Photo by James BunoanThe new MaiTaibar and restaurant at the new—shiny! sparkly!—Pike atRainbowHarborin Long Beach is stunning. It is. The view—through gently rounded windows, across the water, past some palm trees to the QueenMarybeyond—is spectacular.
It's also cluttered with just the kind of people whose company leaves us . . . uninspired.You know who you are: the kinds of folks whose social lives comprise going to parties at jewelry stores, and parties at malls, and parties at car dealerships and parties at restaurant grand openings where they've got a red carpet and they won't let you walk it.
This ain't the grody, grungy Long Beach we loved and left. This is Long Beach, Newport. It's clean. It's pretty. Except for the help and the middling R&B band, it's white. And music floating from the BubbaGumprestaurant downstairs (yeah, a restaurant based on a TomHanksflick; what's next? PrivateRyan'sJitterbugCaf?) proved to be the theme from that other Tom Hanks flick ThatThingYouDo!
How very master-planned.
Last Thursday, I was asked if I'd be attending Mai Tai's Friday VIP opening—the publicist wanted to make sure I was credentialed so I could stand behind the rope line and murmur gentle whispers to such luminaries as some chick from Playboy, a former Apprenticecontestant, a guy from the TennesseeTitans, actor RonLester(whose notable credits include TheKarateDogand SabrinatheTeenageWitch) and KerriKasem. Kerri Kasem, of course, is . . . hmmm. Anybody?
I explained to the publicist that gentle whispers aren't really my thing and I'd sooner French kiss ShaneMacGowanthan stand behind a rope line, but what the hell! Sure! I'd be there!
After I checked in at the party, I moved toward the entrance.
"You need to go around," the slab of beef in a headset explained as I stepped toward the desolate carpet, with just one sad photographer penned in like veal behind it.
"Are you serious?" I asked.
"Yeah," he said.
"I don't get to walk on the red carpet?" I asked again, just to make sure.
"Who does?" I inquired, because at this point, frankly, I was fucking dying to know.
He didn't know either, but I'd find out later when someone actually made use of it: the red carpet was reserved for JennyMcCarthy'ssister.
Inside, I grabbed a drink and looked at the handsome folk starting their evening's circuit of parties-in-stores. But while I held up a cocktail table and staved off the urge to whip out my cell phone as if I wasn't really alone, the nice old fellows at the edge of the patio had other ideas. Like letting me whip them and beat them and make them write bad checks.
I explained kindly to my new boyfriend—a bald old Jew who claimed to be somewhere in his 50s but who was 70 or I'll French kiss HelenThomas—that he was too old for me. My outer limit is 52, a prospective age gap of 20 years, and I think that limit is a verygenerousone, to be employed in the case of a really spectacular man, although I can't happen to think of any at the moment.
"Why would you limit yourself like that?" my new boyfriend soulfully whined. "Why are you so hung up on age? Isn't it more about theperson?"
Well, sure. I would also probably have to want to sleepwith "the person," and there aren't enough pills in this world to make me AnnaNicoleit. At the same time, oddly, I noticed my boyfriend wasn't talking to any woman over the age of 35. But hell, he lives in Beverly Hills—as he informed me several times—and people who live in Beverly Hills can do whatever they want.
And the new Long Beach aims to be just like it.
* * *
Coincidentally, I saddled up my small buttercup of a son and was mere blocks away the next night. Blocks, light-years, whatever.
We pulled up a table in the formerly weed-strewn lot abutting a brick artists' loft, which had been hacked in preparation the day before, leaving an oasis with several bars and a fire pit and the occasional statuesque saguaro cactus rising from the earth and a stage all set and ready to go for anyone who wanted to jam during the going-away party for ChrisHanlinand his wife, KellyO.
Hanlin, a Long Beach fixture in about 17 different bands (and one of the pioneers of Long Beach's ultimate underground party scene, including the seminal BongLeachand The Space), and Kelly, a high school art teacher and painter/sculptor/dancer whose homemade costumes depicting sexy Martians and sexy warrior princesses and sexy Martian warrior princesses inspired every SnoopTown party for the past five years, are leaving the city for Santa Rosa.
Why would they forsake us? Ask the Long Beach Redevelopment Agency, which is razing their building—and the surrounding four square blocks, housing a good portion of the city's artists and immigrants—for condos. Shiny, sparkly, five-story condos.
Condos are a God-given right to the middle class, of course, but the 120 families who are being displaced to make way for them—less than 10 percent of the more than 700 prospective units will be "affordable housing" with rents based on a percentage of one's income—might feel differently. In fact, in at least two of the cases, the city is having to use eminent domain: forcibly seizing private property and handing it over to for-profit developers who it could be argued have more-persuasive pockets.
At least, that's what SandraDayO'Connorsaid might happen.
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The SupremeCourtdecided a few weeks ago in Kelovs.CityofNewLondonthat local governments can seize private property for any public goal—not just, say, a school or a freeway, but also for a private development that would hypothetically add more tax revenues to the city's coffers. (You know: like when GeorgeW.Bushused eminent domain to evict people from the site of his future ballpark for the Texas Rangers.) Unfortunately, it was the liberal wing of the court that approved Kelo,in a majestically wrongheaded move that did give some credence to the old right-wing canard that the left is for government getting all up in your shit.
And yeah, if your shit was denying black people the right to vote, we'd probably be up in it. But few on the left were actually for totally communist central planning of the kind handed down in Kelo.We left that up to Irvine.
The party was amazing, of course, loose and happy and sexy and sad and filled with boyfriends who aren't 70 and don't drive nice cars but do have lips like pillows made of clouds and rainbows. (I'm pretty sure I have some dates.) Brett Bixby, Craig Royand MarkRomansjoked about filming a cable-access reality show to audition replacements for Hanlin in each of his bands (especially Long Beach supergroup The Dibs), and my boy took pictures with Darren the Cop's camera, and I sat in people's laps and sent my boy to fetch me more wine, and people sang their hearts to the sky in a massive tribute to what the city had been and to Chris and Kelly, like the Dibs song says, wherever they make their home.