When Erin Goes Bragh on Wheels

Compiled by Ann Japenga

The Colbert family of Brentwood has found a better way to celebrate its favorite holiday, St. Patrick's Day. At 1 p.m. this Sunday, a pair of double-decker, open-roof buses will roll up to the Colberts' house, and about 120 of their friends and "honorary Irish family" will pile aboard. After a blessing by an 85-year-old parish priest, the guests will roll away, accompanied for several miles by a police escort. In between stops at the liveliest pubs on the Westside, they'll enjoy some jigs and a brew or two aboard the buses.

Chris Colbert, a 29-year-old industrial broker with Coldwell Banker, said he and his seven brothers and sisters have celebrated in this fashion for the last four years, and it's quickly become just as solid a tradition as green beer on St. Patrick's Day.

Selling Those Sizzles

Valerie Kelly knows her own motives for writing erotica--as a struggling free-lance writer, she fell into it by accident when she discovered it was one market that encouraged new contributors. Yet, she had some trepidation about what manner of people would turn up when she shared her skills in the genre in a recent one-day workshop called "Writing Erotica: Sizzle Sells."

Valley resident Kelly said she was relieved to find that of the overflow crowd that turned out for the day, "There wasn't a trenchcoat in the bunch. There was a high school teacher, an engineer, a nurse, an actor, two stand-up comedians and a marriage counselor. It was like being at a cocktail party where everyone was fascinating."

At least half the students were women in their 30s and older; Kelly said she's particularly interested in the impact women are having on the traditionally male genre. A couple of recent anthologies of erotica written by women ("Ladies Home Erotica," and "Pleasures") have shown that women writers have a different slant on the subject than the traditional men's magazine approach. Kelly said discussions in class tended to be philosophical, with male and female students debating views of what is appropriate to the genre.

The largest market for erotica nationwide is in the Los Angeles area, Kelly said. A competent writer who takes her course should be able to sell to magazines, as well as marketing scripts for adult videos, a rapidly growing market.

The challenge, as she sees it, is not just to make a killing in the field, but to change it for the better.

"You can take a hard-core assignment and turn it into something fun and nice," she advises her students. "Just because the pictures are sometimes offensive doesn't mean the copy has to be. You can influence people with the copy in some small way."

Kelly's book on how to write and market erotica has been purchased by Crown and is scheduled for a fall release. Her course, now divided into two segments, will be repeated March 23 (How to Write Erotica) and March 26 (How to Sell Erotica) through the Learning Network. For details call 476-1267.

One Compensation

When Marc Weinberg, a third-year graduate student in film at UCLA, tells friends he's written a screenplay called "No Excuses," they sometimes jokingly suggest he should reverse the letters in the title.

The subject of the script is dyslexia, a learning disability that may afflict as many as 28% of all children. Most people think dyslexics simply reverse letters--thus the jests about the title of Weinberg's script--but the condition, which means "inadequate verbal language," can manifest in various ways and affect every facet of life. Although usually of average, or even exceptional intelligence, undiagnosed dyslexics are often pegged as lazy or slow-witted.

Weinberg, who was diagnosed as dyslexic at age 17, said his script focuses on the emotional complications of dyslexia, particularly the tendency of those afflicted to manipulate people in order to compensate for their handicap. Weinberg said the main character, who is modeled after himself, "learns eventually that he is not going to achieve anything that way--that's why the film is called 'No Excuses.' "

Weinberg's agent has been shopping the project to producers who are known to be dyslexic themselves, but Weinberg hopes it won't take a disabled film executive to see the merit of the subject. The principles involved apply to any sort of physical or emotional handicap, he said.

Turning out a polished script might seem to be a substantial hurdle for someone who has problems with language. Not for Weinberg, who has traded excuses for hard work. "I rewrite a lot," he said.

Ultimate Cat's House

"Skitty Witty" is not a Southern California phenomenon--not yet. But wait until local cat lovers crack this month's copy of "Cat Fancy" magazine and view the brainchild of an airline mechanic from Winston-Salem, N.C.

William Runion said he had a California market in mind--particularly celebrities and owners of expensive show cats--when he designed the Skitty Witty, an indoor cat house, with detailing as fine as that found in a top-of-the-line casket. Runion calls it "a palace for your Persian, a mansion for your Maltese, a suite for your Siamese."

Like many far-fetched inventions, this one started with a down-to-earth problem. Runion said he simply grew weary of the litter box smell that pervaded his home. So he enlisted a local furniture maker to build something like a stereo cabinet for the frame of the cat house. Atop this he installed a tiny waterbed, lined with a space-age material that reflects the cat's body heat--there's no electricity, and thus no danger of a feline electrocution.

The habitat is odorless, Runion claims, because the litter box inside the structure is equipped with a fan and charcoal filter. In case the pet must make his or her way to the toilet at night, there's an indoor night-light "activated by the lightest of paws."

To match your home decor, the Skitty Witty is available in poplar, oak, or cherry wood in an Oriental, French Provincial or Traditional design. It sells for $795.

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