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L.A. Stories / The Roving Eye

L.A. Stories

Digging Digs

When National Public Radio decided to open a West Coast production facility, no one at the Washington-based network realized that the working spaces in Los Angeles could be so luxurious.

NPR bought the 25,000-square-foot facility in Culver City for $8 million, which included a few California-style perks, including two stainless steel Sub-Zero refrigerators and a large brick fireplace.

The perks are compliments of the previous tenants, Digital Planet, a failed technology company that at one time created and distributed streaming Internet advertising.

“These are definitely the best refrigerators I’ve ever used,” said J.J. Sutherland, acting assistant managing editor of the NPR West office. “But do we need two? I’d like to take one home.”

So far, the staff hasn’t roasted any marshmallows in the gas-fired fireplace. In fact, they haven’t even turned it on yet.

Deborah Belgum




On Deck

Like many ballclubs, the Dodgers have improved through the years with free agent acquisitions. But the organization may be the first in the Big Leagues to make a free agent signing for the benefit of the players’ wives.

Caregivers on Call, a Long Island, N.Y.-based home and elder care provider, has been hired to care for children ages 6 months and up at home or in a hotel rooms, allowing wives to attend the ballgames and go out with their husbands for entertainment.

“The players representative, who was (second baseman) Mark Grudzielanek at the time, talked about the lack of accessible childcare services,” said David Walkley, the team’s vice president of human resources, in describing how the program came to be.

The annual fee paid by the team, which is still under negotiation, will be between $2,500 and $10,000, depending on how much the service is used during the first year. Players will also fork out about $20 for a minimum of four hours each time they use the service.

With a reported player payroll of $120 million last season, affordable care should not be a problem.

David Greenberg




Fast Track

Here’s one way to solve the nursing crisis.

Queen of Angels Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center is giving away two-year car leases as part of an incentive package to recruit nurses. The new campaign, dubbed “Put Your Career in Gear,” kicked off with an open house last week and will be an ongoing program.

“We decided our nurses are very valuable, so we said why don’t we repackage our sign-on bonus,” said Andree Mulia, nurse recruiter for the hospital.

Mulia said the program was thought up by the hospital’s chief executive, Albert Greene, and inspired by the dot-com mania of the late ’90s, when technology companies lured young workers with various kinds of perks, among them car leases.

All the cars are 2003 models, Mulia said, and as of last week included a Volkswagen Jetta, a Jeep Grand Cherokee and a Nissan Maxima.

Conor Dougherty

Marquee Player

The Aero theater in Santa Monica stopped displaying its three-month-long plea for help, “Save the Aero,” on its marquee a couple of months ago. But the historic cinema where Robert Redford is said to have hung out as a kid is far from secure, says owner Chris Allen.

The theater began seeking outside financial support in July after landlord James Rosenfeld served Allen with a notice to pay back rent of $40,000 or vacate the building within three days.

Allen had threatened to shut down the theater once before in 1999, but this time, he said, things were serious.

There was an emergency benefit screening, with complimentary wine and hors d’oeuvres from Wolfgang Puck Caf & #233;, and the $20 tickets helping raise $4,000 for Allen in a single night. Additional benefits helped him quickly pay down $20,000 in debt.

Now, the benefits have become a monthly event at the Aero, supporting Allen’s $10,000 rent. But he says he’s struggling to pay off the remaining $20,000 he owes.

The words “Save the Aero” came down when the Aero began a children’s matinee program two months ago. There wasn’t room for the letters on the marquee, he says.

Travis Purser

The Roving Eye





On the Waterfront

If dockworkers at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach think they have a raw deal, at least they’re not stuck between the worlds of the living and the dead.

That’s the curse a ship full of pirates is trying to break in “Pirates of the Caribbean,” a Walt Disney Co. movie in pre-production in the Spruce Goose Dome at the Port of Long Beach. (Other locations within the complex will also be used.)

Based on the Disneyland theme ride, the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced feature stars Geoffrey Rush as Capt. Barbossa, in charge of a crew trying to reverse a curse that reveals their skeletons in the moonlight. Johnny Depp plays Capt. Jack Sparrow.

Inside the dome, set builders are putting the finishing touches on cabins and other areas of a 17th century pirate vessel for filming scheduled to begin late this month. (Release is scheduled for summer 2003.)

Among other films that have made use of the 135,000-square-foot Long Beach-owned dome: “Batman & Robin,” “Jack Frost,” “Vanilla Sky,” “A.I.: Artificial Intelligence” and “Stargate.”

“You can put more than one sound stage in there,” said Travis Montgomery, vice president and chief of staff for Long Beach-based Queen’s Seaport Development Inc., which operates the 120-foot-high dome and the Queen Mary. “You have no pillars inside that would interfere with anything. That’s the big attraction.”

The set is comprised of a vessel he said looked to be about 90 feet long with giant masts.

Disney is leasing two-thirds of the facility while construction of the Carnival Cruise Lines passenger terminal is underway in the remaining portion. That work is set to be completed in March 2003.

Meanwhile, another pirate ship built on a barge at the Port of Long Beach is now floating in the waters off the Port of Los Angeles.

David Greenberg

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