The best week of the year in Los Angeles is always this one, the final seven days of the year. More picketing and jury duty is on tap for me in January but here in the waning days of December I can bask in the glory of the city that Zorro once called home.
First of all, the town is practically empty. Most people from the industry are gone, terrorizing the help in Hawaii and Aspen. There’s very little traffic. You can actually make the fifteen minute drive between Brentwood and LAX on the 405 Freeway in only forty minutes. It’s like you’re flying! Hard to get into restaurants? Not this week. Spago will even make reservations for people they don’t know. And at 7:00 not 10:30. (Unfortunately, their chefs are probably in Aspen and Hawaii.)
Los Angeles is so deserted I heard of a friend who found a parking place at the Grove shopping mall. But that’s still just a rumor.
For industry guild folks, as a nice respite from picketing, there are free movies. In the hopes of snaring nominations from any organization that gives out awards (even the WGA), studios let eligible voters and guests attend contending movies gratis. It’s also their way of giving back to the community. However, the nanosecond the nominations are announced this lovely gesture ends instantly. And they go back to the business at hand – busting the unions.
Most of the city’s attention this week is on the upcoming Rose Parade and Bowl. If you have six friends over to your apartment to play poker, the Rose Queen and her court will come and speak to your group.
The Rose Bowl traditionally pits the champion of the Pac 10 with the champion of the Big 10. It’s always a big deal, “the Granddaddy of Bowl Games”. This year, it’s USC and Illinois (a team that didn’t even win the Big 10) and since the BCS championship game has now become the only bowl that counts, the anticipation and excitement of the Rose Bowl equals that of the WNBA finals.
Every year fans from the Big 10 representative flood into Southern California. They’re easy to spot. They’re always the nicest people you’ve ever met and they’re always wearing school shirts and hats. I’m beginning to think they come to LA for a week with only that one outfit. The Illinois school color is orange so it feels like Halloween.
Highlight of the Rose Bowl festivities is the Lawry’s Beef Bowl. Lawry’s is the greatest prime rib restaurant in the world (a more popular attraction to Japanese tourists than Disneyland). Every year they invite each team and feed them as much prime rib as they can eat. Usually the winning team tops out at around 630 pounds of beef. During the Rose Bowl, you’ll notice half the players sleeping the bench. That’s why.
The New Year's Eve tradition is to watch Dick Clark and experience the year change in tape delay. Unless you have satellite. Then you can watch the East Coast feed in which case you're in 2008 for three hours while the rest of us are still in 2007.
The Rose Parade is Tuesday morning. Today some idiots will start staking out spots along the parade route. Every local channel will broadcast the parade. KTLA gets a 50 share, everyone else gets a 2. Why these other stations still bother is beyond me. KTLA coverage begins at like 3:00 a.m. Five hours of watching people paste flowers on floats and the idiots from today freezing. KTLA will begin replaying the parade immediately upon its conclusion. Then they replay it again. And again. Sometime around January 15th they return to regular programming.
Bob Eubanks has been hosting the parade since the floats were powered by horses. For many of those years his co-host was Stephanie Edwards, a popular local personality who was mostly known for being the carnie for Lucky Markets. She was replaced in the booth by local KTLA morning news anchor, Michaela Pereira. This caused quite a stir. Most people felt that Michaela was horrible and resented her in that Deborah Norville way for squeezing out our beloved Stephanie. (Fans would show their support for Steph by shopping at Lucky but Lucky no longer exists.) Now it’s three years later, Bob and Michaela are back and most people don’t even remember Stephanie Edwards. On to new important causes.
Then on New Year’s evening all the locals will go out to dinner, have to wait 45 minutes for a table since the Illinois rooters got there first, and things will return to normal.
So for my fellow Angelinos – enjoy it while you can!
By the way, happy 90th birthday to my second cousin Manny Thaler. He used to play in Glenn Miller's Band. He's still getting chicks off that gig.