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Hollywood Shop til You Drop Event Thrills with Celebrity Appearances

By M D Caprario

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Level Three at the Hollywood and Highland Entertainment Complex in Hollywood was hot, hot, hot recently as Kami Shade staged her 'Shop 'Til You Drop' event there.  "Shop" is a bi-monthly showcase of new designer and artisan talent featuring clothing, jewelry, handbags, accessories at 'get'em before they're famous and untouchable' prices.

Outside on the streets of Hollywood, tourists were clogging the sidewalks in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater and the Kodak Theater, agog at the antics of street performers and vigilant for sightings of celebrities (or would-be celebs).  Too bad they didn't know the REAL talent was lighting up the Shop event in Shade's packed house.

Brandon Fobbs talks about his fashion adventures and his upcoming Lion's Gate film "Pride."

I was excited about this event.  Here was an exemplary concept:  a money-maker that involved giving new artists and designers a chance to debut in a quality, friendly venue, an event allowing celebs and non-celebs lucky enough to be in the know to snatch up many items never before seen, a provision of a share of proceeds to a charitable organization, and a glitzy, fun fashion event that featured runway shows on the half hour and slick, new tunes to set up a great vibe.  To boot, the event is masterminded by a woman- my favorite kind of entrepreneur.

As I made my way up the steep escalators (discovering for the first time that I'm not so brave out in the world with this still healing broken wrist- note to self:  use elevators!) I got even more excited seeing the huge Egyptian carvings in stone towering several floors high and the whimsical trademark giant elephant.  Even the journey up to Level Three was unique with glimpses of things like the baby grand piano, bench, and candelabra that hangs suspended from wires in the ceiling inside the open space between two escalators.

Outside, sure, the usual Hollywood scene.  Inside, up on the third floor of the Entertainment Complex, something else altogether better.  I found Level Three tucked in between the Ann Taylor Loft and another retailer, and I drew in a breath seeing the inviting interior.   The club welcomes with a mahogany exterior trimmed in horizontal stripes of silver.  One is drawn in by blue lights around panels on the wall and then popped into a large room with dance club lighting, a generous dance floor, comfortable white leather seating, and service bars surrounding all of it.

Fashion Shows were offered every half hour at the "Shop 'Til You Drop Event"

Dreamy white drapery hung from the ceiling to divide up the dance floor space so vendors could best showcase their items.  Outstanding merchandise included everything from bling bling to retro, and manicures, massages, and makeovers- all free- were being appreciatively enjoyed.

Some 106 celebs had RSVP'd to shop with the rest of us and check out the fabulous items being made available.  One of the helpers on scene, Krista Lippert, told me that these VIP's were even assigned their very own personal shopping assistant.  I managed to convince some of the celebs to take a break from shopping and chat with me for a few minutes- no small thing since the performance distractions of runway shows, belly dancers and the like were amazing.

Models presented a variety of garment styles in each runway presentation at the "Shop 'Til You Drop Event"

Gabrielle Dennis, of 'The Underground' and 'Teen Summit,' and also of the 'Daymon Wayans Show,' stopped quickly to chat with me.  We talked clothes.  'I'm not a big dress fan,' she told me.  Woman after my own heart- they look great but can slow you down.  Dennis was impressed with one designer in particular, L.B.Couture LLC.  She was brimming with thanks for her quickly-gained Hollywood footing, having just arrived in town about a year and a half ago, and praise for Wayans.  'People would be so surprised, but he is so family-oriented.  He's sort of 'iconic.' He arranged it so that he would have about two weeks free so that we could get to know each other (before embarking on the show).'  

Jeanna Ellis, wife of the Emmy-nominated special effects makeup artist Earl Ellis ('Star Trek' and 'Angel') was there with little daughter Nora.  She took a break from shopping to chat and told me that Earl's in India right now with Kamal Hasan working on a new Bollywood production.  It was an eight-week commitment so, sure, Mrs. Ellis needed to get out and do a little shopping.  'This is a dangerous idea,' she told me, laughing.  'Earl's text messaged me a couple of times to ask what I'm doing and I just tell him 'you don't want to know!''  Ellis said she'd like to look at handbags while there, but it would probably be slow going with a toddler in tow.  Don't worry, Jeanna, there will be another event in two months (unfortunately, hubby will be back home by then to oversee spending' )

Vincent Manetta of the television show "Everybody Hates Chris"

Vincent Martella from 'Everybody Hates Chris.'  Vincent was there with his dad, Michael, who confirmed that, if she didn't have another 'pressing' commitment, his mom would be there, too, shopping like crazy.  Vincent told me he's going to be starring in a new Disney project due out next year called 'Free as a Bird.'  He's a busy guy, having also just recorded a CD.  He's working on some deals for that.  In keeping with the fashion theme for the event, Vincent was wearing a most unusual silver shield type neckpiece about which I just had to inquire.  'I got this last weekend at the CW premiere,' he told me.  'It's made by Gryphon Jewelry, and it has two gryphons on it.'  As if he's not already busy enough, Vincent will be appearing next weekend on behalf of the youth at the Special Olympics at the Santa Monica Pier.  He'll sing the National Anthem, present awards, and cheer participants on.  No small thing, 10,000 people are expected to attend, and he'll be hanging with California's First Lady Maria Shriver.

Jillian Murray of 'Win a Date with Ted Hamilton' fame was out to shop, too- and she was planning to do 'a lot of it.'  She showed me her gorgeous creamy white with dark brown trim shoulder bag, and we both oohed and aahed over it.  'I'm in love with this, and nobody has it- at least not yet.'  She showed off the inside, lined in pink silk, no less!  Of course I had to ask how she got it.  She pointed to her handsome boyfriend.  'Of course, from him!'  Way to go Billy' Despite already having the 'perfect' bag, Jillian asserted that she was going to shop for more.  I roared as she joked to me about her 'obsession" with purses- purses and shoes, that is.  'I think your shoes and bag should always match.  So my goal is to find a whole bunch of other colors now!'  Jillian told me she's also a main character in the XBOX game "Mass Effect."  She's a busy lady, too, with appearances on the 'Drake & Josh' TV series and film credits in four (yes, you read that right) films opened/opening this year: 'Fifty Pills,' 'The Great Doheny,' 'Drakes' Girl,' and 'Brianna.'  She had to put in four weeks on location in Oklahoma ('by myself') for filming, much different place than our beloved LA, and, of course, I had to ask about that.  'I loved it,' she said with genuine enthusiasm.  'Everyone was warning me that there'd be nothing to do and I'd be bored there.  But I just loved it.  Even the weather was nice- and everyone there was SO nice.'

Ross Thomas (III) of the television series "Beyond the Break" with his fashion-savvy sister, Kate

Some of the celeb visitors weren't there to shop, per se.  'My sister Kate works in fashion, and I thought it would be great to bring her,' Ross Thomas (III) of 'Beyond the Break' fame told me as we chatted.   Thomas' character is Bailey Reese, aka 'Big Wave Bailey' who has, as he describes, all kinds of run-ins with the women on the show.   'Break' is filmed on the west shore of Oahu- pretty great work if you can get it!   It's about surfing, of course, but there's more.  'The whole show is about four women trying to break into a male-dominated sport,' he told me insightfully. A solid guy, product of a schoolteacher mom and attorney dad, Thomas landed his agent while finishing his college degree at USC in 2004.  He's also quite 'biz' savvy- knows good writing- and aspires to do lots more creative stuff in future, including writing and directing.  Let's keep our eyes on sparkly Kate and brother since they're considering collaborating on a project featuring fashion and tapping Kate's expertise.

I pulled producer Wendell James over before he'd even had a chance to shop.  He was wearing some of the most smokin' boots I'd ever seen, made from about a hundred different colors of leather and suede with decorative whipstitching.  'The designer's gonna kill me because I always forget!'  He sported a gorgeous mink watch with a mother of pearl watch, and he told me that he'd most likely be shopping for some jeans and shirts.  As far as the jewelry, he'd just 'look and glance.'  Here's a man in hurry!  He's got a lot on his plate being the new executive producer of 'Wacked Out Wednesdays.'  'It's a comedy club on tour on Wednesday in Studio City with stars comedian/actress Kim Whitley and actor Buddy Lewis, and everybody from Marc Curry to Sean Williams and Daymon Williams and Annie McKnight, all comedians go in there- Arsenio Hall- and that's where they go and try out new material.  We just taped a special there for TV1.'

Producer Rita Black of 3 Wolves and her pal "Max"

Producer Rita Branch made the scene, sporting a gorgeous green top and showing off her beautiful doggie, Max.  She and partner Roger Zamudio have 3 Wolves Productions.  They've produced and acted in 'Find Me Guilty' with Vin Diesel and 'Even Money' with Danny DeVito and Kim Basinger (due out in October).  Two other films are currently in production.

Actress/comedienne Sandy Brown of The Jaime Fox Show, just recently our own version of the female Bob Hope, and soon to be on the smash hit television series "My Name is Earle"

Speaking of women doing great things:  Although she's not my 'type' (yes, I still do like men- well, some of them) I would definitely describe comedienne Sandy Brown ('Barber Shop,' 'Tracy Morgan Show,' and 'The Jaime Fox Show') as 'funalicious.'  Hope that's considered a good word because that's what I'm aiming for.  Sandy is one of the prettiest, sexiest ladies in the biz, and she is beautiful on the inside, too.  She and I chatted about her latest work adventures and other things.  As she described her recent trip to Iran to entertain our troops stationed there, we were near to crying- both with reverence for the spirit that moved her to the task and from laughing so hard about what her protective mother had said about the trip.    'I didn't tell my mother that I went,' she confided.  She'd told her mother she was thinking about doing it- before going- but, when she encountered resistance, Brown decided not to say anything.  But there was no way she could keep such an experience under wraps.  'It fell out of my mouth one time that I'd been overseas,' she added, 'and my mother looked at me and said 'you went?!'  I told her yes, and her response was 'don't do it again.''  Brown seemed visibly changed by her experiences traveling in a country where women are chattel.  'Their lingerie shops put ours to shame,' she joked.  'It's not like (the women) don't where something pretty underneath,' she joked.  On a more somber note, she spoke of how poignant it was seeing how appreciative the troops were that celebs traveled to entertain them.  'I have a collection of flags signed by many of our soldiers,' she told me.  It was the perfect moment to exchange a hug.

Actress/writer/producer Abra Chouinard, co-star in 'Mission Impossible III,' 'Click,' and 'Poseidon' was there with bells on for sure.  'Fashion is awesome.  It's a good day, too, the first day of autumn, and it's not too hot.  No one needs to be at the beach, and obviously there's fashion week in New York, so it just feels right.'  She was going to be looking for belts, boots, and anything that caught her eye.  She'd like to get to know more about the designers' work and was preparing to do her homework!  Her upcoming film is about a woman who can't remember her past.  'It gives me the shivers thinking about it,' she told me.  Her independent feature film 'Cart' will be wrapping in January and should be out in the spring. Watch for more on Chouinard's projects in future article.)

Highly likable Brandon Fobbs (HBO's 'The Wire') was shopping but, sadly, sans girlfriend- which had him a tad uncomfortable.  'I feel like a fish out of water,' he confided, laughing.  'Most of the time my girlfriend wants to put clothes on me,' he kidded.  Contrary to that comment, Fobbs had no problem with wardrobe selection that day, sporting the brightest white tennis shoes imaginable along with trendy denim twill pants with side panel inserts and a crisp dress shirt in the most heavenly of blue colors.  'I learned a bit of fashion from that movie 'The Devil Wears Prada,'' he joked.  Fobbs' topped his shirt with a chain with a dog tag marked 'Man Up.'   'It means 'be a man,'' he told me, showing me the companion tag 'SOLDIERS for life.'  'It means 'Sold Out, Living, Delivered, and EverLasting Service,' it means living for God.'  He brought tears to my eyes- I'd met a soul brother!  Fobbs was on HBO's 'The Wire' for the third season but, as he calls it, 'that's old news.'  His 'new' news is that he's just finished work on a Lion's Gate movie, 'Pride,' with Terence Howard, Bernie Mack, Kimberly Allegiance, and Tom Arnold.  The film is about the first all-black swim team and is slated for March release.  Fobbs plays what he calls a "nerdy kind of guy."   'It's set in the 70's,' he told me, 'so we all have afros.  I wear a wig and glasses.'   Hard to imagine this stylin', fresh-faced guy as a nerd!  Fobbs says one of the things that made him choose this project was the producer's passion- and also his prayer about the choice.  The actor  told me prayer plays a large part in his life.  Inspiring young man- and one worth watching.  Be on the lookout for 'Pride,' a film you won't want to miss.

And speaking of beautiful inside and out, up and coming spoken word artist and chanteuse Ambokile' (which means 'God has redeemed me') blessed me with a chat about how she got started (more to come in future articles), her music, and her visit to the Shop event.  'I had to check this out since I think fellow artists should help each other,' she told me.  Gracious Ambokile's sentiment about the Show is carried forth in her work, and her message is one of empowerment for women.  'I want women to know that they can do whatever they set their minds to."  She will be performing at a pre-release party for her new CD 'Simply' Ambokile'' on Saturday, September 30th, at 8:00 p.m. at B.B. Kings House of Blues in Citywalk.  (Info at www.Ambolism-Records.com.)

Fasion Event on Rosh Hoshana gives elegant boot to the old year!

Be on the lookout for the next 'Shop 'Til You Drop' event coming soon to another quality Hollywood area venue.

Thanks to everyone for their time in chatting with me.  Thanks to God for the angels; yes, I knew you all- and am grateful.

Photos of Brandon Fobbs, Ambokile, M D Caprario, and "boots" copyright 2006 Wendell Llopsis, Esq.  Text and all other photos copyright 2006 M D Caprario

M D Caprario is a free lance writer and editor currently working in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Published on Dec 31, 1969

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