September 19, 2018

The Mayfair Hotel: A New Staycation Spot for L.A. Creatives


Most writers in Los Angeles will tell you that it’s sometimes hard to find the perfect spot to get the creative juices flowing, to finish that script, to meet that deadline. Of course, said place needs to have decent coffee, free wi-fi, and comfy seating, but cafés throughout the city are becoming increasingly flooded with laptops, bloggers, and any old-school scribes who still prefer pen and paper.
That’s why The Mayfair Hotel in downtown L.A. is becoming the next great getaway for local artists looking for an environment that can facilitate the creative process. (History lesson: this was a writing spot for legendary novelist Raymond Chandler nearly 80 years ago — so you know this place is legit.)
Last month, The Mayfair celebrated its reopening with an epic party that attracted the best and the brightest in the L.A. art scene. While attendees were treated a smorgasbord of treats, tunes from DJ Muggs, and live performances from Mickey Avalon and London McNamaraothers were introduced to the hotel’s custom-built podcast studio where locals and guests can be their own content producers and tell their own story. Then there’s the writers room, a creative space with a long, communal table with chairs for emerging and seasoned authors working on the next award-winning screenplay or big hit novel. (I gladly took the opportunity to polish a chapter during a recent stay.)

And caffeine addicts, don’t worry. The room is connected to Fairgrounds, a coffeeshop where you can pick up an artisanal brew and pastry.
Back when the Academy Awards weren’t proposing controversial new categories — 1929, to be exact — they held an afterparty in The Mayfair Hotel’s brick-walled ballroom, and some of that glamor can still be felt throughout, thanks to the posh interior designs of Gulla Jónsdóttir. Every square inch is a sleek and sexy throwback to a long-gone era.
The Mayfair is also more than just a staycation spot for L.A. creatives. It’s building a reputation as a destination for those seeking world-class accommodations carefully paired with a hand-picked collection of art, music and entertainment. Under the direction of Artist-in-Residence Kelly “RISK” Graval and Regime 72‘s Kevin Zinger and Ivory Daniel, the hotel’s creative programming recalls the glamorous heydays of the Roaring 20s while also offering visitors an intimate view into the DNA of the city.

Guests and visitors can also experience The Mayfair’s multi-faceted dining options including M Bar in the lobby lounge and Eve American Bistro, with Hell’s Kitchen winner Executive Chef Scott Commings at the helm. The stylish restaurant was named after Eve Cressy, the main character of Raymond Chandler’s short story “I’ll Be Waiting.” And behind M Bar is The Library, a cozy, secluded room with bookshelves, curve-backed chairs, and a grand fireplace perfect for reading sessions or, according to the hotel’s site, “an unexpected adventure that always leads to a happy ending.”
Mayfair recently hosted Banksy’s Haight Street Rat, while opening its doors to the art community for a few select screenings of the critically acclaimed documentary, Saving Banksy. The Haight Street Rat will return to The Mayfair this fall for another exhibition.
“The Mayfair is a special place,” said Kevin Zinger, founder of Regime 72. “It’s important to all of us that the art community feels at home when they walk through the doors. We spent years planning, designing and executing what is now The Mayfair. It only made sense to do a few events specifically for artists and musicians first. Everyone involved wants to make sure the art community thinks of The Mayfair as a home. We are genuine in the approach and not making it feel like a marketing ploy. Of course, we want everyone to be able to enjoy The Mayfair, but building the trust with the art community first was important.”
For more information, visit www.MayfairLA.com. Starting rates begin at $185 per night.
@TheFirstEcho

September 18, 2018

Song of the Month: September 2018


2018 is proving to be The Year I Fell in Love With Australian Pop Artists.

After discovering the awesome retro sounds of MOBS and the harmonies of Sheppard, it's official: Australia has been churning out some great talent this year.

More proof can be found in Future Jr., the indie artist from Down Under who's been wooing me with his single "Changing." (Also worth listening: "Forget About Me" and "Half Past You")

Give it a listen:

@TheFirstEcho

September 17, 2018

‘Bridesmaids’ Gets the Unauthorized Musical Parody Treatment


Bridesmaids, the 2011 comedy blockbuster starring Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, and a slew of funny ladies who are now household names, has landed for an encore run at L.A.’s famed Rockwell Table and Stage as part of the venue’s Unauthorized Musical Parody Of… series.
Actress Natalie Lander takes on the role of Annie, originally played by Wiig, the manic maid of honor whose life unravels as she leads her best friend, Lillian (a pitch-perfect Molly Stilliens), and a group of colorful bridesmaids (Ashley Argota, Nohely Quiroz, Aynsley Bubbico, and Desi Dennis-Dylan) on a wild ride to Lillian’s wedding. Along the way she crosses paths with the adorkable cop Rhodes (here played by the charming Nathan Moore) while trying to unwrap herself around the finger of sleazy douchebag Ted (Michael Deni).
The intimate, cabaret-style production is an inspired romp, especially with its surprising mash-ups that manage to make the movie’s memorable scenes even funnier. (Case in point: the iconic, food-poisoning-fueled bridal shop scene becomes a hilarious throwdown between Frozen‘s “Let It Go” and Ludacris’s “Move Bitch.”) And of course the bridesmaids rivalry only gets amped up when these ladies break out into dueling vocals on Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” and Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood.” The infectiously plucky Lander even manages to hold her own during a super fun rendition of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies,” writhing on the stage like no one’s watching.

The show, co-directed by the Tony Award-winning Marissa Jaret-Winokur, briskly runs through the two-hour movie in a tight 90 minutes that’s jam-packed with other numbers from the past decade, including Demi Lovato’s “Skyscraper,” P!nk’s “Fuckin’ Perfect,” Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl,” and even that signature closer from 1990, “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips. There are even a few nods to other bridal-themed comedies (hello, My Best Friend’s Wedding) that pop up when you least expect it.
“This parody, driven by song and dialogue, is an homage to one of the most side-splitting films of all times,” says Executive Producer and co-writer Kate Pazakis. “Adapting this for Rockwell’s dinner theater with ‘tasteful raunch’ while recalling our own experiences with weddings—and all that leads up to them—had us rise to the challenge…but it’s guaranteed to keep you laughing. Audiences have been clamoring for it, so we’re thrilled to bring this show back for this special limited run!”

UMPO: Bridesmaids is now running through November 17th, 2018.
Created by Kate Pazakis, The UMPO (The Unauthorized Musical Parody Of) series merges movies and musical theatre, revisiting and retooling popular films for live audiences. Performed with a live band and slews of hit pop songs to help tell the stories, UMPO audiences have been cheering and laughing since 2015. Rockwell Table & Stage is located in Los Feliz at 1714 N. Vermont Ave, Los Angeles. Tickets are now on sale at www.rockwell-la.com.
@TheFirstEcho

September 16, 2018

What I Did On My Summer Vacation (Most of Which Wasn't a Vacation)


NAME: Hiko Mitsuzuka
SUBJECT: Summer Vacation
HOMEROOM: 7C
DATE: Sept. 16, 2018

The Summer of 2018 was a busy one.

I kicked it off with a 10-night journey through Europe. You can read about my first six nights in Berlin and Paris here, here, and here.

I read Crazy Rich Asians before seeing the movie and fell in love with Astrid long before all of y'all did.

I consumed an adequate amount of ice cream; shout-out to Talenti gelato.

I treated my parents to a weekend in Vegas. Along with a Jennifer Lopez concert.

I had many strong feelings about Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, mostly about how the franchise is losing its luster.

On the other hand, I saw and reviewed the fantastic Eighth Grade. It is being slotted in my Top 10 of the year.

I was transported back to high school when I saw TLC headline a music festival in South London. I also fell in love with London all over again.


I binged Season 2 of the brilliant Atlanta and Season 4 of the criminally overlooked You're The Worst.

I gave my MoviePass a run for its money (six movies in June, five in July) before those damn restrictions kicked in.

I attended a wedding in Santa Monica and realized not all wedding bands suck. (Kudos to the singer who pulled off Chaka Khan's "Ain't Nobody" and Whitney's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody.")

I got a little tipsy in Palm Springs during the extra-long 4th of July weekend. (Okay, I got a lot of tipsy.)

In Berlin, I ate schnitzel for the first time. And my God, it was delicious.

My father was soon thereafter diagnosed with prostate cancer, so I flew to Florida to help my parents reach a decision on treatment: he is scheduled to receive radiation treatments this fall. My family is currently doing well. Therefore, #fuckcancer.

I saw The Spy Who Dumped Me. My reaction: NO ONE TOLD ME GILLIAN ANDERSON HAS THREE SCENES IN IT!

I went to the Saved by the Bell-themed pop-up diner, Saved by the Max, in West Hollywood. The food was expectedly...okay. There were plenty of Instagram ops to be had.

My company was awarded Global Agency of the Year. NBD.

I finally read Ruth Ware's The Woman in Cabin 10. This book is screaming for a Reese Witherspoon-produced adaptation.

I bought a new pair of glasses.

I was absolutely floored by Hannah Gadsby's Nanette on Netflix.

In Paris, I ate escargot for the first time. The copious amounts of garlic butter helped.

Oh, and I signed with a lit agent before finishing the first draft of my YA horror novel, Slasher Movie Girl. (To clarify: my agent isn't actually lit; she's a literary agent, someone who reps authors. Duh.) Publishers, keep your eyes peeled this fall...

@TheFirstEcho

A Breakup Poem for MoviePass


Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Dear MoviePass,
I'm breaking up with you.

For most of this year,
We've had a good time.
10 bucks for so much,
It felt like a crime.

Blockers was cute,
Tully was great,
And who could forget,
The fun of Ocean's 8?

I bragged to my friends,
A glowing testimony,
Never feeling I wasted dollars,
On that shitty Acrimony.

But then you changed,
Like the elusive Don Draper,
Charging me extra,
To go see Skyscraper.

I gave that a pass,
Not knowing what you'd do,
And then you forced my hand,
To check out Mamma Mia 2.

Your rules and restrictions,
Gave me a bad rub,
Testing my patience,
Asking for ticket stubs.

But like an abused spouse,
I came back for more.
But going to the movies,
Shouldn't feel like a chore.

Like many, I'm frustrated.
We're all getting quite pissed.
That's why we're now eyeing,
AMC's A-List.

Best of luck,
H

@TheFirstEcho

September 10, 2018

Fox's Marketing Team Sure Knows How To Commemorate September 11


Like, yikes.

I know the season premiere of the Fox drama involves an earthquake in Los Angeles, but this billboard...oh wow.

September 04, 2018

BITTERSWEET: The 2018 Fall Playlist


Before you pack away the SPF and hang up those flip-flops, familiarize yourself with these tunes I've begun to curate for your autumnal pleasure.

And FYI: No pumpkins were harmed in the making of this playlist.

@TheFirstEcho

September 03, 2018

Berlin’s Hotel Zoo is Simply Wunderbar


2019 will mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, that defining symbol of the Cold War that physically and ideologically separated the German city for 28 years. What was once referred to as “The Wall of Shame” is now a distant memory, reduced to concrete fragments scattered throughout the city, covered in decades-old graffiti and gum, as well as a hashtag used by tourists looking for a great Instagram op (yours truly included).
To get a sense of how far Berlin has come since Germany’s reunification in 1989, one can take a stroll along the busy and fashionable Kurfürstendamm, one of the city’s most famous boulevards lined with cafes, restaurants, theaters, and a number of posh retailers. And centrally situated among it all is Hotel Zoo, a polished jewel in the crown of the commercial hub — as well as my accommodations during my inaugural trip to the city.
Built in 1891 as a private residence for a wealthy family, the building was converted into an upscale hotel in 1911. By the 1950s, it became the VIP hotel of the Berlin International Film Festival, hosting a number of celebrities of the era. And now, in the late 2010s, it has become an elegant haven with a Soho vibe (London or Manhattan), thanks to the designs of Powerstrip Studios’s Dayna Lee.
Entering the hotel is like stepping into an affluent townhouse. I made my way down a emerald green-carpeted corridor to the foyer/reception area where I was greeted by Oliver, the hospitable general manager who gave me the rundown on the recent updates to the boutique property. Then, in the “living room” (don’t call it a lobby) I took a moment to lounge on one of the comfy brown leather club chairs with a glass of Moët. As much as I wanted to collapse onto my bed after a long walk, I let the champagne do its work first.
Next, when I retrieved my room key card and stepped into the elevator, I instantly felt like a celebrity, thanks to the activated paparazzi flashes and velvet rope that lined the rectangular, red-carpeted space (one wall is a mural of photographers aiming their lenses at guests).
Much of the building’s original elements — exposed brick, curved walls — can be seen in the hotel’s 130 rooms and 14 suites, none of which look alike. And throughout the hallways, guests can ogle the stylish work of Swedish artist Andreas Kock, a series of voyeuristic scenes that offer a glimpse into the old Hotel Zoo.
After settling into my “grand deluxe” room, I quickly changed out of my sweaty day clothes and headed downstairs to meet my friend Karl, a recent transplant from L.A. (and my own personal Berlin attaché), for dinner at GRACE. The hotel’s cosmopolitan-chic restaurant is nestled behind its Roaring 20s bar, past a row of bookcases, behind a pair of large, lacquered wooden doors. There, Dennis-Lucas, our uber-charming server, offered a wine pairing with each course of our meal.
We simply could not turn him down.
GRACE has long become a fixture in the national and international restaurant scene. Much of the menu has been inspired by Executive Chef Martin Bruhn’s travels throughout Thailand and Vietnam where he gathered flavors from local markets and traditional soup kitchens to transform recipes into sumptuous dishes. We couldn’t stop gushing over the king fish ceviche, bacon-cheddar mashed potatoes, grilled eggplant and peppers, and Wagyu beef with black truffles. This was after we took in the gorgeous details of the space: birdcage-covered chandeliers, emerald green tapestries, and vintage hardbound books — all conjuring up the essence of a Parisian library mixed with a turn-of-the-20th-century writer’s den.
We could have spent all night in there.
Then there’s the hotel’s rooftop terrace where one can grab a Japanese Julep at the bar (grain whiskey with Nashi & Tonka mash, topped with mint and sparkling sake) and lounge by the open fireplace or waterfall while taking in the 270-degree view of the Berlin cityscape at sunset and listening to the mellow electro-grooves of one of the hotel’s guest DJs.

And the Winter Garden, surrounded by large industrial windows, is also another pocket where guests can hide away. This “central oasis” separates the living room from the bar lounge and restaurant, inviting visitors to cozy up to the five-meter-long fireplace that stretches up into the sky above.
At dinner I had snapped a photo of Karl holding his wine glass, eyes closed, head turned as if in deep thought.
“What are you thinking?” I asked.
“I’m not thinking. I’m just savoring this place.”
To book a room or make a reservation at GRACE, visit the hotel’s site for more info.
@TheFirstEcho

Why The Fall TV Season Simultaneously Feels Like 1984, 1992, and 2000


Richard Newby's recent thinkpiece in The Hollywood Reporter, "What Happens When Fandom Doesn't Grow Up" (read it here), brilliantly discusses how modern nostalgia has presented itself across pop culture and what it means for today's audiences...as well as tomorrow's.

I expressed a similar sentiment a few years ago, basically saying that Hollywood doesn't want me and my friends to grow up. The proof is everywhere you look. Every month there's a familiar title from my childhood or adolescence playing at my local megaplex or unleashing new episodes on the small screen.

This is undoubtedly, as many pundits have argued, a result of the growing number of business-minded (read: less creative) execs at film and TV studios who are averse to high-risk investments (i.e. original content), enabling this rampant reboot fever that is affecting a generation of viewers that may never know what it's like to discover a true, original property they can organically grow to love and cherish.

It's a vicious cycle; as long as we keep consuming these things, the more this industry will keep making them.

Hence why the upcoming TV season is going to feel like 1984, 1992, and 2000 all at once, thanks to new versions of Magnum P.I., Murphy Brown, Charmed, and Roswell -- as well as the continuation of the Roseanne saga, now called The Conners, and the new Will & Grace.

In other words, we have one TV season that will allow me to relive my childhood, adolescence, and college years -- simultaneously -- during any given week. (And that's not all: reboots of Bewitched, The Facts of Life, Designing Women, Rugrats, and Party of Five are currently in development.)

Consider me 38 going on 18.

@TheFirstEcho

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 ...