RIP Etta James

I’m late with this, but it’s worth noting here anyway that regal R&B singer Etta James, who died Friday at age 73, spent her last decades in Riverside, a surprise to many who first saw that fact in her obituaries.

She moved there in the 1980s from south L.A. for a better life for her and her family, a common theme in those who move inland.

We’ve still got her music, such as her iconic song “At Last,” seen in the video above in a filmed performance. Still, not only is James’ death a loss to the world, the Inland Empire has lost its queen.

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Restaurant of the Week: Phillys Best

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Phillys Best, 4320 E. Mills Circle Road (at Milliken), Ontario; also 4047 Grand Ave. (at Pipeline), Chino; and 806 E. Arrow Hwy. (at 57), San Dimas

Phillys Best (note shameful lack of apostrophe) is a chain of cheesesteak shops with 20 locations in SoCal, including three in the Inland Valley (see above). Because the number is so limited, Phillys Best qualifies under my ground rules here of focusing on mom and pop or relatively scarce chain restaurants.

I’ve been to the Phillys Best on the periphery of Ontario Mills a few times over the years. They have a range of steak sandwiches, hoagies, burgers and chicken sandwiches.

I visited this week for a mushroom steak with cheese ($7.50). It’s a hearty sandwich and like the others is served on a soft Amoroso brand roll from Philadelphia. I see in the fine print that the cheese is American and that you can substitute provolone or Wiz, as in Cheez Wiz, which cheesesteak-wise is technically more authentic, albeit disgusting.

They have above-average fries ($2) and, for people with East Coast tastes, Wise brand chips, Tastykakes and Frank’s Soda. The decor is sparse but includes boards listing Philly natives and Philly trivia and a blowup aerial photo of the city.

I haven’t been to Philadelphia and can’t judge how the cheesesteaks here compare, but they taste pretty good to me, and the result seems a lot more Philly than, say, Sbarro is to N.Y. If you’ve been, what do you think?

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Column: In Claremont, an explosive weekend planned

Friday’s column (read it here) kicks off with news of a series of experimental art pieces at Pomona College on Saturday, tied in with the Pacific Standard Time initiative. They involve, as I wrote, “football, flares and fireworks.” The official description is here. Then I write about a Milford Zornes painting exhibit in Rancho Cucamonga (that website is here) and present a few news and notes from around the valley. What are you waiting for? Just read the darned thing.

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LA Times posts correction on lobby flub

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Back in August I posted here about a visit to the L.A. Times lobby, where among the historical items on display are a linotype machine and the last page set with hot type, only with explanatory plaques reversed — the hot type page plaque reading “This is a linotype machine…” and the linotype machine plaque reading “This is the last plate of hot type set at the Los Angeles Times…” How long had this been wrong, I wondered?

Well, I went downtown last Friday on a day off to visit the City Hall observation deck, which is only accessible on business days. (Highly recommended, by the way.) While in the neighborhood, I decided to pop into the Times lobby to see if the plaques had been fixed.

They had. See photos!

I’ll share credit with the LAObserved blog, which picked up on my item — gratifying headline: “Times wrong about its own museum, says columnist” — and gave it a much wider audience, evidently including whoever at the Times needed to know. Nice job, and schoolchildren and other visitors should no longer leave their educational visit more confused than when they entered.

There is no sign posted saying “The Times regrets the error.” But I’m sure they do.

Why is it called the Globe Lobby? Its centerpiece, below, should make that clear.

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‘Celebrity Wife Swap’ features Ontario mom


ABC’s “Celebrity Wife Swap” isn’t my typical TV viewing (my typical TV viewing is to leave the set off) but Tuesday’s episode involved Ontario, so why not?

Former child actress Tina Yothers, who played Jennifer Keaton on “Family Ties,” lives in south Ontario. She swapped households with actress Niecy Nash of “Reno 911,” “Dancing With the Stars” and “Clean House,” who lives in Northridge.

I’d never heard of either of them or watched either series, so some of the voyeur factor was lost on me. Anyway, the alleged “country” aspects of Ontario (!) are played up, and life in similarly suburban Northridge is presented as glamorous.

Nash thinks she’s a diva, Yothers thinks she’s normal, and hijinx ensue. Somehow, though, Nash comes off as a better mother. She’s more open-minded than Yothers, willing to take a different approach to parenting based on Yothers’ suggestions, whereas Yothers didn’t want to hear it about her own kids. Kind of interesting.

If you’ve got 43 minutes to kill, you can watch the episode here.

Photo: Jason Merritt/FilmMagic

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Column: Humble coffee shop is where the elite eat

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Wednesday’s column (read it here) is about Red Hill Coffee Shop, the beloved breakfast spot in Rancho Cucamonga. This was one of those columns that wasn’t planned, although as an occasional customer I’d hoped to write about the place sometime. It just happened, as my column explains.

Above, owner Jim Moffatt yuks it up with a couple of regulars on Tuesday. The interior is so small you see about half of it in the photo.

The restaurant is at 8111 Foothill Blvd. (at Grove). A link to the KTLA video mentioned in my column appears a couple of posts down, but I’ll repeat the link here.

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