Polo Anyone?

by Bob Sparrow

  I’ll tell you about my trip to the desert two weekends ago to watch the polo matches, but if you’re not staying where we did, the home of the greatest host and hostess on the planet, Walter & Patty Schwartz, you’re not going to have nearly as good a time as we did.  The ‘we’ is Jack & JJ Budd, Chuck & Linda Sager and Linda & me.  The six of us were invited by the Schwarz’s to stay in their beautiful, magnificently-decorated home in the gate-guarded community of ‘The Polo Club’ in Indio for the weekend, to attend the polo matches on Sunday at the Empire Polo Club.

We arrived Saturday afternoon and were warmly greeted by the Schwartz’s.  Walt is an interesting and engaging guy, who plays straight-man to Patty’s razor-sharp, dead-pan humor; they kept us fed, watered, entertained and in stitches the whole weekend.

We arrived on Saturday at ‘Happy Hour’, although I’m thinking that every hour is happy in this place.  I’m telling you, the Ritz doesn’t have this kind of food and beverage spread; we saw plate-full after plate-full of delicious appetizers everywhere we looked.  Walt was offering us any and every drink possible, while Patty, who is an amazing cook, was preparing the most interesting and tasty meatloaf I’ve ever had.  I took an oath not to say what was in it, truth is I don’t know, but it was delicious.

Getting ready to stomp divots

I know so little about polo that I rushed for a good seat by the pool.  But in fact the matches, on Sunday, were on the magnificent ground where Stage Coach and  the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival takes place each year.

On this day we were going to see two matches, the USPA (United States Polo Association) Amateur Cup Finals and the USPA Presidents Cup Finals.  The festivities started with the Player Parade and Salute with a horse and rider racing around the polo field, which is about 300 yard long and 160 yards wide, streaming an American flag as the Star Spangled Banner was sung by someone with an amazing voice.

Tack Room Tavern

I could bore you with polo positions like Hustler and Pivot or the number of chukkers in a game or why even left-handers have to play right-handed, but I think I’ll bore you with some other little known and less cared about facts.  There are four players on each team and they wear the numbers 1,2,3 and 4 – always!  Did you know that they do not use the end of the ‘mallet’ to hit the ball, as you would in croquet, but rather use the sides of the mallet?   Polo horses are very highly skilled, high-speed Thoroughbreds, whose manes are clipped off and whose tails are braided in order to keep them out of the way of the mallet.  OK, enough, but one of the more interesting parts of a polo match is halftime, when flutes of champagne are provided for all the fans to grab and go out onto the field to stomp divots.  Who won?  Beats me – the red and white team won the first game, the team in the dark jerseys won the second, I think, we left early to get a good seat at the Tack Room Tavern, a great place for food and drink not far from the field.

Ho, Zellweger and Phoenix

Sunday evening was back at the ‘Schwartz Chalet’ for more food and drink and to watch the Academy Awards on their 700 inch TV, at least it seemed that big, although I may have been sitting fairly close.  While I didn’t need a lecture on life from actors Joaquin Phoenix or Renée Zellweger, I think it might have been fun to have gone “drinking until morning” with Parasite director, Bong Joon Ho.

A big THANK YOU to Walt and Patty for a most enjoyable weekend.

Post Script: A few days after returning home, I received an hermetically-sealed envelope from Patty with a note that read, “Laundering fees are yet to be determined” – it was a pair of my underwear.  Not sure where I left them, but our super hostess made sure I got them back . . .  cleaner than I left them!



There’s No Business Like $how Busine$$

by Bob Sparrow

Indeed, there is no business like show business when it comes to spending time, energy and money patting themself on the back   We have now just concluded what I call the ‘Actors’ Aggrandizement Season’; there’s been the Golden Globe Awards, the People’s Choice Awards, the Screen Actors Guild Awards and new to the party is the Made in Hollywood Honor Awards, because apparently Hollywood felt we were one awards show short of genuinely honoring actors and actresses. And now finally (I think!) we’ve endured the just-concluded Oscars – excuse me, the Academy Awards ceremony presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, where winning an Oscar means . . . “I can ask for more money for my next movie”.

Watchers of the Oscars were subjected, ad nauseam, to the emotional thank yous from the beautiful people, to their agent, their psychiatrist, their current spouse and of course, us, the fans who they believe, wish we were them. We heard how wonderful the acting ‘craft’ is and of course we heard not what they were wearing, but who! Really?! Most of all, these thespians wanted to make sure they used their celluloid platform to express their banal opinions on domestic and world affairs – forget that most of them couldn’t find Syria on a map if they were adopting a baby in Damascus, much less understand the intricacies of our foreign and domestic policies. Yet, they have opinions and they are free to express them – unfortunately they all have the very same opinions. Where’s the diversity they so cherish?

Aside from similar opinions, one of the other things they have in common is a large, fragile ego. Do you remember when they used to open ‘The Envelope’ (which now cost $200 each!  Yes, just the envelope!) and say, “And the winner is . . .”? They don’t say that anymore, because saying ‘winner’ would imply that there are ‘losers’, so the presenters were asked a few years ago to change the phrase to say, “And the award goes to . . .”.  Now that is standard phraseology for ALL the award shows.

Koloa Landing Resort at Poipu Beach, Kauai

And under the heading of ‘all participants should get a trophy’, gift bags or ‘swag bags’ as those on the inside call them, are given to all of the nominees in the actor, actress and director categories. The bags include such things as a 5-night stay on the island of Kauai, a full wardrobe of women’s clothes from Belldini, a stay at an Italian hotel overlooking Lake Como, and while they’re in Italy they have a three-night stay at the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria which overlooks Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast, the cost of a suite there is $1,800 a night. They’ll get another week at an exclusive spa, a Casper mattress for each nominee AND THEIR DOG, and many, many more items. The value of the swag bags last year was approximately $230,000 . . . that’s not for all the bags, that’s EACH! There is no business like show business!  Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that $3.4 million could go to a better cause than 15 wealthy movie people.

Oh, I almost forgot, under the category of ‘any publicity is good publicity’, the Razzies, or more formally, The Golden Raspberry Awards, were handed out last week recognizing the worst picture and actors of the year. I didn’t watched them, but I wonder if they said, “and the loser is . . .” Nah!

My sense is that actors and actresses are generally not people that I would want to spend a lot of time with or have my children emulate. Their morals are questionable, they spend money foolishly, certainly too much on houses, cars, psychiatric help, and ex-spouses and wherever they are, it is always all about them. Going on location to shoot a movie always takes precedent over going to their kid’s soccer game. Generalizations I know, some do get it, but most don’t. Contrast these statements from two famous actors:

When is Robert Redford really acting?

Robert Redford said of the recent passing of Mary Tyler Moore, “The courage she displayed in the movie Ordinary People, taking on a role darker than anything she had ever done was brave and enormously powerful”. Really?? OK, I liked the character The Sundance Kid and I thoroughly enjoyed watching Mary Tyler Moore in her own show as well as The Dick Van Dyke Show and was saddened to hear of her recent passing, but I felt that Redford must have been acting when he said that, or does he really believe that playing a character in a movie is “brave and enormously powerful”?

Contrast that with what Denzel Washington said when he was sitting around the table with a group of fellow movie people and was asked how tough it was to make his latest movie, Fences. He said, “Making a movie isn’t tough, sending your kid to Iraq is tough! Making a movie is a luxury; it’s just a movie!”  Thank you!

Hidden Figures

As unimpressed as I seem with the acting profession, I have watched most of the aforementioned award shows. Why? The truth is, I love movies, I love a great story well told. I don’t know the political leanings of the three women who were in Hidden Figures, nor do I care, but the movie, told a great, true story of three incredibly smart and courageous women who succeeded in spite of having to overcome significant obstacles (There, Mr. Redford is bravery and courage . . . in real life). You don’t have to like Mel Gibson to recognize his performance as William Wallace in Braveheart, another great story based on historical events.

Good actors make good movies, and I love them.

But they’re just movies.


by Bob Sparrow

  oscar2    People's Choice Awards     writers guild Golden-Globe critics choice

     The ‘Oscars’ or The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (Sciences?) Awards Show as they are more pretentiously called, is the final period, at the end of a ‘Let’s Pat Ourselves on the Back Season’ sentence.  It is a season that includes, but is not limited to, the ‘Peoples Choice Awards’ (as apposed to the Vegetable’s Choice Awards), the Golden Globes, Writer’s Guild of America Awards, Critic’s Choice Awards, The Kennedy Center Awards and The Screen Actor’s Guild Award.  It’s like Little League, where no one is allowed to strike out and everyone gets a trophy at the end of the season.

Why so many award shows?  Because WE’LL WATCH THEM!  We’re interested in the stars being feted despite the fact that these were the kids in school who were really good at making up stories (liars) and pretending to be someone else (psychotics).  These were the creative ones who didn’t always fit into the mainstream, but occasionally fit into a dumpster by a high school bully.  We follow their lives maybe because they are so unlike ours – they’re good looking , rich and have their own therapist.  They also set the standard for partying.

Skyline   It was thus with much enthusiasm that I accepted an invitation to Sunday’s ‘Oscars Extravaganza’ at the estate of Michael and Tanis Nelson, of the Skyline Heights Nelsons.  Michael is a tennis pro who’s no stranger to Wimbledon (of course he had to buy a ticket every time) and Tanis, who is a professor of very undergraduate students in the Inland Empire. Skyline Heights, for those unfamiliar with the southern California environs, is a tony, OC hillside neighborhood overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the Fashion Island Mall and the Santa Ana Sand & Gravel Quarry.  For security, the denizens of ‘The Heights’ chose not to put up a guard gate and sentry, but rather just have some exceptionally mean dogs roam the streets.

The neighborhood gets excited for an Oscar party as everyone in ‘The Heights’ believes they look like a famous actor or actress.  At these parties you’ll hear the ladies ask one another ‘who’ they are wearing, while the men grumble innocuously of their pork belly investment portfolios.  So the parties are always well attended, elegant and superciliously delightful.

The Nelson gala was no exception.  A ‘Brown Welcome Mat’ served as the ‘Red Carpet’ and once inside the Nelsons had meticulously decorated each room in an ‘Oscar theme’ . . .

–        There was the ‘Lincoln Room’, where one had to negotiate to emancipate their dinner from the kitchen help

–       The ‘Les Mis Room’ where you could act out a scene from the movie only if you sang out of tune and wore that hideous Russell Crowe hat

russell crowe hat

–       There was also the ‘Beast of the Southern Wild Room’ where you could actually adopt a baby from Africa

Then there was the popular ‘Video Room’ where guests could opine into a camera on various political and environmental issues of the day, whether they had any real knowledge of them or not.  The videos were then streamed on a huge screen in the Nelson ‘Home Theater Room’ throughout the evening.  Well, not all the videos are streamed, only those espousing a liberal point of view.

The Nelsons even provided ‘Seat Replacers’, so when you excused yourself to the restroom someone (looking very much like you) would rush in from out of nowhere and take your place in an animated conversation until your return.  This way the party always looked full and fun.

james franco     The piece de résistance was the Master of Ceremonies, who was hired by the Nelson to preside over the evening; I was hoping it was going to be Billy Crystal, he’s my favorite, but it was James Franco.  I think Franco did a decent job in the movie 127 Hours, where he portrayed a man who had to cut off his arm to save his life when it became lodged between two rocks in a remote Utah canyon.  At the Oscars two years ago, Franco, as MC, played a man with his brain lodged between two rocks and should have stayed in a remote Utah canyon.  I suppose the Nelsons got him cheaply.

Dinner included an eclectic, thematic fare that featured, Chips and ‘Fresh Guacamole’, ‘Django Unchained’ and Free Range Chicken, Corn-fed ‘Argo’ beef, ‘Beast of the Southern Wild’ Rice; all served up with a delightful Middle Eastern red wine called ‘Zero Dark Thirsty’.  Dessert was the highlight of this remarkable repast as it featured a ‘Life of Pi’ eating contest.

The final Oscar is presented and Michael turns to Tanis and says, “Let’s go to bed so these nice people can go home.”  I can’t decide which post-Oscar party to hit, the Vanity Fair bash or the Governor’s Ball, but since I wasn’t invited to either, I go home, slip into something more comfortable and watch a good movie.  I love movies.

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Show Me The Money

Headlines: The Free Throws Were Not Free

While Republicans were busy debating, and trying to raise some more cash,

Obama was looking to the NBA to increase his campaigning stash.

Magic Johnson, Mark Cuban and a slew of other stars were there for Obama’s little speech

Just a small gathering of the elite, who paid thirty thousand . . . each!

Money: This Gives Me Gas

Why the sudden rise in gas? you inquire, it’s up past the four dollar mark.

The experts have tried to figure out why, but they say that they’re still in the dark.

Production is up and consumption is down, is this really just some kind of scam?

Well yes, they’re raising the prices of gas, simply because they can.

Sports: The 11th Commandment

Brady Quinn finally got some attention, for speaking his mind in GQ

And making some comments on Tebow, which caused quite a hullabaloo.

Now Brady is down at the training camp, packing up all of his gear,

Because he took Tebow’s name in vain, he probably won’t be there next year.

Life: What, No Who, Will You Be Wearing?

This Sunday the Oscars will be handed out, in resplendent style we’re sure.

Joan Rivers, Red Carpet, and ‘Who designed that?’, we’ll simply have to endure.

We’ll enjoy Billy Crystal taking shots at the stars, in his tux he will dance and he’ll sing,

And not for the first time a film might be honored that just doesn’t say anything.