Stories

  • A Visit to the Los Angeles' Mormon Temple Visitor's Center

    —I couldn't help it, I drove in

     from the L.A. P.O.V. column in the New York Times

    The Los Angeles Mormon Temple in 1956.Hal Filan/Associated Press     The Los Angeles Mormon Temple in 1956.

    Visible from so many angles, it’s L.A.’s own version of the Chrysler Building, with a couple of caveats: no pedestrian access and only its members allowed inside. The Los Angeles Mormon Temple, like a secret fortress on a hill behind a large expanse of perfectly manicured lawn. The Modernist, slightly Deco, somewhat gothic structure has no easily definable style of architecture, unless you were to coin one: Mormonesque.

    It’s been there almost all my life (the temple officially opened in 1956), a forbidden structure, the architecture of which was so impressive, the grounds so well kept, that one couldn’t help but want to walk on them. The temple itself is 190,614 square feet; the grounds 13 acres; and, at the top of the building, its gold statue of the angel Moroni (it’s hard not to comment on the name) 16 and a half feet, proudly blowing its horn, a beacon and a sentry for all to see. Just not up close.

    But curiously (or not so curiously), a little over a year ago a sign went up on the northeast corner of the lawn that reads: “Visitors’ Center Open. All are welcome.”

    And a few weeks ago, I couldn’t help it — I drove in. Even the long drive to the parking lot behind the temple, up a big hill into an oasis of calm and serenity, was a little awe inspiring.

  • Beverly Hills Cop: Meet 90210’s First Female Police Chief

    vogue logo

    from Vogue

    Sandra Spagnoli Portrait

    Her office is big. Hollywood-movie-set big. Dark brown leather couches, lush, surprisingly comfortable.

  • Beyond The Bling Ring: Real Life Lessons of Raising Kids in L.A.

    bling ring

    Conversation with my older daughter, age 21, circa 2007:

    “Where are you going?”
    “To Teddy’s.” Teddy’s is an ultra-hip celebrity-studded “exclusive” club in L.A. at the time.
    “I thought you didn’t like it there and you weren’t going to go again?”
    “I know, Mom, but if I don’t go, Baker and Christina won’t be able to get in. And Baker’d be really upset.”

    At the time, she is platinum blonde. The skirt she is wearing is stunningly short—not that I didn’t wear skirts that short when I was her age. And the heels she is wearing are almost as high.

  • Brian Williams, Walter Cronkite and ‘Girls’

    from the L.A. P.O.V. column in the New York Times

    Brian Williams, who delivered the commencement speech at the 2012 George Washington University graduation ceremony, receives an honorary degree from the school.photo-Jessica McConnell Burt/George Washington UniversityBrian Williams, who delivered the commencement speech at the 2012 George Washington University graduation ceremony, receives an honorary degree from the school.

    There were blue skies over the National Mall, and it was packed with jubilant George Washington University grads in caps and gowns and a bevy of appropriately dressed parents sitting on folding chairs on the lawn. So sunny, we moved our chairs under the shade of a tree. My husband, my children and I had flown to Washington, D.C., from Los Angeles as my son Ethan Harari is a proud member of the G.W. graduating class.

    As Brian Williams stepped up to the podium to deliver the commencement speech, the skies turned dark. Brian Williams smiled and said something like, “Perfect,” as it in some way mirrored his checkered collegiate past. He’d managed to amass 18 credits (at three colleges) before dropping out of the very same George Washington University’s night school. He had a good excuse — he was an intern at the White House and had an access-all-areas pass.

  • Champagne by the Case

    by Amy Ephron

    excerpt from Loose Diamonds ...and other things I've lost (and found) along the way
    Published in the New York Times "T" Magazine

    ALONE, TOGETHER — The author, far left, enjoyed a moment to herself at a party in the 1970s.

    ALONE, TOGETHER —
    The author, far left, enjoyed a moment to herself at a party in the 1970s.


    The bubbly flowed, the diamonds too. For one good-time girl in ’70s L.A., it seemed as if the party would never end. Adapted from “Loose Diamonds … and Other Things I’ve Lost (and Found) Along the Way,” published by William Morrow. Some names have been changed.

    I have a theory that single women who buy Champagne by the case rarely end well.
    Disclaimer: I’ve been known to make generalizations based on a case study of four.

     

    Honey Hathaway was the first single woman I knew who bought Champagne by the case (except for a random movie star friend of my mother’s). In Honey’s case, it was Cristal. And let me say, right from the start, that I don’t actually know what happened to Honey, which leads me to my second theory that I’ve never tested but always believed: that in some way, the U.S.A. could be a perfect place to hide, just vanish, set up another identity and carry on. Honey was, also, the first 23-year-old woman I knew who owned her own house. Big house. Spanish. With a step-down living room and a formal dining room and a sweeping staircase that would do Scarlett O’Hara proud. The rest of us all rented, had a roommate, lived in somebody’s pool house or in an apartment on Fountain.

  • Cranberry Heaven

    cranberryI love cranberries. I do. I love Ocean Spray whole cranberry cranberry sauce. It has to be whole berry and I’m addicted to it. I can’t even serve a roast chicken without cranberry sauce. We were once out of cranberry sauce (which I didn’t realize) as I put the chicken on the table and I started crying. Literally.

    Alan was so annoyed at me he stormed out and bought ten cans of whole berry cranberry sauce and we had a very pleasant dinner. The roast chicken was very good by the way. But it just feels naked to me without the “sauce” and gravy might do the trick but it’s fattening and bad for you and over-indulgent on a Wednesday night.

    On Thanksgiving, I like to take two to three cans of Ocean Spray, put them in a decorative mold (like you make a bundt cake in) but I have one that’s in the shape of a rose, put it in the fridge for three hours and then carefully place a plate over it, hit the bottom of the pan and serve it on the plate and pretend I made it myself.

  • Cut-Offs! A Memoir About Making One’s Own

    cut-offs
    Photo: Victoria Will

    Back in the day when soft denim jeans weren’t really available to buy – but for an occasional pair of stone-washed (read: $$$) or recycled denim (ditto) – a worn pair of jeans was a coveted and beloved item.

  • Designer Place Settings with Basic White China

    table setting

    Sunday brunch is a great way to see family and friends in a more intimate setting. I like to serve courses, even at breakfast, so the table is set with white china chargers. A beautiful blue Italian salad plate is set on it for the first course of fruit and then removed, and breakfast is served on more white china. Juice in delicate pink 1920s wineglasses for a splash of elegance, oversize Italian coffee cups — everything encourages you to linger. Individual pitchers and ramekins for syrup and jam — a rule of my mother's: Decant everything. And white linen napkins that were also my mother's, to remind us of holidays past."

    published for House Beautiful's Entertainment Page

  • Endless Summer: A Vogue Editor Reflects on a Lifetime in Sandals

    sandals

    I remember my first pair of sandals. They were white and they had a moderately thick strap across the top of the foot just where the toes start and a similar one around the ankle. The leather was soft but there was an adjustable buckle on both straps that miraculously didn’t chafe. They were closed-backed, with a tiny bit of a flat heel and a sensible sole. I think I was three. I was reminded of them a few weeks ago by a photo posted on this site of Julianne Moore, proudly casual on a New York City street, wearing jeans and a pair of white Birkenstock sandals.

  • Leonard Cohen, Up Close: Collaborator Sharon Robinson on Her New Photos

    leonard cohen plane
    Photo: Sharon Robinson

    The last thing Sharon Robinson expected was to get a call from Leonard Cohen in 2008. He was 73 at the time and had returned from a long stint in Mt. Baldy, where he’d been anointed a Zen monk.

  • Marveling at the Super Bloom: Amy Ephron Visits Death Valley

    vogue logo

    from Vogue

    death-valley-super-bloom

    Rarely (every 14 years or so), a super bloom erupts in Death Valley and the desert is briefly (carpeted would be too extreme) finely brushed with fields of purple, yellow, white, and pale pink wildflowers. Thanks to the almost El Niño, we’re having a super bloom this year. And for a brief moment, one of the most desolate places in the world won’t seem quite so desolate.

  • Me and My Keurig

    kuerigI have a complicated relationship with my Keurig. It was given to us at Christmas by my husband’s children. It was an amazing gift, thoughtful, inventive, and big. It is big. It is also streamlined and beautiful. I’d never seen anything like it before, which made them laugh hysterically (as it did half my friends). Confession: I don’t work in an office and when I do go to offices, they don’t usually invite me into the kitchen. The fact that I’d never seen anything like it before made me feel a little bit like Abe Simpson.

    I also felt a little bit the way someone probably felt in the ‘50s when they got their first blender. “Wow, I can actually make a margarita at home. I can make a milkshake. I wonder if I can make gazpacho?” The Waring blender was probably invented in the ‘30s and someone is probably about to correct me. Yep. I just looked it up, the blender was invented in the ‘30s and the waring blender was named after Fred Waring, a musician who financed the fine tuning of the Hamilton Beach invention. (Don’t ask me about the patent rights.) But I wonder if my Grandmother wanted to buy stock in the Waring company. (My Grandmother bought stock in Campbells’ Soup when they invented Campbell’s Cream of Tomato Soup – I don’t know how she did with that, but there was no way you could get her to sell that stock.)

    I have a friend who wanted to buy stock in Keurig and is mad at her husband because they didn’t. Apparently it was a good stock buy. I’m not sure I would want to buy stock in Keurig because I’m not sure it’s ecological and I have an issue with that. Also, I missed the boat. The time to buy the stock was when the Keurig came out, not when it arrived in my kitchen last December.

  • My Favorite Hotel Bars...

    peninsula.jpgI admit it – I have a soft spot for hotel bars partly because the first time my present husband declared himself to me was at a hotel bar – albeit it was coming on the heels of “I think you have another girlfriend (true) and if you want to keep seeing me, you’d better tell her good-bye....” In fairness, we’d only been dating for a week and we hadn’t kissed yet. And my version of the story is way more dramatic than his. In my version, I exit the table and he runs after me and says, “Wait, wait...I think I’m falling in love with you.” In his version, the dialogue is the same, but he claims he didn’t run after me in the patio of the bar at The Peninsula in Beverly Hills and dramatically stop my exit, he simply said it at the table. (I’m right, by the way....)

    Neither of us dispute the second part – that the first time we kissed was in the driveway of the Peninsula (about three minutes after the declaration) as we were both waiting for our own cars and the possibility that we might never see each other again was hanging in the air. The valets all started laughing and smiling, and in my writer’s mind, there was also applause (this is potentially debatable) but the valets were pretty sweet since basically it was sort of old people making out and could have elicited a slightly different reaction, like yucch, and if this is “too much information” for my children, I apologize about that....

    But I do think a hotel bar is a great place for a date and (even if you’re married) it’s sometimes nice to have a date with your husband. Just an hour and a half at cocktail hour or after a movie for a drink and an appetizer or two.

    My favorite hotel bars:

  • You Can Call Her Mayor Brown: How Aja Brown Is Transforming the City of Compton

    Her name is Aja (because her mother liked the Steely Dan song), but you can call her Mayor Brown.

    aja brown
    Photo: Alex Hoerner

    Compton, the small California city that gangsta rap put on the map—the birthplace of Kendrick Lamar, Dr. Dre, and the infamous Suge Knight; the early training ground of Serenaand Venus Williams—has a new kid in town. And if she has her way, she’s going to bring a lot of changes to Compton.

    Mayor Aja Brown, 31, sworn into office July 2, 2013, may be a somewhat recent resident, but she has deep roots in Compton. Her own mother, Brenda Jackson, fled the city in her twenties. Jackson’s mother, Aja’s maternal grandmother, Lena Young—there’s no way to write this sentence without its stark reality—was brutally murdered in a violent home invasion rape and robbery in Compton in the 1970s. The case is still unsolved.