Laemmle 5: your thoughts?

Claremont’s Laemmle 5 movie theater has been open a year and some change — it debuted July 27, 2007 — and I’m wondering who among you has been there and what you think of it.

I’m hoping to write a column about it in the very near future, possibly Sunday, and would like your feedback in advance on the theater’s existence, pricing, mix of films, etc.

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Henry’s Restaurant, Pomona

This is a tie-in to today’s column on the John Lautner exhibit at the Hammer Museum. Lautner designed the former Henry’s restaurant at Foohill and Garey in Pomona.

Henry’s closed in 1971 and was demolished in the late 1980s after a stint as a (gasp) disco, but I know some of you remember it in its various incarnations.

“It was some of the most avant-garde architecture the Pomona Valley ever saw,” Charles Phoenix told me last week.

Anyone want to weigh in?

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Clifton’s Cafeteria

Had a day off on Monday and went to Long Beach for lunch with my pal Steve Harvey of “Only in L.A.” fame (subject of a future column) via Metrolink and the Blue Line, the only way to travel. After lunch we paid our respects at Acres of Books, the used bookstore that’s closing, probably in mid-October (and subject of another future column). Discounts are now up to 30 percent but most of the best books have already walked out the doors.

On the train I read more of “The Distant Land of My Father,” the novel everyone in Claremont is supposed to be reading, although I have yet to hear anyone around town mention it. (This book, you won’t be surprised to hear, will also be the subject of a future column. No shortage of column topics here.)

Anyway. On the way back, I got off at the Seventh Street Metro station in downtown L.A., walked four blocks or so east to Broadway and took a little break at Clifton’s Brookdale Cafeteria.

Many of you will know Clifton’s. It’s the old-school eatery there since the 1930s and still chugging along; even though all its other outposts have closed, they’ve hunkered down here. Inside it’s the same forest-like scene you remember or have read about, complete with a waterfall and redwood trees. If you’ve never been, you owe it to yourself to visit at least once in your life.

I’ve been there maybe a half-dozen times over the years, but I had my first actual meal there a couple of months ago when I was downtown for a Last Remaining Seats screening at the Orpheum, and truth be told, the food is only so-so. The setting more than makes up for any shortfall in the taste department, though. Plus they have all the comfort food items you could ask for, even Jell-O with fruit inside.

Usually I go in the middle of the afternoon and just get a cold drink and a slice of pie or maybe a fruit salad, something to relax with, and that’s what I did Monday: a slice of cheesecake with chocolate, a bowl of orange slices and a lemon Ole. It all hit the spot, as did the kitsch. When you’re in a restaurant with its very own waterfall, it’s hard not to leave happy.

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Armchair Traveler: Portland, Ore.

[Here's the (delayed) second installment in my summertime series of vacation column reprints for you staycationers. This piece appeared July 20, 2007. To explain one reference below, a reader named Pennie Frank had objected in a then-current column to being called "elderly." Well, this was funny at the time.]

Portland has no trouble staying weird

I spent last week in lovely Portland, Ore., and it’s a good thing I wasn’t there to beat the heat. While Pomona was a breezy 83 degrees, Portland was sizzling at an unseasonable 102.

Just imagine how hot 102 must feel to Oregon’s main demographic: bearded, ponytailed men. Sandals and shorts can only do so much.

Hot weather notwithstanding, Portland is a very cool place. Some notes from the Rose City:

Fare categories on the streetcars: child, adult and “honored citizen.” My parents, who drove down from Washington to make it a joint vacation with their No. 1 son, were amused at the designation. Personal to Pennie Frank: I suppose “honored citizen” is better than “elderly.”

***

The streetcars, a modern addition, are marvelous, ranging over much of downtown and taking you there in clean, air conditioned splendor. Unless you leave the downtown core, they’re free. Then there’s a light rail line that covers even more territory, also for free. Another leg of the system is under construction.

The idea of all this is to discourage people from driving by offering a workable alternative.

Meanwhile, the Inland Valley, which lost its streetcars circa the 1940s, is begging for a single light-rail line that may arrive, at the soonest, in seven years. I might move to Portland if I didn’t know it rains nine months out of the year.

***

Portland is one of the friendliest cities I’ve ever visited. Seemingly every time we looked at our map, someone stopped and asked if they could help us. Even a shaggy homeless man in a wheelchair smiled and offered directions, as if he were an official greeter. A restaurant server chatted at length about the city. A man on the streetcar suggested sights to see.

Of course, friendliness can become nosiness.

When my mom coughed once, a fellow light-rail passenger asked if she was OK and then, noting her unusual wrap-around sunglasses, asked blithely, “Is something wrong with your eyes?”

She raised her sunglasses, the better to glare with. (Unlike Ontario Mayor Paul Leon, she doesn’t have death-beam eyes.)

***

Portland, it’s said, has 28 microbreweries, more than any other city in America. Discouraging Portlanders from driving is probably a good policy.

***

Perhaps in keeping with the unofficial motto “Keep Portland Weird,” everyone in the city, it seems, has a tattoo, the stranger the better.

One woman’s bicep sported a detailed tattoo of a peacock’s feathered “eye.”

And a clerk at a gelato shop had the text of a poem of perhaps 10 lines wrapping around one of his forearms in ink. I like a man who carries his own reading material.

***

Speaking of reading material, Powell’s Books, said to be the world’s largest independent bookstore, was worth multiple visits, and got them. Four stories of used and new books — not to mention millions of stories within those books. It was nerdvana.

***

There’s no sales tax in Oregon, meaning that for anything you buy, the sticker price is exactly what you pay. I’m so used to mentally adding a dollar or two to every item as I stand in line that when I heard the actual total, it was like getting a discount.

***

Sights seen included the Chinese Cultural Garden, the Oregon Zoo, the arty Nob Hill district and Portlandia, which is second in size only to the Statue of Liberty among the nation’s hammered-copper statues.

No, I don’t know if Portlandia was hammered because she’d been hitting the microbreweries.

***

At the zoo, a display pointed out that goats aren’t indigenous to Portland and are destroying native foliage. “Should the goats stay?” an explanatory sign read. “Many believe that the goats have rights. Do plants have rights? Whose rights are more important?”

I dunno. Do plants or goats have better lawyers?

***

At the airport I saw a man wearing a T-shirt whose back bore this circular philosophy: “Work to Eat/Eat to Live/Live to Bike/Bike to Work.”

***

On my flight home, the pilot, after pointing out Lake Tahoe, announced over the intercom: “We’ll be on the ground in Burbank in about half an hour.” Up and down the rows, passengers sputtered: “Burbank? We’re going to Ontario!”

Soon a flight attendant issued a reassuring announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to Ontario, not Burbank.” A woman seated up front quipped: “Does the pilot know that?”

***

Upon unpacking, I found a government notice in my suitcase that my luggage had been opened and its contents searched. Do these indignities happen to plants or goats?

(David Allen writes Friday, Sunday and Wednesday, three planted goats.)

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Cemetery cinema

The past few years, the Hollywood Forever Cemetery on Santa Monica Boulevard (at Gower) has been hosting, of all things, film screenings.

You pay $10 and schlep to a grassy, graveless lawn, set up a picnic blanket or beach chair and watch a movie screened against the wall of a giant mausoleum.

Revival house? More like revival crypt. Friends of mine have gone off-and-on since Cinespia’s start. It always seemed a little creepy to me — not scary but bad taste and disrespectful. But the cemetery could use the money, apparently, and what the heck. Revival houses are few and far between these days.

So when a couple of friends invited me last Saturday, I went along. The movie was Orson Welles’ amazing “Touch of Evil” and, you know, the whole thing was kinda fun.

Cinespia has a website if you’d like to know more. Upcoming movies: “Sixteen Candles” (tonight), “Phantasm,” (Sunday), “Badlands” and “Rear Window” (next weekend).

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Restaurant of the Week: Maria’s Italian Deli

Maria’s Italian Deli, 202 W. Holt Blvd. (at Laurel), Ontario.

Maria’s opened this spring in a newly remodeled two-story building at Holt and Laurel, a couple of blocks west of Euclid, and it’s become popular in the neighborhood as an alternative to the Mexican restaurants and hamburger stands in the immediate area.

I’ve eaten there a couple of times. The interior is long, narrow and a little bare, with a Van Gogh poster the only decoration, but the place is neat as a pin. My first visit I had a ham and mortadella with provolone ($6.50) and ate outside; the second time I had a Classic Italian Salame (salami, pepperoni and turkey) with provolone (also $6.50) and ate inside.

Outside is fun. There’s a patio with six shaded tables, surrounded by a wrought iron fence, and from there you can enjoy the outdoors in relative comfort and watch the Holt Boulevard scene, such as it is. For instance, a guy walked by in a Brooklyn Dodgers jersey that read, on the back, “Cash 4 God” with a phone number. Inside is cool on a hot day, if sedate; I was the only customer for a late lunch.

The sandwiches weren’t bad. In fact, they were better than expected, given the rather shaky help at the counter. If you’re thinking an Italian deli should be boisterous and full of life, staffed by crusty, colorful experts at the art of sandwich-making, this isn’t that.

The staff is pleasant, though. My second visit, the owner (who doesn’t know me) said as I left: “Have a great day, okay? We really appreciate your business.” And you know, she sounded as though she meant it.

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Nothing to do in Rancho?

Reader Mary Delgado writes:

“Just one question. Why doesn’t Rancho have a National Night Out like Ontario, Upland, Claremont and La Verne? I live in the city of Rancho Cucamonga, and I am very surprised that it doesn’t offer too much. I always have to go elsewhere for community events.

“You have Victoria Gardens, and it only offers summer concerts. How about a Farmers Market, etc.? The Gardens could have a lot to offer other than shopping. Rancho doesn’t offer anything for adults. Everything is for children. I don’t have anything against children, but come on, everything in the Cultural Center is directly for children.

“These are some concerns from our neigborhood. Please make sure someone reads this email.”

I don’t know why Rancho doesn’t participate in National Night Out, and as for a farmers market, there was talk of having one at Victoria Gardens but I don’t think that ever happened. Your complaint about the family-oriented Cultural Center offerings was echoed in one of my columns a year or two ago.

Anyone else in Rancho feeling left out?

Btw, an “international festival celebrating cultures from around the world” is slated for 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Cultural Center, with “music, food and activities from all seven continents.” Raising the question: What’s the native music of Antarctica?

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Not to harp on this…

At last Thursday’s Pomona Concert Band performance, the conductor explained the next number to the audience.

“We’ll do a kind of unique Sousa march. It’s for harp and concert band — but we don’t have a harp,” he quipped. We all chuckled.

“Does anybody play the harp?” the conductor asked.

A hand or two rose.

He asked: “Did you bring your instrument?”

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