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Skid-dish; Runaway Hollywood; Naked Men on Bikes

LETTER FROM L.A.: Skid-dish; Runaway Hollywood; Naked Men on Bikes

copyright 2002, Jim Chevallier



                We had our first rain in a while this weekend. In L.A., this is very scary.

                First of all, most Angelinos simply don’t know how to drive in the rain. Which is to say, they drive the same way they would in our normal, 90% sunny weather. This makes the already unnerving freeways truly terrifying. So any rain is a good reason to take surface streets.

                Plus, when it hasn’t rained for a while, you get to play Brake Roulette. Will your brakes work this time? Place your bet. The reason being that all the dry weather allows oil to accumulate on the roads. The first rain loosens this lubricant enough to make it dangerous, but not enough to wash it way.

                Someone first explained this to me after I’d been driving down Laurel Canyon, which peaks at Mulholland Drive and then descends steeply, and had hit my brakes after rounding a curve and finding another car stopped up ahead of me. It had rained recently, and I’d dimly noticed a large moist spot as I came around. The opposite lane, coming up, was packed bumper-to-bumper with cars. As I braked, my car immediately started to spin left - directly towards the driver of another car. I realized later I must have been pumping the brakes, because suddenly the car stopped – an inch away from the other driver’s door.

                This has certainly made me far more cautious on freeways and steep inclines. Still, you’d think slow-moving traffic on a level surface street would be fine, no? Apparently not. Last night, after listening to sickening near misses behind me in a long slow line of traffic, I rounded a curve at about 15 mph and… veered right into a barrier. Presumably placed where it was because I wasn’t the first to lose control on that particular curve.

                Despite some fun events, a lot of people stayed home last night. Now I know why.

                As if runaway production weren’t bad enough, now Hollywood wants to leave. Not to go to Canada; just to get out of L.A.

                In other words, like the Valley, Hollywood now also has a secession movement. And they had a big party at Arena Café, one of several nightclubs owned by Gene La Pietra, who is spearheading the movement. (If you saw “Austin Powers in Goldmember”, you’ve seen La Pietra’s discos.)  Lots of good food, though those who got there late had to wait on a line a block-long to get it. Balloons everywhere, including those dropped on the crowd later and those twisted into dolphins, teddy bears, toys and anything else you requested by a tall young guy whom I was about to tip until somebody told me he was a financial analyst! He does this (brilliantly) as a hobby. The decent DJ set was interrupted by a raw but energetic band and soon after the speeches started. La Pietra talked first and longest, and then other candidates for local office introduced themselves.

                At one point, La Pietra told the large crowd they were proof of the large-scale support for his movement.  But I suspect that more were supporters of free food. At any rate, the anti-secession demonstrators outside didn’t look very pumped either. Certainly not as pumped as all those balloons…

                So, that’s Hollywood and the Valley. Beverly Hills probably would secede as well, if it weren’t already a separate city. So, who’s next? Venice? Another secession or two, and we can call L.A. “The American Balkans”.

                How’s the acting world, you ask? Slow, slow, slow. Or so I keep hearing. My yoga teacher did shoot an episode of “She Spies” recently, but she booked it a while back. And one woman was lamenting that her boyfriend was doing  (gasp!) theater because things were so slow.

                Though a street fair on Venice’s colorful Abbot Kinney Boulevard included the usual street fair suspects – funnel cake and lemonade stands, for instance -, its unique character won out. Lots of galleries and craft stores were open, not to mention numerous restaurants, including one selling white sangria. One trendy furniture store had a rock band playing on a small loft, while a crowd in its garden swilled beers. And I doubt you’ll see a bunch of naked men on bikes at many other fairs.