June 29, 2012

Wise Words from Jane Fonda

I happened to catch last night's entertaining episode of Kathy, and the veteran actress-activist slipped in this nugget of a quote while sitting on the guest couch with Lisa Ling and Sharon Osbourne. Needless to say, it stuck with me.

June 28, 2012

'Adventures in Babysitting': 25 Years Later

That running Playboy gag. The one-handed tow truck driver. The L train standoff with the Lords of Hell. And Thor...

25 years ago this summer, a high school senior named Chris Parker (the girlfriend everyone wanted to have, Elisabeth Shue) loaded up her mom's station wagon with a trio of youngsters and headed into downtown Chicago to rescue her BFF Brenda from the big, bad, and scary riffraff of the inner city. Adventures in Babysitting opened in theaters during the 4th of July weekend of 1987, going up against heavyhitters like Spaceballs, Innerspace, and Beverly Hills Cop II.

I wasn't introduced to the film until one day in 1990 when my mom and I made our monthly excursion to Blockbuster Video (*Kids, that was a store people drove to in order to rent VHS cassette tapes of movies -- when you were done with them, you had "be kind and rewind" the tapes and drive back to the store to return them) I watched the movie repeatedly while we had it in our possession. When my grandmother came over, I popped it into the VCR and made her watch it with me. Before I went to bed, I watched it again.

Little did I know that -- 16 years later -- I would work alongside the man who wrote the script to this 80s comedy classic, David Simkins (he also appears in the film as one of the frat guys who mistakes Chris for a Playboy model). Back in 2005, I was an assistant to the showrunner of the short-lived NBC drama, The Book of Daniel. David was one of the co-executive producers on the show, and while being stationed outside the writers' room, I decided to look up the staff's credits on IMDB. The 10-year-old in me squealed with delight as I established my one degree of separation from one of my favorite movies (such is the case after one has worked long enough in this industry). Naturally, I geeked out and had to ask him what it was like on set. "Rushed," I remember him answering.

As I got older, I also picked up on various pieces of trivia surrounding the film. It was the directorial debut of Goonies and Gremlins writer Chris Columbus, whose career would later blow up with Home Alone and follow with more hits like Mrs. Doubtfire and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Valerie Bertinelli, Bridget Fonda, Melanie Griffith, and Michelle Pfeiffer all auditioned for the role of Chris Parker at some point. Melrose Place's Andrew Shue, Elisabeth's brother, appears very briefly in the frat party scene when Chris dances with her cute, collegiate knight in shining armor. And yes, the music that's playing when Chris and little Sara are watching TV at the Andersons' home is the score from Halloween (producer Debra Hill also worked on the 1978 slasher flick).

Apparently, as the above video clip demonstrates, teens in the 80s just loved to dance and lip-sync to the pop songs of yesteryear. Ferris Bueller did it on a parade float, and Tom Cruise arguably kicked off the trend when he slid across that living room floor in Risky Business.

For a while, the Hollywood rumor mill had been churning out sporadic news on a remake. While I consider this to be blasphemous to the nth degree, I can't say I'm surprised given the industry's insatiable appetite to "reimagine" the shit out of existing properties. At first, former Disney princess Raven Symone was attached to star and play the babysitting role, overseeing a new generation of kids while they navigate the big, bad city. And then, of course, there was last year's unsuccessful The Sitter, in which Jonah Hill brings his charges to the inner city in order to bang a hot chick (Ari Graynor), eventually landing all of them in hot water. While this R-rated flick was never officially called a remake of the 1987 classic, everyone at 20th Century Fox probably took advantage of all the loopholes needed to avoid any potential lawsuits. Those devilish pricks.

Then there was the unsold 1989 CBS pilot adaptation which starred a pre-90210 Brian Austin Green and a pre-Blossom Joey Lawrence. Having developed an obsession with the movie, I remember watching the only produced episode when the network aired it that summer in order to fill empty timeslots (a common practice among broadcasters back then). Sample plot: the kids get trapped in a sewer! (Good riddance)

Congratulations to the cast and crew of Adventures. 25 years is quite a milestone. Elisabeth Shue, I'm still looking forward to what you'll do next. As a matter of fact, while screening the film during one of my monthly movie nights, my friends and I Googled the rest of the cast to see what they've been up to. Anthony Rapp (Daryl), as most of us already knew, went on to play Mark in the original cast of Rent on Broadway. Keith Coogan (Brad) went on to co-star in another babysitting-themed flick (Don't Tell Mom...), and he recently appeared in that Funny Or Die viral video blasting Kirk Cameron's homophobia. And as for Maia Brewton, who played Thor-obsessed Sara, she is now a lesbian happily married to a producer and raising twin sons. They grow up so fast...

Thank you Chris Columbus, and thank you David Simkins, for giving me a reason to laugh every time a friend shouts out "Get outta my house!" and for giving us that little ditty known as the "Babysittin' Blues."

I promise to never f**k with a babysitter.


June 27, 2012

A Perfect 10

On June 27, 2002, yours truly landed at LAX with two giant suitcases, a Jansport backpack, a pair of wide eyes, and a curious case of naive ambition.

From a lowly production assistant who had to rely on a Thomas Guide map to maneuver himself through the boulevards of a new city...to a coffeeshop-hopping, funemployed freelancer who's always on the lookout for the next creative gig, I have become somewhat jaded after wearing several different hats over the past decade (In my best Ed Asner voice: Back in my day, we e-mailed AND faxed resumes. There was none of that social networking business). But one thing that hasn't changed is the ambition I carried with me when I departed New York's LaGuardia Airport on that fateful summer day. I proudly chose to live in a city where ambition is embedded in people's DNA. It's their oxygen. I also chose to live in a city where genuine talent is usually sideswiped by shallow trends and distracting gloss, making it all the more difficult to keep the "fire" burning. However, despite all of the jokes and pokes at the unavoidable traffic, the hipsterisms (you're not just pretty dumb; you're pretty and dumb), the ideal weather, and the increasingly blurred lines between work and play, I love to call L.A. my home. I really do.

If I didn't love it, then I wouldn't be writing this from a cafe while spying on a former reality-TV star who's on a first date with a well-muscled gentleman caller, would I?

I'd like to say that I have no regrets, because all of the decisions I made have brought me to this point in my life. And God knows I've gotten nostalgic and written about my L.A. anniversary plenty of times before (you can catch some of these reflective moments herehere and...here). However, if for some otherworldly reason I could travel back in time, there are some things I would tell my 22-year-old self. While some are warnings and silly "what if" fantasies, others are reassurances that would only guarantee my life's path. Here we go...

Dear 2002 Me,

• Take the internship at that small independent production company in Westwood because you'll meet a fabulous woman named Kathleen Newlove who will change your life.

• Write. And then write some more.

• Make sure your 2005 holiday flight home departs from Long Beach Airport and that you sit at the gate next to a familiar-looking guy named Matt Emert.

• It's okay if you don't get that job assisting the executive producer on the first season of that little reality show called America's Next Top Model.

• It's okay if you don't get the PA gig on the first season of that Kyra Sedgewick cop drama called The Closer.

• Go with Karim to that industry mixer at Here Lounge because you'll meet someone with a name as interesting and unique as yours: Swaga Deb. And on that note, make sure to accompany Karim one night to Jerry's Famous Deli on Beverly, for you will meet one Doug Kushla whose laptop will come in handy when you receive your first iPod.

• Eat more protein.

• When you take your first trip to Chicago in the summer of 2008, do not drink the spiked lemonade at Roscoe's. Just...don't.

• Don't forget to send a Thank You card.

• Befriend a Harvard kid named Mark Zuckerberg.

• Three words: Hot in Hollywood.

• In May of 2004, call your father before he pushes himself too hard on that golf course.

• Write a pilot about a high school glee club featuring a ragtag group of students.

• Don't hold back on expressing your feelings to a close friend.

• Do whatever it takes to get a meeting with J.J. Abrams.

• Second guessing is futile.

• Learn how to properly book travel...and Photoshop.

• Order the broccoli rice at Bossa Nova; it's a much healthier (and tastier) side option.

• It's okay to quit (and to say "no more").

• Don't be afraid to ask for help...

At the risk of sounding cheesy, corny, and all-of-the-above, I can't help but sit back and cherish every single job I've had, every single moment I've experienced, and every single friendly face I've met throughout the past decade (I've seen my fair share come and go). The nights driving down Santa Monica Boulevard. The countless searches for a parking space in West Hollywood. The delicious Sunday brunches on sidewalk patios. The crappy paychecks. The movie nights. The road trips...everything has its own little significance, and all of it adds up to a life I couldn't have imagined when I booked that one-way ticket to California shortly after graduating from college.

Not only has this been a ride of my life, it's been one continuous and ginormous lesson that I'm constantly learning with each passing day. I thank everyone who has followed and supported me ever since I sent that first e-mail -- my inaugural, post-collegiate "life update" -- from an air mattress on the living room floor of a friend's Burbank apartment (long before I ever got acquainted with a blog).

And with that, I leave you this:

Now someone give me a damn ribbon or a badge.


*I shall toast this landmark occasion with my closest friends, my second family, tonight at the newly opened Tortilla Republic in West Hollywood (it's where Fat Fish used to be...See? I've lived here long enough to identify previous retail spaces). Swing by if you'd like.

June 26, 2012

Fifty Shades of 'Magic Mike'

Random Thought of the Week:

If Fifty Shades of Grey is inspiring women to spice things up in the bedroom, could men pick up a few tips from Magic Mike this weekend?

Note to boyfriends and husbands: you may want to invest in some tear-away pants.

June 24, 2012

My First Cover Story

Bello's Summer Fashion Issue hits the App Newsstand on iTunes this Tuesday, and it just so happens that my interview piece with Brandon Routh (you can catch the former Superman in the CBS comedy, Partners, this fall) made it to the cover.

And while you're at it, please check out my interview with Ryan Guzman. The Step Up Revolution actor covers the entertainment section, where you'll also find other goodies of mine ("Melrose Place Turns 20," "10 Fashionable Film Favorites," etc).



June 18, 2012

My Two Cents on HBO's 'Girls'

Updated: 1/14/13

Those who have ignorantly labeled or dismissed Lena Dunham's polarizing comedy about twentysomething white chicks living in New York City as a GenY Sex and the City should be pitied for their lack of open-mindedness and the huge sticks they have up their asses. Because they apparently haven't scraped away the surface to see that underneath the woe-is-me sensibility is an acutely observed (and uncomfortable) portrait of post-collegiate life, packed with embarrassing mistakes and complaints we've all been guilty of making but never wanted to admit...or remember.

Many comedies and dramas have attempted to paint the Twentysomething Experience with no real resonance, accuracy, or success. What this show has that others didn't is a creator at its helm who's actually living it in real time (note: writer-director-star Dunham is 25) as well as a female lead who actually looks like she's torn through an occasional pint of Ben & Jerry's.

Now put that in your pipe and smoke it.

1/14/13 - And she (and the show) just won Golden Globes last night. There.


June 17, 2012

My Interview With Woody Allen

I recently attended a press conference at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel for the iconic director's latest film, To Rome With Love (honestly, it's not quite as magical as last year's Midnight in Paris, but it's a charming travelogue). 

And what he had to say was quite astonishing...and revelatory (hint: Annie Hall is a huge disappointment for him). What I also found out: Penelope Cruz is stunning in person, and Alison Pill is a hoot (she had me at "pet pig")...

Check it out over at Hotter in Hollywood.

June 14, 2012

June 11, 2012

9 Reasons Why 2012 Feels Like 1997

(*Updated 8/12/12) I'm all for pop culture going retro every now and again, and since we're halfway through 2012, I'm quite amused by how everything is starting to feel very...15 years ago:

1. No Doubt is scheduled to release their new album, Push and Shove, on September 25. The first single, "Settle Down" drops July 16.

2. Matchbox Twenty is also releasing new music. "She's So Mean," the lead single from their forthcoming album, has already leaked across the interwebs.

3. There's a movie currently in theaters starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones about secret government agents who capture evil extraterrestrials. They're called the Men in Black. Ever hear of 'em?

4. Ricki Lake is returning to TV this fall with a brand new talk show (I should start practicing my "Go Ricki" chant):

5. John Travolta is making headlines.

6. Fiona Apple just debuted a music video everyone is talking about.

7. Titanic made a splash at the box office (in 3D, no less).

8. This man hosted the Academy Awards:

9. The Spice Girls are making headlines as well.

9a. And I just came in 2nd place in the category of Oral Interpretation at the New York State Forensics League tournament...oh wait.

There you have it. What is old is certainly new again.

Speaking of which, what's your favorite relic from 1997?


June 08, 2012

'Melrose Place' Turns 20

On July 8, 1992 a young woman named Natalie ran out of a West Hollywood apartment complex in the middle of the night -- suitcase in hand -- leaving behind roommate Alison Parker without enough money for rent...

And so began the convoluted chronicles of several twentysomethings who resided at a Los Angeles address that would soon become one of the most popular destinations in primetime television.

During that summer, I was a 12-year-old bookworm who had nothing else better to do than stick my nose in paperback novels and rent movies from Blockbuster Video. All I knew was that MP was a sexier spin-off of the hugely successful Beverly Hills, 90210 (remember when Kelly hooked up with older handyman Jake before her mom's wedding?) and featured older characters, which I preferred. (I wasn’t your average pre-teen; while my peers obsessed over the latter, I found entertainment in more adult fare like Knots Landing and Picket Fences.)

Melrose was unlike most dramas in terms of its production. While most one-hour shows produced 22 episodes within a full season, MP pumped out 32. This proved to be both beneficial and detrimental for viewers. Those extra episodes per season meant less reruns but also a higher demand for creative storylines. It may have run for 7 seasons, but in all actuality, it felt more like 10. Maybe that's why many felt it depleted its creative juices towards the end of Season 5 (we'll get to that later).

The first season was a soggy, episodic mishmosh of GenX melodrama (My car broke down! My roommate ate all of my peanut butter!). However, towards the end of the show's inaugural run, executive producer Aaron Spelling, as TV historians will tell you, brought in what he called his "lucky penny": actress Heather Locklear of Dynasty and TJ Hooker fame. Inserted into the opening credits as a "special guest star" (where she stayed for the following six seasons - don't ask me why), Locklear assumed the role of Amanda Woodward, that miniskirt-wearing minx who would eventually climb up the corporate ladder at D&D Advertising, buy the whole damn apartment building, and create a ripple effect within several relationships. The reviews and comparisons were instantaneous: "It's Dynasty: The Next Generation!" And so forth. Needless to say, I collected every magazine cover and TV Guide ad.

By Season 2, things started to get juicy. Amanda snagged Billy from Alison. Michael ditched Jane to be with Kimberly (a pre-Desperate Marcia Cross). And a feisty, little redhead named Sydney Andrews took up residence at 4616 Melrose (did I forget to mention that wig-swapping, incest-driven wedding finale?). However, nothing could beat the nighttime soap's third season during which the show reached its creative (and ratings) zenith. More affairs! Corporate takeovers! Attempted murder! Sex cults! And let's not forget one of the best television cliffhangers to come out of the Clinton era, the action-packed finale in which Dr. Kimberly Shaw goes off her rocker, planting several firebombs throughout the complex, her thumb hovering over the detonator in the final shot (the actual fireworks didn't go off until four months later due to the sensitivity surrounding that real-life bombing in Oklahoma City).

Season 4 was what I like to call The Season of Cray. After that explosive, shark-jumping premiere, it was as if the writers had flung random words and adjectives at the wall to see what would stick -- kind of like that Magnetic Poetry on my refrigerator. A sample: multiple personalities, pool drownings, chandelier-crashing mobsters, head-on collisions, girl fights, sabotaged fashion shows, Jane the stroke victim, Sydney the fashion victim, illegal lobotomies, mental institutions and...Loni Anderson.

Once the fifth season rolled around, producers and writers had learned their lesson, bringing the focus back on relationships, particularly long-term ones like the unlikely pairing of Jake and Alison (somehow, it worked), and crafting a nifty mystery surrounding the arrival of Taylor McBride (the scene-stealing Lisa Rinna) and her chef husband Kyle (the charming Rob Estes). The season 5 finale was classic Melrose despite the disrespectful dispatching of my favorite character: Sydney, on her wedding day, gets plowed down by a runaway car in front of the very church where she got married to Craig Field (Baywatch beefcake David Charvet) minutes before.

Then there was the sixth season, introducing us to Dr. Brett "Coop" Cooper (a former lover of Kimberly's, back in her comatose-in-Cleveland days) and his redheaded vixen of an ex-wife, Lexi (Jamie Luner, having just transferred from Aaron Spelling's failed Savannah over at The WB). The penultimate season ultimately demonstrated that the show was starting to run on fumes. Sam cheats on Billy with…a baseball player? Taylor fakes a pregnancy? Snooze.

The seventh and final season reflected a severe cut in the show's budget. With the smallest cast in the series' history -- seven main players, including the return of Jane Mancini -- Melrose was starting to close its doors. But before Peter and Amanda walked off into the sunset to Semisonic's "Closing Time" after getting married for a second time (y'know, after faking their deaths to elude the Feds), the show tried to relive its heyday by digging another skeleton out of Amanda's closet (she murdered, in self-defense, the high school football jock who tried to rape her BFF) and turning unhinged Eve into the next Kimberly Shaw (nice try but...no).

As for that short-lived 2009 reboot on the CW, I am now, in hindsight, treating it as an 18-episode reunion miniseries. Despite the resurrection of Sydney Andrews (still scratching my head on that one), Jo Reynolds, Michael and Jane Mancini, and Queen Amanda herself, the show was, at best, an attempt to capitalize on the beginnings of a 90s nostalgia that seems to be seeping into the popular culture of the 2010s. It was an admirable accomplishment, what with the medical-intern-by-day-hooker-by-night plot and the introduction of the charismatic (and bisexual) Ella, played with relish by the fabulous Katie Cassidy (seen, left, in the iconic pool).

In the end, what seemed to be missing, besides an audience, was the fun camp that made the original so irresistible. It's a shame, because it had been getting really good at the end.

Now that I proudly call Los Angeles my home, I can't help but feel a little tickle of nostalgia whenever I drive by the real Melrose Place, a small, two-block street that's home to pricey boutiques (like that Marc Jacobs bookstore) and the delicious Fig & Olive. It's also fun to hear L.A. newbies describe any residence of theirs with the words "kind of like Melrose Place," just because there's a pool in the courtyard.

Thank you Darren Star, and thank you Aaron Spelling, for leaving an indelible imprint on my adolescence and even inspiring some of my friends to tap into their inner Amanda Woodwards and enter advertising (you know who you are).

To quote one character from Scream 4, "you were my 90s."


June 07, 2012

Summerlover: The 2012 Summer Playlist - Vol. 2

You know how Aliens is arguably better than Alien, and T2 totally kicks the original Terminator's ass? Well, that's how I'm feeling about Volume 2 of my little Best Summer Ever series. Who knew the music gods would bestow us with so much music for swimsuit season? The following playlist is just bursting at the seams with enough melodies, beats, and rhythms to make you feel like a schoolboy (or girl) ready for summer vacation all over again...

1. "Cuckoo" by Adam Lambert

2. "Give Your Heart a Break" by Demi Lovato -- Can we please retire "Call Me Maybe" and finally start obsessing over this? I know I have. See and hear for yourself:

3. "Take It All Away" by Owl City -- Five words I thought I'd never write: Easy, breezy, beautiful Owl City.

4. "Sovereign Light Cafe" by Keane -- The boys continue to impress with their latest album. This time, they're firing up the nostalgia machine and going back to their roots with this enchanting single:

5. "I Feel Better" by Gotye -- This is Motown-influenced track is clearly the Before to "Somebody That I Used To Know"'s heartbroken After.

6. "Cameo Lover" by Kimbra

7. "Icarus (Radio Edit)" by Madeon -- My theme song for June. Seriously, if I could produce a TV show about my life (with some action sequences thrown in), I'd use this track for the opening credits.

8. "Hell Yeah" by Midnight Red -- Another chanting boy band with overproduced beats = a playlist requirement.

9.  "Hello" by Karmin -- The adorable duo returns with this synth-driven jam. Plus, white girl can give Nicki Minaj a run for her cotton candy wigs.

10. "Is This Love" by Aiden Grimshaw -- Because summer wouldn't be complete without a little dubstep to help you get through those restless, humid nights:

11. "Heartkiller" by Kat Graham

12. "This is Love" by will.i.am feat. Eva Simons -- Eva is clearly the best thing that happens to this dance track, and Mr. i.am should be thankful. Otherwise, it would be one hot mess.

13. "Headphones" by Little Boots

14. "Whistle" by Flo Rida

15.  "We'll Be Coming Back" by Calvin Harris feat. Example -- After falling in love with his musical talents back in 2007, I am thrilled to see that DJ-producer-vocalist Harris is finally getting his moment to shine (as seen in his collaborations with Ne-Yo, Rihanna, Scissor Sisters, and Kelis) -- this time with one of my current favorite U.K. artists:

16. "All Around the World" by Justin Bieber feat. Ludacris -- The Biebs channels Chris Brown in this dance floor stomper that clearly has been concocted to appeal to a more global audience (it's only a matter of time before they start playing this down in Ibiza).

17. "Wide Awake" by Katy Perry

18. "Last Graffiti" by Marc Johnce -- This mash-up of Kat Graham's "Put Your Graffiti on Me" and Josh Strickland's "Last Dance" is a spark that'll ignite any Pride party:

19. "Lemonade" by Alexandra Stan

20. "One Last Time" by Agnes

21. "Vegas Girl" by Conor Maynard

22. "Changed The Way You Kissed Me" by Example feat. Ludacris

23. "Goin' In" by Jennifer Lopez feat. Flo Rida

24. "Roots Before Branches" by Lea Michele -- For when you want leave your troubles behind and walk through the streets of a big city while imagining all of the possibilities that await you.

25. "Breath of Life" by Florence and the Machine

Now go turn up the AC and cruise down the boulevard with these on deck. I'll see you later with Volume Tres.


June 01, 2012

Theme Song of the Month: June 2012

Upon discovering Madeon (real name: Hugo Pierre Leclerecq) over the Memorial Day weekend, I found myself blaring "Icarus" in the car with the windows rolled down (the Radio Edit, that is). It is just one of the many jams I'm sure I'll associate with barbecues, poolside cocktails, and sunscreen.

If this is the first time you're hearing about this French electronica artist-DJ, then by all means, check out the below teaser. And then proceed to his YouTube page to experience the kickass remixes he's done for bands like Alphabeat and Pendulum. And did I mention the dude just turned 18?

Clearly under the influence of greats like Daft Punk and Justice, Madeon is quickly carving out a place for himself in the dance world. As a matter of fact, a music video director friend of mine, Justin Purser (check out his work with Eva Simons here), recently reported to me that the electronic wunderkind spun in Vegas over the holiday weekend (when he was still considered underage).

Can't imagine where he'll be when he turns 21...

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 ...