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City of Angles

Seeking Love and 15 Minutes of Fame

November 13, 2001|LOUISE ROUG and GINA PICCALO | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Candidates arrived by the busloads, with high hopes and low-riding jeans. It was Friday and "Blind Date" singles night at the El Rey Theatre on Wilshire Boulevard. Shawn Antonio, a former club promoter, stood outside the theater scouting talent for the syndicated TV show.

His eyes darting from one contender to another, the fast-talking and restless Antonio described the profile: "Blind Date" candidates should be between 23 and 40,, tall and in good physical shape. "We're looking for decent-looking to hot guys," said Antonio, who himself fits the profile. "Not everyone's quite right for the show."

Girls should be "hot" but "we'll let them slide on the looks if they're really, really funny.... Foreigners are always good. Especially if they have an accent."

Picking qualified contestants for the show is tough. It requires Antonio to scout nightclubs, from the Bay Area to San Diego. "It's pretty exhausting," he said with a grin.

The show receives between 1,500 and 2,000 e-mails and more than 1,000 phone calls every week from wannabe daters. Candidates are asked to describe themselves but descriptions often bear little relation to reality. As a rule, Antonio said, "women under-describe themselves." Whereas men, he said, "have ego." Sometimes, that means adding a few inches. The show requires men to be at least 5 feet, 9 inches tall. But, "if there's a 5-foot-8 guy, and he's really hilarious, and good-looking, we'll put him on." He's less strict with height requirements for women.

A tall, red-haired woman wearing red leather and punkish jewelry wandered by. Antonio gave an appreciative nod. "She'd be cool," he said. "She probably speaks French." The woman, a 21-year-old model-musician, didn't. She had just arrived from Utah and thought the singles party was "something to do."

Inside, the theater was filling up with hopefuls.

As the deejay spun old-school hip-hop albums by Run DMC and A Tribe Called Quest, two women ventured out on the empty dance floor. Mostly, the party resembled a high school dance.

Sitting on red velvet chairs along one wall, a group of women sized up guys standing nearby, drinking beer and looking bored.

Nicole Briard, a 21-year-old student at Cal State Long Beach, was hanging out with a friend. Briard, who was wearing a snug blue lace top and black trousers, had come for the novelty. "I'm from Alaska," she said, "We don't have anything like this in Alaska, and I want to experience everything L.A. has to offer."

Michael Belasco, a 29-year-old director's assistant, scanned the room. Wearing a shirt unbuttoned to proudly display a tuft of hair, he had come to party with four women friends.

"I've already ditched them," he said with swagger before describing the purpose of the evening. "I'm looking for humanicity," he said. "And if they want to have sex, that's fine too."

The First Impression

Hollywood turned out Thursday night for the first gala at the Hollywood & Highland complex-a soiree that honored Jeffrey Katzenberg and raised $2 million for the Fulfillment Fund, which sends underprivileged youth to college.

Many industry heavyweights griped about the shopping mall feel of the complex as they traveled up a series of escalators, passing sporting goods stores and clothing boutiques to get to the elegant grand ballroom for a Wolfgang Puck meal.

Variety Editor in Chief Peter Bart was there looking dapper and armed with a great one-liner. "Only Hollywood would use the white elephant as a landmark," he quipped from a balcony, referring to the two giant elephants sculptures that tower over the complex. (The sculptures are an architectural nod to the Babylonian set of "Intolerance," a 1916 film about bigotry.)

Partygoers from four stories above watched celebrities file in on the red carpet set up in the Babylon Court. From that distance it was hard to make out faces, but we recognized a few Emmy winners, including "The West Wing's" Bradley Whitford with wife Jane Kaczmarek and "Will & Grace's" Eric McCormack.

The most lively part of the evening was the brief performance by singer Nikka Costa and her band. They took the stage for a two-song, bump-and-grind set that inspired Kate Hudson to remark, "I know I'm a girl. But she's hot!"

A Monster Crowd

About 100 guests invited to attend the American Film Institute's world premiere of "Monster's Ball," starring Billy Bob Thornton and Halle Berry, were denied entry to Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood Sunday night after overcrowding prompted fire marshals to shut theater doors.

Those turned away, however, did not include the stars in attendance, like Berry, Peter Boyle and rapper Sean "P. Diddy" Combs. The snafu was caused by overbooking, according to Melissa Holloway, a spokeswoman for Lions Gate Films, which will release the film in December.

"I was informed ... that AFI had overbooked [the premiere] by 50%," Holloway said, adding that Lions Gate itself had overbooked by 20%, which she maintained is standard in case of no-shows. She said anyone who couldn't get in was invited to attend a screening after the first show let out.

Rain and Shine

While most of us were enjoying a rainy Sunday morning indoors, Jodie Foster and her toddler son, Charlie, joined crowds of children and their famous parents at the Fourth Annual Express Yourself Street Fair, a private charity event on Market Street in Venice. Rita Wilson carried an armload of crafts from one booth while her sons jogged to the next. L.L. Cool J took the stage to read a story to the rapt crowd of preschoolers. And Suzanna Hoffs' young daughter excitedly pulled her from booth to booth. At $225 per ticket, the street fair raised $800,000 for P.S. Arts, a charity that provides art classes for 12 public schools in Los Angeles County.

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