Catering to big spenders and small

Special to the Times

Not only have I never been nominated, but I haven't seen any of the movies nominated for best picture this year. Not one. I've been meaning to, just as I've been meaning to get my car serviced and meaning to re-grout the kitchen counter. I just haven't gotten 'round to it.

No matter. Sunday, I plan to be glued to the television watching the Academy Awards (unless world events intervene). So important is my uninterrupted, unobstructed viewing that I declined two Oscar party invitations this year. Too many people talking. Too much distraction. This year, nothing will come between me and my Sony Plasma TV. (Actually it's a 27-year-old Emerson set. But, hey, a girl can dream.)

The funny thing is, during the six or seven years I lived in Illinois in the late '80s and early '90s, I don't think I watched the Oscars once. The awards, you see, while viewed around the world by, yes, millions, are really about Los Angeles. Sure there are those who consider the whole thing a solipsistic love letter from Hollywood to Hollywood. But I say bring on the love.

And so do a lot of local businesses, especially those involved in primping and pampering the industry aristocracy. After all, the Oscars mean dollars. (There's a reason that guy is gold.) Of course, not everyone enjoys the Oscar trickle-down. We checked in with the owners or managers of half a dozen local businesses earlier in the week to find out exactly what the Oscars mean for them.

Finding the right wheels

ED LITMAN, Manager, Hollywood Car Rental, Hollywood

What's business like on Oscar weekend?

It's no different than any other weekend. We do get actors through the course of the year because we rent to [drivers] under 25. We get a lot of actors' kids. Our hook is we rent cars on a cash basis. Most places don't do that.

If Martin Scorsese calls last minute for a car, what can you offer?

We don't have any high-end cars. How about a Daewoo.

How much does that go for?

About $25 a day.

Does he get a discount?

No.

If his credit card is declined, do you let him have the car?

No.

How many aspiring actors on your staff?

Everybody. We have a guy who used to work for us who's on TV in commercials now. We have guys who do stand-up comedy, singers. Everybody wants to be an actor.

What about you?

I came because of the weather. The closest I came to becoming an actor was dating Jerry Lewis' agent's daughter. But I never met him. All I met was the dog.

Last actor you rented to?

The current James Bond's son rented a car from us four or five years ago. Princess Lea came in once. You know, Debbie Reynolds' daughter.

Are actors good customers?

The more famous they are, the nicer they are. And they don't care what they drive. Like Steve McQueen, when he was alive he used to rent from Rent A Wreck.

Are you going to watch the awards?

Yes. I am a movie fan.

CHARLIE HORKY, Owner, CLS Limousine of Los Angeles

What's business like on Oscar weekend?

It's crazy. It's an intense week because all the people that are nominated are coming into town. There's lots of interviewing, getting their hair done, shopping and getting ready for the big event. It's one of our single busiest weeks of the year.

Most popular car requested?

The stretch limousine is the most-asked-for car mainly because it's Hollywood celebrities with their families or press people. Next biggest is our chauffeur-driven Mercedes-Benzes and Lincoln Town Cars.

What does a limo go for?

A stretch limo is $75 an hour plus gratuity and anything else they might want in the car. And there's a 10-hour minimum that night. Probably all in all, that night is around $1,500. All the cars do come with stocked bars, and we'll put complimentary champagne that night. But some people only want Evian water. Some people only want Diet Coke. Some people want a certain type of champagne.

If Nicolas Cage calls last minute for a car, what can you offer?

Anything he wants.

Do Oscar nominees get a price break?

No.

Do nominees ever carpool?

No.

Are there any hybrid limos for stars like Leonardo DiCaprio?

Yes, upon request.

Do celebrities ever hang out the moon roof?

Sure. Once in a while. It's been known to happen.

Do Oscar winners tip better than losers?

I tell you one thing. They keep the cars longer that night.

How many aspiring actors on your staff?

I'd have to say that we really don't have any.

Anybody ever left their Oscar statuette in one of your cars?

Oh, sure. Absolutely. Many times. I can't remember who did that. But it was returned moments after they got in their front door, probably before they realized it was gone.

Can you name anyone you'll be driving on Sunday?

The first guy you asked a question about.

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A taste of Oscar night

BARRY FOGEL, Owner, Jacopo's Pizzeria, Beverly Hills

What's business like on Oscar night?

Well, it used to be the busiest day of the year. Now it's the second busiest. [The only day that's busier is Halloween.] It was much busier for us when it was on Monday. On Monday people would rush home from work to see it at 5:30 and they wouldn't have time to stop or make anything.

Do you want it to go back to Monday?

Without a doubt. Absolutely.

Do you hire extra drivers?

Everybody is working. No one has the night off. The dining room is dead but the waiters help answer the phone.

How does it compare to Super Bowl Sunday?

It's much bigger for us. There's a lot of football on TV but there's only one Academy Awards.

Do you get more orders during those long musical numbers?

I don't know. We're too busy. We're not watching the show. We're just trying to stay above water and make everyone's food.

How long would it take to get a large pepperoni if I called Sunday at 7 p.m.?

At least an hour. We have a lot of long-term customers that order early. In the old days when there were a lot less pizza delivery restaurants, it used to take two to three hours. If you call a pizza place in Minnesota, I'm sure they're not busy. It's really a Los Angeles phenomenon.

Is there a Screen Actors Guild discount?

No. But actually we catered the SAG awards at the Shrine. We were one of three caterers.

Have any Oscar-winning customers?

Oh, I'm sure we do.

Ever delivered to the Kodak Theatre?

Uh, I don't think so. I think they have a deal with Wolfgang Puck.

Who tips best, writers, directors or actors?

I would say I don't know. Steve Martin used to be a huge tipper. That's like 30 years ago when I was delivering. In 1974 he would tip $20 on like a $6 pizza. That sort of thing. He was a really nice guy. Johnny Carson was nice. Bob Newhart was super nice. These are people I used to deliver to. We deliver to everyone now. Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt, Spielberg, Schwarzenegger.

If "Chicago" wins big, do you think people will order more deep dish?

I don't think it will make a difference.

TRACEY SPILLANE, General manager, Spago, Beverly Hills

What's business like on Oscar weekend?

Really busy. There are a lot of people in town just for the awards. That lands on top of people that have a natural excitement about the weekend anyway. It really is a mixture.

The night before the Oscars, are a lot of people ordering salads in preparation for their big moment?

I think with the excitement, some people certainly do curb their eating a little bit. I'm not sure if it's the skimpy dresses or general nerves. People will lighten up what they drink because of general nerves.

If you have competing actors in the house, do you try to keep them away from each other?

No, not at all. It's very social. If anything it's the opposite. People will say hello and congratulations.

What if Renee and Salma request the same table?

Um, that would probably be taken on who booked the table first. We have six phone lines but it's very unlikely they would be on simultaneous lines requesting the same things.

Is the night of the awards the slowest night of the year?

It's a bit of a mix. The talent that's involved in it is either at the event or they're at a pre-party. At the restaurant, certainly it's not like a huge Saturday night. It's still nothing to be ashamed of. Some years I put TVs in the restaurant. What I find is some people want to be near the TVs and some people want nothing to do with it.

So the chances of getting a reservation Sunday night, at say 8, are good?

Yeah, as much as they are ever. So long as someone is prepared to be flexible within 15 to 45 minutes.

And the chance of spotting a big-name actor in the restaurant Sunday night?

You're probably not going to spot a nominee. But it's very possible on any given night. It's Los Angeles. You look over your left shoulder, you look over your right shoulder, you'll probably spot someone.

But Wolfgang will be cooking for the Oscars, right?

We do all the cooking for the Governors Ball. It's kind of the same thing. [At the restaurant] you're probably eating something, some semblance, of what Renee Zellweger will be eating in two hours.

How many Oscar winners would you say have dined at Spago over the years?

Oh golly, one would imagine hundreds. One of the coolest things last year, after Sidney Poitier won an award for lifetime achievement, he came in for lunch the next day and the whole restaurant gave him a standing ovation.

What's post-Oscar week like at Spago?

The following day, depending whether they're nominees or winners, they could be nursing a hangover or nursing their statues, just enjoying the glow of it. I think that kind of glow goes on for a few weeks.

What are you doing Sunday night?

I'm at the restaurant holding the fort down.

*

The hair's the thing

JULIE MENESHIAN, Manager, Hair People, Hollywood

How busy will your salon be Oscar weekend?

Saturday business will go as usual. Sunday we are closed. Women that day they're not going to go shopping. They're not going out. They want to sit down and watch the TV. Women, we do care. Men, they don't care.

How much is a haircut?

Men $9. Women about 15. It depends.

What's the look for women this year?

I guess some hair will be straight. Some will be curly or up, elegant or messy. Younger girls will be messy; mature ladies, elegant up-do.

Any celeb's head you'd like to get ahold of?

At this moment I can't remember, but when I see her on TV, I think maybe it would be better if she wears this style.

What would you suggest for host Steve Martin?

Right now what's fashionable is the short clean cut. He'd be more neat and sexy. Long hair is gone. Women, they don't like it. It looks sloppy for men.

If there were an award for best hair on a celebrity, who would win?

Oprah, her hair always looks perfect. The way they do it, it looks perfect.

LAURENT DUFOURG, Owner, Prive, Los Angeles

How busy will your salon be Oscar weekend?

It's not busy, it's crazy. Like I need to bring in outside makeup artists. I don't have enough staff to service all the clients. We have InStyle Magazine. Like every year, they bring all their most important customers.

They treat them at the salon for everything they want. On top of that we have all the celebrities, all the executives and directors. We're really, really busy.

What time will you start on Sunday and how many heads will you do?

It's not too early. No one wants to get ready too early. We open at 10 o'clock. Me, I do house calls. Usually I can only do one or two clients. I usually take two maximum.

What's the price for a haircut from you?

I charge by the hour. So it depends if I go to their house or their hotel. I charge $300 an hour.

What's the look for women this year?

I think, believe it or not, we'll see a lot of ponytails. Not like the boring ponytail, something more dressy or funky. I think the ponytail but still very glamorous. Soft curls are maybe going to be big too.

Why is there so much talk about the clothing and so little about the hair?

They talk about the clothing, most of the people get their dress for free so they have to talk about it. I don't think they should mention everybody. It's not a hair show. I don't care they don't talk about the hair. I did Uma Thurman and Sharon Stone, and it was enough for me to see how gorgeous they look.

Anyone's head you'd like to get ahold of?

That's a tough question. I would love to do something different with Goldie Hawn. She always looks the same. But there's nothing wrong. She looks amazing.

If there were an award for best hair in a motion picture, who would win?

I tell you who should win for best hair: Nicole Kidman. She always looks amazing for hair. She always changes her look and she always looks amazing to me. But I would love to do her hair. If she wins I would love to do her hair.

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