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A Second Century Starts for La Belle

February 01, 1985|Dick Roraback

"La Belle Vie," they call it in another country, but rarely does it last a century. Belle McKee, though, continues to fly--or dance--in the face of convention.

La Belle, as she is known to a legion of admirers, turned 100 last Tuesday with not a semblance of a whimper but with a rather resounding bang, the occasion a dinner party at Au Chambertin. Her morning routine didn't vary though: Belle still does her "rhythms," a dance routine she prefers to aerobics, since the latter "makes you muscular."

She also does a mean tango, a graceful waltz, whatever's going down, in fact, as long as it's "musical." For Belle, a Beverly Hills institution, loves good music. She studied with the legendary Isadora Duncan, then, after continuing her studies at Barnard, went off to drive an ambulance in World War I.

Settling--if that's the word--in California, she became an active member of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Committee ("She never misses a meeting or a concert," says her daughter, actress Andrea King) and continues to lead a life that would leave most of us panting.

It's a life, incidentally, that includes a couple of neat scotches ("never more than two") and a good cigar when the spirit moves. Not bad for a kid who grew up across the street from Thomas Edison and used to sit on the eggs of his geese to help them hatch.

The Big Orange?

What color is Los Angeles? Hue be the judge, say Karen and Dorothy Brewster, joint authors of "Exploring L.A.," a coloring book available at local bookstores for $3.50. (Call the Brewsters at 541-4559 for a list of outlets.)

Karen, the artist (her mother writes the text), produced her first book at the age of 14: a coloring-book guide to Palos Verdes called "Sightseeing With Crayons." "Coloring L.A." followed three years later, in 1984, with father Bob contributing the map.

Fifteen black-and-white drawings, with text on facing pages, comprise the book, lining such local landmarks as Mann's Chinese Theatre, the San Fernando Mission, Hollywood Bowl, the zoo, Farmer's Market, the La Brea Tar Pits, Knott's Berry Farm, Olvera Street and Karen's favorite, the "Wizard of Oz" scene at the Movieland Wax Museum. ("Karen worked very hard to get Dorothy to look like Judy Garland," says her mother, "and somehow to look like a wax figure too.")

Conspicuous by their absence are the likes of the City Hall ("We never thought of it," confesses Dorothy Brewster), Disneyland (permission to reproduce was not forthcoming), the Bradbury Building ("Great lines, but there's not much to color there") and the Coliseum. Re the latter, "They said we could draw it," says Dorothy Brewster, "then they asked us $1,000 for the rights!"

Karen, now an art student at Cal State Long Beach, is at work on a third coloring book, "Marine Animals," secure in the knowledge that the sting ray exacts no royalties.

Almost Getting Even

Crashing the Los Angeles market this month, and not a moment too soon, is a new card game called "Screw the I.R.S.," the ultimate object of which is to accumulate $1 million without paying a farthing in taxes.

Brainchild of Margie Haag, 39, and Judy Laski, 37, both of St. Louis, the game comes complete with loopholes, deductions (and substantiations thereof), audits and a card appropriately inscribed "Shirt Off Your Back."

And what does the IRS think of the idea? Laski, a tax accountant, began to have second thoughts about her solvency and called the St. Louis tax office. "They called Washington," she reported, "and they said they thought the name was in very poor taste . . . but they said that this is America and we could say what we wanted."

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