Service 2014, Frontiers_PublishingTue, 21 Jan 2014 16:30:00 GMTTue, 21 Jan 2014 16:30:00 GMThttp://emmisinteractive.com Encounter with a Californian Server at a Russian Restaurant<p><img class="image_align_center" src="" alt="" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Mari Vanna is a recent addition to West Hollywood’s beautiful restaurants. As </span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Russian as a Faberge egg, it occupies the space that once housed the plush Bastide on Melrose Place. It's</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> a delightful place, reminiscent of a Russian dacha in which any Chekov character would feel at home amidst multi-colored pillows, festive clutter, painted boxes, ornaments and those dolls that fit into dolls that fit into dolls. Even the bill is brought to you in a gay, red purse!</span></p> <p dir="ltr"><span>Our waiter looked like a Russian matinee idol, with black hair falling over his </span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">face. (“And I used mousse this morning!” he told us, brushing it back carelessly). A big grin.  </span></p> <p dir="ltr"><span>“Where are you from?” I asked him, imagining the answer to be Kiev or </span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Odessa or somewhere exotic like Izhevsk.  </span></p> <p dir="ltr"><span>“I was born here, in California,” he said, pushing back black tresses.</span></p> <p dir="ltr"><span> I was stunned. There is nothing Californian about him.  Nothing blonde or blue-eyed or surfer-like at all. He is truly misplanted. An exile in California. It was sort of exciting.</span></p> <p dir="ltr"><span>“My father is German and my mother is Spanish,” he said with a ready smile. (</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Surely they lied to him. He had to be adopted. I thought Bessarabia for sure.) </span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">“And as well as waiting on tables here, I also model. Mostly swimwear," he said tantalizingly. "I would love to live in England,” he added, a total non sequitur.</span></p> <p dir="ltr"><span>I thought idly that I would adopt him but instead settled for the chicken kotletki.</span></p> <p dir="ltr"><span>He then agreed to answer 10 questions.</span></p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>What was your best modeling gig so far?<br /></strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">A group shot in Palm Springs. [He flashed a ravishing smile at the memory of it. </span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">I flashed a smile at the idea, too!] </span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">It was for a book called <em>Lust</em>. </span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Right after the shoot, all the models went out and lay by the pool and sipped on mojitos. It was all very laidback and fun. My worst-ever shoot was swimwear in San Diego in the winter. I was freezing in the water ... shrinkage!” He shuddered at the thought. [</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">So did I, but a different kind of shudder from his.]</span></p> <p dir="ltr"><span><strong>What is your ultimate ambition?</strong><br /></span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">To finish my schooling and become an attorney. Very difficult to do when one is working all the time. [</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Very difficult to do even once you have graduated, I thought to myself.]</span></p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>The best day of your life?<br /></strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The day I was offered a trip to Europe as a birthday gift!</span></p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>What countries have you visited, and what was your reaction to them?</strong></p> <p dir="ltr"><strong></strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Mexico—and the only word that comes to mind when I mention Mexico is 'beaches.'” [</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Visions of swimsuits again!</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">]</span></p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Europe?<br /></strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Italy—passionate and historical. I was in Rome. I went to France, too. I was in Paris, but everyone was so rude, I cut my trip short and left for London. Now there is a vibrant city. I fell in love with London, and it is by far my favorite place so far.</span></p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Your greatest fear?<br /></strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Not accomplishing my goals and simply settling. That or being eaten alive by ants. Weird, I know.</span></p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Your favorite TV show?<br /></strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;"><em>White Collar</em>. Matt Bomer is so sexy.<br /><br /><img class="image_align_center" src="" alt="" width="600" /></span></p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>The best advice you have ever received? <br /></strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Being comfortable is your worst enemy.</span></p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Your favorite meal? <br /></strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Anything Italian. Lasagna. [</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">He licked his lips and added another non-sequitur...] </span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">“I also like enchiladas!”</span></p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Your first kiss?<br /></strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">[He licked his lips again.] </span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">I was a late bloomer. I was 17 and I kissed a girl named Shanda. My mom was at work. Shanda and I ending up making out while my sister was in another room. [He smiled at the memory. </span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">I did, too. It all sounded so sweet and innocent.]</span></p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Boxers or briefs? <br /></strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Always commando! [He announced it proudly.]</span></p>, 21 Jan 2014 16:30:00 GMTMichael MenziesA Young Prince: A Hotel Lobby Encounter<p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Sometimes I cannot help myself. I move into a different world than the one I inhabit. At the West Hollywood bar Rage, for instance, Justin Timberlake can become Frank Sinatra and Rage itself morphs into the Cocoanut Grove. </span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Recently I had such an experience at the Langham Hotel. (The one in Pasadena, I think. I know it took a long time to get there from where I live, area code 90069.)</span></p> <p class="p1">While sitting on a cushioned sofa in the hotel lobby, I caught the eye of a young man at the concierge desk. He was The Most Beautiful Young Man in the World. He was a tad over six feet, a young Ruritanian prince straight out of an operetta. He had the posture of a royal figure—slender, proud, erect. I saw him with epaulettes, a heavily crested and embroidered jacket with gold cords dangling here and there and a sash across his chest. I was certain he was the heir to a long-forgotten European monarchy.  <br /><br /><img class="image_align_center" src="" alt="" width="600" /></p> <p class="p1">I blinked. </p> <p class="p1">He was actually wearing a concierge uniform—a long coat and a name tag on his left breast. I couldn’t make it out from the distance between us. </p> <p class="p1">I blinked again. Once more, the uniform.<span style="line-height: 1.5;"> </span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">I heard marching bands, cheering crowds, a parade of pampered high-stepping horses. Feathers and things. </span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">I strained for the sounds echoing as the procession passed. It was impossible. The hotel lobby pianist drowned everything out.</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> </span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The young prince saw me looking at him and sweetly came over to see if I was alright.</span></p> <p class="p1">I drowned in his blue swimming pool eyes. I became lost in the golden forest of his hair. He seemed to take this as an invitation to sit beside me.</p> <p class="p1">He flicked his coat tails. (“I have to lift my skirts to sit down,” I swear he said). <span style="line-height: 1.5;">I noticed his name tag: Greatrex. </span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Am I really in another world? Greatrex means "great king." </span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The young man is definitely royal. From one of the blonde countries. Scandanavian? No, my instinct told me he is Austrian. He is the heir to the Hapsburg dynasty. He belongs on a stamp. </span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">I asked him what he is doing at the hotel.</span></p> <p class="p1">“I am 18 years old and am on a gap year,” he smiled. “I want to be a geophysicist."</p> <p class="p1">“A what?”</p> <p class="p1">“A geophysicist.”</p> <p class="p1">“What is that?” </p> <p class="p1">“It is someone who studies the earth—gravity, magnetic, electrical and seismic impulses. I want to work as a geophysicist in the oil business."</p> <p class="p1">“Not on an oil rig?” I was aghast. (Reality can be very intrusive.)</p> <p class="p1">“No,” the young prince replied. “High up in a skyscraper office in a room full of computers.”</p> <p class="p1">“A king in the sky!” <span style="line-height: 1.5;">I said it aloud.</span></p> <p class="p1">“What did you say?” he asked.</p> <p class="p1">I waved my hand towards to the pianist. “I thought the song he was playing was 'A King in the Sky.'”</p> <p class="p1">“No, it’s 'Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,'” said the heir to the throne of Austria.</p> <p class="p1">Smoke was certainly in my eyes—Strauss waltzes, cotillions, chandeliers all whirled through my cloudy mind.</p> <p class="p1">“I prefer Lorde,” the young prince said.</p> <p class="p1">“Of course,” I rejoined. “Royals.”</p> <p class="p1">“What?” He seemed puzzled.</p> <p class="p1">The medals on his uniform were blinding me. I blinked again. <span style="line-height: 1.5;">He was gathering the skirts of his long concierge coat and returning to his desk. </span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">As he did so, I saw him in an ermine cloak approaching the altar where he </span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">was to be crowned emperor. </span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The Vienna Boy’s Choir raised in celebratory song, obliterated the pianist who was now well into "The Way You Look Tonight." </span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">I swear I saw Greatrex of Austria kneeling at the altar, the Imperial crown raised in the air, ready to be placed on the young prince’s golden hair.</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> </span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">I pulled myself together. This is not the Rage. It is not the Cocoanut Grove. </span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">It is not even Austria.   </span></p> <p class="p1">It took me a long time to get back to 90069, climb into bed between crisp white sheets and fall asleep.</p> <p class="p1">I  saw Greatrex at the balcony of the Hofburg in Vienna—golden, shining, much admired, accepting the approval of a roaring crowd.</p> <p class="p1">I left the lobby. It was starting to twirl around.</p> <p class="p1">Days later, I picked up photos at CVS. There among them was <span style="line-height: 1.5;">a picture of me on a couch in the lobby of the Langham Hotel. Next to </span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">me was the young concierge. </span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">I immediately returned to the Langham Hotel. </span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The concierge desk was manned by someone else. Elderly. Grey. Tired. </span></p> <p class="p1">“Where is  the young Greatrex?” I asked.</p> <p class="p1">“He has finished his gap year and returned to his geophysicist studies,” I was told.  </p> <p class="p1">What I heard was “He has gone to Austria to claim his birthright—the throne.” </p> <p class="p1">“I thought so,” I said.</p> <p class="p1">I drove home in filthy air and gridlocked traffic. It seemed very, very long.</p>, 25 Dec 2013 16:30:00 GMTMichael MenziesEncounter with a Mysterious Server at WeHo Bistro<p>The tab where the server's name appears read FB. Frank Bridges I <span style="line-height: 1.5;">thought to myself. But since he is Latin—all golden, lush-lipped, dark liquid eyes and sphinx-like, it surely couldn’t be. I began to think of him as Fantastically Buff. F</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">or this young man is indeed fantastically buff. Perfectly proportioned. Had he been alive in Michelangelo’s day, the sculptor would have sent David home and had FB pose for him.  </span></p> <p class="p1"><span style="line-height: 1.5;"><img class="image_align_center" src="" alt="" width="500" /></span></p> <p class="p1">It would be a cliché to say he is tall, dark and handsome, although he is all of these things. Not over-gymed, no steroid aid, he has arms that Superman would envy, a chest, a waist, a butt any male model or film star would die for. Patrons of the WeHo Bistro, too!</p> <p class="p1">There is a secret, mysterious, even melancholy air about FB. He doesn’t give much away. Over a period of six months I learned little of him other than his devotion to his family, demonstrated vividly in the answers to the questions I posed to him. And there is an air of sweetness about him, shown in the way he welcomed me back after an absence of some time. He seemed generally pleased to see me. <span style="line-height: 1.5;">I was enchanted and surprised in equal measure.</span></p> <p class="p1">I asked him if he would participate in an article for my column, Service,<span style="line-height: 1.5;"> and if so, whether he would give me his e-mail address. He wrote </span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">it down on a scrap of paper. I looked at it—a mystery!. Zs and 2s, zeros and capital Os were all part of it. I had to ask him to decipher it, fearful that those sinister Maeler-Daemon people would return it marked "undeliverable.”</span></p> <p class="p1">But it worked. I sent him the questions, and after a delay, received his responses. “I was super sick,” he apologized. Everything about him is super.  </p> <p class="p1">He told me his name is really Osvaldo. He never explained the initials FB, so I am sure they do, in fact, stand for Fantastically Buff.</p> <p class="p2"><strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">What is your dream for yourself?<br /></span></strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">My dream is to go around the world with my sisters. </span></p> <p class="p1"><strong>Your perfect day?</strong><br /><span style="line-height: 1.5;">That’s always at home, chilling, watching movies and going to the Farmers Market.</span></p> <p class="p1"><strong>What music you are currently listening to?<br /></strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">[<em>His answer was preceded by a happy face with a Buick grill-like grin. He obviously loves current music.</em>] </span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Miley Cyrus. Lorde. Nelly Furtado. Justin Timberlake. Rihanna. Katy Perry. Etc. [<em>I have a subscription to </em>Rolling Stone<em> magazine, so I know all of them with the exception of “etc."</em>]</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> </span></p> <p class="p1"><strong>Your best friend?<br /></strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">My Mom. My sisters. [<em>FB is shyly monosyllabic.</em>]</span></p> <p class="p1"><strong>Your first memory?<br /></strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">I was 5 years old. My mom waking me up to watch Ana Gabriel’s </span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">music videos.</span></p> <p class="p1"><strong>Your greatest fear?<br /></strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Losing any of my loved ones.</span></p> <p class="p1"><strong>Your favorite hang-out place?<br /></strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">My family house. Hanging out with Nana. What can I say? I am a family guy.<br /><br /><img class="image_align_center" src="" alt="" width="500" /> </span></p> <p class="p1"><strong>Your greatest influence.<br /></strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">It will always be my Mom. Nothing was impossible for her. Anything her </span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">children wanted, she made happen for us. Hard work. Great love.</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> </span></p> <p><strong>Your favorite time of day?<br /></strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">When I am done with work! [<em>Another smiley face.</em>]</span></p> <p class="p1"><strong>Boxers or briefs?<br /></strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Well, I wear briefs when I go to work. I never wear boxers. And when I </span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">am at home, I wear neither.</span></p> <p class="p1">Home sweet home, I thought to myself, adding my own smiley face.</p>, 24 Dec 2013 16:33:00 GMTMichael MenziesService: Matthew at the Burger Lounge<p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">There are a lot of ‘bests’ at The Burger Lounge, a restaurant in a mini-mall on Sunset at Alta Loma. The best hamburgers in Los Angeles (moist and delicious), the best booths in the city (comfortable and private) and the best manager (Matthew Perrye, a friendly and likeable guy who, if he were an actor would be cast as the best friend). I asked Matthew a few questions. He answered them with charm. <br /><br /><img class="image_align_center" src="" alt="" width="360" /> </span></p> <p class="p1"><strong>You came from Chicago. Was Los Angeles what you expected?</strong> <br />It was 50/50. Most people have ideas of what Los Angeles is like before arriving here. Going out every night to fabulous places, posing for photo shoots, bumping into celebrities everywhere. I expected people were shopping or at the beach all the time. (I brought a ton of board shorts.)  Being from Chicago, which is also a  major city, my expectations were perhaps less than someone from a smaller place—like, say, Kalamazoo, Mich., for instance. However, moving here, I found everything bigger and more intimidating than I anticipated. There was so much going on. Once I started making friends and began working, the city became a lot smaller and a lot more comfortable. The board shorts didn’t hurt either. </p> <p class="p1">I live and work in West Hollywood, so that's my life and it’s what I know. I go to a lot of the same restaurants and bars, see a lot of the same people out and about, so it is less intimidating and less giant. More manageable. But it took a while.</p> <p class="p1"><strong>What do you like most about the city?</strong> <br />I love the weather. The dry heat. Being into physical activity and fitness, I like the wide range of options open to me. There are many gym choices with different price points. Something for everyone. All types of fitness classes  that put a new twist on traditional working out. Los Angeles has its own version of pilates, yoga, cycling, urban sweat lodges all for the health and body-conscious person.</p> <p class="p1"><em>I was listening intently to Matthew and at the same time admiring his forearms.  I have never dieted nor exercised in my life, and at this point of the interview I put down my hamburger, half-finished, as though I was through with my  meal.  I nodded in agreement with everything he was saying and sucked in my stomach as much as I could. He continued.</em></p> <p class="p1">I also like living in the ‘bubble’ that is West Hollywood. It makes everything more ‘city-like.’ I can walk to the gym from the restaurant. All my friends are nearby, and so is the gym. I wish Los Angeles was more of a walking city like Chicago or New York City. Walking is good for the legs and the butt.</p> <p class="p1"><em>So is the gym, I thought to myself, but said nothing, smiled wanly and looked wistfully at my unfinished hamburger. I asked Matthew another question.</em></p> <p class="p1"><strong>What’s the thing you most dislike about the city?</strong> <br />The ‘WeHo bubble.’ [<em>Laughs</em>] I love it and I hate it. Love it because of the reasons I just gave, but hate it because as the groups of friends I made got closer, it seems like I can never escape ‘drama.’ I am not fond of drama. I like a laid-back life.</p> <p class="p1">I also hate the traffic and congestion and gridlock. I try and take as many side streets as possible. I have lived here for six and a half years and know side streets really well. I have become a sort of alley cat, I guess. It’s crazy how consistent traffic is here. There is no rush hour in the morning and none at night.  It’s rush hour all day long, except late at night.</p> <p class="p1"><strong>You share the name of a famous actor. Do you ever take advantage of it in making reservations or in some other way?</strong> <br />When I first moved to L.A. and wanted to try all the restaurants here, I did use my name to get same-night reservations at places that were new and popular and trendy. I didn't feel bad about it because technically I am not lying—Matthew Perrye is my actual birth name. The actor lacks an ‘e’ at the end of his Perry. That’s not my fault!</p> <p class="p1"><strong>Where in the world would you most want to visit?</strong> <br />I have a friend who moved to Australia, so I would love to make it there and see the country. And her, too, of course. Greece as well, specifically Mykonos. I also think Spain would be fun to visit and explore. I have been to Italy and I have been to France. Both were amazing  and made me fall in love with Europe. Definitely Paris again!</p> <p class="p1"><strong>What is currently on your IPod?</strong> <br />I listen to my playlist in the car and at the gym. It’s a mix of my current favorite songs. Right now the playlist is “Clarity (Zedd Union Mix)” by Zedd. “Roar,” “Dark Horse (feat. Juicy J)” and “Walking on Air” by Katy Perry. “Black & Gold (Marcussen)” by Sam Sparro. “Get Loose (Tiesto Remix)” by Showtek & Noisecontrollers. “Alone” by Armin van Buuren feat. Lauren Evans. “No Church in the Wild” by Kanye West and Jay-Z. “Springen” by Makj. “Slow Down” by Selena Gomez. “Counting Stars” by One Republic.</p> <p class="p1"><em>What the hell? I thought to myself. I don’t know most of those, so I picked up the half-hamburger I had abandoned  in the hope of impressing Matthewduring the gym talk. I greedily took a large, juicy bite. I don’t think he even noticed. So much for impressing him!</em></p> <p class="p1"><strong>What is your ultimate ambition?</strong> <br />I am taking my real estate license exam in December and hope to become successful in that field. I also want to find a guy that I really like and have a great relationship and eventually get married and have one or two kids.</p> <p class="p1"><strong>Your favorite meal?</strong> <br />Any Asian food. I love Thai, Japanese, Chinese. </p> <p class="p1"><strong>Your favorite TV show?</strong> <br /><em>Scandal</em>. Best show on television right now. The best! Amazing story line, plot, characters, writing. Shonda Rhimes is a genius, and that show is super addictive. Everyone I know who watches the first episode becomes obsessed and hooked on it. </p> <p class="p1"><em>I finished my hamburger—not even a crumb left on the plate—and asked Matthew the last question.</em></p> <p class="p1"><strong>Boxers or Briefs?</strong> <br />Boxer briefs. Being a gay man in West Hollywood, one always needs to wear cute underwear.</p> <p class="p1"><em>He flashed a huge, stunning smile, whisked my plate away and went somewhere backstage. I waited a while for my heart to slow down. I considered going to the gym (Equinox is just across the road), but decided it wasn’t a good idea on a full stomach so went home and tried to download “Get Loose” by Showtek & Noisecontrollers. I failed to do so. I flopped onto my bed with a box of bon bons and the latest copy of </em>Vanity Fair<em> (with Jay-Z on the cover).</em></p>, 06 Dec 2013 15:16:00 GMTMichael MenziesConnie & Ted's and David<p>Connie and Ted are all about fish.</p> <p>They have opened an upscale fish restaurant on the spot where the iconic Silver Spoon restaurant stood on Santa Monica Boulevard. It is always jam-packed on weekends, the only days they are open for lunch. It could be the crab cakes, it could be the sole, it could be the lobster roll that brings the customers in.<br /> <br />But I believe it is David.<br /><br /><img class="image_align_center" src="" alt="" width="300" /><br /> <br />He is a young, up-and-coming actor, working (as so many of them do) as a waiter. However, he never gives attitude or considers himself too grand for the work as others of his ilk do. He is pleasant, engaging, shares light laughter with his patrons and has a boy-next-door quality that makes one feel downright neighborly. One day an agent is going to come into the restaurant, be as charmed as most patrons of Connie & Ted’s are by David, and his career will then begin with a non-stop upward-bound trajectory that would put Haley’s Comet and Chad Michael Murray into the shade.<br /> <br />I asked David 10 questions. <br /> <br /><strong>Was Los Angeles what you expected when you arrived here from New Jersey?<br /></strong>That question reminds me of the “high on life” moment I experienced the morning my girlfriend and I set out on the road for our cross-country trip to Los Angeles to start a new life. She was driving and it suddenly hit me—I was finally fulfilling my dream to move to L.A. All of a sudden I was <em>stoned</em>! Naturally high! I just started to laugh—ya know, that kind of laughter that is so overwhelming it almost hurts. Like when you were a kid. I had my head out the window and was screaming at the top of my lungs with joy. It was the best feeling I ever felt. So yes, Los Angeles was what I expected—perhaps even more. The weather was perfect. Palm trees lined Sunset Boulevard, and there was nothing but endless possibilities ahead of me. Best decision of my life.<br /> <br /><strong>Describe your perfect day.</strong><br />Morning coffee (cream and two sugars). A big lunch. Sexy nap with my lady—same one I arrived in Los Angeles with. Long drive somewhere. Our favorite song on the radio ("Bittersweet Symphony" by The Verve). The sun is setting the way I like it, and the car windows are open. A nice restaurant with good bread. Bottle of wine (Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.) Great conversation about life and what it means. Dance party back at home. Another sexy nap with my lady.<br /> <br /><strong>The day you looked (and felt) your best?</strong><br />This was recently. My girlfriend and I have spent 10 passionate and crazy years together, sometimes off and sometimes on (hey, we are human after all.) I had made reservations for us at Mozza. My barber had just given me a fresh look (short with a side parting) and I was in a black Varvatos suit. I could see in her eyes that she was impressed and turned on by me. I’m going to marry that girl!<br /> <br /><strong>Your best friend?</strong> <br />My best friend is Brian Eldridge. He is a great guy, and I am thrilled that he is in my corner. Whenever he tells a story he always has to say the year it happened and the girl he was seeing at the time. “Yeah, I went to that restaurant—it was in ’06. I was dating this chick with long legs and great big breasts. She was 5’7”. Remember?” I say yes, even if I don’t remember. Brian makes me smile.<br /> <br /><strong>Your first memory?</strong> <br />I was young. Probably 4. My father worked as a bartender. He would come home early in the morning or late at night. He would wake me up when it was still dark out. We would drive to the top of a hill somewhere in West Orange, New Jersey, and watch the sunrise. Then we would go out to breakfast and eat 'pannycakes.' That’s what I called them back then.  We would bring home bagels for my sisters and my mother. I knew even at that young age that this was something very special. It was father and son bonding, and a tradition to be passed on.<br /> <br /><strong>Your greatest fear?</strong> <br />My greatest fear is not being able to provide for my future family.<br /> <br /><strong>Your favorite 'hang-out' place?</strong><br />I dunno. I just like it when my best buddies from home are either out here or I’m home visiting and we’re just lounging on the couch cracking jokes and being a bunch of stooges.  Talking about where we’re gonna eat next.<br /> <br /><strong>Who is your greatest influence, and why?</strong><br /><span style="line-height: 1.5;">That’s a tough one, but I’m gonna say Zach Braff. He wrote, directed, scored and starred in the 2004 movie <em>Garden State</em>. I related to that film in every single way possible.  he story, and the story behind the story and how he got it made. That was my dream, and some guy from Jersey just like me did it. I always knew I was born to be an actor/film maker. <em>Garden State</em> proved it could be possible. I knew what I had to do, but it would still be another four years, a BA in business and a whole lot of running from fear before I would go for it. Now it’s four years later and I’m in it and I’m here. Sometimes I wish I never saw that movie. [<em>Laughs</em>]</span><br /> <br /><strong>Your favorite time of day?</strong><br />Magic hour. The hour before the sun sets—on my day off, especially in the fall, which happens to be my favorite season. The sky is pink and orange and blue. There is a chill in the air, a slight breeze—sweater weather. And I’ve got no place else to be.<br /> <br /><strong>Boxers or briefs?</strong><br /><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Boxer briefs. I like the ones from GAP.</span></p>, 14 Nov 2013 12:36:00 GMTMichael MenziesSteve at the Pikey<p>Steve is his name. He is a waiter at The Pikey on Sunset Boulevard. He was sporting a bushy, hermit-like beard when i entered for lunch. It did not diminish his friendly smile.</p> <p>When I commented on the beard, he said, “I went to Alaska and grew it so that when I was there they wouldn’t think I was from Los Angeles. It completed my goal of visiting all the states of the union, which began with a family trip to Hawaii when I was 11 years old.” If my arithmetic is correct, this makes Steve 27 years old now.<br /><br /><img style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" src="" alt="" width="300" /> </p> <p>In Alaska he met up—via facebook—with an old college chum who dons scuba gear and goes underwater to count salmon.</p> <p>It’s amazing how much one can learn when one just wants fish ‘n chips.</p> <p>Steve is a musician—a bass player, both stand-up bass and guitar—and most of the states were visited while performing with his band.</p> <p>I asked him the following 10 questions.</p> <p><strong>1. Is Los Angeles what you expected when you decided to move here?<br /></strong>I'd say it's actually better than what I had expected. I've been coming here since I was 6, and a lot more frequently the last couple years. It was a deliberate move, and it's definitely tough out here, but it's been one of the best decisions I've made. It's been just over a year, and I'm looking forward to the next ones!</p> <p><strong>2. The state you visited that you most liked...<br /></strong>Tough to say. Every state has the best and worst of it. Crossing into Montana at 5:45 in the morning from Canada was something I'll never forget. There are mountains, plateaus mesas, and bizarre rock formations that when back-lit by the sunrise makes you feel like you're on a different planet altogether. That's just one story—every state has one. If I have to pick, I'll keep my current situation of California/Pennsylvania as a tie for first. I'll keep the beach and the weather here, and I'll take the fall, the mountains and people of Pennsylvania. I can do that, right?</p> <p><strong>3. The state you visited that you were most disappointed with...<br /></strong>This is a tricky question. Every state has something interesting about it, and plus, I have friends in most of them. While I try to keep my friends, all I can say is that driving through Ohio is particularly cumbersome—as are the Great Plains. Sorry guys, but I know you know this. Three hundred miles of next to nothing is a pretty huge bummer. (I'm looking at you, Oklahoma.)</p> <p><strong>4. The best concert experience you had as a musician...<br /></strong>April 30, 2010, I played a hockey arena in Finland to over 5,000 people. It was the biggest crowd I've ever played to, in the biggest place as well. I turned the amp up so loud it blew up and was sparking behind the speakers.  The energy that was in the air in that place was overwhelming in intensity. It's like you're part of something that feels and sounds like a train, and you're the conductor. That memory will stay with me forever.</p> <p><strong>5. The worst concert experience you had as a musician...<br /></strong>I've played shows to literally no one before. That's always really disheartening—when you drive 10-12 hours at night to make it to the next city, and either it's a bad night for weather or the promoter didn't tell anyone. Whatever the case, it's rough. But aside from that, I'll never forget when I played in Sterling, Virginia (just outside D.C.). On one particular occasion, I sent the singer of my band to the hospital to get six staples in his head.  I swung my bass around as hard as I could and didn't see him standing there. He hit the floor and a pool of blood started growing behind his hair. I thought I had just killed him. He laid there for a minute with his eyes open, and then he tried to get up, but we forced him to stay down while we called an ambulance. On top of all that, I broke the headstock on my bass because of it. Tour injuries happen all the time, so there wasn't bad blood after it, though we were a lot more careful at the next show.<br /><br /><img style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" src="" alt="" width="500" /> </p> <p><strong>6. Best concert you attended as a member of the audience...<br /></strong>At Silver Mt. Zion in Pittsburgh. I've always been a fan of Godspeed You! Black Emperor (their parent band), but when they played, it was cathartic. When they set up onstage, they face each other and not the audience.  They don't perform for <em>you—</em>you are witnessing a performance. They put together sweeping vocal rounds over the top of a mix of strings and distorted guitar, upright bass, and jazz-influenced drums. The kicker for me was when the main singer pulled out a megaphone and recreated the studio effect live on "Microphones in the Trees." There's just so much passion and care to go that extra mile for your art. It's inspired me ever since.</p> <p><strong>7. Your favorite song...<br /></strong>This changes all the time, but the song I've been listening to most frequently is "What's Going On" by Marvin Gaye. As an artist, that song still holds so much relevance. It's a comment on the times—war, oppression and how we're a part of it. It pushes that analysis of how I interact with the world and helps me center my thoughts and actions. As a bassist, that song has the most musical, groove-oriented bass-line ever. James Jamerson is one of my heroes, and you can hear his influence everywhere. It's the song I practice most and still listen to anyway.  </p> <p><strong>8. Your favorite singer and/or group...<br /></strong>My all-time favorite band is The Clash. They've always been the ultimate for me. The attitude, the DIY ethic, the interaction with the fans and the ability to incorporate so many different styles of music. If I could be a member in any band, it would be that one. Or even just be to part of the audience at one of their shows. They broke up before I was born, and Joe Strummer died before they did a reunion. I don't really get star-struck anymore, but I think if I met any of those guys, I'd have to tell them what an impact they've had on me. </p> <p><strong>9. Do you have a girlfriend at the moment?<br /></strong>What day is it? Tuesday? Not today... In the interest of not sounding like an complete asshole, the real answer is, "No, I don't." [Laughs]     </p> <p><strong>10. Boxers or briefs?<br /></strong>Boxer-briefs.</p> <p>Steve is a very likeable young man, and he has endless stories from his life. He wants readers to know he is touring and playing around Los Angeles with Justin Ruane and also with Lena and the Stone. Catch him if you can.</p>, 07 Nov 2013 12:30:00 GMTMichael MenziesThe Boys from Lisbon<p><img class="image_align_center" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" src="" alt="" width="420" /></p> <p>An out of town visitor—a good friend of mine—was staying at the Palihouse hotel in West Hollywood. We agreed we would meet for dinner at a nearby restaurant.</p> <p>I chose the WeHo Bistro, which was within walking distance for both of us, at La Cienega and Holloway.</p> <p>A waiter with curly dark hair framing a face of youthful beauty and a smile that sent out sparks or stars—something blinding—stood ready to take our order.</p> <p>“What do you recommend?” asked Stephen of the waiter.</p> <p>“Don’t ask that,” I told Stephen. “You have to have a frame of reference. Find out what his favorite movie is. Then you will have an idea of his taste.”</p> <p>The waiter was ready. "<em>The Master</em>,” he said.</p> <p>“Huh?” was our reaction.</p> <p>“<em>The Master</em>. I saw it last night on DVD,” the waiter explained. “It starred Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix, both of whom were nominated for best actor Oscars for their performances in the movie. People thought it was about Scientology, although ...”</p> <p>I cut the waiter short and turned to Stephen. “If you liked <em>The Master</em>, consider his recommendation. Had he said <em>Gigli—</em>well, surely you would order something else.”</p> <p>“I suggest the duck,” said the waiter, trying to hide his amusement. “<em>Gigli</em>?” he asked.</p> <p>“A movie with Ben Affleck and J.Lo.—a big flop, but I sort of enjoyed it,” Stephen said. “I remember <em>The Master,</em>” now he added. "I didn’t like it.”</p> <p>“Nor did I,” I replied. “But I will have the duck. I like duck.”</p> <p>“So much for your frame of reference,” the waiter impudently told me. But his smile and the stars that shone from it took away the sting from his remark. His voice was ever-so-slightly accented. I couldn’t place it.</p> <p>“Where are you from?” I asked.</p> <p>“Portugal,” he told me.</p> <p>“A country I love,” I gushed truthfully. “Where in Portugal?”</p> <p>“Sintra,” he replied. “It’s outside Lisbon.”</p> <p>“I know it well. Catherine Deneuve goes there to rest after making a movie.” (I am a mine of useless information.)</p> <p>“How about the petit mignon?” Stephen asked.</p> <p>“How do you feel about the petit mignon?" I asked the waiter, whose name I had learned was Francisco.</p> <p>“Everything is good here.” He could be a diplomat, I thought. <br /><br />“What did you do in Portugal?” I asked.</p> <p>“I was an actor in a local soap opera on Portuguese television,” he told me, scribbling our order down. “Two petit mignons and a duck.”</p> <p>“That was the name of your soap opera?” I asked incredulously.</p> <p>“No, it was your order.”</p> <p>There were four Russian ladies literally bristling with diamonds at a nearby table, obviously waiting for him to take their order, but I wanted to learn a little more about Francisco before sending him to Kiev.</p> <p>“What was the name of the TV program?”</p> <p>“<em>Sweet Strawberries.</em> I played a basketball player.”</p> <p>I immediately imagined him in shorts and a singlet, dribbling a ball expertly around the court. It was a lovely sight.</p> <p>“Was your character a good guy or a bad guy?”</p> <p>“A bad guy,” he said—a smile so bright one could have done brain surgery by its light.</p> <p>He left our table and went to Kiev.</p> <p>“Blintzes?” they asked.</p> <p>“No blintzes,” he replied. “How about the duck?”</p> <p>As we were leaving, Francisco kindly held the door open for us.</p> <p>“Thank you for coming,” he said. A pause, and then he asked, “Your favorite movie?” A cat playing with a mouse—tables turned.</p> <p>“<em>Brief Encounter</em>,” I replied.</p> <p>“How apt,” he grinned. A real bad-boy grin.</p> <p>A few weeks later I returned to the Weho Bistro. Another waiter, also handsome, also tall, also with a slight accent.</p> <p>“What is your name?” I asked, “and where are you from?”</p> <p>“My name is Tiago, and I am from Portugal.” A neon smile.</p> <p>“This restaurant seems to specialize in boys from Lisbon,” I said. “The other day I was here and met Francisco.”</p> <p>“He is my best friend, and we are roommates,” Tiago said. “We came to America together.”</p> <p>“Francisco told me his favorite movie is <em>The Master.</em>” </p> <p>“That was last week,” Tiago replied. “Francisco told me of you, and your favorite movie question. He said he enjoyed meeting you.”</p> <p>Boom! Boom! Boom! (It was my heart.)</p> <p>“Are you an actor, too?”</p> <p>“Yes. Francisco and I met when we were both on the TV show <em>Sweet Strawberries</em>."<br /><br /><img class="image_align_center" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" src="" alt="" width="420" /> </p> <p>“Were you a basketball player, too?” I imagined Tiago in shorts—another lovely sight. Sweet strawberries, indeed!</p> <p>“No, I was a priest."</p> <p>“You seem very young to play a priest.”</p> <p>“He was a very young priest.”</p> <p>“Oh, a good guy”</p> <p>“No, my character was bad. Francisco’s was good.”</p> <p>“That’s not what he told me,” I said.</p> <p><em>They are confused, these Portuguese boys</em>, I said to myself. Perhaps a language problem.</p> <p>I had to ask, “What is your favorite movie?”</p> <p>“I was hoping you would ask," Tiago said. “I have had my answer ready in case you came back. It is called <em>A Swedish Love Story</em>.”</p> <p>“Oh,” I nodded. “<em>En Kärlekshistoria</em>,” I said in an off-handed manner.</p> <p>“You know it?” He was very impressed.</p> <p>“I am a mine of useless information,” I responded.</p>, 24 Oct 2013 12:37:00 GMTMichael MenziesA Witty Waiter<p><img class="image_align_center" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" src="" alt="" width="420" /></p> <p>While in Miami recently, Eduardo (my partner of 30 years) and I took his mother out to dinner at the SLS hotel in Miami Beach.<br /> <br />The waiter who took our order was named Ian. He was extremely handsome, spoke Spanish and took the order from Eduardo and his mother in that language. I think he said he came from Wales, but under his spell, I just sat there slightly unbalanced, staring at him, wondering what he looked like in a tuxedo or a speedo. <br /> <br />He spent a lot of time with Eduardo and his mother, chatting animatedly with occasional laughter and a lot of smiling. (I later learned that it concerned the merits of the shrimp over the scallops and which was tastier, the <em>beer sui mai</em> or the <em>kueh pad ti</em>?)<br /> <br />Then he turned to me and asked me something in Spanish. I think it was, “You are the most dazzling man I have ever seen, and what would you like to order?”<br /> <br />“I don’t speak Spanish,” I told him.<br /> <br />“But I thought you were a couple,” Ian replied, referring to either Eduardo or his 94-year-old mother. I am not sure which.<br /> <br />I told Ian that I never learned Spanish, because when people were speaking it I  imagined they were discussing epic poetry or great philosophy or how beautiful the late Pamela Harriman’s floral arrangements were. I have since learned this is not the case.<br /> <br />Talk in Spanish, it seems, consists mostly of small talk about weather and how that lady over there has on too much jewelry or makeup—the same sort of rubbish most people speak in English—so I never bothered mastering any Spanish beyond “más café, por favor,” which has gotten me through many a morning and many a night.<br /> <br />I looked Ian in his glorious eyes (green, speckled with gold) and smiled brilliantly. “I have no idea what you were talking about when you were speaking with my companions, but it seemed very exciting and it went on for a long time.”<br /> <br />“Ah,” Ian sighed, a smile spreading across his face, as I could see the wheels of his mind turn. Quick as an arrow, he said, “We were discussing the Moorish invasion of Spain in the early eighth century and the genealogy of the Bourbon royal family.” <br /> <br />If I had been a little girl of 12, I would have clapped my hands in glee.<br /> <br />I clapped my hands in glee.<br /> <br />He smiled at me. Sunrise! Mountaintops! Tropical beaches!<br /> <br />“And what would you like?” he continued, pencil poised over his waiter's pad.<br /> <br />I had fallen madly, truly, deeply in love—the everlasting kind that is over 10 minutes later. “I would like to run away with you and take you on a yacht trip in the Mediterranean for two weeks, just us alone,” I gushed. “Except, of course, for the crew.”<br /> <br />“How about the chicken croquettes, and you can take a photograph of me instead?” Ian replied kindly.<br /> <br />I ordered the chicken croquettes, and Eduardo took the photograph.<br /> <br />I liked both, but I can only share one with you. </p> <p>I'm still slightly in love...</p>, 10 Oct 2013 14:30:00 GMTMichael MenziesChampagne, Caviar and Christopher<p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">All three—champagne, caviar and Christopher—sparkle, and all three are on-hand at Petrossian West Hollywood.</span></p> <p dir="ltr"><span>Isolated from his fellow students at elementary school because of his ADD, </span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Christopher would swing his legs wondering idly why he wasn’t included </span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">in class activity.</span></p> <p dir="ltr"><span>Perhaps it is this experience that has made him the most charming host at one of the most charming restaurants in West Hollywood. He makes everyone feel extraordinarily welcome and totally included. If only his classmates could see him now!<br /><br /><img class="image_align_center" src="" alt="" width="600" /> </span></p> <p><strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">What was the first time you tasted champagne?<br /></span></strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The first time was when I was 14 or 15, at my father’s restaurant on a New Year’s Eve celebration. Someone snuck me a small glass. I felt great when I was included in the toast.</span></p> <p><strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Your first taste of caviar?<br /></span></strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Five years ago when I joined the Petrossian family. [Christopher</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> is now the general m</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">anager of the West Hollywood location.]</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> The Petrossian company has taught me a lot about caviar, luxury and integrity. I love working here, and I </span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">love sharing the history of the company with diners.</span></p> <p><strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">I know that you're a big sports fan. What was the best game you ever watched? <br /></span></strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">No question—game six of the 2011 World Series. The St. Louis Cardinals were down to their last strike on several occasions, fighting back furiously to win. They eventually came from behind to a nail-biting victory over the Texas Rangers. Truly thrilling, edge-of-your-seat stuff.  The Cardinals went on to win the World Series the following night, which made it all the better.</span></p> <p><strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Describe your perfect date.<br /></span></strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Dressing up, going to a show, followed by an amazing dinner and not once </span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">looking at the time.</span></p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>The day you looked your best?<br /></strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Whenever I am wearing a well-tailored suit! It has as much to do with the </span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">tailor as it does me. [</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">He is being extremely modest. He is very handsome, with a most winning gap-toothed smile—part of his success.]</span></p> <p><strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Best day at work so far?<br /></span></strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Holidays. Friendly faces stopping by to buy caviar, catching up with their lives, hearing the changes they have gone through, their travels, plans for the new year. I have such a great clientele that on any given day I’m not sure who is going to stop by. I live in an air of high anticipation.</span></p> <p><strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">What music are you listening to at the moment?<br /></span></strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Chuck Berry, after seeing the documentary <em>Hail! Hail! Rock n’ Roll</em>. We are both originally from St. Louis. He is such a dynamic, polarizing, complex and hugely talented man. I also listen to Andrew Bird, Juana Molina and </span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Rufus Wainwright.  I always have Talking Heads and David Byrne on a playlist. And I can’t stop listening to Kanye’s latest album, <em>Yeezus</em>.</span></p> <p><strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The biggest surprise or shock of your life?<br /></span></strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">I was a senior in high school, up late watching <em>The Breakfast Club—</em></span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">a great movie, by the way. About 1 a.m. my father came downstairs, which was unusual for him at that time of night. He looked out of sorts. It turned out he was having a major heart attack. My mother and I raced him off to the hospital. Luckily he is still with us today. But I tell you, that is surely something I have never forgotten.</span></p> <p><strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Your favorite actress? <br /></span></strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Hands down, Cate Blanchett. But I also think Marion Cotillard and Amy Adams are not far behind.</span></p> <p><strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">And lastly, boxers or briefs?<br /></span></strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Is there no mystery left in the world? Boxer briefs, if I must answer.</span></p>, 02 Jan 2013 14:30:00 GMTMichael Menzies