Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Piece of Palm Springs History Continues to Thrive

If you've been reading this blog with any regularity over the past few years you have undoubtedly seen numerous posts or reference to Melvyn's, my favorite restaurant in Palm Springs. I suppose one might say I'm a regular there because I love the service, food and ambiance. There aren't many places like it left in the US; they still prepare certain dishes table side, by a staff of professional career waitstaff. Their head waiter, Bobby Bolduch is a fixture there and is a real pro. Just last week I heard that Bobby is about to reach his one millionth preparation of Steak Diane (prepared lovingly table-side at Melvyn's). In fact I believe this milestone is set to be covered on the Today Show soon. 
Melvyn's is a hip and swank connection to Palm Spring's Hollywood history. Many of the legends in entertainment have dined here over the years. It remains so today and now a new generation of young Hollywood continue to flock to Melvyn's themselves. 
Continuing on the theme of great restaurant staff, I just read a great article in The Desert Sun about the Maitre d'Hotel, Brian Ellis. I've had the pleasure of knowing Brian for a number of years and consider him one of the finest Maitre d's I've ever met. He was trained in the "old school" methods and can make anyone feel welcome and special. 

I've hosted a number of parties at Melvyn's and he always handles the details with class, style and precision. Everything runs like clock work, and as a host to a party of guests, that means a lot. Just last week I had a dinner party for 30 people on several nights. One of the three evenings was at Melvyn's; and my group told me it was the most memorable experience of all the dinners.


There are lots of great reasons to visit Palm Springs, and Melvyn's is one of them. For locals, Melvyn's restaurant is a place I can drop in mid-week for a quick meal, or for special occasions too. Whatever you reason, be sure to check it out and experience a piece of Palm Springs history.


ALPHA: Grain-Free Nutrition for Dogs & Cats

***Please note: this is NOT a paid post.
Regular readers of this blog know that I work for Dick Van Patten's Natural Balance Pet Foods. We make what I believe are the finest quality foods and treats for dogs and cats. I'm excited about a new product line we just launched called 'Alpha'. I helped work on this, which is why I'm so psyched to see it now at petco stores. It is all-natural, completely grain-free line of food, with moderate protein levels using high multiple quality protein sources. Each formula includes prebiotics to maintain optimal digestion. In addition, we use garbanzo beans, which are an excellent source of protein, rich in fiber too.

So why am I writing a post on my personal blog about a product? Well because I am EXCITED ABOUT IT and also love working for a company that is genuinely interested in making all-natural pet foods that can help dogs and cats live longer, healthier lives. 

If you didn't already know, we have a well-respected zoological division that makes specialized diets for large cats, carnivorous birds, reptiles and other animals. Our team of nutritionists work closely with zoos and reserves to keep animals healthy and well nourished. If we're trusted by zoos and reserves, imagine what our pet foods can do for your dog or cat! I'm continually impressed that our company has this zoological expertise on nutrition too. I don't know of any other pet food company that has that expertise.

So yes it is true that I am writing this post to help spread the word about our newest grain-free formulas; I'm also doing it because I helped work on this project and an excited to see it finally online at petco.com and in petco stores nationwide. If you have a chance, check it out and let me know what you think! Or better yet try a bag for your dog or cat. Click this banner below to read more:

Friday, January 28, 2011

Linda Gray Performs in "Bette Davis Speaks"

Last night I went to the opening performance of "Bette Davis Speaks", starring actress Linda Gray. Based on the book of the same name by author Boze Hadleigh, it is the account of his interview with the legendary actress of stage and screen. The stage production of "Speaks" presents the exact words of Ms Davis; providing the audience with an insider view of Ms Davis' thoughts and feelings on her lengthy career. The  set featured three actors seated on stage, reading manuscripts. The audience is immediately drawn into the script, often hilarious and always reflecting the sharp wit of Ms Davis. It's no wonder she is still regarded as one of the most iconic movie stars in motion picture and stage history. 
Linda Gray performs admirably as Bette Davis, drawing on her own encounter with Ms Davis over cocktails and dinner many years ago. This production actually showcases two actresses who each read lines from Ms Davis, and another who reads the role as the author. While enjoyable, this switching back and forth was somewhat distracting at times. I would have preferred to see a single spotlight on Ms Gray, against a dark stage with just her own reading. Regardless, the subject matter was rich in witticisms and wonderfully raucous stories from old Hollywood. Her unfiltered thoughts and recollections of scores of names through Hollywood history; from Tallulah Bankhead, Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, Lana Turner, to Marilyn Monroe are nothing short of titillating at times. Mr Hadleigh captures the essence of Bette Davis and recounts numerous stories that will delight any fan of Ms Davis.

A review I read describes the show as follows: "From her famous feud with Joan Crawford to her delightfully wicked comments on her contemporaries, "Bette Davis Speaks" is sure to be one of the most delightful evenings you will spend in the theater this year".


The show runs through March 20th, 2011 at the Indian Wells Theater in Palm Desert California. Located within the California State University San Bernadino, this Palm Desert campus boasts an impressive theater, ideal for this presentation. It's a marvelous example of arts thriving in our desert community. I was delighted to see my friend Ms Linda Gray appear in this role, she seemed to relish the opportunity to bring Bette Davis to life once again.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Book Review: Barkonomics, tips for frugal fidos

Working in the pet industry for the past 14 years, I've had direct experience with just about every category of pet supplies and pet foods on the market today. I've worked closely with manufacturers, nutritionists, vets and experts who develop, formulate and bring some amazing pet products to consumers. I know first hand the development costs of such endeavors, and I can tell you it can be very expensive to bring a product to market. That's just one reason why the cost of pet supplies can be surprisingly high when you have your first experience shopping for a new pet. 

Shelters and animal rescue groups do great job explaining the potential costs to care for a healthy pet annually. Depending on the size of the pet, it can range anywhere from $400 to $800 per year, at a minimum. For some pet parents that can be a burden. Shelters disclose that so newly adopted pets are not abandoned when the consumer realizes how much the basics can cost.

There are a number of great books available about caring for your pet. One relatively new title is 'Barkonomics: tips for frugal fidos' written by Paris Permenter and John Bigley, the team from DogTipper.com


When I attended BarkWorld Expo last year I saw first hand how well revered DogTipper.com is among pet bloggers and passionate pet parents. I've been following Dog Tipper on Twitter for some time, when they announced their new book it caught my interest. I wrote to one of the authors and invited her to be a guest on The Palm Springs Savant & Co radio show. (In full disclosure, they provided a complimentary copy of 'Barkonomics' to read before the show.) My radio show tends to attract a number of pet people, so I knew that the topic of finding ways to save money to better afford pet care would be a popular segment.

Barkonomics is a handy reference book, boasting more than 300 ways to save money in pet care and supplies. It includes everything from Do It Yourself ideas, finding coupons in e-newsletters form your favorite pet retailers, to stretching your pet shampoo. 

The one chapter I diverge from is on making your own dog food. It is a popular topic among message boards and many blogs, so I fully understand why they included this section in their book. While dog food is not rocket science, in my opinion it can be risky to feed a dog a homemade food long-term. Regular readers of this blog know that I work for Natural Balance, so of course I am partial to recommending our brand of dog food. A home made meal snack here or there is fine, but in my opinion- for your dog's primary meal, feed an all-natural, complete and balanced, nutritionally complete pet food available in a pet specialty store. I believe it is the best way to know it has everything your dog will need to remain healthy. To their credit, the authors provide tips on how to find deals on pet food, so you can still save money if you are a smart shopper!

Barkonomics has a well organized Table of Contents and Appendix that make this a valuable book to have on hand. I especially liked the section on Training and Exercise.

I applaud the authors for taking a responsible stand offering the 'Five Dog Expenses to Never Cut', which are: 1. Spay & Neuter, 2. Quality Dog Food, 3. Core vaccines, 4. Heartworm Preventative, and 5. Annual Health Exam.

Barkonomics is available for purchase on Amazon.com, other online bookstores or through DogTipper.com or local independent bookstores.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala 2011

Last night I attended the 22nd Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala, one of the most glittering social events in Palm Springs. Each year I am continually amazed at how huge this event has become; today it is second only to the Golden Globe Awards event in Hollywood (the Academy Awards/'Oscars' is number one). 

Several hundred press/media groups from around the world pack the red carpet to capture the magic. Palm Springs still has a certain 'je ne sais pas' allure from its early connections to the Hollywood film industry. During dinner last night a celebrity friend remarked that there were more actors, directors, producers, writers and studio executives in Palm Springs these days than during its golden era hay day in the 1950's and 1960's.
Events like these cannot happen without its sponsors, of which there are many. Legendary jeweler House of Cartier is the Presenting Sponsor, Mercedes Benz is the official vehicle of the festival, and Penfolds wines is a producing sponsor. Those companies truly add a huge glamor factor the evening.
Of course, the Film Festival is mostly about the films being screened. However the Awards Gala is the glitter that helps generate world wide interest in the festival- and media too. Hundreds of limousines arrive bringing more celebrities that I could name here. During the evening I saw Dame Helen Mirren, Penelope Cruz, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ben Affleck, Colin Firth, Diahann Carroll, Robert Duvall, Natalie Portman, Rita Rudner, Mark Wahlberg, James Franco, Amy Adams, Aaron Eckhart, Jimmy Van Patten, Jesse Eisenberg, Jack Jones, Javier Bardem, Carey Mulligen, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert Loggia, Oliver Stone and Mart Hart.
To give you an idea of the sheer magnitude of the press covering this event, I took this photo at one end of the red carpet. There was another entire section of press and photographers around the corner. Just in the front is actor Michael A. Newcomer ('A Thousand Cuts') and his date Willow, posing for photographs.
Robert Duvall and his wife
Amy Adams looked stunning.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman was channeling Audrey Hepburn











































Once inside from the red carpet and away from the prying eyes of the media, guests relaxed during the cocktail reception, amid huge vases of red tulips atop every bar and table. Pedfolds definitely made their mark with red branding throughout.
The Red Queen would have been pleased, beautiful vases of red tulips lighted from below

I took this close up for you Judy....

Chocolate mousse and vanilla cream with fresh raspberries
The Awards Ceremony
Carey Mulligan: Breakthrough Performance Award

Colin Firth: Desert Palm Achievement

Presenter James Franco

Presenter Jake Gyllenhaal

Jennifer Lawrence: Rising Star Award

Presenters Mark Wahlberg & Amy Adams

Presenter Oliver Stone




































































Ben Affleck: Chairman' Award

Dame Helen Mirren congratulates recipient Colin Firth

Toward the end of the evening I was feeling artistic with my camera and tried to take a number of creative artsy-fartsy photos, none of which had the correct exposure except this one, of the bottle of tine and the tulips. I liked the way the diamonds surrounding the vase refracted light. Shortly thereafter my camera battery bit the dust and was doing strange things. We made a quick escape and headed to the after-party at the famed Parker-Palm Springs hotel, which went on into the wee hours. When I walked into the hotel lobby, there was Ben Affleck sitting on a sofa chatting with guests, while Colin Firth stood just a few feet away sipping a glass of wine. It was a night to celebrate the arts and world of entertainment, and that is exactly what we did.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Film Fest Penfolds Reception & Dinner at The Riviera

Film Festival events are well underway, adding some glamor and fun to the impressive line up of films being screened over the next two weeks. Last night I attended the Penfolds reception held at the legendary Riviera Resort. I arrived early, along with the team making sure everything was ready-set-go for the evening. The special red carpet was in place and ready to greet celebrities and filmmakers like. Penfolds featured several of their terrific wines, so naturally I felt compelled to conduct a tasting of them all. They certainly offer a nice variety of reds- their Cabernet Sauvignon Shirz was my favorite, although I do not recall the vintage. Penfolds added to the status and class of the evening, I think it was a great fit. 

Anyway, I attended the cast dinner party for an upcoming Independent film called "A Thousand Cuts", which was filmed here in Palm Springs. A Thousand Cuts is a psychological thriller about a vengeful father who hunts down the Hollywood director whom he believes made a film that inspired the murder of his daughter. Executive Producers are Palm Springs' own Wonderstar Productions and J&J Productions, and was produced by Audrey Loggia (photo below). 'Cuts' was directed by Charles Evered, written by Eric Barr and Marty James, it stars Michael O'Keefe, Oleysia Rulin, Michael A Newcomer, Jimmy Van Patten and Charleen Closshey who were at the dinner party at the Riviera.
Producer Audrey Loggia and actor Robert Loggia on the red carpet

















 
Enjoying my usual martini during all the madness.
























Its always interesting watching the photographers going wild with their cameras, all vying for "THE PHOTO" of the night. I stood back and observed the frenzy and snapped a few photos of my own. In this photo here are: Executive Producer Kim Waltrip, actor Michael A. Newcomer, actor/writer/producer Jimmy Van Patten, actor David Naughton, Executive Producer Jim Casey, all from their latest project "A Thousand Cuts

A legend in her own right, the enchanting Miss Diahann Carroll, singer, actress and trailblazer in Hollywood. I had a lovely chat over dinner with Miss Carroll, she is to be inducted into the Television Academy of Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame on January 20th. I'll be at that event in Hollywood so I hope to write about that evening here on my blog. Diahann Carroll is a class act, one whom other modern day performers would do well to emulate. Alas, there are few true entertainers today who can compare to the generation of Miss Carroll. 
It was a fun evening, but just a warm up to the big star-studded Film Festival Awards Gala Saturday night...so stay tuned for more.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Film Festival Opening Film Night: 'Potiche'

Last night was the opening film for the Palm Springs International Film Festival. It runs for the next twelve days screening primarily Independent films from the US and around the world. Over the past 22 years, we have distinguished ourselves from other film film festivals through the broad variety of films from new filmmakers. In fact, one third of the films being screened this year are by filmmakers whose entry was their first feature film. The festival screening board watches 3,000 films over the course of a year and selects roughly 200 that make it to the festival, so it isn't an easy task to select the very best from so many submissions.
The opening film last night was a French feature film called 'Potiche' (for plot description, see yesterday's post). If you are not accustomed to reading subtexts in foreign films, it can be challenging; however in the case of Potiche, I didn't mind at all. I was immediately drawn into the story and couldn't wait to read the next line of English text to keep up. I tried to listen in, but my French vocabulary is a bit weak. In my opinion, this film is marvelous! Catherine Deneuve is clearly the star of this picture, commanding attention from the very start. She plays Suzanne Bujol, a potiche, or trophy wife who suddenly finds her voice and becomes a modern business woman. It's a delightful comedy, directed by François Ozon, and based on a 1980 stage play by Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Gredy. Based in the late 70's it has a zany, screwball comedy style that has direct ties to modern French politics. For the observer of French life, the film has numerous "inside" jokes to delight the French, and astute foreign viewers as well. Among other things, the story reflects the casual French attitude toward mistresses and affairs, so be prepared for the winks and not-so-subtle mentions of extramarital relations. Despite being a comedy, the film has an excellent storyline, with messages built in to inspire and delight. Well cast and directed with precision, Potiche is well worth your time.
The venerable Catherine Deneuve is masterful at comedy yet graceful too.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Palm Springs International Film Fest Kicks Off

Regular readers of this blog know that I am a huge supporter of Independent film making. On my radio show The Palm Springs Savant & Co, I regularly feature directors, writers, actors and producers to raise awareness of Indie films and inspire future generations of filmmakers.

So, I'm thrilled its that time of year when the sparkle of Hollywood shines a little brighter here in the Coachella Valley. The Palm Springs International Film Festival kicks off today with the opening night screening of a French comedy entitled 'Potiche'. 

Each year I try to cover various events of the film fest, along with a few reviews of Independent Films screened here. The Palm Springs Film Festival has an outstanding reputation world wide for its diversity, range of topics and broad international representation. In fact this year we boast 196 films, from 69 different countries around the world! I was reading in Variety magazine that they plan to honor Mark Wahlberg and the “10 Directors to Watch" at our upcoming Black Tie Gala event this Saturday, January 8th. As usual I'll be at that event, and hope to have plenty to share about the celebrity speeches and more. To see my post from last year's gala, click here.

The film festival runs through January 17th; its easy to buy advance tickets or day of "rush" tickets just before screening. This is a perfect time to come to Palm Springs to relax, enjoy the festival and experience life in the desert. Visit the festival website for full details.
  
The Palm Springs International Film Festival has the following information on its website about this evening's opening screening film, 'Potiche':

"Catherine Deneuve commands the screen with a regal wink as Suzanne Bujol, a trophy wife (“potiche”) whose mettle is tested when catastrophe strikes in her husband’s umbrella factory. Under the assured direction of prolific French filmmaker François Ozon, this stylish French farce is an irresistible romp through 1970s kitsch, politics and female emancipation. Like many wives of the 1970s, Suzanne’s realm is the home. Her smug, philandering husband Robert, who secured the factory through her dowry, is virtually oblivious to her needs--not that she expresses them. But when Robert is taken hostage by his employees, it is Suzanne who swiftly negotiates his release, with the help of Babin, the union leader (Gérard Depardieu) with whom she once had a brief fling many years prior.

Robert ends up in hospital, and having little choice, leaves Suzanne at the helm. Proving to have a natural flair for business, she quickly assesses the situation, enlists the help of her devoted son to create a new line and her daughter (daddy’s girl) and her husband’s secretary (and lover)--and the business positively booms! Babin, who has never quite gotten over their brief tryst, can neither repress his feelings, nor his admiration for her: she is a force to be reckoned with. If she can do this, what else could she take on? But her husband will soon be out of hospital and duty calls…Cleverly drawing parallels with present day issues in France, Ozon’s Potiche uses emotion and humor to explore themes that are as fresh today as they were four decades prior."

Director: François Ozon
Producer: Eric Altmayer, Nicolas Altmayer
Editor: Laure Gardett
Screenwriter: François Ozon, based on the play by Pierre Barillet, Jean-Pierre Grédy
Cinematographer: Yorck Le Saux
Music: Philippe Rombi
Principal Cast: Catherine Deneuve, Gérard Depardieu, Fabrice Luchini, Karin Viard, Judith Godrèche, Jérémie Renier


I'll weigh in tomorrow with my opinion of this film along with any inside scoop from the red carpet.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

My View of The 122nd Annual Rose Parade


Finally, dawn broke and the parade route started to light up
Once again I had the privilege of attending the Tournament of Roses Parade in beautiful Pasadena, California. This was the 122nd Annual Rose Parade, which is a really spectacular parade that showcases life in Southern California. My employer, Natural Balance Pet Foods had a float in the parade- our third year in a row in fact. Last year we made history with the World's Longest Parade Float. This year we broke another record with the World's Heaviest Float, but more on that later. Some people who attend the Rose Parade camp out along the route as much as 24 hours in advance to secure a prime spot. I was fortunate to have seats in the viewing stands from my company. I was also entertaining/hosting a number of customers with whom my company does business.

Parade organizers request attendees to be in their seats by 6:30 AM, mainly because of the sheer volume of people who turn up. We arrived by 6:00 AM- it was quite cold, 39 degrees Fahrenheit (4 Celsius) so it was rather chilly! We sat in the viewing stands, waiting for sunrise and observing the massive crowds settle into position along the route. I was seated at 90 S Orange Grove, which is the very beginning of the parade, just before it turn onto Colorado Boulevard.

I love the Rose Parade- the beautiful flowers that cover all the floats are a remarkable sight to see. I also love seeing marching bands and hearing their music too. When our float finally came into view, it was truly exciting. You see, working at Natural Balance is not just a regular job. We have FUN. We love animals and find ways to express that through our brand. Our Rose Parade float is a great example of that. Our float features the world famous Tillman and gang- who can all skateboard, snow board, and surf. This year they were skim boarding, while in another part of the float a group of Dock Diving Dogs were jumping into a heated pool and having a blast.
As the float approached, this is the front view!
Our co-founder actor Dick Van Patten once again rode on the float with his son Jimmy Van Patten. Together they cheered on Tillman, Rose, Lyle and Sully as parade viewers watched in amusement. Being a family company, the Van Pattens are involved and love being with the dogs on the float. The dock diving dogs wore body suits provided by Body Glove, who are experts in water sports gear. It was so much fun to see our float and to hear the audience's genuine appreciation and affection for these dogs.
This photo is from the LA Times of our Dock Diving Pool
Be sure to click on this photo below to biggify it!
Side view of our float. In the center is the massive pool, to the right is the skim boarding area!
Rear view of the Natural Balance float























The official certificate!

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As I mentioned earlier, our float was certified by the Guinness World Records as the Heaviest parade float in history. Weighing in at 84,300 pounds, all the water in the heated pool (not to mention the 14 dogs) made for a record-breaking float! It was made by Fiesta Parade Floats, the best float makers in the business!


If you were not able to see the Rose Parade, the clips below had coverage of the Natural Balance float. First ABC:

And here is the clip from KTLA- our float is right around the 4:00 minute mark:
 
And here are a few other floats I saw that caught my eye for some reason or other:
Look closely on top of the coach- POODLES!


This guy was doing some fancy rope tricks on his horse!

My favorite: The Ronald Reagan Foundation Float!

Kaiser Permanente (health insurance) had a neat float

Namco, the makers of Pac Man video game!

Cunard Cruise Line- this one is for Bee!


Rose Bowl team University of Wisconsin

Rose Bowl team TCU, Texas Christian University

US Bank, I just liked this one for some reason.
Warner Bros Float- you can see Sponge Bob!
Here are some of the goodies from this year's Rose Parade. My company made commemorative bags, pins, hats, mugs and t-shirts for our guests (see photos left). We also made blankets but I gave mine to someone in the stands. 
The whole experience was a lot of fun, and I was so proud of my company's float. It felt great to see first hand how well the parade viewers responded with cheers of support and applause when the Natural Balance float glided by. Those dogs sure are a hit. I can't imagine how we will top this next year, but I'm sure we will find a way!

Disclaimers...

This blog is about life experiences & observations and stuff I am interested in. It is simply a side hobby and creative outlet; generally with a tongue-in-cheek tone. I don't take it too seriously, nor should you. I do not profess to represent every point of view. Nothing on this site is a paid post.

It is for entertainment purposes only it, so just lighten up and just enjoy it. Life is short, live in the moment.

As the author, thoughts/views have no affiliation to my clients, business colleagues or my company.