January 29, 2007

Red Carpet Ride

If you tuned into the red carpet live coverage of the SAG Awards on E! yesterday you may have noticed the screaming banshees standing in the bleachers and wildly flailing their arms as if they were Titanic survivors waving down a rescue squad.

I, for lack of a better explanation than the one I will supply later, was one of them.

While Ryan Seacrest and living mannequin Giuliana interviewed the sequinned and the sexy, I sat in the sun, nursing a hangover with some Bayer, my digital Canon ELPH charged and ready to snap some shots of Leonardo and America Ferrera.

It was truly the epitome of starf**king. Elisabeth and I were surrounded by less-than-sane, middle-aged couples, manic mothers and daughters, and tabloid-subscribing seniors - all regulars of this bleacher madness, their camera lenses zoomed in on any passing celeb. One woman sitting in front of us had purchased a heavy-duty-looking camera with an extensive telescopic lens just for this ocassion. "This is our fourth time here," she gushed as she and her husband, who had a camera of his own, patiently waited to see if Reese Witherspoon was going to make a late entrance. "They know me at Costco whenever I go to develop my film. I'm the Awards Show Lady."

I won't argue with you on that one, ma'am.

While riding the shuttle bus to ground zero, one mother-daughter duo and a posse of the daughter's friends had been devastated to find that there were no baseball caps in this year's goodie bags. Just an issue of the current People, a can of black-cherry-and-french-vanilla Diet Pepsi, and a bottle of spearmint Listerine (you know, for all the make-out sessions with Martin Sheen and Cloris Leachman). No baseball caps! No SAG Awards apparel!

The world might as well end. Right. Now.

Once we were situated on the bleachers, another mother-daughter duo behind us screamed at every other star that walked by. If a familiar face whose name they couldn't remember stepped onto the carpet, they would shout out the name of the television show he or she was from instead. "Sopranos!" they yelled at several greased-up cast members. "Ugly Betty!" they shrieked at any actor who wasn't America Ferrera.

"Are they serious?" Elisabeth asked.

During the event I couldn't help but wonder how these (to put it bluntly) star-obsessed freaks could be associated with the questionably sane insiders who had gotten them tickets to these ringside seats. Maybe they were radio contest winners. Maybe they entered a sweepstakes on Good Morning America. Maybe a tap-dancing llama would crawl out of my ass.

Elisabeth and I kept our cool. Having had our fair share of in-the-flesh experiences with many Hollywood players, we quickly grew desensitized to the glam parade. We didn't need to fuel the fan frenzy. We didn't need to wear out our vocal chords. Most of the celebs were already eating it all up, posing for the cameras, waving to the crowd, flashing their killer smiles. It's no secret; they live for this.

Standing next to us, announcing every entrance with the help of some cue cards, was Entertainment Tonight's Kevin Frazier. Little did we know we would also be helping the guy pick out the famous faces he had passed over once the floodgates were opened ("What's that guy's name? The one on Deadwood?" "Um, Timothy Olyphant."). A river of actors flowed into the Shrine Auditorium. Patrick Dempsey avoided the press, as did T.R. Knight and most of the Grey's cast (My guess: no one wanted to revisit the Golden Globes fiasco). Jennifer Hudson sparkled in a plum-colored gown.

Julie Andrews, the night's lifetime achievement recipient, was gracious as ever.

Cate Blanchett stood out as a golden goddess.

Anne "I'm-Not-A-Princess-Anymore" Hathaway was darling enough to sign autographs.

Will Smith proved why he was such a bleacher favorite and later did the same.

Steve Carell showed up and later appeared to be joined at the hip with Greg Kinnear.

Eva and Nicollette flaunted their assets.

And Rachel McAdams arrived late on the arm of nominee Ryan Gosling (What was with the cotton candy streaks in her hair, I have no clue).

At that point, the sun faded, a chill swept in, and the doors to the auditorium were closing. For some odd reason I started to crave a big steak dinner and was ready to get into my car and head home.

Thank you to the illustrious Jessica Glassberg for inviting us to be spectators in this star-studded festival (she worked on the telecast).

We came. We saw. We don't have to do it again.


January 25, 2007

Farewell, Old Friend

Not only was January 22 the most depressing day of the year (as previously written), but it was also a day that truly marked the end of an era.

I had received my final issue of TV Guide...forever (Cue the dramatic score!).

The decision to end my subscription after nine-plus years was easier to make than I had imagined. One can say TiVo and the Internet are to blame for my decreasing dependency on what used to be my second Bible (of course, this was before Entertaiment Weekly entered my life). I have embraced the digital world, thanking my personalized DVR and favorite sites for supplying me with up-to-date schedules and various resources of infotainment.

TV Guide and I have traveled down a long road together. From its list price of 75 cents to an astounding $2.49, I witnessed an evolution in television. I fondly remember Jeff Jarvis's Couch Corner, especially the first time he reviewed an on-the-rise GenX soap on Fox "guest starring" Heather Locklear. I soaked up which films deserved four stars in the Movie Guide at the back of each issue (I never bothered with the crossword puzzles: 5 letters Down for Sesame Street's _____ the Grouch? Please.). I clipped ads and articles of The X-Files and Buffy, saving them for scrap books that I believed would one day be priceless in the eyes of fanboys across America. I mentally noted which series finales to watch so that I could say I witnessed how a classic sitcom or drama ended its successful run (Roseanne became a widow, J.R. Ewing met his guardian angel).

And then there were the Fall Previews, issues I have collected since 1994, the year when audiences were introduced to a certain coffee-drinking sitcom sextet and George Clooney became the original McDreamy. I loved getting these super-sized issues, guessing which new shows were DOA, seeing what network TV-movies were on the line-up (Joanna Kerns and the dad from The Wonder Years in 1990's The Big One: The Great Los Angeles Earthquake anyone?).

Images from memorable covers made a slight imprint on my mind: the controversial pic in which Jane Pauley's head was cut and pasted onto another woman's body, the tantalizing trio of tramps from the WB's too-short-lived Savannah, the brave and candid profile on Michael J. Fox.

Before I could afford my own subscription, before the days of independent living, TVG would greet me every week under the flourescent-lit aisles of supermarkets back in New Rochelle. Whenever my mother dragged me to the A&P for a little grocery shopping, the first thing I would do when we passed through those sliding doors was run to the checkout stands, grab the newest issue, and start absorbing the following week's schedule. Were there repeats? What late-night B-movies were playing on USA over the weekend? Which damsel was in distress over on Lifetime?

While other boys my age were flipping through Sports Illustrated and sneaking Playboy under their shirts, I was gushing over Emmy telecasts and the full-page spots for the two-hour season finale of Melrose Place ("Blackmail. Kidnapping. Attempted murder. What will Kimberly do for an encore?").

Coinciding with the rise of digital recorders and entertainment tabloids was the debut of the new TV Guide, the large format that currently sits on newsstands. I never liked the change. I missed my little, black-and-white pocket guide. I never welcomed the new columns, the colored grids, the obnoxious celebrity dossiers. It felt like my old friend had undergone an extreme makeover just to fit in with the rest of the mags. It was the beginning of the end of our relationship.

I now raise a glass to TVG. We had a fun run. I'll say hello every now and then while standing in the checkout lanes of Ralph's or Vons (although Trader Joe's is my preferred grocer). I'll flip through it, see what's happening within its pages, especially if there's a cover story I can't resist.

I know deep down that TVG understands my reasons behind this amicable separation. It's a change that has been coming for quite some time. I wish it the best in its future endeavors.

So long, farewell...

Now hand me the remote. I need to Season Pass Beauty and the Geek.


January 23, 2007

Just Another Manic Monday

According to scientists, yesterday was the most depressing day of the year.

With the remarkably crappy weather and with just enough time past the holidays, during which New Year's resolutions are thrown out the window, January 22 was the day when it hit us - We have an entire year ahead of us to screw things up, a brand new calendar to fill with unnecessary worries and unexpected mistakes.

I don't make my resolutions known. I've learned to keep them to myself, and I always suggest others do the same. If you're fat, people already know you're going to try to avoid Krispy Kremes for breakfast. If you're a smoker, don't show off the nicotine patches like they're badges of honor. If you keep your resolutions a secret, only you will know when you've broken them. You'll just set yourself up for disappointment when you later reach for that carton of Marlboros or order an Original Glazed. No one else but you will know you're weak.

Maybe this is why Angelina looked so bothered during last week's Golden Globes telecast. Perhaps the gloom hit her early. Either that, or she was wearing a bad thong that was riding up her good shepherd. Reese, on the other hand, certainly didn't look like she just received news that one of her African adoptees had been eaten by a jaguar. She shined in that yellow number, smiling like a woman should after clipping off her equally pretty, albeit less successful husband.

I feel that with every ounce of gloom, there is room for some sunshine to be let in. With that philosophy in mind, I am imagining my life now as an independent film currently being screened at Sundance...

My story is being played on the big screen, shot on Sony HD Cam of course, a second-coming-of-age film worthy of a bidding war between the Weinsteins and the fellows over at Lionsgate. Tickets have been sold out because the buzz is that big. Even stars like Ryan Reynolds and Laura Linney are turned away at the door because the theater had filled to capacity in a mere ten minutes. Notable indie directors and their respective partners/financiers have taken up a middle row, flipping through their programs and reading up on the history of how this masterwork came to be.

My director, reading from a few index cards, spouts a few words about the film before the curtain parts. The weather is bitingly frigid outside, but inside, the venue is hot with anticipation. The lights dim, the reel spins, and everyone is introduced to the characters who populate my life story.

Without being overly post-ironic and pretentious, the film is an honest portrayal of struggling twentysomethings who manage to find light at the end of a long existential tunnel. The tone is sincere, the cinematography rivaling that of any war movie. There are the obligatory tears and inevitable laughter. Flames of inspiration are lit within the heart of every audience member. Someone whispers, "Little Miss Who?"

Once the closing credits scroll, the applause is deafening, the standing ovation overwhelming. A journalist from "Entertainment Weekly" runs over to me and asks for a few words on my experience here in Park City, Utah. I am oblivious to the pats on the back and the hands that shake mine as we're escorted out of the theater and into a black SUV that will drive us a few blocks down Main Street to the afterparty. It is indeed a whirlwind as I hear my name shouted over the exiting crowd. Names I've looked up to and idolized greet me at every turn...

I snap back to reality, interrupted by an incoming e-mail on Outlook. I look at the Sundance program that's open on my desk, one of the little souvenirs my bosses brought back with them. It sits next to the Veronica Mars spec script I have just finished writing and sent off to a friend of a friend who works at Sony Television. This is me: a speck of algae in a vast ocean of scribes who have submitted their work to the same office where, I'm sure, the pile of Passes towers considerably over the stack of Maybes/Yes's.

According to scientists, yesterday was the most depressing day of the year.

I beg to differ; yesterday was just another day to dream and work towards the attainable.


January 20, 2007

Back in the Saddle

Normally, the sight of Britney Spears in a public venue warrants a frenzy of such Oh-my-God-I-need-to-text-my-Myspace-top-24-right-now proportions that it risks taking the fun out the event itself.

The Thursday before last (belated, I know), the VIP lounge at Arena glowed from the screens of multiple Motorolas and Sidekicks as clubgoers alerted their friends, who alerted their friends, that the former Mrs. Kevin Federline was kicking back in a corner booth with her new beau.

My little cameraless Nokia remained in my pocket. It wasn’t until I was outside, passing the paparazzi on the sidewalk, that I pulled it out and left a cool and collected voicemail for Molly, scolding her for possibly missing the final opportunity she’ll ever have before leaving L.A. to be in the intimate vicinity of the idol she worships above all things on earth.

This surreal evening had started with a little bullshit.

For the past year I never had to pay admission to Arena. I was spoiled by the several occasions during which I’d have a friend or acquaintance get me past whatever Generic GQ Wannabe was holding the guest list at the VIP door.

Tonight was no exception. Even though I knew no one inside, I was determined to talk my way into VIP for free. Plus, I had neglected to contact DJ Ray Rhodes to be put on his list (“I’m with the DJ.”). The age-old trick never fails; act like you belong there. Matt, Andrea and I walked up to Mr. Gatekeeper…

Me (changing names for security purposes): “I’m here with Jay Radcliffe.”
Gatekeeper: “What’s your name?”
Me: “Mitsuzuka.”
Gatekeeper rustles through his papers, coming across nothing.
Me: “We’re supposed to be with Jonathan Q’s party.”

For a quasi-second I imagined the ploy failing, being exposed as an imposter, forced to brave the cold with the rest of the "commoners" in the long line that snaked through the parking lot.

Gatekeeper: “Okay. Are you gonna stay in the lounge?
Me: "Sure."

I knew that last name had to work. Jonathan Q was a name everyone knew. There’s no list the guy hasn’t been on.

We climbed the stairs to the top floor and were greeted with a thumping bass and dizzying flashes of light. My little act of deception with the doorman earned me a free vodka Red Bull at the bar, a thank you token from Andrea.

The lounge had yet to fill up. Tables with "Reserved" placecards were ready to be occupied, buckets of ice ready to be stocked with bottles of Cliquot. Drinks in hand, we made our way to the main room downstairs, where I was able to get a first listen on several new British imports: Jamelia's "Beware of the Dog," which awesomely samples Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus," the latest 80s cover from Girls Aloud, "I Think We're Alone Now," and another cover, "Party All The Time" from an obscure artist named Sharam.

They already have a home in a playlist on my iPod.

By 1am we were ready to exit back through VIP, but security was beefed up near the ropes. No one could get in from within the club, even those with yellow VIP bracelets. We were shut out and directed to leave through the main lobby.

Shivering from the extreme cold (so un-L.A. recently), we made our start to the car which was parked two blocks away. A camera flash took me by surprise. Several members of the paparazzi were hovering near the driveway to Arena's lot, waiting for...someone.

The three of us agreed to try again for the VIP lounge, this time reentering the way we first came in.

A flash of our bracelets and a flight of stairs later, we were back in. The occupancy had doubled since we were there last. We tried to make out who was who in the dimly lit room. I separated from Andrea and Matt, hoping to spot a famous face on my own.


The name I had used at the door, my free ticket to VIP, was standing in front of me. Jonathan Q. In the flesh. Who'da thunk it?

We exchanged belated Happy New Years and obligatory How Are Yous. Apparently he had one of the "Reserved" tables overflowing with Grey Goose and Brut.

Nonchalantly I asked, "Who's here?" He, of all people, would know.

Nonchalantly he replied, "Britney and Lindsay."

"Ah," I nodded.

Cut to: Me immediately making a beeline for Andrea and Matt to inform them.

We spotted her in the corner chatting with some guy who, I later learned, was Issac Cohen, the latest loser she's schtupping. Their little corner was roped off, and everyone wanted in on the action. I saw the mop of blond hair. I saw the unusually pale face. I saw the white-trash T-shirt. Ladies and gentlemen, Britney Spears.

I was over it within a minute. True, a part of me was tickled by the fact that I got to personally witness the former teen pop princess return to her panty-less party habits after popping out two pint-sized princes. But a part of me was also tired and ready to escape the chaos. The crowd, the loud music, the elbows jabbing into hips - it was all too much for me to handle at that point.

I was sure I'd read about Brit's shenanigans on Perez Hilton or replay videos of her stumbling out of the club with Issac on TMZ. In this day and age, the Internet never fails to deliver the gaudy goods.

Nevertheless, I told everyone at work the next morning.

As for the rest of my life, it's now back to its regular schedule. I have gradually gotten my L.A. groove back during these first few weeks of the new year. There is gossip to spread (Lindsay...rehab...big surprise). There are Oscar predictions to make (J. Hud, I'm talking to you). And there are TV shows to welcome back after weeks of repeats and preemptions (I need a Hiro...and Apollo).

2007, you know how to make an entrance.

Welcoming Posh and Becks to the neighborhood,

January 08, 2007

New Rochelle, 10805

If you were to Google New Rochelle, New York, you'd find articles on Trump's downtown domination, pictures of the construction progress on 30-story Avalon high-rises, and showtime listings for the latest Ben Stiller showing on IMAX in the 18-screen megaplex at New Roc City.

You'd also find a brief, Hugenot-heavy history on the "Queen City of the Sound" that was also home to Thomas Paine, Richard "Shaft" Roundtree, and the Petries on the timeless Dick Van Dyke Show.

The New Rochelle I experienced as a child and fondly remember now was a much different place. Before the Bronx moved in, before Bally's tried to muscle its way into every couch potato's life, and before the K building was no longer the towering landmark of the cityscape, New Rochelle was (oxymoronically) that quaint city referenced in E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime, a destination just an afternoon drive away from Manhattan, that affluent 'burb where one could enjoy the autumn foliage and take in the view down by the waterfront.

A look back, then and now:

The Mall at New Rochelle was a cement-and-stone eyesore of a complex that stood in the downtown sector. Macy's, its only major department store, opened in the early 1970s, and soon shops opened up on its brick-layered promenade. Woolworth's opened on the sub-level, complete with a built-in soda shop for those who were suckers for 50s nostalgia. By 1990, the mall, in an attempt to catch up to its contemporary contemporaries, got its own food court, and the next generation was graced with the delicacies of Burger King, Sbarro, and Generic Chinese Fast Food. The Friar Tuck Bookshop brought literacy back to downtown dwellers. Coincidentally, my first R.L. Stine novel was purchased at this quaint retailer which lay the foundation for my impending bookwormdom (Christopher Pike and Caroline B. Cooney were other writers I subsequently discovered during late-night excursions to Lane Bryant with my mother).

By 1997, the whole damn thing was demolished.

From Maple Street to Centre Avenue, a group of old-fashioned cinema playhouses dotted Main Street: the RKO Proctor, the Loew's, and the Town Theater. I remember getting out of school, walking past Loew's, and staring at the Coming Soon poster forFriday the 13th, Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, intrigued by the concept behind the latest installment and wondering what slice-and-dice methods the hockey-masked maniac had in store for the newest batch of teenaged victims.

1997 saw an attempt to recapture those moviehouse heydays by reopening the Town theater. I was a senior in high school when I ventured out to see I Know What You Did Last Summer - only to find the seats to be in the same condition as they were in 1975, the sound to be tinny and muffled, and the film quality as grainy as a 70s porn flick. The restored Town Theater didn't last. It closed within a year and Wicker Paradise took over, selling patio furniture and fake plants at wholesale prices.

The late 90s also turned the RKO theater into a school for those with "special needs." The enormous venue was gutted, the marquee knocked down, and a parking garage was erected within the structure. To this day, no one seems to know what kind of classes are taught within those walls.

Then, at the turn of the new millennium, the Loew's theater was renovated, and Palladium was born, a Webster Hall-esque nightclub built to keep Westchester guidos and hoochies from communting to Grand Central and spending their cash on martinis in Manhattan. Teen nights were typically held on Fridays. However, all of the flashy lights, pulsating beats, and insane amounts of hair gel weren't enough to revitalize a depressed Main Street. Palladium went kaput sometime in '02.

And the train station was so close to home. By the time I was a senior in high school, when New Rochelle started to lose its luster, when I began to stretch myself beyond its borders, Manhattan started calling, and all I had to do was hop on the Metro North rail and cruise into Grand Central Station within 30 minutes.

Main Street housed other landmarks from my childhood as well. Meateria was the grocery store my grandmother frequented every week. I remember walking through its narrow aisles and stepping through wood shavings on the floor near the butcher's counter, steering our small shopping cart around cane-carrying senior citizens and stroller-pushing nannies who were on a hunt for some Kraft Macaroni and Cheese on sale.

Soo Chow was the Chinese restaurant owned by the Lius, parents of an elementary school friend of mine. A free coke and complimentary wonton soup could always be guaranteed during a visit on any given Friday night.

The New Rochelle Bookshop was where I purchased my first Goosebumps novel. Cramped, stuffy, and poorly lit, the shop was tucked in between a men's clothing store and the Starlite Diner, one of the very few relics that remains on the traffic-clogged, one-way artery.

Another one-way, Memorial Highway, on which the New Rochelle Public Library can be found in all its stark-white mod glory, hosted street carnivals every May. Fried dough stands and game booths ran along the sidewalks as kiddie rides and various dilapidated attractions filled up the remaining space on the three-laned boulevard. I was an excited 8-year-old seeing those carnival posters painted across Main Street - vibrant images of balloons, clowns and a large rollercoaster silouetted against the background. It was all a big tease. Eventually, I'd always be let down, either because Mother Nature always knew when to rain on the festivities or because the rides (and overall ambience of the fair) grew more ghetto each year.

However, not all of my memories of New Rochelle were limited to the vicinity of Main Street...

Five Islands Park - where splinters never met a finger they didn't like while frolicking in the cement-and-wood playground...and where a certain Hawaiian Punch vending machine never failed to consume countless quarters from thirsty kindergarteners and their parched playmates.

Beechmont Lake on Pinebrook Boulevard - where the shallow waters would freeze solid during the winters and tempt ice skaters to spin themselves into a frigid frenzy.

Glen Island Park - where barbeques by the beach were always family affairs typically threatened by a good thunderstorm...or indigestion.

O'Brien's on North Avenue - where undetected fake IDs got high schoolers and underage Iona College co-eds drunk on Budweisers and Heinekens (so I've been told).

Now, the 2007 New Rochelle is catering to the yuppies of New York City. Lofts have taken over the old Bloomingdale's building on Main Street. The Mall has become New Roc City, housing arcades, restaurants, and a Marriot hotel. Condos have been raised. And with all of the frickin' gentrification, there has yet to stand a single Starbucks to caffienate commuters and lure those old ladies at the library out of their lulls. For the love of scones, could someone within the Chamber of Commerce please work this out?

If you brew it, they will come.

To look back on my homecity is to understand that cliched small-town sentimentality; it's not what it used to be. The warmth has left, the faces no longer familiar (Where for art thou Main Street Mary, everyone's favorite town whore?). With every return trip I take, the less it feels like home.

It's a bittersweet inevitability.

So, if you're ever in the area and in the mood for a Sabrett's hot dog or a good cruise down Boston Post Road, hit me up, and I just might be able to guide you through the locals...Trump construction permitting.


January 03, 2007


It's like a giant seesaw has tilted back to its original position (back to January), and eventually everything will go through the same motions (leveling off sometime in June, tilting back to the other side by December).

A fresh start? Nah. Just a new day.

Wishing you heaven in 07.


Celebrating My 17th L.A.nniversary with a Bang

The impact, like many impacts, was sudden. I heard the crunch of metal, not as loud as those bang-ups you see in the  Fast and Furious ...