Adrian Leeds Nouvellettre®
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La La Land and the Good Ol’ U.S. of A.

At the bar in Nobu, Malibu
The bar in Nobu, Malibu

I took the red-eye flight from Maui to Los Angeles, picked up a rental car and immediately had a bit of a nightmare, thanks to Budget Rental Car. They are crossed off my list forever.

The car needed a new windshield wiper. That’s fairly standard in Los Angeles, where they famously crack and fall off thanks to the dry weather. Budget made it near to impossible to trade the car in for another one or replace the wiper without doing all the work myself. I called a dozen different phone numbers, spoke to a dozen different people, patiently waded through phone trees only to be hung up time and time again, and then only to go in circles and never get the customer service one might deserve.

So, I booked a car with another agency and returned the first car to Budget, with the prerequisite that a full refund was in order. Hours was spent on the phone, online and in person in their office in Santa Monica before any satisfaction could be achieved. Ultimately, they assured me the case would be taken into consideration to give the full refund, but it would take several days. There was nothing more I could do.

The Hertz agency is only a few blocks away, so in very un-L.A. style, we hoofed it to pick up another car. The only car they had available was an electric vehicle. “No, absolutely not,” I proclaimed.

“But we don’t have another kind of vehicle in the same category that is not electric,” the attendant replied. “You could upgrade, but it will cost you. I’ve got a Mustang you can have.”

After a bit of negotiation and getting the price down a tad, I agreed to take the Mustang. “What color is it,” I asked.

“Bright Red.”

“I’ll take it.”

Adrian's bright red Mustang rental car in Los Angeles

So we drove away in a flashy red Mustang in spite of having doubled the bill, but with smiles on our faces. In L.A., the car is king. I spent so much time in the car, either going from one appointment/task to another and getting stuck in traffic so many times that I kept thanking my lucky stars that this is NOT the life I chose to have. The amount of time wasted, not to mention anxiety and frustration, is way more than anyone should have to endure. One person I met up with reminded me that the only way to live with it is to relax with it, otherwise you’d lose your mind. A close friend in L.A. gave up her car and takes public transportation, which is way less than perfect—she said that there are no online schedules, no listing of stops or routes. The only way to learn the system is to just get on the buses and test them out. This is a pretty simple fix if they want to get more people to use the system, no?

I always stay with my dearest friend and one-time business partner, Marcia Mazria, in her Santa Monica apartment. We were in business together from 1991-1994 when we were both spring chickens and looked like sisters. We still call each other “sistahs of a different mother.”

I could tell lots of stories about why that is so, but when we met, we discovered so many things we had in common that we immediately became friends and quickly business partners. Our lives had been mirror images and it didn’t hurt that we did actually look a lot alike…especially at that time when we were younger and still had dark hair! It was not at all unusual to be asked by random people, “You two sistahs?”

Marcia with my real sister, Lee, and Adrian Leeds, Circa 1990

Marcia with my real sister, Lee, and me! Circa 1990

L.A. was a whirlwind of visits with old friends, clients and TV producers. As “chill” as Maui was, L.A. was just the opposite. Trying to fit it all in was a challenge including two client consultations at a local coffee shop. I try to work these into my schedule as we have so many California clients. When we can meet in person, it’s a plus.

It was great fun to meet some of the producers of our House Hunters International shows at their L.A. office. I have three episodes to film between March 15th and April 25th. Each episode takes four days of filming. One will be filmed in Paris, the second one in Bordeaux and the third in Biot. There is already one show “in the can” that hasn’t yet aired. We’ll be sure to let you know when it will.

Seeing old friends in L.A. is the main reason I come. Some are from the years we lived in L.A., but most are people I met while living in Paris. This trip I discovered that an old friend from Paris lives next door to two guys in L.A. who are also old friends from Paris. They discovered each other and then discovered the coincidental connection with me. “Le monde est petit.” But, one of the guys reminded me that it’s not all that surprising since “There are only 10,000 people in the world.”

Synchronicity showed its hand when we arbitrarily stopped into the Fahey Klein Gallery to see the “Desire to See” exhibition—photographs by Agnès Varda (on until April 13, 2024). This is the inaugural showcase in the U.S. solely devoted to Agnès Varda’s photographic works.

The crowd at the Fahey Klein Gallery for the Desire to See exhibition—photographs by Agnès Varda

Agnès Varda was a Belgian-born film director, screenwriter, photographer, and artist with French and Greek origins. She was a polymathic figure, leaving her mark as a film director, screenwriter, photographer, and visual artist whose innovative contributions played a central role in shaping the groundbreaking French New Wave film movement of the late 1950s and 1960s. The collection of photos on display at Fahey Klein is a true testament to her keen eye.

Agnès Varda, Self-Portrait

Agnès Varda, Self-Portrait

We parked the Mustang not far from the gallery and upon entering discovered that Varda’s daughter, Rosalie, was there answering questions to a large group who had gathered. She’s no slouch either as a director, screenwriter, editor, actor, producer, installation artist and photographer. She received an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature nomination at the 90th Academy Awards in 2018. I felt so lucky to have come across the opportunity. The gallery was buzzing with lookie-loos and possible collectors.

Having had a relationship with the gallery since my earlier years living in L.A. when I started collecting photography, the owners made a point to introduce me to Rosalie. We spoke briefly about the exhibition and we talked a bit about the artist, JR, with whom she is very close and who is also friends with my daughter. (“Le monde est petit.”) She said he had been at the gallery just the day before and I was sorry to have missed him.

Rosalie Varda at the Agnès Varda exhibition

Rosalie Varda

If you’re in the L.A. area, don’t miss this exhibition—Varda is an artist not to be ignored!

Just for kicks, Saturday afternoon we did a revolution on foot along Rodeo Drive and Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills to window shop. Rodeo Drive designer stores are beyond anything I can afford, but Beverly Drive has stores that are more main-stream and affordable. At Sam Edelman, I spotted a bright orange trench coat in the window that would work well on the filming of an upcoming House Hunters International show. In five minutes it was in a bag and I was out the door.

Looking down Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, CA

If you want to see exotic cars, Rodeo Drive is the place to be. Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Porsches, Corvettes are a dime a dozen, along with cars that are one-of-a-kind-never-seen-before. In fact, the “Rodeo Drive Concours d’Elegance” will return on Father’s Day, June 16, 2024. This will be it’s 29th year for Rodeo Drive to host this annual Father’s Day event on “California’s most glamorous street.”

Cars in line for the Rodeo Drive Concours d’Elegance

Yesterday we took the Mustang up to Malibu. When I learned that Nobu Matsuhisa had a Malibu location, I jumped on the phone to make reservations for lunch, to no avail, but learned that it was possible to get a bar seat if we arrived early. We were in luck and scored two seats at the bar.

When I was living in L.A. in the late 1980’s, we would frequent the then newly established “Matsuhisa” on La Cienega. Nobu was slicing the fish. We were friendly with him. My partner and I would often order his $12.95 special lunch menu. Nobu grew in popularity (there was always a long wait for a table) and before long, he took over the restaurant next door, doubled its size and then started to open restaurants in other cities. The rest is history. His empire is insanely successful and it all started in that little sushi bar in L.A.

Nobu in Malibu, CA

Nobu in Malibu

Nobu is famous for his fusion cuisine blending traditional Japanese dishes with Peruvian ingredients. His signature dish is black cod in miso, although I always swooned for “Halibut Cheeks with Wasabi Pepper Sauce” and pigged out on the freshest, tastiest sushi around.

The restaurant is right on the water and in warmer weather, sitting outside would have been delightful, but we were lucky to get the seats at the bar. The only downside to sitting at the bar, besides the backless seats, is that the clanging of the drinks being mixed in front of you by aggressive bar tenders who are showing off their prowess, could end up clanging in your ears for another 24 hours. Yes, the food was delicious and worth the price—it’s expensive, so be prepared—but you won’t regret the splurge. Our lunch consisting of Field Greens with Shiitake, two cut rolls, Tiradito Nobu Style (a specialty) and Calamari “Pasta” in Garlic Sauce was more than we could eat. Without alcoholic drinks, it cost us about $80 a person before tip. I thought it was a bargain. Be sure to reserve far in advance or take your chances at the bar!

Tiradito, Nobu Style

Tiradito, Nobu Style

Before heading home we wandered around the Malibu Country Mart’s assortment of expensive boutiques that sell natural fiber clothing in pale trendy tasteful colors to suit the wealthy beach bums—as they are in Malibu—and take a drive down to Point Dume just to see what makes it special. The coast is beautiful of course, but as I remarked to my companion, “It’s pretty, but it’s not the Riviera. There’s something about seeing the aqua of the Mediterranean that can’t compare.”

The Country Mart shopping center in Malibu, CA

Someone asked me if there was anything I miss about the U.S. I had to think for a few moments to answer. I miss friends and family. I miss the food in New Orleans. I miss the Southern California sunshine and weather (although Nice is a close second) and I miss toilet seat covers. That might seem really silly, but the moment I land in the U.S., hit the public bathrooms (usually in the airport), discover those wonderful paper covers that keep the seats clean, I think good thoughts and wish we had them in Europe! Someone needs to start a trend.

An American bathroom toilet seat cover dispenser

Everything I discovered is hideously expensive…sometimes double and triple what it might cost in France. Maui was the most expensive. Tipping is out of control—even the clerks at the counter expect a tip. Sticker shock had me reeling. My credit card dinged regularly and cash was a constant one-way street out of the wallet, realizing I couldn’t afford to live in the U.S. and dine out twice a day like I do in France. Even groceries were stupidly unaffordable.

There are a few things I do always buy when I’m in the U.S. to take back to France. Cosmetics for one thing—even the French brands like L’Oréal have a better selection in the drugstores. Believe it or not, the EO French Lavender products are the best in that category and can be found at any Whole Foods. The selection of product, compared to France, seems like 10 times, but that’s just a guess. I can certainly live without all that well enough, but it’s tough to pass up when it’s all so available. No wonder Americans have overloaded themselves with things they don’t need and just have to store, clean or move! I am guilty every time I peruse a drugstore.

People Stateside are seriously unhappy with the way things are going and it’s easy to understand. In many ways they have an amazing lifestyle, but in other ways, it’s a scary ride. Politically…it’s a big mess. It doesn’t matter what side you’re on, Americans are losing quality of life by not having affordable healthcare, quality education, fear of their safety, rising inflation, insufficient public transportation, increasing homelessness and a long string of advantages we in Europe take for granted. Angelenos live in their blue political bubble, but they aren’t immune to the maladies of American capitalism.

Over lunch at the Wilshire Country Club, with a round table of TV industry people with whom I was just introduced, my brain got picked about how to make the move to France. It was a quasi group consultation, but the group was amazed by the ability to live a much richer, better lifestyle at half the cost. They got the itch and couldn’t wait to make it happen…but their jobs in “The Industry” wouldn’t allow a full-time move…not just yet.

By the time you read this I will be winging my way back to Gray Paree and work-wise making up for the 2.5 weeks spent in the “Good Ol’ U.S. of A”…if that’s what we can still call it?

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds sitting on the hood of a red mustang in Los AngelesAdrian Leeds
The Adrian Leeds Group®

P.S. Did you know we have filmed over 50 episodes of House Hunters International?! Newer episodes frequently re-air, so we work to keep you informed when they’ll air. You can also review all the episodes and see if they’ll be shown again by going to our HHI page.

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