Saturday, October 30, 2004

Poker's hold on teens, tweens


Thursday September 30, 2004

Poker's hold on teens, tweens
* TV and the Web spur the trend, which has kids betting potato chips and push-ups. Some worry: Is it too soon?

By Steven Barrie-Anthony, Times Staff Writer

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Saturday, October 23, 2004

Modern living, 365 days a year


Thursday September 23, 2004

Modern living, 365 days a year

By Steven Barrie-Anthony

Six more years, and renowned architectural photographer Julius Shulman will be a centenarian. But Shulman, whose iconic black-and-white oeuvre captures the stark beauty of Southern California Modernist architecture -- think: Frank Lloyd Wright, Pierre Koenig, Richard Neutra, Rudolf Schindler -- has yet to put down his camera. There's no indication that he will.

When a Los Angeles County Museum of Art fundraising group contacted Shulman recently for permission to publish a calendar of his photographs, with proceeds to benefit LACMA, he says, "I was pleased to do it. We all agreed, let's make this a little different."

The 2005 Julius Shulman Calendar ($26 from the LACMA bookstore; available at bookstores and museums nationwide) is certainly different: a dozen immaculate, 11-by-14-inch loose-leaf Shulman photographs on heavy stock, with elegant date demarcations beneath.

A month apiece is hardly enough time to study each of these masterpieces; chances are, your favorites will wind their way into frames.

When LACMA feted Shulman a few weeks back -- a dual celebration of his 94th birthday and the calendar's debut -- Shulman got up to speak and "began flirting, asking us to come over to his house and see his birds," says Jan Weimer of AMC Public Relations. "But before you knew it, he had said the most beautiful things about nature, about seeing and enjoying the moment."

Chalk it up to Shulman's charm, if you will, but by the end of the celebration the museum had sold $9,000 worth of calendars. Shulman says the people who bought them all remarked, "I've never seen anything so beautiful." That, he says, "is a compensation in itself."

Thursday, October 21, 2004

It's part of their 15 minutes


Tuesday September 21, 2004

It's part of their 15 minutes
* Reality wannabes Amy Scholsohn, Bruce Milam are in party spotlight.

By Steven Barrie-Anthony and Louise Roug, Times Staff Writers

Sure, Kelsey Grammer was wandering around with golden validation, and rumor had it that Sarah Jessica Parker was there with her Emmy statuette too.

But at the Mondrian, where "Entertainment Tonight" and People magazine hosted their gala Sunday night, the spotlight was trained on Amy Scholsohn and Bruce Milam Jr., would-be reality stars who were brought to the show blindfolded.

"I'm just a regular guy," said Milam. "This is a dream." He paused for his Kodak moment, getting comfortable with the 15 minutes. "Oh, hi, Diana," he said, as Diana Ross sauntered by. "Hi," she responded, flashing her pearly whites.

The two, who had tried out and been rejected for "Extreme Makeover," were brought to Los Angeles and told they were going to be in a "new reality show."

Picked up at their hotel and blindfolded, they found themselves introducing the award for outstanding reality series.

The two just thought they were going out to dinner, Milam told anyone who would listen, and on this night, many would.

"I met Al Pacino -- he said, 'You looked good!' " said Milam, a 26-year-old aroma therapist from Illinois, who was wearing a white cap, tan slacks and jacket. Scholsohn, who just graduated from college in Florida, felt underdressed. "I need a little more bling," she said fretfully in her simple black dress.

Surrounded by cameras, celebrities in designer duds and glittery gowns, the two kept repeating the story of their journey to the stage: How they'd been watching the limos going to the Emmys from the window at their hotel when the "Extreme Makeover" people came to call.

And they were thrust into celebrityhood.

Grammer came up to congratulate her, Scholsohn said. "Sarah Jessica Parker said hello. It's great."

Marla Brodsky, the casting director who selected the two for their surprise appearance at the Emmy Award show, accented the postmodern moment: "These are real people.... I'm the person that made them real."

A few miles away, HBO's party at the Pacific Design Center (in the belly of the "blue whale," so to speak), "real people" -- as Parker put it, "the passerby" -- got to rub elbows with the stars.

"Hi, my name is Joe, we have about 6,000 friends in common," a stranger called out to Joe Pantoliano, who was ordering champagne. "Mmmm," said Pantoliano, and turned back to his friends in a cloud of profanities.

A group of guys surrounded Bill Maher: Please, could they have their picture taken with him? He obliged.

The red-on-red decor -- crushed velvet and burgundy roses projected on the ceiling of the massive tent, in bouquets on every table -- was some designer's idea of heaven. Always the contrarian, Maher thought it was more like hell.

Near the bar, Jeff Garlin of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" was telling Billy Crystal about an upcoming episode: the Make-A-Wish Foundation Meets the Playboy Mansion.

Around the corner at Morton's, Showtime filled one cabana with Barbra Streisand holding court with James Brolin. In another, Kirstie Alley chatted with Anne Heche -- perhaps recruiting her for Alley's new unscripted show, "Fat Actress."

Dressed in a black pinstripe suit, white shirt, polka-dot tie, Pantoliano had visited the TV Guide party across the street from the Pacific Design Center earlier in the evening.

"This is like our prom," he said.

Like teenagers with prom jitters, most steered clear of the dance floor in the TV Guide tent, trying to act blase while clutching neon cocktails.

"It's fun to get out of the house once in a while," said Kerr Smith of "Charmed" and "Dawson's Creek." "I got ready in two minutes. Didn't even take a shower -- just put my head under the sink." Charming.

On the red carpet, civility reigned -- by necessity. It took a concerted group effort to figure out who exactly were the people trickling down the interview line.

"It's pretty bad if you have to keep asking, 'Who is that, who is that?' " said one publicist. Wait, was that Diana Ross? Yes -- but skipping the media circus entirely, slipping out to her limo and speeding away.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Of stogies and state


Sunday September 19, 2004

Style & Culture
Of stogies and state
* The governor makes his pitches in a smoking tent as some pitch a fit.

By Steven Barrie-Anthony, Times Staff Writer

Sacramento -- There he is, Juan Vargas, the state assemblyman known for his antitobacco leanings, in the state that prides itself as having the strictest smoking policies in the country -- there he is, watching from his Capitol building office as newly elected Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger puts flame to stogie in the courtyard two stories below.

In the weeks following, Vargas watches as Schwarzenegger's people cover the cement with artificial grass and erect a large tent -- then strike that one and assemble the 12-by-16-foot cabana-style tent that remains standing today.

Word travels up through the six floors of legislative offices that surround the courtyard on all sides: "It's a smoking tent," an aide tells another aide. "A meeting tent," says an assemblyman. "A deal-making tent," says a senator.

"I hate tobacco," Vargas says. "I think it's a terrible thing." But Vargas doesn't mind the smoking tent, which has become the governor's de facto office. The only time Vargas noticed Schwarzenegger breaking the law -- a law that Vargas sponsored: no smoking within 20 feet of a public building's windows or doors -- "was when I lured him," he says.

A group of children visiting Vargas asked to see Schwarzenegger. Vargas glanced toward the courtyard, noticed a muscled silhouette and suggested the children "bang on the window."

After a minute of enthusiastic pounding, "I saw the big arm come out and literally swat his aide out of the way," Vargas says. Schwarzenegger emerged, cigar in teeth, to give the thumbs-up and pose for pictures.

"He didn't put his cigar down, but that's fine," Vargas says. "It was a very nice thing for him to do."

The governor's new office

CIGARS have long been part of Schwarzenegger's public persona -- father-in-law Sargent Shriver introduced him to cigars, and he has twice graced the cover of Cigar Aficionado magazine. The smoking tent is no surprise to those who know him. It's "typical of his creativity" to construct a business environment where he can "smoke a cigar, schmooze and drink coffee," says longtime friend and personal financial advisor Paul Watcher. Schwarzenegger came up with the idea on his first day in office, Watcher says, and he paid for it himself.

The location of the courtyard allows Schwarzenegger to control access: A California Highway Patrol officer guards the entrance to the governor's outer office, and another officer flanks the door leading to a conference room, which leads outside to the tent. "I don't know about security at the White House," says one CHP officer, "but this is pretty close." The setup means that while anybody can peer down from above, only the select have the chance to gaze up from below.

On a recent Thursday morning, a reporter sits in the governor's outer office for nearly two hours, waiting to spend less than five minutes in the tent. The office is filled with chatter and movement -- Sierra Club activists lobbying to protect Hearst Ranch; business interests lobbying for this or that legislation; kids who ask to see Schwarzenegger but get his business card instead. Kristen Garner, the receptionist who worked under Gov. Gray Davis as well, says there has been "much more traffic" since Schwarzenegger moved in. When she leaves to use the restroom the crowd swells and the line to her desk winds around the room.

Then Terri Carbaugh, a Schwarzenegger spokeswoman, arrives and whisks the reporter into the inner sanctum. First Lady Maria Shriver has lined the conference room with paintings of the California countryside in spring, but there's no time to dawdle. Carbaugh raises a screen, unlocks another door and ushers the reporter outside. The tent is fashioned of brown -- one might say cigar brown -- Sunbrella fabric, and it luxuriates in the center of the courtyard, surrounded by plants and metal picnic tables and chairs.

One side of the tent is open; another is partly open and draped with mosquito netting. Inside, the faux-grass floor is covered with a woven mat, and a small but powerful fan creates a pleasant breeze, keeping the tent remarkably cool. Six brown rattan swivel chairs surround a large glass table on which sits a crystal ashtray emblazoned with the Cuban cigar label Montecristo. Two cigar stubs lie in the ashtray. Somebody has left a silver hand-exerciser on the brown humidor nearby. There is a pile of magazines on a table at the opposite side of the tent, topped by an issue of Muscle & Fitness featuring: Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Time is up. On the way out, Carbaugh tells the reporter, "It's really no big deal. Just a tent."

A Hollywood precedent

"ONE can safely say," says State Librarian Emeritus Kevin Starr, "that never before in the history of California has its governor conducted significant business in a smoking tent."

But if there's no precedent in Sacramento, there is precedent in Hollywood. Just look as far as the governor's buddy John Milius, who directed Schwarzenegger in "Conan the Barbarian" (1982). Milius long ago stopped requiring his own trailer on movie sets -- like Schwarzenegger, he prefers to work while smoking cigars in a tent.

Actually, Milius claims it was he who introduced Schwarzenegger to stogies in the first place. Good stogies, that is -- Cuban stogies. "When I did 'Conan,' " he says, "I made sure there was a box of cigars open so anyone could come get one. Issue cigars, Montecristo No. 4." Schwarzenegger had "smoked cigars a little before," Milius says, "but it doesn't take you long to get hooked on Cuban cigars. He got started on good Cuban cigars. It's probably a narcotic of some sort."

When Schwarzenegger arrived in Sacramento, he announced his intention to bring Democrats and Republicans together, to unify the fractured Legislature -- and has since held many negotiations in his smoking tent. This is not the first time he has guided opposing points of view into his own smoke-filled province. Milius remembers the monthly cigar nights at Schatzi on Main, the Santa Monica restaurant formerly owned by Schwarzenegger. Brother-in-law Bobby Shriver would sit on one side of Schwarzenegger, and Milius, a staunch fiscal conservative, on the other. "We had great political arguments," he says.

"Arnold would always get up and go to every table and talk to people," Milius says. But no one could sit at Schwarzenegger's table without his invitation.

Likewise, not all California legislators have been invited into the tent. Those who have usually return to their offices with a keepsake. "You can always tell when someone has been to see the governor," says Assemblyman Greg Aghazarian, because "they're running around with a cigar in their hand."

'Do you like stogies?'

An economy of cigars has burgeoned in the Capitol. Even nonsmokers, who predominate in the Legislature, seek out the governor's personal stogies -- which are actually Daniel Marshall cigars with "Arnold Schwarzenegger" printed in gold on their cellophane wrappers. (Daniel Marshalls retail from $100 to $200 for a box of 25.)

Aghazarian describes the gifting process: Schwarzenegger invites you into the tent, opens a humidor or a box of cigars, pushes it toward you and says (cue heavy Austrian accent), "Do you like stogies?" or "Here. Have a stogie." Aghazarian says he has received "a number of them."

Assemblywoman Nicole Parra has received none, but says that Legislative Secretary Richard Costigan "was supposed to get me one."

Assemblywoman Sarah Reyes: "He hasn't given me one, but if you speak with him, please tell him that Assemblywoman Reyes wants one." (Schwarzenegger has given Reyes "big gummy candies" in the likeness of his head. "My nephews got a kick out of biting the governor's head off," she says.)

Sen. John Burton finds smoking "a detestable habit," so when in the tent he sits downwind. "Beats talking to somebody in the bathroom," he says. Still, Burton has accepted cigars from the governor, which he promptly gives away. The ranking Democrat in Sacramento, he apparently receives better cigars than most. "I think they're Cohibas or Montecristos," he says. "Contraband from Cuba."

Sometimes, cigars flow toward Schwarzenegger from outside the Capitol. Pleased with the governor's workers' compensation reform, Renwood Winery founder and former cigar manufacturer Robert Smerling sent a box of cigars to Schwarzenegger via Assemblyman Alan Nakanishi. (Nakanishi, for the record, has received four cigars from the governor. One immediately went to his wife, the rest to constituents.)

Schwarzenegger is one of the cigar world's "charismatic leaders," Smerling says. "I can't think of too many politicians who would have the moxie to build the tent.... When I bring tourists to Sacramento, from all over the world, they want to see the tent.... Arnold is standing up for the average man.... Arnold is taking us out of the closet."

Where there's smoke, there's ire

The smoke wafting from Sacramento has drawn criticism from health organizations and antismoking groups. A letter addressed to Schwarzenegger, cosigned by the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Assn. and the American Lung Assn. of California, reads: "... we are deeply disappointed at several recent public depictions of your use and promotion of cigars, and we urge you to refrain from modeling this dangerous habit."

Laurie Comstock, founder of Tobacco Survivors United, organized a Valentine's Day protest on the Capitol steps. The governor's smoking tent "sets a horrible example for children," she says. "It's wrong of him to flaunt it. Everybody who reads about him reads about his cigars."

Jim Walker, director of Stop Tobacco Abuse of Minors Pronto (STAMP), points out the "cute irony" that Schwarzenegger's "most notable accomplishment when he came into office was passing a $15-billion bond measure. But each year the cost of tobacco to California is $15.8 billion. Dollars, as well as lives, are at stake."

On this Thursday afternoon, Boy Scout Troop 550 from Northridge -- in Sacramento for a river rafting trip -- is exploring the Capitol.

Does the governor inspire kids to smoke?

"It might attract stupid kids," says 11-year-old Scout Ricky Primerano. "But cigars aren't as bad as cigarettes."

"Yes they are!" shouts an older, taller Scout. "They're much worse."

Seventeen-year-old Chris Thompson says he admires Schwarzenegger. "He brought himself up from nothing," Thompson says. "From Austria, to a movie star, then to governor.... I have asthma, I should hate smoking, but I think he should have the freedom to smoke. If I saw him, I wouldn't even notice the cigar."

As the Scouts walk away, 14-year-old Cera Duchan -- along for the rafting trip -- hangs back. "I don't think he should smoke while he's working on California business," she tells the reporter, shyly. "There are so many people who admire him for his movies, and he has been promoting health issues. To go and smoke a cigar, that's an oxymoron," she says.


USC anthropology professor Alexander Moore notes that Native Americans have long gathered to smoke tobacco. Tribes generally congregate in "enclosed spaces, separated from the outside," and smoke tobacco to "drive away angry spirits," he says. Their purpose, like the governor's stated purpose, is generally to "bring the community together."

Moore doubts that Schwarzenegger modeled his tent on Native American traditions, but says, "In human evolution and culture we find the same patterns arising for the same purposes. The people doing it are not consciously looking at the old pattern. We call it 'convergence.' "

Psychologists consulted for this story are divided on assigning cigars a special significance. It was, after all, Sigmund Freud who supposedly said that "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." But stogies do keep appearing in the mouths of powerful, charismatic men -- such as Freud himself, Bill Clinton (who either smokes or chews, depending on whom you ask) and Schwarzenegger.

The smoking tent is "something of a government within a government," says Occidental College psychology professor Elmer Griffin. The governor's decision to fill his domain with stogie smoke, Griffin says, "makes you want to ask again a question that has been answered so much that it seems passe: Why the cigar?"

Few legislators purport to know, or care, why Schwarzenegger smokes cigars.

"These are not the details I spend my time on," says Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg. "I don't care where he smokes, when he smokes, or who he smokes with." (Goldberg has not received a cigar from the governor.)

Sen. Roy Ashburn (score: one cigar, sitting in a cup on his desk) says, "Every governor has had items with their names on them. Davis sent me a birthday card with his name stamped on it. [Pete] Wilson had his name on pens. This governor likes cigars. They're just thoughtful little mementos."

As the workday wanes, aides gather on the Capitol steps to inhale cigarettes.

"Sometimes we find cigar butts in the ashtray," says a self-described "little slave staffer" who refuses to give her name. "We hear that Schwarzenegger walks the halls at night."

Her compatriots giggle and nod. The staffer has been warned against speaking to the press, she says -- but the reporter keeps listening and she keeps talking.

"You can't smoke in buildings in California, but you can smoke in a hole in a building?" she says incredulously, and looks toward the building's entrance. "They would like to ship us smokers off to Canada." Did you know, she asks, that the air intake valves for the building are located in the courtyard, near the tent? That you can smell cigar smoke in legislative offices?

Greg Schmidt, secretary of the Senate, confirms: "Smoke gets into the intake valves and gets into the offices," he says. "People gripe." But the reporter was unable to find any legislators willing to gripe on record.

Outside the tent

After a long Thursday on the Assembly floor, Majority Leader Dario Frommer is spending his evening at Sacramento International Airport, his flight to Burbank delayed for over an hour. Even worse, a reporter happens to be on the same flight.

Few legislators will complain about Schwarzenegger's tent on record because "the governor is thin-skinned," says the unshaven Frommer. "People who say things critical of him find themselves in his crosshairs. He does not take criticism well."

That aside, "I'm a cigar lover," Frommer says. "He hasn't invited me in yet."

Saturday, October 16, 2004

A love that's built to last


Thursday September 16, 2004

A love that's built to last
* A Passion to Preserve: Gay Men as Keepers of Culture Will Fellows University of Wisconsin Press, $30

By Steven Barrie-Anthony

The author sets out to write a history of gay men as "keepers of culture," as avid and effective preservationists. Gay men, he claims -- and he makes a good case -- have long joined with women to protect and preserve architectural gems. Will Fellows tells of neighborhoods across the U.S. where gays pioneered rehabilitation: New York's SoHo, Boston's Beacon Hill, San Francisco's Pacific Heights.

Perhaps more interesting than the core idea is the framework that surrounds it -- the idea that "gay sensibility is an essential facet of human nature." This notion is bound to encounter resistance, but Fellows makes his case by analyzing his life (his "culture-keeping tendencies" emerged early: At 14, he opened an antiques shop in a poultry shed on the family farm) and by including nearly 30 essays by other preservation-minded gay men. (Poet Mark Doty meditates on his love of an old, worn silverplate pitcher and on rehabilitating an 1884 Italianate Victorian house in Vermont.)

Fellows says gay men are "drawn to preservation because it involves a cluster of concerns that resonate ... with our intermediate natures: creating and keeping attractive and safe dwelling spaces; restoring and preserving wholeness and design integrity; valuing heritage and identity; nurturing community relationships; fostering continuity in the midst of change." Judging from the life stories in this book, at least, these characteristics ring true.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

When he runs hot


Thursday October 14, 2004

When he runs hot

By Steven Barrie-Anthony

Is your pooch refusing his walks? Is the new kitten more peevish than usual? If only pets could tell you what ails 'em. Well, now they can -- sort of. If your cat -- or dog or rabbit, guinea pig, ferret or chinchilla -- isn't herself, you can take her temperature with the Pet-Temp Ear Thermometer from Advanced Monitors Corp.

Ease of use will depend on your animal's temperament.

Normal ear temperature for resting dogs and cats is between 100 and 103 degrees Fahrenheit; higher and they have a fever, lower, hypothermia. Abnormal temperatures might merit a trip to the vet. Obnoxious behavior at normal temperature? Perhaps an appointment with the doggie masseuse or kitty chiropractor is in order. $49.95 from .com, or (877) VET-TEMP.

Thursday, October 7, 2004

Just rise above that clutter in the garage


Thursday October 07, 2004

Just rise above that clutter in the garage

By Steven Barrie-Anthony

Want to clear some space in your overcrowded garage? Easy. Stow your motorcycle -- or anything else weighing up to a ton -- on a shelf that tickles the ceiling.

That's the idea behind Loft-It, a "garage elevator" from HyLoft USA, which allows you to free up an extra 192 cubic feet of garage space by storing motorcycles or other heavy objects up to six feet in the air. Load the 4-by-8-foot platform, flip the keyed switch, and a hidden 120-volt electric motor lifts your cargo along two vertical tracks made of aircraft-grade aluminum.

Now your car can finally return to the garage. Or you could always buy another hog....

Priced at $1,795. To find a dealership near you, go to

Saturday, October 2, 2004



Thursday September 02, 2004

A bargain hunter's natural habitat

By Steven Barrie-Anthony

Habitat for Humanity, the nonprofit organization that builds homes for low-income families, relies heavily on donations of labor, building supplies and cash. In 2001, with the economy in a downturn, Habitat for Humanity South Bay/Long Beach was sorely lacking the third. At the same time, it had a surplus of building supplies: "We were getting up to 100 calls a week, people wanting to donate materials from renovations, etc., and we were turning people down," says President Erin Rank. "It occurred to me that we could utilize the donations by opening a retail home improvement store."

Rank began banking donations and found a 10,000-square-foot warehouse in Gardena. Word spread among homeowners, construction firms and manufacturers, and when the Habitat for Humanity South Bay/Long Beach Home Improvement Store opens its doors Labor Day weekend, expect a broad selection, with prices at about half retail: new and used windows and doors, tile and brick, furniture, carpeting, appliances, paint, roofing materials, lumber, cabinets. And, with donations being tax deductible, inventory expands by the hour.

Grand opening: Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Regular hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Habitat for Humanity South Bay/Long Beach Home Improvement Store is at 17700 S. Figueroa St.; (310) 323-5665,

-- Steven Barrie-Anthony


Dashboard dining in decline

Americans are notoriously busy. We're so tethered to work that we resist vacationing -- more than 30% of us forfeit vacation days due us, and when we do take time off, 32% check office voicemail and e-mail, according to a recent study by Kids are equally busy, prepping for the SATs in grade school and slogging through college-level classes in high school.

But contrary to our workaholic reputation, "dashboard dining," or dining on the run, is on the decline: 75% of Americans eat dinner at home with their families at least five nights a week, according to a recent study by the American Furniture Manufacturers Assn.

Among other dining habit findings:

* 88% dine at the kitchen table

* 74% eat at the dining room table

* 72% occasionally dine on the sofa or couch

* 97% chat while dining

* 74% watch TV

* 30% read.