Celebrity Trainers - The Only Kind Now?

There's an entire industry banking on our holiday weight gain anxiety. In reality, the average American gains only three pounds, which is lost again by February. This time of year, we are inundated with ads and T.V. shows promoting weight loss and the new staple: celebrity trainers.

Celebrity trainers. Are they the only kind that count these days? Hyper, square-jawed spandex lovers can't grace the stage of The Today Show or Oprah without having stuffed a celebrity under their belt. We now expect the word celebrity to precede trainer, and if it does not, the concept sounds empty. If your clients aren't on a "Marty" basis with Mr. Scorcese, you don't count.

Some people seem to use celebs not to bolster, but to create their image. Yoga guru Vinnie Marino only allows personal praise on his website from those who have made the silver screen, or at least network television. Jennifer Jason Leigh, David Duchovny & Robert Downey Jr. have their praise quoted throughout his website. Celeb trainers are granted book deals, reality television shows and exercise videos, regardless of their level of knowledge and expertise in the field.

Just to level the playing field, there is a downside to this hubris and celebrity worship. Under the constant and menacing public eye, their beloved celebs might fluctuate in pounds. US Weekly will zoom in on a pencil-thin fat roll as Reese Witherspoon dines at a sidewalk cafe and DListed will blow up a photo of Jennifer Love Hewitt munching on a chicken leg and title it, "The Roast Whisperer."


Thank You, Los Angeles!

In light of Thanksgiving, I'd like to thank the City of Angels for the following:

- This week's romantic downpours and thunderstorms

- Sharon Wysong, the hottest masseuse in L.A.: http://www.studiocitymassagetherapy.com/

- The L.A. Public Library - We can drop off books at any branch & rent stacks of free movies!

- Frog Island's unapologetic, un-P.C. hilarity: http://www.frogislandcomedy.com/

- The leash-free dog beach in Long Beach

- Bryan Kest's Power Yoga: http://www.poweryoga.com/

- The glorious Mexican food

Things I WISH I was thankful for:

- The overturning of Prop 8

- Heidi and Spencer getting lost in the Bermuda Triangle

- All press who still consider them "news" following them into the Bermuda Triangle

Happy Thanksgiving!


We're on Fire

It smells like a campfire outside. I try not to enjoy it because it's the smell of people's lives going up in flames. I see the vivid, cartoon-like sunsets and attempt to refrain from marveling at them. Thousands of people have lost their homes so I don't complain about my watery eyes and choked-up sinuses. I feel a bit guilty that it's less shock and more awe in my case. This place has turned upside down.
In Los Angeles, brushfire season is in autumn. The summer bakes our land until it's dry and crispy, then the hot Santa Ana winds sweep in and cause a ruckus.

The fabled Santa Ana winds have been romanticized for centuries. Known to Indians as The Devil's Wind, the Santa Anas are said to have their origin in old Spanish, Santana's Wind, which translates to Satan's Wind. According to research, the winds are electrified by a high dose of positive ions that make people act a little funny. These winds explain a laundry list of phenomena, from dizziness to depression. Serotonin production increases and people cry, they fight and they get it on.

In the cult films Less Than Zero and White Oleander, the Santa Ana winds are major dark forces behind the plots. The winds are mentioned in L.A. Story, the song L.A. Woman by The Doors and even in the original Beverly Hills, 90210 series.

Every single year when these mysterious winds sweep in, I always anticipate mood swings and sudden bursts of passion. But it seems the only drama brought on by the Santa Anas are injured firemen, flying cinders and a surge in homelessness. This is not the kind of drama Hollywood likes to feed on. All the Nazis behind A Smoke Free California are fuming they can't control this one, or at least make people feel guilty by sneering and spouting rude comments. And with our air clouded by free radicals, hysterical starlets are scampering for appointments with their facialists.

My heart goes out to everyone affected by this, except for the starlets and Smoke Free California Nazis.


The Emperor's New Show

A friend called recently to ask if I'd like to make a couple of extra bucks. He was having a hard time hustling a group of people to be "fake audience members." Now, I know what a real audience member is. They're extras who get paid $75 to sit through mediocre daytime talk shows. They are cued to burst into applause when hosts say things like, "At first I thought it was just a mole, but then I learned melanoma detection!" An audience member's job is to convince America, "If I can sit through this, so can you!!"
But a fake audience member?

In short, I had to go to The Grove (an outdoor mall made to look like a quaint village) and pretend to be a shopper who just so happened to run into a publicity stunt for an upcoming T.V. show. I was expected to quiver with anticipation because my enthusiasm had to draw in crowds. The execs were so intent on bringing hype to the poorly-advertised sitcom, that they didn't consider it was yet unknown and was cast with no-name actors. That is, except for the gentleman whom I will refer to as, "I-married-a-model/actress-oh-who-am-I-kidding?-she's-a-model" guy.

So there I stood, shopping bag in hand. I bump into a velvet rope. "Oh, what's this?" I said aloud. I then looked up to see a cluster of tiny men and women sweating through a relay race. The press snapped photos patiently as the heavily-powdered cast members had their every move tracked by a comedian. But each and every one of the cast members were completely useless and inconsequential to the gathering group of onlookers, save for the "I-married-a-model/actress-oh-who-am-I-kidding?-she's-a-model" guy.

But I had a job to do. I gasped and whooped from my measly civilian post across the velvet rope. I looked around to ensure I was making good on my word and drawing in a crowd. But as I looked around, I realized they weren't focused on the publicity stunt. All eyes were on me, the overly-hyper shopper screaming for no apparent reason.

In a town where everyone is hustling hype, we have got to get a little more sophisticated.


Pho Shizzle

Back East, the city streets swarmed with Europeans. They always wore scarves and gestured with their hands. In California many of our transplants are Asian, since the Far East is across the pond. Unlike the Europeans, many Asians open restaurants upon settling in. And thank God because let's face it, aside from French cuisine, European food is mediocre. Boiled chicken and potatoes? No wonder the Irish drink.

L.A.'s landscape is dotted with top-notch dim sum joints and Thai bistros. But nothing is as good, and unfortunately obscure, as pho (pronounced "fuh"). My addiction to the steaming bowl of Vietnamese soup borders obsessive compulsive. Back East I had to drive out to a traffic-ridden Vietnamese neighborhood and sit cafeteria style under fluorescent lighting, shoulder-to-shoulder with a grouchy, elderly matriarch who didn't understand why I was there.
In Los Angeles however, pho is celebrated and so is the funny name. Indeed, pho sounds like the "f" word minus the "k." What the Pho in Koreatown is frequented by both families and thug wannabes in high school. Absolutely Phobulous caters to gay West Hollywood and sophisticated foodies in the hills, and Pho Sho serves the Culver City studio crowd. New restaurants are popping up everywhere, and finally I can have my own table, upgrade to track lighting and still enjoy the lemony, spicy, basil-filled noodle soup.

It's only a matter of time until we see a Viet-Italian fusion bistro called, "Phoggetaboutit."