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Passing Through

Rampaging Scooter Gangs Pillage Defenseless Town

July 15, 2001|Mark Ehrman

Invited to: Vespa Fashion Extravaganza celebrating the reintroduction of the Italian company's iconic scooter, on Cosmo Street in Hollywood.

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Leader of the pack: "It's a really nice summer night, and they've turned this street into a party place," says "American Beauty's" Thora Birch, arriving over a blacktop ramp to the blatter of engines and the beeping of horns. Of course, she's hearing piped-in sound effects. The real scooters are all silent and stationary. A pearl-white one is mounted by a succession of lovely actresses for photo ops. Others, in glossy enamel hues, are encased in transparent party tables or simply lined up like nail polish bottles along one stretch of the street. "It's about a lifestyle, about fashion, culture, music," explains Nico, the professional guest-wrangler and high society tummler, who (along with Bryan Rabin) is in charge of bringing together the "hip, happening people who are going to want to be part of a Vespa movement, like back in the '60s." While the product certainly has girl appeal, such an underendowed form of transportation leaves the other 49% less sure. "It's an iffy area," remarks "Just Shoot Me's" David Spade. "I'm waiting to see if [WWF's] the Rock has one. Then it might be easier."

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Odds and mods: "I just woke up from a nap. I'm a little brain-dead. Who else is here?" asks the newly rehabbed Andy Dick, swigging from a liter-sized glass bottle of mineral water. Well, there's Flea on the couch ("Scoots are 'La Dolce Vita,' baby"), Tori Spelling by the dance floor, and even "Dawson's Creek" boy James Van Der Beek leaning on one of those oil-drum bar tables. Donovan Leitch calls himself "a big 'Quadrophenia' fan," surprised that so few here are familiar with the 1979 film based on the Who's mod rock opera. "That's the Vespa movie," he says. Rose McGowan claims mod credentials, though her presence here is serendipitous, the "Scream"-stress having been waylaid by friends while on her way to the Pig'n Whistle. "When I was 14, I would go to scooter rallies in Seattle," she says. "A friend of mine had a Vespa with antlers mounted on the front. Very sweet." So now, swooning with nostalgia, she's abandoning her dinner plans? "Oh, no," McGowan answers. "I'm trying to leave."--mark ehrman

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Celeb Quotient

Name-face recognition peaks around James Van Der Beek level. Most can be classified as the Who?

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Wow Factor

Scooters-and-scenesters combo imbues otherwise simple summer-night drink-and-dance atmosphere with default cool.

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Grazing Level

Asparagus, postage-stamp-sized sirloin, and tomato tidbits--barely enough for even a Vespa-sized appetite.

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