LABJ's LA Stories

Chaka Rocks

Who says they ain't got no soul in Beverly Hills? After all, the city's Chamber of Commerce is honoring R & B; star Chaka Khan.

Khan will receive the Beverly Hills CARES (Chamber and Residents' Emergency Support) Award at the chamber's annual ball on March 3 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Khan will also perform at the gala.

CARES grew out of the response to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and was launched to raise funds for the widows and children of the New York Police and Fire Departments. The singer, was chosen for the honor because she's launched a new product, "Chakalates," at Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills. Sales of the candies will benefit a foundation she runs to help women and children at risk.

"We thought this was a great opportunity to honor someone in the music industry of her stature and influence who has decided to give back to the community," said Michael Robinson, the chamber's director of communications. "We're thrilled that we decided to launch her product line in Beverly Hills."

Steve Silkin

Banner Year

Having trouble finding your way to a play on Hollywood's Theater Row? Just follow the banners that were unfurled last week on Santa Monica Boulevard between Vine and Seward streets.

It's the first step in an effort to solve some of the problems faced by the theaters and the neighborhood's Business Improvement District.

"Because it's difficult to see the addresses on Santa Monica Boulevard, we wanted to create a way-finding tool," said Mary Lou Dudas, executive director of the Hollywood Media District. "So when a patron calls the Hudson Theater and asks for the address, they'll say: Look for Banner No. 9."

In addition to the Hudson, theaters in the $16,000 banner program include the Lillian, the Elephant, the Complex, the Attic, the Second Stage and the Blank.

"Our ultimate goal is to create a destination, to support the folks who come to theater," she said. "There's no place to go for a drink, a dinner, or even a cup of coffee before or after the theater."

Steve Silkin

Now You're Cooking

Firefighters use their courage and strength for battling blazes, but at one Los Angeles station, they'll soon be applying themselves to a different mission: mastering the art of French cuisine.

Jean-Francois Meteigner, chef and owner at La Cachette, will be commanding the men of Station 61, on Third Street near La Brea Avenue, in a "SuperFun Lunch" to raise funds for the "Adopt a Fire Station" program. The goal of the operation is to beautify and upgrade the working environment of firefighters. Tickets for the Feb. 29 event are $250.

Capt. Graham Everett said the 16 men in his station will be participating; they're accomplished chefs when it comes to casseroles, pastas and standard chicken dishes, but not with French recipes.

Everett said members of the Miracle Mile Civic Coalition have helped refurbish the station with landscaping and carpeting.

Steve Silkin

Art for Art's Sake

When Superior Galleries of Beverly Hills was selected to market a collection of paintings and sculptures by Brett Livingstone Strong, officials there discussed whether to point out that the artist was once of Michael Jackson's favorites.

Michael Carson, special project director, discussed the matter with Chief Executive Silvano DiGenova and they decided they should.

"Is there such thing as bad publicity?" Carson asked. "I think it's OK. For every person who's going to say, 'That's that child rapist,' there's going to be five people who're going to say, 'Oh, Michael Jackson; he's in the news.' I can't see how we could be negatively affected."

Carson said the owner was a financial institution that preferred anonymity. The collection, with an estimated value of $25 million, will be on display at Superior starting this week.

Steve Silkin

The Roving Eye

Past Imperfect

Remember Eddie Cantor? Hollywood Heritage does.

This week, the organization dedicated to preserving Hollywood's past celebrates the actor with a screening of one of his classic films, "Roman Scandals."

The idea came from Michelle Malik, a special education teacher and president of a Cantor fan club.

"I was wowed by his energy," she said. "I'm a very sensitive person and day-to-day activities can get you down. And the world of Eddie Cantor, and the nostalgia, brings you out of the blues and helps you to enjoy life even more."

Cantor is known for his truisms ("It's nice to be important, but it's important to be nice") in addition to his show biz career, philanthropy and guild leadership.

He starred on Broadway in the '20s, then launched a career in film, radio and TV. He entertained the troops in World War II with his hit songs, "If You Knew Susie" and "That's My Baby," and worked with Franklin D. Roosevelt to create the March of Dimes. He was also the first president of both the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television & Radio Artists. He died in 1964.

Dave Greim, a film preservationist and Hollywood Heritage member who helped organize the event, acknowledged Cantor worked in blackface.

"It was an acceptable convention of the theater and theatrical makeup." Greim said. "That certainly does not reflect upon what he was like as a person."

The "Roman Scandals" screening is scheduled Wednesday (18th) at the Lasky-DeMille Barn on Highland Avenue. Cantor's co-star in the 1933 film, Gloria Stuart now 95 is expected to be there. Other Cantor contemporaries expected to attend are Margaret Kerry-Wilcox and Fayard Nicholas.

Steve Silkin

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