Congress Created Dust Bowl

Driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco, I shit you not, a tumbleweed blew across the 5 freeway. Unlike cartoons, it wasn't happening in a desolate ghost town, but the middle of a busy freeway, cars swerving.

Regardless of our urban hubs, California is an agricultural state. Our fertile Central Valley is integral to many crops that feed our country and others. The coastal mist mixed with our temperate sunny weather make for perfect farming. But we've got a nasty dustbouwl situation, and no one's talking about it. Frustrated farmers put out signs on the edge of their farms by the freeway, reading "Congress Created Dustbowl." They are hoping to create awareness, but all the "environmentalists" driving by are too busy fiddling with their ipods in their Priuses to notice. In fact, they condone dying crops because they were told that we are in a water shortage...and fell for it.

Ironic how they think "green" means to avoid green at any cost. Israel and other desert regions use desalinization plants to take salt and minerals out of sea water, and irrigate it for crops, drinking, you name it. Barren land becomes lush, and human and animal life may continue to thrive. But environmentalists rally against these plants because they may hurt a few fish. States don't push it too much because it's expensive and officials tend to stray from long-term infrastructure improvements. While it's necessary to upgrade, the myopic leaders wish to remain popular for the short time they are in office and shy from pricey, long-term goals. Save a dozen crabs for the sake of a supporting million human lives?

My regards to the farmer.


The Upfronts - another reason to love this town!

Outsiders say L.A. is summer all year round, but the longer you live here, the less subtle the season changes are. In fact, I don't even need to be outdoors to know that summer is coming, because I have THE UPFRONTS to remind me!

Ah, taking in Ron Perlman's intricate bone structure
Sorry about the all-caps, but upfronts get me all kinds of worked up! Though I'm not in New York to see the live broadcast, where all the networks reveal their shows and drag out their talent for the upcoming season, the party gets piped in live to L.A., and there is always celebrating! While you are wined and dined by the networks, you get a sneak peak at all the new shows before the public does.

Fresh mini doughnuts? Yes please!
I remember being the first to see Modern Family at ABC. They were so proud of their new gem, that we watched the entire episode, instead of just a snippet. The historic El Capitan Theatre was alight with laughter as we ate through buckets of free popcorn. Another one of my favorite things at the ABC upfronts is Jimmy Kimmel, who gets on stage and rips ABC and every other network to shreds. And we eat it all up, this abuse.

CBS, keepin' it real!
Time Warner hosts their Summertime is Cabletime parties, which are boozy, in the swankiest hotels and are always a blast. With more and more quality programming going to cable stations, they have a lot of leverage and film talent.

Time Warner party
But perhaps one of the most exciting upfronts is at CBS, where you wander around the set of The Price is Right, cocktails in hand. I got to spin the wheel. Does anything get better than that? Well, I suppose spinning the wheel on the live show and landing on that glittery 100 has to be pretty amazing. But would I want to be that winning contestant who still must leave all this glitz, in order to lug my new dining set back to Duluth, Minnestota?

"Whoa!" - it's Joey Lawrence!
 Upfronts are definitely the "love" part of my love/hate relationship with L.A..

No photo booth prop goes unnoticed!


Can't summer in Cape Cod? See Modern Drama.

That's right, I used "summer" as a verb. It's a long-lost figure of speech from only the finest WASP circles, and we should bring it back. What sparked this sudden desire for nautical wear and Katherine Hepburn-esque self righteousness?

It was the play Modern Drama. It's been described as Noel Coward's Private Lives meets Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author. But one can get a feel for the play simply by reading the director's bio. Before it digs into his (numerous) theatre awards and education (but while we're here, he has an MFA in Playwriting from Carnegie Mellon), it reads like this:

Bill Sterritt has smoked a cigar in Havana, bartered for rugs in Tangiers, quaffed a beer in East Berlin before the wall fell and damn near got arrested by the secret police for driving down the wrong way of a one way street in Prague back in the good old days of the Eastern bloc.

This stream of consciousness funnels straight into his play, a comedy of errors set in Cape Cod. When you step into SPQR Stage Company, it's an immersive experience. Cape Cod surrounds you. Guests are invited to sit in a cabana strung with party lights and settle into Adirondack chairs. The sound of ocean waves fill the room and you're handed an ice-cold Sea Breeze cocktail, gratis.

The script is jam-packed with Sterritt's mile-a-minute eccentricities, and actor Rich Brunner keeps up with it perfectly, not letting it overwhelm him. In his lead role as Crocker Morton, a down-and-out playwright, he's comfortable in this own skin, doesn't over-act and plays perfectly to the small theatre. In Modern Drama, he struggles to move past his one great theatre achievement, Mind Your Manners. He attempts to maneuver marital roadblocks and a small cast of doppelgangers that act out his insecurities and inner demons.

This play comes just in time. Summer is still new and full of possibilities, and for those who can't summer on The Cape (I did it again!) or get a place in Southampton, get your dose of Tommy Hilfiger right here. This Modern Drama is white, wealthy, drunk and funny.

And while I'm at it, this woman stole my life:


The business of tabloids

I was invited to a tabloid party recently, and a friend had asked if I thought any celebrities would be there. Immediately my mind went to movie stars and I said, "No, of course not." Who would want to attend a party thrown by people who zoom in on your cellulite and blast photos of it across their front page? Stars come home from a seemingly quiet vacation to find their thighs in high definition in grocery store check out lines. So no, no stars.

But we have a new breed of celebrity brought on by tabloid and reality TV culture. The Non-Talent Celeb. They don't act, sing or dance but man are they famous. This party made it quite clear that tabloids and reality TV stars are in bed together. I am more than convinced that the symbiotic relationship has them running some serious under-the-table deals.

Disclaimer: The bully from Glee (below) was there, and as an actual performer, he does not fall under the Non-Talent Celeb.


Turn that Cringe Fest to a Fringe Fest!

It's that time of year again - the Hollywood Fringe Fest is celebrating its third year, and all your fake actor friends who only contact you when they have seats to fill will be loading up your inbox with invites.

Step one: Delete all the invites from fake friends
Step two: Consider the plays your REAL friends have invited you to
Step three: Go see 25 Plays Per Hour at Theatre Asylum
Step four: Reconsider the plays that your REAL friends invited you to, and then decide to adopt a shelter dog instead

Why? Because dogs are amazing, and 25 Plays Per Hour is funny. And that says a lot, because let's face it: most plays are bad and no one wants to see them. It costs money, precious weekend time and forces you to perform that fake praise in the lobby afterward. The latter which is so awkward, my coworker can't bear to befriend actors. So what a breath of fresh air to find a play that made me laugh out loud, and not care about the wannabe creative types in the audience who were too "cool" (insecure) to be the first to laugh.

While I do harbor the concern that play's creators might hate women, it's not a dark Dostoyevsky-type hatred. It's more of a funny hatred, poking only at the surface (girls as cliche: whiny, insecure, talkative). The Theatre Unleashed troupe brought a lot to the table as well. Who would think to combine the likes of Jack the Ripper and Typhoid Mary in a scene? Before acting even took place, the announcement of these two characters being thrown together caused ripples of laughter through the audience. Lee Pollero, a nimble and Kennedy-like actor in the troupe, thought to combine the dialogue of two men, (one a gay porn star and the other a macho vet) with them simultaneously offering a word-for-word account of two completely different experiences (an on-camera sex act and Vietnam combat, respectively). Hilarious.

The acting was impeccable. Sean Fitzgerald having a nervous breakdown during a TV commercial taping (he's just giving the TVs away - literally) was electric. Corey Howe was endearing and Tracey Collins is a natural on stage.

Seeing your friends in a play doesn't always have to be painful. Drop the Cringe fest and see this play!