Whoever wrote the kiddie jingle "It's Cool at the Mall" must have hung at Fashion Square--coolest of the cool, baddest of the bad, a Sh'oaks mall, y'all. Fashion Square's got more juice than Jamba, more stars than the Walk of Fame. It's Valley-style--an oxymoron, true, but Fashion Square is doing its part to awaken the Valley lasses out of their denim-overall-shorts-wearing stupor by whispering, "You do have options."
Except during the hideous holiday months, the place is never too crowded and the clerks never too pushy. Even the misbegotten parking structure sports a couple of power stations where customers can recharge their EV-1s while killing time in the Cleo & Cucci line behind soft-porn actress Shannon Tweed, who's thirsting for that other mall power source, coffee (Cleo & Cucci is one of two caffeine bars).
In fact, it's Fashion Square's low-key, everyman vibe that attracts the stars, who, they're quick to remind us, are people, too. Which is why you might spy LL Cool J in Bloomingdale's trying on leather jackets or applaud Loni Anderson's good-M.A.C. instincts at Macy's or find yourself bellied up to the Chanel counter at Bloomies with Alyssa Milano, the "Melrose Place" tart who actually has the dough to invest in high-brow cosmetics.
And where else can you witness a smiling Annette Funicello being wheeled off the mid-mall elevator, KROQ's "Jed the Fish" finishing a satisfying food court lunch and Alex Trebek shopping with his wife and kid? Or spend an afternoon pondering whether the familiar-looking character actor who so kindly held the elevator for you was the guy who played Birdie in the Ann-Margret version of "Bye Bye Birdie" or a well-preserved Jethro Bodine?
My excuse? I'm a new mom who works from home and is always searching for baby friendly, cheap amusement. At Fashion Square, I can chug iced coffee ($1.50 plus free refills) while my kid checks out the glass-encased fish under the first-level floor near Bloomies or cuts some rug with Bobby & the Blue Hairs, the name I've bestowed on the mall's official pianist and his groupies.
Bobby is pretty much the Mack Daddy of Fashion Square and makes all the old gals swoon--they take turns resting an elbow on the piano and singing along, playing Ilse to his Sam. With his ever-present Ray-Bans and generous shock of white hair tucked under a dashing captain's hat, he's a killer. After one particularly rousing set, I spot Marilu Henner tipping a nod of approval in Bobby's direction, and during the two blocks it takes to cross the L.A. River and make my way back home, I'm treated to fabulous mental reruns of "Taxi." Hollywood should be this cool.