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COVER STORY

Catering to big spenders and small

March 20, 2003|Leslee Komaiko | Special to the Times

Not only have I never been nominated, but I haven't seen any of the movies nominated for best picture this year. Not one. I've been meaning to, just as I've been meaning to get my car serviced and meaning to re-grout the kitchen counter. I just haven't gotten 'round to it.

No matter. Sunday, I plan to be glued to the television watching the Academy Awards (unless world events intervene). So important is my uninterrupted, unobstructed viewing that I declined two Oscar party invitations this year. Too many people talking. Too much distraction. This year, nothing will come between me and my Sony Plasma TV. (Actually it's a 27-year-old Emerson set. But, hey, a girl can dream.)

The funny thing is, during the six or seven years I lived in Illinois in the late '80s and early '90s, I don't think I watched the Oscars once. The awards, you see, while viewed around the world by, yes, millions, are really about Los Angeles. Sure there are those who consider the whole thing a solipsistic love letter from Hollywood to Hollywood. But I say bring on the love.

And so do a lot of local businesses, especially those involved in primping and pampering the industry aristocracy. After all, the Oscars mean dollars. (There's a reason that guy is gold.) Of course, not everyone enjoys the Oscar trickle-down. We checked in with the owners or managers of half a dozen local businesses earlier in the week to find out exactly what the Oscars mean for them.

Finding the right wheels

ED LITMAN, Manager, Hollywood Car Rental, Hollywood

What's business like on Oscar weekend?

It's no different than any other weekend. We do get actors through the course of the year because we rent to [drivers] under 25. We get a lot of actors' kids. Our hook is we rent cars on a cash basis. Most places don't do that.

If Martin Scorsese calls last minute for a car, what can you offer?

We don't have any high-end cars. How about a Daewoo.

How much does that go for?

About $25 a day.

Does he get a discount?

No.

If his credit card is declined, do you let him have the car?

No.

How many aspiring actors on your staff?

Everybody. We have a guy who used to work for us who's on TV in commercials now. We have guys who do stand-up comedy, singers. Everybody wants to be an actor.

What about you?

I came because of the weather. The closest I came to becoming an actor was dating Jerry Lewis' agent's daughter. But I never met him. All I met was the dog.

Last actor you rented to?

The current James Bond's son rented a car from us four or five years ago. Princess Lea came in once. You know, Debbie Reynolds' daughter.

Are actors good customers?

The more famous they are, the nicer they are. And they don't care what they drive. Like Steve McQueen, when he was alive he used to rent from Rent A Wreck.

Are you going to watch the awards?

Yes. I am a movie fan.

CHARLIE HORKY, Owner, CLS Limousine of Los Angeles

What's business like on Oscar weekend?

It's crazy. It's an intense week because all the people that are nominated are coming into town. There's lots of interviewing, getting their hair done, shopping and getting ready for the big event. It's one of our single busiest weeks of the year.

Most popular car requested?

The stretch limousine is the most-asked-for car mainly because it's Hollywood celebrities with their families or press people. Next biggest is our chauffeur-driven Mercedes-Benzes and Lincoln Town Cars.

What does a limo go for?

A stretch limo is $75 an hour plus gratuity and anything else they might want in the car. And there's a 10-hour minimum that night. Probably all in all, that night is around $1,500. All the cars do come with stocked bars, and we'll put complimentary champagne that night. But some people only want Evian water. Some people only want Diet Coke. Some people want a certain type of champagne.

If Nicolas Cage calls last minute for a car, what can you offer?

Anything he wants.

Do Oscar nominees get a price break?

No.

Do nominees ever carpool?

No.

Are there any hybrid limos for stars like Leonardo DiCaprio?

Yes, upon request.

Do celebrities ever hang out the moon roof?

Sure. Once in a while. It's been known to happen.

Do Oscar winners tip better than losers?

I tell you one thing. They keep the cars longer that night.

How many aspiring actors on your staff?

I'd have to say that we really don't have any.

Anybody ever left their Oscar statuette in one of your cars?

Oh, sure. Absolutely. Many times. I can't remember who did that. But it was returned moments after they got in their front door, probably before they realized it was gone.

Can you name anyone you'll be driving on Sunday?

The first guy you asked a question about.

*

A taste of Oscar night

BARRY FOGEL, Owner, Jacopo's Pizzeria, Beverly Hills

What's business like on Oscar night?

Well, it used to be the busiest day of the year. Now it's the second busiest. [The only day that's busier is Halloween.] It was much busier for us when it was on Monday. On Monday people would rush home from work to see it at 5:30 and they wouldn't have time to stop or make anything.

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