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Setting Times stories to music: Elvis Costello, Nina Simone and more

March 23, 2013|By Kari Howard
  • UCLA player Shabazz Muhammad is photographed with his parents, Ron and Faye, in 2011.
UCLA player Shabazz Muhammad is photographed with his parents, Ron and… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)

I’m trying to decide what I liked more in the last week: the wonderful stories that populated Column One, or the songs that I listened to while reading them.

OK, it’s the stories. (Even if Thursday’s Column One on Perez Hilton sent me deep into a Nick Lowe obsession that has yet to fade. See song below.)

From the time capsule that is Valentino restaurant to “the servant problem” that has arrived in Brazil nearly a hundred years after “Downton Abbey,” these are great reads no one else is doing.

And speaking of great reads, has launched a feature called just that: Today’s Great Read. It gets some home-page love and, on many days, a special presentation with large-font type, cool photos and eye-grabbing quotes. It all really makes the stories pop.

Oh, and for two days in a row, the Column One was the most-read story on the site.

Yes, jazzed.

In these roundups of the week gone by, I offer the headlines and first paragraphs of each story -- maybe they’ll buy your eye. If so, there’s a helpful link to the story, and the song that pairs with it.


Monday’s Column One:

At Piero Selvaggio's Valentino, trendy dining isn't on the menu

Piero Selvaggio has just delivered a plate of Sardinian fregula with grilled octopus — chewy pasta dyed a deep black in squid ink and strewn with lavender tentacles — to a table at Valentino restaurant.

Then he turns his attention to the wine, Valle dell'Acate, Zagra. It's crisp and aromatic enough to stand up to the dish, and it's made in Sicily only a few miles from his hometown, he says, as something across the room catches his eye.

A couple's dinner seems to be evolving from polite and friendly to the sort of special occasion marked by tightly clasped hands and soulful stares. Selvaggio — proprietor, host, food pioneer — nods to his longtime maitre d', Giuseppe Mollica, who wordlessly acknowledges him. Mollica approaches the couple and offers to move them to a romantic alcove.

#storysongs combo: “Man Out of Time,” by Elvis Costello (from one of my favorite albums, “Imperial Bedroom.”)


Tuesday’s Column One:

In Brazil, changing times usher in 'servant problem'

SAO PAULO, Brazil — When she was 19, Neide Cardeal da Silva left her family, who barely scraped by living off the land, to move in with a family she'd never met.

For the next 10 years, she and two other young women worked for Miss Maria Cecilia, keeping the house and family in order. On her one day off a week, she used the apartment's second door, which led directly to the servants' quarters.

The worst part about her arrangement, she says, was feeling she was always being watched. Her 20s passed without her dating anyone.

“There were some guys I met here or there,” says Da Silva, 38. “But what was I going to do? A relationship just wasn't going to work like that.”

Today, Da Silva works with friends selling acai, the Amazon fruit snack. She and a friend set their own hours, spend the day laughing and make about $450 a month, nearly $300 more than at her old job.

#storysongs combo: Brazilian samba star Seu Jorge doing a Portuguese-language cover of Bowie’s “Changes.” If you saw “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” you might remember Jorge as one of the crew, surreally singing Bowie covers throughout. You have this moment of recognition, yet puzzlement. Then pleasure.


Wednesday’s Column One:

Bill Lachemann, 78, keeps Angels ahead of curve behind the plate

TEMPE, Ariz. — Bill Lachemann was on the same Dorsey High baseball team as legendary manager Sparky Anderson. He played his first professional game five years before Angels rising star Mike Trout's father was born and caught former Angels pitcher Jim Abbott's first bullpen session four years after qualifying for an AARP card.

He turns 79 next month, and he is 27 years older than the team that employs him, the Angels.

And what he does now is what he's been doing for decades: produce major league ballplayers.

“It's not a job, it's a fun thing for me,” Lachemann says. “Whatever they want me to do, they just point me in a direction and I do it.”

#storysongs combo: “Baseball Boogie,” by Nina Simone. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard the great Nina sing, “Jackie at the bat!” Short and very sweet.


Thursday’s Column One:

Kinder and gentler: The rumors about Perez Hilton are true

The sleek man at the door bears no resemblance to the chubby pink-haired troublemaker whose snarky website made him as famous as the celebrities he loved to torment with nicknames like Sluttyienna (Sienna Miller), Potato Head (Rumer Willis) or Maniston (Jennifer Aniston).

Gone are the schlubby T-shirts and hoodies. A body-skimming gray sweater now conceals rock-hard abs. Gone, too, is the outlandish hair color, replaced by a slightly thinning curly brown mop. His Park LaBrea condo and its Pepto-Bismol-hued room are history. Home these days is a $2-million, five-bedroom Mediterranean retreat, dark and designerly, on the Westside.

But most striking is the way he's cradling a 2-week-old baby, a preemie who was born to a secret surrogate four weeks early. During a two-hour interview that involves a long bottle feeding and plenty of new dad tears, he never lets his fragile son out of his arms.

Perez Hilton, is that really you?

#storysongs combo: “Cruel to be Kind,” by Nick Lowe, a pure-pop-for-now-people genius who played second fiddle to Elvis Costello and didn’t get the record sales he deserved.


Friday’s Column One:

NCAA to NBA millions: UCLA star’s father mapped out a dream

When UCLA takes the court Friday night against Minnesota in its NCAA basketball tournament opener, fans may be getting their last look at Shabazz Muhammad in Bruin blue and gold.

Every thunderous dunk and arching three-pointer will help show why he led the team in scoring, made first team All Pac-12 and was named the conference's freshman of the year. But win or lose, there is little doubt that the explosive swingman will soon leave Westwood for the pros.

His father, Ron Holmes, has spent two decades making sure of that.

Hoops lovers fixated on Muhammad highlight reels have missed the real show. Off the court, Holmes has been putting on a clinic on how to mint an NBA millionaire.

#storysongs combo: “Son’s Gonna Rise,” by Citizen Cope.

If you have ideas for story-song pairings of your own, tweet the title and artist to @karihow or @LATimesColumn1 with the hashtag #storysongs.


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Twitter: @karihow

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