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Archive for November, 2010

LA DIARY: THE PANTO COMES TO TOWN

November 30th, 2010 No comments

Read my review of LA’s first ever traditional British panto, Cinderella, in today’s G2 section of the Guardian.

Kids really enjoy panto but most adults find them hugely irritating (my mum). I, however, love a good session of, ‘He’s behind you!’ and, ‘Hello Buttons!’, and used to go every year in the UK.

I was telling Cinderella’s producer, Kris Lythgoe, this, and reminiscing fondly about one particular show at the Cliffs Pavilion in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, which starred comedy heavy-weights (and one lightweight) Little & Large, and the delightful Melinda Messenger.

He told me that his mum Bonnie Lythgoe directed that particular show, and that she also directs this one, which stars teenage newcomer Veronica Dunne, Harry Potter’s Freddie Stroma, and two fabulous ugly sisters called, Cowell & Seacrest.

Cinderella will be on at the El Portal Theater in North Hollywood until December 19th, and if you’re British, love a bit of good-hearted, festive nonsense, and are missing panto you should go. If you’re American, and have never experienced this heady mix of saucy humour, vaudeville and pop songs, you should also go. You will be baffled, enthralled and surprised all at once. And you will also get to wave an invisible magic wand (kids get real ones).

Visit the show’s website by clicking here.

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LA DIARY: LORE AND ORDER

November 28th, 2010 No comments

Thanksgiving week is always fun. Frankly, anywhere I can get a home-cooked meal that I don’t have to cook myself is something to be thankful for. (Thank you Cheydleur family).

The trick is to thoroughly prepare yourself the week before the ginormo feast of turkey and thanks, by doing as much exercise as you can possibly can. It’s all about balance, you see.

Now, I’m no athlete, and working out is always a chore, so truth be told I managed only one measly hour at the gym, and a couple of short bike rides. But one of those bike rides was particularly eventful.

If, like me, you’re a movie or TV fan, then living in Hollywood is in some respects like being a kid in a candy story, because the sign you see below, is pretty common. I was whizzing along Glendale Boulevard when three burly security men appeared out of the doorway of the parrot shop (yes, it’s a shop that sells parrots), to bar my way.

Law & Order were filming in an empty unit, next to one of the coffee bars that I frequent, and so I dismounted while whoever stars in Law & Order did their thing. I tried to make small talk with a make-up girl, who was sitting in a director’s chair, weighed down with brushes and clips, but she just seemed bored.

Or maybe, like me, she was just so over-run with work that she couldn’t wait for the holiday to start. But while I love Thanksgiving, I don’t much care for ‘Black Friday’ – the much-hyped start of the Christmas sales. I have no time for people who camp outside superstores looking for a few bucks off a new television set. I realise that the economy’s lousy but that kind of lust for shopping seems a tad grabby to me.

So this Thanksgiving I urged everyone I knew who was preparing to shop til they dropped – and even the ones who weren’t – to check out www.daughterscambodia.org. This incredible organisation helps young girls escape the sex industry, and was founded by a close friend of mine. She tells me that just a few pennies can transform their lives.

She enables girls who are living in brothels, and often working there to support their families, learn new skills such as reading, baking, waitressing and sewing, so that they can make a living in another way. It’s a fantastic charity that has seen genuine results – hundreds of girls have already been re-educated and found new jobs. You can read their stories on the website.

Sales are part of every public holiday these days – a modern day lore if you will – but I would really appreciate it, if you would check out the Daughters Cambodia website, and think about making a contribution.

That’s an order.

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PODCAST FROM AMERICA – Episode 4 with Martin Samuel

November 24th, 2010 No comments

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This Thanksgiving episode of PODCAST FROM AMERICA is very special indeed. My guest is Martin Samuel, chief hair stylist and hair designer. Oscar-nominee Martin is responsible for the amazing hair you see in the movie, Burlesque, which stars Cher (in her first movie role in almost ten years), and Christina Aguilera.

You can listen to the podcast by using the player above, or by going to iTunes and subscribing to the show.

I was lucky enough to get the behind-the-scenes scoop on how Martin came up with the look, (see him left, on set with Julianne Hough), and also how he managed to get the wigs to stay on during all the frantic dance numbers!

Martin, also seen right, with his BAFTA, and adorable dog Missy in his Hollywood home) is truly a hair design genius. He got his start sweeping up hair in a North London salon when he was just 13-years-old, but has since risen to the top of his game having worked with many incredible directors, including Alan Parker, Adrian Lynne, Nic Roeg, Michael Apted, Tony Scott, Kenneth Branagh and Gore Verbinksi.

He was nominated for a Make Up and Hair Oscar – twice – for his work on Pirates of the Caribbean (for which he also won a BAFTA in 2004), and most recently won an Outstanding Hairstyling for a Series Emmy, for his work on Tracey Ullman’s show, State of the Union. He also talks about working with Madonna on Evita, and how he ended up touring with David Bowie, after working with him on The Man Who Fell To Earth.

To see Martin styling the hair of three of the Burlesque dancers, click here.

THANK YOU THIS EPISODE TO…

This episode of PODCAST FROM AMERICA would not have been possible without the help of many people including my sponsors Brits in LA, my producer Danforth France, and of course, Martin Samuel, his wife Mary, and their dog Missy.

PODCAST FROM AMERICA is a talk show hosted by Los Angeles-based British writer Lisa Marks. With amazing access to an incredibly talented and creative community, journalist Lisa Marks meets actors, writers, musicians, photographers, chefs and beyond, to talk in-depth about their life, their work and their passions.

You can contact PODCAST FROM AMERICA by emailing podcastfromamerica@gmail.com, or follow the show on Twitter at www.twitter.com/podcastamerica.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the show on iTunes – CLICK HERE NOW!

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LA DIARY: THE ONLY WAY IS ESSEX. OR IS IT?

November 15th, 2010 1 comment

Despite the fact that I live in Los Angeles (and have a brain), I’ve been enjoying the ITV docu-soap, The Only Way is Essex.

You may judge but I care not, as I know I’m not the only one grateful to the bloke who’s been uploading all the episodes to You Tube.

There are thousands of Brits in California, and much as we love the sunshine, eggs over easy and the lack of a National Health Service (that last one was sarcasm), we all still adore our Marmite, PG Tips, curry nights, five-aside footie teams, traditional roast dinners – and yes, we also like to watch a bit of British telly (more Sherlock, please).

With that in mind, it’s time for me to some ‘fings off my chest’ and explain exactly why I’m hooked. Or at least try. I realise that living here I’m missing the tabloid hype that the cast have been subject to but I have credentials of my own, so read on mate.

I wasn’t born in Essex but I grew up in Southend-on-Sea, in an age when skinheads could still be seen terrorizing the High Street, and the Kursaal was still a viable music venue.

Throughout my life I’ve battled the ‘Essex Girl’ label, the many predictable jokes (‘What does an Essex girl use as sex protection? Answer: A bus shelter’), and don’t even bother to ask about my white stilettos. If I had a pair – and I never have – I’d probably throw them at your head.

The show has been lambasted for its shallow portrayal of Essex’s yoof. Although to look at fashion-something Lauren, ‘Chief Vajazzler’ Amy and ‘door-whore’ Sam with their spray tans and thick layers of make-up, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a show about drag queens. But along with Nanny Pat’s shepherd’s pie (not to mention her sausage plait), their penchant for looking like a collection of over-torched creme brulee’s, is part of the charm.

If I sound like I don’t care for The Only Way is Essex then you’d be wrong – at least, I think so. Series one has just ended, and I can’t decide whether or not I’m upset.

Like the candy floss they sell on Southend pier, the show is delightful fluff, but ultimately, probably very bad for you.

Take square-jawed promoter Mark, aka the Eddie Cibrian of Chigwell, who part- owns Deuces Bar and opens bottles of Corona with his teeth. ‘When you love someone, set it free’, he opines about a girl called It. ‘If it don’t come back, it was never love’.

He has the wisdom of a tube of hair gel. On the plus side, watching him being massaged in his Calvins on a shocking pink towel at Amy’s salon, surely signals the death of the metrosexual male.

Mark and Lauren’s on/off yawn-fest of a relationship is the centre of the show but Kirk‘s story is the most compelling. Unlike Mark, he doesn’t have a square jaw. He looks like Lembit Opik’s lovechild. He’s worth a few quid thanks to the Sugar Hut bar, owns an Arfur Daley overcoat and spends all his time fretting over Amy, and either how to get her to fall in love with him, or get her to go away.

‘Of course he says he likes ya, you’ve got fake boobs and you look really nice’, he says to her, of a rival suitor, before showing her his creepy pin-up girl tattoo, that he swears isn’t Amy but looks exactly like her hairy double.

He decided to win her affections by beefing up, and has been personal training with Ben, part man, part concrete slab, who told Kirk ‘You ain’t gonna win no birds with that top’. To which Kirk replied. ‘I am dedicated. Have you seen my tattoo?’

The series culminated with Mark offering Kirk a boxing throw-down. ‘You know what, sod it, whoever wins, wins,’ said Mark, with all the sagacity of a bus stop in Brentwood. The lads sealed the deal with a manly back slap and a shot.

They’re an adorable cast of ignoramuses, and I shall miss them in a way that you miss the time in bed after you’ve had a long sickness, but not the sickness itself.

What we’ve learned is this: Nanny Pat wants to tour with Jessica’s girl band LOLA (so she can feed them endless sausage plaits), Amy is about to launch her bangers onto an unsuspecting nation, wedding singer Arg is back with bouffant-haired barmaid Lyd, while Lauren is deciding whether or not to go to Dubai (please go).

I won’t spoil the outcome (suffice to say that a lot of acrylic nails were bitten that night), because as Mark said, when his bar mysteriously burned down on opening night. ‘Everyfink ‘appens for a reason’.

Maybe we need series two to work out exactly what that reason might be?

Feel free to let me know your thoughts, or sum them up in 140 characters by following me on Twitter.

Or if I’m not enticing enough, follow Nanny Pat.

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COVER STORY: MELISSA GEORGE GETS INVENTIVE

November 14th, 2010 No comments

Actress Melissa George was a delight to interview. Read my cover story with her for Sunday Magazine, (Australia’s Sunday Telegraph), by clicking here, or the link below.

Myself and the Sunday team, including Inez, their fabulous art director, spent a day with Melissa, at the Viceroy Hotel, in Santa Monica. It was pretty drizzly outside but Melissa’s choice of Lila Downs, the Oscar-nominated Mexican jazz singer, helped brighten things up. (I used Lila’s music as I wrote the feature for inspiration.)

Back in the day – the mid-Nineties – Melissa starred in the Aussie soap Home & Away, which was huge in the UK. I was a writer on a teen mag called BIG! and because of the show’s popularity, she became our advice columnist. I reminded her of this and she said, “I remember that, I think it helped to pay for my first house!”

She was a true pro – the shoot lasted about nine hours – and the pictures are stunning (you can see a selection of the shoes we used, to the right). But more than that, we discovered that not only is she a Golden Globe-nominated actress, for her role on HBO’s In Treatment, but that she’s an inventor too. Yes, you read that right.

I don’t want to give her amazing story away here, so if you want to learn more about her genius Style Snaps, (or follow her on Twitter), and find out how she came up with the idea for this simple fashion accessory, then I humbly suggest you read the full interview.

Oh, and if you want to follow me on Twitter, you can do that too by clicking on the phrase, “Take me to Lisa’s Twitter page, please.” And lo! it shall be done.

Melissa George – Sunday Magazine pdf

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LA DIARY: GOING GAGA FOR DAME JULIE

November 9th, 2010 No comments

This blog should have gone up on the Collective Review last week but for some reason, it was never published. Never one to let words go to waste, here are my thoughts on Halloween – and meeting Dame Julie Andrews…

There were Gaga’s aplenty at the West Hollywood Halloween parade on Sunday night. I myself was a devil-horned medic complete with a bright red wig, false eyelashes and a stethoscope. The wig was spectacular, and I confess that I’m wearing it as I type, which could be cause for concern.

I was disappointed not to see as many Snooki’s and Situations but WeHo is all about high camp so the drag queens were out in full force and boy, do some of them have great legs. My friend Tanya was a slutty cow, so she gets a special mention.

The parade is an amazing spectacle. The cops close a large chunk of Santa Monica Boulevard, the organisers set up sound stages and the food wagons roll. I missed the personal appearance of America’s Got Talent’s Prince Poppycock but gave the Time Warp my all.

Because this is LA you can’t be seen to be drinking alcohol on the streets, so we’d decanted whiskey into a Coca Cola can and slugged it back in shop doorways like naughty kids. Oh, for the balmy summer nights of standing outside a pub in London openly drinking beer from the bottle. It seems odd that you can’t be seen to be doing that here. Stealth drinking, I call it.

The night before Halloween (for this was an ‘event’ weekend), my boyfriend and I decided to dress as either Bonnie and Clyde, French Detectives or G-Men, depending on your POV, and go to the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival at the Hollywood Forever cemetery, which backs on to the Paramount lot.

Stepping over, and on headstones we stumbled through the graveyard gazing in wonder the elaborate costumes. The holiday is a celebration of the dead and people had set up shrines to their loved ones. Many people paint their faces white, adding intricate detail in black pen, such tiny flowers, hollow eyes and false teeth. The end result is pretty scary but stunning. It’s hard to describe but the Day of the Dead website says, ‘At the heart of this sacred event are the meticulously individually crafted altars and spiritual shrines. These dazzling private tributes and offerings which provide a linkage between ancient traditions and modern customs chronicle the perpetual relation between faith, family and history.’

Also providing a link between the past and the present, was an amazing interview I did last week with Dame Julie Andrews. Clumsy segway, yes but she was so adorable, friendly and frankly, exactly how you would want her to be that I was instantly transported back to my childhood.

I was interviewing her for an Australian newspaper, and due to embargo can’t spill any of the beans about what was said, but I will admit to this; I have never been as nervous as I was that day.

She’s a Dame, a true icon, a proper movie star – could I cut it? I needn’t have worried because she was charm personified and very sweet.

Meeting her took me back to the days when my grandmother was still alive, when at Christmas we’d all gather around the television to watch Mary Poppins or The Sound of Music together.

As I was waiting to go in to Dame Julie’s suite, I had this strong sense of my grandma being in the room with me. I found myself getting a little bit tearful but professional to the last, pulled myself together before the interview. But for a brief, soft moment, my lovely grandma, who died almost 20 years ago, was back in my life.

And so the following night, as I wandered around the colourful lantern-festooned Hollywood Forever cemetery, I was able to truly appreciate this marvellous spectacle of remembrance.

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LA DIARY: ANOTHER COFFEE SHOP MISSIVE

November 4th, 2010 No comments

Oh my goodness, I’m so behind with my ENTIRE LIFE. I’ve been really sick with a strep virus, and have therefore not been on top of my blogging, podcasting and laundry.

The latter is quite rightly, none of your concern, but the rest of it is. So please head over to the Collective Review for last week’s sorry apology at my lack of blog entries.

There’s another one up tomorrow and hopefully, a new podcast coming soon with the very talented, and Oscar-nominated, Martin Samuel, the lead hair-stylist on Burlesque, starring Cher and Christina Aguilera.

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