Tag Archives: Booksigning

First Lady Laura Bush in L.A.

Even though I have some serious problems with the way her husband has run this country for the last eight years — or should I say NOT run as “President” Cheney has made most of the big decisions — I gotta say I was still kind of thrilled to meet Bushie’s wife, First Lady Laura Bush and daughter, Jenna Bush-Hager yesterday afternoon at an invite-only reading and booksigning of their best-selling children’s book “Read All About It!” at downtown’s Central Library.

With tickets snapped up almost as soon as the last-minute event was announced last week — Veronique Peck, widow of actor Gregory Peck is a huge supporter of the Library Foundation and the First Lady appeared as a favor to her — seats were pretty hard to come by for non-Foundation members, but luckily for me, I know someone on the inside!

For the new readers out there, my “connection” is my wife Christine, who runs the Library Foundation’s super cool Library Store.

But even Christine couldn’t manage to get me a seat at this event. So, seeing as I couldn’t get inside the old fashioned way, I decided to volunteer to help Christine sell books outside the Auditorium before the reading. Then, thanks to some awesomely-timed cancellations, Christine, her co-worker, Natalie, and I were able to score some primo seats at the reading for ourselves. Yeah!

Introduced by the crazy chic Veronique Peck — seriously, this chick has a French accent Catherine Deneuve would kill for! — the First Lady and Jenna Bush took the stage and read aloud from their charming, if a tad slight, book. And though both Bush ladies were gracious and sweet as Texas BBQ on the outside, there was a reserve there that made things seem a bit stilted at times.

And the Q & A that followed was even stranger. Since most of the pre-approved questions were from the scads of cuddly Esperanza Elementary School second graders in the front row, they were anything but hard-hitting. I didn’t think the kids would grill the First Lady on Guantanamo Bay or anything, but I guess I expected a little more from the whole thing than “Is the White House like a mansion inside?”.

I’m not saying they weren’t cute — because those kids are ready for commercials, baby…seriously, the cutest kids you ever saw! — but the simplicity of the questions, coupled with the almost rehearsed quality of the answers made for kind of a snoozy twenty minutes.

After the Q & A, the ever-present Secret Service — who were way nicer and funnier than you would expect them to be! — lined everyone up for the booksigning. Since Christine, Natalie, and I still had lots more books to sell, we headed back out front to man the booth, and when the lines finally died down, we made our way to the stage.

Now before you ask me why I didn’t get a picture of myself or Christine with either of the Bush beauties, l should tell you that cameras were totally forbidden onstage. But since strange, random questions were not, I picked a doozy!

Smiling as first mother, then daughter signed my three books, I asked the First Lady if she and the President were planning on seeing “Indiana Jones 4″ this weekend. Chuckling, she replied that they just might as the President asked her the other day “What movies are we gonna watch this weekend?”. Hilarious! Good to know that despite his abysmal record as a Prez, he can still enjoy himself some good old Lucas/Speilberg hijinks!

But even more amusing than the First Lady’s response was the reaction of First Daughter Jenna. Shooting me kind of a confused look, she asked. “Is that coming out this weekend? Wow…I’m really behind the times!” And then, totally unprompted, Jenna announced that the summer flick she was most looking forward to seeing was the upcoming “Sex and the City” feature. Ha!

I just kind of nodded lamely and said something like: “Yeah, that looks pretty good too…” But by then, Natalie and Jenna had begun talking about Jenna’s necklace, which she said was a handmade gift from her twin sister, Barbara — I know…handmade? Who knew the Bush’s were artsy? — and as the line was backing up behind me, I left the stage with my books.

So, while it was brief, I must say that my personal audience the better half of the First Family was actually very cool, and both women were way warmer and down-to-earth than they had appeared during the reading and Q & A. But perhaps my favorite part of the day was yet to come…

While gathering up the receipts and heading back to the store, we checked the green room — which had been sealed off to everyone but the secret service and the First Lady’s handlers since earlier that morning — once more for anything we might have left behind and found a lovely, untouched fruit salad that had been intended for the First Lady and Jenna.

Now, I ask you, if you were in my shoes would you not eat that poor abandoned fruit salad? I mean, come on, how often is an opportunity like this gonna come along? Needless to say, quicker than you can mouth the words: “Tom├ís loves free food!” I grabbed that salad and headed for the exit.

And later, in the comfort and privacy of Christine’s office, the three of us enjoyed the hell out of that fruit salad. Sure the magoes were a bit hard, but hey, this was presidential grade fruit and we were not gonna miss out on a single bite!

And even sweeter than the oranges in that rocking good fruit salad was the perfectly-placed anti-Bush sign we spotted on the freeway overpass just a few exits from the Library on the way home.

Now, I don’t know who put that sign there or even if they knew the Bush’s would see it on their drive north to Burbank to appear on “The Tonight Show”, but I think it’s pretty telling that the “anti” slash is only through the “W”.

See, even crazy, freeway-sign-protesters love the First Lady…and now, after meeting the former Texas librarian and her recently-hitched, “Sex and the City”-loving daughter in person…I can see why!

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Padma Lakshmi @ Festival of Books

On Sunday, my friend James and I made the long trek down the 405 to attend this year’s Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at UCLA. While Christine has worked the festival for the last several years — manning her rocking Library Store booth — neither James nor myself had ever actually been to the Festival of Books.

I guess it’s one of those L.A. things you always say you’ll do and never end up doing — kind of like the L.A. County Fair, which Christine and I did memorably attend two years ago…rock on, deep fried snickers! — so this year, when we learned that the smoking hot “Top Chef” host, Padma Lakshmi was going to be spicing up the festival’s culinary stage, we knew we had to go.

And not only was Ms. Lakshmi going to be signing copies of her best-selling cookbook “Tangy Tart Hot & Sweet: A World of Recipes For Everyday”, but she was also going to be cooking as well…so, wow…how could we lose?

And even though we left the valley way later than we should have — if there had been traffic, we would have been so screwed — James and I ended up arriving just in time to see the fetching Ms. Lakshmi take the stage.

Taller and way funnier — not to mention hotter! — than she is on TV, Lakshmi started with some questions from the crowd. Our favorite was the query posed by an adorable little red-haired girl who asked: “What was your favorite thing you ever ate on the show?”

Smiling, Lakshmi admitted that, hands down, her favorite dish was the Fideos with Clams and Saffron prepared by Season 2′s eventual winner, Ilan Hall on the Santa Barbara episode. Ironically, Lakshmi joked, Ilan was also responsible for creating her least favorite dish of all time, the stomach-turning Fried Chicken Liver with Chocolate Ganache.

Another amusing moment came when a fan asked Lakshmi the name of her favorite place to eat in Los Angeles. Not missing a beat, Lakshmi smiled and answered: “My Mom’s house!” Wow, not only is this woman smart and beautiful, but she loves her Mom too…perfection.

Lakshmi then read some hilarious non-cooking passages from her book before firing up the burners onstage and launching into a cooking demonstration with a delighted fan from the audience.

And though we couldn’t sample the Mushroom and Goat Cheese Flautas or the Fresh Mint and Date Dipping Sauce she paired with them — probably due to some other new ordinance passed by anti-foodie Gloria Molina — they looked and smelled amazing.

Then, while Padma took a couple more questions from the crowd, James and I joined the already daunting line at the book signing tent nearby.

Despite the sweltering heat earlier in the day, things had begun to cool down at this point, so the wait wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. And quicker than you can say: “Please pack your knifes and go” we were having our pictures taken with Ms. Lakshmi while she signed our books.

But the best part came later when we noticed a sweet-faced, Indian-American woman hanging out in the signing tent next to Padma’s. She seemed to know Ms. Lakshmi very well, so, putting two and two together, I asked her if she was Padma Lakshmi’s mother…and guess what? She was.

My inner geek surging to life, I then asked this poor, unsuspecting woman if she’d mind signing her picture in Padma’s book for both James and myself. I know, stalker much? I’m surprised she didn’t call security on our fat asses.

Blushing wildly, Padma’s mother agreed to sign our books. And though she didn’t like the picture of herself I chose for her to sign, she found a better one on the same page and not only signed her name, but also posed for the picture with James below. Whoa…two Lakshmi’s in one day? Awesome!

By the time we were finished, the sun had begun to set on the Festival of Books and it was time to meet Christine and her co-worker “Santa Fe” Sarah at their booth up near Royce Hall.

So, after powering through some of the more interesting booths — many of which were offering incredible “end of the festival” markdowns — and scoring a free Koran from a super friendly young woman at the “Facts about Islam” booth, we headed back to the car for the long drive home.

Books, food, brainy-hot cooking show hosts/cookbook writers and their mothers…hmm, not a bad way to spend a Sunday.

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