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The long way home

August 01, 2006

MEL GIBSON WAS IN A BIND many Angelenos can relate to. No, not the whole having-to-explain-why-you-said-Jews-start-all-the-wars thing, but a more pragmatic, workaday dilemma: how to get from point A to point B when it's late in the evening and you may have had too much to drink. Gibson's solution was the familiar mistake -- careen down Pacific Coast Highway at nearly twice the speed limit, then lash out at the cops when they pull you over, according to the police report. But it didn't have to be that way.

The "Braveheart" star could have embraced 21st century technology to monitor his inebriation. A digital device that measures a user's blood-alcohol level is available at many yuppie gadget stores; all he has to do is pucker his lips and blow. If Gibson had a thirst no breathalyzer could discourage, there are other options. Marina del Rey's Executive Limousine service runs 24/7, discretion guaranteed, at $55 an hour for its six-person ride, with a four-hour minimum. ($220 is peanuts compared to the $1,600 fine for DUI -- let alone the fees for various lawyers, crisis managers and rehab counselors.) It's not hard to find cab companies, which generally charge $2 to $3 a mile, that accept phone calls through the night. Even in the 310.

There are more innovative cures for the drunk-driving temptation. Home James (www.homejames.com) delivers a cheerful young man -- usually an actor or model with a phony British accent -- on an electric scooter to wherever you and your car are drinking. He arrives within 20 minutes, stashes his scooter in the trunk and drives you home, all for about $50. Cheaper still (free, in fact) is the Long Beach- and Orange County-based Scooter Patrol (www.scooterpatrol.org), which uses mostly college-age volunteers and makes money from selling ads on its drivers' jackets. Or maybe Malibu could take a page from Hollywood's resurgent late-night scene and launch a low-cost, late-night shuttle along PCH for the Robert Downeys and Nick Noltes of the world.

But what celebrity wants to wait for the bus? Luckily, celebrities have an option not available to the rest of us: the public service announcement. It won't get you home at night, but it may help you get on the good side of the law. Gibson, as it turns out, has filmed a spot for the boys in brown. It may turn out to be one of the best roles he ever landed.

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