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Westside Watch

Q: Who Can I See for Help? : A: Guy in the Umbrella Hat

June 15, 1995

The man in the funny hat is Erik Wile, Santa Monica's guide to the perplexed, at work on the Third Street Promenade. It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it.

Wile, a Brown University student home for vacation, has the assignment of helping tourists find their way around.

The umbrella hat was his idea, but the cart--the kind used by Postal Service letter carriers--and the flag were arranged by his employer, the Santa Monica Convention & Visitors Bureau.

When Wile hit the streets for the first time last week, he was besieged by more than 100 tourists in three hours, said his boss, Beverly Moore, executive director of the bureau.

"They asked all kinds of questions," Moore said. Where's a good place to eat? Where's the nearest restroom? How do you get around by bus?

Luckily, Wile, a graduate of Santa Monica High School, knows most of the answers. He refers any queries he can't handle to the information booth in Palisades Park.

The bureau is looking for more Santa Monica-wise guys and gals to help out.

"We're planning to do it seven days a week throughout the summer," Moore said. "If it proves to be popular, we'll continue."

The city gets about 3 million visitors a year, 70% of them from foreign countries.


JUST FOR THE HALIBUT: John Bourget likes his barbecued. Butter both sides, sprinkle with garlic, lemon and seasoned salt, wrap in aluminum foil with onions, carrots and celery and plop on the grill for five minutes on each side.

"You don't want to overcook fish," notes the organizer of the Santa Monica Bay Halibut Derby. "You let it steam a little bit and that's it."

Though that's the way he does it, Bourget is eager to hear other suggestions for preparing his favorite flatfish.

All whose recipes are found worthy will be honored with a shot at ichthyological immortality--publication in a cookbook to be issued on the occasion of the 10th Halibut Derby in April.

"We're looking for all kinds of cooking and all types of dishes," Bourget said. "We're including recipes for baking, frying, broiling and microwaving, and also chowders, soups, salads, sashimi and ceviche, as well as the more traditional dishes."

Recipes may be sent to Bourget at 2117 Ashland Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90405. The annual derby raises money for youth fishing programs and halibut research.


SPEAKING OF FISH: Gladstone's 4 Fish, the popular eatery on Pacific Coast Highway, has had a few too many customers recently who have eaten their fill, then skipped the bill.

The restaurant, known for its diverse clientele, large portions and peanut shells on the floor, recently began asking for credit cards before customers are seated in the outdoor deck area. The large public space with the ocean view often seats up to 1,000 customers on busy days.

"We've had as many as two walkouts a day. There is just constant motion out there. People also often get up and move to other tables in the middle of their meals," said Kathryn Koenigsberg, a Gladstone's manager. "Servers can now do their business instead of watching people."

Last year, the establishment enjoyed a rash of publicity on behalf of "Spike," an 18-pound, 65-year-old lobster that was headed for the broiler. An aquarium has since been set up at the entrance to house the crustacean.

But recently, high bacteria levels have been found in Spike's new home. The cause, according to restaurant employees: customers dumping beer into the aquarium.

Spike has since been removed to another location so his watery home can be filtered.

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