Catalina Island

 

Albert had never been to Catalina, so I got him a trip to the island as a birthday present several years ago. We finally got around to going last weekend and it was a blast. I had spent every Thursday for a summer on Catalina when I was singing on cruise ships, so I was quite familiar, but I had never stayed overnight on the island.

We took the huge Catalina Express ferry from Long Beach, and an hour later we were on vacation. It really feels like you’re far away from the world, even though if you squint, you can see LA. We strolled around the town of Avalon and toured the beautiful casino, which has the largest circular big band dance floor in the world. Designed in the beautiful art deco style, like Grauman’s Chinese Theater, Avalon opened in 1929 and broadcast live performances on the radio across the country. It was one of the best performance spaces of the day, and still anchors the town in nostalgia.

The town has limited cars, so most people ride golf carts or get around on foot. We hiked to the beautiful Wrigley Memorial, which looks like a stunning monument to the Greek gods, not a gum guy. There are beaches with rum bars, delicious restaurants, and everyone in town seems to be eating ice cream in waffle cones—not a bad way to spend a weekend.

 

Speaking of ice cream, there is an ice cream truck outside my house right now playing a familiar tune—Silent Night. First, why would they even have this song on their playlist of happy xylophone tunes? Second, it’s August, and I’m hot and confused. What’s happening?

To see more pictures of Avalon and Catalina Island, click the link below:
http://share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=1Rat2TNqxZzU

Boulder Bust

 

Our friends Glen and Steve invited us to their house in Joshua Tree for a party they call Boulder Bust. Their home is mid-century modern desert perfection with one of my favorite pools ever. It was essentially a weekend of drinking with gay bears in a beautiful national park.

They had bands and DJ’s playing on a stage they built into the huge rocks. We all camped under pine trees, which they had strung with carnival lights. At night they had laser projections lighting up the entire side of their mountain, which was beautiful and I’m sure freaked out the wildlife. It was a really fun weekend of beer and BBQ, and when Albert and I were helping clean up, we found the biggest dead scorpion I have ever seen. Thanks to Glen and Steve for their hospitality, and thanks to whichever bear stomped on the scorpion.

Completely unrelated, but look what I found in my backyard yesterday! After I unsuccessfully tried to feed it, I found the neighbor that it actually belonged to and returned it. He had been missing for a couple weeks, but maybe it took him that long to walk the 20 feet from next door.

Alabama Shaking

My friend Megan invited me to a free Alabama Shakes mini-concert on the rooftop of the historic Hollywood Tower yesterday. It was mine and Albert’s 16 year anniversary, so I decided to take a break from work and celebrate….with Megan. I normally don’t drink on a Tuesday afternoon, but they had an open bar and I needed something to wash my free burgers down with.

Megan is a crack-up and always has an eclectic mix of people at her place. Yesterday I met a girl named Jennifer who is getting certified in cheese. I love cheese but didn’t think that this was something I could further my education in. I was wrong, so clearly I learned a little something with my concert going and beer drinking.

The actual Alabama Shakes concert was sold-out before I could get a ticket, so I was thrilled with the three-song performance. The lead singer’s Joplin-esque voice screams from her soul. You can’t tell from listening if she’s a man or woman, white or black, and it doesn’t matter. It also wasn’t bad that there were only about 75 people invited, and we were spitting distance from the band.

We were also peeing distance from the Alabama Shakes because they played directly outside of Megan’s bathroom window. As I looked up from the toilet, I had to snap a picture of her good luck shrine, complete with a four-leaf clover and severed finger. The band is playing only feet away and she has a cast of characters in her apartment, so her sticky note reminder to “meditate” seems next to impossible to accomplish (below). If I’m the one intended to meditate, it will definitely cause a bathroom line.

Also, thanks to Gabi for throwing an excellent pool party on Saturday. It has been really hot here, so the pool and grazing on your delicious spread in your air-conditioning were a nice cool down.

On a completely different note, Albert and I went to a couple restaurants in the last week that were excellent. Neither of them is new to town, but they’re both really good and worth a visit. First, we went to Prado for Caribbean on Larchmont. I can never make up my mind and want to eat everything on a menu, but they have delicious combination plates, so you can do just that. We also visited Mohawk Bend in Echo Park last night. They have amazing vegetarian fair, like buffalo cauliflower that I want to eat more of, and great burgers and pizzas.

We were there celebrating our anniversary, so I will close with Happy Anniversary Albert Day. I am so thankful that I happened to walk into that club 16 years ago and found you, because you have changed my life. I could not love you more.

Dexter

I now know what it would look like if a serial killer were breaking into my laundry room (above). We had been approached about using our house for some location filming for Showtime’s Dexter a couple times, and last week they were actually here. Honestly, it is amazing to see all that goes into making what probably amounts to a few minutes of film.

Initially it was going to be a one day shoot in a couple of rooms, but got expanded to be a two day shoot in almost all of the house. Anybody that’s been here knows that we have a lot of stuff. We’re practically art hoarders, so I was curious how they would be able to transform our very full California home into a modern Miami bungalow. More importantly, I had no idea how they would put it back. While a normal home might have two paintings on a dining room wall, we have 29.

First let me say that I’m glad Albert was at work while all this was going down. There were massive amounts of people and equipment moving through, and I don’t think he could have handled it. I would just greet him at the end of the day with a glass of wine and wave the check for thousands of dollars in his face. It’s like having a massive party and then the guests decide to redecorate right in front of you.

Early Monday morning at seven they started taking photos of everything, carefully packing it away, and moving it into our garage. Almost all of our furniture was removed, including a giant dining room table, a huge sofa, and an upright piano. They painted our living room light blue, pretty but not my taste. Then they started moving in all of the new furniture, and even hung a new chandelier in our dining room. At one point the location manager emailed me and said they were going to swap-out my office furniture to create a “writer’s office.” I emailed him back, laughing that they could do whatever they wanted, but that I’m a “writer” and that’s my “office.”

In the afternoon the set decorators arrived to arrange the new elements into someone else’s home. One of the decorators turned out to be a friend of ours, Adam, who was surprised when he mapped the location and discovered he was going to get to re-do our place. I also discovered notes from the art department (above) about how they would have to, “Clear this area and replace with more masculine clothes—lose boas,” and “Clear and re-arrange to more ‘male’ vibe—lose stuffed animals.” Do serial killers not believe in Halloween or costume closets? Geesh. It was odd because they laid out everything similar to how we had it, just slightly different. My Liza poster was replaced with a print that looked strangely like Alan Cumming. How is that less gay? I was waiting for our cats to be replaced with model cats.

They transformed our entire house on Monday. Tuesday and Wednesday were shoot days and there were probably 50 people here. The lighting blew me away. They had a huge light behind every window and a condor/cherry picker as tall as our Italian cypress with a light as bright as the sun. All of this was so the rays would trickle in properly though the wood shades they hung to replace our curtains. I was watching the shots on the monitors by the directors and the lighting was gorgeous.

Michael C Hall was amazing to watch and he’s always sort of in character, so he’s a bit creepy. Also, there were three different Dexters walking around, so I couldn’t take a step without bumping into a serial killer.

They also shot a scene across the street at the junior high school. Apparently they often use school playgrounds for jail yards, which is just depressing. They let me watch the scenes being shot there as well, and it was fun seeing all the prisoner extras on recess. The fake security had huge guns and the real security had walkie-talkies. Considering some of the students will actually end up in prison, I likened it to a career day. Speaking of security, we had an around-the-clock guard at the house because of all the rental equipment. I felt like the President.

They shot on Tuesday for Season 7:Episode 6 and Wednesday for Episode 7, so look for our house. By Thursday, I couldn’t wait for them to be gone. I almost brushed my teeth in the morning with a prop toothbrush. They moved everything out, painted the living room back, re-hung the chandelier and put everything back in it’s spot. All 75 rubber ducks in our bathroom back to their right positions, like nobody had ever disrupted them. That is television magic.

To see more pictures from the Dexter shoot, click the link below:

http://share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=1Rat2TNqxZyQ

Oh Canada

Albert and I went to our annual family vacation on Coldwater Lake in Michigan for hot fun in the summertime. It was a blast and I got to play with parents, aunts, old neighbors, sisters, brother-in-laws, nieces, nephews, and a GREAT nephew. Surprisingly, we all survived. Albert and I only had to escape to Canada once.

We borrowed dad’s giant old Lincoln and floated the seven hour drive up to Toronto. There was absolutely nothing to see on the trip, so I was excited to see the beautiful spiraling buildings in the distance (above). We later learned she is nicknamed Marilyn, for her curves. The buildings were brand new and gorgeous, but there was nothing else around, and we were close to our final destination according to Mapquest. There were a bunch of dark dumpy 70’s buildings and I couldn’t see the lake, so I was getting worried about our hotel choice. Albert was already looking at me wide-eyed and I could read his mind, “What are we going to do here for three nights?”

We got to the address for The Bond Place, a contemporary hotel in the heart of Toronto, and it was a Korean nail salon and a cell phone store. Well, shit. I opted for the cell phone side because I thought I could communicate better with the Indian men. I walked up, introduced myself, and asked the man if he had heard of the Bond Place hotel or if he could call their number on one of his many phones. He then informed me that we weren’t in Toronto at all. We were 25 minutes away in Mississauga. Oh thank God!

The store owners were nice as can be. It turns out that one of the guys used to live in Hollywood and has family that owns a 7-Eleven in NoHo. They got on Google an re-mapped us to Toronto. We continued to the lake and found that our place was indeed in a prime location, Times Square light. They had live music and a green festival all weekend long, which was cool.

We walked and explored for days, in what feels like Chicago, but off. LIke the money all looks very similar and the people all look like us, but they’re actually Canadians and they don’t have dollar bills.

There’s a lot of huge old buildings juxtaposed with very modern designs. Toronto also has the biggest, most beautiful grocery store I have ever seen. It’s called Loblaws and used to be an old figure skating arena called Maple Leaf Gardens. I want to live there.

I have never seen so much construction going on a in a city in my life. There’s a huge crane on nearly every block, and the shoreline is being quickly developed with massive condo towers. We got rained on when we were shopping on Queen Street, but ended up hiding in a jazz and blues club called Rex with some beers and a band, which was perfect.

We also went to the top of the CN tower for great views of what was the tallest building in the world in the 70’s and 80’s. The glass elevator is scary as hell, and Albert couldn’t even step on the glass floor section at the top. They said it held at least a dozen hippos, but we wanted to know how many Americans.

Speaking of fat, I had my first taste of the Canadian dish called poutine, which sounds dirty but is delicious. I had ordered a duck taco appetizer and the waiter told me that it wasn’t a very big portion. I told him not to worry because I was getting the poutine (french fries with cheese curd and gravy) and some giant draft beers. He just looked at me and said, “You’ll be fine.” I’m clearly a health nut on vacation.

We spent three nights of fun on the town and then headed to Niagara falls. We hiked to the wall at edge of the water, which is amazing and dangerously close. We also enjoyed a beautiful lunch with views of the cascading falls.

To see pictures from Toronto click the link below:

http://share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=1Rat2TNqxZwY

To see pictures from Niagara Falls click the link below:

http://share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=1Rat2TNqxZxc

La Cage and a Lifestyle Lift

Image

I have a bunch of excuses for not blogging including vacation, the Olympics, and my computer being down because of a television shoot at the house. Really, it’s general laziness, combined with the above excuses. So, let’s get to catching you up on a bunch of fun things going on around town.

Albert and I caught the national tour of La Cage Aux Folles at the Pantages Theater. La Cage is a musical based on the same source material as the film The Birdcage and it’s hysterical. First let me say that George Hamilton is charming as a hell, but way too old to be playing Georges, the Robin Williams part in the film. I really questioned whether he would live through our performance, let alone an entire tour. The other lead, Christopher Sieber as Albin, is worth the price of admission alone. He is really spectacular and gave me a moment in the theater I will not forget. At the beginning of his “I Am What I Am” number, he takes the audience from belly laughs to tears of pain and sorrow in about one minute of acting genius. If that’s not enough, the Cagelles, the drag queen chorus of the show, do a bunch of crazy acrobatic dance numbers in wigs and high heels. Let’s hope they’re not all on crutches by the time the tour reaches your town.

I went to my first Dodgers’ game a couple Fridays ago. I promised I wouldn’t talk about sports in this blog, but Albert’s company graciously treated us to tickets, food, and beer. I had never been to Dodger stadium and its actually really pretty, nestled nicely into the SoCal landscape. Well, we lasted about two innings because baseball is as dull as I remember. All of those men in costumes and not one damn dance number or song! Damn Yankees it was not, so we ate our dogs, drank our beers, and ran through the parking lot trying not to get randomly beat up.

I went downtown last Friday and heard one of my favorite local bands The Belle Brigade (above) play a lunch concert. It was part of Grand Performances at the California Plaza and they do a bunch of free shows, so check out http://www.grandperformances.org for more information.

Finally, I just saw a commercial for Lifestyle Lift on television. It begins with Debby Boone singing her 1977 hit “You Light Up My Life,” which plays repeatedly over a bunch of before and after pictures of facial surgery. If that’s not enough to entice you, they offer recipients of the Lifestyle Lift two free tickets to a Debby Boone concert! I kid you not. Where is this concert and what year does it take place? Yes, I was on the fence about getting an entire new face but I really wanted to hear Debby sing again.