AROUND LA WITH AVA: LA “SEASONS”

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

LA “SEASONS”

How does that song go?  ‘To every season—turn, turn, turn…’

On occasion we have teased about LA’s 5 day Winters.   This year the dial did get stuck on semi-cold for a few extra days, but “cold” simply means it is not in the 70’s!

To most Angelenos, “Four Seasons” is a grand hotel in Beverly Hills –or Spring, Summer, Fall, and AWARDS!

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AWARDS

That Season is now upon us: Golden Globes, Academy Awards, Screenwriters Guild, People’s Choice …and the list goes on.  Just to be sure the other entertainment moguls do not get ‘center stage’, Hollywood arranges Film Festivals from the Sea to the Desert.  [Check out Tomi Hinkkanen’s FinnTimes article…]  Some are quite ‘fun’ …but, I digress.

SEASONS

You may have noticed that this year’s build up to Christmas saw an outlandish stretch of the ‘buying’ season almost back to August .  The mail order catalogues arrived earlier, in greater frequency, and from more vendors—all of whom have their own ‘on line’ options.  The local newspapers may have finally stopped losing money hand-over-fist because o f the advertising supplements that made the papers look like they had more than a half dozen readable pages.

For Your Consideration ads are plastered all over trade magazines

For Your Consideration ads are plastered all over trade magazines

At this season, what are called the “trades” (The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, and the like) get heavy with special advertising supplements for the movie moguls to promote their latest releases: first for Award nominations and, now, for Awards.  Their payoff comes when the Awards make their product a ‘must see’.  These supplements create ‘buzz’ that provide a real money-making formula–PROMOTIONS!

PROMOTIONS

One of my favorite things about the Award Season is the series of ‘Red Carpets’ which epitomize the glamour of Hollywood as every little girl dreams it should be!  I love the ‘pre-game’ speculation about who will wear whom/what –who will come with whom, and what Joan Rivers will have to say about ‘what’!  Watching her wickedly irreverent, naughty repartee show is such fun –especially since her daughter attended the same school as my children.  Joan follows in the footsteps of the iconic Mr. Blackwell whose “Best and Worst Dressed” was a must see for decades.  I sat next to Mr. Blackwell one Opening Night at the Pantages Theater.  Having him compliment my outfit is indelibly etched in my feminine memory bank of great experiences!

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Truth be known, there are a lot of ‘sophisticated’ grown-ups who fantasize that special trip ‘behind the ropes’.  And, why not?  That is what the magic of Hollywood is all about—that is why designers design, make-up artists make up, and jewelers let millions of dollars of jewels walk out their doors with no money changing hands.  It is called PROMOTION.

CELEBRITIES

Celebrities become CELEBRITIES through promotion—by the studios, by the events, by the vendors, by their own ‘coolness’/’jerkiness’, by accident [misdemeanors and felonies too], and, occasionally, because of their talent and body of work.  Regardless, we build a fantastic ‘reality’ that is out of this world.  We love it—they love it—and lots of money changes hands in the end!

I love[d] it!!  Great times…grand experiences…opening nights…famous producers… actors and the like…movie premiers…mingling with the glitterati…fabulous parties…..wonderful part of my life.  As my dear Dad likes to say “…those were the days!”

Getting to know people (famous or not) as genuine friends is so precious in my life and memory bank.  That does not happen via TMZ or Inside Edition—or on the red carpet.  It can begin on a long flight, driving someone who did not ‘win’ safely home, or walking a dog.  However, it always takes time and caring—not readily available in 30 second ‘clips’. 

HOVERING

As a young student at Berkeley during the campus riots of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, it felt like living in the center of the universe.  Important things were happening all around.  Important issues had their venue.  And, I was there—so too were hovering helicopters giving an overview to the tanks and National Guardsmen (with bayonets fixed) below.  ‘Sides’ were pitted, one against the other; people were making their voices heard.  It was exhilarating—and scary!  [One day, as the only person driving a car along Telegraph Avenue, I found myself trapped in the middle with bricks from protesters going over the car from one direction and teargas canisters from the NG in the other; no place to escape, stinging fumes all around…that was really scary!]

UC Berkeley in the late. 60's

UC Berkeley in the late. 60’s

‘Where have all the flowers gone…?’

This ‘flower child’ now lives in a peaceful mountain pass [ok, it’s just a big hill] with giant oak trees, wandering wildlife, scenic beauty, and a few, mostly quiet neighbors.  As you know from earlier columns, there are hovering helicopters when there are incidents and accidents, fires, car chases, celebrity sightings, paparazzi stalking, and “breaking news” of any magnitude.

Streetview Camera Car.

Streetview Camera Car.

While I do not mind the traffic choppers taking an occasional ‘hypotenuse’ to give commuters a quick update on the latest traffic jam, I do wonder how [and why] “that GPS mapping company” and its progeny need to memorialize my private property with overhead shots to supplement shots from cameras mounted on cars traveling this little neighborhood.  Family members and Sohvi Koira were unwitting objects of the ‘eye in the sky’ memorialized in photos sent to me via Internet by a tech-savvy friend.   Suddenly, I am much more sympathetic with our local celebrities who are stalked by the paparazzi.

CHASING CELEBRITIES

Living where I do for as long as I have, there is a pattern to the ‘noise’ that intrudes on and surrounds us—much like a Finnish woodsman knows when a moose has passed through his forest and his wife knows when someone has been picking her wild mushrooms.  The other week I could tell from the combination of police car/fire engine/ambulance sirens, followed by the cacophony of news copters overhead, that something serious had happened just behind.  That was the day the paparazzo chasing Justin Bieber’s Ferrari (hoping for a ‘great shot’ when the police pulled the sports car over for speeding) was killed crossing the road.  How sad.

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The sounds of sirens and overhead news helicopters for Prince William and his bride Kate’s post-nuptial trip to our fair City of Angels were much different, even if of similar volume.  Then, we were hosting a Finnish War Veterans’ luncheon event featuring guest speaker Olli Kivioja, former Finnish Surgeon General and President of the Finnish Air Force War Veterans’ Association, who was traveling in the US with his daughter and granddaughter.  We should have rented a microphone so our Veteran and Lotta friends could hear Olli’s presentation! 

Television news helicopters hovering over the City of Angels

Television news helicopters hovering over the City of Angels

Actually, Will and Kate’s visit ‘sounded’ very similar to President Obama’s many LA fundraising events in the political cycle just concluded….    

TRADITIONS—OR, JUST COMFORTABLE ROUTINES

The Christmas season ‘timing’ this year was just perfect for the Finn in me—bookended by weekends!  Such years on a calendar are to be relished because some of that ever-precious Joulurauha [Christmas Peace] is actually possible to try to achieve.  While I missed my Christmas sauna, my dear Dad kept the tradition. 

Not one to trifle with TRADITION, on the morning of 12/30 I had my chance to have some warmth, peace, and quiet in the sauna.  Early that Sunday morning, before anyone else was up, I tiptoed like a little tonntu (wrapped in my Marimekko towel) across the yard under the oak trees to my special Finnish spiritual sanctuary, the sauna.  Warmth, peace, and quiet.  Warmth, peace, and quiet!  Warmth, peace, and quiet!!  What a fun Finnish moment of refreshment, invigoration, and cleansing as a final, beautiful punctuation at the end of the year.  YESSSSS!!!!

Not so fast…Missy!  Another routine ritual was yet to come.  It was Sunday morning— after the first cup of strong coffee and with Sohvi Koira as co-pilot of the car, every Sunday morning involves a trip to the newsstand on San Vicente in Brentwood to buy the New York Times.  This last Sunday of the year, it was a good thing I wore more than my sauna towel! 

As we drove into the Whole Foods-adjacent parking lot to buy the paper, neighborhood pedestrians (looking like tourists) were streaming down the street –a swarm of paparazzi with long camera lenses pressed against the windows were poised for action and were ready to strike.  While a gaggle of paparazzi is not an unfamiliar sight around Brentwood on a weekend, they are usually outside some children’s karate studio hoping to get a shot of a celebrity’s child acting up in class.  Patience, working on boredom, is standard demeanor.  There was agitation and energy on this day—something was up!

Shuffling casually [cool, aloof, blasé, but driven by my journalistic curiosity] in the direction of the Whole Foods store after my newspaper purchase, I passed the swarm of cameras.  I asked my favorite clerk: “…who now?”  Before she could answer, I caught sight of Heidi Klum.  Oh, brother!!  What you have to go through to get a decent box of blueberries in this town!

‘TO EVERY THING TURN, TURN, TURN …’

After the peace and tranquility of a solitary early morning sauna in a sylvan setting, visiting the harsh reality of a celebrity’s daily existence in ‘our world’ makes you wonder if being a star is so heavenly.

The paparazzi have become an omnipresent Los Angeles reality.  You see them around ‘hot’ restaurants, shops, nightclubs, and ‘likely’ events.  They gather like jackals –athletic shoe-attired and having a smoke (expensive ‘quick draw’/long-lens cameras in hand), ready to pounce when they hear the word of a “sighting”.  Not unlike the predator animals in Kenya or Tanzania waiting, poised as the beautiful and precious prey come to their feeding and watering holes, the paparazzi live in a ‘survival’ world with few, if any, rules.

The paparazzi have become an omnipresent Los Angeles reality

The paparazzi have become an omnipresent Los Angeles reality

We all recall the paparazzi chasing Princess Diana through the streets and to her death in a tunnel in Paris.  Decades later, the same aggressive tactics [and stronger lenses] brought private moment photos of Prince William and Duchess Kate to the public whether they were wanted or not.

Shouldn’t a celebrity be able to buy blueberries or put on a bikini in peace?

…BUT LOCK THE DOOR BEHIND YOU!!!

Funny things do happen—if you have a sense of humor and take a step back.

Several years ago, a young couple came to visit Los Angeles for the first time.  While otherwise well traveled, the supposedly ‘cool guy’ husband [hereafter known as GVF as in “grumpy visitor friend”] was totally unimpressed with anything he saw or tasted, despite our best efforts.  He even wrote off our 70s and sunny Winter days with “…I like the wind and snow in Chicago”.  Okayyyy.

On one of the final days of their visit, it was off  to the Ivy for dinner –yes, the one on Robertson with the peeling picket fence and the paparazzi skulking across the street.  As usual, the beautiful people were having fun and the dining room was full, except for one table.  Our ‘grumbly’ visitor friend suddenly lit up, eyes and mouth wide open, as the Maître ‘d seated guests at the table next to ours.  His face flushed as he leaned over and whispered “…is he him??”  The question made no sense until I shifted my eyes to the next table where Eddie Murphy had just settled into his chair.  GVF was beside himself.  The aloof entrepreneur had finally arrived in ‘tinsel town’!  Star dust had melted the snowman!  Wow!!

The Ivy restaurant on Robertson

The Ivy restaurant on Robertson

Then, things went downhill.  We told GVF he could not go over and introduce himself –absolutely not!  Shortly after his table had placed their orders, Mr. Murphy got up and headed toward the front door.  GVF started to panic—“he is leaving…why is he leaving?”  Relieved to hear that the restrooms were just beyond the front entrance, GVF suddenly stood ‘bolt upright’ and made a ‘bee line’ to the head.  Mr. Murphy returned to his table and, shortly thereafter, GVF arrived himself with the biggest grin I may have ever seen.  He turned to his wife and in a whisper a tad too loud for close quarters announced “I just _ _ _ d next to Eddie Murphy.  I introduced myself—we shook hands.  I invited him to our table—he said he had guests.  I did not wash my hands!”    Shhhhhhhh!!

Even the most the ‘hard-nosed’ cool guy came unglued when seeing a celebrity in person for the first time.  Fortunately, the invitation for Mr. Murphy to join us at our table was graciously avoided—I would have crawled under that table, for sure!

And the beat goes on…

Last week, I heard that Hugh Jackman had just had a ‘Murphy-type’ experience.  Apparently he took a stall in the men’s room for some privacy.  Just when he thought he was alone behind closed doors, a beautifully-manicured female hand appeared from under the next cubicle with an autograph book and pen!  And, that was before he won the Best Actor Golden Globe!!  What grand adventures await him now?

Hugh Jackman

Hugh Jackman

CELEBRITIES ARE PEOPLE TOO

If you tuned in to this year’s Golden Globe Awards show—or were there as at least one Finn we know was, you heard remarkably straight-forward and revealing remarks from a real human being.  Jodie Foster’s acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award was noteworthy for its content and candor.  While much has been said and written about Ms. Foster’s words since, I was particularly struck by her description of her life distilled from her perspective of celebrity: 

You know, you guys might be surprised, …my reality show would be so boring…  If you had been a public figure from the time you were a toddler; if you’d had to fight for a life that felt real and honest and normal against all odds, then maybe you too might value privacy above all else.  Privacy.  Someday, in the future, people will look back and remember how beautiful it once was.

I have given everything up there from the time that I was 3 years old.  That’s reality show enough, don’t you think?

Ms. Foster went on to note that she

            …want[ed] to be understood deeply and to not be so lonely.

 How can you be lonely when a throng appears as soon as you park your car?  Surely someone smart enough to earn a degree from Yale can figure that out somehow.  Then, I remembered meeting Ms. Foster at a private reception at the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences   about a decade ago.  Tiny, but poised, she struck me as ‘shy’ even though she clearly commanded the room filled with other stars. 

Jodie Foster, Helena Lumme, and  Mika Manninen at the Great Women of Film Exhibition reception

Jodie Foster, Helena Lumme, and Mika Manninen at the Great Women of Film Exhibition reception

That pleasant encounter occurred at the invitation of fantastic Finns Helena Lumme and Mika Manninen who were being feted on the release of their penetrating book of insights and photographs Great Women of Film.  That was their second book bringing the sights and insights of Hollywood luminaries to light with photos and words.  Their earlier foray into ‘fantasy land’: Screenwriters: Storytellers in Portrait actually asked each writer to tell his/her own story and H&M matched the self-tales with complimentary photos.

Helena and Mika, these masters of marketing, have moved on to other adventures and ventures as evidenced by the e-mail I got from Mika the other day signed Chief Oats Optimist!   Check out Simpli OatShake [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMufRx3oK6Q] or simply stop by your local Whole Foods store for some ‘star gazing’ and some Sofi Award winning Oats.  Simpli divine ‘Dahling’!

 FINNS IN FANTASY LAND

Consul General Kirsti Westphalen is leading the charge in support of the emerging association of Creative Finns that is coalescing as a support group in Southern California.  The FACC is joining with the Consulate of Finland to facilitate the ‘break-in’/’start-up’ for Finnish ‘creatives’ wanting to make it big on this big stage. 

Consul General Kirsti Westphalen

Consul General Kirsti Westphalen

Helena and Mika’s story of leaving the homeland and conquering both Hollywood and the food industry while seeming to maintain their low-key Finnish ways requires more ‘inches’ than I have left in this column.  There are many Finns who can inspire –in front of and behind the camera—in the trades and in the executive suites.

Attention young Finnish creatives: it has been done—there is hope.  Erkki and Ilona Kanto wrote a book on how to conquer Hollywood:  MITEN HOLLYWOOD VALLOITETAAN? Suomalaisella sisulla menestystä tavoittelemassa-tositarinoita showmaailman mekasta. 

Erkki and Ilona Kanto wrote a book on how to conquer Hollywood

Erkki and Ilona Kanto wrote a book on how to conquer Hollywood

More later!  I hear the helicopters overhead!!

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