L.A. Stories / The Roving Eye


L.A. Stories / The Roving Eye

Clean Start

This spring the L.A. Fashion District unveiled a makeover that began with its name (it was formerly the Fashion District of Los Angeles), then moved to its logo and signage. It now extends to the bicycle shorts worn by security guards.

Last week, the Fashion District introduced new uniforms for both work crews and security guards.

“Since L.A. is becoming the center of the fashion industry worldwide, there was a lot of pressure to come up with something good,” said, Kent Smith, executive director of the Fashion District BID.

The new uniforms feature a golden yellow and black color scheme topped by black baseball caps. The bright scheme was designed to make the workers more visible to visitors, Smith said.

“They may be loud by some fashion standards, but there was a real reason behind it,” he said. “They look pretty sharp.”

Cultural Exchange

When proprietor Toshi Kihara expanded the menu at HamaSaku, his West Los Angeles celebrity haunt, he looked to his roots, with a twist.

Created by executive chef Hiro Fujita, HamaSaku now offers a special Omakase menu, a traditional Japanese style of cooking based on seasonal ingredients. But HamaSaku’s Omakase is probably unlike anything being arranged on a dish in Japan.

Fujita has incorporated French, Italian and Jewish flavors into some dishes, including, notably, Japanese Jewish Pizza, which blends a variety of sashimi (always including smoked salmon) with greens on top of a light pastry with miso sauce.

“Many, many celebrities like it. Warren Beatty orders it every time,” reports Kihara, “And Billy Crystal orders it too.”

Free Martha

Martha Stewart has found an unlikely supporter in the wake of allegations of insider trading: followers of deceased novelist/philosopher Ayn Rand.

Amid the frenzy surrounding Stewart’s controversial sale of ImClone Systems stock, the Marina del Rey-based Ayn Rand Institute issued a press release slamming the media for its “vicious glee” in covering the event.

“This is a morally perverse attitude in which people see someone who has achieved more so they hate them because it makes them feel inadequate by comparison,” said Robert Tracinski, a senior fellow at the institute.

Tracinski said he hasn’t had any contact with Stewart and he’s not sure she’d welcome his support, but that hasn’t kept him from standing up for what’s right.

“She’s a Clinton Democrat, so she probably wouldn’t agree with our philosophy,” he said. “But I think she’s getting a lesson here as to who her friends are.”

City of Neon

Motels, trailer parks and bowling alleys.

They’re not your typical landmarks but to Nathan Marsak and her husband, Nigel Cox, the neon signs on such buildings help tell the story of Los Angeles.

Cox and Marsak are authors of “Los Angeles Neon,” a new collection of stories and photographs about the bright and colorful signs that light up everything from apartment buildings to theaters.

“It’s part of our heritage,” Cox said. “It’s a great deal of art, time and energy that goes into making these signs that are not valued by most people as art.”

The book is the subject of an exhibit running through Aug. 18 at the Museum of Neon Art on Olympic Boulevard.

Symbol Search

Los Angeles did it with angels. Chicago did it with cows. Catalina Island did it with buffaloes. Now Long Beach wants to do some kind of public art that would dot the city’s streets with artist-inspired creations incorporating the city’s own icon.

Long Beach Councilwoman Jackie Kell’s proposal has been greeted enthusiastically, but the question remains: What would Long Beach’s icon be?

Some have suggested sheep. Others have toyed with an aquatic theme tied to the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific. Or maybe a bulldog, the mascot of the city’s minor-league hockey team called the Ice Dogs.

Darrell Satzman, Claudia Peschiutta, Conor Dougherty and Deborah Belgum.

The Roving Eye

Weighty Lessons

It figures that in L.A. even sumo wrestling is for the thin.

A UCLA class that teaches the Japanese martial art includes people of all sizes and ages from teen-agers to 60-year-olds.

One of its teachers, Andrew Freund, is president of the California Sumo Association, a four-year group that wrestles weekly at the John Wooden Center at the school.

It’s the officially recognized college sumo club in the United States, said Freund, who taught martial arts in Japan.

He stresses that the sport is not just for big guys. “Sumo needs to be open to both genders and people of all sizes,” Freund said.

The 20 to 30 members of the California Sumo Association vary in age, weight and skill level, from 105 to 500 pounds. The UCLA class teaches strength, speed, stretching and other techniques.

The course is headed by lightweight two-time European champion and two-time World Champion Svetoslav Binev of Bulgaria. In amateur sumo wrestling, competitions come in weight classes: Lightweight (up to 187 pounds), middleweight (up to 253 pounds) and heavyweight (more than 253 pounds).

“I want people to see sumo as good exercise,” says Binev on the California Sumo Association’s Web site.

The class is open to full-time UCLA students and recreational facility cardholders. And as the unofficial sumo capital of California, UCLA will be the site of the annual California Sumo Open Tournament on August 25 featuring sumo wrestlers from 50 countries.

Amanda Bronstad

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