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Vespa Returns With a Hint of Romance

November 20, 2000|BOOTH MOORE

With retro so popular these days for everything from clothes to cars (PT Cruiser and VW Bug), the makers of the Vespa motorbike are hoping to revive interest in the iconic Italian motorbike.

The wasp-shaped Vespa (the Italian word for the insect), was developed in 1946 by designer Enrico Piaggio as an affordable mode of transportation. It was introduced to the United States in 1951 but the motorbike only became popular after Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck fell in love on one in the Academy Award-winning, 1953 film "Roman Holiday." (The bike remained on the market until the 1980s, when stricter environmental standards prohibited its sale.)

The Vespa 2000 was launched at a splashy party Wednesday at Paramount Studios, with Audrey Hepburn's son Sean Ferrer and Gregory Peck's daughter Cecilia Peck re-creating their parents' magic movie moment.

"Nothing quite so romantic happened," said documentary filmmaker Peck, after climbing off the stationary bike. "With us, sparks are always flying," joked Ferrer, who is chairman of his mother's Children's Fund. "Of course, it's in a brother-sister way."

So much for re-romance. Turns out, the two have been good friends for so long, they can't even remember how they met. There may still be hope though, Peck said. "We have babies who aren't too awfully far apart in age."

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It's official. The legendary Chasen's restaurant in Beverly Hills, haunt of former presidents and Hollywood stars, is now a grocery store. The newest Bristol Farms opened Wednesday on Beverly Boulevard and Doheny Drive with a black-tie event. Black tie? The only people who seemed to adhere to the dress code, chosen in an effort to hark back to the locale's more glamorous days, were Bristol Farms execs and look-alikes for Frank Sinatra, Mae West and Marilyn Monroe, who were hired for the party.

The Johnny Crawford Dance Orchestra kept guests swingin' in the aisles, and the food (mini-Reuben sandwiches, coconut lobster tails and more) was some of the best I've had in a long while.

My only complaint? I couldn't pick up a six-pack of my favorite beer, the hard-to-find Hollywood Blonde. "Today's for show, tomorrow's for go," Bristol Farms chief executive Kevin Davis said of the closed cash registers. Apparently I wasn't the only one shafted. A tray-toting waitress said three people had asked her if they could shop.

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Speaking of shopping . . . L.A. continues to be a hot location for new stores, and many are opening just in time for the holiday season. Guests mingled among candy-colored cloche hats, short-sleeved sweaters fastened at the collar with oversized safety pins and gold jeans at the opening of Catherine Malandrino's Sunset Plaza boutique Thursday. The French fashion designer, dressed in a bright purple dress, turquoise tights and purple ankle-strap shoes with bows on top, said she chose to open her second U.S. store in L.A. because of her West Coast style muses, Rod Stewart's daughter Kimberly Stewart and Shiva Rose. "Stewart is rock 'n' roll and Shiva Rose is a little bit more European . . . The two of them together make me crazy!"

Meanwhile on Melrose, Jennifer Noonan, designer of maternity fashions, and her design partner Harriet Fleming hosted an opening bash for their second emporium, Naissance. In addition to their own clothing and accessories, the funky store features maternity collections by Belly Beautiful, Bump and First Comes Love. Designers Magda Berliner, Anja Flint and Estevan Ramos offer versions of their regular clothing, altered to fit bulging bellies. Noonan and Fleming said they plan to offer prenatal yoga, baby feng shui, lesbian Lamaze, knitting, Pilates and Tarot card reading.

Sushi and sake were served at the party, which attracted plenty of preggies. Hey . . . Aren't those two things pregnant women are supposed to avoid?

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