L.A. Stories / The Roving Eye

Gold Standard

David Gold, founder and chief executive of 99 Cents Only Stores Inc., has a reputation as a penny pincher. Gold, whose family fortune is estimated at $650 million, drives a Toyota, refuses to pay a public relations firm to promote his business, draws a moderate $181,000 annual salary and calls himself "overpaid."

So perhaps it's not surprising to see the signs that have been affixed to the back of the 99 Cents Only Stores trucks to warn-away would-be robbers: They say, "Driver carries only 99 cents."



Festival of Fists

The Los Angeles Chinatown Business Council is offering audiences an action-packed alternative to stuffy film retrospectives and art-house revivals with its 2nd annual Chinatown Film Festival, running Saturday nights through August.

Held at various outdoor venues, movie-goers can dine on picnic dinners and watch a pre-film kung fu or Chinese lion dancing demonstration. The lineup is a mix of family-friendly martial arts films by "masters" like Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li, says Shan Chao, marketing director for the council. Lee's "Fists of Fury" was shown atop the Bamboo Plaza parking structure and attracted more than 100 viewers.

The films are part of a revitalization effort to bring people to different parts of Chinatown on the weekends. Shops and restaurants will extend business hours to liven up the normally sleepy weekend nights.



Animal Noises

The Los Angeles Zoo held the summer's second and final Music in the L.A. Zoo program last week. The event drew more than 2,000 people to hear jazz, classical and Latin bands and to take advantage of a rare opportunity to view the animals in the relatively cool evening hours when they tend to be more active.

And what do the animals think of the live music?

"There was some concern that if it's too loud it could make them jumpy," said Zoo Curator Michael Dee. "We put the music in places where it's not going to disturb them."

Dee pointed out that many of the zoo animals are regularly exposed to recorded music, if for no other reason than to get them used to the background noise they hear from their cages. Nothing too hard though.

"It's usually classical music or soft rock," he said.



NB Sweet

As part of a promotional deal with NBC, Baskin-Robbins stores will be offering some new flavors not likely found at your neighborhood market: "Will & Grace's Rocky Road of Romance," "Good Morning Miami Mint" and "Pralines 'n' American Dreams."

The push includes a print ad campaign in Entertainment Weekly, in-store promotions and on-air spots.

Much of the planning for the promotion has come out of the Glendale-based marketing and research and development departments of Baskin-Robbins.

Coming up with the TV-inspired ice cream flavor names wasn't all that tough, according to Joe Adney, senior director of marketing for Baskin-Robbins. "You end up eating a lot of ice cream and watching a lot of television," he said.



Milken Watch

Michael Milken and his brother Lowell became a few hundred million dollars richer last week when interactive toymaker LeapFrog Enterprises went public.

With Oracle chief Lawrence Ellison, the brothers Milken own 33,200,000 shares of LeapFrog's stock, about 86 percent of the company. LeapFrog opened at $13 but jumped to more than $16 in its first day of trading, putting the stake at more than $530 million.

Officials from LeapFrog wouldn't talk about the IPO and refused to disclose the three investors' individual stake. Market watchers eager to buy in should beware, though. Milken, Milken and Ellison control the entire board and 83 percent of the voting rights.



Darrell Satzman, Claudia Peschiutta, Samantha Lee and Conor Dougherty

The Roving Eye

Lights, Camera, Classwork

What do "Dr. Strangelove", "American Graffiti" and "Austin Powers" have in common? Directors Stanley Kubrick, George Lucas and Jay Roach all screened their films before students of the School of Cinema-Television at USC.

The class, Theatrical Film Symposium, better known as Cinema 466, has been the campus' most popular class for close to 40 years, said Professor Richard Jewell, the program's associate dean.

Started by the late film scholar Arthur Knight, the weekly Thursday night class is currently moderated by adjunct USC professor and "Entertainment Tonight" film critic Leonard Maltin.

Film and non-film students alike view pre-released movies, followed by a discussion with the film's director or actors. "We want to give students the opportunity to gain a perspective before they know how it is performing financially and critically," said Jewell.

It's not just a chance to see free movies. Students are required to take a mid-term and final, as well as tackle the class reading list.

Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, and John Frankenheimer have shown their work. Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand and Jodie Foster have also addressed the class.

The class begins with an open discussion of the previous week's film. "It's hard to get true reactions while the guest is present," said Jewell. "We tell students it's important to be honest, but important to be polite as well."

Samantha Lee

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