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Westside Watch : The Bay Street Rollers Aim for the 2012 Olympics

March 03, 1994

Tip over trash cans in a barren Santa Monica Beach parking lot, throw in a few Eastern transplants, Canadians and Gretzky wanna-bes wearing in-line skates and carrying sticks, a rubber ball, and, voila , California has yet another new sport.

Roller hockey is the latest craze to hit Los Angeles.

On most weekends, roller hockey enthusiasts gather in a lot at the western edge of Bay Street in Santa Monica, attracted by sunshine and fierce competition.

"It's cheap and it's free," said Adam Stepan, a roller hockey devotee originally from New York City. "I love playing and going to the beach--it's the perfect combination."

The sport grew with the advent of in-line skates and the rising popularity of the Los Angeles Kings. Ready availability of equipment--such as shinguards, gloves and kneepads--helped too.

On some evenings, enthusiasts show their skills in four or five games played simultaneously.

"We should be an Olympic sport by 2012," Stepan said. "We've even got a few hard-core groupies but could always use more."

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MELROSE 90069: To some television viewers, "Melrose Place" is Fox Broadcasting's must-see Wednesday evening soap opera.

But Melrose Place is also a two-block Westside street between La Cienega Boulevard and Melrose Avenue. Many of its businesses are upscale antique stores that have been on the street for years.

But in a merger of reality and fantasy that has chagrined shopkeepers and amazed Darren Star, the show's creator and executive producer, fans of the show have been flocking to the street since the series began in July, 1992.

John Corwin, who manages Connoisseur Antiques, has had to send away many disappointed fans who believed the apartment building that serves as the show's focal point is located on the street. (In reality, it is in a sound stage in Santa Clarita.) They also pepper him with questions about the locations of the various clubs shown on the series.

Corwin's solution is to refer the fans to Melrose Avenue, a popular site for filming movies, television shows and commercials.

To Toshi Kihara, the owner of Melrose Place, a restaurant at the street's west end, having a business on a street with the same name as a popular television show is "not really a happy thing." (Kihara said he began making plans for the restaurant around January, 1992, and opened that September).

Kihara reports that young people wearing tank tops and shorts have come in seeking hamburgers and milkshakes. That's not exactly the fare or the dress code for the California cuisine restaurant, which shoots for the older Beverly Hills crowd, Kihara said.

"For the first year, it was very hard because of the show," Kihara said. "Customers told me they didn't come here (earlier) because they thought Melrose Place had something to do with the show." But since then, the restaurant has been building a regular clientele.

Star said he dubbed the series "Melrose Place" because the name "just had a ring to it" and he wanted the series to be identified with Melrose Avenue.

"I was certainly aware there was a street called Melrose Place, but I figured hardly anyone in L.A. knew that, so I wasn't worried about the rest of the country," Star said.

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UNDER PARADISE: To some, Santa Monica is paradise, either because of its climate, beach or a city government still hewing to liberal policies.

The city figures prominently in "Escape From Paradise," a one-woman play at New York City's Circle Repertory Theatre through March 13.

Among the characters portrayed by Regina Taylor is Sister Sinclair, a soothsayer living under the Santa Monica Pier.

"The play is about why we are all on the road searching for that thing called paradise (and) what that is for different people," said Taylor, who wrote the play. She is best known for her Emmy-nominated and Golden Globe-winning role as Lilly Harper in "I'll Fly Away," a television series set in the South at the beginning of the civil rights movement.

"We plot out on this course," Taylor said, "and we get out on the road and once we get to that destination, we find that paradise is very mercurial and hard to hold on to."

Taylor said that Sister Sinclair is "trying to gather followers to her belief of what paradise is."

"She's a blind woman, but she can see everything," Taylor said. "She sees the good, the bad, the indifferent and all the shades in between. At one point she got tired at looking around at all the misery and strife in the world, asked the Lord what to do and takes out her eyes. In doing that, she saw the light. In essence, Sister Sinclair took out her eyes so she can see paradise without any distractions."

Taylor, a former Santa Monica resident, said the character is not based on a real person.

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