Pushed to the Edge of the Continent

We've all seen her - the aging Marilyn Monroe with the lopsided wig on Hollywood Boulevard. She charges a dollar for tourists to take a photo with her, and they do. But she makes a killing not for the costume, but the kitschy sadness of it; she's got wrinkles in her face deep enough to be a standing card catalogue, bless her heart.

Hollywood is filled with audition rejects, the almost famous, the almost has-beens and all sorts of delusional and dejected souls in between. Rejection wears on you, and as you continually get beaten down by casting directors or the open guitar case that never seems to collect any change, you start inching away from Hollywood. You start to believe that Hugh Grant is sneering down at you from his lofty perch on the billboard in the sky. You back up further and further west, all the way to the edge of the continent. Last stop? Venice Beach.

The acts in Venice Beach have quit Hollywood and the idea of being discovered altogether. Once you're in Venice, you'll settle for any attention whatsoever. And if you retreat any further West, you'll simply drown in the Pacific. The streets teem with gang members, aging ex-hippies, freeloading kids on semi-vacay from their privileged homes, white trash and out-of-towners.

There's the dude in a thong who stands on a bucket and holds a fake wooden snake. Or the guy who outlines giant butterflies on the sidewalk with pennies. Or the singers who screech into microphones, blaring feedback into an annoyed audience. The beach-side hippie drum circles with vegans that reek of vegetables and sweat. The really bad breakdancers who always seem on the verge of spinal injuries as they spin atop flattened and ratted up cardboard boxes.

Some acts do pretty well. The dude (pictured top) with the swami headgear is showcased in many movies, including Casey Niccoli's cult classic, Gift. The guy gets so much cash, that he literally skates around with an ATM machine strapped to him, in case you'd like to make a donation but lack the immediate funds. At this point, he's getting paid for being famous. And within the Venice community of cut-throat-yet-lazily-stoned street performers, he's famous for getting paid.


Fringe Binge! Show #7: White Trash Wedding and a Funeral

You have to give these guys props for the name. The cast of White Trash Wedding and a Funeral  looked like they had a lot of fun doing the show, and the feeling was contagious. They would randomly break out into the song Motorin'. Actors Jacob Smith and Phil Kelly perfected their roles as a borderline-special-needs Wayne and Garth. The tempo was fast-paced and jokes were sprinkled in everywhere.

The play was not without some anomalies. All of the characters sported a deep Southern twang, though the setting was in Illinois. The poor South - people always inherit Southern accents when imitating stupid people. We also had trouble understanding what the character Shirley was saying at times.

But all in all, it was a visual blast of caffeine, and a dern tootin' good time.


Fringe Binge! Show #6: Orange Flower Water

Orange Flower Water is the best show at Fringe I've seen so far. Even before the play started, you were sucked in from the chaos of L.A. to a warm, quiet ambiance. It was as if the director and producer were fattening us for the kill, since the play was going to hurt. Orange Flower Water provides a brutally honest snapshot of two marriages unraveling in real time. We were welcomed by dim lights and a long staircase lined with flickering candles. We were brought to a bar where I was poured a glass of red wine. And it was good wine. Finally, we settled into plush seats, and as indie rock played in the background, I noticed that the stage had a full-on set. It was a breath of fresh air after the minimalist black boxes at Fringe. Granted, I know that most Fringe shows don't have time to deck out their stage due to quick-turnover productions, but it was a welcome change nonetheless.

This show had so much going for it, it was bound to be a success. The play's Emmy-nominated writer Craig Wright also wrote for the show Six Feet Under, a series that certainly knew its way around dysfunctional marriage. Director Stephnie Feury has much experience under her belt (she's been an acting coach for 17 years), and the cast was phenomenal. None more so than Mick Thyer, whose character goes from lion to lamb in a matter of minutes, as his wife packs her bags to leave him. The transition from cocky bastard to pitiful cuckold is heart-wrenching. This guy is going places.

Leslie Liberman's character surprises the audience with her goodness, giving an almost hopeful spin to the whole thing. Actors Jeff Denton and Sarah Ann Schultz (who struck me as a brunette Gwenyth Paltrow) are also strong actors in their own right. It takes a certain kind of talent to be able to tease laughs out of a dramatic situation, and yet in the midst of a fight, the audience would break into laughter over slights. Perhaps because the subject matter is familiar, but definitely due in part to this top-notch production.  



Us East Coasters can get a bit nostalgic for Waffle House, the chain of breakfast restaurants off of southern highways. The warm orange and yellow glow of the sign is a shining beacon for weary travelers everywhere. Families with children take over the more upscale Cracker Barrels of the south, but Waffle House is a house of worship for truck drivers, traveling rock bands, drunk college kids and fans of hash browns that are as addictive as crack. 

I think this is why they built The Waffle here in Hollywood. It's decor gives a playful wink to the familiar browns, oranges and yellows from old truck stops. But the menu is an out-of-control Waffle House menu on steroids and psychedelics! 

Who needs Roscoes for chicken and waffles? If the hip hop crowd doesn't know, they'd better ask somebody! This is fried chicken, greens with bacon bits, white sausage gravy, and jalapeno cornmeal waffles smothered in maple syrup, fool!

 Of course with all these carbs, we responsibly ordered some healthy green vegetables. 

Well sweet home Alabama! Biscuits and gravy! 

Onion rings. Nom nom nom nom nom...

Happy ending: Red velvet waffle with cream cheese sauce


Baconfest: Ignore the hipsters and enjoy the meat!

Angelenos, don't let the hipster fascination with bacon get in the way of you enjoying this salty treat. Ignore the hoards of bearded men in flannels learning to cure meat and stuff sausages as they sip their homemade craft beer. They can't take bacon away from you!

To call Baconfest a celebration of all things swine is an understatement. Held at the San Diego County Fair, I can assure all that it is most certainly worth the drive. But don't take my word for it. I will let the photos do the talking. This is a MUST DO for Southern Californians, no matter the city.

bacon cotton candy - salty and umami-licious!
bacon-wrapped BBQ chicken, honey ham, pulled pork and spicy mac & cheese
deep-fried bacon-wrapped pickle - mmmmmm
bearded hipster selling cured meat? surprise, surprise, surprise
fluffy bacon waffles
bacon pie!
bacon jerky 
bacon sweets made to order 
great displays
bacon ice cream


Fringe Binge! Show #5: It's Important to Leave, As Well

If you think a play called It's Important to Leave, As Well sounds out of left field, wait until you see the show. The frazzled stage manager storms in front of the house, threatening suicide. The actors come and go as they please, completely absorbed in their own personal dramas as they rehearse scenes. The writer/directer interrupts often, calling everyone out on their agendas.  

In this fast-paced play within a play, viewers are treated to an inside look of the human condition that is so prevalent in stage productions. Actors falling for one another in real life after faking intimacy on stage, female frenemies in competition with one another, and yet another whining man-child who makes selfish decisions.  In fact, I believe one of his excuses for infidelity was, "I kissed her so I could experience the reality of your reaction to it." Yep. It was so pathetic and yet so familiar, the audience burst out laughing.

While the gratuitous stretching on stage in short shorts was a bit confusing, I'm sure the boys appreciated it. In all, Joshua Morrison's play was clever. The actors were very talented. The sexual tension between Marisa Persson and Mikie Beatty was palpable. Director Scott Marden helped exacerbate the unpredictable twists, and the bits of sadness that were interspersed with humor. The highs and lows made the production feel real, and touch close to home.


Fringe Binge! Show #4: Rodeo Town

David Lynch called. He wants his play back.

For anyone who craves that eerie noir feel and the relief that comes at the end when they are brought back to real life, this is their play. It didn't take long to get sucked into the lonely desert enclave of Rodeo Town. The acting was impeccable. Combine that with a few bottles of whiskey, a wood fence and a picnic table and within minutes, you were a million miles from The Beverly Center.

The darkness in this play is hidden at first, slowly unfurling in layers until your skin crawls. When the character Richard (played by Dustin Gooch) accidentally stumbles into this forgotten place, it was almost a sigh of relief to see someone with a Smart phone and pressed khakis. He reminded us of a more secure, familiar place, if only for a few minutes. It didn't take long for Garth (played by Eric Cire) to work on deconstructing Richard, and sucking him into his deranged web at Rodeo Town. Cowboys within Garth's web struggle against the control he has over them, including Lonnie, played by actor Harry Beer. Beer seems to be another character straight out of a Lynch story, (specifically Bob from Twin Peaks). Weakened by alcohol, his attempts to rise above the cult of personality dissolve before good is done.

Tension mounts as the cowboys (and their new guest) prepare for the biggest night of the year; a whiskey-soaked party where women (who only visit once a year) are expected to attend. But all the hootin' and hollerin' in the world won't prepare them for the one single woman who does show up. After this night, Rodeo Town will never be the same.


Fringe Binge! Show #3: Me Love Me

In the program for Me Love Me, playwright Brandon Baruch assures us "Don't worry...you can take a nice long shower tomorrow morning." He wasn't kidding. Me Love Me delves into the chaos of Hollywood life; and not the view from the top which we're accustomed to seeing on TV. We're exposed to the clawing and desperate underbelly of Hollywood. Actors with miserable day jobs in customer service, coke-fueled "networking" parties at night. The narcissism and backstabbing will ring familiar to most Fringe theatregoers, and it's a subject that may always have us in its thrall. 

There are two characters named Tuck. One is a spoiled man-child with a sense of entitlement, the other is his literal clone who is scientifically four years old. Both have the same level of maturity, only the original Tuck is a jaded actor with an uncanny ability to bullshit. Then there's Gemma, a performance artist who's as level-headed as someone can be with a Xanax addiction. After a night of binging on booze and drugs, both Tucks steer down a road that will change the course of their lives, and Gemma is left to pick up the pieces, sans Xanax.

This play is at both times funny and disturbing, as it steers us down paths that make the viewers shift in their seats. Actor Benjamin Durham was convincingly deplorable. In fact, I believe I was unconsciously sneering at him as he addressed the audience after the show. Which goes to show how talented he is and how ridiculous I am. Actress Lizzie Adelman was endearing, and had a chance to shine during her segment as performance artist. She cackled in an oh-my-God-I'm-going-to-have-a-nervous-breakdown kind of way, and we ate it up. But I certainly didn't wait until morning to take that nice, long shower.


Fringe Binge! Show #2: 25 Plays Per Hour

I'm still at the beginning of my Fringe Binge, and have taken in play #2 at the Hollywood Fringe Fest. It's called 25 Plays Per Hour, the Backstage Critic's Pick last year. It was fast-paced, switching directions every few minutes to cram 25 plays into 60 minutes. An actor would go from a creepy old lady to a neurotic twenty-something in minutes, keeping you on your toes like Saturday Night Live in fast forward. 

If one were to go out and see 25 different different plays, it would be statistically rare that a patron would love each and every one of them. The same goes for the plays within this show. But unlike other plays where you remain unimpressed for two hours, you know in this production it will be over in two minutes. This Theatre Unleashed production is also running [title of show], and do have an eye for humor. Of note was was the mini-play featuring presidential candidates. One contender believed that Jesus came from an ape via a turtle and the second candidate believed that the earth was approximately 43 years old. Actor Anthony Rutiwicz has a slew of believable acents in his back  pocket, and can go from a stoner genie to gangster to presidential candidate in minutes. What's a stoner genie? Well, you'll just have to see the play and find out.


Adult Swim abused us. In a darkened room, we were allowed in one by one for a silent ritual involving giant owl figures and the grim reaper. Trembling, we walked away with swag. As we scratched our heads wondering what just happened, our politically-minded conspiracy theorist friends clued us in. "They're doing a spin off of Bohemian Grove." "What's Bohemian Grove?" I asked. They simply laughed and walked away. 

So I Googled it, and it gets even weirder.


OK! magazine rings in the summer with a great party!

Some people know summer has arrived when they see their first lightning bug. Sadly, they don't exist in L.A., so we console ourselves with fancier cues. I know it's summer when OK! magazine takes over the uber-chic Casa Del Mar in Santa Monica for their annual OK! Body and Soul on the Beach event.

Outside by the crashing waves, we take cutting-edge workout classes with the pros. Inside the Casa Del Mar, we are seriously pampered. Why the royal treatment? OK! just wants to make sure we're, well, OK! Especially in time for summer, when sun and surf take their toll on your skin and hair.

Nail Garden manicurists gave us OPI manicures. We not only chose which color, but got to keep the bottle ourselves! VO5 was there to make our hair sleek and shiny. We walked away with coupons for free shampoo and conditioner. Always and Tampax gave away samples tucked into pretty, discreet clutches. Crocs gave away pairs of their eco-friendly Ocean-Minded flip flops. Two words: Arch. Support. In fact, they were given away to those who helped participate in the beach clean-up after the party. See? OK! even wants our beaches to be OK! And so does reality star Audrina Patridge, who was there to help.

Everlast was there to encourage us to slug it out on their stylish punching bags, and enter a sweepstakes to win one. 

Tikkun Holistic Spa gave away free samples of their collagen skin serum, a free day pass to their spa and had a raffle for a basket of luxurious beauty products. I won! I believe that I screeched.

Karen product gift basket, valued at $600!

Glittertainment adorned us with customized OK! tattoos.

Viva Pops served refreshing frozen treats in flavors such as Mango Chili and Lavender Lemonade. We washed it all down with Activate water, which comes with a lever that releases fresh vitamins right before you drink it!

I left feeling exhilarated, pampered and quite...OK! (Come on, I had to.)


Fringe Binge! Show #1: [title of show] - No, that's what it's called.

Last year I was so impressed by the renegade indie productions at the Hollywood Fringe Fest, that I've embarked on a mission; to take in a slew of shows throughout June and report as I go. I will Binge. On. Fringe. I want to support the arts in L.A., and show people (yea you New Yawk!) that there's a performing arts world outside of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. No offense, Dorothy Chandler. Although she has a pavilion named after her, so she can handle my jealously over her fortune professional opinion.

My first play was like a shot of espresso. No, adrenaline. No! A bolt of lightning! Yes.

The play is called Title of Show and it's running at The Elephant Theatre throughout June. It's a musical within a musical - a cheery hit of Glee, if you take away the saccharine high school melodrama and throw in more of the biting wit of Sue Sylvester. After all, Title of Show doesn't focus on a bunch of high school kids. These are adults in New York City with all the complexities so familiar to struggling Angelenos. Cynical, yet hopeful. Ambitious, yet self-defeating. 

I dragged into the theatre on Friday night after a long week. When I was younger, Friday night meant tequila shots and riding the bull at Saddle Ranch (don't judge me. Actually, go ahead). These days, I feel lucky to not fall asleep before the credits roll on my Netflix movie. Imagine my surprise when I left the theatre feeling electrified.

Aside from the uptempo pace, great writing and the distractingly beautiful bone structure of the show's pianist Jim Blackett, there were little things that gave me joy. When actor Travis Dixon ranted about the barrage of musicals being created after Hollywood films, he didn't just rattle off a list. Oh no, he had physical movements for each offending production. For Legally Blonde, he flipped his hair. For Big, he shimmied from the ground up. But his movements kept up with the fast pace of his speech, like watching him in fast forward. The audience interrupted the scene just to applaud him. 

Director Corey Lynn Howe
Talented director Corey Lynn Howe was careful to keep each of the characters flawed but lovable. Especially actress Julia Plosnieks, who played Susan. She was raunchy, over-the-top and like all the characters, completely owned it. This small cast had chemistry, energy and weren't at all playing it safe on opening night. They were in it to win it, and the audience gave them a standing ovation. I was infused with so much energy,  I practically flew out of my seat with a "Bravo!"


Don't trust skinny cooks? You haven't met Hollis Wilder.

Hollis Wilder preps for a civilized food frenzy

Sometimes it feels as if reality TV is a barrage of nouveaux riche illiterates throwing drinks at one another. That's why we need Hollis Wilder. She's never thrown a drink in someone's face. She has yet to accept a rose from a stranger and suddenly find herself in love. She's done something that no Housewife-of-Insert-City-Here has ever done - she has glorified the value of hard work. A three-time winner of Cupcake Wars, she's not content to simply return to her successful business in Florida. Not without releasing books filled with secrets that I'm thankful (and a bit surprised) she's divulged!

what breakfast looks like in heaven

In particular is her newest book Savory Bites. This week, luminaries gathered at a chic Santa Monica home at sunset, excited to sample food from her book. Warm, engaging and so fit you can't believe she cooks, Hollis breezed around the party enjoying people enjoy her food. "We're here for a nanosecond," she said, regarding our short time on earth. That's why she feels we need to live life to the fullest and put only the most wonderful food into our bodies.

And her food was impeccable. Using the cupcake molds she's famous for, she's crafted savory treats that are perfect for portion control and gorgeous for entertaining. Her food was alive, and glistened with every color of the rainbow.

Some of my favorites:

Zesty roasted veggies, with a lemony tomato bite. 

Smoked salmon and dill over pumpernickel and eggs. So good I almost converted to Judaism. 

And of course, she wouldn't let us leave without something sweet.

I was thrilled to eat lavishly in the salt air, chatting with epicureans as the marine layer rolled in to wash Los Angeles. I had to remind myself that if it were not for reality TV, I may never have met this talented chef, or have been able to sample such wonderful food, much less learn how to make it.  Thank you Hollis Wilder; for the food, the book and for making a strong case for reality television.

Hollis Wilder and myself


Earthquake Weather

"It's my fault."
- San Andreas

To those outside of California, you may be surprised to know that people here have a term called "earthquake weather." Yes, earthquake weather, as in meteorological events in up the heavens somehow triggering seismic activity miles underground.

Although geologists denounce any connection between the two and earthquakes happen year-round in every season around the world, many Californians hold fast to this claim. Beck even has a song called Earthquake Weather. But he's a Scientologist, so whatever.

So what is earthquake weather supposed to feel like? "Hot and muggy, and the air must be very still," explains my friend Stephanie (who refuses to divulge her last name). A Los Angeles native, she swears up and down that earthquake weather became a popular term because the earth rattles like hell when the weather is hot and still. My friends and I made jokes about it all the time, until she made mention of it being "earthquake weather" on a Friday afternoon. We were rocked by a 4.2 that Sunday.

I think Beck and his crazy little church had something to do with it.