Thursday, March 14, 2019

How actress Selma Blair — and that cane — inspire others with MS

By Steve Carney, Special to the Los Angeles Times

Selma Blair arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscars party. 
 (Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)
When actress Selma Blair strode onto the Vanity Fair red carpet on Oscar night, her most public appearance since announcing in October that she has multiple sclerosis, what drew most attention was not her couture but her cane. Not utilitarian medical supply, foam and stainless steel, but sheathed in patent leather, and embellished with a pink diamond and gold monogram — a signal, both brash and heartening, to others living with the disease.

“Kudos to her for her stepping out like that, and looking beautiful. I think she encouraged a lot of people,” said Dawnia Baynes, 39, of Compton, who was diagnosed with MS in 2006. “She helped me be like, ‘Who cares? This is what I’m dealing with.’ Now I want to trick out my walker! Bling it out! Put some spinners on it!”

Blair, who first gained a cult following with 1999’s “Cruel Intentions,” walked carefully and deliberately across the carpet, pausing and smiling for each barrage of paparazzi strobes, waving the diaphanous cape of her Ralph & Russo gown, maintaining her balance while showing off that cane. She broke down momentarily halfway along, and with the help of her friend and manager Troy Nankin, composed herself, then turned an unflinching gaze toward every lens trained on her.

“That was awesome,” said Nandi Bowe, 55, a writer and director in Silver Lake, diagnosed 13 years ago. “All of a sudden, it took a little bit of the fear away. I’m not in a club of one, or a club of 10. MS can look lots of ways. MS can look like a fabulous, beautiful actor.”

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Architectural Spotlight

Midcentury Modern, with its clean lines and simplicity, still has an edgy feel

By Steve Carney, Special to the Los Angeles Times

As World War II ended, advances in manufacturing, easing of wartime austerity and pent-up creativity among builders and architects led to a design explosion with its ground zero in Southern California: Midcentury Modern.
The Stahl House in the Hollywood Hills (Damon Winter/Los Angeles Times)

Known for its open floor plans, wide expanses of glass and indoor-outdoor living, the Midcentury Modern movement created homes that still seem avant-garde today, 50 to 70 years after they were built.

“It’s about simplicity, clean lines, getting away from ornamentation and molding, exposing the raw structure,” said Doug Kramer, a real estate agent who specializes in modern homes. “Obviously, the style is very much centered on a connection with the outdoors — the experience of just being able to slide open a wall of glass and be open to the outside.”

Kramer was a fan long before he bought and sold these houses — he’s lived in a midcentury Cliff May-designed home in Long Beach for 22 years and was hooked when he first saw the modernist design of the Tucson airport, his childhood hometown.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Tom Leykis returns — over the Internet

The shock jock, who used to be on KLSX-FM, has brought his show back online with minimal staff and resources. This could be the future of radio.

By Steve Carney, Special to the Los Angeles Times

Tom Leykis, the shock jock sidelined for more than three years after his radio station dropped talk for pop music, is infamous for persuading women to lift their tops and for coaching men to spend as little money as possible on dates. Critics dubbed him a Neanderthal. Now he's being called a revolutionary.
Tom Leykis in his Burbank studios. (source: Los Angeles Times)

Silenced by the changeover at KLSX-FM (97.1) in February 2009, Leykis has resurrected his show online with a shoestring operation that he believes can take on the radio conglomerates — the latest in a cadre of stars staking out new territory for themselves.

"My job here is not to serve the corporate master. I am the corporation here," Leykis said while giving his "mission statement" on a recent show. "I reserve the right to talk about anything I find interesting."'

After three years off the radio, Leykis has resumed his weekday show on the Internet, once considered merely the realm of amateurs and vanity programs. Now he's streaming his show free on, a reference to the tradition of fans' requests that Leykis end their calls with recorded explosions, among other sound effects. He broadcasts live weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m., sometimes 7, with continuous repeats until the following day's new show.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A new day for Madeleine Brand

The former host of NPR's 'Day to Day' newsmagazine returns to the airwaves with a new weekday show on KPCC-FM.

By Steve Carney, Special to the Los Angeles Times

Madeleine Brand (source: SCPR)
When Madeleine Brand was named co-host of National Public Radio's "Day to Day" in 2006, the newsmagazine was the network's fastest-growing show. The Los Angeles native had joined a small coterie of NPR hosts that included public-radio icons such as Bob Edwards, Linda Wertheimer and Brand's mentor, Susan Stamberg.

"I felt like I was joining this august company but that they had given me the freedom to update it," Brand said. "And then … they didn't."

In 2009 NPR canceled the program, a victim of the recession. But Monday, Brand premieres her own show at 9 a.m. on Pasadena-based KPCC-FM (89.3), which she said has the vibe of the pioneering days of NPR.

"I'm kind of feeling like I'm where they were. It has that spirit of 'just figure it out,'" Brand said. When you're understaffed and not overproduced, "that's when the excitement happens."

Monday, January 19, 2004

Ryan Seacrest's ambitions are no 'Idol' dream

With a slew of new projects, he hopes to prove that he's not just another pretty face.

By Steve Carney, Special to the Los Angeles Times

With the premiere of the third season of "American Idol" tonight, host Ryan Seacrest caps a 10-day span he hopes will mark the beginning of his evolution from affable, well-coiffed confection to entertainment mogul.

Ryan Seacrest with Dick Clark (source: Los Angeles Times)
The prospect might be hard to reconcile for anyone dismissing the former KYSR-FM (98.7) DJ as a pop-culture firefly -- an attractive amusement who keeps appearing here, there and seemingly everywhere.

Along with his duties on "Idol," the pop-star factory on Fox, he's worked as host of its spinoff "American Juniors," as star of an AT&T cellphone commercial, as correspondent on "Extra" and "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno," as presenter on the Emmy Awards, as host of the American Radio Music Awards, as guest host on "Larry King Live" and as host of Fox's New Year's Eve broadcast.

Some viewers -- like the Salt Lake City columnist who called him the "bedhead antichrist" -- might think they've already seen and heard plenty of the tanned and toned 29-year-old.

Friday, August 1, 2003

In Rush Limbaugh's world, he's always right

Whether you agree or disagree with him, the syndicated host has changed political discourse and radio during the past 15 years.

By Steve Carney, Special to The Los Angeles Times

Fifteen years ago today, the nation first heard from "America's truth detector," the man "with talent on loan from God." And American political discourse -- not to mention radio -- has never been the same.

Rush Limbaugh
(source: Premiere Radio Networks)
Rush Limbaugh took his local Sacramento program, which in four years had become a ratings juggernaut, and syndicated it to 56 stations nationwide on Aug. 1, 1988. Since then, the talk-radio format has gone from curiosity to influential force in broadcasting and politics, and now the conservative host airs on about 600 stations, including locally on KFI-AM (640), where he's heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. His weekly audience of about 20 million listeners is the largest in radio, according to his syndicator, Premiere Radio Networks.

"I've wanted to be in radio since I was 12, and my whole life I thought I would end up being the most successful at it," Limbaugh said, though at that age he wasn't exactly sure how that ambition would play out.

He's won numerous industry awards -- the National Assn. of Broadcasters has named him "Syndicated Radio Personality of the Year" three times -- and also won credit from the new majority for his partisan cheerleading when Newt Gingrich led the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in 1994, after 40 years of Democratic control.

"I believe that if Rush Limbaugh were a liberal, he'd be just as successful," said Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers magazine, the trade journal of the talk-radio industry.

Friday, August 3, 2001

Pushing the Musical 'Buttons' for an NPR Newsmagazine

A Web show and a CD give fuller voice to the eclectic artists and songs featured in the tuneful interludes on 'All Things Considered.'

By Steve Carney, Special to the Los Angeles Times 

WASHINGTON — A delightful discovery, a little humor, and a chance to breathe and reflect--that's an awful lot to pack into a 10-second snippet of music. Especially one nestled in the middle of a news program.

Bob Boilen (source: NPR)
"All Things Considered," the afternoon newsmagazine on National Public Radio, features two hours daily of headlines and features. Between the stories, though, a listener might catch a few twangy notes by jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, or a buoyant Basque accordion, or the Ronettes' "Be My Baby" as played on traditional African instruments. The interludes, called buttons, serve as cushions between the segments.

To some listeners, the musical moments may seem like throwaways, if not invisible altogether. But for many others, the buttons are as vital to the program as reports from Capitol Hill or Kosovo--and that popularity has turned the buttons into a cottage industry at NPR. To quench listeners' interest, last year the network launched a World Wide Web show called "All Songs Considered" ( , the eighth episode of which just debuted. And last month it released a compact disc by the same name, featuring songs and musicians excerpted on "All Things Considered," after clamoring fans said they needed more than just a few seconds of these artists they weren't hearing anywhere else.