Looking at the 'First Year' of Teachers

Sometimes good things come from bad traffic jams. Two years ago, documentary filmmaker Davis Guggenheim was stuck in a van with Getty Trust President and CEO Barry Munitz after the Women's World Cup soccer tourney in Pasadena. The two men, part of an entourage assembled by ber-donor Ron Burkle for then-President Bill Clinton, started chatting. One thing led to another, and the next day Guggenheim and Munitz, former chancellor of the California State University system, were taking a meeting to discuss Guggenheim's dream documentary.

The Getty Foundation ponied up the funding, and the result is "The First Year," a look into the classrooms of five rookie teachers at Gompers Middle School, 99th Street Accelerated School, Ford Boulevard Elementary School and Santa Monica and Venice High Schools. The teachers' dedication is compelling. For example, Maurice, stymied by red tape and an absentee speech therapist, tutors a stuttering kindergarten student himself; Genevieve digs into her own pocket to buy disposable cameras for her kids' project on their diverse cultures.

An overflow crowd, including Arianna Huffington, David Duchovny and wife Tea Leoni, crammed into the screening room at the Creative Artists Agency in Beverly Hills on Tuesday night to get a first look at the documentary, which airs on PBS in September.

Guggenheim, whose father was multiple-Oscar-winning documentary maker Charles Guggenheim, said he initially wanted to carve his own mark with big Hollywood movies "and live the good life, which I did." He worked with Steven Soderbergh on "sex, lies and videotape," directed his own feature film, "Gossip," and episodes of "NYPD Blue," "ER," "Party of Five" and "Relativity."

Guggenheim said his priorities changed when he and wife Elisabeth Shue had their son, Miles, who is now 3. (Daughter Stella was born in March.) He began researching public education because private schools "clashed with my ideals as a citizen." A shortened version of the film, "Teach," will be used to inspire and recruit new public school teachers.

Game, Set, Match

David Spade aced tennis champs Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras with his on-court antics at a celebrity charity match at UCLA's Los Angeles Tennis Center on Monday night. Sure, the little guy can volley, but the wisecracks he lobbed over the net really drove his game.

The "Just Shoot Me" star, who turned 37 on Sunday, played on a team with Sampras and Kelsey Grammer against Agassi, Greg Kinnear and former teenage tennis champ Matthew Perry.

When Sampras set up one of his 122 mph serves, Spade urged him to aim for "Friends" star Perry. "You take him out and 'Just Shoot Me' goes to 8 o'clock," Spade said, seeing an opportunity to rearrange NBC's Thursday night lineup. Spade's team won 21-20, and the actor told tennis player/BBC commentator Pam Shriver that he never considered the agony of defeat.

"Never in bed and never on the court," Spade said.

"That's not what I hear," Shriver fired back.

Gary Who?

Publicist Lizzie Grubman is giving Rep. Gary Condit stiff competition as the New York print media's summer obsession. Grubman, 30, had the bad luck--or bad taste--to back her daddy's Mercedes SUV into a crowd early July 7 outside a trendy Hamptons nightclub. Sixteen people were hurt. Criminal charges and civil lawsuits were filed.

And now, the Web site Inside.com has issued a report card on the New York media's coverage of L'affair Lizzie: The New York Post, an A-plus with 40 stories and counting, including an astrologer's examination of the "cosmic connection" between Condit and Grubman; the New York Daily News, a solid B for packaging the coverage on its Web site under the banner "Horror in the Hamptons"; New York Magazine, a middling C for hyping an "exclusive" with Grubman consisting of a couple of self-serving lines; the New York Times, a lowly D. (The paper of record is out of its league; Grubman is a publicist with clients such as Britney Spears, not a head of state.) The New Yorker got an Incomplete for its exhaustive (and boring) study of acceleration rates and something called "foot trajectory."

This just in: The Post is offering readers a chance to "Win a Lizzie Mobile." The lucky winner will drive off in a black, $65,000 Mercedes-Benz ML55, which, the editors note, "travels quickly in reverse." Runners-up win a getaway weekend in the Hamptons. Not since Wingo have we been so tempted.


Actor Jason Priestley has finally complied with most of the terms of his sentence for drunk driving. Lawyer Peter Knecht presented proof Tuesday to a judge in L.A. Superior Court that Priestley completed a 90-day, court-ordered alcohol education program. Earlier, the former "Beverly Hills 90210" star was granted an extension because he was busy.

Priestley, 31, pleaded no contest in March to a misdemeanor DUI charge in connection with a December 1999 car crash in the Hollywood Hills. Police said the actor plowed his Porsche into some trash cans and a light pole, totaling the sports car and breaking his best friend's arm.

Priestley also paid a $681 fine, served five days in an Echo Park work-release center and lost his driver's license for a year. Still, he needs to be a good boy since he's on three years' probation.


Times staff writers Gina Piccalo and Louise Roug contributed to this column. City of Angles runs Tuesday-Friday. E-mail: angles@latimes.com.

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