It was Pompadour and Circumstance at 7th and Montana this morning as a Would-be Elvis made the scene wearing a 1950's haircut. "Get a load of that Bouffant Buffoon," said one local. "Don't be Cruel," I replied, "Maybe his brain is just All Shook Up." Elvis made his way to the espresso bar, picked up his coffee and headed to the door. It was Now or Never. I whipped out my spycam and pointed it in his direction. "Ladies and Gentlemen," I said, holding my cell phone aloft, "Elvis has left the building ...!"
Saturday, July 31, 2010
Make way for the Holy Rollers, a pair of teenage girls who made the scene at 7th and Montana this morning wearing roller blades. Never mind that roller blades weren't designed to be worn inside, they skated right into Our Favorite Starbucks at full speed, wreaking havoc in their wake. "What do they think this is, a car hop?," I asked. I nearly complained about it, but decided to just roll with it ...!
Friday, July 30, 2010
Ladies and Gentlemen, meet "Vikki Carr," the worst driver in all of Santa Monica. I met her yesterday on one of the busiest roads in the city, San Vicente. She was driving a gold Toyota Camry, heading West during rush hour. The good news is, we don't have to worry about her car being one of those Toyotas with a sudden acceleration issue. She crept along at about 7 miles per hour in the left lane, until, quite suddenly, she came to a full stop. There was no one crossing the road, she wasn't at an intersection ... she just stopped out of the blue. She waited for about 15 seconds, then continued along her merry way. I was too surprised to even beep at her. A few minutes later, she plowed right through a crosswalk on Montana without looking, nearly mowing down a pedestrian in the process. We both ended-up at Whole Foods Market where -- for the record -- she proved that she's as dangerous with a shopping cart as she is with a car ...!
It was a Whirlwind Extraordinaire yesterday as I arrived home from Seattle and hit the ground running. In the space of a day, I made it from 7th and Montana to Paris, New York, Louisiana and Chicago, then stopped off on the Planet Krypton for good measure. The folks at Warner Bros. set me and a visiting colleague up for a tour of their back-lot yesterday and not only was it impressive, it led me to believe that Rome really can be built in a day if you put your mind to it. If the building in the photo above looks familiar to you, it's because it came from the 1942 classic, Casablanca. It was used as the french cafe in the scene where Rick and Ilsa reminisce about their past. In reality, "We'll always have Paris" means "We'll always have that set on the Warner Bros.' back-lot." The cafe is the only remaining building from the Casablanca set.
From there it was a quick stop in New York where I popped my head into the "Central Perk" coffee shop where the cast from Friends used to hang out. Even though they're not filming Friends anymore, they reconstructed the set a couple of years ago at Jay Leno's request. Here's some little-known trivia: The character of Gunther, the oddball manager of Central Perk, wasn't originally supposed to be part of the show. While they were filming the pilot, one of the producers decided on-the-spot that they needed someone to run the espresso machine. They asked all of the extras whether anyone knew how to use it and only one did, an actor named James Michael Tyler who had prior experience as a Barista. As a result, he became a regular on the show appearing in more than half of the episodes. Who knew there was more than one Barista Tyler?
From there it was on to the Jungle. Warner Bros. is the only studio that keeps a Jungle set on its back lot. It's sort of tucked away behind Gotham City and is used for a variety of purposes. Currently, it doubles as a swamp in Louisiana and is where they film the HBO vampire series True Blood. In the show, the building above serves as Merlot's, a local hang-out owned by a friendly shapeshifter.
Harry Potter fans might recognize the car above. It's the flying 105 E Ford Anglia used by Harry and Ron to get to Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Today it sits in the Warner Bros. garage, alongside Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino (which was both used in the film and really belongs to him) and Scooby Doo's Mystery Machine.
I ended the tour with a quick swing through Metropolis. The building above is The Daily Planet, where Clark Kent works alongside a crew of crack investigative journalists who never seem to notice that he's actually Superman. With powers of observation like that, something tells me our Notorious Neighborhood Newspaper Thief would have a field day there ...!
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
From the moment I woke up in Bellevue this morning, I was like a man on a mission. "Here I am," I thought, "in Starbucks' own backyard. I cannot leave here without visiting the source of all Starbucks." And so it was that after a day of intensive meetings at Microsoft, I jumped in a cab and zipped to the site of the very first Starbucks at Pike Place in Seattle. Let me tell you, I couldn't have been more excited if I was going to see the Oracle at Delphi. "Howdy," I said to the Barista on Duty, "This doesn't look like an ordinary Starbucks." "It's not," she said, "This is the first Starbucks so it's a lot smaller than most." Indeed it was. There wasn't even a pastry case. "I'll have a Grande Half Caff and an Apple Fritter," I said, smiling. "We're all out of decaff and we don't have any Apple Fritters," she said. "Oh," I replied, "Then make it a full-fledged caffeinated cup of coffee and an Apple Fritter." "We don't sell pastries here, sir," she said. "What?!?," I replied, "No Fritters?!? ... How is this possible?!?" On and on we went, until at last I jumped back in my cab and headed to the airport. If any of you find yourselves in Seattle, I highly recommend a trip to the world's first Starbucks ... and tell them I sent you. It's a great place to fritter away a few minutes ...!
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Greetings from beautiful Bellevue, Washington, where I am staying at an "off-the-beaten-track" all-suites hotel. It's one of those places where they offer free breakfast, free wireless and rooms with a kitchenette. It's also pet-friendly. When I arrived, I couldn't help noticing a tray of freshly-baked cookies and a container of doggie biscuits on the front desk. "Can I offer you a treat?," asked the woman at the front desk. "You don't have to ask twice," I said, "I'm starving!" I grabbed a doggie biscuit and looked her dead in the eye. "Mind if I take another for the road?" I asked. She didn't even crack a smile. Maybe she thought I belonged in the kind of Bellevue that comes with rubber walls ...
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Madame Trotsky, the Red Menace who galloped down 7th Street this morning wearing high-heeled clogs that made her sound like Seabiscuit on Steroids. "Look out," said Diane, "There go the Clydesdales." I followed her inside to get a better look and whipped out my Spycam as she ponied-up $2.50 for a cappuccino. She was hot-to-trot alright, and all eyes were on her as she clip-clopped out the door and into her fancy Acura NSX. "High-Ho Silver and Away," I said as she left us in the dust. The crowd was hoarse with laughter ...!
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Eyes were popping at 7th and Montana this morning as Diane made the scene with copies of her very own Mug Shot ... and I must say, it's impressive even by Hollywood standards. Let me explain: Her boyfriend, Symon -- an entrepreneurial musician -- asked her to star in his latest video, a delightfully campy production called Big as a Melon. In the video, Diane plays the part of a Drum Majorette who bravely marches on, against all odds, while a villain bearing a striking resemblance to Snidely Whiplash pelts her with a Ripe Watermelon. So where does the mug shot come in? Symon took a photo of Diane in her Drum Majorette costume, put it on a mug with the slogan "No Coffee? No Parade!" and is selling it in the merchandise area of his website for $12.95. Way to go, Diane ... I always knew you marched to the beat of a different drummer!
Friday, July 23, 2010
It was an Urban Legend at UCLA tonight as Country Music Artist Keith Urban took to the stage for a concert benefiting the Grammy Foundation. Genevieve and I attended the event -- including a backstage party beforehand -- but through a comedy of errors it's a wonder we made it there in one piece. The fun began shortly after we arrived. "Shoot," I said, "We're right on time. No one is ever right on time at these music industry events ... let's walk around for a while so we can be fashionably late." We were late all right. By the time we made it to the pre-concert party, Keith Urban had already made the scene, sung a song or two for a small crowd of VIPS, and gone off to prepare for the concert. There was nothing left for us to do but take to the stage ourselves. "Look at it this way," I said, "We didn't exactly miss a chance to meet Keith Urban. He was our warm-up act!" Seriously, Keith gave a great concert. The audience was packed, the energy level couldn't have been better and it was all for a good cause. As for my brief "performance" at the backstage party with Genevieve ... that was strictly Sub-Urban ...!
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Opportunity knocked today for Ace Photographer Kovar, who had a chance to participate in the first annual Montana Art Walk. Organized by the Montana Avenue Merchants Association, the Art Walk is a real win-win proposition: In theory, local artists get to display and sell their work in area shops and the shops get extra traffic. But things don't always go according to plan. Kovar's work -- a collection of amazing photographs from all over the world -- was on display at Cozzi Cozzi, a woman's clothing store. When I stopped by, however, it felt more like Empty Empty. Even Kovar was missing. "Where's Kovar," I asked the Attractive Young Manager. "Oh, he stepped away," she said, "I'm sure he'll be back ... he just went out for some fresh air." I found him standing outside near the store, next to a pile of manure. "It's early," he said, "Nobody's around." I guess no one told the event organizers that there are free concerts at the Pier every Thursday night until September 2.
UPDATE/CORRECTION: It turns out I was wrong about last night's Art Walk. Almost as soon as I left, the party really got started. A big crowd arrived, bands started playing and -- as Kovar put it -- the whole thing was a real "extravaganza." Serves me right for leaving early ...!
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
It was a new leash on life at 7th and Montana this morning for an Adorable Young Tyke who made the scene ... on a leash. Onlookers gaped in astonishment as his mother walked him down 7th Street and into Starbucks like a Trained Chihuahua. "Come!," she said sternly, leading the way. He obeyed. "What do we have here?," I asked as they walked by, "Is he friendly? Has he had all of his shots?" Before his mother could answer, the Poor Kid started screaming. It was a high-pitched shriek, the kind that probably sent neighborhood dogs running for cover, but I wasn't worried. Something tells me this kid's bark is worse than his bite ...!
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Good news, folks. Inside sources report that Reggie the Puppy is doing extremely well in his "socialization classes." In fact, the rascally sheepdog is so social he thinks he's human. He made the scene at 7th and Montana this morning practically begging for a cappuccino but, fortunately, Richard put his foot down. If there's one thing this puppy doesn't need, it's caffeine ...!
Monday, July 19, 2010
It was Many Happy Returns at 7th and Montana this morning as a long-term regular made the scene after an absence of more than 15-months. Who is she and where has she been all this time? I'm not tellin' ... and if you want a hint, all I can say is "nothin' doin'!"
Sunday, July 18, 2010
A little name recognition goes a long way ... and if you don't believe me, just ask "George," a Friendly Local who made the scene at 7th and Montana this morning looking for a place to sit. "Mind if I join you?," he asked. "Of course not," I said, "I take it your name is George." "Why yes, it is," he replied, "How on Earth did you know that?" "You're wearing a name tag," I said. He was dumbfounded. "I am?!? ... Are you sure?!?" I pointed at the name tag on his chest. "Hmmm ... How did that get there?," he replied. He eventually figured out that someone at his church must have slapped a name tag on his shirt when he wasn't looking, but by that point lots of complete strangers were stopping by to introduce themselves. The strangest of them all took a seat next to him and began talking non-stop, as if he were on a continuous loop. "Howdy, George," he began, "Mind if I join you? You seem like a friendly sort. Perhaps you recognize me? My picture has been in the Los Angeles Times. They call me the worst slumlord in all of Los Angeles but trust me, it's a bum rap. I bought a bunch of buildings ten years ago with no money down and spent millions ... millions I tell you ... fixing them up. And what do I get in return? Jail time! That's the kind of system we have around here. But am I bitter? No, I am not ..." George smiled through all of this, and, for some reason, left his name tag on, despite the fact that it was attracting the worst kind of riff raff. I guess it could have been worse ... someone could have slapped a "Kick Me" sign on his back ...!
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Eyes were popping at 7th and Montana this morning as an Anonymous Ski Bunny made the scene, intent on treating Montana Avenue like her own personal slalom course. She zipped passed Starbucks on a pair of rollerblades, smiling at passersby and waving a pair of ski poles at oncoming traffic. "Looks like we have another Suzy Chaffee in our midst," I muttered. Indeed, she had the bronze, blond look of an aspiring actress and -- who knows -- dressed as she was, she was probably on her way to see some Hollywood Mogul ...!
It was the "Agony of Da Feet" at 7th and Montana yesterday as the Accountant -- known for spreading out his confidential paperwork all over Our Favorite Starbucks -- took off his slippers and propped his feet up on a chair for all to see. And why not? Isn't he entitled to relax after a long, hard day at "the office?" I half expected the Baristas to offer him a pillow, but they kept their distance and maybe that's a good thing. You know how it goes, give some people an inch and they'll take a foot ...!
Thursday, July 15, 2010
"Bark! What light through yon window breaks?" It's Romeo, of course, but unlike his Shakespearean namesake, this Romeo is no hopeless romantic. He's a scrappy pekingese pup who regularly sneaks into Our Favorite Starbucks in a handbag. He made the scene, as usual, this morning in his customized carrying bag but this time he blew his cover. He popped his head through an air hole and started barking-up a storm, as if to show us all who's boss. I guess that makes him an Alpha Romeo ...!
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the Handmaiden, an Anonymous Fashion Plate who made the scene at 7th and Montana this morning sporting a most unusual tattoo: An ornately decorated hand that ran across her back and down her spine. In the center of the palm, right between her shoulder blades, was an all-seeing eye. Some say she was making a spiritual statement. Afterall, the hand is known as a symbol of mystic power in India, with each finger representing the five elements of the Universe. But I think her intentions were more down-to-Earth. She just wanted her own built-in back-scratcher ...!
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
It was Lights, Camera, Action at 7th and Montana this morning as Actress Renee Zellweger made the scene, surrounded by a group of Paparazzi. Like a pack of rabid hounds, they chased her right up to the door, watched her run inside, then camped-out on 7th Street waiting for her to re-emerge. "What a bunch of parasites," I muttered, quietly whipping out my Spycam and pointing it in Renee's direction. I waved and smiled to get her attention. "Those photographers must drive you crazy," I said. "Well, I've learned over the years that the best thing to do is just go along with it," she replied, "Otherwise you might end up looking stupid." "Don't worry, you don't look stupid at all ... you look great," I said, meaning it. "What a sweetheart!," she said. It was then that I decided to give her some 'inside' advice, courtesy of The Notorious Neighborhood Newspaper Thief. "You know," I said, "You could easily slip out the side door ... no one would see you." But she wouldn't hear of it. She knew she had to face the music and that's exactly what she did. Moments after she left, a Friendly Newcomer approached me and said, "Hi ... I just had to introduce myself. I read your blog all the time and love it, it's really funny." I was amazed and flattered, but that didn't stop me from whipping out my Spycam. I guess we can all learn something from Renee Zellweger ...!
Monday, July 12, 2010
Extra, Extra ... Read all About it: Neighbor Larry is staring in a new online sitcom called Cold Call that's currently running on Steve Carrell's "Funny or Die" network. Like a cross between "The Office" and "Death of a Salesman," Cold Call follows a series of misfits as they stumble their way through the high-pressure world of sales. The boss, Simon Cooke (played by Larry), has a problem. He tells his psychiatrist, "If I don't increase my sales by over 200 percent in the next two months, Big Tom is going to castrate me and sell my balls to a street vendor in Guadalajara!" Does he succeed? I don't know ... but if I were you, I'd lay off the mini-puff pastries at 7th and Montana for a while. Check-out Cold Call at www.funnyordie.com/coldcall.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
It was World Cup Fever at 7th and Montana this morning as folks rushed to grab a cup of coffee before watching the World Cup. Everyone, it seemed, had a favorite: Hanna and I were rooting for the Netherlands. Kovar and his new friend, Bailey, were rooting for Spain. Even Ms. Mukluk -- the woman known for wearing Mukluks in 90-degree heat -- was cheering for her favorite team, Spain. But it was a cup of another kind that really got the crowd going. Genevieve -- in offering some advice to expectant father, Hunter -- couldn't help reminiscing about the days she spent breast-feeding her eldest son. "Back when I was breast-feeding," she said, "We didn't have breast pumps ... I just squeezed out my own milk." You could have heard a pin drop. "You mean you milked yourself?," asked Hunter, " Did you use a bucket?" "I had contests with my friend who was also breast-feeding to see who could shoot the farthest," Genevieve explained. Spain may have won the World Cup, but, if you ask me, Genevieve was the Big Winner today. Congratulations, Gen, for being Udderly Blogworthy ...!
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Ladies and Gentlemen, meet "The Bachelorette," a Strangely Exuberant young woman who made the scene at 7th and Montana this morning intent on finding romance. She met a guy (above left) for coffee and the more they got to know each other, the louder she became until I felt sure she was going to break the sound barrier. Her laughter -- which punctuated nearly every sentence -- was enough to send neighborhood dogs running for cover. "WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?," she asked. "Well," he mumbled, "I play the guitar." "HAHAHAHA," she laughed, inexplicably, "I LOVE THE GUITAR." On and on the conversation went. She screeched and laughed. He mumbled. "Maybe they're on a blind date," said one witness. "I don't know," I replied, "But for his sake, I hope it's a deaf date."
Eyes were popping at 7th and Montana yesterday as Rigolatte -- the man known for belting out opera tunes, handing out religious literature and running up and down 7th Street squawking like a bird -- revealed his true passion. He's obsessed with artificial sweetener. Every day this week, he's been spotted stealing increasingly large handfuls of Splenda packets from Our Favorite Starbucks. At first, he caught me off guard. "Quick, get a picture of that," said Ace Photographer Kovar. "I can't, my hands are full," I replied. Kovar grabbed my newspaper and coffee to help me out, but by then it was almost too late. Rigolatte had taken two fistfuls of Splenda packets and was scurrying out the door. "Wait!," yelled Kovar, "You didn't get enough ... there's much more here for the taking!" Rigolatte turned to face him. "Come on," said Kovar, "Go for it ... You know you want it!" Rigolatte stopped and stared at the Splenda, mesmerized. "Well," he demurred, "If you insist ..." He walked right back to the condiment bar, shoved another handful of Splenda in his pocket and started laughing, maniacally. Some folks are worried, others predict a shortage of artificial sweetener, but I -- for one -- am happy to see Rigolatte adding something new to his repertoire. Before you know it, he'll be locking himself in the Men's Room and belting out a new tune: "Love is a Many Splenda Thing" ...!
Thursday, July 8, 2010
It was a Horn of Plenty at 7th and Montana yesterday as an Anonymous Music Man treated the crowd to Plenty of Horn ... whether they liked it or not. Bob and Joyce were on the scene and provided me with a full report. Apparently, the Music Man (above left) never leaves home without his trumpet, even though the police have already cited him for playing in public without a performer's license. His "Advisor" (above right) coaxed him into pulling out his trumpet and blasting it at oncoming traffic, all the while instructing him on the fine art of getting money from pedestrians. Judging from what I heard about yesterday's performance, however, it sounds like folks might be more willing to pay this particular Music Man to blow town instead of his trumpet ...!
It was a Wild and Woolly morning at 7th and Montana yesterday as an Anonymous Newcomer made the scene wearing a heavy wool jacket, black Ugh Boots and a long, thick wool scarf that stretched all the way from her neck to the floor. Granted, it dipped below 70-degrees yesterday but, still, one wonders what would possess someone to pull out the heavy woolens in July in Southern California. I guess when she says she wants to scarf down a double espresso, she really means it ...!
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Holy Eye of Newt, Folks, a correction is in order. Two days ago, when I reported that friend Curtis had taken some photos for my blog -- including one of a woman wearing what he described as a "witch costume" -- I jumped to the wrong conclusion. "I think she manages a clothing store on Montana," I said at the time. Well, I was wrong. Curtis e-mailed me the photo in question and it turns out we have another Sorceress in our midst. The newcomer (pictured above) is much more stylish. She made the scene wearing a long black dress, a bright blue shawl, a pilgrim cap with a purple scarf tied around it ... and a pair of sensible lace-up boots with spurs. She looked "cheerful with a twist," like the love-child of Mary Poppins and Barnabas Collins. No one knows what she's doing in town, but I, for one, hope she's here to stay!
Monday, July 5, 2010
There was magic in the air this morning at 7th and Montana ... or maybe not, as the case may be. There I was, minding my own business, when a woman walked right up to me and asked, "Have you done any tricks today?" I was dumbfounded. "Tricks?," I asked. "You know," she explained, "Magic Tricks." She went on, "I saw you perform at a birthday party last week and you were great!" She wasn't kidding. I tried reasoning with her. "I'm not a magician," I explained, but I don't think she believed me. Finally, in exasperation, I added, "Hmmm ... maybe you're right, maybe that was me you saw last week. That might explain these blackouts I've been having!" While she chuckled, I whipped out my Spycam and pointed it in her direction. You know what they say, the hand is quicker than the eye ...!
Sunday, July 4, 2010
It was a Star Spangled Holiday at 7th and Montana this morning as Award-Winning Vocalist-Saxophonist-Songwriter Curtis Stigers made the scene with his family. Stigers, in town from Idaho, surprised me with the news that he's been taking pictures for my blog. "I got a great one for you the other day," he said, "A woman walked by wearing a witch costume." I wasn't surprised. "Oh," I replied, trying not to burst his bubble, "I think she manages a clothing store on Montana." Moments later, as if on cue, "Barnacle Bess" -- the Local Loon who bears an unfortunate resemblance to Snow White's stepmother -- swooped-in. "What an adorable baby," she said to Curtis' wife, Amy, who was holding their nephew, Sean. "Then, again," she cackled, "I'd be adorable, too, if you held me on your lap and bounced me up and down." I hope her Magic Mirror is still under warranty ...!
Saturday, July 3, 2010
Block your ears, folks, there's a new "Loudspeaker" -- an incredibly noisy cell phone talker -- in town, and he's intent on breaking the sound barrier. He made the scene at 7th and Montana this morning speaking in tongues, babbling so loudly I could hear him all the way down 7th Street. It was like listening to a human megaphone. "Good God," I said, "What language is that?!?" "I think it's Chinese," said Neighbor Richard. "Are you sure?," I replied, "It sounds more Middle Eastern." "You may be right," said Richard, "I think it's Farsi." Whatever it was, it wasn't Farsi enough ... away, that is!
Friday, July 2, 2010
Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the Doodler, an aspiring, young artist who made the scene at 7th and Montana this morning in a daze. He sat quietly at a table near the espresso bar, closed his eyes and began absent-mindedly pushing a pencil across a sketchbook. They say life imitates art, but this guy looked about as lifeless as they come. Somehow, his pencil kept moving across the page, almost as if it had a mind of its own. I couldn't resist taking a peek at his work before I ran out the door ... and that's when I got the shock of my life. It looked like he was drawing the various people at the tables around him, including me. What a disgusting invasion of privacy ... next thing you know he'll be posting the images online!
Thursday, July 1, 2010
It was an invasion from "corporate" at 7th and Montana this morning as an Anonymous Fussbudget and a team of minions swooped-in from what I assume was Starbucks headquarters. I knew something was up from the moment I walked in: The Fussbudget was directing one of his minions to climb a stepladder and check the lightbulbs over each door. But that was just the tip of the iceberg. "Maple is Maple and Walnut is Walnut," said the Fussbudget, expressing his obvious displeasure that the fixtures throughout the store were not all made from the same type of wood. "Take the sugar dispenser," he continued (evidently, it wasn't up to snuff). He lifted the napkin dispenser, looked at it like something unpleasant at the bottom of his shoe, and put it back in place. "Shall we move on to the tiles in the back room?," asked one of the minions, nervously. "I'm not done here yet," replied the Fussbudget. "Some of the trim is missing here and all of this wood needs to be refinished," he said, gesturing towards the espresso bar. The more he went on, the more I wanted to defend Our Favorite Starbucks. The fact is, we have the best Starbucks around. The Baristas are the friendly, the service is great and I, for one, doubt whether anyone minds that some of the fixtures are Maple and others are Walnut. I wouldn't change a thing ... except for maybe the pastry selection!