Mr. Sandman is taking center court with his 270-ton mall creation.

RODIN OF SAND: With the help of a Redondo Beach artist, a mall in Thousand Oaks is taking its shot at the 15 minutes of fame Andy Warhol said it had coming.

The Oaks shopping center has contracted Redondo Beach-based Sand Sculptors International to form 270 tons of sand into the world's largest-ever sand sculpture. Mall officials commissioned the intricate three-story sculpture, due to be completed in two weeks, to celebrate the opening of the city's new Civic Arts Plaza.

Sculptor Todd Vander Pluym, president of Sand Sculptors International, says he spends much of his time convincing onlookers that the massive work, which occupies the mall's center court, is nothing but sand. Their disbelief is a tribute to the artistry of Vander Pluym and his crew--the sculpture realistically depicts major figures in the arts, from Shakespeare and Salvador Dali to Warhol himself.

The sculpture will remain until June, when it will be reduced to a pile of sand. But Vander Pluym does not despair, knowing his masterpiece will live on in the camera's eye.

"How many works of art do people actually look at?" he asked. "Everyone sees them in photos."


TINSELTOWN TORRANCE: And now the Torries ?

The city of Torrance will make its first splash on the entertainment industry award circuit this weekend when it holds the Torrance Shorts Film Festival, complete with a glitzy "Best of the Fest" awards ceremony Saturday.

More than two dozen films 30 minutes long or shorter will compete for the honor, and all will be screened at the Torrance Cultural Arts Center over the weekend. Two local auteurs have entered works. Kenny Bender, who lives in Torrance, has "479 to Go." David Lewison, who was raised in Torrance, has "Dora Was Dysfunctional," "an offbeat look at love, the Ukrainian way."

Among other titles are "The Strange Legend of Dr. Desmond and the Dragon" and "Surf Detective," a spoof of "The Maltese Falcon." Two Oscar-nominated films will be screened: "Chicks in White Satin," by Elaine Holliman, and "Overnight Sensation," by Jon Bloom.

"The interesting thing is that these are all shorts," said Lewison, who now lives in Los Angeles. "It's a good idea for starting a film festival, especially in Torrance, which is not the most likely place you would think of having a film festival."


SIBLING RESCUE: Sometimes, adults can really learn something from children.

Just ask Harbor City resident Lori Perez. She was eating dinner with her sister and brother-in-law and their three children on Feb. 23 when there was a loud rapping at the door, followed by calls of "Fire!"

When they went outside and discovered a fire in the roof of the garage, the adults panicked, Perez said. But Christine Marie Montalvo, 6, knew exactly what to do.

"I called 911," the girl said. "After I did that, I took the kids (sister Lisa, 2, and cousin Anna Perez, 3) out of the house and put them in the Escort."

The adults had put out the fire, started by a neighbor's skyrocket, by the time firefighters arrived at the home three minutes later.

Christine was awarded a medal on Monday for her calm and quick thinking by officials at her school, Harbor Elementary. "I think I just used my brain," she said.


"They would just say, 'Try to avoid Vermont Avenue, Toby's got some cars on fire out there.' The local people seemed unfazed by that sort of thing."

--Chip Giannettino, former general manager of the Gardena studio where filmmaker Toby Halicki filmed epic car-crash movies, on reaction to the filming. J3

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