October calls for serious measures, and last week my friends and I, displaced Red Sox fans, had no qualms about ditching our jobs and significant others to attend the American League Division series. But for two days we did feel the shame of being in Anaheim, the Mickey Mouse of major-league cities.
The lingering Disneyfication of Edison International Field, with its Flintstones rock sculpture in center field and cheesy fireworks, has disgraced baseball for years. The focus on video displays and lame rock music is an unwelcome distraction in any park; in Anaheim, it feels like a giant birthday party — for 44,000 7-year-olds.
Yet with Curt Schilling pitching for the Sox, our spirits and our hopes were high. The cosmos seemed aligned. The first sign was when we eschewed scalpers for the ticket booth. To our amazement, we scored unclaimed box seats at $65 a pop. “How did you swing that?” my father wanted to know when I called him during batting practice. I could barely figure it out myself. No fan I know would pass up playoff seats behind first base — not even to a day game.
Despite the food-court vibe of their stadium, the Angels are respected for their ability and guts. Last week they showed little of either, mostly playing down to the level of their fans’ attention span. Team owner Arte Moreno is known for keeping his nose out of baseball decisions. Maybe he should reconsider. Or at least take a serious look at the atmosphere in Anaheim. The Angels play before red-clad, suburban boobs who act as if they are at a theme park instead of a major-league stadium inhabited by former World Series champions. Obsessed with a jacked-up Monkey and with banging blow-up, tube-shaped plastic balloons together to make a cacophonous racket, Angels fans, and pretty much everything about baseball in Anaheim, scream lightweight — or pep rally.
Fans calling in to AM Radio 710 after a crushing 9-3 loss for the Angels wondered:
“Where were the thunder sticks? The fans didn’t make enough noise.”
“Why weren’t more people crossing their thunder sticks to make an X when David Eckstein was at bat?”
“Is it me, or did we not see enough of the Rally Monkey today?”
No callers questioned if Vladimir Guerrero was ever going to take a pitch. Few challenged the use of usually versatile Chone Figgins at third base, despite costly fielding errors. Even old news, such as the suspension of star outfielder Jose Guillen, seemingly was of no import.
Game 2 proved that in Anaheim nighttime is the right time — unless you’re standing ticketless under a giant helmet for two hours watching pseudo–ball fans arrive smelling of cologne and car freshener. My friend Tim and I had gone back to the ticket booth once we saw scalpers asking $150 for $15 tickets. This time, though, the line for same-day or unclaimed tickets was long, and barely moving. Security guards insisted we get in it or get off the property. That gave us time to size up the scene, and our own humiliation, as we stood among the other poor schmucks who were at the mercy of Angel management, which released about three tickets every 10 minutes for the next three hours.
Sporting events involve talent, both on the field and off. That meant trophy dates, accompanied by a preponderance of hefty, clean-cut guys wearing pleated shorts, beepers on their belts, and tucked-in golf shirts. It seemed wrong that real estate agents and fund managers with their O.C. blonds were arriving in droves, eager for that fan-cam shot to commemorate their outing, while we suffered in a line that was going nowhere fast. (Even Ben Affleck seems to be leaving the eye candy at home these days.) Eventually I ventured off to size up the underground economy. With game time approaching, this scrawny wretch with two black eyes wanted $120 for the crappiest seat in the house. There were no other buyers around, but he was willing to eat the ticket. “You’re killing the game,” I said, wondering if this guy beats his girlfriend, or the other way around.
Back in line, with ticket sales occurring at the pace of an IV drip, we received no explanation or prognosis from stadium authorities. Finally, near the end of the second inning, Tim and I were fifth and sixth in line. Behind us were a hundred others. “That’s it, folks,” a security guard intoned, almost mockingly. Then the cops moved in with that old refrain, “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.” Tim and I stood there in shock, as one of Anaheim’s finest edged closer.
We quickly repaired to a bar that could accommodate us for a few face-saving drinks. Maybe two fans in the whole joint. Another sign that the Angels hardly have captured the hearts and minds of a city — if you call Anaheim a city. On the way home, in the middle innings, we cringed as the Angels’ radio announcer repeatedly referred to players by their first names or nicknames.
By the time Game 3 wound down in Boston, and Angel manager Mike Scioscia had brought in lefty Jarrod Washburn to serve up a gopher ball to David Ortiz, I had little sympathy for Anaheim gamers such as “Frankie” (Francisco Rodriguez), “Figgie” (Chone Figgins) or “Percy” (Troy Percival). All I could think was: Maybe Disneyland can develop a new exhibit for kids to meet their favorite Angel next year, just like meeting Mickey, Goofy or Pluto.
THE DODGERS GAVE OUT those annoying blow-up bat sticks Sunday night, and the resulting scene might have been the weirdest in the history of the stadium, which appeared to be possessed by a sea of alien locusts. Very frenetic, very raucous, very blue locusts. 56,268 of them. Thwack, thwack, thwack, thwack, thwack, thwack, thwack, thwack, thwack, thwack, thwack, thwack, thwack, thwack, thwack, thwack, thwack, thwack!
The season was on the line, and the crowd was ready for it: At a little after 4 p.m, with game time still more than an hour away, the cars were parked all the way down Elysian Park Drive, outside the stadium. If nothing else, this was a Boston businessman’s wet dream — the biggest crowd ever seemed to be the hungriest ever, and they were already lining up for Dodger dogs and $8 beer and absurdly expensive merchandise. When Frank McCourt says we are the greatest fans anywhere, maybe he really means we’re the fattest in the world — and those most willing to plunk down $190 on an Eric Gagné jersey. (And they went to arbitration with that guy?) Whatever.
The question was, Were the Dodgers ready? The answer, of course, was no, not really. It seemed that they might be after that nice young man Jayson Werth homered to right in the first inning. But when he scored again two innings later, it would be the last run of the night. Meanwhile, Odalis Perez was missing the edges of the plate as often as Jose Lima nailed them the night before when the Dodgers stifled the Cardinals 4-0 to put them in one more game — this one, with a chance to go back to St. Louis for the final game of the series, winner take all.
But when Wilson Alvarez then gave up a three-run homer to the very awesome Albert Pujols, the Dodgers — in spite of their late-inning virility — seemed ready to face reality and fold to the better hand. They managed just one more hit, and it was a tepid single, not the miracle we almost expected after so many come-from-behind wins during the season. When Robin Ventura, record holder for grand slams among active players with 18, came up to pinch hit in the eighth inning, he hit the ball about 18 inches from home plate. “It’s very poetic,” Ventura said later, then announced his retirement.
A dark, Dodger-blue depression began to set in, but manager Jim Tracy pulled one more end-of-game miracle, striding out of the dugout toward the celebrating Cardinals in the field and shaking the hand of St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa. Milton Bradley and the rest of the Dodgers jumped in behind him, and the two teams mingled together around the diamond like a bunch of T-ball buddies. Gagné and Pujols went mano a mano and came away laughing. And suddenly, the end of the season didn’t seem like such a big deal. It was time, already, to move on.
Moments later, just outside the gates, a man said to his friend, “Sure, Kobe’ll score 36 points a game, but the Lakers will go 4 and 78.” On the ramp down to the lower parking lots, a young guy described the Clippers’ season-ticket package to his buddies. “Two Laker games, two Spurs, two Kings, two Magic . . .” Within seconds they had agreed to pool their money and go for it.
Pen Is Envy
THE SKINNY MONTBLANC Boutique on Rodeo Drive is like a tiny Parisian magasin on the Rue du Faubourg St. Honore, an intensely lit museum with glass crystal cases filled with pricey objets d’art masquerading as essentials for daily living. Here, it’s stylish German-made fountain pens, which might be, in this spectral age, necessary talismans of the lingering need for physical contact between hand and paper. At least that’s how it seemed when Jackie Collins, the queen of gossip novels, was handed the Bohème Royal, a $150,000, diamond-encrusted Montblanc, with which she inscribed the opening chapter of Los Angeles’ contribution to a massive book begun in New York by Candace Bushnell, author of Sex and the City, and filled out, in longhand, by anyone who cares to drop by a Montblanc store. The aim is to produce the world’s longest love story written by more than one hand, and to get a mention in the Guinness Book of World Records. A publicity stunt, in other words.
Who better to pull it off with a wink and a tincture of lye than the author of Hollywood Wives? Collins knows exactly what sells, and she was handed the ideal pen to do the job, ostentatious but not too flashy, wreathed in the wicked pleasures of 15 carats of conspicuous consumption.
The writer, dressed in a peacock-blue jacket in an abstract jacquard worn over a low-cut obsidian blouse embossed with black satin zebra stripes, flipped the thousand-page book back to the first leaf, and read aloud Bushnell’s overture: “There is practically no woman alive who can resist a handwritten note, and Pinky Weatherton was no exception.”
Her recital had barely begun when it was stopped for some fumbling with the microphone, which Montblanc’s North American president, Jan-Patrick Schmitz, soon resolved. “And now we get that little thing up and running,” Schmitz said, his English colored by his German syntax. Miss Collins, grinning, pounced: “It’s always good when you get a little thing up and running.”
She was just warming up. Clutching the white-gold pen, studded in 1,430 brilliant cut diamonds, Miss Collins composed her addition to the storyline. With barely a hint of her British accent, she read as she wrote, commenting as she went along. “‘Pinky’ — the heroine of this book is Pinky, not a name that I would have chosen — ‘arrived in Argentina and was met by Nick, a very good-looking lawyer.’ If you are going to have a lawyer, he may as well be good-looking. They charge you so much, they better be good-looking. ‘She checked him out. He was hot, sexy and loaded — in more ways than one. This could be the start of something, or was he another loser, just like all the rest?’”
“Let me tell you,” Miss Collins said after completing the paragraph, “this really expensive pen writes really well. I think they should present it to me.” Not that she needed another set of diamonds. On her left hand was a baguette that might have been designed by Frank Gehry, and on her right, enough ice to rival the pen she reluctantly relinquished.
“You could just buy this pen,” I interjected, while getting the feel of its auspicious heft in the palm of my hand.
“The secret of success is not buying things for yourself. It’s getting others to give them to you,” Miss Collins replied. At which she turned to Schmitz and said, “He should give it to me, hint, hint.” The Montblanc president smiled affably, knowing that the place was surrounded by walleyed security men who would think nothing of frisking Miss Collins.
With the ribbing over and Miss Collins wading into the crowd, it was now up to the audience to expand on the lives of Pinky and Nick. Stephen P. Wonn, a 50-ish sports-event planner and “a big fan of Jackie Collins,” went first. Using the Jules Verne, one of the “Writers Series” pens — Frederick Schiller, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Charles Dickens, Jules Verne and Franz Kafka — available for the book-building, he scribbled, “Nick was hell-bent on discovering Buenos Aires’ top leather store, really cognizant of Pinky’s leather fetish.”
“This is L.A.,” Wonn said. “We all have our fetishes.”
Move Over, Dude
Sk8er girl(Photo by Arlie John Carstens)
Forty years after its pleasant sidewalk-surfing origins, skateboarding is more or less made up of an endless mob of kickflippin’, sweaty rebel dudes swingin’ their dicks and runnin’ their mouths . . . girls decidedly relegated to the side of the action. Truth be told, not a lot of women want to roll around and collect scars. But as the inaugural Wicked Wahine Bowl Series proved a few Saturdays back, those who do are some talented badasses. This was not some “pretty good for a girl” bullshit — all clichés melted away as more than 30 riders took turns dropping into the massive, intimidating combi-bowl at Glendale’s new cement skatepark. Skate moms (including second-place Am finisher, Jean Rusen, 35, from Tempe, Arizona) and girls as young as 8 threw down tricks ranging from raging full-on axle-grinds on the brutal pool coping of the 11-foot over-vert capsule, to backside inverts and huge frontside ollies in the 9-foot bowl.
Apart from the girls animatedly discussing their successive runs, there wasn’t a lot of chatter from the crowd assembled around the perimeter of the skatepark. Everywhere I looked I noticed housewives with dragon-lady nails precariously sipping diet sodas, slack-jawed little boys enviously clutching their skateboards, and men eating Subway sandwiches — all with mouths agape and goggle eyes fixed on the competitors, perhaps in awe that girls could skateboard this aggressively and elegantly, or perhaps more so that they’d even want to. Not even the predominantly male, salty-dog photographers had much to say, other than to periodically erupt with short, enthusiastic cheers whenever a girl completed a particularly difficult or stylish trick. Overall, the contest’s vibe was sort of reverential (truly the diametric opposite of most other modern-day skateboarding jockathons). It felt like a proper first step in community building, not just another excuse to pitch Target and “Do the Dew, dude.”
Which means — listen up, dudes — at some point between tossing that backside-smith-grind into a frontside-lien-to-tail down at your local skatepark, you’re going to have to get out of the way and give big ups to the fairer sex skateboarding alongside you. This is not a bad thing. Welcome it, embrace it. The change has come.
—Arlie John Carstens