Thursday, July 31, 2008

Stevie Wonder, super-models and seriously high heels jam the Sunset Marquis launch party

It's not often all aspects of my writing career morph together into one event--music, fashion, hotels and movies. On Wednesday night, the Sunset Marquis Hotel & Villas celebrated the completion of their 40 swank new villas, spa and restaurant. I recently wrote about the hotel's hidden coffee shop for the LA Times and I've covered the hotel for Fodor's since 2000. 

Now the grounds are leafy and the elegantly decorated villas (left) are filled with shimmery mosaic tiles and plush finishes--a stark contrast to the last time I toured the property with general manager Rod Gruendyke (pictured above with Stevie Wonder) when it was a dusty construction site. No expense was spared in the renovation including a pre-construction seance by a psychic who cleared the site of bad juju (not sure of the technical term.) The launch party featured tasty skewers of chicken, steak and even asparagus plus lots of passed plates of sushi rolls and some curious stuffed clams. 
Yes, some of the usual party suspects were there, but also a true mix of rockers (the Scorpions, John Hall), movie types (writer Cameron Crowe), fashionistas (designers Henry Duarte and the pink hair-hued Petra Zilla), super-models (in their own legion of the very tall and super-thin) and LA nightclub owners from Falcon and Cafe Was (which will open in two weeks per owner Ivan Kane).  
Because of the fashion connection, there were numerous examples of sky high heels (this 6.5 " pair are by DSquared)--even on the black clad wait staff. While sipping glasses of Mumm, I started waxing nostalgic about the early 80s version of the Sunset Marquis. Where I interviewed Dutch rockers Golden Earring  is now the poolside bar; where I interviewed Rush in the garden is now the path to the villas and spa.  I knew it was time to leave when I started trying to hum Golden Earring's only hit. Although he played only two songs, Stevie Wonder gave a nice benediction ("there's nothing we can't do when we come together in the spirit of love") and proved why he's a superstar by electrifying the crowd, who begged for more, with just one note of  "Superstition."

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Filtered reality from "American Teen's" Nanette Burstein

Earlier this year I interviewed director Nanette Burstein for Creative Screenwriting on the nature of documentary screenwriting--not necessarily a good idea to confuse reality with a written by credit, Burstein thought.  I'm returning to her film mainly because I was very intrigued by the story of a five Indiana high school seniors' lives.  I lived that year myself in 2007, not as a student, but as a parent of a senior.  What struck me most about the film, was that it captured the amount pressure students feel (to succeed in college applications, decide their future, etc). As Burstein found, "The hardest part of high school is finding out who you are and trying to maneuver through all that."  There's been some controversy around the film. Mark Olsen's story, in what's left of the LA Times, ably chronicles the drama and critical reaction surrounding the film. At the Sundance Film Festival screening Q&A I asked Burstein why there were no scenes of pot smoking, something as a parent of American teens, I would think would be rather rampant. Burstein agreed that there was, "definitely other stuff going on," but her concern was damaging her teen subjects' futures.  You can find them on the movie's Facebook page and each kid, Hannah, Colin, Mitch, Jake and Megan, has one too...just like real American teens.    

Monday, July 28, 2008

Materials & Applications: Arty neighbors

Materials & Applications (M&A) outdoor pocket gallery/exhibition space captivates Silver Lake Blvd.'s drivers and pedestrians with intriguing, thought provoking and always visual and highly visible outdoor installations--whether Jimenez Lai's current installation, "Planstery Module" to past installations like "Density Fields"(above) and "Here There Be Monsters," (below). 
Sunday's NY Times profiled the arty wedding of the team behind M&A, Jenna Didier and Oliver Hess , who I interviewed some months back. As Didier explained,  "M&A's space is for things that have been unbuilt, which previously existed only in the digital realm or someone's imagination." Their wedding sounds equally imaginative with a reception in the space that held "Not a Cornfield," now a public park.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Man on Wire: Philippe Petit juggles

My favorite film at the Sundance Film Festival this year was Man On Wire, which is coming out this week in New York and next week in Los Angeles. It's the story of wire walker Philippe Petit's famed 1974 tightrope walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Breathtaking, suspenseful and a great post-modern documentary--it mixes recreations, interviews and historic footage-- I interviewed the spry Petit (who juggled for me) for the International Documentary Association's fab ezine. Petit turned out to be an amazing documentary subject--a true raconteur.  I'm old enough to remember the day he crossed between the towers--an unequalled feat. While I don't entirely share Petit's obsession with the towers, my first visit to New York included a walk by of  the construction site. 

He and director James Marsh (left) answered questions after the premiere at Sundance-- Petit held court--it was a thrilling Q&A and the film, not surprisingly, went on to win a major prize.  
I showed Petit my snapshot with the towers under construction from the Statute of Liberty...he knew exactly when the photo was taken and that construction was up to the 84th floor. Check out the film if you have the chance.