from Sandy Needham

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Los Angeles Dispatch

Elise has a charming Arts and Crafts style bungalow she moved into last May. It is near East Hollywood. The most stunning decorative detail is, of course, Elise’s cat – the “It Girl” Fluffer…always ready for her close-up!


Vogue Flufferclose-up

it girlElise&Fluffer

It must have been a warm day.

Rebel Without a Cause

The highlight of our brief stay with Elise before heading off to Mexico for the holidays was our hike to the Griffith Observatory – a place frozen in two times: its beautiful deco origins and its role in the 1955 film, “Rebel Without a Cause.” There were several exterior and interior scenes featuring James Dean, Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo.

The trail up offers a lovely view of the city, but the Deco details steal the show at this place, along with the bust of James Dean. We were actually there on December 21, 2012 and, as duly noted over the door, we’re here to tell it!


not the endgrifith dome








James Dean tragically died in a car crash just a month before the film was released, so he too became frozen in time as the icon of mid-20th century alienated youth.





After Mexico, I returned to L.A. to stay with Elise while Newton embarked on the business portion of the trip. Elise and I had such a memorable week!


The Beatles

astrid2Not only did I obsess about the Beatles from age 14 on, but my kids became utterly devoted fans around the ages of seven and nine. They eventually read every available biography and became walking Beatles encyclopedias. It seemed only fitting to get tickets to the London stage production of “Backbeat” that was currently playing in L.A. The plan was soundly reinforced when I found two tickets online for $40 each instead of $150. “Backbeat” is a musical staging of the 1994 film of the same name, which depicts the Beatles’ early trial-by-fire in a club in the red light district of Hamburg, Germany. Newton had to make an edited version in the ‘90’s for Elise and Jake to watch, they were so young, but I remembered how much we all loved the film. It is about the teenaged ‘Quarrymen’ evolving into the Beatles with the help of the bohemian German photographer, Astrid Kirchherr and her cohorts. She fell in love with John Lennon’s friend, Stuart Sutcliffe – a lovely guy who just wanted to be a painter, but whom John convinced to play bass guitar for the group. He died in 1962. Pete Best was the drummer in Hamburg; Ringo had not yet replaced him. Astrid’s German boyfriend had the ‘mop top’ hairdo that the Beatles eventually copied, but her early photographs of the group at this time – this is one of hers - document their early classic rock-n-roll looks. George finally got deported when the German authorities discovered he was not even eighteen!

Backbeat Production Photo 2backbeat                                    “Nowhere Boy”

Nowhere boySerendipitously, the night before the Sunday matinee, Elise suggested we choose a movie off the (rather pathetic) Netflix list. She thought I’d like “Nowhere Boy,” a 2009 British film about John Lennon’s adolescence with his Aunt Mimi. He was finally getting to know his somewhat unstable but vibrant mother. Elise still lived in New York when it came out and had covered the premiere as a videographer. Yoko Ono, speaking at the premiere, vouched for the details of the story and her consultation on the film. It is beautifully made, very poignant. At the end of the movie, after John’s mother has tragically died in a car accident, he announces to his Aunt Mimi that his rock-n-roll group, The Quarrymen, are going to Hamburg to play in a club. So the theater production the following day took up right where the film left off. At the end of the musical, the players broke into “Love Me Do” and then “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” – marking the very point at which I joined the story in 1964!


This was my third visit to L.A. since Elise moved there. I was bound and determined to finally visit a museum. We decided on LACMA: Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The Met or the Modern in New York it is not, but it is certainly wonderful in countless ways. I appreciated seeing works by major artists that I had never seen before, for example. The physical space itself also offers its own joys. I would say I love museums, but I love any museum with Elise best of all! We have a history that goes all the way back to her first trip to the Met in New York at three months old – the Van Gogh exhibit. A favorite memory is taking Elise, 4, and Jake, 2, to the Met for the first time after we moved back from Japan. After absolutely loving everything inside, we sat on the outside steps and watched a mime performing…pulling a bus away from the stop, etc. He soon noticed Elise and Jake on the lowest step in front and called them to join the act. The crowd oohed and aahed, and Elise carried herself as if a star on one of the red carpets she now covers professionally!

LACMA 2LACMA 1Picasso; Lichtenstein, Mondrian, Warhol, of course:







We were enchanted by the glowing street lamp installation in front of the museum.


Out and About 

My daytime exploits involved quite a long shopping list of gifts and items to schlep to the third world. I had to get new reading/computer glasses, as my Nordestino attempt had left the right side of every page and screen blurry. I needed upholstery fabric for our living room, so drove to the perfect fabric store across town – more like a candy store for me after a long career in textiles and hopelessly limited choices where I live. (I must always qualify that glasses turn out well and there are loads of fabric choices in the South of Brazil!) I felt totally L.A. when the clerk helping me was a guy in men’s clothing with a face made up in an exaggerated womanly way, as if for the theater! A transcosmetite? I picked out gift shopping possibilities on my way over there to check out on my way back; it’s just that the bookstore I had spotted turned out to be a gay porn store. I was then directed to the elegant Grove to one of the last remaining Barnes and Noble stores, where I crossed off many gifts from my list. But even as books with covers are waning, I was pretty distraught at the near non-existence of personally owned shops along this stretch. It seems there is almost nothing for sale apart from the big chains. At least the interior décor neighborhood has one elegant gem of a store after another.

Elise and I had some outstanding dinners, my favorite being the salmon filets and asparagus she whipped up in no time in her kitchen (Newton’s genes). I was really impressed with the unique menu and excellent Spanish and Portuguese wines at ‘Red Hill.’ We went with Elise’s friend and her boyfriend, who is a wine salesman and really knows his way around! We met up with my niece April and her darling family at a sort of pretend Brazilian restaurant, where caipirinhas – the national drink of cachaça rum, fresh squeezed lime juice and sugar - come in a super-size-me glass filled mostly with 7-Up.

Star Struck

warm bodiesAfter using the car during the days, I had fun meeting up with Elise at her interesting venues. One was the red carpet premiere of a zombie movie, ‘Warm Bodies” whose cast included John Malkovich and James Franco’s brother, Dave. It was hellish getting to any area where I could find her, as the sidewalk was cordoned off and police were everywhere, but we eventually walked into each other while phoning. I felt so “with it” trying to maneuver past all the 20-year-olds craning their necks on the sidewalk! Another great spot was called ‘Sassafras’ – a bar/restaurant in the New Orleans style, complete with hanging moss. It really captures the beauty and mood of another era. I also loved meeting up at Elise’s office, the home of AOL’s Cambio teen website. Elise and four other young, darling, talented, dedicated dynamo’s run the whole thing! (The staff used to number in the dozens.)



Here is Elise with Producer Extraordinaire, Paige, after countless hours on the red carpet, and with Social Media expert, Betsy, ready to chill after a tough week:

paige & Ebetsy & e

Apart from the drudgery, the hours awaiting red carpet events, long days of shooting followed by late nights of editing the video footage, there are some perks. Elise got to shoot both the Emmy’s and the Grammy’s red carpets recently. Here are a few choice snaps from her iPhone:

John Hammclare danes

Jon Hamm of “Mad Men”                     Claire Danes of “Homeland”

the bossbonnie

“The Boss,” Bruce Springsteen            A longtime heroine, Bonnie Raitt    

beyonce     sting

Beyoncé Knowles                              Sting


eliseBut there’s one beauty and talent that stands out most to me.

Thanks for a perfect week, Elise.









  1. LOVE THIS! Thank you for such a great time and such a great review! I had a blast :) Love, Elise

  2. I have to say that LA is a different world from the rest of the US. There are places and people there that are found no where else in these united states. It's not my favorite place to visit because it is so different, even from San Diego or San Francisco that I might as well be in a foreign land. But it sounds like you had an extra special guide and a great time.


  3. How very lovely from start to finish- and your pictures are stunning! And nothing is better than time with a beautiful daughter. Max


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