Tuesday, October 30, 2007

My CityWatch Article On Ron Deaton

Westwater Downtown - Getting Personal with Ron Deaton
By Brady Westwater

Days after retiring from being arguably the most powerful man Los Angeles, Ron Deaton called me for an interview while he drove a young Marine – his nephew – back to Camp Pendleton. As always, Ron was taking care of family.

Except, instead of his city family, this time it was his other family. That showed me nothing had changed during his recovery from the coma that almost killed him.

Our talk quickly turned to his life of service to his city and he remarked he had started during the Johnston administration. I then said– Andrew – or Lyndon? His laughter also told me he was still the same old Ron. He then re-told my joke to his wife – and made it a lot funnier, I might add. If anything, his wit was quicker than ever.

To prepare for the interview, I called some of his oldest colleagues – particularly those who had been his more than occasional adversary, as I had sometimes been, in the past. I told them anything they said would be held in confidence; that I would not repeat any of their stories, much less attach their names to them. I then asked them for their real opinion of Ron Deaton.

They then each detailed their battles with Ron over various issues where he had represented the city's viewpoint against their viewpoints– and they all then described all the times since they had worked together. They also all agreed the city's comparative well being is due in large part to Ron's ability to bring people together to get the necessary jobs done – and to get the city to live within its means. And, was due to his ability to get people to trust him – and trust each other. None of this surprised me.

What did surprise me was that during all the praise given him for all the projects he had helped make happened – was that no one mentioned what he had helped prevent from happening. During a fiscal era when a far richer city, San Diego, almost went under during its pension crisis and wealthy Orange County had to file for bankruptcy – and during a time when cities all over the country suffered crippling deficits, Los Angeles escaped relatively unscathed.

Also unmentioned were all the battles he lost, at least temporarily, to get the city to develop its infrastructure – such as the city passing up not one but two chances to buy the twin towers of Figueroa it rented for city workers – until the city – finally – paid a far higher price for those buildings the third time around. And since the deal closed, office rents have started moving up even faster in downtown, again proving how right he had been.

My own relationship with Ron began years before I met him. Even when I lived in Malibu, I was still very involved in Downtown and whenever anything needed to get done, all roads led to Ron's door. When I moved Downtown fulltime, ten years ago, our involvement gradually increased. The first time was over the proposed relocation of Parker Center to Little Tokyo.

I disagreed with his support of the city's position. I thought there might be a way of rebuilding Parker Center at its then site, I mentioned to Ron that there might be a way for everyone to get everything they wanted (and dozen different groups were now involved from MOCA's Art Park to the Children's Museum to the Go For Broke Monument to the Little Tokyo Gym to mention just a few) – but just to see if this was feasible – there was a lot I needed to know. Water tables, locations of water and gas mains geology and soils reports, surveys, plans for existing and proposed buildings, the light rail line's specs, etc. He asked for my address and in a few hours, everything I needed to analyze those sites appeared on my desk and led to a meeting with the LAPD and city staff about the possible compromise.

That year-long-plus battle – I counted over 50 meetings in my date book - is also what brought Ron to public attention. So when the Times decided recently to profile him, I was assumed to be the go-to person for the 'Ron Deaton is Satan' quote

Even though that was NOT what I said, such was Ron's presumed power, that not once, not twice, but three times during the months of prepping the Deaton story, I was asked by the Times if I wanted to stand by my statement. I always said yes, as long as they did not lead with it. And sure enough, Zev Yaroslavsky was the lead quote with the standard government line. Then there was my - slightly mangled by the Times quote – "I'd call him God, but I don't think he'd accept the demotion".

And Ron, of course, loved the joke and understood the respect with which I meant with it.

Ron ultimately became key in the negotiations between neighborhood councils and the DWP in the quest for a Memorandum of Understanding. After months of meetings and discussions between NCs and DWP Water manager Gerry Gewe, Gewe retired and Ron became general manager of the entire agency.

Ron didn’t want to sign off on an agreement negotiated by someone else. In fact, he didn’t want an MOU. He wanted a policy letter from the manager.

He then told us what he could not agree to in the existing document - and why, but he also told us the places where we had screwed up – and what we should have asked for. It was clear he wanted an agreement that would work for both parties. But he also made it clear – he was not going to sign an MOU.

He told city council members that. He told a deputy mayor that. And, he told each member of our final negotiating committee that. It seemed his only real objection was that he did not want a binding MOU in case it turned out to be an unworkable document the city could not then get out of.

So, I just asked him: how do we change the MOU to solve his problem. He then smiled at me and said ... well … followed by a very long silence. “If we made the MOU,” he said, “ for only two years and then did a new one after seeing what worked,” that would solve his problem. I then shook his hand and we had an MOU. And all it took was asking him how he would negotiate the deal if he were on our side of the table to make the MOU work for his side.

The two years have come and gone. Now a permanent long term MOU exists – which is still the only MOU between NCs citywide and a city agency.

As the the most recent rate hike under the MOU ramped up, Ron became ill and now is now retired.

Or has he?

Might there be a second act?

Stay tuned

(Brady Westwater is a writer and Downtown activist. He is also a regular contributor to CityWatch.)

Second CityWatch Article On NC's And Economic Development

Westwater Downtown - Here’s Proof: NCs can Improve the Economy

By Brady Westwater

Now that LA Neighborhood Councils Congress has an Economic Development Committee, it's been suggested that if the City of Los Angeles can't create community sensitive economic development, how can the NC's succeed?

The answer is City Hall does not have the local knowledge or the staff or the resources to create a healthy economy in our neighborhoods - which is why we have to work with the city on its programs that we agree with. But if we can also provide the leadership as well as the workers, then the city and other government agencies – and businesses and business organizations – will join with us to implement our programs.

One example is the experience of DLANC, the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council. After the DLANC arts committee proposed a Gallery Row in a neighborhood with just two galleries, Councilwoman Jan Perry immediately passed a council resolution and ordered the signs before we even got past the initial planning stages.

But with her support and the resultant press – some of it skeptical, of course, we developed a momentum we would not have otherwise had. By the time we unveiled those signs, we had a real Gallery Row. Another lesson here is that we took one of our neighborhood's existing strengths - artists – and built upon that existing foundation.

At the same time, our economic development committee held two events to bring creative businesses downtown. DLANC sponsored and financed one event, spending about… 60 bucks…. in a city donated space. The second event was paid for and run by the city.

Both events were well attended, but the city's event did not result in a single business moving downtown – while our community-run event not only generated activity immediately, but another business from the event recently opened and another one will open in two months - almost four years later. But it took both us and the city working together to make our event happen.

In another instance of the superiority of the grass roots approach, the city has given around a million dollars (over several years) to an out of area group to recruit new business. They have done a good job working with businesses once they are here. But while over 30 businesses have been recruited by our volunteer, unpaid DLANC members, not a single business has been recruited with the million dollars spent by the city. Now imagine if those million of dollars of resources had been shared with DLANC - how much more could have been achieved?

Our most striking success was probably the cleaning up of the most crime ridden intersection in the city – 5 th and Main. A group of us decided – even before Gallery Row – to tackle the heart of the drug trade in Los Angeles – the place where even Hollywood stars came to buy their drugs. And through the very efforts of our very informal 5th and Main group, the DLANC economic development committee, the Gallery Row Project, the Downtown Art Walk – which was founded by Bert Green, a member of the arts committee – and working in collaboration with the police and the local BID, that corner was just featured in the Washington Post as a sign of how far our community has come.

More recently, after the city had failed in its attempts to host Fashion Week in Los Angeles, several neighborhood council members – and city officials – just bought back Fashion week to the Downtown Fashion District.

It began when former neighborhood council board member Cynthia Ruiz, now President of the Board of Public Works, encouraged me, and DLANC board members, developer Gary Warfel and BOXeight founder Peter Gurnz, to tackle bringing Fashion Week back to Los Angeles. DLANC board member Michael Delijani then donated the Los Angeles Theatre and Lynn Myers and Kent Smith (also DLANC board members) of the Fashion BID, offered us their support and advice.

Six weeks later, BOXeight fashion shows premiered to critical acclaim. And, just last week, a second fashion season debuted to standing room only audiences – including the Mayor - all because of the existence of… neighborhood councils.

Now the question is how do we find way to do this in all parts of our city? How can we find the strengths in our communities and use them to collectively work with the city to improve our neighborhoods? And how do we work together collectively to improve the economic health of our overall city?

That's where you all come in. We're still looking a few good people to help us find the answers. Healthy neighborhood economies are critical to all of us. Become a part of the solution. Join the LANCC Economic Development Committee today at: Bradywestwater@gmail.

(Brady Westwater is a writer and a community activist. Westwater is a CityWatch contributor.) _

Recent CityWatch Article On NC's and Economic Development

The Economy - LA: Whose Business is It?

By Brady Westwater

When it comes to business friendly practices and economic development (other than housing) – the City of Los Angeles ranks near dead last when compared to other major cities.

We also have fewer jobs per resident than most major cities, far less per capita sales tax revenues than our neighbors, and we no longer have even a single major bank or savings or loan or any kind of financial headquarters.

Is it any wonder college graduates are flocking to New York and Atlanta, but ignoring LA? Or, that we have fewer Fortune 500 Corporations than does… Charlotte or St. Louis? Or, that we recently lost a TV network headquarters to New York – right after it was bought by a friend of the Mayor?

We also have higher housing costs than most major cites – but our household incomes are at the bottom end of all major cities. And every year, we fall further behind.

Our collective problem is that the funding necessary to solve LA's problem is dependent upon the overall economic health of businesses located in the City of Los Angeles. So there is no more critical - or less addressed - issue citywide, then making LA more business-friendly so that the residents of the city have jobs and can pay their bills and their taxes. Unfortunately, what the city does to try and make incomes artificially rise – is also what is currently driving business out of Los Angeles.

For that reason, nothing should be more important to the neighborhood councils than to make Los Angeles a city that business wants to come to. Unless we do - there's not going to be anyone left to pay the bills.

There is also no issue that is of more local in importance than the loss of a major provider of jobs or the building of a box store that would ruin the quality of life in a residential neighborhood. And, ironically - there are also neighborhoods that would welcome such stores both for the jobs they will provide and the convenience of having such a store. And, who better than regional coalitions of neighborhood councils to help find solutions to these problems?

For those reasons, the LA Neighborhood Councils Congress (LANCC) last Saturday voted unanimously to form a citywide community based economic development committee with the understanding that much of the work will be done on a regional basis, with local NCs deciding how best to work with each other.

Now the next question should be – does the city want out help on this matter? Well – the answer is a loud – yes! City Council president, Eric Garcetti – who just formed the first city council committee on economic development – the Job, Business Growth and Tax Reform Committee, chaired by Councilmembers Greig Smith with Wendy Greuel & Herb Wesson, practically demanded of me that he speak at our first meeting. And at the recent Mayor's Business Access at City Hall, Deputy Mayor of Housing and Economic Development, Helmi Hisserich, stated that the city needs the NCs involved with her office on this issue and announced her willingness to work with our new committee.

On the other hand, Gary Toebben, president of the LA Area Chamber of Commerce said the Chamber too often sees neighborhood councils as a source of reaction – only hearing from them when there were opposed to a business moving into their neighborhood. And there is some truth to that. But communication, I reminded him, is a two way street and we both need to start that communication.

The first step is to figure out how the NCs can work together - regionally and citywide - on economic development and what scope this committee might address and then, finally – address how we might help solve those problems .

But before we have a first meeting, I would like to hear from those of you most interested in not just being involved in such a committee – but who want to help form this committee. We also need to decide who in the business community we should ask to join us in establishing this committee; particularly those who are not part of the NC movement.

So if you want to be kept informed about this Economic Development Committee, let me know – but, more importantly - let me know if you want to help build its structure. We need to get started on this first thing next week.

(Brady Westwater will chair the LANCC Economic Development Committee. Westwater is a downtown neighborhood activist and a contributor to CityWatch. He can be reached at: bradywestwater@gmail.com

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Friday, October 26, 2007

A Hotel Rises On Spring Street!

Since Ed Fuentes over at BlogDowntown attended out our DLANC (Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Planning Committee meeting last Wednesday, I decided to wait until he posted his story before mentioning the hotel since he would have the photo (see above link). And Anna Scott of the Downtown News was also there, so her story should be on-line by Friday night also.

The main points I want to add are to answer some of the questions posed by the commenters, comments that mainly concerned the urban planning aspects of the mixed use condo/hotel project and how it affects the views of the adjacent El Dorado and Rowan properties, also owned by partnerships in which developer Tom Gilmore is invovled.

First, the Spring Street views of the Rowan will be largely protected. A greenbelt for the Rowan will follow the jogged exterior of the building and the majority of the new tower will be directly behind the Gilmore owned parking structure on Main Strew which will house the majority of the parking for Gilmore's other Old Bank District properties. A large landscaped entrance to that garage will be between the El Dorado and the new condo/hotel project which will give views and light and air to the El Dorado and the hotel's entrance will be along that driveway.

Additionally, the portion of the new project between the rear portion of the Rowan Building and Spring will be facing a U-shaped single story addition to the tower that will have two restaurants opening out onto a landscaped sitting area that will face Spring Street. So all the units in the Rowan will have their direct Spring Street views preserved except for a small number of ground floor units in the rear wing which will open onto the outdoor space reserved for the Rowan.

A third restaurant will be at the base of the tower - which will have its parking partially underground, but mostly in the base of the tower which will only rise from a portion of the base. There will also be a small store and possibly a cafe facing the alley (which will also be a landscaped pedestrian walkway) that runs between 4th and 5th Streets, perpendicular to the driveway entrance off Spring to the parking garage on Main.

Why Is Everyone Talking About Nokia When Last Night's Opening Of The LATC Is The Real Story?

Last night - the unveiling of the new Los Angeles Theater Center - aka the New LATC - was straight out of the 1980's. A particular night in 1985 when a number of people who were also there tonight, including myself, gathered to celebrate the opening of a new theater complex that was joined on Spring Street by a restaurant, a nightclub and a condo project; an old office building turned into apartment style condos. The beginning of the rebirth of a new Downtown Los Angeles.

But a few years later - it was all over.

Of course, this time is different. First the artists came back (not that they ever really left, of course), then real loft conversions and bootstrap art galleries and then... everyone else. Thousands and thousands of everyones.

This time the boom is real. It's different than the last one. But then, of course, every boom is always different than the last one.

The biggest difference, though, this time is how broad based this boom is and how - unlike the last one - this one is almost totally financed by private investors and market forces rather than by government grants and subsidies. That's also why this boom is so much more successful.

Which is what brings us to Nokia - a market driven, for profit venue that is a great attraction for Downtown, but which is also just one of many places where groups such as the Eagles and the Dixie Chicks can play in Los Angeles.

By contrast, the Los Angeles Theater Center has, up until now, been financed almost 100% by public funds but it will be a place local theater groups can perform, a place where national and international theater companies that Angelinos would not otherwise see will perform. It also has numerous resident companies and partners such as the Latino Theater Company, Playwright's Arena, the Robey Theater Company, Cedar Grove OnStage, UCLA, the American Indian Dance Theater and Culture Clash - and it will also nurture local playwrights and provide a strong educational program starting next summer.

In the long run, the success of Downtown Los Angeles will depend far more on the success of institutions such as the Los Angeles Theater Center, than Nokia, which is why I am so surprised how this far more important re-opening has been so comparatively ignored.

But history has also taught us that the cost of supporting the LATC, will be a substantial one - and the city has said that no further subsidies will be provided. So if the people of this city want to have a future that includes the Los Angeles Theater Center, they are going to have to support it.

This time, it has to be different.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Are Burning Homes Good For the Economy?

That's the question Mark Lacter poses over at LA OBSERVED (Business). But even with all the many options he presents - there are several critical points he and the people he quotes do not address. First, read all he does address and then I'll add a few more points to ruminate over....

Economists starting to assess the impact of this week's fires are pointing out that this kind of event can actually stimulate growth, perverse as that may seem. Keep in mind that the Malibu fire in 1993 destroyed 268 homes and almost all of them have been rebuilt (or the owners have rebuilt nearby). They all had to hire a contractor and buy furniture and maybe even use an interior decorator or landscape architect. All those businesses got extra revenue that they otherwise wouldn’t have gotten, which explains why you often see a jump in economic activity in the months after a fire. That's not some crazy theory - it's just the way things work.

So MarketWatch's Tom Bemis takes that prospect and suggests how the stimulus "could at least act as a brake on the housing crash." That’s probably pushing things, but it's not an altogether crazy idea - rebuilding after the 1994 earthquake provided a crucial jumpstart for an area had been mired in recession. Anyway, Dealbreaker's Joe Weisenthal calls this "one of the more ludicrous things we've ever read in our entire lives" (a ludicrous comment unto itself). He then suggests that reading about the broken window fallacy "would spare anyone from writing articles such as this." Ouch.

The broken window fallacy was the work of a guy named Frédéric Bastiat in the 1800s, and it basically refers to an action that has unintended costs attached to it. (It's used in the first chapter of Henry Hazlitt's 1946 classic, "Economics in One Lesson.") To illustrate his point, Bastiat tells the story of a shopkeeper whose window is broken by a little boy. The window has to be replaced, of course, which means there will be work for the glazier, who in turn will be able to buy bread that will benefit the baker and so on. To make a long story short (I know, too late), the fallacy is that these supposedly positive benefits are offset by the costs faced by the shopkeeper - not only for the price of the window but for lost business.

It's an interesting theory but not everyone agrees with it. And it certainly has questionable relevance in determining the economic impact from the fires. The "shopkeeper" - in this case a homeowner - isn't out the cost of a new house because much, if not all, of the rebuilding is covered by insurance. (I know, I know, he has to pay for that insurance, but he would have had to pay for that even if his house was not damaged.) Homes that were damaged but not destroyed will get a new coat of paint, new flooring or whatever, and be worth more money than before the disaster. All this economic activity won't necessarily shake up the real estate market, but it will provide for more opportunities once the market opens up, as it surely will.

First, Tom Bemis's claim that taking 1500 homes off the market in an area where one million people were evacuated will at all change the market - clearly makes little or no sense; particularly when only a comparatively few of those homes would have been on the market for sale. The point he completely misses is that there are now 1500 families suddenly in the rental or purchase market for a home who were not in the market the week before - and that will actually have some impact.

Not huge - but very real as the number of buyers will dramatically increase in each area particularly hard hit. And when a lot of homes are lost in a single school district, as was the case in Malibu in 1993, in my experience, the only way we were able to meet the demand was when many people agreed to rent out their weekend beach houses to families who needed homes.

In addition, other buyers will come into the area since it will be years before the area will have a major fire again (assuming the area is not in danger of flood, of course) and other buyers will come to the area to buy 'bargains' in the now distressed neighborhoods. And I know this because every time a fire or a flood hit Malibu - my business selling houses would boom.

Joe Weisenthal's even bigger blunder, though, is that while the broken window theory would propose a decrease in national wealth - the hundreds of millions of dollars that will flow into the pockets of Southern Californians to rebuild their houses are not coming from their neighborhoods.

That money comes from insurance policy holders all over the country just as the federal aid will come from tax payers all over the county. So not only will most people get a newer and more valuable home in the end (which may in itself partially contradict the broken window theory, since an old window and a new window would have the same value) - but all the contractors and all the other people paid to rebuild and refurnish those houses will still have their money, too.

It is a perfect example of having your cake and eating it too. So while there may be a national financial hit - there will be a local financial boom, contradicting Weisenthal, but doing so for different reasons than given by Bemis.

A Historic Day For Broadway And All Of Los Angeles!

Yesterday, after months of hearings in committees, the City of Los Angeles finally made a commitment to help restore Broadway as a center for live entertainment and – most importantly – live theater.

And that should be important to everyone in an increasingly financially precarious city. Few people in Los Angeles know that Broadway theaters alone – and not counting Off-Broadway or Off-Off-Broadway theaters – or the major Lincoln Center non-profit theaters, bring 5 billion dollars every year into the economy of New York City.

Yes, five billion dollars.

What passed was simple enough. To start a master plan to develop the infrastructure that will make Broadway once again a cultural and entertainment center for the entire city; an entertainment center that will bring major conventions to the city and fill the hotel rooms throughout the city of Los Angeles.

And bring lots of dollars into the city's treasury.

Reason Number 4373 Why A USC Diploma Isn't Worth The Recyled Paper Its Printed On!

It's a short post. Just go over to Kevin and read it. For a second generation Bruin, it was a wonderful belated birthday present. Even Mr. Cowboy was thoroughly amused.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Another Day - Another Demonstration! UPDATE! Demonstration now - RIOT?

UPDATE! Demonstration appears to have turned into a riot. Hit above link.

Walking down Broadway today, I saw an all too familiar sight. Two people with red-tipped canes waiting for a bus that will never come. People in wheel chairs and walkers trying to find where the buses they were waiting for have been rerouted.

And bumper to bumper cars on all the streets around Broadway as dozens of buses try to make left hand turns, making them late, and making every one on those buses miss their connections.

What I did not see - was any demonstrators. But - eventually - a handful of people will come prancing down the street.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people will have their lives disrupted as once again all bus service in the Central City area comes to a halt every time a handful of protesters decide to shut down what is possibly the single busiest bus (in number of bus lines) street in the city.

Now none of this would happened if they applied for a permit on a street that did not have dozens of bus lines that are either on that street or cross that street - but that would miss the point of the demonstration - which is to inflict as much pain as possible on the city to get the maximum amount of attention for themselves.

Private greed - versus the greater public good, and greed always wins out.

Ironically, the people who pay the price are the very people these demonstrators claim to be marching for; the poor and the working class who reply on public transit to get to work, to school and to a hospital.

Ron Deaton Might NOT Retire In January!

The word around City Hall has been that while DWP General Manager Ron Deaton has largely recovered from the affects of his heart malfunction in Costa Rica, that due to the wishes of his family - and the fact that his contract was soon up, he was going to retire.

Then when H. David Nahai resigned from the DWP commission, his replacement of Ron as the head of the DWP seemed assured. But not so quick says David Zahiser of the LA Times:

DWP boss weighs his options

Ron Deaton has been on medical leave since suffering a heart ailment last summer. A decision about his future could come this week.

By David Zahniser Los Angeles Times Staff Writer October 22, 2007

If anyone has been a symbol of unseen power and influence at Los Angeles City Hall, it's Ron Deaton, a 42-year bespectacled bureaucrat who built a formidable reputation by getting the city's elected leaders to do what he told them.In the decade that he advised the 15-member City Council, such labels as "the most powerful person in City Hall" and "the 16th council member" attached themselves to the Seal Beach resident. And when he took the top job at the city's Department of Water and Power in 2004, Deaton found another place where he could affect the lives of millions while staying out of the public eye.

But these days, Deaton is participating in a different behind-the-scenes drama, as he, his doctors and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa wait to see whether, or when, he will leave the agency that provides electricity and water to 3.8 million residents and businesses.

Deaton, 64, has been on medical leave from the DWP since July, when the vacationing DWP chief was airlifted out of Costa Rica after suffering a severe heart arrhythmia. He spent two days in a coma. And he has been going through a painstaking rehabilitation that tests both his physical strength and his short-term memory.

Sources familiar with the DWP say Deaton could decide his future as soon as this week. Meanwhile, one of Villaraigosa's closest allies, attorney H. David Nahai, has gone so far as to resign from the appointed DWP commission to improve his chances of replacing Deaton.

The man who still holds the post, however, has made no announcement. While he confirmed last week that he has been looking at retirement "very seriously," Deaton also said that he has had a remarkable recovery for someone who was on the brink of death last summer."I feel confident that at some point I could come back," Deaton said last week. "I started in 1965, so not going back there has personal consequences."


Deaton's move to the DWP two years later was viewed as a victory lap of sorts. His first government job had been at the utility. Yet some were surprised when he devoted considerable energy to the signing of an agreement that promised that the DWP would warn neighborhood councils in advance about major policy changes at the utility, including customer rate hikes.

DWP Commissioner Nick Patsaouras, a Villaraigosa appointee who has lodged some brutal critiques against the utility, said last week that Deaton had done a good job. And some of the city's crustiest community leaders praised Deaton for collaborating with the neighborhood councils.

"There's no one I respect in government more than Ron Deaton," said downtown activist Brady Westwater, who sat across the table from Deaton during the bargaining sessions.

Read the full article at the above link for just a small handful of his achievements over the past 42 years, many of which will never be known except by those who were in the room with him.

Malibu May Be Burning – But It’s Nothing Compared To When LA Finally Burns!

Click on the above link to see what the City of Los Angeles has NOT done since the Griffith Park fire – and what this city will still NOT do after this new round of fires.

And the properties that burned in Malibu would still be standing if the City of Malibu had clear the sumac around the Presbyterian Church – and across Malibu Canyon from the church and all around the hillside surrounding Malibu Crest Drive and Hodges Castle.

The reason I know how deep the sumac is there is I used to live on Malibu Crest Drive two doors before the Castle (which was built with stucco and wood - and not real stone) – right next to what was then architect Doug Rucker’s all wood house, which is hopefully still standing. Irene Dazzan-Palmer even then lived on the corner of Malibu Crest Drive and Malibu Canyon and she kept her property free of sumac, which is likely why it is still sanding.

The other problem in Malibu is that it still allows existing wood shake roofs to remain and they have taken no action to require decks to be fire-proofed, which is why so many beach houses have burned after embers land on the decks, the old wood shake roofs – or both.

But from past experience – nothing will change out there – just as nothing will ever change in LA until thousands of homes are destroyed in a single fire sweeping out of the hills and burning well into the flats of the city. Only then, maybe, will the politicians finally wake up and smell the burning wood shake roofs and the burning sumac.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Son of Indian Immigrants Elected New Louisiana Governor! Clinton And Obama Lead In Southern Polls!

The worst part of the Old South is clearly dead when an Indian-American is elected Governor of Louisiana by a landslide and a woman, Hillary Clinton, and a black male with a white mother and an African father, Barack Obama, are the front runners in the Southern states even when their main opponent is a white Southern male from North Carolina.

Now this, of course, is hardly the end of racism, but it is hard to imagine anyone believing even four years ago the above statement could be made today.

Louisiana elects young, Indian-American governor

Republican Bobby Jindal, 36, will be the first nonwhite to hold the state's top spot since Reconstruction.

By Miguel Bustillo Los Angeles Times Staff Writer October 21, 2007

Republican Bobby Jindal won election as Louisiana governor Saturday, setting a string of firsts and leaving no doubt that the state's voters strongly desire new leadership two years after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Jindal, 36, will be the nation's youngest sitting governor.

The son of Indian immigrants, he will also be the first Indian American governor in U.S. history, and the first nonwhite to hold the job in Louisiana since Reconstruction.

The election of Jindal, who is a conservative, underscores the fast-fading fortunes of the Democratic Party in Louisiana after the hurricanes.

Under Louisiana's wide-open "jungle primary" format, Jindal had a chance Saturday to win the race outright if he could capture more than half the votes in a field of 12 candidates.

He did. With nearly all precincts counted, he held 54% of the vote.

The next closest competitor, Democrat Walter J. Boasso, had 18%. Independent John Georges had 14%; Democrat Foster Campbell had 13%.

And within the Democratic primary race, even in South Carolina - one of the more conservative states even in the South - and directly next door to Edward's home state of North Carolina - John Edwards at 8% badly trails both Clinton at 39% and Obama at 25%.


Even a year ago - those poll results would have been an unimaginable. And when one factors in the differences between younger and older voters when it comes to race and gender, in not so many years, even in the Old South, a person's race or gender will be the least most important factor in choosing the leader of our nation.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Great Piece By Dana Parsons About Joey Bishop!

I don't recall reading an essay before by Dana Parsons (though that is likely only my horrendous memory), but after the one in today's LA Times, I hope there will be a lot more of them.

Death ends mystifying 'feud' with Joey Bishop

The comedian, a delight on many occasions, became one of the most exasperating characters I ever met.

Dana Parsons October 20, 2007

In 35 years of meeting people on the job, I remember yelling at only two of them.

One was a zoo director in Omaha.

To this day, it amazes and saddens me that the other was Joey Bishop...

Click above link for the rest.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

King's Western Wear Heads For Last Round-Up!

An end of an era is a phrase that is often misused, but not in this case. I can still remember when I bought my first serious Western boots there and what hat I bought at what time starting in 1966 when I suddenly found myself living in a different world than I had been born in.
And, now along with all those I used to ride with, King's is about to vanish.
UNLESS - someone steps up and buys the name and the memories and either moves it to Chatsworth or Woodland Hills/Calabasas/Malibu nearer horse country - or brings it Downtown to Broadway where men still wear boots and hats.
Or can anyone find the King's a smaller store near horse country where they can continue themselves?
Any volunteers? VEDC? Chamber of Commerce? North or West Valley Neighborhood Councils?

Valley Western wear shop headin' for the last roundup as cowboy era moseys out

BY DENNIS McCARTHY, ColumnistLA Daily News

Maury and Arlene King came back from lunch one day in 1946 and saw their retail future flash right before their eyes.

It wasn't selling barbells and tennis rackets like they thought. It was peddling saddles and blue jeans to a young, growing, still rural San Fernando Valley.

"The only thing that had sold while they were at lunch that day was a saddle," says Randy King, Maury and Arlene's son.

"That's when Mom and Dad realized they could sell more horse tack in the Valley than dumbbells."

King's Sporting Goods and Riding Shop in Van Nuys became strictly King's Riding Shop, and later King's Western Wear. It moved from Van Nuys after 50 years to Studio City in 1996.

And now, after 61 years in business, "it's time to ride off into the sunset," Randy was saying Wednesday - half laughing, half cringing at the old cowboy pun.

The long customer lines that used to snake down Van Nuys Boulevard for the King's Western Wear holiday sale the day after Thanksgiving haven't been long and snaking for years now.

The studios that spent a lot of money at King's buying Western clothes for TV shows such as "Dallas" and "The Dukes of Hazzard" are getting them straight from manufacturers for product placement now.

They're still selling a lot of blue jeans and boots, but not enough to keep a business this size open, Randy says.

So when the last piece of merchandise and all the fixtures are sold - probably by late November or early December - it's last call for King's Western Wear at 11450 Ventura Blvd. in Studio City.

"The day we told people we were closing and kicked off our last sale, all I did was cry," says Arlene, who at 86 was still working in the store with her son until recently. Maury died in 1995.

"This was our baby, and it's very, very sad to say goodbye," she said.

But while the good times lasted, it was one heck of a ride, says Randy, who joined the family business after graduating from Birmingham High in 1977.

King's Western Wear attracted a who's who of Hollywood stars living in the Valley. Old movie cowboys Gene Autry and Randolph Scott were steady customers.

Bob Hope and James Cagney used to drop in every few weeks when they were in town. Actor Tom Selleck still comes in.

Up on the wall are head shots of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and actor Tom Cruise thanking all the employees of King's Western Wear.

Their store was also a trend-setter, Randy says. Long before other retailers selling Levi and Lee jeans got the idea, King's was sending 200 pairs of the rock-hard jeans to the laundry every week to be softened up.

"They came back soft and faded, and we began selling them like hot cakes," Randy says. "We had 2,500 pair on the shelves at one time.

"We sold to everybody from square dancers and weekend cowboys to bell-bottomed hippies in the '70s. It was great."

King's moved off Van Nuys Boulevard and onto Ventura Boulevard in 1996 to be nearer the studios and its customers, many of them living in or near Studio City.

But the handwriting was already on the wall, Randy says. Business - particularly cowboy business in the Valley - was slowing down.

Horse tack, saddles, bridles, bits and spurs weren't jumping off the shelves anymore. The store with the bucking bronco on top was barely hanging on.

"Times changed," Randy says. "Nothing we can do about that. It's time for us to go."

Before they do, Arlene and Randy want to say thank you to all their customers for the past 61 years.

"It's been an honor and a pleasure to be part of the growth of the San Fernando Valley," Arlene says.

But now it's time to ride off into the sunset.

Dennis McCarthy's column appears Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday.

(818) 713-3749

Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Read The Times Again!

Just follow the above link to LA Observed. Kevin's formatting of the story is far better than my two gerbils could ever produce since all they seem to want to produce these days is... even more incompetent gerbils.

And while the error rate is far better at the Los Angeles Times than it was in the past, getting things right - and getting them corrected - is still a problem at the paper.

But for those of you who would like to view a few examples for the good old days (under a previous regime) when reading the corrections section of the LAT was daily blood sport for bloggers, read the below three consecutive posts concerning a really bad run of luck in increasingly fishy... fish corrections




(and you can ignore the links at the bottom of the last link - as they link to the two links above)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Morgan Stanley DUMPS New York Times Stock! Will This Affect LA Times Sale?

The second largest non-family shareholder in the New York Times media empire sold their entire holdings today. The question is - does this seeming vote of no confidence in the newspaper industry endanger the Sam Zell purchase of the Tribune empire, including the Los Angeles Times? A sale that is supposed to close by late November.

Informed sources in both camps say - no. Zell is a noted maverick who follows his own instincts - and not the herd's. Plus this sale of stock - as the below article makes clear - is about a lack of confidence in the people currently running the paper and less about the future of newspapers.

Morgan Stanley Sells Entire New York Times Stake (Update1)

By Leon Lazaroff

Oct. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Morgan Stanley, the second-biggest shareholder in New York Times Co., sold its entire stake today, according to a person briefed on the transaction, sending the stock to its lowest in more than 10 years.

The person declined to be identified because Morgan Stanley hasn't made the sale public yet. Traders with knowledge of the transaction said Merrill Lynch & Co. sold New York Times stock worth $183 million in a block trade.

Hassan Elmasry, managing director of Morgan Stanley Investment Management, has unsuccessfully challenged the Sulzberger family's control of New York Times Co. through super- voting shares that give them control over the board. Shareholders owning 42 percent of the company, parent of the namesake newspaper and Boston Globe, withheld support from directors at the publisher's April annual meeting.

``This guy has been speaking for a lot of people who are too discreet to speak up and challenge management,'' said Porter Bibb, a managing partner at Mediatech Capital Partners LLC in New York and a former New York Times Co. executive.

New York Times shares slid 48 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $18.43 at 12:44 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading and fell as low as $18.28, a level not seen since January 1997.
Next Step

If Elmasry has sold the stock, ``it's almost a dead certainty there would be a bailout of other institutional holders,'' Bibb said in an interview. ``If that happens and there is a sharp drop in the share price, the Sulzbergers have to sit down and decide whether now is not a good time to take the company private.''

More at link above...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

WWD Reviews BOXeight Fashion Shows!

Below are the reviews from Women's Wear Daily of the first shows of Los Angeles Fashion Week - and the two best reviewed designers were in shows presented by BOXeight. The first three designers with stars are from BOXeight Productions Thursday night show, and the last three starred designers are from the EcoNouveau curated Saturday night show presented by BOXeight Productions.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Fete Setters

Published: Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Photos By: Giovanni Giannoni, Donato Sardella and Todd Williamson
click to see all images

It's party time. Los Angeles designers kicked off Day One with plenty of festive looks for spring, from flirty day numbers to slinky soiree gowns.

* Eduardo Lucero: It was a study in contrast for Eduardo Lucero, who started with a somber yet seductive series of black crepe dresses. He then moved to a lighter, breezier place chock-full of pastels and artful tailoring — a pale yellow ruffled top, for instance, was paired with lace shorts. Throughout, the flutter and fluidity didn't stop, from those dark frocks to the angelic white chiffon gown.

Randolph Duke: At his best, Randolph Duke does body-conscious red-carpet gowns that are as sexy as they are elegant. Unfortunately, save for a few understated black and navy blue silk and chiffon numbers, such looks were in the minority. The foundations were there in floor-sweeping silk and tulle gowns, but a decorative frond theme and a misguided iridescent series got in the way of the glamour.

Sue Wong: Crocheted and banded-hem day dresses reflected Sue Wong's interest in expanding beyond her heavily embellished evening oeuvre. Still, party attire is her bread and butter, and thus it got major play in all manner of graphic, Sixties-ish prints, many of which were just too busy. Indeed, things were best when she toned it down, as in the solid Grecian gowns.


* Louis Verdad: A short-sleeve blouse here, a ruffled sundress there — it was all perfectly pretty at Louis Verdad, but the collection lacked the va-va-va-voom that Angelenos expect from him.

Chick by Nicky Hilton: From the plucky prints — swans, high heels and apples — to the girlish cotton minidresses, Nicky Hilton's Chick collection was short, sweet and flirty.

* Jeffrey Sebelia for Cosa Nostra: "Project Runway" alum Jeffrey Sebelia showed an array of dumpster-chic androgynous looks — the lean distressed denim and shrunken jackets oozed laissez-faire, but most of the tea-party dresses seemed out of place.

* Bahar Shahpar: The Brooklyn-based designer took a more structured approach to eco-friendly fashion than most, using mixed patterns and pleats to accentuate wide-legged trousers, smock tops and sheath dresses.

* Gary Harvey Creative: Anyone who thinks green clothing means little more than basics hasn't seen the witty wares of Londoner Gary Harvey, who created dramatic ballgowns and cocktail dresses out of everything from denim to silk nighties to even the pink pages of the London Financial Times.

* Avita by Amanda Shi: A showroom appointment would have been sufficient for Amanda Shi to get the point across that she makes pretty recycled cashmere sweaters and flirty organic cotton dresses.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Steve Lopez Declares LA Cowboy - King Of Downtown!

He was, unfortunately, unclear if the right of 'Prima Nocta' is included with the title.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Post Number 1,000! Mayor Gives Shout Out To Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council For BOXeight Fashion Week!

Yes, just as I was about to hit publish - I realized this was going to be my post number 1000 on this blog. And that was a real surprise to me since it looked as if - a few weeks ago - I wasn't ever going to hit that number. But now I'm back again - at least for awhile.

And how fitting it is that this post be about DLANC (the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council), the increasingly strong relationship between Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Neighborhood Councils - and the arts and the revitalization of Downtown Los Angeles.

This is because at the Saturday morning Mayor's Community Budget Meeting, the Mayor walked up to the podium, nodded at me and told me how much enjoyed the BOXeight Thursday night fashion shows he had just attended. He then introduced me as he told the packed city council chambers about the Fashion Week events members of the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council were producing - on an amazingly small budget - and asked for a round of applause for the the entire Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council.

That was because even though these shows are produced by BOXeight Productions (an off-shoot of Peter Gurnz's BOXeight Studios) after it was founded by DLANC board member Peter Gurnz, DLANC board member real estate developer Gary Warfel and DLANC board member, me - our success is really a story about the success of the Neighborhood Council system.

That's because this whole trip for the three of us started when former neighborhood council board member Cynthia Ruiz, now President of the Board of Public Works, encouraged this fashion impaired cowboy to tackle bringing Fashion Week back to Downtown last February, after which DLANC board member Michael Delijani donated the Los Angeles Theatre for this civic effort and Lynn Myers and Kent Smith (also DLANC board members) of the Fashion BID offered us their support - and invaluable advice.

And because of them, six weeks later - our first BOXeight fashion shows premiered to critical acclaim last March. And last night, BOXeight ended our second fashion season to standing room audiences all because of one reason. The existence of a place where everyone in our community can come together and work together.

The Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

LA Times Reviews BOXeight Fashion Show Audiences - And My Hat!

Adam Tschorn appears to have commandered Booth Moore's personal ship of state, THE WORLD IS MY RUNWAY blog, on this Saturday morning. He also appears to have run up a black skull flag before he took out his spyglass and examined the audience on day one of the BOXeight Fashion Shows. Luckily for all involved, Adam was entertained by everything he saw.

However, unless Adam can offer a considerably better definition of 'grizzled' - than I can find in my dictionary - tonight's audience may witness Mr. Tschorn... walking a very short plank off a very tall runway.

See below for details:

Taking an early pulse of L.A. Fashion Week

This blog space is usually reserved for editor Booth Moore and her jaunts around the globe, but since L.A. Fashion Week is "home turf" for the Image staff, we're going to be joining in for some guest blogging -- from the streets of downtown to the tents of Culver City and beyond. Adam Tschorn kicks it off with a view from the pews (well there used to be pews, anyway) of the former St. Vibiana's cathedral in downtown L.A.

The first installment of BOXeight’s two-day, alterna-Fashion Week felt like a “Zoolander” outtake: Mayor Villaraigosa’s red carpet pop-in, Diane Pernet and her towering beehive of a hairdo, Clint Catalyst decked out in a black velvet top hat so tiny it could have been swiped from an organ grinder’s monkey.

The fashion fever-dream was presided over by founder “Pirate” Pete Gurnz, decked in what looked like untethered overalls and floppy work boots, and his grizzled fireplug of a first mate Brady “Ten Gallon” Westwater, who was pressing the flesh and working the crowd like a candidate.

We couldn’t see the mayor’s location at the Louis Verdad show from where we sat, but we’re told he was seated in the second row, a breach of VIP etiquette remedied by the time the Eduardo Lucero show hit the runway.

Another second-row hostage at the Verdad show was singer and former Whitney Houston spouse Bobby Brown, who had made headlines just the day before for a reported (and later denied) heart attack. Sitting behind us, in a pair of red corduroys, blue-and-white striped shirt and a V-neck sweater, accessorized with a huge diamond in his left ear and a newsboy cap parked jauntily on his head, Brown appeared to be full of vigor.

After a seemingly endless barrage of flashbulbs, we turned and introduced ourselves.

“You’re a pretty popular man,” we said.

“I guess maybe just this week,” he responded with a chuckle.

And, no, Adam - the Mayor was not a second row hostage. After he met with Verdad to congratulate him, the Mayor had to attend to official city business before he came back for the Lucero show.

LA Times Handicapping Of Competing Fashion Shows!

Lost and found

L.A. Fashion Week finally taps into its main asset: location, location, location. By Adam Tschorn

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer October 14, 2007

THE biannual gathering of the fashion flock known as Los Angeles Fashion Week has finally shifted out of soul-searching crisis mode. After five years, it is at last looking a lot like the city itself: tapping into the celebrity ether to generate buzz, sprawling with events from Culver City to downtown, cultivating the whole eco-chic movement and bringing back some of its runway stars for a victory lap.

In March, things weren't looking so good. Shows were at an all-time low, with just 23 scheduled for the tents at Smashbox Studios in Culver City, even including shows by an underwear company. Two upstart fashion shows in downtown L.A. were threatening to wrench the whole event away from its Culver City base. What a difference seven months can make.

One of the downtown upstarts, Kitten Fashion Week, sponsored by the online Kitten magazine, has packed up and left. The other, BOXeight, a downtown-centric arts organization, is looking less like a threat than an enhancement.

Now the BOXeight shows are taking place at the former St. Vibiana's Cathedral, with five shows added to the roster and the event morphing into a multimedia arts celebration. Back in Culver City, Smashbox, in partnership with event producers IMG, has turned the crank on the star machine, hoping that if celebrities turn out, the rest of the world will follow.

That strategy will be unleashed tonight when Nicky Hilton brings her celebutante wattage to the tents when her Chick by Nicky Hilton line makes its runway debut, and when Randolph Duke, gown-maker to the stars, returns from a seven-year, self-imposed catwalk exile in front of an audience that will almost certainly include an A-list award-show client or two. On Tuesday, the new Whitley Kros label debuts in front of fans such as musician Beck and actor Giovanni Ribisi.

It's a strategy that capitalizes on L.A's strong suit, says Kelly Cutrone, the publicist consulting with the IMG/Smashbox partnership for the next two seasons. "When you do a show in Europe, getting a celebrity usually requires two first-class plane tickets, putting them up at the Ritz, giving them free clothes and possibly paying them," she says. "Here, Cher can come down off the hill because she wants to. . . and it doesn't cost the house a dime, and it's a huge payoff."

But in a city full of recognizable movers, shakers and socialite power brokers, it doesn't necessarily require Cher in the front row to be a success. Cutrone says bringing big names such as Petro Zillia and Jeremy Scott back to Los Angeles for a quasi-alumni tour (both are Cutrone's clients) allows the faithful to reconnect.

"For someone like Jeremy who doesn't show in the U.S. anymore it allows us to capitalize on the cool-connect -- the Jacqui Gettys and Liz Goldywns of the world which in turn increases the brand awareness," Cutrone says.

It's a strategic end run around the tension between New York fashion editors (such as Vogue editor Anna Wintour) who don't deign to set a stiletto inside the tents due to a dearth of big-name designers, and the designers who decline to show because so much industry press isn't there.

"The entertainment press is really what a lot of these designers . . . are after," said Smashbox Studios co-founder Davis Factor. "If people just wanted to see the collections, they can download most of the stuff online. What I'm trying to do is generate a little buzz."

Sophie Coloma and Marissa Ribisi are sure to bring that buzz to the tents when they debut their L.A. label, Whitley Kros, on Wednesday. Ribisi, the sister of actor Giovanni Ribisi, is married to Beck, who has obligingly mixed the show's soundtrack and contributed some art work to the contemporary women's line.

Sue Wong, the only designer to show on the official calendar every season since 2002, points out that the success of the week is measured in more than just column inches of coverage or written orders. She credits the show for giving her a name in Paris and for her role as a judge on "America's Next Top Model."Room for both

From the perspective downtown, "IMG pretty much has the runway thing covered," said BOXeight founder Peter Gurnz before his two-day event got underway on Thursday.

"We envision this as more of a music, fashion and arts festival."

Dubbed "Have Faith in L.A." and held last Thursday and last night at the former St. Vibiana's, the schedule included seven fashion designers, including the downtown-based Bohemian Society. The spring collection is themed "violent playground" and involves a merry-go-round on the runway, according to designer Victor Wilde. It will play alongside art installations, dance performances by the Hysterica Dance Company and a festival of short fashion-related films. (Image went to press before the events occurred. The shows will be reviewed in Tuesday's Calendar section.)

And even though the BOXeight sophomore outing siphoned off only one recent designer from the tents (Louis Verdad, who didn't show anywhere last season), it's too early to say that the BOXeight-Smashbox drama is over.

In fact, BOXeight has been in discussions with the organizers of Gen Art to bring another showcase for up-and-coming talent into the fold.

And even Kitten organizer Mike Vensel is threatening to return next season.

Keep the claws sharpened.


Friday, October 12, 2007

Hollywood Today Review of Eduardo Lucero Show At BOXeight! See Photos At The Link!

Lucero Sweetens LA Fashion Week with Sleek Nightlife Styles

Friday, October 12th, 2007

Designer Eduardo Lucero wows crowd with coy, sexy looks at BoxEight alternative show

By Stacey Silberman

HOLLYWOOD, CA (Hollywood Today) 10/12/07 – Designer Eduardo Lucero made Angelenos like Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa proud last night at the premiere of his well-received BOXeight fashion show in downtown Los Angeles. The Spring 2008 fashion line was a masterstroke for the designer and his illustrious team.

The models hit the runway with poise and flare, strutting in designs from edgy to coy while highlighting well-heeded new spring colors in his fabulously designed ready-to-wear clothes.

While most of his work in black and white, splashes of fuscia and shiny green stood out as did an ecru chiffon look.

Like with most designs today, they hinted at the past glamour of stars like Audrey Hepburn. Though the glam factor of the recent past wasn’t overlooked as the the solid black dresses, first to be shown, flooded the mind with memories reminiscent of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” phase.

The above the knee dresses accentuated with beautiful backsides.

There were several different kinds of dresses that stunned the crowd, including many with open revealing backs. Some had beaded necklines and origami details to set them apart and make them a more interesting piece in the closet.

What’s most important is the fact that they are wearable for many kinds of occasions. But the edginess of all of the solid black pieces made them darkly romantic and bold.

Then came a slightly more traditional round of styles in shades of black & white. They were silky, simple and nice, with a broad appeal. The navy pieces that followed were a sleek, form-fitting and floor length, best suited for the slender.

Then came the goddesses. The models looked stunning in the classic Jennifer Lopez style, light and lovely in creamy tones, flowing as they walked. They are some definite wardrobe must-haves.

Another group of models walked slowly and delicately down the runway. They seemed more demure, giving an impression of the young stylish business woman. These pieces could be worn for work, for lunch or for an evening dinner. They were the polar opposite of the first dresses, demonstrating the abundant variety in Lucero’s spring line.

But what really wowed the applauding crowd, were the boldly colored, straight-lined, body hugging, not overly dressy and somewhat simple long dresses. Referred to as the green chiffon gown and the fuscia/red tie dye gown by the designer, these two dresses had the audience cheering, give me more, give me more. These are a must see for the women of spring 2008.

Another crowd wowing favorite and what may have been the signature piece in Lucero’s Spring collection, was the big black flowing matt jersey priest gown. As a whole, it was unique, but it was also accessorized with a current Gucci favorite, the chrome horse bit, which accentuated the model’s sexy bared back. What also made this piece interesting is the fact that it appeared to be cotton, making it both comfortable and a little less dressy, despite the fact that the long dress had a wedding-gown-like train. This is a must get item for those who can afford to show lots of skin up top.

That piece was s stand-alone number, having no other designs like it in the show.

The “Have Faith in L.A.” theme was presented by BOXeight, an LA organization fostering support and growth for emerging designers, artists, musicians and other creative professionals struggling to survive in a big city atmosphere, adding new cultural life to the downtown district.

The event took place at (St.) Vibiana, the former historic cathedral redesigned into a celebrity event space. It was part of Peter Gurnz’ ambitious BoxEight Fashion Week, an alternative series of Los Angeles runway shows that deservedly either complements or competes with IMG’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, which starts Sunday.

The shows help define LA Fashion Week as a community style signature beyond those designers showing at MBFW. It kicked off Thursday night with Project Runway winner Jeffrey Sabiella’s Cosa Nostra line, followed by the widely anticipated Verdad show.

Neutral walls accented splashes of colored windows with high-arching baroque style columns and lush greenery outside, providing a chic and elegant atmosphere for Verdad to showcase his work.

The crowd rushed to their seats after mingling in the plush garden and grandeur foyer. Some familiar faces could be seen opposite the runway, namely infamous R&B singer Bobby Brown.
Lucero’s runway show followed intermission entertainment, including abstract modern dance routines with glittery naked females and and multiple short films about fashion, art, sex and even a really hot burlesque film starring Dita von Teese.

To top off the evening’s feel at the event, cocktails were served outside to the sounds of hip German techno, setting the tone for a distinctly European flavor. It was worth seeing, hearing and reporting on.

LA COWBOY NOTE - Mayor Antonio Villararigosa also attended this show.

As Usual - Hollywood Today Has One Of First Reviews of Louis Verdad Show at BOXeight! See Photos At Link!

Verdad Gets Religion at BoxEight’s LA Fashion Week

Friday, October 12th, 2007

Designer Louis Verdad uses gentrified downtown church to showcase his Spring 2008 collection

By Juontel White

HOLLYWOOD, CA (Hollywood Today) 10/12/07—Designer Louis Verdad presented his Spring 2008 line to a crowd of fashionistas and business executives last night in a re-purposed church in downtown L.A., under a fashion week theme of “Have Faith in LA” and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in attendance.

The event took place at (St.) Vibiana, the former historic cathedral redesigned into a celebrity event space. It was part of Peter Gurnz’ ambitious BoxEight Fashion Week, an alternative series of Los Angeles runway shows that deservedly either complements or competes with IMG’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, which starts Sunday.

The shows help define LA Fashion Week as a community style signature beyond those designers showing at MBFW. It kicked off Thursday night with Project Runway winner Jeffrey Sabiella’s Cosa Nostra line, followed by the widely anticipated Verdad show.

Neutral walls accented splashes of colored windows with high-arching baroque style columns and lush greenery outside, providing a chic and elegant atmosphere for Verdad to showcase his work.

The crowd rushed to their seats after mingling in the plush garden and grandeur foyer. Some familiar faces could be seen opposite the runway, including Mayor Villaraigosa and R&B singer Bobby Brown.

The show began with an abstract modern dance performance, setting the tone for a hip and evening.

Models strutted their stuff in a variety of designs including, mod print dresses, pencil skirts and ruffled shirts.

Grays, blacks and silvers were a common theme but were often accented with an eye-catching print or contrasting material to give depth and texture.

A personal favorite was a sage silver bolero jacket paired with amber colored latern shirt and notched shorts.

In addition, a colorful flower print tab collar blouse with purple shorts was a surprisingly fabulous combo.

Verdad’s evening wear, for which he is most well known, also offered some stunning designs. A greyed taupe silk satin evening jumper was certainly a must-have.

Many of the formal wear, in an array of colors, were created from silk satin material.

Former Top Model contestant Eugena Washington ripped the runway in a rose-silk satin halter evening gown and—in the words of Tyra—the design was fierce!

The great quality about Verdad’s designs is that they are very much wearable while also making women feel beautiful, fashionable and feminine.

The show was one of the first in a series of fashion events sponsored by Box Eight Studios this weekend.

The studios consist of donated buildings which are then used to provide affordable space for designers, musicians, artists and directors to present their work.

Verdad’s show was the beginning to a full night of fashion as it was followed by a movie and another collection by Eduardo Lucero.

Born in Chicago, raised in Leon Guanajuato, Mexico Verdad says his work is inspired by the lavishness of the fashion conscious society women of Mexico as well as photos of Diva-esque women by Richard Avendon.

He also models himself after couture designers such as Oscar de la Renta, Yves Saint Laurent and Scaasi.

Verdad’s reputation for quality construction and attention to detail earned him titles as “one of the 100 most influential designers of this era” by British publication Sample and “one of the 25 most hip Latinos in Los Angeles” according to a major Latino publication.

BOXeight First Night Fashion Show - Blows The Roof Off Vibiana!

When you are producing a major event that overwhelms every second of your life and you have every possible obstacle and crisis imaginable thrown in your way - there are times you wonder if it is even ever going to happen, much less be any good - much less, be a success.

Well, our BOXeight fashions shows last night weren't just successes - they were total and complete triumphs. The set design, the production and - most importantly - the clothes were about as perfect as I can ever imagine. Project Runway winner Jeffrey Sebelia, Louis Verdad, Eduardo Lucero and the Bohemian Society and did amazing shows that demonstrated the incredible diversity of talent in this city's fashion industry.

And not only did Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa show up on his way to an important meeting - but he then came back a SECOND time to see a full show.

And I've got a lot more to say the shows and the amazing, incredible team that put them together - but it's late and there are two more nights ahead of us....

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Show Promoters TRASH TALK Downtown Los Angeles!

In an AP story in the GUARDIAN, the promoters of the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week attack Downtown Los Angeles as a place people such as Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour simply will not go.

Downtown is also accused of having traffic and parking problems, unlike the Westside which, of course, we all know, has zero parking and traffic problems. They also made it clear that even if they leave Culver City - any place in the City of Los Angeles appears to not be up Mercedes-Benz's standards since if they do expand - it will be to... Beverly Hills.

L.A. Fashion Week Grows; Still No NYC

Thursday October 11, 2007 7:16 PM


Associated Press Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) - If New York is the Big Apple of American fashion, then Los Angeles with its celebrity-driven boutiques and snug denim style is a juicy - if smaller - orange, ripe for the picking.

Award shows such as the Oscars bring refined glitz to the city. Many clothes are made here. Yet L.A.'s Fashion Week - officially named Mercedes-Benz L.A. Fashion Week - has always felt the pressure of comparisons to super-chic, brand-heavy New York.

Critics cite everything from the L.A. show's out-of-the-way, industrial venue at Culver City's Smashbox photo studio to its party image and limited range of designers.

``The expectation is high,'' Smashbox Studios co-founder Davis Factor says.
Only recently, four years after producer IMG - the force behind fashion weeks in New York, Berlin and other cities - partnered with Smashbox, has L.A. Fashion Week begun to gain some cred.

A packed five-day lineup starting Sunday will feature 34 spring collections, including funky L.A.-based Petro Zillia, New York's feisty Heatherette, Nicky Hilton's casual Chick line, former Halston designer Randolph Duke, gown impresario Kevan Hall and eco-conscious labels such as Evidence of Evolution.

``We have the best lineup in years,'' said IMG Fashion vice president Fern Mallis.

Shows will start earlier, with check-in outside to keep out gate crashers. Audiences will be pared down to bump up professional attendance, and bars won't be as common to limit drinking, Factor said. A public relations consultant was hired full-time to help out IMG and bring in more notable designers.

Still, this week's rival, three-day series of fashion events presented by art production company BOXeight closer to the city's downtown garment district reveals rips in the fabric.

Pointedly named ``Have Faith in L.A.,'' the BOXeight week is only in its second season, but unlike Fashion Week, it doesn't charge its featured designers to appear, said BOXeight producer Sarah Shewey. Sponsors include Vitamin Water and American Apparel.

Those showing collections at BOXeight's ultra-hip venue in an old Catholic cathedral-turned-night club, Vibiana Place, include Louis Verdad, red carpet favorite Eduardo Lucero and rock-centric ``Project Runway'' winner Jeffrey Sebelia.

``People want to see fashion as art, and there's no glamour in sitting underneath a tent,'' Shewey said of Smashbox. ``Downtown, you have wonderful architecture around you.''
Verdad, who has opened and closed Fashion Week two times each, agreed, calling Vibiana ``a little younger, hipper, more happening.'' His spring collection includes wide-legged and narrow pants, and Grace Kelly inspired dresses.

``Smashbox is doing a terrific job of doing what they're doing. But a lot of the raw talent of L.A. doesn't have the amazing income to participate in L.A. Fashion Week,'' Verdad said.
Mallis, however, argued it was ``shocking'' how much cheaper it is to show in L.A. versus New York, where the cost of a main tent is roughly $46,000 instead of $8,000 at Smashbox.

``If the designer doesn't even have the money to put on a show, they shouldn't even be in the business,'' she said.

Both Factor and Mallis said that when IMG held its own fashion week downtown, before partnering with Smashbox, problems with parking and rush-hour traffic made the events unsuccessful.

``Downtown might please a few people, but Anna Wintour isn't coming from downtown,'' said Factor of the highly selective ``Vogue'' editor-in-chief, who paid a visit to Verdad's Fashion Week show a few years ago.

``People love coming to Smashbox. It's seven minutes from Beverly Hills. It's centrally located,'' he said, adding that he would consider moving the shows to a larger venue such as the Beverly Hilton when Fashion Week gains more sponsors and well-known designers. Pink-haired Petro Zillia designer Nony Tochterman, who named her Fashion Week closing show

``So L.A.,'' said that while fashion in L.A. ``looks better than we looked five years ago,'' due to celebrity-influenced party and evening wear, those financially able still show in New York as a launching pad.

Steven Kolb, executive director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, noted that 10 years ago, there were only five CFDA members from California.

Now there are around 40.

However, he added, ``A designer ultimately needs to take that bridge and go show in New York. New York is the center of publishing, and there's more connection on the same level of Milan and London.

Excellent LA Times Article on BOXeight Fashion Shows - Complete With Pre-Corrected Correction!

Very cool story below on the competing factions of FASHION WEEK LA - and the history behind and challenges of creating a serious Fashion Week in Los Angeles. Alas, first there was confusion about our - and I say, our, since I am one of the BOXeight Fashion partners - Friday night music show featuring Macy Gray and hosted by Flaunt Magazine - as it was not mentioned.

It also mistakenly described our Saturday night fashion show - where we host Econouveau, LA's definitive eco-fashion show, with international designers Gary Harvey, Bahar Shahpar and Amanda Shi - as being an evening of music, dance and spoken word performances, though those performances will also happen Saturday night - in addition to the fashion shows on Saturday night.

For more informtation go to our website at www.boxeight.com


Three's an in-crowd

L.A. can't match Paris and Milan, but it still has pull for these designers -- two vets and a new kid.

By Emili Vesilind Los Angeles Times Staff Writer October 11, 2007

IF the fashion weeks held in New York, London, Milan and Paris could be compared to a four-course gourmet meal (London being the ho-hum albacore dish), L.A. Fashion Week might be the cupcake at the end -- frivolous in comparison, but still tasty. Since L.A. Fashion Week's 2002 inception, its shows have failed to lure big-shot retail buyers or the global fashion media. And in turn, they've failed to anchor the city's talent.

More established local designers such as Magda Berliner, Grey Ant's Grant Krajecki and Jenni Kayne have chosen to stage presentations in New York, where the industry's heavy-hitters are seated ringside. But by now, everyone involved in L.A. Fashion Week knows the score.

Wrangle a clutch of celebrity attendees and enjoy the barrage of tabloid-style media coverage that ensues. For those not willing (or able) to shell out tens of thousands of dollars to show at New York's Bryant Park, it's a low-cost way to build buzz (and if you're a red-carpet gown designer such as Kevan Hall or Sue Wong, showing in L.A. is a form of front-line marketing).

For the second consecutive season, IMG's Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Smashbox Studios -- which runs from Sunday to Thursday in Culver City -- is competing for designers with BOXeight, a nonprofit organization offering designers time slots in downtown venues, at no cost to them. BOXeight's schedule kicks off tonight at a majestic new downtown venue, the former St. Vibiana's Cathedral.

READ TOP PARAGRAPH FOR DESCRIPTION OF OUR THREE NIGHTS, TWO NIGHTS OF WHICH ARE FASHION SHOWS (It's really a one-night affair, with a free-form evening of music, dance and spoken-word performances planned for Saturday.)

The no-cost trend has also extended to Smashbox Studios this season, where the pay-to-play atmosphere of seasons past -- where it seemed like anyone with an imprintable T-shirt company could score a spot in the tents if they had the green -- is being turned on its ear, as more notable local designers are being offered gratis spots, courtesy of corporate sponsorships (Smashbox itself is sponsoring a number of shows).

So whose collections are worth the life-draining valet lines that seem to go hand-in-hand with Fashion Week? We caught up with Gregory Parkinson and Jeremy Scott, proven talents who are returning to the fold with shows this week at Smashbox Studios. We also checked in with Fashion Week newbie Jeffrey Sebelia of Cosa Nostra, who will kick off the BOXeight shows tonight.

Pack your flask and check your impatience at the door. It's showtime in L.A.

Gregory Parkinson would normally be in South America this time of year, overseeing the production of knitwear and embroidery for his 15-year-old namesake collection. But the British designer thinks a triumphant return to his adopted home city is in order. Parkinson will return to L.A. Fashion Week this season -- after many years of showing solely in New York -- with a runway show scheduled for Tuesday afternoon at Smashbox Studios. (He also presented the line in New York weeks ago.)

"All of a sudden I became aware of how much goodwill there is toward me here," says Parkinson, perched on a stool next to rolling racks of his Technicolor spring collection in his downtown studio. "I think people are rooting for me." (Sweetening the pot is the fact that Parkinson's show is fully sponsored.)

THOUGH Parkinson has been on the L.A. scene for years, he's still relatively unknown to those outside the fashion community -- another reason to show in L.A. "Just to become visible again locally is a great thing," he says. The designer says he's most inspired by how his friends put themselves together -- an illustrious group (in that low-key L.A. way) that includes handbag designer Brigette Romanek, Jacqui Getty, stylist Jane Ross and his unofficial muse, jewelry designer Liseanne Frankfurt.

"The best-dressed women in the world live here," he says, adding, "I'm looking forward to everyone who's supported me for 15 years sitting in the audience." Parkinson's spring collection is defined by pastel and jewel-toned silk tops and dresses -- all in a tank silhouette -- that he delicately tie-dyes himself ("It's not a messy, Venice Beach tie-dye").

It's a fashion-forward departure for the Manchester native, who in recent years has offered knitwear and revved-up basics, i.e. simple skirts and dresses featuring lace overlays that seemed geared toward an older customer. The shift away from basics to more directional looks makes good business sense, says Parkinson.

"My consistent customers have a wardrobe of my clothes, so unless I give them something different, there's no reason to buy more. And no one can say this collection isn't spirited."

Jeremy Scott has more L.A. pride than most, but he's emphatic about one thing -- Los Angeles is not a true fashion capital. "The fashion community doesn't go to L.A.," says the designer, on the phone from Paris, where he staged a runway show for the second consecutive season two weeks ago. "It's not legitimate. I don't mean to be rude about it. Even London has always been a little 'eh.' It's New York, Paris and Milan. This has been set in stone way before any of us were here. I'm just playing by rules."

This won't stop Scott from rehashing his show -- fully sponsored by Davis Factor, co-owner of Smashbox Studios -- in Smashbox' main tent on Wednesday night. But the ever-affable designer, who last showed in L.A. four years ago and has also shown in New York in the past, says he isn't taking the freebie for granted. "I'm proud to call L.A. my home," says Scott, 31.

"When this was brought to me, I thought, 'Yes, let's show my community what I'm up to these days.' It's nice to support L.A."Scott's designs are often purposely absurd, but are always steeped in the brief history of urban street fashion -- from Tokyo to Paris to Silver Lake. His penchant for illustrations, words and signage on clothes extends into his spring collection, which was inspired by construction sites and "waste and back alleys," he says.

Expect to see models working the runway with skid marks painted on their legs and faces, clad in dresses covered in a prints of mishmashed street signs and tire tracks. Talk about fashion roadkill. "I wanted to take all these elements that are brute and dirty and nasty and turn them into something beautiful and elegant," he says. The designer sells to stores such as Colette in Paris, Loveless in Tokyo and Opening Ceremony and Scout in Los Angeles and says he would eventually like to open his own shop. "That's a huge undertaking," he says, "but it would be amazing."

Jeffrey Sebelia may be an upstart in the fashion world, but he's the only L.A. designer who gets stopped by fans on the street on a daily basis. As the most recent winner of the "Project Runway" reality TV show, Sebelia went from small-time designer (for his punk-inspired Cosa Nostra label) to a household name.

Still, parlaying reality infamy into real-world success has been no small feat. And the heavily-tattooed designer still views himself as a neophyte in the industry. "I don't know if [fame] makes life any easier," says Sebelia.

It's the week before his debut at L.A. Fashion Week, where he will open the renegade BOXeight shows. "It's really hard to get people to answer your calls as a young designer either way." (Sebelia staged his first post-"Project" show in February in a downtown loft, but a week after the Smashbox shows.)

SEBELIA says he chose to show with BOXeight instead of at Smashbox because it was free. "I was trying to show at St. Vibiana's anyway," he says. "Then this was offered, and I said, 'Perfect.' "His spring Cosa Nostra collection was inspired by "Into the Wild," the Jon Krakauer book about a young, upper-middle-class idealist who takes a Kerouacian trip into the Alaskan wilderness (the movie, directed by Sean Penn, opened last week).

"It was inspired by [lead character] Chris McCandless' whole life journey, especially the time he spent in the desert," says Sebelia. "The color palette came from that. And he ended up in Alaska, and that was [fitting] because I wanted everything to be silvery and white." Cosa Nostra's most requested piece is still the flirty striped dress zigzagged with zippers that he first created for the "Project Runway" finale, and dresses continue to inspire the designer (this season, he experiments with voluminous silhouettes and kimono-sleeved styles).

Sebelia's love of all things punk rock also lives on -- through skintight skinny jeans and long, slinky blazers for men and women. But the 37-year-old designer also steps out strongly this season with sportswear, including travel-friendly pieces such as military coats, bomber-inspired jackets and (could it be?) preppy V-neck sweaters. Does it all recollect the harrowing "Into the Wild" story?

Perhaps not outside of Sebelia's mind, but the cohesive collection is a leap forward from his previous efforts -- which were, at times, on the chaotic side.As for future plans, Sebelia is keeping himself open. (Plans to open a store earlier this year were scrapped after complications with a financial backer arose.)

"I want to go wherever [the business] takes me," he said. "The fashion business changes from week to week, and you really just have to allow yourself to see where it takes you. If I have some set path, I feel like I'll close myself off to things, as cliché as that sounds."

Monday, October 08, 2007

CANCELED! Tuesday City Hall Press Preview of Fashion Film Fesival - IS CANCELED! But the Festival itself will be held Thursday October 11th!

THE PRESS EVENT THAT WAS GOING TO BE HELD AT CITY HALL TUESDAY OCTOBER 9TH HAS BEEN CANCELED! But -- the film festival described below will be held this Thursday night at Vibiana at 2nd and Main.


Los Angeles, CA – On October 9, Diane Pernet and Dino Dinco will announce the short films about fashion, style, and beauty selected for inclusion in the international presentation entitled YOU WEAR IT WELL 2 at the top of Los Angeles City Hall. Over 200 artists, filmmakers, and fashion industry professionals submitted work for consideration, who were either invited personally by YOU WEAR IT WELL or through an open call posted on Diane Pernet’s weblog that follows trends in fashion, film, and art from around the world: ashadedviewonfashion.com

Out of the 200 submissions, only 30 films passed the test by a jury comprised of Photography Curator and Documentary Film Producer Deborah Irmas, LACMA’s new Curator of Photography Charlotte Cotton, Executive Producer of HKM and Rockfight Ned Brown, Dino Dinco and Diane Pernet. Criteria for the films included a running time of 30 seconds to five minutes and a centralized theme around fashion, style, and/or beauty that expresses a unique thought which contribute to the artistry behind the fashion and film industries.

From the breezy beaches of Brazil in Osklen’s “Verao 07” to the calculated art direction of Swedish artist Erwin Olaf’s “Le Dernier Cri,” viewers are to expect an insider look into the bright minds of fashion. Londoners Gareth Pugh and Nick Knight of SHOWstudio have a “Fash Off: Make-Up-a-Thon” while les super-chic Marlon & Marlene ripple through the YOU WEAR IT WELL presentation with five smart little films. Icon Dita Von Teese is filmed by Ali Mahdavi and Helene Rossignol in their film, “Dita”, and Diane Pernet and Alexandre Czetwertynski document “Eley Kishimoto.” And, never to be forgotten, is Spaniard Antonio de la Rosa’s “LOveREAL.”

YOU WEAR IT WELL 2 will premiere on October 11 at 8:30 p.m. in the restored Vibiana cathedral on 2nd and Main Street in Downtown, as part of the BOXeight fashion/music/art event entitled “Have Faith in LA.” Immediately following the Los Angeles debut, Diane Pernet and Dino Dinco will again be traveling around the world sharing the visually expressed ideas of these international artists preoccupied with fashion in cities around the world as part of fashion weeks, museum exhibitions, film festivals, and private screenings. Stops planned include San Francisco, New York, Barcelona, Bilbao, Antwerp, Hyeres, Tokyo, Stockholm, and Sao Paolo, to name a few.

More information on YOU WEAR IT WELL 2 can be found at HYPERLINK "http://www.youwearitwell.tv" youwearitwell.tv

Reservations for the YOU WEAR IT WELL 2 premiere can be made by emailing rsvp@boxeight.com with “YOU WEAR IT WELL 2” in the subject line.

Why Not A 'Nuit Blanc' In Downtown Next September?

In Paris, eyes stay wide open to art

The annual all-night Nuit Blanche draws a record 2 million and gets some added excitement from France's rugby victory.

By Geraldine Baum Los Angeles

October 7, 2007PARIS — The Tuileries garden, usually cloaked in darkness, was ablaze with open flames this weekend like it hasn't been perhaps since extremists burned the palace to the ground in 1871. In the nave of the St. Paul-St. Louis Church in the Marais district, enthralled throngs looked up in apparent reverence at eight large white balloons suspended in the shape of a question mark.

And hundreds of people choked two squares outside the Comedie-Francaise to get a glimpse of its famous troupe of actors doing slam poetry on the sidewalks. Paris pulled an all-nighter over the weekend, from dusk Saturday to dawn Sunday, for its annual Nuit Blanche, or White Night, a cultural extravaganza that attracted a record 2 million people this year.

Armed with cameras, cellphones and maps, people came from all over the city and suburbs to roam among 150 art exhibits, installations, "happenings" and performances. This idea of infusing the city with culture over one night was originated six years ago by Mayor Bertrand Delanoe and has spread to capitals across Europe -- and this year to the Middle East and the United States.

Paris has long sent new ideas into the world -- about the rights of man, about proper hemlines, about new ideas. This new new idea is to hand the city over to contemporary artists, the more experimental the better, and allow them to unleash their creativity into the shadows of public spaces: in churches, on building facades, around courtyards of historic mansions, even inside telephone booths. Everything is free to spectators, and the cost to the city is relatively low, organizers say. Paris spent about 1.5 million euros (just over $2 million) this year -- less than one euro a person.

"Even a cup of coffee costs more than a euro in Paris nowadays," said Christophe Girard, the Paris bureaucrat who with Delanoe dreamed up Nuit Blanche. In a memo to the populist mayor proposing the event, Girard described giving citizens an opportunity "to wonder and to dream and a chance for artists to show why they love the city.

"It's unclear whether these sleepless artsy nights advance the grasp of culture, but mayors have eagerly adopted the idea from Rome to Riga, Latvia; Brussels to Bucharest, Romania; and across the Atlantic to Toronto. Istanbul, Turkey, inaugurated its first such all-nighter this weekend, and the idea is being rolled out in Miami Beach, Fla., next month.

Nuit Blanche also has been exported to cyberspace: Artists created a special 3-D exhibit for the Internet virtual world Second Life to coincide with the Paris event. And hundreds of Palestinians gathered in the garden of the French cultural center in the Gaza Strip this weekend for a rare evening of culture in the impoverished territory. By flickering candlelight people listened to concerts, watched movies on a big screen and exchanged exhibits with Parisians via videoconference.

"On such nights we feel that we are still alive and we can connect with the world," said musician Abu Hmaid, who was among the performers. "We live in a big prison and we want to show what is inside us, our culture and creations ."Organizers said they hoped to offer similar events in other Palestinian cities next October. And the cultural phenomenon is still spreading. Grainne Millar, who runs a cultural center in Dublin, Ireland, came here this weekend to check out the Paris model. City Hall held a seminar for future organizers such as Millar, who said she encountered people from Singapore, Japan and Austria.

"It's really a brilliant idea because it's the one night a year the arts and culture completely transform a city and it's not, for once, done within the white walls of a museum or a gallery or a theater," said Millar, as she sat in a cafe watching a video light show projected onto a wall across the plaza. Just as she was finishing her croque-monsieur sandwich, a band of young men, their faces painted like the French flag, streamed past her. "How perfect!" she exclaimed. "Something for everybody tonight!"

About 10:45 p.m., Nuit Blanche bumped up against France's victory in the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals over top-ranked New Zealand. A literal roar rolled through the city on news of the 20 to 18 upset. Exuberant fans singing "La Marseillaise" spilled out of bars and collided with art-loving "bobos" (bourgeois bohemians) and their families, creating a Paris street theater of their own.

"I'm not very sensitive to the arts," said Flora Kroub, a giggling twentysomething who had spent the better part of the evening watching the game in a bar but later happened upon a phone booth-turned-art installation titled "Decompression."The piece, which involved listening to the sounds of the ocean in the telephone booth, was meant to block out the world, for all of six seconds.

Kroub decided to give it a try, but as she got in, a crowd coursed up Sebastopol Boulevard screaming "Go France!" "Well, at least I tried to get a little culture tonight," she said before slipping away with the revelers. In the Tuileries garden, however, the atmosphere created by 2,000 tiny open flames was unavoidably magical. "It's fire, it's fire," Antoine Arceanain, a 7-year-old Parisian sitting on his father's shoulders, squealed as candlewicks in flowerpots, arranged by the hundreds on giant metal sculptures, were simultaneously lighted....

Special correspondents Hamada abu Qammar in Gaza and Julie Chazyn in Paris contributed to this report.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Downtown News Story On Downtown's Fashion Week Events!

Stealing the Show

Downtown's Own Fashion Week Arrives

by Anna Scott

This week, a cadre of models and designers will parade through a former church in Downtown, but it's the neighborhood itself that will really strut its stuff.

On Thursday, Oct. 11, and Saturday, Oct. 13, Downtown will see its second fashion extravaganza of the year. The event, organized by a trio of local planners, is in many ways an answer to L.A.'s official Fashion Week.

"The whole concept is to bring Fashion Week back Downtown, where it belongs," said Gary Warfel, a real estate developer, Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council board member and event co-founder.

Since 2004, L.A. Fashion Week has been held at Smashbox Studios in Culver City. Although it draws significant crowds, the location does not entirely make sense to the enterprising Downtown denizens behind this week's festivities.

"The fashion industry in L.A. is headquartered Downtown," said Downtown activist and event co-founder Brady Westwater. " A group of us have been saying for some time that the fashion industry is right here, so I figured, let's do it."

Westwater, Warfel and artist Peter Gurnz - whose company, BOXeight, is producing the event - came up with the idea of staging a Downtown Fashion Week over drinks early this year. They organized the first gathering, held in March at the Los Angeles Theatre on Broadway, in just six weeks.

The idea, they say, is not only to foster appreciation for Downtown's Fashion District as an industry capital, but also bring together as many of the area's creative powerhouses as possible.

"It's about celebrating all the creative tribes of Downtown and L.A.," said Westwater. "We bring together disparate groups, people who don't know each other, but should."

This week's event at Vibiana Place - the former St. Vibiana Cathedral - will feature runway shows as well as music, film screenings and parties. The events are expected to draw thousands. They selected the former cathedral, said Westwater, because of its impressive architecture, large indoor spaces and outdoor garden that is perfect for after-parties. The building was purchased by developer Tom Gilmore, who restored it and transformed it into an events center.

The festivities kick off at 5 p.m. on Thursday with a show by designer Jeffrey Sebelia, the Downtown-based founder of the Cosa Nostra clothing line and winner of the Bravo network reality show "Project Runway." Later, designer Louis Verdad presents his spring 2008 collection, followed by an 8:30 p.m. screening of the fashion film festival 'You Wear it Well' and the Bohemian Society will hit the runway with a special Midnight show.

Designer Eduardo Lucero showcases his spring collection at 10 p.m., and an after-party with DJs will rage until 2:00 a.m.

Saturday's events are presented in collaboration with the environmental-arts collective EcoNouveau, and come with a decidedly earth-friendly spin. After green-carpet arrivals, the festivities will include non-traditional runway shows by environmentally conscious designers Amanda Shi/Avita, Bahar Shahpar and Gary Harvey. Musical performances and art and video installations will intermingle with fashion.

An after-party will boast several DJs.

BOXeight has also partnered with arts organization Gen Art and Flaunt magazine, which has allowed a third day of fashion-related fun. On Friday, Oct. 12, Gen Art will hold its "Fresh Faces in Fashion Los Angeles" show at the Peterson Automotive Museum in Hollywood, which is being cross-promoted with the Downtown events.

Also Friday, Oct. 12, BOXeight and Flaunt will co-host a fashion industry party at Vibiana Place from 9 p.m. until 2 a.m.

"This will be remarkable for Downtown and for all Los Angeles," said Warfel, who hopes the collaboration with Gen Art will bring attention not only to Downtown, but to L.A. at large as an international fashion destination. Warfel also hinted that more surprises might be in store when L.A. Fashion Week 2008 rolls around." BOXeight and Gen Art share a common goal to work together to bring one of the most compelling events to Downtown next spring," he said, which hopefully "will forever change the way the fashion world views" the city.

"We are a fashion hub," said Westwater. "One of the major fashion hubs of the world, but the shows for all of the buyers and press, and the international attention, has always been on Milan, Paris, London, New York. Our designers feel the only way they can get noticed is to go to New York. But why can't they come to Downtown L.A.?"

Vibiana Place, 210 S. Main St.

Some events are invitation-only. Information at (213) 747-7016 or http://www.boxeight.com/.