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More Bang for Your Entertainment Buck

May 23, 2000|BOOTH MOORE

When my boyfriend and I wandered into the 99 Cents Only store on Fairfax at 6th Street in search of some cheap retail therapy Sunday, we got more than our money's worth. The entertainment started when a customer asked the price of a slotted pasta spoon. (You can't make this up.)

Then, as we strolled the aisles, it became clear that 99 Cents Only stores are the place strange products come to die.

First, I snagged a can of Cafe Cappuccino air freshener. "Its cozy awakening aroma invites relaxation and the serenity of a quiet morning's dawn," the can reads. (At Starbucks maybe.)

Into the shopping basket went a bouquet of Chupa Chups lollipops, a package of California's Finest Naked Nuts and a canister of cheese crackers (dolphins, not goldfish, but at 99 cents you can't be too choosy).

I picked up a pink piggy bank with a penny inside (a bargain technically, at 98 cents), and a telephone index, which resembles a Rolodex, except with a more pleasing design.

The drink aisle (and sampling the loony libations later at home) was the high point of our excursion. "Bicycle-flavored" beer tasted nothing like a bicycle (too much lime), and you'd have to be smoking something mighty strong to stomach a full glass of Haight Ashberry kiwi strawberry wine.

But the Big Head Coffee Cola gets my gag award, if not for the taste, then for the goofy story behind it: "On the Isle of Big Head, the tribes have ever been divided by mountains of differing taste," the bottle reads. "On the Western side of the isle, the sweet taste of cola has won the hearts of the people. On the Eastern shores, the succulent scent of coffee has captivated its inhabitants, forever keeping the two peoples apart. But then Lifeforms from the Galaxy of California came down one day and proclaimed the answer to the people: Big Head Coffee Cola for all!"

Checking out took some negotiation. The Bicycle beers cost 99 cents for five, but we only wanted one, and the saleswoman didn't have a way to ring them up individually. I took advantage of the confusion to grab a few more items: a Fire Pop (a cinnamon lollipop attached to a teeny fire extinguisher, that can be filled with water to squirt into the mouth after a lick of the hot candy); "The Private Diary of Lyle Menendez In His Own Words," (but also somehow unauthorized); and, as a bonus for the beer we passed up, a free folding pair of scissors.

The grand total was about $12, but the entertainment value was priceless. We're thinking about making it a Sunday tradition.

*

Speaking of favorite pastimes . . . Conde Nast has a new magazine devoted to, drumroll please, shopping! The premiere issue of Lucky is not exactly enlightening reading, but it does go a step further than most fashion magazines: It shows real people wearing the same garment in different ways. (For example, four women with vastly different styles show how they'd wear spring's coveted Prada heart-print chiffon blouse.)

A trend page seems ahead of the curve (photo pendants?) and the "Ask Dr. Shopper" column is blissfully vapid. (Dark denim or light denim for spring? Oh dear, . turns out the answer is light.) "Style Spy" asks owners of hot shops which trends they've bought into and which they've avoided. (Julie Zamaryonov of Beverly Boulevard's NYSE, Lucky's L.A. pick, is ignoring the cropped pants trend. I approve.)

Quite a bit of the magazine is catalog-like, devoted to clothes and shoes with user-friendly info about when pieces will be in stores and what they'll cost.

Most items are on the expensive side, so, for shopoholics like me, it's a good thing the magazine will only be published twice this year. Besides, there's always the 99 Cents Only store. . . .

*

Booth Moore can be reached at booth.moore@latimes.com.

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