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RECREATION : He Wrote the Book on Romance

October 20, 1994|SUSAN WOODWARD

What's the best spot for a romantic oceanside evening in Redondo Beach?

When can you attend the annual Japanese Koi Festival in Gardena?

And where can you enjoy the cheapest home-style cooking in San Pedro and have a view of the harbor?

Ask Robert Badal or get his book, "Romancing the Southland," which rolled off the presses last week.

The 700-page work is a historical account of life in Southern California and a guide to weird and wonderful places to see and things to do. Many of the highlights are in the South Bay.

It will tell you that the Portofino Hotel and Yacht Club is the perfect private hotel for romance; the California Koi Festival (a competition judging rare fish) has been held in Gardena every March since 1974, and the friendly owners at Walker's Cafe ("bikers welcome"), established at 700 Paseo del Mar in 1942, still know how to turn out a wonderful home-style lunch.

Badal is a native Southern Californian, and his book is the result of about 500 interviews, five years of writing and a lifetime of experience.

The 38-year-old, who calls himself Mr. Romance, has lectured for 16 years throughout Southern California on the topic of love and romance.

"One of the things I'm trying to do with this book and with the seminars I've developed is tie the region together," Badal said. "When I say 'Romancing the Southland,' I mean I'm looking for something interesting. I'm romancing it."

Many of the places highlighted in the book are small restaurants, hotels and other businesses that focus on the unusual.

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Try Wilmington's El Mercado, where mariachis play all day, or grab a beer brewed on the premises at the Manhattan Beach Brewing Co. Or take a night heli tour with Benbow Helicopters in Torrance for a sunset along the coast.

Los Angeles investment banker Douglas A. Campbell, who met Badal at a "50 Romantic and Unusual Things to Do in Los Angeles" lecture nine years ago, put up the money to publish the book and created Romancing the West Inc.

Graphic Touch of San Pedro designed and printed the book. And Torrance-based Jalmar Press is the distributor.

"We wanted to make sure it was all-Southern California," Badal said.

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