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Landing in La La Land

The arrival in Los Angeles on Friday afternoon was under torrents of rain, very uncharacteristic of La La Land, but badly needed for the desert climate. It made picking up the rental car at Hertz a bit of a challenge while the umbrella was reversing itself in the strong winds and the luggage was getting wet as it was moved from airport to car and from car to my friend’s apartment where I am staying.

I wondered if I had brought the inclement weather from Paris, but remembered that “twas the season” and I shouldn’t be blaming myself. L.A. weather is classified as a “Mediterranean climate” which is a type of “dry subtropical climate, characterized by seasonal changes in rainfall with a dry summer and a winter rainy season, but relatively modest transitions in temperature.” (Wikipedia.org) Maybe that’s why the airfare was so inexpensive (about $600 round trip direct on Air France) and the plane wasn’t full (I had three seats to myself).

Because we lived in L.A. for seven years before moving to France, we still have lots of friends there, but have accumulated even more since, thanks to the French connection. One of my oldest friends is a French woman who married an American when they were both young and settled in the West Coast city. She’s an esthetician of the best kind (no one gives a better facial anywhere in the world), so if you’re in Brentwood or anywhere L.A. for that matter, be sure to let her turn your skin into glowing softness. My own facial is scheduled for later in the week. (Ask for Regine Weinberg at Regine Darel, +1 (310) 476-5466 and tell her I sent you.)

Regine’s daughter, Daniele, was our daughter’s first “Au Pair” when we moved to Paris and when she wasn’t taking care of Erica, accompanying her to and from school, she worked for the Ecole Ritz Escoffier for the illustrious chefs as a translator/interpretor (who, she reported were a bit temperamental, to say the least). After a year with us, Daniele went back to L.A., married a seriously nice guy and now has three gorgeous children of her own. Time flies.

Steven Arnold - Self Portrait Steven Arnold – Self Portrait

The rain slowed down its pace on Saturday in time for us to pay a visit in Hollywood to another very long-standing friend — Francis, a man who was photographer Steven Arnold’s companion until he died of AIDS, just before we left L.A. in August of 1994. Too many of our friends were taken at the hand of the incipient disease at that time. Arnold was an artist of the extraordinary kind, whose life and work greatly affected my view on art then and for the rest of my life. It was my relationship with Arnold and his “disciples” (as we called ourselves) that created a burning desire to acquire a collection of photography and become more entrenched in the creative “underworld” of Los Angeles while we were living there.

Francis has a formidable collection of Steven Arnold’s work safely stored in a big black box, including photos, drawings and paintings, left him as a gift before he died. This was our opportunity to acquire more of his work, and in particular, some of his incredibly beautiful drawings, of which I had none — only his photos and a couple of small paintings. When you see the work of someone who is truly an artist — an artist out of the depths of his soul — what you see is not something intellectualized and placed carefully on the paper or canvas, but the hand of some spirit that uses that artist’s body as an “instrument” of expression. Steven Arnold was very much that kind of artist and it was that of which he taught me to appreciate.

As we went piece by piece through the big black box, we were overwhelmed by the man’s creative talents and had a very difficult time choosing from them. Where we will be hanging the work is tough to say as my walls in Paris are already quite well endowed with his works (as well as others), so space must be made to include a few new additions. That will happen, however, as it would have been impossible to walk away empty-handed. For those of you who can appreciate Arnold’s “Baroque Tableaux” photos and extraordinary surrealistic style, that he learned from having lived one summer with Salvador Dali himself, contact me and I will put you in touch with Francis or the guardian of his estate so that you can be a proud owner, too: [email protected].

The Little Next DoorThe Little Next Door

Shere DisraeliShere Disraeli

Mike Feuer, L.A. City AttorneyMike Feuer, L.A. City Attorney

The French are very, very present in the city of Los Angeles and have made quite a mark on the culinary scene. I somehow managed to come to L.A. to eat French food…does that make sense? We knew we could count on “Little Next Door,” an extension of “The Little Door,” a modern French brasserie which they claim to offer classic French dining. I’d beg to differ with that, as I found the menu very Franco-Californian, but the croissants and desserts were impressive and speaking French with the young French waiter was amusing while dining very well indeed in the heart of L.A.

Saturday afternoon was also an opportunity to rub elbows with notables from the film industry and political world at a special event of “activism and empowerment” produced and sponsored by long-standing friend of Parler Paris, Katherine Fugate (screenplay writer of “Valentine’s Day” and other films and TV shows) and Jason W. George, actor on such TV shows as Grey’s Anatomy and Sunset Beach.

The event took place in a small theater on 3rd Street, appropriately named “The 3rd Street Theater,” on the floors of which Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Red Skelton, Gene Kelley, Madonna, Michael Jackson and the celebrities of “Dancing with the Stars” have all danced. It was once a rehearsal studio and supper club in the 1940’s for CBS, Raleigh, and Paramount Studios. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, the building became the famed “Dupree Dance Academy” — where every dancer who dreamed of stardom trained.  

Between performances by such artists as Shere Disraeli who sang “Hallelujah,” and actress Ruby Dee on a video from an event at Radio City Music Hall during the National Conference on Volunteering and Service of a reciting of a poem originally written by Beah Richards, we heard presentations from such important Los Angeles figures as Mike Feuer, L.A. City Attorney and Katherine Spillar, Executive Editor of Ms. Magazine and co-founder and Executive Director of the Feminist Majority Foundation and the Feminist Majority, both national organizations advocating for women’s equality as well as a host of others such as TV host Lisa Bloom and actor of Standing Rock and activist, Kendrick Sampson.

The goal of the event was to gather people from the entertainment industry and encourage one and all to become activists against the current political injustices of our current time. Yes, it inspired me to do more — and do as much as I can to awaken the world to the potential evils of what’s possible from the new U.S. administration.

Richards’ poem struck a serious chord with me in particular:

Today is ours, let’s live it
And love is strong, let’s give it
A song can help, let’s sing it
And peace is dear, let’s bring it
The past is gone, don’t rue it
Our work is here, let’s do it
Our world is wrong, let’s right it
The battle hard, let’s fight it
The road is rough, let’s clear it
The future vast, don’t fear it
Is faith asleep? Let’s wake it
Today is ours, let’s take it

See this amazing performance by Ruby Dee for yourself on YouTube.

As is my habit, I hosted a party with L.A. friends — a communal dinner at Hop Li, a West L.A. Chinese Restaurant that has a big private room and can accommodate a large group. About half those who came were friends from old La La Land days and others I’d met in France who live in L.A. or nearby. There were clients with whom we’d filmed House Hunters International episodes and recent clients who are planning their move to France in the next few months. The Chinese dishes spun around on the giant Lazy Susan’s in the middle of the big round tables that sat as many as 12 while we partook of the good food and great conversation. Friends were reunited and new friends were made.

The sun came out on Sunday and that’s when I knew I was really in the city I’ve always considered the most progressive place on the face of the planet. That was the reason we moved there in 1987 — to be where people are as open-minded as it gets. I still believe that is true, evidenced by the very liberal thinking I heard espoused from the city’s attorney himself, Mike Feuer, who, as a lawyer and a Jew whose ancestors struggled to find refuge in the “Land of Opportunity,” the “land of the free and the home of the brave,” was outraged by what he saw at the Los Angeles International Airport at the onset of the recent travel ban.

Los Angeles Metro trainLos Angeles Metro train

Naturally, we’ve spent all our time driving from one place to another. There is almost no getting around it, although the new L.A. Metro system is making a big difference, even for those who have cars, but prefer to leave them at home. It’s one big reason it would be such a struggle to move back to L.A. or any American city for that matter, so spread out that one must depend on a car to get around or commune with friends.

The lifestyle in Paris and Nice, and in fact, in most European cities, enables a real relationship with other people, both friends and strangers. It was to the serious detriment to American society not to have built-in a better infrastructure of public transportation. If Americans were more familiar living with other Americans — of every color, race, religion and creed — then maybe, just maybe, there would be a lot less bigotry in American society than there is now and we wouldn’t be so outraged by the Executive Order 13769, titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” which placed limits on travel to the U.S. from certain countries, and by all refugees. (Wikipedia.org)

What if I had landed at LAX from France and that had happened to me? I shudder to think it.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds - in LA, 2012

Adrian Leeds
Adrian Leeds Group

(in LA, 2012)

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