LABJ's LA Stories


Who better to make use of a seemingly inaccessible plot of land between an offramp and the freeway than the California Department of Transportation and the California Highway Patrol?

That's who will occupy a complex nestled on a scrap of land flanked by the eastbound Ventura (134) Freeway at the Glendale (2) Freeway.

The 89,000-square-foot, $46 million steel structure, slated to be completed this summer, will house a 234-person CHP communications center and a 122-person Caltrans traffic management center controlling ramp meters, overhead programmable message signs and traffic cameras in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

It is not unusual for Caltrans to build on such hard-to-reach sites, "because it saves taxpayer money," said Deborah Harris, a Caltrans spokeswoman.

Besides, said Bill Boyd, a senior vice president at Grubb & Ellis Co., such properties are not commercially viable anyway.

"A commercial building would not be built in that location due to the lack of amenities," he said. "Although freeway access might be spectacular."

Matt Myerhoff

Take a Seat

Science fiction enthusiast Forrest J. Ackerman wants moviegoers at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood to sit on seats named for 153 of his friends, family members and heroes.

So he's donated $153,000 to the American Cinematheque in exchange for plaque privileges. His fondness for the theater dates to the 1920s, when his grandparents took him to see "The Lost World" there. On Feb. 11, the Cinematheque will thank him for his support with a screening of one his favorite chillers, 1945's "Dead of Night."

Among those Ackerman will name on the seats are author Isaac Asimov, singer Dean Martin, monster-maker Rick Baker and "King Kong" animator Willis O'Brien.

One of Ackerman's favorites is actress Simone Simon, who starred in the 1942 horror film classic, "Cat People." Ackerman calls the 94-year-old in Paris every year to wish her a happy birthday.

Ackerman is known for his science fiction publications such as "Famous Monsters of Movieland," and his vast collection of memorabilia, which remains open to the public by appointment.

Steve Silkin

So Corny

You know those clear containers they give you when you order from the deli counter at your grocery store? If you shop at Wild Oats Markets, they're not made out of plastic any more. They're made out of corn, through a natural process of fermentation and distillation of cornstarch.

Because they begin to break down at 135 degrees Fahrenheit, they won't be used for hot items, and shouldn't be placed in microwave ovens. And if you throw them in the recycling bin, they'll wind up in the landfill and they won't biodegrade quickly. But if you bring them back to the store, they'll be reprocessed into water, carbon dioxide and organic material.

"It has the form and function of plastic. People are always surprised when they find out it's made of corn," said Sonja Tuitele, director of communications for Wild Oats Markets, which has four stores in L.A. County.

But even though the containers are made of corn, don't eat them.

"The food that comes inside is quite tasty," Tuitele said. "But the containers themselves would taste like plastic."

Steve Silkin

Manifesto Destiny

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels wrote "The Communist Manifesto." Theodore Kaczynski wrote "The Unabomber Manifesto." Now Celia Fox has written the "Coochie Power" manifesto, to promote her line of flip-flops and other fashion accessories emblazoned with the CP logo. And coming soon: "Coochie Power" drag-queen dolls that sing.

"It's a niche market," Fox acknowledged.

Fox started out as a stand-up comedian and has written and produced the film "Wasabi Tuna," starring Anna Nicole Smith, due out in April. It features the song "Coochie Power," sung by Alexis Arquette.

Fox's customers, young actresses, models and go-go dancers, are adopting the manifesto.

"The film and the product line are about empowering women," Fox said. "I live in a male's world, but I definitely want to stay a cute girl. It's really important to me to stay who I am. We want all the privileges of the money and the power. But we're girls."

Steve Silkin

The Roving Eye

Unbowled Over

Super Bowl Sunday is coming, but there may be a way to escape. For those few souls who won't be glued to the tube during the face-off between the Carolina Panthers and the New England Patriots, Feb. 1 will be an ideal day to enjoy some of L.A.'s less aggressive diversions.

- The J. Paul Getty Museum has Titian's "Portrait of Alfonso d'Avalos, Marchesa del Vasto, in Armor with a Page," hailed as one of the artist's masterpieces, a recent acquisition from the Louvre.

- Take in Baz Luhrmann's production of Puccini's "La Boheme" at the Ahmanson Theatre. Set in 1950s Paris, Luhrmann's adaptation had a successful run on Broadway last year.

- Haven't been to the Disney Concert Hall yet? The remarkable building is home on the First to the Los Angeles Philharmonic's "Berlioz Project," featuring Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting the Complicite theatrical ensemble, tenor Eric Cutler, base-baritone Kyle Ketelsen and the Pacific Chorale.

- Weather permitting, one can always drive out to the west end of Vanowen Street in West Hills or the north end of Los Virgenes Road in Agoura Hills and hike the trails of the Ahmanson Ranch. (The sprawling property was recently opened to the public.)

- Other possibilities include: A performance of "Nisei Voices: Japanese American Students of the 1930s Then and Now" at the Japanese American National Museum; a samba dance and drumming class at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach; "Risk," an exhibit at the California Science Center, where visitors can lie on a bed of nails or play cards and other games of chance while learning about risk; or "Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Sunday" comedy at Groundlings.

Steve Silkin and Daniela Drake

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