By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Not even if you’re Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, apparently. Diddy was accepting a Patrick Lippert award from Rock the Vote with a speech about getting involved in the political system. Finally, tired of competing with the slammin’ singles scene, Puff interrupted himself to plead with the crowd, “Can y’all stop your conversation for a minute so I can finish my speech?” The hum subsided momentarily, and the paragon of hip-hop culture, strangely out of place in a three-piece suit above a sea of hoodies and halters, rushed to an abrupt finish. When Richard Foos, founder of Rhino Records, was presented with an award for decades of social activism, he might as well have founded K-tel Records for all the attention he got.
Still, Rock The Vote certainly demonstrated that it can muster considerable star power. Along with P. Diddy and Foos, the Dixie Chicks received an award, and the show featured performances by Fountains of Wayne, the Black Eyed Peas and N.E.R.D. (Nobody Ever Really Dies) in the headliner slot. What the show mostly demonstrated, however, was the difficulty of preaching political activism to the Ritalin Generation. Rock the Vote may be coming back to political prominence with candidates across the polarized country courting the youth vote, but at its own party the non-profit’s message seemed to fall on ears that instead craved apolitical pick-up lines. One mid-20s hipster summed it up as she surveyed the floor, “It’s like a UCLA formal where everyone ditches their date.”
Maybe the audience members felt that attendance was statement enough, but the question “Will my vote make a difference?” was clearly secondary to the question “Are trucker hats finally dead?” Volunteers at the voter-registration table in the lobby signed up fewer than 100 people (though Rock the Vote chalked up 1,350 voters online that day), but in the hottest vote tabulations of the night, knit caps won in a landslide over trucker hats 200 to 6, with one independent cowboy hat and a stingy-brimmed straw fedora worn by Danny Masterson of That ’70s Show.
Even the music appeared to be something of an afterthought for most of the revelers. Fountains of Wayne might have turned the heads of the Grammy Association this year with two nominations but the Rock the Vote crowd was a tougher nut to crack, especially from the unenviable opening slot. The group probably didn’t help its chances by incorporating songs from Steve Miller, Joe Walsh and The Cars in its jam session finale. The few geriatric 30-somethings in the crowd were in ecstasy, but there was little love from the majority, a group that when feeling nostalgic probably turns to Nirvana. After the set, Fountains’ front man Chris Collingwood tossed his guitar aside and stalked off stage without a word.
The Black Eyed Peas fared little better, though Fergie did show off the impressive range of both her voice and her tan. Only N.E.R.D. managed to generate any real excitement, thanks to the crowd-management skills of Pharrell Williams. “Is this L.A? Is this L.A.? In L.A. people make some noise!” For the first time a sizable percentage of the crowd turned and faced the stage.
Mind the Gap
There’s a woman named Farrah at the door of Le Dôme. She has the hair, teeth and bod of her namesake. She also has the guest list and a face that opens like a sunflower for Paris Hilton, Mike Tyson and “Janet Jackson’s people,” but not for the girls with thick thighs.
James Gibb is on Farrah’s good side, which means he gets to park his Di Blasi motorbike on the sidewalk. It’s knee-high, with a 49cc engine that can do 30 mph. Guys in Von Dutch caps and girls in Frankie B. jeans check out the bike on their way in, which is exactly what Gibb wants; more, he wants them to remember the bike at closing time, when they’ve maybe had too much to drink.
“What we do,” says Gibb, folding the bike down to the size of a rollaway suitcase, “is put this in the trunk of your car, and then we drive you home. This way, you will not risk a DUI, and when you wake up in the morning, your car is there.”
Home, James USA, co-founded by the British Gibb, has 10 drivers; they’ve worked events from Bel Air to Los Feliz — William Morris hired them for its Grammy party — and additional outfits are planned for OC and San Diego. But Home, James’ bread and butter comes from the bars around West Hollywood, where any ride within two miles costs $15; prices go up exponentially the further you go.
Chris Heltai has been driving for Home, James since it opened in December. A father, substitute teacher and actor, Heltai loves the moonlight job.
“It’s weirdly pioneering,” says Heltai, who looks like Tobey Maguire’s taller, older brother. “I find myself in places and I’m not sure why. You meet some really fun people, albeit they’re always drunk.”
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