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City of Angles

The Pathos and the Pain

July 09, 2002|GINA PICCALO AND LOUISE ROUG

Winona Ryder's criminal case has inspired yet another tongue-in-cheek hommage. This one will take place in a West Hollywood theater with Ryder portrayed by actor Rex Lee. "My Name is Winona and I'm a Shoplifter" opens Monday at the Zephyr Theater in West Hollywood. It's the creation of playwright Michael Kearns, who claims to have been so moved by Ryder's life that he is writing a one-man show about it.

(Ryder, accused of shoplifting $4,760 in merchandise from Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills last December, is scheduled to stand trial on felony charges of grand theft, burglary, vandalism and possession of drugs without a prescription. In June, she pleaded not guilty to the charges.)

The play is set in a 12-step meeting and features the Ryder character confessing to having shoplifted and also professing her interest in dating the producer/man-about-town Steve Bing. She discusses her friendships with the late Timothy Leary and makeup artist Kevin Aucoin and, at one point, reads the abysmal reviews of her current film "Mr. Deeds." "I couldn't avoid the fact that she's a tragic figure and that's why we laugh at her," said Kearns. "It's our tragedy that we're laughing at. I could identify with some of her pain."

The play opens the evening after the actress' scheduled pretrial hearing in Beverly Hills Superior Court and runs through Aug. 5. After that, it moves to Theater A @ Studio A in Silver Lake, and will run Fridays through the end of August.

Beach Brawl

The city of Malibu has taken the side of David Geffen in the battle between the producer and environmentalists over public access to the beach in front of Geffen's home.

Environmentalists for months have fought to open a path next to Geffen's Carbon Beach home that would allow the public to walk from Pacific Coast Highway to the sand. In January, the California Coastal Commission and the California Conservancy granted the nonprofit group Access for All the authority to adopt the walkway and see that it opens to the public.

In response, the producer and the city filed a lawsuit last Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court against the group and the two state agencies. According to the suit, the agencies violated state law by failing to create a statewide plan for coastal public access and by failing to conduct required environmental studies.

The city, which is legally culpable for the access way, says the agencies acted irresponsibly. "The trouble with the haphazard, ad-hoc way it's being done now is that resources are being put into opening access ways where there is no parking, restrooms or lifeguards," said Malibu City Atty. Christi Hogin. " ... It's in our interest that when an access way is opened that it's safe and convenient for the public."

In the suit, Geffen has also objected to a state policy that in 1983 required him to open to the public a portion of his beach property in exchange for a permit to add 950 square feet to his house. Geffen claims that a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court decision finding such arrangements unconstitutional exempts him from relinquishing the access way.

For nearly two decades, the pathway has remained blocked by a wooden fence and gate. Members of Access for All could not be reached for comment.

Elivra Comes to Life

Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, arrived in her macabre mobile at the Laemmle Fairfax Cinemas just before midnight Saturday. Hundreds of dedicated Elvira fans (and look-alikes) crowded the sidewalk, lining up for a showing of her new movie, "Elvira's Haunted Hills."

"Elvira has a huge following: a gay crowd, a goth crowd and the 'Rocky Horror' crowd," said Cassandra Peterson about her alter ego's motley fan base. "It spans several generations, [but] it's an ardent fan base like William Shatner's 'Star Trek' fans."

Peterson, who got her start in 1981 introducing horror movies on KHJ-TV Channel 9 in Los Angeles, wrote the horror comedy spoof.

She spent more than a decade trying to get Hollywood interested in a sequel to the original 1988 cult movie, "Elvira, Mistress of the Dark." The new movie, directed by Sam Irvin, was shot in Romania. Peterson and her husband financed it by taking out another mortgage on their home and borrowing from relatives. The couple also handled their own advertising, handing out fliers in local stores.

"We couldn't let Elvira fade," said Peterson, who has dedicated the better part of her professional career to the character.

In the movie, which takes place in the 1850s, Elvira leaves a Carpathian village to star in a Paris revue only to end up in a mysterious, medieval castle inhabited by a sinister lord whose long-dead wife bears an eerie resemblance to Elvira.

Richard Chamberlain was originally cast as the lord but had to back out when he got an offer that would actually pay, said Peterson. Instead, Peterson and her husband lured Richard O'Brien, who wrote "The Rocky Horror Show" (he plays Riff Raff in the movie) to play the part. And that's not the only draw for aficionados of the genre.

"We have special effects too, but they're not so special," she said. "We couldn't afford them."

City of Angles runs Tuesday and Friday. E-mail: angles@latimes. com.

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