Promise Keeping

Promises Malibu, the pricey celebrity rehab center is back in the news.

Last year, the Business Journal reported that Promises, which charges around $1,000 a day, had become the facility of choice for stars seeking luxurious environs during their treatment. That clearly hasn't changed.

In recent weeks, "Pearl Harbor" star Ben Affleck and comedienne Paula Poundstone, who stands accused of child molestation charges, checked into the center to be treated for alcohol abuse. They'll get to know Robert Downey Jr., who is in the midst of a long-term stay at Promises.

Promises founder Richard Rogg said the publicity is a double-edged sword. "More than a third of our clients are referrals, it's word of mouth," Rogg said. "But our business is based on confidentiality, so in the long run it's not good."

That's Italian

A new Los Angeles Web site is helping small- and medium-sized American and Italian businesses from fashion designers to gold exporters do business with each other.

Year-old Inc. sets up Web sites with links to Italian chambers of commerce in L.A., New York, Chicago and Sydney, Australia, displaying products and partners for companies on both sides of the ocean for free, said founder and chief executive Emilio Fontana.

It also provides advice on how to handle Italian cultural differences like the fact that if you do business with Italians, don't bank on big orders this month.

"Italians work very long hours but take August off," he said. "Until the 22nd of August, you won't find many Italians at work."

Peppery Pitch

Seeking to expand its client base, Inglewood creative agency Grabiner/Hall sent bottles of habanero sauce the hottest pepper out there to 150 potential clients.

The campaign has struck a chord with the prospective clients, though there is the matter of distributing sauce the agency itself warned was "borderline dangerous," said principal Kande Hall no fan of habanero sauce herself, even though she thought up the idea.

"I can eat salsa at Mexican restaurants, but that's far as I go." she said.

Wet Set

Dot-bombed employees and evicted Mission-area artists aren't the only ones fleeing the Bay Area for L.A.

A floating back lot belonging to Woodland Hills-based Ray-Art Studios has completed its five-day voyage from San Francisco to Long Beach Harbor. The three-story studio, which sits on a barge, completed its tugboat-powered journey without incident.

Flexibility is the key to the future success of the floating sound stage, according to Ray-Art co-owner Robert Papazian. "Put it under the Vincent Thomas Bridge, and you're under the Brooklyn Bridge at the River Caf & #233;," he said.

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