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Red Carpet
Partying with the stars at the premier of Music and Lyrics. By Bill Vaughn

Most of us will never get to experience walking down the red carpet at the world premier of a big Hollywood movie. But on Feb. 7 friends of Dark Acres did just that. The movie was Music and Lyrics. The place was Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood. And our California friends, Marcia and Victor Lieberman, were giddy with pleasure as they made their way down the path of glory through a sea of paparazzi past the handprints and footprints of the stars, preserved in cement. Then they were ushered to their seats in the vast 1100-seat theater.

After a few minutes the cast and their friends showed up, disgorging from a line of limousines, and walked the walk. Here was radiant Drew Barrymore in a dark gown with a plunging front and bare back, her wrists laden with gold bling, the skirt of her gown elaborately appliquéd with a floral motif. Here was Hugh Grant, in his standard calculatingly casual jacket and open tie-less shirt, his face crinkled with smile lines. Then came the other cast members: Campell Scott, Brad Garrett and Kristen Johnson, and the lusciously slutty newcomer, Haley Bennett.

Tons of their pals had been invited, as well: Here was Jimmy Fallon, Sandra Bullock, Jamie Lee Curtis, Adam Brody, Emma Roberts, Kyle MacLachlan, and Kate Walsh. As the illuminati arrived Victor and Marcia pointed at them as discreetly as possible, and shared gossip and news about them with the five other couples they were sitting with. Like the Liebermans, these were normal people. They’d earned entry into the premier by winning a charity auction sponsored by Starwood, the corporation that owns hotels such as the Sheraton, the Westin and the St. Regis. Instead of bidding money, the Liebermans had bid award points. Victor has a lot of these points because he wholesales men’s clothing to Nordtsrom’s and other stores, and on his frequent sales trips always stays at these hotels. Sometimes Marcia, who takes care of the house and the kids and studies French, goes along.

Once everyone was seated Marc Lawrence, the writer and director, came out on stage and introduced the film. The Liebermans thought it looked as if Lawrence hadn’t slept in days.

When the film ended everyone went to the after-party in a big ballroom that’s part of the complex that houses Grauman’s and a hotel. Because Music and Lyrics is about a fading 1980s pop music idol the party theme revolved around that shallow and aimless decade. The food featured potato skins, Ding Dongs, and Twinkies. There was karaoke and arcade games. There was an open bar. The Liebermans got to mingle with the cast and crew. Marcia stood next to Hugh Grant but loves his acting so much she couldn’t bring herself to speak with him.

But they talked a lot with Jimmy Fallon. “He’s the nicest, friendliest guy in the world,” Marcia reports. One of the Liebermans’ fave flicks is Fever Pitch, the story of Fallon as a long-suffering Red Sox fan, who falls in love with Drew Barrymore, an investment banker who knows nothing about baseball. Fallon was floored when Victor told him that he liked baseball so much he named his son, Satchel, after the legendary Negro League pitcher, Satchel Paige. (The middle name of Izzy Lieberman, their 10-year-old daughter, is Paige.)

Fallon later wowed the crowd by playing electric guitar and singing "Gloria" (G-L-O-R-I-A Gloria!) while skittering around prone on the stage.

Sandra Bullock spent the after-party big-eyed, gestering wildly, obviously wigged out about something, cornering hapless acquaintances to accost them with what appeared to be the same story. Her hubby, Monster Garage star Jesse James, was not in attendance.

During the whole evening Victor carried around Izzy’s small, ratty, stained purse because she’d asked him to make the stars write their autographs on it.  But the timing never seemed right, or Victor was too involved in the conversations to stop for autographs, so he wasn’t able to get any. Marcia was blown away by the perfection of the women’s complexions. “Jamie Lee Curtis, Drew Barrymore, everyone’s skin was perfect!”

Oh, and the movie? Victor and Marcia weren’t impressed. “They squandered what could have been a terrific story,” Victor said. “You can’t just dump a couple of great actors in a film with a bad screenplay and expect them to make it good.” Marcia, who gives 10 stars to her fave Hugh Grant movie Four Weddings and a Funeral, gives Music and Lyrics, which opens nationally on Valentine’s Day, only four-and-a-half stars. However, she said, the movie's high points came whenever Kristen Johnston was on screen. She's the big blonde lunatic from outer space who starred in TV's Third Rock from the Sun. [10 February 07]


The Sting
For people who love his music, a Marvin Hamlisch concert
can’t last long enough.

Herb and Timwin Lieberman have always been big fans of Marvin Hamlisch. So they were delighted to get good seats last week at Copley Symphony Hall to hear his first concert as the principal pops conductor for the San Diego symphony.

Hamlisch, who was a child prodigy admitted to New York’s Julliard School of music when he was six years old, wrote the songs for A Chorus Line, the Pulitzer Prize winning musical, and he wrote the scores for the blockbuster films The Way We Were and The Sting. As a performer his piano playing is animated and friendly, and his conductinginvites the audience to be part of the spectacle instead of merely an observer. He likes to tell jokes during concerts in order to make people in even the farthest rows feel like they’re on stage.

The elder Liebermans were excited as they drove down the coast Nov. 10 from their home in Oceanside, California on Nov. 10 and arrived early for Hamlisch’s performance of a show he calls “New York, New York.” And they weren’t disappointed.  They heard music by Bernstein and Sondheim and Kern and Kander. Time flew.

And before they knew it the show was over.

The next morning they called their son, Victor, who lives in Carlsbad, California, and lauded Hamlisch but complained that the concert was only 55 minutes long. “Fifty-five minutes!” Herb bellowed. “Can you believe it?” Then Timwin got on the phone. “We think something happened during the concert and Hamlisch got mad and left early. So we called the symphony to find out why so short but all we got was an answering machine.”

Victor knows a reporter at the San Diego Union and promised to put in a call, but they didn’t connect. The next day there was a brief article in the Union about the concert.  Victor and his wife, Marcia, were in a rush to drive to the elder Liebermans for lunch, so they didn’t have time to read the piece. But Victor, glancing at it, saw something about a cell phone belonging to an audience member that began ringing just as the concert was about to begin. That must be why Hamlisch got mad, he figured, and cut the concert short.

As the Liebermans sat down to lunch Victor looked at his parents. “So? What’s up with Hamlisch? Was it the guy’s cell phone that made him mad?” In fact, there had been a ringing cell, but Hamlisch had seized the moment to tell its owner to inform whoever was calling that the show would be terrific and that they ought to buy tickets for the next night’s performance.

Herb looked away. And Timwin seemed sheepish. Finally, Herb fessed up. “We found out that we left at intermission. We thought it was over.”

“Who has intermissions anymore?” Timwin said. [20 November 06]


Hon, get the plunger!
They blamed their second major flood on the lawyer,
but the culprit turned out to be a flapper.

Five years ago friends of Dark Acres, Victor and Marcia Lieberman, awoke one morning to find several inches of water covering the ground floor of their house in Carlsbad, California. Their house is in an upscale neighborhood of $1-$3 million Mediterranean and Mission-style homes roofed with red tile on big lots, a grander version of Mary Louise Parker’s neighborhood in the Showtime series, Weeds.

No, a flash flood had not rushed down the nearby arroyo, nor had a tsunami swept inland from the Pacific five miles west.  The cause of the flood was a faulty toilet, which had overflowed and pumped water all night long. The baseboards and walls of the house sucked up this toilet water like sponges, and a caustic rot began to spread. Their insurance company moved the Liebermans and their two kids, Satchel and Izzy, to a rent house, where they would remain for eight months while contractors gutted their home and rebuilt the whole downstairs with new drywall.

Two weeks ago while Victor was on the road selling men’s slacks and  suits Marcia awoke to find that an upstairs toilet had flooded several rooms on the second floor and had seeped downstairs. Now the contractors are back to gut the rooms and rebuild the walls, and the Liebermans are facing eviction once again.

While evidence is growing of widespread damage in Southern California caused by rogue toilets, the Liebermans initially blamed our mutual friend, Jimmy Greenfield, a Philadelphia journalist and lawyer who was a house guest at their manse just before the latest flood. Some time ago Greenfield was banned by his wife, Jane, from using the toilets in their home for his morning constitutional. This edict followed a series of clogged toilets, none of which, however, resulted in a flood.

Greenfield, whose diet is much higher in fiber and roughage than that of the average American man, blames low-flow toilets for the clogging he’s caused, but has denied any responsibility for plumbing woes of his California friends. “It ain’t me, babe,” he said. Indeed, a plumber found that the cause of the Carlsbad flood was a modest wad of paper towel, hardly something that would stick in the gullet of a normal toilet. As lawyers like to say, the Liebermans are seeking legal remedy. [1 July 06]


Road Trip                  
Nothing says summer like packing up the kids and hitting the road,
even if the destination is Las Vegas, and temperatures are pushing 120.

Although Victor Lieberman is a high-energy salesman who travels for a living—buying fabric in Europe, searching for factories in China, and selling men’s clothing to U.S. stores such as Nordstrom—if he’s not working he still likes his forward motion. So when his parents, Herb and Timwin, invited him to take one of the two Hilton Vacation Suites they’d been comped in Vegas in recognition of their many stays at the hotel, he jumped at the chance.

Soon the Lieberman caravan was making its way from the burbs north of San Diego toward Nevada on the hottest day of the year. Herb, 85, drove in the point car, his Lincoln-Continental, with Timwin, 83, his wife of 65 years, beside him in the front seat. In the back seat were Victor’s wife of 15 years, Marcia, and their nine-year-old daughter, Izzy. Victor drove the back-up car, a Cadillac, accompanied by their 14-year-old son, Satchel, who was named after the legendary Negro League pitcher, Satchel Paige.

While Timwin hates Vegas and Marcia prefers leaf season in New England, the rest of the clan adores the place. Herb, Timwin and Victor have been going there for decades to sell clothes and to rent a booth every winter at the big fashion expo, The Magic Show. The kids like it because five years ago Vegas reinvented itself as kid-friendly in order to make up for falling gambling revenues, although recently the place began returning to its roots as America’s Sodom, or maybe its Gomorrah. At the casino called New York, NY there’s a Coney Island midway with a roller coaster. At Treasure Island there are pirate battles staged every evening in front of the building. The Hilton offers a Star Trek ride. The Mirage showcases a fountain that turns into a volcano every fifteen minutes after dark. The Bellagio has a huge lake with fountains that are synchronized to music. Caesar’s Palace has an animatronic display of the submersion of Atlantis and a wild motion-simulator ride, the Race for Atlantis. The Stratosphere, which looks like the Space Needle, offers two rides on top, including a roller coaster. Circus Circus has an amusement park. And at the Venetian you can get a gondola ride in a Grand Canal simulation.

Plus, there’s lots of yummy junk food and everywhere the sort of cheesy fakery of the movie set variety that makes children screech with delight. Satchel still likes all this stuff, but what he really likes about Vegas is hanging out with Herb as they watch people in the crowds and make up cruel stories about them.

So spirits were high as the caravan pulled into a convenience market we’ll call the Quick Stop, in Barstow, California. The sun melted asphalt and the big American cars emptied in a Chinese Fire Drill as the Liebermans pumped gas, sprinted across the lot to use the rest rooms, paid for the gas, bought treats, sprinted back to the cars and changed seats. Marcia and Izzy jumped in the Caddy with Victor, and Satchel rode shotgun with his grandparents.

When Victor entered the outskirts of Vegas his cell phone rang. Marcia answered it. On the other end was Herb, who was already driving down the Strip. He was upset. He couldn’t find his teeth. He wears expensive upper and lower bridges. And now the lower bridge was missing. Victor encouraged him to retrace his steps. And then the family realized what must have happened. The thing about false teeth is that when you’re not chewing it’s more comfortable to take bridges out than to keep them in. So Herb had removed the bridge and wrapped it in a piece of pink tissue. But at the Quick Stop Timwin had tidied the Lincoln, gathering up the San Diego Union, food wrappers, and some stray bits of pink tissue, and tossed this wad of paper in a garbage can.

Victor found the number for the Barstow Quick Stop. A man named Hector answered. His English was no better than Victor’s Spanish. But no one else at the store was available, so Victor tried to make Hector understand. This would prove to be difficult, mostly because Victor couldn’t recall the words los dientes. He offered a reward for the teeth. He said they could probably be found in a crumpled copy of that morning’s San Diego Union. Hector promised to search through the garbage.

Meanwhile, the Liebermans checked into their suites at the Hilton and started having fun. They were soon joined by I.S., the 97-year-old husband of Timwin’s sister, who died recently. I.S. is a minor high roller from Miami who had also been comped certain perks. One of these perks was a ride from the airport to the hotel. But no one showed up to collect him. He was rescued by some kind tourists, who let him share their cab to the Strip. The casinos like I.S. because he can’t see very well. A tiny, dapper gentleman who dresses in white shoes and slacks and cashmere the color of a robin’s egg, while talking with Marcia I.S. produced a handful of chips and asked her to tell him the denominations. He was holding $4,000 in chips. The only downside for the casinos is that I.S. sometimes falls asleep at the tables. He’s supposed to walk with a cane, but for reasons of pride he usually refuses. Soon after arriving from the airport he lost the cane. Victor, Izzy and Marcia walked up and down the Strip trying to find him a replacement, although it wasn’t clear that he would use it if they found one.  

Finally, Hector called back to report that he had located the San Diego Union! The family was relieved. Then Hector asked what section of the newspaper did they want him to keep for them, “B,” “C” or “D”? Victor tried again to explain that it wasn’t news he wanted, it was teeth. The teeth in the newspaper. This time he thought Hector understood.

After another passage of time the cell phone rang again. Hector had found los dientes! All was saved. This discovery, of course, wouldn’t help Herb much while in Vegas, since no one wanted to drive for two hours each way to Barstow to retrieve the choppers. So he was forced to eat pasta, and gum everything else.

Still, a good time was had by all, and after four days they headed back to California relaxed and amused. When they pulled into the Quick Stop, Hector was waiting for them. And he was holding los dientes, completely intact. Hector was gracious, and refused the pair of twenty-dollar bills Victor offered until Victor pressed them into the man’s hand.

Herb was happy to have his teeth back. But he was upset at the reward. “Forty bucks?” he barked. “I wouldn’t have paid more than $25!”  [1 July 06]