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Short Takes

The Kidding Comrade: From Russia With Smiles

December 11, 1988|DICK RORABACK

Half a dozen of the kids were hooked up to mobile intravenous-feeding poles. Others trailed portable oxygen tanks. Three were bald, a result of chemotherapy.

All of them were having a ball.

The clown was late, delayed in traffic. Alexander Frish--slap-happy cynosure of the visiting Moscow Circus, heir apparent to the legendary Popov--had volunteered to make the trip from San Diego (he'll be at the Forum next week). When he finally arrived, he was hardly through the hospital's lobby door before it became evident that here was a spirit kindred to the kids. A natural-born Pied Piper. A Danny Kaye, if you will.

He didn't just perform, he shared: rides on his unicycle, dabs of clown-face paint, rides on the shoulders for those who could. And when he started to toss an improbable number of wooden blocks in the air, the kids went straight for the juggler. Language was no barrier. "No problem" solved everything.

But it was before Frish's arrival that the kids shone--stars of their own show. Eyes a-glitter in anticipation, they whiled the waiting time in song; not for the assembled media, for themselves. "Jingle Bells," of course, like you've never heard it sung. "Rudolph." Finally, "The 12 Days of Christmas." Bogged down at around the 10th day, the choristers were rescued by a little guy, Jeremy, who began to pipe up in an unmistakable soprano: "Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall. . . ."

Enter the clown, laughing. Spirit is a two-way street.

Welcome to Kitchen Patrol

People go on diets. People cheat. People get caught with their hands in the cookie jar. Susan Cohen and Carol Saunders catch them. Watch out.

Cohen and Saunders run Specialized Diet Consultants, headquartered in Tarzana with branches in West Los Angeles, Irvine and Fullerton. Aside from traditional consulting, the partners--for about $100 or so--make house calls. Unannounced. "House attacks," Cohen calls them. "A husband or a daughter or somebody will ask us to drop by," she says. "We drive up in a specially stocked motor home."

Once gaining access to the suspect's house, they go straight to the cupboards, the food shelves, the fridge. "We pull out all those things that are fattening, that are bad for them," Cohen says. "Usually it's just short of everything. Then we tell people why the things they're eating are bad choices."

Meanwhile, the motor home has been stocked with "better choices." Take muffins. They tested one brand, had it analyzed, came up with 545 calories. In the van are 80-calorie muffins. Ditto for crackers and cheese, just about everything people snack on. "The best part is that our alternate choices are just as tasty as the foods they replace," Cohen says. "I know. Both Carol and I love to eat. We used to be--um, overweight. Now we're 'normal.' "

So how's business? "Terrific," Cohen says. "We're expanding in all directions."

The Scoop From Beverly Hills

By most standards, it is one of America's swankiest enclaves. How disillusioning, then, to discover that the ice-cream-flavor preference of Beverly Hills is vanilla. Further, that the first six choices of California's putative taste-makers precisely parallel those of America's proletariat, to wit: (1) vanilla, (2) vanilla Swiss-almond, (3) coffee, (4) chocolate chip, (5) chocolate and (6) strawberry.

The survey was by Haagen-Dazs, makers of a premium ice cream (what else?) and one of the sponsors of Beverly Hills' ongoing 75th-anniversary celebrations.

Local sales manager Dave Roberts remains unapologetic, noting the poll was taken before introduction of the super-chichi macadamia-nut brittle and a couple of chocolate blends made "not with the standard cocoa powder but with blocks of real Belgian chocolate called ballebaut ."

Moreover, he adds that Chicago leans more heavily toward strawberry, Atlanta to orange-and-cream, which may or not be significant.

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