Click here for the most notorious -- and uncensored -- shots of Bette Page.

It's hard to imagine why Ms. Page would be reticent to having her picture posted-- it's even harder to believe she's over eighty.

Ms. Page turns 82 on April 22nd.

Happy Birthday Bette-Bettie-Betty... we still think you're the cat's meow!

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Hills Have Eyes Premiere

It's a good thing to dish a little on industry happenings when you carry the word, "Hollywood" in your blog title, right?

The Hollywood Thoughts staff attended the premiere of "The Hills Have Eyes" last night at the Hollywood Arclight cinemas (you know the place, right? Its the sorta new-ish cineplex located behind the historic Cinerama Dome on Sunset Boulevard-- the very same location where you can apply to become a card-carrying "member" (and god knows I need another piece of plastic to shove into my wallet). It's also famous for charging fifteen bucks per ticket. At those prices, a movie isn't enough. I think the ushers should give you free PROSTATE screening).

I digress.

The movie is a remake of Wes Craven's 1977 Horror classic of the same name. The 2006 version was directed by Alex Aja... an up-and-comer whose father, Alexandre Arcady, is also a well-respected filmaker.

The film opens this weekend, and the buzz is that the performance at the box office will be very strong-- especially among the high school and college set. There's enough jump-in-your-seat moments to keep the nation's stadium-like seating completely filled. Emilie de Ravin (TV's, "Lost") also spends some screen time in a bikini... and THAT can't be bad for the bottom line.

The film looks great... and the performances are all very strong (Kathleen Quinlan, Ted Levine also appear). At 87 minutes, the film never drags. With a driving score, the show moves at a fairly relentless pace.

Bottom Line Review: As much as we had fun last night, I think Craven's original remains the better version. Here's why: Craven's characters were more well-established. When people started getting whacked, you cared more. Otherwise, the new version is a fun romp.

Last night's premiere was only twenty minutes late-- a blink of an eye in movieland late-start terms.

The audience seemed to enjoy the movie, and jumped at all the right places. The creepy looking mutants in the movie are a real hoot, too.

Emilie de Ravin struck us as being very sweet. She was warm, engaging and... TINY. Wow, talk about petite! She looked great with her "up 'do"-- a different look as we tend to see her on TV with her hair down. Emilie was accompanied by her Fiancee-- a very nice and down-to-earth fellow.

Lots of posers in attendance last night. You know the type: mock-serious looking dudes with lots of product in the hair and unbuttoneddowntohere french-blue shirts... blue-tooth Star Trek gizmos hanging out of their ear (even when they're not talking to anyone)... and constantly shifting eyes as they scan over the top of your head... JUST IN CASE they spot a celeb named, Hillary. Where's the ejection handle when you need to flip one of these bozos into the next zip code?!?

The After Party was held across the way, and themed to resemble the film's "Military Nuclear Test Housing Development, #3-B." Creepy looking 1950's era "just-got-blasted-by-a-500-pound-nuclear-bomb" mannequins dotted the space. Chicken and bellpepper skewers, pasta, and barbeque tri-tip were on the menu. So were an abnormal number of weirdos...

One guy in attendance had himself made-up to look like one of the film's nuclear mutants. Hey, I admit: what's more fun than sharing a bit of tri-tip with some dude that looks-like-the-world's-gnarliest-burn-victim? Mmmm, yum. Pass the hickory sauce, sparky...

Go see "Hills"...

Monday, March 06, 2006

Musing Oscar

Here are a few Hollywood Thoughts on last night's Oscar telecast:

John Stewart wasn't horrible... he just wasn't very good. He seemed nervous and stumbled when the early laughs weren't there for him. You could sense the crowd was pulling for him (especially after the fun taped opening with Billy Crystal, Letterman, Chris Rock and Steve Martin), but gave-up hope at about the five minute mark. To me, the close-ups revealed a lot of celebs thinking they were in for a long and unfunny night. How right they were...

Was it me, or did Stewart start a couple of jokes... and then never pay them off ("A lot of people say this town is out of touch with mainstream America... I don't really have a joke here.")? Where are you Billy Crystal's team of writer's-in-the wings?!? Yes, some of the faux political ads got a chuckle... but I don't want off-the-shelf material for the Oscars. Look, I love Letterman, but that doesn't mean I liked seeing him bring his 'stupid animal tricks' bit to the Academy Awards. Note to hosts: Oscar night is special. Bring new material.

Speaking of no pay-off's: what was up with the CG opening? Was there a point to Brando walking down a street and getting buzzed by a Tie-fighter? On paper, I'm sure it sounded fun... but where was the pay-off? Big start... lousy finish. Suggestion: get the guys who produce Super Bowl's ads to build next year's open.

Since no one has been able to produce a better Oscars than Gil Cates, he continues to get the gig. Listen, I hate ageism just as much as anyone... but I think Gil is getting a bit stodgy in his approach. Last night ranks as one of the bigggest bores in the history of the event. Suggestion: Cates needs to surround himself with a few writers that are more in tune with the current zeitgeist.

Some additional musings:

*Ditch the crappy canned music track under the acceptance speeches. It doesn't keep things moving along... it just makes everything sound annoying. Who thought a "one-cue-fits-all" was a good approach?

*Note to Gil: We can tell at home when you use a sweetening track. Hearing laughter or applause when the wide shots show folks sitting on their hands is, um, a sorta giveaway.

*Second Note to Gil: You don't score points when you play-off the co-Best Picture winner with Conti's orchestra. Aren't you and the director seeing the same shots we see at home? We all saw the second guy walking to the mike... what's an additional :30 seconds of air time to let the winner give a few thanks? Really. Same goes for the screenplay winner you bowled over.

*Who was the idiot that had Jennifer Garner as a presenter in direct-line-of-sight with a seated-in-the-first-row JLo?

*Who sat Heath Ledger in the front row... and then got Naomi Watts to be a downstage presenter?

*Did anyone hear Clooney when he kissed presenter Nicole Kidman? "That'll start some rumors," he said.

*Visit defamer to lip-read Tom Hanks launching an F-bomb at the orchestra (or Stewart?). Guess he didn't like being played onto the stage with the "Forrest Gump" theme. He's "beyond" that. Maybe it was a gag...?

*Lauren Bacall: Drunk? Blind? Victim of a bad teleprompter operator? Or simply confused? Your call. Either way, sad.

*What white guy thought it was a cool idea to bring Queen Latifah onto the stage immediately after the Three 6 Mafia performance? A little too spot-on, dontcha think guys?

*Too many clip packages. I'm not suggesting you bring Debby Allen and her "Fame" dancers back, but why tell us that films are too glorious to be viewed on the small screen, and then show us glorious scenes on... a TV screen???

*How bad was the Tom Hanks as a "long-winded-Oscar-winner" tape package? VERY embarrassing. Amateur hour stuff (including a lame poison dart in the neck gag). Worse than last year's Blake Edwards rocket powered wheelchair stunt. Methinks Gil Cates shouldn't have approval over the 'funny bits.'

*Thank goodness for Reese Witherspoon & Phillip Seymour Hoffman. The two best speeches of the night.

A couple of random thoughts:

OK. We've seen Isaac Mizrahi on the red carpet. Twice (Golden 'Globs,' too). That's more than enough. Anyone catch how many times the guy said, "Wow"? Start counting-- it's a new drinking game. He's so interested in getting his pre-written questions out, he never bothers to listen to what's being said by his interview subject. As he scours his list of questions, all he can muster (like a mantra) is, "Wow. Wow. That's great. Wow." Yikes. Yikes. Yikes. I got the feeling a lot of celebs were glad a row of shrubs kept them a safe distance from a possible groping.

Paparazzi get knocked quite a bit. Deservedly so. But it's a well-known secret that some celebs court the photogs. Certain stars have been known to PERSONALLY CALL the lensers when they're out at a restaurant so the publicity pack can assemble for a shot of an arrival or departure.

Hollywood Thoughts found it interesting that Lindsay Lohan appeared in front of E!'s cameras at a post telecast party and left by saying that she (paraphrased), "...had to go inside to join friends for a drink..." She was spotted by the same crew -- roughly an hour later -- on the same red carpet, STILL CONDUCTING INTERVIEWS. Hmmm. In our opinion, the interview was a little... uh... sloppy. Maybe Lindsay realized she didn't need a(nother?) drink???

Parting Thought: We can't be happier that the Academy Awards are finally over. Never again will we have to look at the big Oscar billboard at the corner intersection of our south-of-the-boulevard home. The ad campaign was a joke, right? It's a gay-themed year, and the wacky gang at the Academy thought they'd try to slip a crotch shot of some fellow 'polishing his Little Oscar' by us... right???

'Til next year.

L.A.'s Newest -- And Classiest -- Night Spot

In our Oscar party wanderings this weekend, the Hollywood Thoughts team has uncovered L.A.'s newest hot spot:

The always impressive Beverly Hills Peninsula Hotel has created an outdoor cocktail lounge alongside their rooftop pool. They've built a cozy fire pit and done a makeover of the dining area (now covered by oversized umbrellas that form a canopy over the tables-- perfect for LA's hot, sunny days). There's even a new powder blue color scheme to tie everything together. The cocktail service is currently undergoing a 'soft opening' to work out the bugs, but we can tell you that the service was, as expected, up to the Peninsula's rigorous standards. Our server, Jack, was friendly and never gave an eye roll to our many requests. Our party sat in one of the cozy cabanas (with the heater turned-on to keep the night chill off the ladies), and enjoyed the shrimp ceasar salad, crab cakes, and Thai chicken wings. All were great. The chicken soup had a bit of a bite, and was especially good.

The word on the street is that the Peninsula will soon begin to publicize the outdoor cocktail service-- a bit of marketing I've rarely seen from a hotel that trades on its exclusivity. The whole affair is understated elegance-- just like the rest of the hotel. Expect positive buzz to quickly spread, and table availability to become sparse. The revamped rooftop is certain to be a hit-- especially when the warmer nights are upon us.

The Peninsula is located at 9882 South Santa Monica Boulevard in Beverly Hills. Phone: 310.551.2888.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

PORN: The San Fernando Valley's OTHER Film Business

The reasons why the fledgling film industry relocated from the east coast to Los Angeles are fairly well known (better year-round weather and quick access to a variety of locations such as the ocean... snowy mountains... and the high desert). Filmakers were also keen on not paying royalties to inventor Thomas Edison (who held several patents on their movie-making gear).

Interesting side-note: In the 1920's, Harry Culver (founder of Culver City) enticed the owners of MGM to establish their studio in his growing town. He made them an offer of free land. Lots of it. It was an offer that couldn't be refused.

Flash forward some forty years...

A cash-strapped MGM of the early 1970's no longer needed all that real estate. Lighter, more portable camera gear also makes location shooting a cost effective way of doing production (no more backlots!). The studio ownership decides to sell all of their land and move headquarters to New York.

Hollywood Thoughts recommends taking a drive around Culver City to see for yourself how large MGM was in its heyday-- six lots that comprised almost two hundred acres. It was a city-within-a-city that boasted its own fire and police departments. Backlot #2 is now a housing tract with streets named after old movie stars (this is the spot where the Andy Hardy Movies were shot. It's also where Gene Kelly danced and sang in the rain). Mrs. Miniver, National Velvet and Gigi were also filmed here. How about the apartment building named after "Sherwood Forrest"? Yep. The lake in the middle of the complex is where fellows atop their four-legged mounts were committed to celluloid. Today's Raintree Shopping Center was the former home of the Ben Hur stables.

I digress.

When MGM announced their impending departure to the colder climes of New York, Culver City politicians reminded them to check the fine print of old Harry's original land grant. The ownership of lot #1 -- the largest parcel by a wide margin -- would revert to Culver City as soon as film production ceased on the property. In other words, the land wasn't MGM's to sell. Moving to New York no longer made sense from a financial perspective. MGM would remain a part of Hollywood.

It's clear to see how the movie business became established in Los Angeles... but how did the OTHER film biz come to be? How did Porn become a homegrown export?

One logical explanation is that a large talent pool from the mainstream industry falls into part-time jobs in the "adult" business between 'regular' assignments. A darker view contends that enterprising businessmen lured down-on-their-luck wannabe actresses with paychecks for 'adult' performances.

In any event, the adult film industry continues to thrive in the San Fernando Valley. Why the Valley? Simple: Cheaper real estate. Lower overhead.

While the major studios worry that box office receipts continue to decline each year (down 8% from last year), the business of porn logs greater revenue on a yearly basis. Thanks to video and the internet, consumers can view or purchase porn from anywhere a wireless laptop will allow. Sex has always been a discreet affair... and now, in the digital age, that extends to its commerce.

How easy is it to become the new Louis B. Mayer of porn? The next Larry Flynt? Very.

Take a look at Matt's Models. Matt (we don't know his last name) has a website. And a camera... and a modest home somewhere near Universal Studios.

If you're a decent looking female, Matt will give you a few bucks... IF you're willing to remove your clothes. Then he'll invite web-surfers to pay a small amount to subscribe to his site to view his handiwork with his digital camera (you can see some of this if you Click here. It's a smart business plan. Virtually no overhead, and nothing but profits. Matt's as much a pioneer in the business of filmaking as Culver, Loew, Laemmle or Mayer. When you think about it, one man and his camera isn't too far removed from the modest beginnings of the (future) movie moguls and their Times Square nickelodeons.

As old as the industry is, it's continuing evolution continues to impress. With or without clothing.