Beverly Hills Hotel site of Whitney Houston’s sad passing

Whitney Houston, the great ballad singer of such popular songs as “I Will Always Love You” and “One Moment in Time” passed away last night at the famous Beverly Hilton Hotel at the intersection of Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards in Beverly Hills just short of her planned attendance at the recording industry’s annual Grammy Awards on Sunday night, February 12.  Houston, 48, was found in her hotel room slumped in a bathtub with her face under water.  Press reports state an autopsy will be held in the next few days.  There has been no explanation offered to the public on the causes of Houston’s death.  Houston suffered from drug abuse issues after her initial successes in the music industry.

Houston had been very much in attendance at pre-Grammy parties and was to attend one such party Saturday night organized by her mentor, Clive Davis.  She never made the event.  Tonight songstress Jennifer Hudson will offer a tribute to Houston during the televised Grammys.

The Beverly Hilton is an iconic hotel in southern California.  Opened by Conrad Hilton himself in 1953, the hotel is a fixture of the entertainment industry.  It hosts the annual Golden Globe awards.  The hotel was once owned by television personality and game-show mogul Merv Griffin.  The hotel has housed fine restaurants over the years such as the wonderful “haute cuisine” L’Escoffier, and one of the original Trader Vic’s, a meeting place for people like Robert Wagner, Natalie Wood, and David Frost. (I had the opportunity to visit both over the years.)  Both restaurants are now closed, overcome by the Hotel’s response to changing tastes.

A visit to the Beverly Hilton on any given weekend is likely to yield some interesting Hollywood people-watching to this day.  The hotel was also the scene of the video-taped visits of U.S. Presidential candidate and Senator John Edwards for his extramarital affair with Rielle Hunter.

Houston’s death is tragic and a real loss for not only her family but music lovers around the world.

Beverly Hilton Hotel



A Very Long Final Second Helps L.A. Kings Win Hockey Game!

There is supposed to be a “scientific explanation,” according to Los Angeles Kings Hockey Team General Manager Dean Lombardi, for a “hesitation” in the scoreboard clock that preceded the exciting last-second goal by Drew Doughty on Wednesday night that allowed for the Kings’ 3-2 win over the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets.  Whatever the explanation, I was there with my friend Brandon Powers and it was a thrilling moment to see the Kings pull together what can only be called a “last second” victory on the ice at Staples Center at L.A. Live.

Nevertheless, the “explanation” about this otherwise very accommodating hometown scoreboard clock “hesitation” is that the clock is a “sophisticated instrument” that measures time through “electrical charges” called “coulombs.”  Any perceived “delay” was simply a “recalibration” for the clock previously moving “too quickly.”  In other words, it calculated and displayed the time correctly, despite any perceived, and welcome for Kings fans, “hesitation.”

A Kings game is a fun night out in downtown Los Angeles, as is all that L.A. Live has to offer by way of great bars and restaurants.  Check out Kings hockey at

Photo courtesy supernova3688, Flickr


49ers lose tight Championship game in overtime

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The New York Football Giants beat our hometown San Francisco 49ers Sunday night in overtime by making a winning field goal, 20-17.  As a result, the Giants are the National Conference Champions and will advance to the Superbowl to face the New England Patriots in Indianapolis on February 5.  Giants Quarterback Eli Manning predicted a great Superbowl.  Manning was sacked six times and experienced twenty knock-downs during the five quarters of play with a tough San Francisco team, playing in rain at Candlestick Park throughout the game.

49ers Win Football Play-Off Game in Last 9 Seconds!

“This is huge for us” said San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Alex Smith.  “It’s history, legendary, anything you can describe.”  Smith was commenting on his 14-yard touchdown pass in the last 9 seconds of the NFL Division Championship game on Saturday at Candlestick Park in San Francisco that allowed receiver Vernon Davis to score the winning touchdown against a good New Orleans Saints team.  The Associated Press has likened the play to other famous last seconds play-off game winning passes in the same stadium of Quarterbacks Joe Montana in 1982 and Steve Young in 1999.  Now former Stanford Coach Jim Harbaugh, famous for building up that football program (and costing some Stanford fans to actually lose bets on winning games on point spreads because of his habit of shaving down scoring opportunities late in college games for the sake of “sportsmanship”) is on the cusp of joining the field of iconic winning 49ers coaches from Buck Shaw to Dick Nolan, Bill Walsh, and George Seifert, all “Coaches of the Year.”

Perhaps a little lost in the commotion was the generally excellent job and season of Saints Quarterback Drew Brees, who completed 40 of 63 passes for 462 yards with four touchdowns.  Though intercepted twice, Brees had previously not thrown any interception in five years of post-season play, and the turnovers proved costly.  The lead in the game jerked back and forth and was a thriller till the end.

The win for the 49ers was their first in a playoff in nine years.  They will now face either the New York Giants or the Green Bay Packers in the next playoff game on January 22 leading to the Superbowl on February 5 to be played in Indianapolis.


Jerry Brown’s Top Ten New Year’s Resolutions

Now is the time for correcting the errors of the past year and resolving to do better in the next.  Have you made your list of New Year’s resolutions yet?!  Well, maybe you can become inspired by taking a look at California Governor Jerry Brown’s Top Ten New Year’s resolutions:

10.  Meet with State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg to get his ideas for new policy initiatives for 2012.

9.  At suggestion of State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, propose an initiative and special election to repeal the right of the people to propose initiatives.

8.  When the above initiative is overwhelmingly defeated at the polls, at suggestion of State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, propose an initiative and another special election to deny registered Republicans the right to propose and vote on any initiative.

7.  When the above initiative is defeated by the largest margin in state initiative history, at the suggestion of State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, propose a special election on an initiative proposal to repeal the power of the people to recall the Governor of California.

6. When the above initiative is completely and abjectly rejected at the polls, and a recall petition against me begins to circulate, resolve to stop asking State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg for ideas.

5.  When recalled, resolve to not run for Mayor of Oakland.

4.  Meet with former recalled Governor and former Chief of Staff Gray Davis to get his ideas.

3.  At suggestion of Gray Davis, call State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg for his ideas.

2.  Call State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg again for his ideas.

1.  Call Jon Coupal.



California Political Review thanks you for your readership during our inaugural year and wishes you a wonderful 2012!

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Christmas in California, 2011

For recent Eastern and Midwestern transplants to the Golden State, the image of Santa Claus in sunglasses is about as hard to imagine as a 68 degree and partly-cloudy Christmas day at the beach, tanning.  But it is indeed our way of life, and we are very fortunate for it, recession or not.  We have a wonderful lifestyle in California that offers so much by way of entertainment, culture, food, sports, wine, you name it.  We don’t have to shovel snow on Christmas morning, unless we really want to, at one of own magnificent snow-capped mountains just a few hours away by car.

Photo courtesy arturogarrido, Flickr

But economic times have been tough the last few years.  People have lost their homes, lost their jobs and others have suffered with their retirement accounts.  Yet it looks like this Christmas might be a better one for Californian’s than expected.  That is because national employment statistics are indicating that the unemployment rate is going down, slightly.  Consumer confidence is tentatively rising, and CNN reported that “Black Friday” sales by retailers the day after Thanksgiving, were the strongest ever for retailers nationwide, an important milestone that may set the tone for a retail comeback this Christmas.

Retailers on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills will surely be hoping for a rebound in the economy.  In recent years, empty-pocketed tourists have outnumbered actual shoppers on this famous street that brings top flight jewelry stores like Van Cleef & Arpels, Tiffany & Company, and Harry Winston, all within a 5 minute walk.  But the indications are that at retail establishments across the state, from Target to Tiffany’s, Christmas 2011 might be a little brighter than the last few years.  If that happens, more jobs and a better economy may be just around the corner – and then the question will become, will our politicians let us hold on to our economic gains, or tax the heck out of them, pushing us back into recession!

Regardless, most of us do have a lot to be thankful for as this tough economic year ends.  And one of the things we have to be thankful for is sunshine on Christmas day!

Jean Quan in Purple Sombrero on Pride Day

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CaliCulture is also about our people, people with style.  Here is another great picture of Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, this time changing out her Albus Dumbledore conical Wizard Hat in favor of a purple sombrero on Gay Pride Day.

Photo credit, stevedamron, Flickr

California is home for many turkeys

There are surely no lack of turkeys in California, including in the general vicinity of Sacramento, but the fact is, when you start looking for that perfect bird to grace your table this November 24, there is a good chance it was born and raised right here in the Golden State.

According to the California Poultry Federation, over 15 million turkeys are grown annually in California.  California is in the top 6 states for turkey production, with almost $200 million a year in total business.

Foster Farms, based in Livingston, is a major California-based producer of turkeys through its large processing plant in Fresno.  A huge producer of chickens as well, Foster Farms received an award from the state in 2005 for environmental leadership.

While Foster is one of the biggest quality producers in the country, California is also home to a number of smaller producers that focus on various aspects of providing the public a great turkey.  Branigan’s Turkey Farm was established in rural Woodland in 1942 and raises about 20,000 turkeys a year.  Its’ birds are all natural, no hormones or antibiotics, are free range, and are raised a little longer than some other brands.  Branigan’s turkeys are available through their plant year round (530-662-4205) or through grocery stores with specialty meat departments, mostly in northern California.

Diestel Turkey Ranch is based in beautiful Sonora in the Sierra Nevada foothills, have been in business since 1949, and I can say I have enjoyed their turkeys for years.  The emphasis here is on sustainable farming, natural quality and good taste.  They allow the public to actually visit their ranch.  Their number is 888-4-GOBBLE.

Another good turkey comes from California’s Central Valley, Mary’s Free Range, Organic, and Heritage Turkeys.  Mary’s has been in business since 1954.  Mary’s turkeys roam a farm four times the size of the average commercial turkey ranch, and their organic turkeys are raised on feeds that do not contain any animal by-products, GMOs,antibiotics, pesticides, or other chemicals.

We like to slow roast our own turkey overnight on a very low setting, and bast the bird frequently to be sure it is nice and moist.  We usually don’t do much by way of seasoning so we can enjoy the taste of the turkey itself.  But we’ve tried a few other recipes and one similarly simple slow roast recipe we like is from Wolfgang Puck and is available at the Food Network website here:

And what is the appropriate wine to pair with a turkey?  That point is still being debated, however, you can never go wrong with a California Pinot Noir!


An African Family Safari in California’s Wine Country?

Several years ago while camping in the Serengeti of Tanzania with my family, I turned to my wife and told her “doesn’t this feel just like Safari West?”   As the words came out of my mouth I realized how special the about 400 acre hideaway nestled between Santa Rosa and Calistoga at the northern tip of California’s wine country really was.  To have the experience that Peter and Nancy Lang have created at Safari West ( so close to the true African safari experience is truly amazing.  (Peter is the son of famed Hollywood director Otto Lang who ‘se work include classics like “Daktari,” “Snows of Kilimanjaro,” “Flipper,” and “Sea Hunt.”)  It’s no wonder we’ve visited Safari West at least a dozen times in the past decade and recommend the experience to all our friends.

When you step out of your car at Safari West you can expect a few things, your cell phones don’t work, you won’t find a TV and you can get ready for a wild exploration of the “Sonoma Serengeti” – the closest thing you’ll get to Africa without a passport.

Safari West is not a zoo or a theme park and not a drive through park.  It is an authentic African Wildlife Preserve and African Tent Camp. Founded in 1979 as a private ranch for breeding and species propagation, my wife refers to the experience as “bourgeois camping” complete with hot showers and heated blankets.  Safari West is a private facility whose primary focus is on conservation through education. They opened to the public in 1993 and have had overnight accommodations since 1999 in real safari tents.

Adventure abounds as you set out in rugged, open-air safari vehicles in search of zebra, blue wildebeest, springbok, Cape buffalo, kudo and more.  Crossing terrain that ranges from steep and rocky to rolling savannah, the journey transports you to an environment much like the exotic and untamed lands of Africa, with herds roaming virtually undisturbed over hundreds of acres.

Unique to the Safari West experience is the opportunity to get close to the animals who origins span the entire African continent, but are found here all in one place!  This diverse species integration, as well as the freedom to move throughout a natural environment, allows the animals to maintain many of their wild instincts and behaviors.  What’s more, you’ll have the opportunity to observe animals such as the scimitar-horned oryx, Nile lechwe and addax which are highly endangered and rarely seen in the wild.

While traversing the natural landscape, highly experienced guides share fascinating stories about the collection of over 700 animals, as well as tales of their exotic counterparts in the wilds of Africa.  During our drives, we’ve encountered Cape buffalo charging up hillsides, seen white rhinos basking in the sun, impala leaping over logs and steams and a herd of wildebeest galloping across the horizon.  One more than one occasion we’ve found ourselve eye to eye with a towering curious giraffe.

The safari adventure also continues on foot with an exploration of the aviary which houses an international bird collection.  You’ll also be able to take a closer look at smaller animals such as African Spurred tortoises, fennec foxes, and Indian crested porcupines. My daughter’s absolute favorites are a pair of antelope (Blue Duikers) no larger than a small puppy.  You’ll spot cheetahs stretching their powerful legs and watch primates enjoying their lush habitat on Lemur Island.

You can make it a day trip, but spending the night hearing all animals through the night makes it a truly “I want to visit again” experience.  My family highly recommends you experience Safari West firsthand.