Book Review: “Help For The Haunted”

helphauntedHelp For The Haunted by John Searles begins with the murder of Rose and Sylvester Mason in a church, partially witnessed by their daughter Sylvie who was sitting outside in the car. The three of them had set out for the church after receiving a late night phone call, which we learn is a common occurrence in the house, because Sylvie’s devoutly Christian parents had an unusual profession: they helped people who were troubled by demons, and traveled the country giving lectures on their supernatural experiences.

The story then alternates between a few months after the murder, and the years building up to it, during which we learn about Sylvie and her older sister Rose’s odd lives, and follow Sylvie’s struggle to find her parents’ killer. Albert Lynch – the father of one of the Mason’s “patients” who ran away – is in jail awaiting Sylvie’s testimony against him, but she is not certain that he’s the figure she saw at the church. Things are not adding up and little by little, she begins to sort out the clues and separate the supernatural from reality, with the help of Sam Meekin, a reporter who wrote a discrediting book about her parents, her recovering alcoholic uncle Howie who was at odds with her father, Rose’s ex-boyfriend Derreck and the mysterious lady who leaves food for the two sisters on their doorstep.

Searles keeps the reader in prolonged suspense by doling out only so much information at a time; for example, early on, the girls find a Raggedy Ann doll thrown in their yard by local teenagers, and it’s understood that this is a common insult, but the reason is not immediately explained. In fact, he doesn’t even make it clear at first that it is a Raggedy Ann, describing it in a vague, almost menacing way. We also don’t learn for quite awhile the alarming fact that the parents allowed “haunted individuals” to stay in the basement, even though we know that the souvenirs of their cases are kept down there, and that since the parents’ death, a light has turned on, and Sylvie is too scared to investigate.

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Movie Review: Super Duper Alice Cooper

please install flash

Super Duper Alice Cooper premiered on the west coast last night at The Grammy Museum at LA Live. The event was only its second screening after having recently debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival. Film makers Scot McFadyen and Sam Dunn managed to avoid the formulaic rock doc of live footage interspersed with talking heads to offer a very human portrayal of this rock icon. Lauded for their previous documentaries “Iron Maiden: Flight 66″, and “Rush, Beyond the Lighted Stage,” McFadyen and Dunn trace the rise of a Detroit preacher’s son from obscurity to legend.

The vehicle moved to drive the “plot” is a running parallel between the Vincent Furnier/Alice Cooper dichotomy and that of Jeckyl and Hyde. An old film of ”Jeckyl and Hyde” as well as some comical teen angst films from the appropriate eras were interspersed with some extremely rare footage that Alice himself confessed to having never seen before. Even the photographs were fresh and original. Many of the stills featured a fascinating 3D effect and some of them were outright collages. Songs were often featured as they related to the storyline instead of in a strictly chronological order, providing an actual soundtrack. All of this added up an extremely cinematic effect missing from most documentaries.

There was never a lull, as the storyline was fast-paced, even while turning a microscope to the details of interpersonal relationships within the original Alice Cooper Band. Narratives were treated as voice-overs to the constant visual orchestra of film and images, which also served to keep the film from slowing down. Alice Cooper is such an amusing ranconteur, and many people’s recollections were humorous, so the audience was kept laughing. The film was well-edited to enhance this effect. For example, when Alice Cooper says, “The room went dead silent” the film-makers cut the sound completely. I wonder if they debated adding the sound of crickets.

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Big Sexy Hair

I was never one of those people who thought hair tools were that important. Well, no, that’s a bit of a lie. I have multiple sets of hot rollers but at least two are leftover from a shoot.  I rarely blow-dry my hair and usually go to bed with a wet head. Every hairdresser I’ve had remarks on how good the condition is, and I attribute that to the lack of hot tools I use. I suppose I’m one of the last on the bandwagon with this, considering the abundance of blow-dry bars everywhere, but old habits are hard to break. I don’t think twice about the overabundance of products, treatments and services I use for my face, but that never applied to my hair. I was in the “if it ain’t broke” mode for far too long.


However, all of that changed when I was gifted with one of these. A friend told me that she’s never skimped on blow dryers as they make all of the difference. And now I believe her. Every time I use this, I get compliments on my sleek, shiny hair – something I only thought possible with a straightener, which I never use because, well, my hair is thick and straight.

This is the key for me: “In negative mode, negative ions are generated, breaking up water molecules, hydrating the hair and decreasing drying time. Leaving the hair smooth, soft with amazing shine. Ideal for unruly and distressed hair.”


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Middle-Aged Rebel: Angst


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Cheyenne Jackson: Music of the Mad Men Era to Time Travel Forward to OURS!!!

Photo Courtesy of Karl Simone

Photo Courtesy of Karl Simone

Cheyenne Jackson:  Singer, Actor, Principal of runaway shows like GLEE and “Thirty Rock” and all around song and dance man; anyone alive during the first decade of the 2000s has heard of him.  If not, they are living under a rock and must be rolled out into the light to catch the rising, shining star that is Cheyenne Jackson.  I interviewed him online in my first virtual email chat in preparation for his upcoming concert this Saturday at the Walt Disney Concert Hall:  “Cheyenne Jackson: Music of the Mad Men Era”.  Special guests will include Jane Lynch and Rebecca Romijn.

“Cheyenne Jackson, ‘Music of the Mad Men Era’”: Aside from the television program’s astoundingly widespread popularity, why was this theme a choice Continue reading

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Southland Tales: Moby

Photo by Michael Essington

Photo by Michael Essington

Once every blue moon, or once every decade, or so, whichever comes first, I meet someone that really makes me reevaluate the way I see things.

Back in 1996, when my daughter was two years old I took her to Burger King on Reseda Blvd, and Vanowen Ave in Reseda. It’s not there anymore, I think it’s a Starbucks or a Jack in the Box . . . isn’t everything a Starbucks?

Anyway, she was two, she needed to eat, and play, and this particular Burger King had a massive outdoor play area, so we went. She nibbled for a bit, and when she was finished she was ready to hit the playground.

Now, any of you that have kids know that one of the worst things about taking your kids to play at parks, playgrounds, or the mall, is the piece-of-shit kids that hang around these places for the sole purpose of fucking with your kids. Complete lack of attention and love has turned these future OZ inmates into complete sociopaths. So, while their massively obese parents sit over to the side, messing with their cell phones, and sweating gravy, you are forced to discipline their degenerate wastes of sperm.

Well, now that I got that out of the way . . . here’s what happened. We walk outside, there is an eight-year-old boy hiding underneath the slide, a three or four-year-old boy comes sliding down, the eight year old grabs the kid from the bottom of the slide, and throws him to the ground. I look around, and there is only one other parent out in the play area. So, I ask him nicely, “Is this your fucking kid.” While asking him I couldn’t help but notice how much he looked like Moby. Anyway, he shakes his head, and says” “No.” The kid that was thrown to the ground was his. So, I say: “Whose kid is he?” Moby just shrugs.

So, my daughter headed to the top of the playground’s tunnels, and was about to come down the slide. Right then I see the eight-year-old excrement position himself under the slide so that he could tackle my little girl. Well, I wasn’t going to allow that. So, I get up, walk over, and lift him up by the back of his collar, walk in to the Burger King, and say, “Who does this little fucker belong to?” Not a freaking sound. If this was a movie, all you would hear would be crickets. Nobody looks up, and nobody speaks. I put the kid down, he runs screaming, and I go back out. My daughter and the other kid are running through the tunnels, sliding, laughing, and having a great time.

I sit down, and then Moby asks me what I do for a living, I tell him I’m a graphic designer, and then ask him the same question. He says, “This.” I ask him to explain. He says, “Watch my kid live, and have fun.” So, I think to myself, I just got finished getting rid of some a-hole kid, and now I have to deal with this whack-job.

Then, he starts his story; turns out he was a big time lawyer, with no time for his family. He was diagnosed with a very serious form of cancer. He quit his job, bought a guitar, taught himself to play, and just started enjoying life for the first time since he was a kid.

As we spoke he said he beat the cancer, and in a few weeks he was going to do a solo gig at a bar on Ventura Blvd. I wished him luck, and thought about this guy often over the years.

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“All For The Love Animal Rescue” Charity Cabaret Event Brings A Splash of Broadway to NoHo

All Photos by Billy Bennight for The Los Angeles Beat

All Photos by Billy Bennight for The Los Angeles Beat

All For The Love Animal Rescue” put one a special Musical Theater “Broadway” flavored event at Sterling’s Upstairs at The Federal Bar that echoes one of my favorite annual events, The Actors Fund Tony Awards® Viewing Party. The All For The Love Animal Rescue (AFLAR) performance has the added benefit of funding pet rescue from endangered pets from animal shelters. AFLAR focuses mostly on rescuing of Pit Bulls and Chihuahuas because they are the most commonly abandoned of family pets, but they address other rescue opportunities too. AFLAR has been responsible for saving over 325 dogs from euthanasia in just the past 14 months. So the evening performances served as a unique way of bringing pet rescue to a public forum that directly benefits the pets themselves.

Kat Kramer

Kat Kramer

The evening event started with a bang as Maripat Davis and Richard Osborn took the stage with a medley of S’Wonderful/Let’s Fall in Love and followed it with another medley of I Wish I Were in Love Again/I’ll Never Fall in Love Again. The musical director Shelly Markham led the 3 piece ensemble offering the Jazzy foundation to all of the evening’s performances. The lively energy continued with Mark Winkler’s zingy take on the song Like Young, a Jazzy Bebop number that was delivered in a fun and “Beat Era” hip manner. He followed it with a touching ballad called Dog Passages. Maripat Davis introduced Kat Kramer, who performed two songs, a medley of As Tears  Go By (A classic Rolling Stones song) and Neverland from (Peter Pan.)   Kat’s second song came a little later and paid homage to her Father, Stanley Kramer, with theme song from the movie Bless The Beasts And Children.  Maripat brought the room to a more serious moment when she sat down to sing Feels Like Home while presenting a heart-felt slide show of many of the dogs rescued over the previous year. Maripat’s performance seamlessly moved to Andrea Marcovicci impassioned performance of At the Pound. At this point Maripat and Richard took a moment to honor Kat Kramer’s special guest and animal activist, her Mother, Golden Globe winner Karen Kramer, Academy Award winner George Chakiris and Actress Beverly Todd: who were spotlighted for their efforts and contributions to Animal Rights activism. The acknowledgment were humbly and graciously accepted by them as the audience gave a hardy round of applause.

Andrea Marcovicci

Andrea Marcovicci

The show returned to its earlier pace, moving to the event’s show closer duets of Here’s to Love and The Sweetest of Nights and The Finest of Days by Maripat and Richard. The hour and a half show provided a varied, dynamic and evocative approach to the musical theater, with the purpose of focusing their talents on the ever presences need of rescuing needy and forgotten pets. For further information about All For the Love Animal Rescue (AFLAR) follow this link.

Photo Gallery at the Break  Continue reading

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Celebrity Chefs, delicious cuisine and craft cocktails will be featured at the Taste of the Nation Laguna Beach’s charity event

Taste of the Nation Laguna Beach will be held on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Picture courtesy of Christine Sosa Photography with permission of Taste of the Nation Laguna Beach

Taste of the Nation Laguna Beach will be held on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Picture courtesy of Christine Sosa Photography with permission of Taste of the Nation Laguna Beach

Celebrity Chefs such as Duff Goldman and Alan Wong, great ocean views, craft cocktails and much more take center stage on June 8, 2014 when the Taste of the Nation Laguna Beach takes place at the Montage in Laguna Beach. The event is under the auspices of the national Share Our Strength organization, whose chief goal is to end childhood hunger, both in Orange County and across the nation through it’s No Child Hungry program. The Montage Laguna Beach, set on the oceanfront bluffs with a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean, will be the site of this delicious, fun event to benefit the No Child Hungry program.

Chef Craig Strong of Montage Laguna Beach with his Seared Scallops. Picture courtesy of Christine Sosa Photography with permission of Taste of the Nation Laguna Beach

Chef Craig Strong of Montage Laguna Beach with his Seared Scallops. Picture courtesy of Christine Sosa Photography with permission of Taste of the Nation Laguna Beach

Headlining the culinary side of this charitable event will be the Executive Chef of Studio, the Montage’s Signature Restaurant, Craig Strong. Creating succulent farm-to-table delicacies along with Chef Strong will be several noted celebrity chefs. California Chefs coming to the event include Chef Alan Greeley of The Golden Truffle in Costa Mesa; TV Chef and owner of Charm City Cakes in Los Angeles, Chef Duff Goldman; Top Chef contestant Chef Brian Huskey, of Paiche, Picca and Mo-Chica in Los Angeles; and the Montage Laguna Beach’s own Executive Pastry Chef, Lee Smith. Flying in from Miami Beach, Florida will be former Top Chef contestant and acclaimed Chef de Cuisine at the Fountainbleau’s Scarpetta Restaurant, Chef Nina Compton. Hawaii’s own Chef Alan Wong, a James Beard Award winner, will represent his own Alan Wong Restaurants in Oahu. Continue reading

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The Binks Family, America's favorite candy family of the 50s.

The Binks Family, America’s favorite candy family of the 50s.

Easter Sunday arrives this weekend, thus heralding the last chance to enjoy fresh holiday candy for the year until we manage to make it to October and the extended candy holiday season resumes.

Like all holiday candy these days, Easter candy runs the gamut from the traditional (marshmallow eggs, hollow chocolate bunnies) to the baffling (Spiderman and Star Wars Easter candy). Sometimes it seems as if all tradition is rapidly becoming lost, but what meets the eye doesn’t necessarily provide the big picture. To help provide perspective, I’ve provided a tour of some Easter candy from 1950s Luden’s and Palmer catalogs.

Perhaps the best place to begin is with Palmer’s Binks family—as pictured above, we have Grandaddy Binks, Daddy Binks, Bunny Binks, and Baby Binks. You can still find Baby Binks in the stores, but, otherwise, the whole family has vanished over time. I can’t state this as a fact, but I suspect that sharp-dressed Grandaddy Binks was the first to go. Continue reading

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Farewell to AC/DC Premature? Band Site Announces They Are Taking a Break

The Curse of Angus Young Brian FortnerRumors have flown all week that AC/DC is breaking up after Malcolm Young returned home to Australia to be with his family due to illness. Yesterday the band’s site announced:

“After forty years of life dedicated to AC/DC, guitarist and founding member Malcolm Young is taking a break from the band due to ill health. Malcolm would like to thank the group’s diehard legions of fans worldwide for their never-ending love and support.

In light of this news, AC/DC asks that Malcolm and his family’s privacy be respected during this time. The band will continue to make music.”

In tribute to AC/DC, I humbly offer my review of their show at The Forum, 12/6/08

It’s no big revelation that high school kids bond in cliques. The cheerleaders never cross paths with the trenchcoat mafia. My high school was small, so the punkers and the metal kids banded together over a shared love of vandalism and recreational drugs. I hated most of the metal bands the Beavis and Butthead-type kids wrote on their Peechee folders, but one band stood out – AC/DC. Mainly because of Angus Young. With his schoolboy attire and Chuck Berry duck walk, he was just so fucking punk.

I attended the AC/DC concert at the Forum Saturday with a combination of curiosity and trepidation about the cheeseball factor. And admittedly, some genuine excitement. In spite of oneself, the songs are catchy in a TV commercial kind of way. Even the most sexist lyrics are carried along by anthemic melodies that are irresistible. I dare you to play “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” and not start singing along and pumping your fist in the air without even realizing you are doing it.

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