Star-spangled weekend

We didn’t end up seeing any fireworks over our first July 4 weekend in Los Angeles, but we did end up seeing plenty of stars (OK, so you might not have heard all their names, but you’ll probably recognize their photos).

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Kenley and I started our July 4 weekend by going to First Friday on Abbot Kinney. After our Baby’s Badass Burger and Coolhaus ice cream “sammie” meal from two of the dozens of food trucks there, we strolled down Abbot Kinney and happened upon the Faile exhibit at the Post No Bills gallery.

Kenley spotted a short guy with a New York Yankees hat on and said he thought it was Christina Aguilera’s ex-husband, Jordan Bratman. I’m not sure whether I was more surprised that this dude was once married to Christina Aguilera, or that Kenley was able to recognize Bratman without “X-tina” by his side. Here’s a photo of Bratman and the story about their divorce in L.A. Times’ Ministry of Gossip blog.

Turns out that Bratman is the co-founder of Post No Bills, which had just opened on June 24. The art gallery houses a print shop, where featured street-style artists are invited to make prints before they go on display in the gallery. Faile is an art collaborative out of Brooklyn that creates brightly colored comic book-like prints with darker themes. Read the LA Weekly story about the opening of Post No Bills, see a photo gallery from the show on the LAist website, and visit Faile’s website. If you’re in L.A., the show runs until July 24.

Saturday night, Kenley and I tried Crossroads Barbecue, which recently opened just up the street from our apartment. The cheesy bacon grits were the right consistency and pretty good after adding butter and salt and pepper. The pulled pork was in a ketchup/vinegar-based sauce. Being a good Midlands girls, I prefer mustard-based Q, but that might be hard to come by here. Korean barbecue seems to rule Los Angeles, but Kenley and I have spotted a couple of other Southern- or Texas-style barbecue joints that we want to try. (If you live in L.A. or know of a good barbecue joint here, please let us know.)

On Sunday, I set out to try to make a Southern favorite: shrimp and grits. I dragged Kenley with me to the Whole Foods on Lincoln Boulevard in Venice to get the shrimp. While shopping, Kenley spotted character actor Barry Shabaka Henley.  (I have no idea how Kenley recognizes these people. Perhaps he should pursue a career at TMZ.) Henley looked familiar once Kenley subtly nodded his head in his direction. Henley played an editor in the movie “State of Play,” which we had just watched on Netflix on Saturday night. You might have seen Henley as an FBI agent on the TV show “FlashForward,” or as a detective on the show “Heroes.” If you can’t picture him, visit his page on IMDb.

On the next aisle, we saw Greg Germann, who is best known for playing greedy, womanizing but likable lawyer Richard Fish and spouting “Fish-isms” on the popular TV show “Ally McBeal.” He has aged a bit, but was still immediately recognizable. Bygones.

Kenley said he’ll happily accompany me to Whole Foods next time and wondered what he would do if he saw, gasp, Kristen Bell. I suggested he should tell her he wrote a song about her and that her autographed photo is hanging in our bathroom, but that just might scare her off.

As for my second attempt ever at cooking shrimp and grits, it turned out pretty well. I used a recipe from a family friend of the Youngs. The recipe didn’t have too heavy of a gravy, and the organic grits I found at Whole Foods were great! I just have to remember not to cook the shrimp too long. (If you’ve got a good recipe for shrimp and grits, pass it on.)

On Monday morning, I went to LAX and picked up my longtime friend Audrey Roach, who lives in Seattle. We braved the traffic and drove up the Pacific Coast Highway to Moonshadows, where we had lunch overlooking the ocean.

There, Kenley spotted Dolph Lundgren, the Swedish actor best known for playing Russian boxer Ivan Drago in the movie “Rocky IV,” and for telling the Italian Stallion, “I must break you.” He reportedly lives in Spain, so he was a strange actor to see celebrating America’s Independence Day. But I wasn’t going to be asking him any questions. Would you?

Surprisingly, none of the beach towns near Los Angeles has major public fireworks displays to celebrate July 4. Marina Del Rey canceled its show because of budget problems, and even though there hasn’t been a fireworks display at the Santa Monica pier since 1991, the community still has to post flashing neon signs around the town alerting people that, again, there is no fireworks display this year. The displays were canceled thanks to years of traffic- and crowd-enforcement problems and violence.

We headed to Santa Monica for the evening anyway and walked on the pier, had drinks at a dive bar on the beach and a late dinner on the dining deck at Santa Monica Place, which overlooks the ocean.

Although Audrey has lived on the West Coast for almost 15 years, she has never been to Los Angeles, so on Tuesday, Kenley and I took her on our signature driving tour of Hollywood and Beverly Hills.


Instead of starting out at The Grove, we decided to eat at one of the restaurant patios along the Sunset Strip. We chose a restaurant called Cravings, where I noticed an attractive older woman at the table next to us. I figured she was someone, but I didn’t immediately know who. Kenley, again subtly, Googled “Morgan Fairchild” on his phone and showed me the photo. I nodded in recognition. I wonder whether the guy driving the nearby sightseeing van — who held up a sign asking a young blonde in sunglasses, “Are you famous?” — realized he was driving past an icon of the ’70s and ’80s?

If you don’t remember Fairchild on ’70s soap operas “Search for Tomorrow” or “Falcon Crest” (evil vineyard!), you might remember that she appeared in the campy Old Navy commercials and made guest appearances as Chandler Bing’s mother on “Friends” and as a cougar on “Two and a Half Men.”

The Hollywood area has a complicated relationship with celebrities that I don’t yet fully understand. Protocol is not to disturb the celebrities when you see them in their natural environment — kinda like tigers. Yet there are websites and Twitter feeds dedicated to telling you when and where they are spotted, what they are wearing, and how they look (photos usually included). More reputable media outlets seem to limit their stories to the public business dealings or runnings-in with the law of the truly famous. The Los Angeles blogosphere took issue this week when Celia Warden (reporter and wife of TV personality Piers Morgan) said in an article in The Telegraph of London: “L.A. has little else to offer but celebrities,” referring to Prince William and Kate Middleton and their recent visit to Southern California. (Kenley and I unfortunately did not receive our invitation to the BAFTA gala Saturday night, but you could easily follow the royals’ trip on Twitter.)

Los Angeles certainly has more to offer than celebrity watching, yet I must admit I think I’ll always get a little rush when I recognize (or, more likely, Kenley points out) a famous person shopping in the grocery store or sitting next to me at a restaurant.

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