An author, chef and artist, all passionate about their No. 1 find

An author, chef and artist, all passionate about their No. 1 find
A mirror at the Pasadena City College flea market reflects shoppers looking for treasures amongst the different vendors' wares. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
Pamela Des Barres

The author and former groupie plans to stop at European flea markets during her three-week book tour through Italy, France and Finland, which begins Monday.

Her favorite find: a bolt of Chinese-motif fabric from the 1940s that she bought for $8 at the Pasadena City College swap meet. "It was worth more than $500, and I kept looking over my shoulder thinking someone would swoop in and snatch it from me. I stopped breathing, thinking, 'Am I really going to get this for this price?' " she recalls of the transaction 10 years ago.

She covered her bamboo couches and chairs in the living room with the fabric.

"It still looks great," says Des Barres, who also cherishes a recording of James Dean playing the bongo that she bought for $25.

Michael Cimarusti

The chef and owner of Providence, one of L.A.'s premier seafood spots, and his family stop at flea markets on almost every trip they take. He has a lot of favorite finds, all of them kitchen pieces.

"Probably the best piece I ever got is from Paris, Ky., where my wife is from. In a flea market there I found an 8-quart, hand-hammered copper sauce pan which had a hotel name and New York stamped on the side."

"We took it home, stripped the shellack off, had it re-tinned, and we use it to this day. It's a beautiful piece and we love it."

He also has 40 to 50 pieces of Bakelite, all purchased at flea markets.

"I love that stuff. I have drawers just bulging with Bakelite. The fish spatulas, cake spatulas, potato mashers -- all the utensils were made back then to such a higher level of quality than they are making them now."

Betye Saar

The artist looks for objects that catch her eye and might become part of an assemblage piece: bottles, windows. "I find most of my materials at flea markets and thrift stores. It's in the tradition of many California artists who worked with found objects and mix media. You can make art out of anything." Recently, she found rusty chains she used in a series on slavery.

One flea market keepsake is an abstract painting by an unknown artist that she found at the Pasadena City College swap meet. She placed it near a carved-stone Buddha in the dining area of her Hollywood kitchen. "It caught my eye," she says. "It was a good price."

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