from Sandy Needham

Saturday, April 7, 2012

LA ‘Winter’ Dispatch

LAI think it’s easy to drive around Los Angeles and feel like you’re on location. Maybe that is what makes everyone compare LA and New York so much: they both only look like themselves! The tropical palms, the Raymond Chandler stucco houses, ‘50’s-looking doughnut or hamburger or hot dog joints. In the end, it all feels iconic. Oh, and the preponderance of healthy-looking beauties and handsomes just waiting to be discovered. Nice weather, the sunsets, the tacos. I’d like to add-in the well-timed traffic lights and the left turn lanes.

Sunset Blvd

The stars of my LA production this trip were:

>Of course, Elise

EliseShe is about to complete her first year in Los Angeles. The teen website, Cambio, for whom she has been working as a videographer and video editor on a free-lance basis, recently hired her as a full-time employee. Besides her brief reverie while walking along Hollywood Boulevard recalling what she loves about New York…and besides cherishing the infrequent rainy days, Elise makes quite a natural Angelino. She is doing great work, getting to video and edit many fun, happening events (she recently shot Jon Hamm and the Mad Men cast!!)…and she can sunbathe at will. I got to see Elise’s office and meet the group that runs Cambio:

Cambio (2)

ArmagadoThis is Elise’s thriving avocado plant. She read that people could survive on avocados, given some giant worldwide catastrophe, so planted the pit. The plant is named ‘Armagado.’

      Here we are on the town with flaming margaritas:

flamin margs


FlufferElise’s new kitten, who was embarking on cathood when I arrived, took on quite a big role in my visit. ‘Fluffer,’ as we call her, is adorable. She is named for Elise’s favorite marshmallow junk food. I became the opposite of a cat person back when Jake developed allergies to our cats and I tried to rid the house of all traces of cat dander while keeping the cats outdoors. But Fluffer melted my hardened heart. I can’t think of anything more endearing than reading at my laptop all morning in LA with the little darling on my lap. I adore her.




>Kermit the Frog

Kermie“The Muppet Movie” had come and gone already, with Elise an avid fan. Fortunately, we found a movie theater in Pasadena that shows recent films, so I was able to see my Kermie on the big screen! He is still the sweet peacemaker he always was. I drove past the actual Jim Henson studios often because they are on the way to Elise’s office, so when they appear as an old, worn-out set in the film, along with the El Capitan Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, one feels that LA is the place to see this film. And while Kermit steals one’s heart over and over as only Kermie can, the hardest I have laughed in a movie theater in a very long time was during the musical number by the muppet, Walter: “Am I a Man or Am I a Muppet?” (which won the Oscar for best song). Then when Kermit sings the hauntingly lovely “Rainbow Connection,” I had to hold Elise’s hand as I misted up remembering so many bedtime renditions. This film, lovingly made by and co-starring Jason Segel, honors well Jim Henson’s graceful gifts to all of us.




>Claire Greene

Claire and Elise go back to elementary school days at the Blue Rock School. They were partners in crime from the beginning, continuing to grow their notorious partnership during their Waldorf middle school years. In high school Elise went to visit Claire at her Vermont boarding school, surreptitiously carrying what turned out to be bad mushrooms purchased on the streets of Nyack, NY. A cautionary tale, indeed. The school tribunal thankfully did NOT expel Claire. The two followed trails into the future that occasionally intersect, and a certain twinkle in their eyes reveals what has endured over the years. Even though I have been able to see Claire’s parents in NY on occasion, she has been away traveling every time I landed there in recent years, so I had not seen her for a long time when she joined us at Elise’s apartment for dinner. She managed this supporting role in my trip by way of a temporary assignment in Los Angeles with her father’s painting studio, known for restorations all over the world. Claire

If I could, I would attach the quintessential photo of Elise and Claire. It predates digital and is in storage in New York: Elise is playing Alice in Wonderland in the elementary school drama and Claire is the also-curious, hookah-smoking caterpillar perched on a giant mushroom. So I’ll attach this one instead, which reveals their special beauty:





>Joe and Kevin Jonas of ‘the Jonas Brothers

Screen shot 2012-04-05 at 3.12.27 PM

OK – actual stars! I was chauffeuring Elise and her producer-co-worker to a red carpet shoot at the ‘Rock the Vote’ event in LA. This way I could have the car in the meantime to shop. When I returned to pick them up, the event was not yet underway, so I was directed to a VIP parking space (!!) and just hung around there watching all the beautiful people arriving and hobnobbing. Once the Jonas two arrived, I got to be a ‘fly on the wall,’ so to speak, observing Elise at work during their interview. I know I’m a bit older than the usual Jonas demographic, even if it is edging upwards as the brothers mature, but I thought Joe and Kevin were really cute in person! Easy to see what all the commotion has been about.


>Marty and Elayne at the Dresden

dresden2And speaking of iconic…these old pros – and I do mean old - have been performing at this club for 18 years. Who knows how long they were performing before that, because as reconstituted and stitched together as they are, they can belt out just about any song known to man while accompanying themselves on several instruments. They make this look as easy as breathing…or, perhaps in their case, it is easier than breathing! The club has a posh clientele of varied ages, some of whom take a turn at the mike and make the amazing Marty and Elayne look even more professional. Keep the day job, folks.




cleoopatraI don’t mean Elizabeth Taylor, I mean the fascinating biography by Stacy Schiff. My ever-ongoing tome at home, Infinite Jest, is over 1,000 pages and does not lend itself easily to travel; therefore, the astute and charismatic Cleopatra was my traveling companion. Wow; what a read. Roman history reduced her to a whore, but she was one extremely well-educated and intelligent woman. And NOT Egyptian!



With my LA production in the can, I flew back to São Paulo en route home. The third world greeted me in an overdramatic way: my connection was on the Columbian airlines, Avianca. We were bussed to a new space that must represent airport expansion for the 2014 Soccer World Cup, except that it had no internet connection available and the rain from the black skies over SP began hitting me in my seat from a leaking roof. All the Avianca flights were delayed, so once I leapt out of that seat, there were no more available. After two hours, we were quite suddenly rounded up to board another bus to the plane. The flight had been listed on the displays as “Natal-Recife.” Imagine my surprise when we landed in Recife.

I did arrive eventually in Natal. I had the remainder of that night plus the following night without Newton, who was flying in from Japan. The caretaker, Marcos, left in the car he shares with relatives that afternoon. I didn’t think twice about it, as I figured he’d never leave me alone here overnight. It got later and later and I saw that the car had not returned. When I wanted to go up to bed, I decided to go knock on Marcos’ door in case he returned by bus. No answer, so I went up for the night with misgivings of being an orphan absolutely alone here, and wondering what the hell Marcos was thinking.

Imagine my surprise the next morning when all the cushions had been put back on the veranda sofa. I went around back to the caretaker cottage, and there was Marcos. When I asked him if he had heard me knock, he said yes – that he had gotten very nervous but had (eventually) stepped out to look along each side of the house. Actually he told me this over and over many times, as is his wont. So, Marcos is a bigger scaredy cat then me; I don’t know why I would have felt much safer knowing he was actually here!

Newton returned and Carnaval arrived soon after!




  1. So glad you came to visit - it was SO FUN!!!

  2. I am another of the few New Yorkers who also loves LA. Thanks for the dispatch.

  3. What a beautiful daughter you have! And of course you the master story teller! Can't wait for the next installment.

  4. Sounds like Elise has become a full fledged Angelino and is doing very well. She must be a very talented young lady. Traveling back to Natal from your adventures does seem to be one of your biggest challenges these days.



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