West Hollywood PRIDE Celebration Makes Community Proud

20140607_123228The 2014 PRIDE LA Music & Arts Festival held June 6-9 in West Hollywood Park delivered on the promise of its promoters, Christopher Street West, that the event would feature “something for everyone.”  A centerpiece of the festival was Thunderground, an outdoor rollerskating rink complete with a light show and mirror balls and pulsating disco music.

Many skaters graced the rink wearing their best circa-1970s Lycra leggings and fro wigs.  Sponsor American Apparel helped set the dress code by giving away muscle tank tops and pink and white stripped Richard-Simmons short-shorts, while Delta Airlines offered free spray tans in two cabanas in the outdoor VIP lounge.

Other attractions included a pop-up arcade of carnival games, such a shooting gallery with a ping pong ball gun where you could “put your balls in Putin’s mouth” by aiming at a cut-out target of the Russian leader’s open mouth, and a variation on the water-dunk booth but with players breaking water balloons over each other’s heads.


There were lots of great giveaways from companies ranging from Just for Skin face creams Dyle, a new tech device that streams live TV to your mobile phone.  Booths by Walgreens, Whole Foods and Arrowhead Water were just some of the mainstream companies represented.  Bedsides the occasional nearly naked buff man in a tiny sling of a bikini handing out palm cards to the local gay men’s night club, the tone of this year’s festival seemed less focused on sex-related promotion than in previous years.

As a banner over Robertson Boulevard greeted, “Welcome to Our Family,” PRIDE indeed felt more about fun and community this year.  After all, what’s more wholesome than a giant roller-skating rink with kids and parents skating around together hand in hand?  This year I can really say, PRIDE made me proud.


Everythng is Awesome at LEGOLAND Movie Experience at LEGOLAND Resort

If your kids love building ingenious LEGO building brick creations and they could not get enough of the LEGO Movie, they will be thrilled to go where everything is awesome at the new LEGO MOVIE EXPERIENCE at LEGOLAND California Resort.  The attraction features a behind-the-scenes look at the LEGO Movie set where kids can step onto a LEGO soundstage and see the amazing collection of LEGO models that were featured in the 3D animated adventure.


Visitors can view more than three million LEGO bricks that make up the models on the set and relive the adventures of the hero Emit, one perfectly ordinary LEGO minifigure who follows a calling to stop an evil tyrant, and he learns that he is a lot more special than he ever imagined.


While the LEGOLAND park operates on a limited schedule with shorter hours off season, the advantage to visiting during winter months is that the crowds are sparse.  On a cool and rain-sprinkling Sunday in March, we were able to get on the most popular rides with a wait of just a few minutes.


For those staying overnight to visit LEGOLAND Resort, the new LEGOLAND Hotel bordering the park offers terrific convenience, but another great option is one of the best little hotels anywhere, West Inn and Suites.  This boutique hotel offers a great value at a reasonable price starting at $159.00.  West Inn & Suites is located just few minutes away from LEGOLAND on the outskirts of an industrial park and close by the McClellan-Palomar Airport and the railroad tracks.  Despite the unusual location, this terrific inn is smartly decorated and features top-notch friendly service.


The large king or queen suites are appointed with classic contemporary dark wood furniture, desks outfitted with outlets for computer and a pull-out queen sofa bed in a separate sitting area perfect for kids.  This place has everything a traveler could need and more:  heated pool and Jacuzzi, wi-fi, lighted make-up mirrors, wet bar, mini-fridge and in-room coffee maker.  Families with young kids abound in this hotel, due to its nearness to LEGOLAND, so it makes sense that the staff were so understanding when the our kids locked the in-room safe, and security had to come up to open it; or when we needed a fan for white noise to help the kids sleep.  Other kid-friendly amenities include a game system and two TVs, and fresh-daily cookies served with cold milk every night along with a hot breakfast buffet served daily.


Two restaurants adjacent to the property are the popular local and tourist dining destinations:  the gourmet West restaurant and the more causal Bistro West.  Both source their produce from a local three-acre farm where fresh veggies are plucked each morning and brought to the restaurant’s kitchen. Image

Bistro West sees plenty of families enjoying the restaurant’s satisfying comfort food post-LEGOLAND.  The kids menu features typical mac and cheese and chicken strip fare along with a nice kid-portioned filet mignon for the little foodie sophisticate.


For grownups, some of the featured favorites are the calamari fritti two ways with Asian seasonings and a wasabi cocktail sauce and classic fritti with roasted garlic aioli.  For entrees the local white sea bass served with pickled baby carrots and black olive tapenade over farro and hearty pastas like the spaghetti in vodka tomato cream with sautéed shrimp are winners.


The white chocolate and Tahitian vanilla bean crème brulee duo or the made-for-sharing mud pie loaded with layers of Oreo, ice cream and drizzled with chocolate sauce are delicious finishers.


In-Person Author Talk: The Straight-A Conspiracy: Your Secret Guide to Ending the Stress of School and Totally Ruling the World

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Author Hunter Maats will be speaking about a book he and co-author Katie O’Brien wrote at the Barnes & Noble at the 3rd Street Promenade. The book is written for teenagers and is a fun, approachable guide to get them to take charge of school. It’s called The Straight-A Conspiracy: Your Secret Guide to Ending the Stress of School and Totally Ruling the World. Details are below:

Saturday, March 8th — 7PM
Barnes & Noble — Santa Monica
1201 3rd Street Promenade
Santa Monica, CA 90401

“Destroys the notion that you have to be born smart to understand complex concepts and get good grades.”

— Geekdad, Wired.com

Join Hunter Maats and Katie O’Brien, Harvard graduates, founders of Overqualified Tutors, and the authors of The Straight A Conspiracy: Your Secret Guide to Ending the Stress of School, sharing their surprising, spectacular, life-changing findings at the Santa Monica Barnes & Noble.

At this FREE event, Hunter and Katie will map out an easy, no-nonsense, straightforward, practical tried-and true action plan that students can apply all year long.


Celeb Gay Parents Celebrate at Family Equality Council Dinner in LA


Proud mom Melissa Etheridge and her fiance.


The legendary rocker joked with the audience about how good it was to be at the event, which celebrates gay-parented families.

“I’ve got two teens and two seven-year-olds.  I don’t go out and do anything anymore. I’m too tired.”

Etheridge then reminisced about the media clamor 17 years ago when she was one of the first gay moms to come out; and she remarked about the commonness today of families headed by gay and lesbian parents.

“Is it just me, but are we everywhere?” Etheridge laughed.

She then told a story about going to Lulu Lemon recently to get a pair of soccer shorts for her daughter.  The sales clerk, a young woman, showered Etheridge with praise for coming out as a lesbian mother.   The young woman was herself raised by two moms, she had just bought her moms tickets to Etheridge’s show.

Etheridge may have been one of the first to go public, but gay parents were in no shortage at the awards event.  Funny man and gay dad Alec Mapa of Ugly Betty fame emceed the event of more than 300 gay parents and their supporters.


Alex Mapa and Pearson Brown

Honorees of the evening were Peter Paige & Bradley Bredeweg, creators of ABC Family’s groundbreaking drama series The Fosters, produced by Jennifer Lopez, about a multi-ethnic family mix of foster and biological kids being raised by two moms; and Jennifer Tyrrell, a gay mom honored for her advocacy after being removed from her leadership position with Boy Scouts of America because she is gay.

One of the poignant moments of the evening was a short, heartfelt speech by a gay dad whose home was repeatedly vandalized and his children harassed because neighbors in his small Arizona town learned that the household was headed by two dads.  As a show of support, the two fathers and their family were treated by Family Equality Council to a vacation in Provincetown for the organization’s annual Family Week.

“Instead of being hated for being a two-dad family, we were embraced,” he said, choking back tears.

As he accepted his award, Paige survey the audience of mostly thirty-something and middle-age mom and dads and remarked, “It’s staggering that anyone could be threatened by anything happening in the this room.  It’s appalling and it has to stop.”

The message of the evening was that gay parents are just regular moms and dads, trying to do laundry, get their kids dressed and ready for school, and all the other mundane but normal things that other families do.

As Alec Mapa summed up, “We want the same things, but we’re gay, so we want nicer things.”

Also on hand at the event were Orange is the New Black’s Laura Prepon Scandal’s Dan Bucatinsky, David Miller, and Casey Bloys, Darren Criss and Amber Riley of Glee, Adam Lambert, Glee creator Ryan Murphy, actress Busy Phillips, and the cast of ABC’s Scandal including Scott Foley, Tony Goldwyn and Jeff Perry; Tim Allen, Pauley Perrette (NCIS),  George Takei, Harold Perrineau, Aisha Tyler, Kathleen Robertson, Tuc Watkins, Alex Newell (Glee), Tamara Barney and Heather Dubrow of Real Housewives of Orange County, Carlon Gebbia and Joyce Giraud, and Yolanda Foster of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Dale Dickey, Debbie Holliday, Amanda Bearse, and the cast of ABC Family’s The Fosters including Maia Mithcell, David Lambert, Cierra Ramirez, Jake T. Austin, Danny Nucci and Hayden Byerly.


Peter Paige & Bradley Bredeweg, creators of ABC Family’s groundbreaking drama series The Fosters.


Pearson Brown, Laura Pepron and Angela Robinson.

Kids Walk the Red Carpet at Family Day at the Movies at Regal Cinemas LA LIVE Stadium 14


Every kid can be a star at Regal Cinemas L.A. LIVE Stadium 14 at Family Day at the Movies, a series of special movie watching experiences with pre- and post-show activities for kids and families, including a red carpet photo op for kids with characters from the movies.


The grand lobby of the downtown Regal Cinemas LA LIVE location, known as the venue for many movie premieres and events, transforms into a festive interactive fair with activities like a magic show, face painting, balloon art, games where kids get a chance to win prizes from the movies.


Before the screenings, the characters from the movies make an appearance to greet the children and pose with them for photos on the red carpet.


The events are held simultaneous with the release of new kid flicks.  Upcoming Family Days include Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 on September 28, and Walking with Dinosaurs, the 3D Movie, on December 21.  Past events have included special activities for Smurfs 2 and Planes.


A great advantage to the Regal Cinemas L.A. LIVE location is its proximity to the adjacent L.A. LIVE plaza, where often other activities are hosted, and the nearby hotels, stores and restaurants offering shopping and dining options, so families can make a day of entertaining activities at the complex.

The Family Day at the Movies activities are free and open to the public.  Regular ticket prices apply for the movie screenings.  For more information, go to lalive.com/familyday.


Monsters University at El Capitan Scares Up True 3D Thrill for All Ages

Pep Rally and Marching Band Leads off in Pre-Show for Scary Good Fun

This summer’s movie selection for kids is one for the books.  For anyone with kids out of school and a summer to burn, it won’t be a matter of which of the three great new animated releases to see but where and when.  Disney-Pixar’s 3D Monsters University was the top of my son’s list, and it was a no brainer to see it at El Capitan in Hollywood, where movies are an event.


In this soon-to-be classic pre-quell to Monsters, Inc., monsters Mike Wazowski (Billy Chrystal) and James P. Sullivan (John Goodman) are two mismatched Monsters U college roomies who lock horns in their quest to get into the college’s  prestigious School of Scaring, headed by the frightening Dean Hardscrabble, voiced by Helen Mirren.  The film is great for little ones, save one especially scary scene with a librarian who puts Little Mermaid’s Ursula to shame.

monsters sulley

The El Capitan experience makes seeing a movie memorable and special for kids and parents alike.  The live pre-show on the theatre’s stage is always an exciting feature with music, singing and dancing, and audience interaction.  For Monsters University, a pep rally kicked of the show with a marching band and friendly ghoulish scare leaders who get the audience cheering.  Then characters Mike and Sulley joined the fun and the kids went wild with excitement.



Our family enjoys the VIP tickets ($26) because we prefer the no-hassle reserved VIP seats and the ease of picking up a popcorn bucket and drink, ready and waiting at the VIP concession counter.  For the budget-conscious, the general admission tickets run $16 for adult and $13 for kids and seniors.

After the show the kids could pose for photos in the lobby with life-size Mike and Sulley figures and step behind a giant cut-out of a college ID for a photo op.  Next door, Monsters U fans can browse a huge selection of movie memorabilia from Monsters U and other Disney favorites.  The fountain bar also features a special I Scream Sundae made with green ice cream and an edible eyeball.

Besides the stage show and other extras, seeing a movie at the El Capitan is an especially enjoyable experience as history surrounds you when you are inside.  The 1000-seat grand theatre recently underwent a museum-grade renovation and was restored to its original 1926 legitimate-theatre dimensions.  Old meets new when you enter the El Capitan as you get to see a movie in an elegant movie palace with state-of-the-art projection and sound systems.

The only complaint about the venue is parking.  The lot behind the theatre costs $20, and street parking is scarce.  Cheaper parking is several blocks away, and with little ones the walk through the busy Hollywood sidewalks can be harrowing.  Besides the sometimes scary trek through Hollywood, El Capitan is well worth the price.monsters store

Greasing Up for Summer Fun at Hollywood Bowl


Los Angeles’ favorite outdoor concert venue will transform into the world’s largest movie theatre on July 13 when the Hollywood Bowl hosts a Grease sing-a-long, along with a live musical performance by rock ‘n roll doo-wop legends Sha Na Na.

The event has become a tradition at the Bowl and this year coincides with the 35th anniversary of the Paramount Pictures movie which is the highest grossing musical film of all time.  Sha Na Na, who appear in the fil as Johnny Casio and the Gamblers, will lead off the event at 7:30 with a live set. Didi Conn, who played “Frenchy” in the film, will then lead the audience in singing warm-ups.  The film will be projected with subtitles so that everyone can sing along.  The movie is scheduled to begin at dark at 8:30 pm.

The concert is sponsored Hubert’s Lemonade, official lemonade of the Hollywood Bowl.  K-EARTH (101) is the event’s media sponsor.

Grease was released in 1978 by Paramount Pictures to tremendous critical and popular acclaim. The film was nominated for five Golden Globes and an Oscar, and was the winner of the People’s Choice Award for Best Musical. Grease stars John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Stockard Channing, Jeff Conaway, and Didi Conn.

For more information please visit:  www.hollywoodbowl.com.

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