Odds & Ends Around the Valley : Mall Make-Over

For those of you who are still grumbling about the new roof that is enclosing Sherman Oaks Fashion Square, it's time to get over it. Perhaps it will help to consider the new tenants who will move into the facility.

"We're going from 50 stores to 130 stores," said W. David Sauers, executive vice president of City Freeholds (USA), an Australian developer whose U. S. operations are based in Sherman Oaks. "The first level will be completely finished by mid-November and the new second level won't open until March."

Among the new shops opening on the first level are Imaginarium (toys), Gymboree (children's toys and clothes), Natural Wonders (a gift store), a gallery called Art and Soul, Shoe Doctor and Le Prestige Menswear.

Stores opening in March on the second level will include Ann Taylor, A Pea in the Pod (maternity clothes), Brentanos, Gap/Gap Kids, Johnston & Murphy (men's shoes), Copelands Sporting Goods, Socks du Jour, Esprit (sportswear), Bernini (men's clothing) and Splendiferous (women's clothing).

Down near the Broadway end of the mall, the developers will install a 10- by 6-foot fishpond covered with a sheet of plexiglass, allowing shoppers to walk over the pond and peer into it.

The final ingredient in the mall's $30-million make-over is a food court.

"We'll have an area called the Garden Cafe," Sauer said. "There will be a Panda Express, a French and Cajun cafe, an Italian trattoria , a Tex-Mex place and California Crisp, along with others."

Feel better now?

Unseasonal Holiday

It was, to say the least, an unusual sight. Here it was a hot summer's day, and there in Granada Hills' Petit Park were 28 Japanese university students dressed in Halloween costumes. The question is: Why?

The students were visiting the United States for three weeks under the auspices of a nonprofit educational organization called Cultural Homestay Institute, based in San Anselmo. Each student lived with a host family in the San Fernando Valley to learn more about the United States and to improve his or her English. They attended daily language classes in the morning and spent the afternoons sampling American fun. The $2,300 cost for the program included a vacation in Hawaii.

"The Japanese don't celebrate Halloween, which is why we had this party," said teacher Aimee Godel of Granada Hills. Costumes, provided by host families, were Halloween classics: a cheerleader, a clown, an angel, a devil, a cowboy and so on.

The first event on the party agenda was bobbing for apples--which seemed to mystify the celebrants. Masami Tokunaga, 22, of Osaka went first and the other students hovered around her, watching quietly and intently as if she were a volunteer in a science experiment. Tokunaga was quite flustered when her face got wet. Later on she figured out the advantages of being the first bobber. "Clean water for me," she said with a broad smile. "Now water is dirty."

A pumpkin pinata was next. Nineteen-year-old Takeshi Sakai of Osaka went at it, sculpting the air with the bat. When he broke the pinata , the other Japanese students stood and watched the candy fall, while children of the host families divebombed to the ground in typical American fashion to retrieve it.

Nerves of Steel

"It takes the right personality to operate a crane," said Dan Jenkins, 40, of Acton. "You can't have a nervous person doing it."

You also need to thrive on diversity.

Jenkins' Pacoima company, U. S. Crane, has done everything from erecting prison walls in Castaic to pulling cars out of swimming pools. And it's involved in moving a lot of special effects for movies and television shows. The cost is $100 to $300 an hour, depending on the crane.

Jenkins has appeared on Dick Clark's show, on which he had to pick up a filled-to-the-brim wineglass off the floor and put it on a table--using a 10,000-pound rock grapple. "A rock grapple is a big three-fingered claw used to pick up boulders," he explained. "I had only 30 seconds to do it, and I did it without crushing the glass." (He spilled only a few drops.

After that experience, suspending a goat from a harness for a Disney movie, moving million-dollar art for the Museum of Contemporary Art, or sinking and retrieving boats out of the ocean seems like a cinch.

Overheard at . . . .

"After Labor Day weekend, I had a terrible hangover. Not from drinking too much, but from eating too many hot dogs."

--Woman in checkout line at Westward Ho in Sherman Oaks

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