st-ART me up, Hollywood Style 

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Only in Hollywood, California. Last weekend the eternally cool and fabulously historic Highland Gardens Hotel hosted the second annual stARTup Art Fair, featuring  over 50 evocative and inspirational artists. These creators of art were paired up, and together they transformed hotel rooms overlooking the whimsical old-school courtyard into mini art galleries featuring their works. Fantastico! 


Impressively stiff cocktails, fine wine and tasty bites to nosh on were available as well. What an absolutely innovative, hip and cool way to see art, and to meet and converse with the artists themselves. Enveloped in the fusion of lush flora and fauna and the good energy and positive vibrations of art, the people who create it and those who admire it. Delicious combination. 

The chicken tacos and fruity vodka cocktail got me nice and juiced up and ready to explore the art show. 

Met Jesse Standlea and his Centerpiece. Some of these creations are only as heavy as the paper they are made from. His work is shown at the Torrance Art Museuk and he was really enjoying the weekend and meeting people who stopped by his gallery. Off to a great start! 

Some rooms I slowly wandered through and others drew me in for quite some time. The beauty of it all; there was no time limit. I was free to peruse when, how and where I wanted.  

It felt like I had entered another world, an art maze of sorts. In and out of different “galleries” (hotel rooms), gazing and studying all the different pieces, while others did the same. 

I loved observing how some artists used the hotel room furniture as props or easels of sorts, while others hid all the furniture away in closets or behind curtains. 

And then, I happened upon this incredibly friendly and talented guy and his work. Richard Gayler, a Los Angeles Westside elementary school teacher, who spends anywhere from 17 to 200 hours creating these pieces by utilizing individual dots. Yes, that’s right. Individual dots. That takes some seriously intense channeling of energy and focus, I’d say. Playful yet so detailed. Loved it! 

Look at these two characters. Magnificent! 

A little further along in my travels I met up with Randi Matushevitz. What a hoot! She has endless stories and energy and it shows in her art. She has lived in Vegas, Miami and LA multiple times and through those experiences she has reinvented herself and her art. She is very proud of the direction her new work is taking, and we can see why. 

Another one of my favorite stops of the evening. I had the pleasure of spending a good chunk of time philosophizing with LA artist (by way of NYC) Wayne Chang. Sharing perspectives on the love/hate relationship with the concept of Disney and really, all things LA in general. Truly enjoyable running into someone who “gets” it. So profoundly talented, smart and admirably skilled at conveying his feelings both through art and words. 

Last of all, I rounded out my night with a simple and lovely chat with Carlos Grasso. Listened to his tales of life in Ojai and even learned about the woman who had a very recent heart transplant and how deeply touched she was by Grasso’s heart piece (below). Such an open and kind soul in addition to being gifted with such talent. 

What I love most about art is connecting with the people who are able to give visual form and life to their thoughts, passions, and emotions. I loved every minute of this event and wish I had gone all three days! Thanks to all who participated and helped to make this happen, and thank you once again to my all-time most favorite, the Highland Gardens Hotel, for hosting this sensational event! I have loved staying at this hotel on my countless previous visits to LA, but this rare experience will forever be etched in my memory. 

   

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The Museum of Jurassic Technology – Feed Your Inner Nerd

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Inconspicuously located in the Culver City/Palms district of Los Angeles, this mysterious den-like museum refers to itself as “an educational institution dedicated to the advancement of knowledge and the public appreciation of the Lower Jurassic.” Detailed information on the actual contents of the museum is quite vague and leaves one wondering,  just what is this place? I decided to do some investigating of my own, and am now able to shed a ray of light on this provocative little haven of curiosities and rarities; scientific, historic and artistic in nature. I can sum up this museum easily in just one word: otherworldly.
Without giving too much away, as well as adhering to the very strict no-photo policy, I will give you a penned glimpse into this cavern of oddities. Completely fascinating.

A quick logistics rundown first. Street and free meter parking were pretty easy to find on a Sunday afternoon. Admission is a donation of $8 per adult (well worth it!) with varying discounted costs for other visitors. Uniquely stocked gift shop to peruse upon the completion of your visit. I will note that it was rather uncomfortably warm inside on the day I visited, which admittedly did slightly take away from my overall enjoyment, though not a deal breaker. I would suggest throwing a fund raiser for museum-wide air conditioning. Be a good egg and show respect for their repeated postings that clearly prohibit photographs from being taken. This is a very small and peculiarly offbeat museum, so it only seems decent to follow their rules and let others visually experience it for themselves.


And now, some of the delicacies that you will feast your eyes upon in this darkened den of artifacts and anomalies:

Random animal horns, including one that was once attached to a human

A mole skeleton, the real deal

Bug and moth displays aplenty

Handwritten letters and notes regarding experiments, inventions, miracles and disasters

Opera singer’s personal affects in an uber-creepy room with opera music playing

Old time tobacco pipes and… salted teeth, yes that’s right

Fossil of a human/ape hybrid

A room of personal antique collections

Micro miniature sculptures in and on top of the eye of a needle including Goofy, Napoleon and Pope John Paul II

Intricate display of handmade model trailers

Handsomely painted dog portraits

String designs and fortune telling tricks

Tales, spells, folklore and history galore

And do make sure to spend a little time indulging on tea and cookies in the Tula Tea Room and stepping outside on to the secret rooftop garden, complete with a columbarium and birds. Whimsical and celestial vibe up there.

Arouse your senses. Awaken your brain cells. Nourish your intellectual and cultural inner nerd. You won’t be disappointed.

Friday Night Poop Poop Platter 

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It’s Friday night and Mama wanted some Chinese for din din. I recalled getting take out from Szechuan Palace in Playa del Rey once before and really enjoyed it. So I called in an order for a pu pu platter and shrimp with veggies for us to share back at the apartment. I work very close by and I picked up the food on my way home. I open up the cartons and to our dismay, the food was completely overcooked, tasteless and just plain bad. It looked as nasty as it tasted.  

 
The fried shrimp was like cardboard. The fried wontons looked like shriveled testicles 

and the broccoli in the entree was so mushy, I couldn’t even use a fork to lift it up to my mouth. The egg roll was so over fried, it tasted like a rolled up newspaper. 

 I know…I’m an idiot for not taking any photos and we certainly shouldn’t have even eaten as much as we did…but we were hungry and lazy. We were going to just blow it off and chalk it up as a bad dinner, but then I was like FUCK THAT I had to WORK TO EARN THE MONEY TO PAY FOR THIS DOG SHIT. I’m not going to finish eating it and then be pissed off tomorrow that I didn’t do anything about it tonight. 

I called the restaurant to tell them I was very upset at the quality of this “food”. The woman/owner(?) was really defensive and rude, telling me that’s what a pu pu platter SHOULD look like and that the food was FRESH at restaurant, but that she can’t HELP how it tasted once I got it home. HUH??  I told her this was totally unacceptable and gross and if we had been at the restaurant we would have sent it back, demanding for it to be taken off the bill. I asked if she would refund my money and she told me I had to DRIVE IT BACK TO THE RESTAURANT AND SHOW HER, BEFORE SHE WOULD GIVE ME A REFUND. So…I did just that. I packed up the rest of this CRAP and drove it back to the restaurant. She was waiting for me by the door with a big scowl on her mug. She shook her head at me as if I WAS RIPPING HER OFF?!? TACO BELL would have been 10X better and less expensive than this sorry excuse for a dinner. She opened the bag and inspected the boxes, GROWLED at me 

 
and said THESE ARE EMPTY. I said, no they’re not. And she said THESE ARE EMPTY. And I said, no they’re not. And again she said THESE ARE EMPTY. And I said no they’re not. There is 1/3 of the entree left and almost 1/2 the POOP POOP platter left. I stayed completely calm because I knew that I was not leaving the front of her establishment until I got my refund. After making me wait for her to complete two phone calls, she VERY UNHAPPILY gave me my refund (MINUS THE TIPPPPP?!?) and I said THANKS and walked out. Let’s be real folks, CRAP FOOD AND CRAP CUSTOMER SERVICE is not the way to go in a competitive market. What ever happened to having pride in your business and “the customer is always right?” She was a nasty CRANK who had no customer relation skills. I just hope I don’t get food poisoning from that GARBAGE I ingested. And now, at this very moment, even Mama’s stomach, which is normally able to handle anything from giant hot fudge sundaes to Spicy McChicken Sandwiches to 6 pieces of bacon in one sitting, is making some rather concerning alien noises. Oh God. Noooooo. What exactly WAS that “chicken like substance” that she stuffed into her pie hole? 😱😱

GROSSS. I rarely ever write negative reviews or posts on anything, but in this case I felt it absolutely necessary to share this total bummer of a dining experience.   

Pink Martini: Trapped With No Way Out

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I excitedly purchased a ticket specifically to see Doc Severinsen at the Hollywood Bowl without even looking to see who he was playing with. When I learned it was Pink Martini, I thought, hmmm well I’ve heard of them but have never seen them so this will be a chance to check them out. Cool!

The Hollywood Bowl is without a doubt a spectacular outdoor venue, but as you may or may not know, it is not exactly known as user-friendly when it comes to getting there and parking logistics. Another interesting tidbit that you may or may not be aware of is the fact that they only offer STACKED PARKING. What is stacked parking you ask? Well, imagine a puzzle made out of 981729812479234 cars and your car is one piece in that puzzle. Once you park, you have committed to staying for the entire concert with no way out until enough car owners around you return and move so that you can forge your way out behind them. When asked what people do if they had an emergency and HAD to get out? A parking lot attendant told me “call a cab.” Ah. Peachy. Good thing I usually choose to take the shuttle and bypass all the parking madness. Wondering how any of this is relevant to the story? Hang tight and read on, my friends.

I have heard all of the hullabaloo about the much celebrated Portland band, Pink Martini and after thoroughly enjoying every minute of Doc Severinsen’s set (and wishing for more), it was time to finally see and hear what all the excitement was about. The band took the stage at 9pm. “We are Pink Martini. We are from Portland, Oregon. Please welcome the lovely Miss China Forbes.” At a glance, they are going for the Big Band era look, just to give you a mental picture.  First comment out of China’s mouth after the opening song… “How are you up in the cheap seats?” Did she really just say that? Was she trying to be funny? Not too sure, but my first impression is now based on a condescending remark made by the lead vocalist of a band I’ve never seen before. Not sure it’s a very gracious (or cool) act to call out your audience based on the price of their seats? Hmmm. Not off to a stellar start if you ask me, but let’s see what happens from here.

Yap, yap, yap, yap. Not sure I care how many times you’ve played Carnegie Hall, and all the other top venues around the world. Way. Too. Much. Talking. And not just talking, but self-congratulatory talking. Incredibly impressed with themselves, is what kept crossing my mind. A ridiculously long story about writing a song in French. Waving her arms around with her feet cemented to the stage, China’s voice was completely emotionless. I’m not buying into it. Now (bandleader) Thomas Lauderdale is reciting a story about the poetic meaning behind the next song. Talk, talk, talk, talk. Granted, Thomas is a talented piano player, but again, there is no authentic vibe or energy emanating from the stage for me whatsoever. They are coming across as flat and uninspiring.  A member of the band takes center stage with a bright red glockenspiel-looking instrument and sings in Spanish while swerving and waving his hips merrily. Crowd loved it. I however, did not. “Que Paso Yolandaaaaaaa…” yawwwwn. I am not into this at all. 

More talk of sold out Carnegie Hall shows and how China lost her voice so the next singer had to learn 10 songs in 5 languages in time for the shows to go on. Welcome.. STORM LARGE. STORM LARGE? Seriously? What in the hell kind of name is that? She comes out on stage. Pretty girl, but dark roots with cheaply dyed PINK stringy hair? WHY? How does this equate to a class act? How can you take a band like this seriously? I don’t get it. I will give it to Storm, she has a great voice. And is infinitely more entertaining to watch than China with her waving arms, but still, Pink Martini is not winning me over. I have seen thousands of live shows in my lifetime and I feel that I have a pretty good grasp of music and what is out there, but frankly, this band is doing nothing for me except WISHING that I could get the hell out of the parking lot and head home.

Now we get to hear another story from Thomas about how he mixed in Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” into the next song. Cheers from the crowd. Wow. I cannot believe how completely TIRED this band and their whole shtick is. Another elongated introduction and out pops Ari Shapiro. Apparently, I am the only person in the audience who is not an avid Pink Martini fan, because I have no idea who this person is. Who is he and why am I supposed to be impressed with this cameo appearance? Yap, yap, yap and more yap. “We have played in London, Paris and Istanbul. In amazing venues all over the world but none compare to the Hollywood Bowl, and I’m pretty sure Judy Garland felt the same way.” For the love of God would someone tell this band that they talk WAYYYY TOOO MUCH!?!?!? Yet another mention of their sold out Carnegie Hall shows. They bring out Doc Severinsen (thank GOD) and that was great. The highlight of their set for sure.

Oh goody, another intro story from Thomas. This time about a man named David LaChapelle who became a famous photographer thanks to Andy Warhol and even though he has never sung on a stage before in his life, he’s going to do so now. Can’t wait.

Here he comes, all Rockabillied out and attempts to sing “Son of a Preacher Man,” with China and Storm backing him up. Look, I’m not saying I’m a world class songstress, but dude, don’t quit your day job. That was it. My fun meter had overflowed at this point and I could take it no longer. I walked out to my car and sat there in shock, laughing about how GOD AWFUL this Pink Martini show was, until I was freed from my stacked parking situation and headed home. Dripping with pretension and self-love, Pink Martini may have musical talent but they fail as performers. I would not see them again and if ever asked, I will be sure to share my two cents. Thank GOD for Doc Severinsen!

P.S. And to those of you who think I’m being a hater…sorry but it had to be said. I’m just being honest. #sallysopinionmatters

Doc Severinsen: Dig That Man and His Horn!

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When I heard that the Grammy-winning prolific musician and band leader Doc Severinsen was playing the Hollywood Bowl I knew exactly where I would be on September 2, 2015. Just the mention of his name takes me back to the good old Johnny Carson days. That iconic combination of trumpet notes that signaled the beginning of each show, his amusing and playful back and forth banter with Johnny and Ed. 30 years of classic entertainment that will be embedded in our memories forever.

Donning a blue jacket with multicolored rhinestones, a purple shirt and lime green pants in typical Doc style, he showed the crowd at the Hollywood Bowl that at 88 years of age, he’s clearly still got it!

Considered one of the best trumpeters, musicians and band leaders over the last 60 years, Doc Severinsen is highly respected across classical, jazz, and big band genres. His bright tones, upbeat rhythms and masterful command of the 16 piece band are phenomenal. He seemed so at ease and comfortable on stage, shared a lighthearted quip here and there, but knew he didn’t have time to waste, so kept the music coming and the talk to a minimum.

We were treated to “Every Day I Have the Blues,” “When You’re Smiling” (a personal Tony Bennett fave of mine) and a tasty mix of bongo, drum, violin and horn solos thrown in to spotlight the tremendous talent surrounding him. The guy has endless ability, flair, wit and spunk. What’s not to love?

We were graced with 38 minutes of pure musical delight, ending with an explosive and dazzling rendition of Harry James’ “Two O’Clock Jump” that absolutely blew our socks off!  Brilliant! Throwing a kiss to the crowd as he exited the stage, this cat has class! A+ performance! Only wish he was the headliner versus the opener so we could have enjoyed more time with him. Now THIS is music. Thanks Doc! See you next time around!

Barnsdall Art Park Friday Wine Tastings: Looks Like We Made It 

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Even on a scorching hot LA day, I’m glad I made the journey from the Westside all the way to Barnsdall Art Park where they host weekly charity wine tastings during the summer in order to raise money for the museum and the art classes they offer, as well as maintaining the beautiful grounds of which Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House stands on. By the way, the Hollyhock House which was built in 1921 for Aline Barnsdall by the famous American architect, is now re-opened after four years of renovations. Note to self: Must go on a tour. 

  

The Hollywood Hills, Hollywood sign and Griffith Park Observatory just ahead in the distance…truly spectacular views to be had here!

   
Four local wines to sample that were poured by the friendly gents from Silver Lake Liquor Shop, a DJ spinning groovalicious tunes and food trucks including Let’s Be Frank and Heirloom. Regardless of the fact there were a few too many babies and toddlers with their hipster mommies (are children really necessary at a WINE TASTING??), and an over abundance of wanna-be hipsters there adhering to the latest BIRKENSTOCK craze (PLEASE just go away, would you?), I guess these things just add to the flavor of the atmosphere, right?? However… we really did enjoy taking it in all from our wonderfully shaded, secluded and highly coveted spot under a tree that we earned by arriving 45 minutes early, as the sun seductively slipped into bed for the night. Made for an AWESOME evening. Good times in LA! 

   
    
 

Rice Sake & Real Food: Barioishii!!

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Last minute visit from a couple of friends this weekend and I scrambled a bit at first wondering where we could possibly eat on a Saturday night with no reservations to be had? That is, until I remembered RICE Sake and Real Food on Manhattan Avenue and 9th Street in downtown Manhattan Beach. I called and of course they gladly made room for us. How can you not love a place with such friendly and outstanding service right from the start? Not to mention being far enough away from the crowds of people a few blocks over enduring two-hour wait lists at other establishments. Ridiculous.
RICE is housed in a classy, simple and quiet atmosphere. Definitely not pretentious, loud or overcrowded. You are greeted at the door and treated with 5-Star customer service all the way.

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Owner Hiroyuki Igarashi, born and raised in Tokyo, Japan spent 10 years working in Los Angeles restaurants and mentoring under some of the best before stepping out and opening his own place in 2012. RICE offers healthy, vegan and macrobiotic food with no use of chemical preservatives, artificial colors, or chemical seasonings. All dishes are created originally and made to order from scratch using organic ingredients whenever possible. And this attention to every last healthful detail shows. The brussels sprouts and Kabocha pumpkin appetizers are beyond equisiste…you MUST order them both. Scrumptious!!
We got a bottle of the Dassai Nigori unfiltered sake (my favorite and always an excellent compliment with sushi) and a homemade gingerale. Who doesn’t love all natural gingerale? Add to that the Sunset, MB Rainbow, S.G.A. and White Sand sushi rolls and we were ready to indulge in this magnificent feast. The food is absolutely flawless! Could not be any better. Our waitress was very pleasant and would check in on us occasionally without hovering. Of course we had to share a vegan and gluten free Coco Chocolate cake, Pineapple Mousse and Cream Brulee for dessert. Just the right fininshing touch! Hands down… a sensational dining experience!

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