Fans of the L.A. Kings were typically treated each season to a free photo of the team, sponsored by Miller Lite. However, according to Rob Moor, the hockey team's vice president of marketing, "There are a number of upscale fans who want to express their allegiance to the Kings, but they're not about to put a Miller Lite poster in their home or office."
To solve that problem, the Kings have taken the high road. They're turning to fine art. Sports artist Steve Holland of Santa Barbara was commissioned to create three lithographs--called the Victory Suite--and one will be released every year.
In conjunction with L.A. Art, a Sherman Oaks gallery specializing in fine art with a sports theme, the Kings will present on March 10 the first limited-edition series of 100 autographed artist proofs at $495 a pop. The pieces are signed not only by the artist, but by the four team players who comprise the subject matter--including the king of Kings, Wayne Gretzky.
Gallery owner Shan Weaver notes that the Kings' move into fine art typifies a new trend for sports teams of all persuasions. "A lot of season ticket-holders for many teams are very wealthy and collect fine art," Weaver says. "So the teams are starting to go from memorabilia--poster-ad look where it's illustration--to a more sophisticated fine-art image, where the piece tells a story or shows the intensity and the discipline of the sport."
L.A. Art represents artists who have been commissioned by the Chicago Cubs, the Raiders, Big 5 Sporting Goods and Santa Anita Golf Course, among others. Another tony L.A. team that prefers to remain nameless is commissioning a piece for its fans.
Points of View
"Our display windows are a little different than four mannequins with dresses slapped on them," says Scott Hill, general manager of Ron Ross Inc., a Tarzana clothing store for men and women.
The store is well-known for its highly original and thoughtful window displays. Last month the theme was the Berlin Wall, where mannequins posed against a colorful, crumbling wall, with graffiti such as "If not now, when." Paintings of onion-shaped Russian spires loomed in the background, and pieces of broken plaster casings were strewn around the mannequins' feet.
It's a far cry from the palm trees and pastels found in most other retailers' windows. Tomorrow the windows change to a new theme: apartheid. "There will be a map of Africa, a portrait of Nelson Mandela, and a group of black mannequins in chains," promises the window's designer, Andrew Paul Binder of Drulu in Los Angeles.
"We're moving in a current events direction with our windows, and it just so happens that the last two big current events have been political situations," Hill says. "It isn't just tied into selling suits but an image as well. The customer who shops here looks for our shop to be different. We have 90 feet of windows and we try to put a little more energy and time into making a presentation to the community."
Too Modern for Dogs
Fire stations and Dalmatian dogs are as traditional a pair in our mind's eye as cats and hot tin roofs. But in Los Angeles you're more likely to see a cat on a hot tin roof than you are a Dalmatian at a fire station.
"We're too modern to have dogs," says Manny Hernandez, public information officer for the Los Angeles City Fire Department. "If you wanted a dog, you'd have to get official permission--put in the paper work. A station might have an occasional stray that hangs around for a while--until someone has to start cleaning up after him, and then he's got to go."
Battalion Chief Skip Bennett of the L.A. County Fire Department says: "In the old days, before motorized vehicles, Dalmatians used to run alongside the horses that pulled the pumpers. They'd chase the other dogs away from the horses and clear the streets. But now they've sort of gone by the wayside. It's not very usual for a fire station to have a dog."
Nonetheless, children's books on firefighters abound with pictures of Dalmatians perched atop red trucks. "We've never had one in the 21 years I've been here," says Battalion Chief Mike Davis of the Burbank Fire Department. "But still it's one of those traditional ideas that hangs on."
How the Garden Grows
For weekend gardeners, it's mecca time. March is when they start their pilgrimages to the nursery to spend more money than they originally planned.
Flower gardens are especially popular with weekend gardeners because of their quick, colorful results. Jef Schmidt of Jef Schmidt Landscape Co. in Van Nuys has some advice before you start spreading newspapers across the back seat of your car.
"It almost always takes more flowers than you think to make a nice garden," he says. "I like to mix in some more mature plants--like four-inch pots of more slow-growing flowers--with flowers that come in flats. That way you get some immediate color."
Schmidt also recommends that you buy your plants from Valley nurseries, because those plants are already more acclimated to the weather here than those bought on the Westside, for example.
And don't be afraid to experiment. "You can mix vegetables into your flower garden," he says. "Red Swiss chard--it's almost a Burgundy color--makes a great accent plant, or you could use bibb lettuce as a border around the flower bed." Herbs--from parsley to basil--are both pretty and practical in the flower bed, he says.
While you're at the nursery, pick up some pre-planting fertilizer. "It costs a couple of extra dollars, but it protects your investment," Schmidt says.
"Well, as I always say, you can't cheat at bowling."
--Man disgusted with his score at the Brunswick Bowlerland Lanes in Van Nuys.