California Here I Come!
From the Dirty Side To The Shaky Side...( it didn't shake!)
Copyright Vladimir Kagan September 30, 2012
You know you are heading for L.A. when all the passengers are chic – hip and young!
That’s the good news; flying America Airlines in cattle class is no fun: ancient planes vaguely refurbished, seating so tight that you can’t open the flip table without ramming your stomach (that of course is more applicable for me with my huge belly), A single small TV screen to serve the entire cabin with film selections meant for dolts… all amenities are additional, if you want to call the purchasable food as such. First Class and Business Class were carved out of the economy section with a sliding divider wall… (If American goes bankrupted… it is well deserved…. Haven’t any of their executives ever flown Jet Blue?)
My trip was built around a work schedule, but leave it to me to turn it into two great Blog adventures!
Ralph Pucci's invitation to my opening in Los Angeles at the Pacific Design Center
I will regale you with business first. My friend Ralph Pucci runs a tight ship with showrooms in New York and Los Angeles. Each September is fashion week and an opportunity to welcome the fall season with a design event. Ralph’s parties are not your Gala openings with passed hors d'oeuvres and selected cocktails, (Ralph is famous for serving white wine and water only – your choice of gas or plain.) None-the-less the turnout at these events is anything but mundane. They are parties colonized with California’s B.P.s (Beautiful people): tight jeans, fashionistas dresses and the most extravagant high heeled shoes that only a mannequin can prance around in. The opening was laced with VIPs, real and wannabees plus a contingent of pumping-iron guys in sleeveless t-shirts flexing their muscles. In other words, it’s a scene not to be missed… To lure an audience Ralph sagaciously builds these events around a design celeb…. This time it was Ralph’s favorite octogenarian - Me!
The showroom looked magnificent with ample space devoted to each of my designs in a museum setting. Ralph has excellent taste in vetting his exhibits. I shared the limelight with an immensely talented muralist, Jeff Quinn and the creative lighting designer, Ted Abramczyk, whose light fixtures dangled into your face or drink if you weren’t careful. The party was topped with a private dinner at the famous Châteaux Marmon in Hollywood… (Everyone will remind you that John Belushi had his last supper there.) The acrid fumes of marijuana lingered everywhere in the air.
A quartet of new introductions - The Ondine Wing Chair, Boomerang Mosaic Tile Coffee Table, Swan Sofa and the Cygnet Floor Lamp - all originally designed in the 50's
LA is not all of California and Malibu does not consider itself to be a part of LA. Malibu-ians are either stars or stargazers. The most expensive home naturally are on the water... More precisely, the Pacific Ocean... (Not on the beach) that would be too easily accessed by the public! These houses (originally funky beach shacks built on fragile stilts overhang the ocean with the water sloshing under their feet 24/7... Today these relics have been converted into multi-million dollar McMansions. They are built cheek to Jowl with barely three feet between them. No parking space except for the owner and possibly a staffer ... Woe to the visitors coming for a party! (My hostess, who qualifies as a stargazer, assures me they are worth $40,000,000 and upward!)
The stargazers are no paupers... Their homes just fall short of the multi-million of those on the ocean. There is no town... Only cute little discreet shopping Malls with excellent eateries for Californian's health buffs... veggies and of course the Yoga studio… Cars are God... There are neither sidewalks nor bicycle paths... Signs warm pedestrians to stay off and if you are a jogger... God help you between the ubiquitous rattle sakes hiding in the brush and guard dogs lurking behind every gate. One advantage of these salubrious communities is that it takes over an hour from downtown LA... Keeping the riffraff out. Though Illya was smartly dressed in jeans, open collar and a blazer and I wore the mandatory "shades"', neither of us qualified as celebs. However, my hostess knew where each and everyone lived. As I am the original country-bumpkin I had no idea who any of them were!
The only photo I have of Malibu is this impressive display of flags at Pepperdine University, commemorating the dead heroes of 9/11... a flag for each person lined up with military precision
The next day we left Malibu for Santa Barbara, the other playground of the rich and famous. The drive gets prettier as we headed north along the costal highway past rock outcroppings (that look might iffy were there to have been an Earthquake), around gracious curves with the Pacific gleaming on the horizon. Everything in California is an hour away and Santa Barbara appeared right on schedule. It’s different from the flashy Malibu, more verdant, peopled by normal folks with the rich hidden in the hills. Our mission was precise: we were going to show Illya some California waves! His latest passion is surfing and we were in the surf capital of southern Cal. The Surf was not up to its usual reputation, a detail Illya appreciated, but they were the perfect “baby waves”, three to five foot high, rolling gently between the reefs. Our new friend, Dr. Michael Trambet knew precisely where to go. Hollister Ranch, world famous for its diversity, beauty and most of all, privacy. The Ranch is a colossal privately owned membership affair. (You don’t trespass!) For Illya and Michael it turned out to be an afternoon in heaven, while I sat on the beach enjoying the solitude and watching the seabirds that scurried on the water’s edge or flew majestically on silent wings in their everlasting search for food.
Illya coming in on a gentle wave - the boys heading out to the sea
My steady companions for the two hours that I enjoyed the solitude of watching the seabirds scurrying back and forth in quest of food.
Saturday opened a new opportunity: wine tasting in the hills of Santa Barbara County. We drove East in Michael’s exquisite Porsche Panamera. The landscape changed from verdant green to golden fields and dark olive trees… the vistas opened over miles of rolling hills and blue sky. We stopped in the little village of Los Olivos in the Santa Yens valley , a cluster of Victorian houses representing all the vineyards in the neighborhood. Our destination was the Longoria vineyard’s wine boutique where we enjoyed the balmy afternoon in an unprepossessing garden tasting wines served by very knowledgeable young ladies who did their best to give us a buzz (and therefore buy more wines), these wines were not cheap but superb examples of California Pinot Noir. Syrah and Tempranillo grapes.
On Sunday afternoon, Laden with gifts and trinkets, we departed from LAX (airline lingo for Los Angeles Airport) for our flight to Seattle….
Do we want to go back to visit Santa Barbara… You Bet we do!