LABJ's LA Stories

N.Y. Goes West

Not content to entertain and enlighten only Manhattanites, the New Yorker magazine is bringing its annual "New Yorker Nights" to L.A.

Held at the Silent Movie Theatre on Fairfax Avenue, the three-day event kicks off March 25, when staff writer Lillian Ross interviews Robin Williams. The local version of "Fiction Live" features Jason Schwartzman ("Rushmore") reading a David Foster Wallace story and Tracey Ullman reading a Zadie Smith story. On the closing day, Susan Orleans ("The Orchid Thief") interviews rock band They Might Be Giants. Tickets are $20.

The Left Coast events are an adapted version of the magazine's hometown festival, which has taken place four years running. The lineup for last year's N.Y. event packed, well, a bit more intellectual muscle than the road show version:

Participants in "Fiction Night" included E.L. Doctorow, Grace Paley, Michael Cunningham, Dave Eggers, T.C. Boyle and Zadie Smith in person, instead of Ullman standing in for her. Participating in the humor-writing program were Steve Martin and Woody Allen.

Steve Silkin

Hair Extension

They call it the Harvard of Hair, and there just wasn't enough room to teach everybody who wanted to learn styling there, so they've had to grow it out by adding classroom space to accommodate more staff and students.

It's the North American Vidal Sassoon Academy in Santa Monica, and the $510,000 expansion, scheduled for completion this month, will add 2,600 square feet, bringing its Santa Monica Boulevard location to 14,600 square feet.

Students learn from seasoned Sassoon stylists, in classes where they cut hair on live models, and tuition for the 44-week cosmetology course is $18,000.

The academy claims several graduates from unlikely backgrounds. One is Gudlaugur Hannesson, a former Icelandic fisherman who is now a stylist at a top Reykjavik salon. Another is Mark Dotson, former U.S. Army military policeman and sheriff's deputy in Augusta, Ga. Dotson had always wanted to be a hair stylist, but didn't make the switch until he discovered the L.A. academy.

"The energy and the excitement that I could feel in the air and see as soon as I walked in, I knew this is going to be my springboard," he said.

Steve Silkin

Writer's Block

While Henry Miller once said that all a writer really needed was a table, it seems the scribes of today need more. Enter the Office, the brainchild of screenwriter Aleks Horvat.

The Office, on 26th Street in Santa Monica, provides ergonomic furniture arranged with Feng Shui in mind, a reference library, a T1 line for Wi-Fi and laptop plug-ins, and a coffee machine that makes latte, cappuccino and espresso.

Horvat expected men to be the bulk of the $7-per-hour clientele when he opened last week, but most of the 20 clients were women.

"And not all of them were screenwriters," he said. "The very first one was a pediatrician. One was writing a thesis. It really was all over the spectrum."

Steve Silkin

Move Your Caboose

The last car in the train is the theme of this year's Santa Clara River Valley Railroad Historical Society's Ninth Annual Rail Festival, where festival-goers will get a rare chance at a ride in a caboose. The event takes place March 20-21 along the Fillmore & Western Railway. Also offered at the railfest are miniature steam train rides, standard train rides and displays from railroad-related organizations.

Why cabooses?

"People generally don't get to ride in cabooses," said Kathleen McCreary, director of sales and marketing for the Fillmore & Western, a recreational and tourism rail line that runs vintage trains northwest of Los Angeles. "It's an unusual experience. Traditionally, it's the crew's resting quarters the eyes in back of the train if anything fell off. Many trains don't have them anymore."

Steve Silkin

The Roving Eye

They're Playing Our Song

When Los Angeles composers Steve and Julie Bernstein agreed to provide the theme song for the popular English tot show "Make Way for Noddy," they had no idea it would become a pop hit on the U.K. charts, and then a download for cell phone ringtones.

The story began about two years ago, when Woodland Hills-based S.D. Entertainment hired the Bernsteins, Emmy-winning composers of music for the "Animaniacs" series, to do the songwriting and incidental music for a new version of Noddy. The cartoon is aimed at TV viewers from 3 to 5 years old. Each episode follows Noddy around Toy Town as he learns lessons about being loyal to a friend or other basic social values.

The Bernsteins created Noddy's song, which must have captured the popular imagination: Steve Bernstein said an Internet search pointed him to a version of the song, credited to "Noddy," was on the Top 40 in England during the holiday season.

"We would certainly get performance royalties," Steve Bernstein said. Less clear is the situation with the ringtones, which he also discovered during an Internet search.

"I discovered that there were many sites that offered downloadable ringtones for cell phones, and our song was among the selections offered," he said. "We would be able to collect some sort of income from those sales."

Julie Bernstein hopes the melody will ring in good fortune.

"Maybe we could make a lot of money," she said.

Steve Bernstein was less optimistic.

"I'd be happy if we got enough to buy a sandwich."

Steve Silkin

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