Odds & Ends Around the Valley : Displaying the Holidays

<i> Compiled by Marci Slade</i>

Nordstrom (the department store) and Jerry Berns (the real estate broker and new-home manager at Mike Glickman Realty) both wait until after Thanksgiving to put up their holiday decorations. What a novel idea.

For nearly nine years, Berns has been creating traffic-stopping displays at his Sherman Oaks home to celebrate holidays and other special occasions throughout the year. Part of their appeal is their enormity. An 11-foot-tall scarecrow that acknowledged Thanksgiving will be replaced tomorrow by an equally tall snowman perched on an island of snow, along with a huge Star of David. The displays cost about $1,000 a pop.

“We get a lot of mail, or people ring the bell to say how much they appreciate it,” Berns says. “I have four garages on my property where I store some of the pieces, and I also have more storage off-site. We’re always adding to the collection because we’re always coming up with new ideas.”

Sculptor Mark Canepa of North Hollywood designs and executes the props. He does work for the Tournament of Roses, the Fiesta Bowl and many movies. “I generally make an armature out of rod steel, cover it with cheesecloth, spray form over that and then carve it,” he explains. “The snowman took about 50 or 60 hours to make.”


Berns’ home, at 13242 Magnolia Blvd., is an elegant backdrop for the displays. Called “The Magnolia,” it is a 1929 Spanish Revival-Art Deco mansion that was designated a historic-cultural monument in 1985.

Power of Posters

The signs have been popping up at random around the Los Angeles area, slowly working their way into your subconscious, until one day you finally ask yourself “Hey, what does this ‘Cast of Thousands’ mean ? Is it a theatrical gang? An ad for the Screen Extras Guild? Or an existentialist’s attempt at humor?”

No, no and no. Cast of Thousands is a band that plays original music on the order of Simple Minds, U2, Tears for Fears and Duran Duran. “MTV calls it post-modern music,” explains band member and keyboard player Sam Mollo. They’ve been together in their current configuration for about a year.


When Cast of Thousands is not playing a gig, such as at the FM Station nightclub in North Hollywood, they are busy gluing posters and flyers in visible locations, such as freeway underpasses and overpasses, and telephone poles. “We’ve probably put up about 1,500 all over L.A. in the last two months, including Sherman Oaks, Encino, North Hollywood and Burbank,” Mollo says.

What inspired them to be seen and not heard? “Before Madonna toured, she had posters of just her eyes with ‘Who’s that girl?’ written on it. That’s what we’re trying to do. We want to try and get our name around. L.A. is basically a heavy metal town so it’s hard to stand out,” Mollo says. “We’ll continue to do it for as long as it takes.”

While the public may be slowly catching on, some store owners in the Valley have already had enough of them. “Those flyers are all over my building,” says Dave Montez, manager of Tower Records in Sherman Oaks. “It’s like street gangs who spray their logos. They pasted them on our trash can in such a way that it’s almost impossible to get them off.”

If they’re not careful, the band may raise the wrath of thousands.

Selling Smell to Men

Men are no longer turning up their noses at the idea of wearing a fragrance.

“This was a major season for launching men’s fragrances,” says Jim Rudd, group vice president for Macy’s South/Bullock’s. Among the fall launches were Christian Dior’s Fahrenheit, Elizabeth Taylor’s Passion for Men, Jaguar, Claiborne and Eternity for Men.

Rudd says that men are beginning to stock more than one brand of fragrance, just as women may have a daytime and an evening perfume.


Fragrance companies are employing the usual sales gimmicks--such as free gift with purchase--for male customers. Kimberly Kassner, assistant manager of cosmetics for Saks Fifth Avenue in Woodland Hills, says: “Women love all the little gifts--they’ll stand in line for them. But if men like a fragrance, they’ll buy it whether it comes with a free gift or not.”

Latest Getty Purchase

Drivers making their way in and out of the San Fernando Valley via the San Diego Freeway may have noticed a change of names on two of the exits through the Sepulveda Pass.

Traveling north, the Chalon Road exit has been renamed Getty Center Drive. And traveling south, the Moraga Street exit has been renamed Getty Center Drive. In reality, both exits land you on Sepulveda Boulevard.

“A couple of years ago, the Getty Foundation interested the city of L.A. in changing the exit names. Chalon Road was just an underpass of the freeway. The road actually led to nowhere on either side of it. The plan is to extend what was the old Chalon Road west up to the new Getty Museum in Brentwood,” says Tom Kilday, district sign coordinator for Caltrans.

According to Kilday, Caltrans will not change an exit sign without a resolution by a local agency, which in this case happened to be the city of Los Angeles. The city agreed to the change, and Caltrans agreed to do the work, as long as the Getty Foundation paid for it. The cost of changing the signs amounted to $15,555--a paltry sum for the Getty--and the new signs were erected in mid-October.

“The new exit names are almost like an advertising type of ploy,” Kilday says. “But to get there, you’ll have to get off at Getty Center Drive, and in both cases you head south and then cross under the freeway.”

Does this mean it’s time to buy a new Thomas Guide?


Overheard . . .

“I hate people who wear birds on their shoulder. Fortunately, it’s not a large group, so I’m not upset all the time.” --Woman strolling through Topanga Plaza