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Stocking Stuffers: Mink Slippers, Lie Detectors

Beverly Hills merchants concoct a 'Top 10' holiday gift list that includes the Portable Truth Machine for $4,900.

November 16, 2002|Bob Pool | Times Staff Writer

It was a moment to savor. No, not ogling the $30,000 diamond pendant or the $70,000 lynx throw rug or the $285,475 Lamborghini.

The most memorable moment Friday came when the public relations man unveiling holiday gifts touted as seen only in Beverly Hills was hooked up to a lie detector.

The $4,900 VSA-15 Portable Truth Machine was halfway down the "Top 10" holiday gift list issued by the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce and Civic Assn. amid trumpet fanfare at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

Like businesspeople everywhere, merchants in Beverly Hills are feeling the effects of the recession.

So they are trying to jump-start this year's holiday shopping season by concocting a mock gift list that showcases items ranging from "the extravagant to the affordable."

The sports car anchors one end of it. A pair of $50 Nike action-hero sneakers is at the other.

"Our list features items that just can't be found anywhere else," said Ali Soltani, the chamber president.

"If you're finding this too good to be true, I can prove I'm not lying," added the chamber communications director, Michael Robinson, who unveiled the 10 items one by one and ceremoniously removed a cloth covering the phonebook-size Portable Truth Machine.

"The VSA-15 electronically analyzes a person's voice for micro-tremors that occur with stress and deception," Robinson told onlookers. "The human ear can't hear it. But the VSA-15 can."

Robinson finished showing the other items on the list -- which included $50 chocolates, $65 holiday cards, $760 mink slippers, a $1,000 changeable-face wristwatch and an $8,500 diamond ring.

Then he retired to a nearby room and gamely hooked up the VSA-15 microphone for a reporter.

OK, he confessed: Some of the items on the list are available outside of Beverly Hills. Like the car, the sneakers, the watch and even the VSA-15, which is also sold at Counter Spy Shops in New York, Washington, Miami and elsewhere.

"What we're really trying to show with the list is, you can find a gift in Beverly Hills no matter what your price point," Robinson said. "And that's the truth."

The digital readout on the VSA-15 registered no micro-tremors when he said it.

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