LABJ's LA Stories

Shop & Drop

The Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce will let the world know this week what the city's tony shops are touting as the 10 best gifts for the holiday season.

It's the second year for the chamber's list, which Kelli Seely, its executive director, said will reflect the Beverly Hills ethos.

"As far as I know, we're the only city in the country that does this," Seely said. "Beverly Hills is kind of a retail epicenter and people look here for the latest trends."

The list was culled from submissions by 50 retailers, with a panel of public relations officials unaffiliated with the retailers selecting the finalists.

The must-haves, she said, would range in price from $50 to $329,000. Just your average holiday shopping list.

Janna Braun

Virtual Surreality

While videogame manufacturers try to figure out how to incorporate virtual reality technology into their games, the L.A. County Department of Mental Health has used it to show people what the world looks like through the eyes of the mentally ill.

Attendees at a recent National Mental Illness Awareness Week event at St. Anne's Maternity Group Home, a residential social services facility in Westlake, were hooked up to a "virtual hallucination machine" that simulates schizophrenic hallucinations.

Stella March, national coordinator of stigma busters at the Nation's Voice on Mental Illness, an event co-sponsor, tried the machine and said it helped her better understand what her schizophrenic son experiences.

"You hear all kinds of superimposed voices talking," March said. "I can see how while my son is hallucinating, he can't respond because it's so disruptive. It's very nerve racking."

Matt Myerhoff

Hired Spray Guns

When more than 60 graffiti artists armed with spray paint descended on the corporate headquarters of Dickies Girl in downtown Los Angeles, company officials just sat back and watched.

"Covering our building in graffiti art is an outlet for us to express ourselves," said Masud Sarshar, chief executive of Dickies Girl, the new line of teen girl clothing by Apparel Limited Inc.

That message of "confidence and playfulness" is embodied by the mural project headed by the Los Angeles graffiti artist known as Man One.

"When Dickies Girl came to me, I saw a great opportunity," said Man One. "Not only is this piece expressive for Dickies Girl but being located in downtown L.A., it's an expressive statement for the city at a time of resurgence."

With the theme "Peace, Love and Happiness," the nearly 6,000-square foot mural contains several sections painted by individual artists, and many others that were collaborations.

Daniela Drake

Handshake Deal

And you thought it was just connections that landed all those folks on the walls of the Palm Restaurant.

The Washington, D.C.-based steak chain known for papering its walls with caricatures of local celebrities and dealmakers is running a promotion that can land almost anyone on the wall.

Non-big shots can eat their way into a caricature, earning points for every dollar spent toward the 12,000 points needed to get framed at any of its locations. Under the promotion, which runs until the end of the month, awards points increase with the number of visits, said spokeswoman Andrea VonUtter.

There is one catch: "The only person who gets the points is the person who pays the bill," she said.

Amanda Bronstad

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