Hometown Spirit

You don't need to be from Chicago to see how hardcore they are about their hometown. Abusive relationships with their sports teams abound. Residents never leave The Windy City, and in the rare occasion they do, they wail about it the entire time. Before a warm Malibu sunset, you'll hear Chicagoans reminisce about shoveling out their driveways in sub-zero temperatures.

Where is the love in Los Angeles? Half the people here are transplants, and the only brotherhood we're known for are the Menendez brothers. Angelenos from the East Coast and San Francisco claim intellectual superiority based on geography. Half the time they can't back it up and the locals are sick of it.

In my inbox, I received a Chicago Friends vs. Regular Friends email. Like all things hyping Chi-town, it was prideful of their wholesome, "America's-Heartland-meets-the-big-city"quality.

It was time to take a stand.

This is Los Angeles, for goodness' sake. We have kickin' Mexican food, Topanga Canyon, open bar red carpet events and beach sunsets every night. Are we all really that miserable that we can't pull together? I made a Chicago Friends vs. Los Angeles Friends version, using all the same answers from the Windy City.


CHICAGO FRIENDS: Always bring the food.
L.A. FRIENDS: Don't eat, so more for you!

CHICAGO FRIENDS: Cry with you.
L.A. FRIENDS: Always have Valium.

CHICAGO FRIENDS: Will give you a big hug and a kiss.
L.A. FRIENDS: Never get slobber on your make-up - air kisses!

CHICAGO FRIENDS: Could write a book with direct quotes from you.
L.A. FRIENDS: Can recommend a great book agent.

CHICAGO FRIENDS: Will spend the night in jail with you.
L.A. FRIENDS: Would call your publicist, pronto.

CHICAGO FRIENDS: Have your number memorized.
L.A. FRIENDS: Prefer Blackberries over rotary phones.

...just sayin'


Pawing Your Way to the Top

Part of living in Los Angeles is having struggling actors for friends. You take the $15-$20 gamble on their plays and hope for the best, though sometimes you end up with men in drag dressed as the Statue of Liberty, splattered in yellow paint and wailing monologues about the decline of jazz.

The perks? Wrap parties filled with pretty boys and all the red wine you can drink. You may hit gold if one of your friends lands a series regular role. Red carpets and gift bag hand-me-downs? Yes, please.

But these days, scratching and clawing your way to the top is a lot dirtier than the age-old casting couch. My friend Rene once said, "If I can't get into acting the old-fashioned way, I'll go through Scientology." But Xenu.net exposed the sci-fi cult for what it was, and Tom Cruise didn't help any by treating Oprah's furniture badly. Rene knew she couldn't maintain her dignity and pretend to sell her soul to those people.

"Kaballah! That's it! I'll join Kaballah!" What, with Madonna, Demi and Ashton jumping on board and red string bracelets on celebs like Gwenyth Paltrow and Lindsay Lohan, it seemed a sure thing. But that faded fast too. Bracelets flew off wrists faster than you can say, "Fifteen minutes!"

These days, it seems there's only one shortcut to fame. It's called Much Love, the animal rescue organization in Los Angeles. Spearheaded by Tori Spelling and boasting members such as Alicia Silverstone and Drew Barrymore, adorable young starlets-to-be line up for the volunteer classes. With blowouts and manicures, they beautifully throw themselves into the world of animal rescue. They nod their perfumed heads, flash their bleached smiles, and hope to help with the next fundraiser at the Playboy Mansion. Or that red carpet gala with Ralph Fiennes. Whatever works.

But I can't knock anyone willing to give homeless pets a new lease on life. Unlike pretending to be ancient Hebrew spiritualists or adopting theories of alien takeovers, at least these people are making a difference. I've even brought my beloved greyhound Olivia (see above photo) to a Much Love red carpet event. My advice to the up-and-comers? Don't claw your way to the top, paw your way to the top.


The Moth

Note to performance artists: Spreading mayonnaise on your face to protest your history of child abuse is a selfish way to obtain attention. Therapy is much more direct. In fact, you'll need a few extra sessions to get over the fact that you spread mayonnaise on your face. In public. And don't even get me started on spoken word.

Angelenos and New Yorkers, if you want to have a beer while being intellectually stimulated, you needn't endure people slathering themselves in fatty condiments. There will be no more of that screaming over your Sam Adams pretending to have a real conversation. It's high time you discovered The Moth. What started as a simple storytelling phenomenon in New York City is now booming in LaLa Land.

It started small on the West Coast, with a group of about 15 insiders gathering at Tangiers in Los Feliz to share stories. But just last month, hundreds of people crammed into El Cid to take in the Love Hurts-themed stories. Was it the subject matter that drove in the crowds? Everyone has a story to tell when it comes to broken hearts. "Except the ones who are dead inside," noted M.C. Brian Finkelestein. He then rethought the statement to the standing room-only crowd. "No, even if you are dead inside, you've got a story."

People from all walks of life grab cocktails, throw their names in a bag, and hope to be one of the ten people picked to share their personal story. There's a five minute limit on stage, and stories must follow the evening's theme. The encouraging audience sits rapt and judges rate your story from one to ten. Any preconceived notions of pretentiousness are quickly dissolved. Since none of the storytellers are allowed to do stand-up or character pieces, every story, whether good or bad, is real. The nervous speakers endear themselves to you. The laughter is often, the tears are occasional.

The sudden boom in popularity is not surprising. Los Angeles is a town doling out broken dreams on a daily basis. Everyone from disgruntled actors to unemployed philosphy professors have taken the stage. But this is no soap box for the downtrodden, most stories are a celebration of the everyday absurd. Even celebrities have caught the bug. Molly Ringwald has been a judge. Margaret Cho, Ethan Hawke and Moby have been storytellers. Prairie Home Companion legend Harrison Keillor and actor John Turturro recently hosted the annual Moth event.

If you're looking for more substantial, dare I say reflective, entertainment that goes above and beyond watching drunk blondes riding mechanical bulls on Sunset, it's high time you experienced The Moth.