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Fabulous for Father's Day

June 07, 2009|Melissa Magsaysay

It's easy for imagination to fail when it comes to finding gifts for Father's Day (witness the land-office business in ties and tube socks). But writer Cooper Ray, creator of Social Primer -- a website dedicated to bringing back traditional manners for men -- is practiced in remedying that.

For his readers, and clients such as Lucy Liu, Michelle Monaghan and Tom Ford, he curates a well-edited selection of goods for the good life -- velvet slippers, rare vintage books, personalized cuff links -- which he sells on his website and through traveling trunk shows.

Born in Montgomery, Ala., and oozing a warm Southern charm, Ray leans toward classic and traditional items to make a stylish impression. Gifts such as monogrammed playing cards, for instance, or personalized notepads and stationery. "It shows that you've thought ahead and gone that extra step," says Ray. He's also big on cultural excursions -- and simple quality time with dad. "Men can talk around an activity," he says.

Here are his top picks for Father's Day presents that will inspire and impress. Like the products and social suggestions on Ray's website, they're proof that great gifts (and manners) are all about simple quality. And they don't have to cost a fortune.

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Classic Old Hollywood Experience -- martini and lamb chops at Dan Tana's: "Dan Tana's belongs in the Smithsonian," Ray says. "Sitting in those red booths, you and Dad can rub elbows with the ghosts of the Rat Pack. Dean, Frank and Sammy sat in those same booths enjoying the same meal." www.dantanasrestaurant.com

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Monogrammed playing cards from Social Primer, $45: Monogrammed anything proves you didn't wait until the last minute. The personal touch is especially welcome on something classic, cool and useful on poker night. www.socialprimer.com

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Stubbs & Wootton slippers, $395: The best slippers for the price, says Ray. And they come in fabrics including classic velvet and casual canvas. www.stubbsandwootton.com

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Lawn bowling at Roxbury Park: "Referred to as billiards on the grass, lawn bowling is a grand old tradition imported from jolly old England," Ray says. "Don your whites and step back in time with a little friendly competition in a civilized atmosphere." Beverly Hills Lawn Bowling Club, (323) 857-6676. Free "sample" game.

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Monogrammed cuff links from Social Primer, $65: "Good cuff links are usually so expensive that it can be difficult to find a great-looking pair at any price," Ray notes. "This monogrammed pair -- made to order and under a $100 -- will always be well-received."

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"American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House" by Jon Meacham, $19.80 at Amazon.com: "I am a huge history buff and this is one of the best books," Ray says. "If your dad loves history, he will definitely enjoy this."

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Tailgate at a polo match at the Will Rogers State Park: "The sport of kings, yes, but accessible to all of us at the Will Rogers State Park because there is only a charge to park -- the matches are free," Ray says. "Take Dad to the park, pick up a box lunch -- don't forget the libations -- and settle in for a great match. . . . I can think of no greater display of fierce competition than a polo match." www.willrogerspolo.org/statepark.html

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Buffalo Classic briefcase from Brooks Brothers, $698: "This briefcase means business and delivers it with classic style," Ray says. There's ample space for a laptop, and this case will never be mistaken for a man purse. www.brooks brothers.com

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A round at Griffith Park Golf Course and a scotch and a steak lunch across the street at Tam O'Shanter in Los Feliz: "You don't have to be rich to live the good life. The public course in Griffith Park is one of the best around. And Tam O'Shanter is the last of the great old chop houses." www.griffithparkgolfshop.com; lawrysonline.com/tamoshanter_gen_info.asp.

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Language CD from Rosetta Stone, $259: "I am a big believer in the adage that we are never too old to learn," Ray says. "This language CD is the best out there. It makes learning a language simple and enjoyable." www.rosettastone.com

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Petersen Automotive Museum: "Nothing says bonding like looking at beautiful vintage cars elegantly preserved." www.petersen.org.

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Bow tie from Social Primer, $95: If you go the tie route, add a little whimsy and unpredictability -- bump it up to bow tie.

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melissa.magsaysay@latimes.com

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