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Yogis for Kerry 

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If pressed to describe a car, any car, I might say “shiny” or “metal” or “big” or “small.” Pressed to describe the 2005 tC, Scion’s marketing specialist, Brian Bolain, a bespectacled Doctor X–ish white man, says, “It looks muscular up front with an intentionally distinctive look” and “character lines that provide a clean horizontal flow.” He talks about the specifics of Toyota’s guerrilla marketing strategy, the “philosophy of personalization” — the idea that you can customize the Scion. The car is popular in the tuner market, or street-racing subculture, because you can easily accessorize it with custom shift knobs, custom pedal kits, lowering springs, sport mufflers or 19-inch Toyota Racing Development racing wheels.

It’s all part of Scion’s plan to make the cars look cool in music, art, film and fashion. Be on Monster Garage and Pimp My Ride. Show up at events like Hot Import Nights, breakdance tours and urban artist exhibitions. Hand out music CDs — a new one every nine months — at over 50 nightclubs to keep the Scion in mind in “a non-automotive sense.” Commission artwork by talented new artists, auction finished work on eBay, then donate the proceeds to inner-city youth charities. Let consumers test-drive Scions in their own neighborhoods. “We want them to feel that they have found Scion,” says Bolain, “and not that Scion has found them.”

BMW may be the ultimate driving machine, but Scion is the ultimate lifestyle machine.

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During a break from the sales pitch, we munch on caesar salad and prosciutto-and-cheese sandwiches while two graffiti artists paint on opposite sides of a black xA, Scion’s mini: a giant spider and a sea of faces. Meanwhile, a DJ spins records inside a modified orange xB, the car that looks like a breadbox. “This,” says the woman next to me, in between sips of mixed-berry smoothie, “is the future of marketing.”

Before the Scion, Bolain tells me, Toyota didn’t have a car that was iconic, like, say, Volkswagen’s Beetle. As Toyota’s baby-boomer generation grew up, the company needed something to introduce the youngest consumers into the Toyota family. And that’s the heart of the matter: Scions today, Camrys and minivans tomorrow.

We head out into the parking lot for our test drives. I am assigned to vehicle No. 8, a silver tC coupe. For one brief rebellious moment, I think about taking it for an unauthorized joy ride. (Vegas, baby, Vegas!) But I stick to one of the three mapped-out routes, from Stockard to Crenshaw to Rodeo. Driving up and down the streets of Baldwin Hills, the compilation CD bumping hip-hop bass on the stereo, I’m intoxicated by the new Scion smell. It does feel good to gun the 200-horsepower engine, and though I’ve been instructed not to exceed the speed limit, I do. The ride is low to the ground. It is smooth, but grippy. The steering — touch-sensitive. Like a baby race car just discovering the road. I fondle the aluminum knobs and futuristic flush-sealing vents in the “waterfull” center console: launch sequence commence in t-minus five . . . four . . . three . . . If I get a car, do I get a life? In the end, a vehicle by any other name would still smell as sweet.

By the time I get back to Smashbox, they’ve brought out the chocolate-covered strawberries.

—Gendy Alimurung

Last Tango in Drag

He sat at home in a dimly lighted, wood-paneled den, an 80-year-old man with his memories, his cats and an oxygen tank. An 80-year-old man who, one Thursday a few weeks ago, was wearing a saucy blond wig, mascara, lipstick, a floor-length muumuu, elbow-length gloves, and delicate, furry booties on his feet — the same feet that once kick-started a Triumph Thunderbird 6T and the youthful-rebellion racket in The Wild One so many years ago.

Of course, the cross-dressing senior was the late Marlon Brando, known onscreen by many roles and many names: Stanley Kowalski, Sky Masterson, Don Corleone, Colonel Kurtz, Jor-El (father to Superman) and Last Tango in Paris’ distraught widower, Paul, to name a few. But it’s a long way from the buttery ersatz buggery of Maria Schneider’s virgin keister to the part of sweet, elderly Mrs. Sour in Big Bug Man, the upcoming animated feature that will forever go down in cinema history as the legendary Brando’s final role.

And this is why the actor, staunch method man that he was, donned the dainty garb for a voice-over session. It didn’t matter that no one would see him, it didn’t matter that he was doing the character in his own, very masculine voice; it was all about feeling it. Lending that crucial touch of realism to his work was always de rigueur for Brando. He checked himself into a VA hospital prior to his part as a wheelchair-ridden vet in 1950’s The Men, he allegedly showed up drunk on vodka for a scene in 1952’s Viva Zapata!, and he even had a previous drag outing in The Missouri Breaks in 1976.

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