Meeting fans is addictive to ‘Dancing’ cast

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

“Dancing with the Stars” pro Emma Slater loves the “Dancing with the Stars” tours. After all, she’s not being judged by like the of Len Goodman.

“It’s more relaxed, as the pressure is off,” she says. “It’s a different experience. We get to hang with other professional dancers who we are best friends with. It’s really a fantastic time for us. I think that translates to the show. We get to meet the people who watch the TV show. We don’t get to do that in the studio.”

“Dancing with the Stars: Live! The Tour” comes to Pasadena Civic at 8 p.m. Friday, March 10.

The tour, which launched January 6 at MGM National Harbor in Washington, D.C., celebrates the show’s 31st season. Besides Slater, the tour features Brandon Armstrong, Alan Bersten, Sasha Farber, Kateryna Klishyna, Gleb Savchenko, Britt Stewart and “So You Think You Can Dance” winner Alexis Warr (who now appears on “Dancing with the Stars”).

“Dancing with the Stars” season 31 runner-up and star of “The Bachelorette” Gabby Windey will join the cast for the entire tour, while fellow season 31 castmates Vinny Guadagnino, Daniel Durant, Heidi D’Amelio and Charli D’Amelio will join the cast on select dates.

Slater says it’s fun to meet with fans on tour.

“I always get, ‘You’re so much smaller than I thought you were,’” Slater adds with a laugh.

“I can’t tell you how many times I get that. People think you’re a monster. In real life, I’m only 5-foot-4. But everybody is so nice and so flattering. It makes us excited to see them so excited. I’m blown away by their interest in what I do. There’s nothing more addictive than making people happy — especially with something like ballroom dancing that we love and can be celebrated.

Dancer Mandy Moore choreographed the numbers in the show.

“She is just an absolute legend in the space,” Slater says.

“She just choreographed ‘Babylon,’ this massive film. She curated the most wonderful, energetic, stunning, marvelous show that I’m really excited to be a part of. There’s some beautiful storytelling in there, some sweet moments that pull on the heartstrings. There are moments of comedy and playful storytelling that I think will excite the audience.”

This year, “Dancing with the Stars,” the TV show, was on Disney+ instead of ABC. Slater says it was the right move for “Dancing with the Stars.”

“Disney+ was great,” she says.

“It marked the return of Conrad Green, who was an executive producer we had. He finally returned this season. He’s just a genius in what he does. He knows the show so well. He elevated the show to new heights again. That was an incredible feeling to be a part of.

“Alfonso (Ribeiro, host) was exceptional. He’s phenomenal. He’s a personal friend of mine. I’m so happy to see him do well.”

Assistance League changes the lives of adults, children

By Morgan Owen

Assistance League of Pasadena has provided 2,500 low-income students with clothes and school supplies.

More than 3,500 children have new huggable bears to comfort them when times are tough, and 140 seniors have been able to showcase and sell their crafts for supplemental income. That is the work Assistance League of Pasadena accomplished during 2022.

Assistance League of Pasadena is one of 120 Assistance Leagues nationwide that work to change the lives of children and adults through community programs. Assistance League of Pasadena’s president, Ursula Hyman, says even though they have a high impact on the community, it still seems like they are the best-kept secret in Pasadena.

The group has been hard at work in Pasadena since 1936. Today, the volunteer-run nonprofit provides philanthropic services to the community through programs like Operation School Bell, Bear Hugs, assault survivor kits and school supplies for success.

“We’ve been clothing children in Pasadena since 1941,” Hyman says. “(Operation School Bell) is our largest program, the program we spend the most money on.”

Before the pandemic, Operation School Bell looked very different from how it does in 2023. Back then, Pasadena Unified School District would work with Assistance League of Pasadena to bus low-income students to their thrift store for a fashion field trip. The student would then be sent home with a nearly complete wardrobe and a voucher to purchase a pair of shoes.

Post-pandemic, Hyman says schools are reluctant to let the kids miss class time. Instead, the schools work with the Assistance League by having parents fill out forms with their children’s sizes and preferences. Their volunteers then use those forms to put together a backpack full of the clothing items the children need.

While she misses the personal interaction with the kids, Hyman says it is probably better that they no longer take a field trip to receive their supplies. That way, they aren’t singled out for bullying because of their circumstances at home.

“We hear from the community about families weeping (from relief) when they receive the clothing. … I dealt with a family last year who called us directly because they were starting school the next day,” Hyman says as she recounted the story.

“I know you do this through the schools, but I have no clothes to put my children in. If they don’t (get clothes), they won’t go to school,” the mother told Hyman, who told the mother to come to Assistance League of Pasadena’s headquarters straight away.

“I met with her, and she was just crying as we tried on some clothes for her kids. … It was heartwarming to see. It really makes a difference for some families, especially this year with inflation.”

Hyman says that even though there are fewer children in Pasadena schools now than in 2019, the number of families who need assistance has increased. Last year, people requested services from ALP 41% more times than in previous years. In 2023, Hyman says she expects that number to grow another 10% to 15%.

Because of the increased demand, Hyman says ALP is looking at ways to expand its services. As part of the Operation School Bell program, the league also puts together school supply kits for all grade levels and has considered expanding its clothing services to middle schools.

Every Assistance League throughout the nation has an Operation School Bell program. But Hyman highlights what Assistance League of Pasadena has done that’s unique to this community. In particular, the Bear Hugs program has seen a 91% increase since 2021.

Through the Bear Hugs program, Assistance League of Pasadena distributes stuffed bears to neglected, abused or traumatized children. The organization ensures that first responders, foster facilities, hospitals and even dentist offices are all supplied with teddy bears they can give to children in need.

“Last year, we distributed over 3,500 bears, and I expect this year it’ll be closer to 5,000,” Hyman says. “While it’s tragic that so many bears are needed, we’re really glad we’re able to get them into the hands of children who need them.”

The stuffed bears can be instrumental in helping children endure stressful situations, Hyman says.

One mother told a volunteer that the bear helped her son get through a traumatic doctor’s appointment to fix a broken arm. Hyman also recalls feedback from dentists, who say the stuffed animals have helped children who haven’t had their teeth cleaned in years get through a cavity filling or root canal.

Out of Bear Hugs grew Assistance League of Pasadena’s assault survivor kit program. Many people who go to the hospital or police station to provide a rape kit have their clothes confiscated as evidence. Assistance League of Pasadena’s assault survivor kits come with a change of clothes, underwear and a bag stocked with hygiene products, so those who seek justice don’t have to leave in a pair of scrubs.

Assistance League of Pasadena’s collaboration with nonprofits and nearby Assistance Leagues make it possible to provide its services. One such organization is the Assistance League of Flintridge, which helps Assistance League of Pasadena by providing backpacks and hygiene kits for their Operation School Bell program.

“I think the biggest lesson we learned is that we can reach far more people through affiliations,” Hyman says. “I started meeting with all the Assistance Leagues — the one in Flintridge, the one in Arcadia and the one in Glendale. No one had ever come together before. … (We began to) explore where we could be of more help to one another.”

Hyman has worked hard to move Assistance League of Pasadena into the 21st century, something COVID-19 helped with. Because she wasn’t bound by the mentality of “this is how we’ve always done it,” she says she has been successful in transforming the organization to work more efficiently in a post-COVID-19 world.

The group’s funding comes from three main sources: the Treasure Fair Thrift Shop, its annual appeal, and grants. From 2021 through 2022, Assistance League members and community individuals contributed $77,000 through their annual appeal.

In addition, Assistance League of Pasadena accepted $38,000 in funding from the Albertson Company Foundation, the Pasadena Tournament of Roses, the Pasadena Host Lions Club Memorial Trust, the Green Foundation and the Jameson Foundation. They also received a $50,000 one-time grant to develop a new educational program.

Most of their funds come from their Treasure Fair Thrift Shop, which produced net sales of $140,000 from 2021 to 2022. The thrift shop is staffed entirely by volunteers who stock and work the shop 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday. Hyman says she feels the store is not only a great source of revenue but that their affordable prices also allow struggling families in Pasadena to find quality household goods and clothes.

Assistance League Pasadena also provides a second way consumers can help fund their philanthropy, the Craft Fair Gift Shop. This offshoot of Assistance League of Pasadena is a way for seniors to sell handmade crafts for supplemental income. Available at the shop are knit baby clothes, blankets, sweaters and bootees, floral wreaths, hand-painted pottery and jewelry.

All items are handcrafted by men and women over the age of 50. While Assistance League of Pasadena keeps 25% of the sales price, the craft fair was able to return over $51,000 to 140 exhibitors. Beyond the money, Hyman says that the craft fair helps give seniors in the community a sense of purpose.

From infants to seniors, Assistance League of Pasadena is ready and waiting to help its community thrive. While things had to change with the pandemic, they have only become more efficient and impactful than ever before. Anyone can donate, and anyone can volunteer.

Hyman wants her members and the community to know that “it’s OK to ask for help. And it is OK to turn around and say to your friends, ‘I need a donation.’ … Write a short note to a good friend of yours. What’s the worst that can happen? They say no. What’s the best that can happen? They send a check.”

Showcase is back with a night of art discovery

By Leah Schwartz

Art should be accessible to everyone: young, old, rich or poor. For more than 20 years, ArtNight Pasadena has created a free, all-ages experience, beyond what arts and cultural institutions offer.

The event is held twice a year — in October and March. This year’s Spring ArtNight will be held 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, March 10, and will have free admission.

“(ArtNight is) a wonderful experience and grants an appreciation for the depth and breadth of our arts and cultural community,” says Rochelle Branch, Pasadena’s cultural affairs manager. “We have an incredibly interesting, creative community here. And each venue has something in particular to offer. I hope that any audience attending would find something new that they could take delight in or enjoy some of the venues they’re already familiar with.”

The event is produced by the city of Pasadena’s cultural affairs division in partnership with local art and cultural organizations and nonprofits. This year’s Spring ArtNight will include 21 locations featuring a variety of art forms like dance, radio theater, music and visual arts experiences and exhibitions.

This year, ArtNight will offer “No Boundaries,” a districtwide kindergarten through 12th grade student art showcase presented by Pasadena Unified School District. Live music and food trucks at the City Hall Hub and live music at the Pasadena Conservatory of Music are part of the program.

Other venues will include the Armory Center for the Arts, ArtCenter’s HMCT and Williamson Galleries, the Jackie Robinson Community Center, Parson’s Nose Theater, Side Street Projects and the Pasadena Museum of History.

Patrons can curate what they want to see of the 21 venues. The city provides shuttle buses with docents and student ambassadors to guide attendees through the stops. ArtNight provides additional information about metro stops for those who prefer to take the metro. Some venues are even close enough to walk from one to the other.

Like the city of Pasadena, ArtNight is constantly shifting, with varying programming each evening; although many of the organizations featured are favorites, there are frequently new events and programs.

In the past few years, ArtNight has added Alkebulan Cultural Center, an African American institution in Northwest Pasadena, the Gamble House and Remainders Creative Reuse, where attendees can create artworks made from recycled materials.

Having returned to in-person programming last October, ArtNight is making a comeback after the pandemic and two years of virtual events. “We are still rebuilding our audience base after the pandemic,” Branch says. Pre-pandemic ArtNights attracted about 22,000 guests. Attendance is slowly climbing, with last fall’s event bringing in about 10,000 attendees.

This spring, Branch hopes that those numbers continue to grow.

“There’s an element of excitement and engagement with people riding the buses, convening in city hall, and attending each of the venues that is really unparalleled,” Branch says.

Julian Shah-Tayler channels Bowie on acclaimed album

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Electro-pop artist Julian Shah-Tayler is in love, and he’s sharing his feelings on his latest album, “Elysium.”

The third under his own name, “Elysium” opens with “End of the Line,” which narrates the dissolution of old pain, paving the way for new beginnings. It continues along the emotional roller coaster that comes with a long-distance relationship.

“The record was basically the story of the love of my life,” Shah-Tayler says. “It’s about meeting her and becoming a relationship and the trials and tribulations.

“It’s been a long-distance relationship for a while. The album is almost a narrative.”

“Elysium” has myriad meaning for Shah-Tayler. It’s the name of the Austin club where he met the love of his life, burlesque dancer Eva Strangelove, who plans to move to Pasadena. In Greek mythology, Elysium describes the home of the blessed after death.

Formerly of Pasadena and Altadena, the Leeds, England-born Shah-Tayler now lives in South Pasadena, where he recorded the album. Shah-Tayler calls “Elysium” one of his most cohesive albums. Usually, he says, he throws a multitude of sounds at a record. “Elysium” is a little more focused.

“I limited my sound palate a little,” he says. “People appreciate that it’s a bit more focused in that sense.”

“Elysium” includes an appearance on “Devil Knows” by bassist David J from Love and Rockets (“Ball of Confusion”) and Bauhaus (“Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” “Ziggy Stardust”).

“I love it when David (J) comes around,” he says. “Not only is he a fascinating character, his musical ideas are based in magic. He believes in the ‘happy accident’ like I do. I just put the mic up, run the track and sing along immediately. I follow whatever magic spirit comes. I will generally end up with the ideas I come up with on first go-around.”

Shah-Tayler says it produces something magical.

“If you develop something deeply, you generally get this visceral, spiritual reaction. It results in something quite special when it works.”

“End of the Line” and “Secret/Fisk” were co-produced by LA’s Robert Margouleff, whose credits include Devo and Stevie Wonder.

“He and I have this great rapport in the studio,” Shah-Tayler says. “We just honed one of the songs that Mike’s possibly going to play on. Carmine, David J — they’re all on this song I’m going to put Mike on. It’s going to have ridiculous star power. With Robert Margouleff co-producing, it’s up there on with the rock pantheon.”

Shah-Tayler discovered Alan Moore, a comic book writer whom he respects “massively,” when he was 16.

“When I read ‘Watchmen’ at 16, it changed my perception and life,” he says. “I didn’t realize that comic books could be literature. ‘Watchmen’ is the only comic book on the New York Times’ top 100 books of all time.”

Shah-Tayler admittedly stole some of Moore’s movie imagery to combine with David J’s song that he covered for his 60th birthday “kanreki” album.

“I did not know they were great friends,” he says. “It was the first time David (J) was aware of me. I made the song. He loved the song. It was incredibly synchronicity. It did not go unnoticed by David J.”

Great response

The response to “Elysium” has been great. Shah-Tayler has been featured in a multitude of magazines and has made end-of-the-year top 20s and top 10s for blogs and podcasts.

“I’m excited,” he says. “It’s not one consistent song. ‘End of the Line’ was proposed for a Grammy. It didn’t make the short list because I didn’t have the money to network to push it through to the next level. I was thrilled that it was at least proposed. A lot of people say it sounds very Bowie-esque. It’s an honor for me.”

Six of the songs from the sessions didn’t make it on the album. They’ll appear on the follow-up collection, which will feature David Bowie’s keyboard player Mike Garson.

“He’s agreed to play on the album,” he says. “I’m very excited about that. He listened to the track and offered to play on more than one. Carmine Rojas, the bassist from David Bowie’s band, will be on two of the songs.”

When Shah-Tayler isn’t recording his own music, he performs with Depeche Mode (Strangelove) and Bowie tributes.

“I have a lot of electronic music in my background,” he says. “For this album, I play acoustic guitar and piano and keep that extra bells and whistles to a minimum. It served the songs well.”

He uses his daft networking skills to introduce folks to “Elysium.”

“There’s a lyric by Bowie in ‘Modern Love’: ‘It’s not really work/It’s just the power to charm.’ Now I relate 100% to that lyric. I have to charm people enough to buy my record. They buy it because they like me and then they realize they like the music. The power is in the hands of the artist a little bit more.”

Lemonade launches new menu at all 21 locations

By Kamala Kirk

Lemonade recently launched a new menu that includes craveable warm flavors of fall and winter with natural, fresh ingredients. The renewed menu features an updated build-your-own protein plate, two new chef’s bowls, two new hot sides and a new vegan handcrafted sandwich.

“We are launching several seasonal menu items that are in line with our mission to serve colorful, seasonal, California-inspired food,” says chef Nate Weir, Modern Restaurant Concepts VP of culinary. “This is one of our most significant seasonal menu launches to date.”

Lemonade is a California-based modern cafeteria that serves colorful, seasonal and healthy fare. It offers beautifully prepared salads, signature grain bowls, hearty braised proteins, flavor-packed sandwiches and trademark handcrafted lemonades.

The new menu items include a sustainable salmon bowl; Comfort Bowl; rosemary sweet potato hash; roasted veggies; golden cauliflower sandwich; and a Brussels sprouts, dates and Parmesan marketplace side. It has also added a new raspberry mint lemonade, and the build-your-own protein plate features seven new proteins and six new sauces to pick from for a fully customizable guest experience.

“Customers will enjoy the flexibility and customization of the build-your-own protein plate because up until now, a protein came with a specific sauce and our guests couldn’t make any changes,” Weir says. “There are seven proteins and six sauces, so there are a lot of different options that our guests can choose from to make a plate. You could come to Lemonade every day during the week with a different flavor profile you are looking for and get exactly what you want.”

The new items are available at all 21 of Lemonade’s locations, including Venice and Santa Monica. Seasonal items such as the raspberry mint lemonade and Brussels sprouts marketplace side are available until March. All other items are available until further notice.

“We’re engineering the menu to make the experience even better for our guests,” adds Josh Chesterson, Modern Restaurant Concepts culinary creative director. “Offering choices empowers our guests and, we hope, will move them to choose us with even more frequency.”

Urban Press Winery brings back the fun

By Frier McCollister

A quiet block of San Fernando Boulevard in Downtown Burbank seems an unlikely location for a productive winery, tasting room and restaurant.

The modest and unassuming storefront belies a series of handsomely designed dining areas inside and a spacious outdoor porch and patio in back. Open a house brand bottle on the rustically elegant porch and the transportive atmosphere conjures a charming Tuscan trattoria, with live jazz music spilling out to the nearby alleyways of Downtown Burbank.

Urban Press Winery is the brainchild of the ever-affable and voluble Giovanni D’Andrea, a former tech executive and first-generation Italian native of Montreal.

“Growing up in Montreal, they had to import grapes from California. I had a little bit of knowledge on how to make wine back then but never took it really seriously,” D’Andrea recalls. “Coming out here, I realized grapes were available and we have wine-growing regions within an hour-, two-hour drive from us.”

After settling in Southern California in 1989, D’Andrea began making small batches of wine from his rented garage.

“I was actually renting a room, when I asked the owner for permission to start making wine in the garage,” he says.

“Back in 1993 was my first year. It came to the point where my wife told me, ‘OK, I think you have to move this out of the garage. You now have eight barrels.’”

Over time, his passion for winemaking extended to the acquisition of grapes from a few farmers’ vineyards in Sonoma County, where he expanded the scope and range of his winemaking. Still, D’Andrea’s vision was more expansive.

“I wanted to make the wines, but I wanted to bring the whole experience to the city. There are millions and millions of people here in LA who have never visited a tasting room or had the opportunity,” he notes.

He emphasized the importance of tasting and compares wine selection to buying perfume. A wine-tasting sample should direct you in the same way a spritz of perfume informs an aroma preference.

“The tasting room is all about educating people that there are great wines out there that are affordable,” D’Andrea asserts. Accessibility is important here. The reasonable price points for the high quality of the wine reflect the fact that there is no distributor or “middleman” adding surcharges.

In 2011, D’Andrea acquired his winemaking license. “We cultivated and produced our first vintages. Believe it or not those were all reds. Back then, I was really a ‘red’ guy. I was a big fan of the heavy cabs. Now we do four varietals,” he notes.

“Being in the city you have to be able to offer all kinds of varietals. I was never the biggest fan of pinot noirs. Guess what? I love pinot noir today. It’s one of our top sellers here. In the city, you have to please a lot of different palates.”

To that end, experienced French winemaker Francois Cordesse joined D’Andrea’s team in 2018. An award-winning oenologist, Cordesse largely tends to the active cultivation of the vineyards and their harvests for specific vintages.

D’Andrea grins and replies when asked about his favorite.

“Honestly? Any bottle that’s open,” he says. “But I’m really big into my syrah rose. We just released our 2017 syrah red. I’ve been eating and tagging along with that syrah right now.”

For many connoisseurs, the best wine is meant to accompany and enhance the experience of enjoying finely prepared cuisine. One needn’t leave the premises of Urban Press Winery to test a chosen bottle with delicious food. It should also be noted that a complimentary wine tasting at the front tasting bar kicks off any dining experience at Urban Press from 6 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 6 to 9 p.m. Sundays.

D’Andrea recruited Roman-trained chef Emidio Tidu in 2021 to help command a trailer with a wood-burning oven that D’Andrea had built and placed in the open back patio. Initially limited to pizzas and pastas, Tidu was promised a full kitchen, the buildout of which was delayed until January of last year.

In May, Urban Press opened its dining rooms, presenting Tidu’s full menu of masterfully sophisticated, elevated takes on Italian cuisine. Each dish provides an ideal medium for sampling and pairing the subtly cultivated notes of the wines here.

A survey of the menu begins with oysters, available by the half or full dozen ($21/$34). They arrive in a fresh combination of Kushu and Kumai, from British Columbia and Baja, respectively.

Depending on appetite and party size, there are two charcuterie boards ($32/$50) amply arrayed with a spectrum of Italian cheeses and cured meat, garnished with fig jam, olives, dried fruit and nuts. “Antipasti” choices include a house-favorite grilled octopus with fingerling potatoes and olives ($21) as well as beef tartare served with black truffle and caviar ($22).

There are steaks including a 9-ounce filet mignon ($41), a 14-ounce Angus ribeye ($40), or a massive 32-ounce tomahawk ($130) for two. Seafood entrees include grilled calamari with sauteed spinach ($25) and the obligatory cioppino, the Italian seafood stew of mussels, clams, shrimp and calamari ($31).

Pasta, risotto and individual pizzas come with the territory inevitably here, and all can find aptly delicious pairings with any of the winery’s bottles. Mushroom and truffle fettuccine ($33), lobster squid-ink ravioli ($25) and cacio e pepe ($18) all stand out as intriguing pasta options. The risotto Piemontese ($21) is highlighted as a signature dish and is prepared with arborio rice simmered slowly in Urban Press cabernet. Notable pizza preps: the garlic shrimp ($21) and the “Miss Italia,” also a house favorite with fresh prosciutto, arugula and Parmesan ($25).

Thirst and hunger will always be sated in an elegant and complementary fashion at Urban Press Winery. Brunch is offered on the weekends, and there is an attractive happy hour menu offered from 3 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Select Urban Press wines, $6, are available, as are five discounted menu options ($6 to $11).

In the winery’s tasting room, a flight of five selections can be sampled for $25. The fee is waived on with the purchase of two bottles. Or, if the charm and quality of Urban Press Winery bottles have thoroughly seduced a guest, an exclusive Wine Club membership program may also be considered for a waiver of the tasting fee.

The club offers three levels of engagement: The “Starter” is premised on the purchase of two bottles per month and includes a 15% discount on bottles to go and two tastings for two per month; the “Club” level — based on a three-bottle monthly purchase — offers a 25% discount on bottles as well as 5% off the food menu and three tastings for two per month; and the “VIP” membership includes a 35% discount on to-go bottles, a 10% discount off the menu, and four tastings for two each month. The memberships can be specified for red or white exclusively or for white and rose or “mixed” accordingly. Current pricing for memberships is available on its website.

The experience of Urban Press Winery is fully immersive in the sense that once you have settled at your table with food and wine, live music will also always be part of the fun. A rotating cast of combos and musicians plays near the tasting room. The jazz combo appearing for the weekend brunch service is particularly popular.

There are also periodic evening dinner package specials featuring coursed menus with wine pairings and live entertainment.

“We have a super staff now,” D’Andrea enthuses. Ably led by general manager Caryn Adams, Urban Press is expected to be serving lunch soon. “By the middle of the summer latest,” D’Andrea promises.

Musing on his surroundings and the placid oasis he has created in the middle of the city, D’Andrea notes, “Burbank has an unknown charm to it. What city has its own airport and its own Ikea? We have not just opened a winery; we have opened a destination.”

Looking out over the patio from the expansive porch, breeze lilting with soft jazz in the air, D’Andrea concludes, “The experience here is I’m trying to put the fun back into going out. (We have) affordable wines, great wines and probably one of the best Italian restaurants in our city today. People are looking for value. Great service. Great wine. Great food. I think we have it all covered.”

Langham Huntington, Pasadena’s program
enhances guests’ wellness

By Kamala Kirk

The Langham Huntington, Pasadena is among the properties from Langham Hospitality Group that is helping guests get up on the right side of the bed with Sleep Matters by Chuan, a comprehensive global sleep wellness program developed in conjunction with the World Sleep Society, whose mission is dedicated to advancing sleep health worldwide with medical and scientific expertise.

“Langham Hospitality Group understands that sleep plays a vital role in a memorable hotel stay,” says Leslie Marks, e-commerce manager at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena. “In conjunction with the World Sleep Society and aligning perfectly with the Chuan Spa wellness brand’s connection to restorative practices, Sleep Matters was devoted to not only help guests improve their sleep quality and thus better enjoy their overall stay, but also to share some tips they can take home with them to continue their journey to better rest.”

Sleep plays a vital role in one’s well-being and quality of life, as well as physical performance and mental health. Numerous factors affect sleep, including travel and hotel stays. By improving the quality of guests’ sleep during their visit, Langham Hospitality Group is helping travelers create more memorable experiences which allows for greater enjoyment of their vacation and higher productivity on a business trip.

“Lack of sleep affects everything from physical energy to productivity and even general happiness,” Marks says. “Think about how much a poor night’s sleep affects your mood the next day. Giving the body time to fully rest and optimally recover from the day can help you achieve better quality of life in almost every aspect you can think of.”

Good sleep is the connective element between a hotel and its guests, and each of Langham Hospitality Group’s hotels around the world is offering their own packages and local elements as part of Sleep Matters by Chuan. Exclusive elements include a magazine curated by the World Sleep Society, as well as offerings based around wellness rituals from Langham Hospitality Group’s global wellness brand, Chuan Spa.

“Any change in routine has the potential to disrupt our natural rhythms, but especially travel because you’re in a new, unfamiliar place, and sometimes in a different time zone,” Marks says. “The elements of Sleep Matters aim to alleviate this by helping to calm the body and mind effectively and fully, optimally preparing you for a restful night and allowing the body to replenish itself as you sleep.”

At each hotel, guests will have access to a broad selection of offerings to help them get the best sleep possible, including a Sleep Matters Turndown Kit that features items such as herbal tea, branded ear plugs, a cushioned sleep mask and Sleep Tips Cards from World Sleep Society. The Langham Hotels in the United States will also offer SOM, an all-natural, drug-free sleep aid beverage that is available in regular and sugar-free options.

Guests also have access to a Sleep Matters Menu, which allows them to order a selection of wellness-related items during their stay, including a yoga mat and fitness ball for pre-sleep stretching; a selection of pillow options and white noise sleep machines; and, in select locations, Chuan elemental oils and lavender bath products for a pre-bedtime soak.

Other offerings include a Spotify playlist with specially curated tracks from around the world designed to help guests relax as they get ready for sleep and bedtime reading in the form of a Sleep Matters brochure and a special edition of the World Sleep Society Healthier Sleep Magazine, which can be accessed from every guest room via a QR code. It enables guests to explore The Langham Hotels & Resorts and Cordis Hotels & Resorts Sleep Matters website, including Chuan Spa’s proprietary Five Elements questionnaire and tips for restful breathing exercises. The magazine was specially curated for The Langham and focuses on guest travel, covering a range of topics such as developing healthy habits for healthy sleep, circadian rhythms, improving children’s sleep, recovery from jetlag and mindfulness, among other useful sleep wellness topics.

The Sleep Matters program at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena includes luxurious accommodations in the room type of one’s choice, two 60-minute Signature Chuan Harmony Massages with Aromatherapy Enhancement, two packets of aromatherapy bath salts for in-room use, two eye masks, two sets of ear plugs, and two SOM Sleep beverages.

“Almost every guest I’ve spoken to highlights the Chuan Spa elements of the package as the key, while the other package amenities support and further the calmness that the spa services have begun,” Marks says. “A Chuan Harmony Massage, followed by a warm aromatherapy bath back in your guestroom while sipping on the SOM drink, has truly become an effective journey for our guests, and they without fail have rave reviews upon checkout.”

Marks adds that The Langham Huntington, Pasadena also offers a few complimentary wellness add-ons that can be requested in room, such as a yoga mat and ball, fitness kit or a white noise machine, and some extras for purchase including a sleep mask and kettle with a selection of herbal teas. Rates start at $900 per night plus tax, based on double occupancy.

“Sleep Matters is available year-round. We do recommend booking in advance so we can ensure the spa services are also booked and confirmed ahead of time,” Marks says. “However, based on availability, we could accommodate an upgrade to the package upon check-in if a guest inquired. I would definitely encourage anyone who is curious about the program to visit our website to learn more about the package and Chuan Spa as a brand. There are so many different ways you can curate your own wellness experience to have a truly unique and memorable getaway.”

Development set to open along Walnut in Pasadena

By Luke Netzley

For architect Jon Kelly, walkability is the forefront of his architectural vision. It’s a philosophy that he says is infused in Tyler Kelly Architecture’s newest Pasadena project, MW Lofts.

The 115-unit, twin-building project commanding the corner of Walnut Street and El Molino Avenue will be a mixed-use development that includes commercial, retail and restaurant spaces on the ground floor as well as a widened walkway to increase the flow of pedestrians in and around the site.

“There’s an aspect of new urbanism that we really try to subscribe to for all of our projects,” Kelly says. “That’s the ability to function in your daily life and with your daily routines without the use of a car. So having restaurants and retail on the ground floor that are activated and used and then being able to go upstairs to your residence is a principal component to a lot of the projects that we work on.”

The MW Lofts project began in 2015 as a partnership between developer Prominent Investment; general contractor PGK Partners; civil engineer Tritech Engineering; structural and MEP engineer Gouvis Engineering Group; and design and fabrication firm Creative Machines, among others.

Originally, Tyler Kelly Architecture was only contracted to work on the site’s eastern building before the scope of the project increased to include the western parcel. In terms of the design aesthetic, Kelly says that the aim was not to create “identical twins, but more so fraternal twins.”

“They’d have similarities in their massing and in their character, but they would have some differences in how they’re perceived from the street,” Kelly explains. “The west building has a more vertical appearance, whereas the east building has a more horizontal appearance. In terms of the planning of both projects, we created an interior courtyard for the east building, and our circulation for the upper floors goes around that interior courtyard, whereas the west building’s principal exterior amenity is a rooftop terrace, which is something that isn’t normally seen in too many of these types of buildings. So we were very excited to be able to provide that opportunity for the residents.”

The site will also include a “loja” feature that covers the south side of both buildings to protect the walkways from the afternoon sun.

Another key feature of the MW Lofts development is that it is a density bonus project, which means that it possesses affordable units. Kelly explained that there are 10 “very low-income units” proposed for the site, which would afford MW Lofts with a relief on height restrictions. This would allow the development to be built up to six stories while the maximum height for most other buildings remains capped at five, giving MW Lofts the ability to house more penthouse units along with the rooftop amenity on the western building.

“This brings a taller building mass to the Walnut area,” Kelly says.

With the eastern building set for completion in March and the western building set to open by the end of the year, Kelly’s hope is that MW Lofts will not only improve the surrounding area’s walkability but also inspire others to consider building with the same tenets in mind.

“Walnut is an interesting street because it does have a lot of mixed-use developments that are beginning to rise in that area … so we were excited to be able to design on this site and give the community yet another cornerstone piece to continue the pedestrian experience along Walnut,” he says. “(MW Lofts) makes Walnut a very viable candidate for being … an artery within Pasadena. I think the legacy or the goal of this is … other developers will follow suit and will create a very vibrant active street for the future.”

Matt McIntyre named Showcase House benefit chair

By Luke Netzley

For third-generation Pasadena native Matt McIntyre, service to his community has been a core part of his life since childhood. Having volunteered for institutions like Five Acres, Gamble House and the Tournament of Roses Association, he was drawn to Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts (PSHA) because it combined his love for design with the opportunity to benefit local communities.

McIntyre has now been selected as the benefit chair for the 58th Pasadena Showcase House of Design.

“It’s such a huge honor,” McIntyre says. “I’m excited for this year because we’ve come out of COVID. I’m excited for this year because we have a spectacular house. I’m so thankful to the owners of the 2023 Showcase House and the gift that they’ve given to our organization and to the people of Pasadena and the other patrons that come to support Showcase. It’ll really be a special year.”

McIntyre joined PSHA in 2018 as a community volunteer and has since taken on numerous leadership positions as both a board member and as part of the Benefit Leadership Team for last year’s Showcase House of Design.

While joining the organization allowed him to continue serving his beloved Pasadena, it also allowed McIntyre to volunteer alongside his husband, Garrett Collins, who sits on PSHA’s board of directors.

“Garrett and I had talked a lot about what we wanted. … We wanted something that captured both of our interests and that we would be able to enjoy side by side,” McIntyre explains. “Garrett’s undergrad was in music performance, and he was a classically trained flutist, so that had a nice connection to Showcase. He then went to graduate school focusing on nonprofit management. … It just felt like, here’s sort of the perfect marriage of our interests, which are interests that we’re not currently able to fully fulfill in our professional lives, so this feels like a great place for us. We joined and haven’t looked back.”

McIntyre’s passion for interior design was ignited during the formative year of his childhood, when his parents began a large-scale project on their home and enlisted the help of an interior designer, Tocco Finale owner Dona Dockendorf, a long-standing Showcase House designer.

McIntyre went on to study interior design and graduate from Cornell University, where he began to discover a love for real estate. He has since spent over 15 years in the real estate industry, was named Pasadena’s Realtor of the Year in 2018, and currently works as an agent for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties.

McIntyre expresses hope that he can continue to utilize the skills he honed during his real estate career, particularly as “the logistics guy,” to contribute to the work that PSHA does to support the arts.

“I’m really honored with what Showcase has done in its history and what it continues to do,” he says. “Our contributions to the community through our ‘Gifts and Grants’ program has put out over 24 million in funds.

“The city of Pasadena is home to me. It’s where my maternal grandparents grew up. It’s where my parents grew up. … My parents met at Canterbury Records on Colorado Boulevard. My grandfather was a fire captain for the Pasadena Fire Department for many years. What I especially love about Pasadena is that I can go to the dry cleaners or to the grocery store, or out to eat, and I know not just the employees but I know people in that space, and I love that kind of connection to the place that I live.”

McIntyre expresses excitement at unveiling this year’s Showcase House, a 1933 grand colonial estate called Stewart House, to the Pasadena community. He explained that having a house designed by Pasadena architectural partnership Marston & Maybury gives the space a certain “pedigree” and that it’s rare for PSHA to be given a house that has two flat acres of land.

Once Stewart House is opened to the public on Sunday, April 23, the collection of over 30 designers will be able to unveil their work to visitors. This year’s design team includes both international names such as Ra Designs’ Mouna Stewart, Lôue Interiors’ Louise Johnsen Mueller and Rterior’s Rydhima Brar, and local favorites like Karen Billman, Rachel Duarte, The Art of Room Design’s Maria Videla-Juniel and Tocco Finale’s Dockendorf, the designer who inspired McIntyre’s love for interior design.

“We all come full circle,” McIntyre says. “My great hope is that Showcase continues to be an important part of the Pasadena community, and that future generations get to experience Showcase as I did growing up in this community and as a young adult in this community.

“With digital media, we have a great opportunity to see a lot of different design. Design has become very accessible for consumers to view and enjoy in a digital way. What it has done with that is that we don’t have as much interaction, physical interaction, viewing design spaces and seeing work that current interior designers are actively doing. Showcase is this great place for the public to come see what’s now, and I’m hopeful that continues for generations to come.”

Tommy Lei tells stories through photos, home renovations

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Tommy Lei calls himself a “creative soul.”

Whether he’s photographing his travels or renovating a home, he has what’s best for the subject at hand.

This chapter of his life started during the pandemic, when he discovered a “really deep love for interiors” with his first home.

“I believe in having a house you can call a home,” Lei says.

“Just from personal experience, I really love it when I walk inside a house and let the house do the talking. I never try to force something that doesn’t work in a home.”

He says it’s unfortunate that so many homes are quickly flipped in Los Angeles, as the house’s soul gets lost in the process. When he purchased his Spanish revival colonial in Pasadena, he absorbed the personality of the home.

“Again, I let the house speak to me,” he says. “I think that’s a big part of my interior design philosophy.”

Lei carefully chooses the homes he renovates. He accepts personal referrals but isn’t actively looking for new clients.

“I want a project to speak to me,” Lei says. “I’m definitely open to renovating projects that are more on the preservation side or the side of refreshing a home, decorating homes that are in need of a seasonal refreshment.”

Involvement runs deep

His involvement with the arts runs deep. Also during the pandemic, he saw a lack of respect for artists of Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage.

He co-founded the Golden 8ours, a modern AAPI artist collective, to spotlight emerging Asian American talent or other artists who shy away from self-promotion.

“It’s important to pay it forward, and I think that can happen in any community,” he says. “It’s most important in the community that’s hugely underrepresented when it comes to art.

“As much as I love all of our pedigreed artists, like Basquiat and Andy Warhol, I believe in supporting living artists and their livelihood. I push my people to look around their local neighborhood, city or gallery and support a local artist who needs the exposure. It’s just so important to support your artist friends and living artists.”

He considers himself an artist as well. An avid traveler, Lei hoarded decades’ worth of photos from his trips. He couldn’t peruse artwork during the pandemic, so he — albeit quietly and shyly — decorated his home with his photos. That generated interest on his social media platforms.

“My audience asked if they could purchase prints,” Lei recalls. “I started using my own space as a way of showcasing my photographs. I had perceived my decadeslong photography hobby as just a hobby. I didn’t see it as anything beyond that.”

While renovating his first home, he took his collection and blended it with works from other artists whose work he’s collected over the years.

“It was a cool way of creating a gallery wall that spoke to me on a personal and artistic level,” he says. “To see my own work mixed in with other people, it made the space so much more personal in that sense.”

From that point on, he promoted his work and exhibited in galleries including those in Brooklyn, Minneapolis and LA’s Chinatown, where he grew up.

“I feel like (the public) views Asian Americans as doctors, engineers and lawyers,” he says. “They never quite see us as artists. That’s become my personal mission — to really lift up our artists in our communities.”

Global citizen

Lei is a global citizen, someone who doesn’t stick with the touristy spots. He partakes in activities that take him out of his comfort zone.

The destination doesn’t have to be anywhere flashy either. Lei recently returned from Ohio and Pennsylvania, where he took in the architecture and the history.

“My next trip, I hope, is going to take me back to Asia for a little bit,” he says. “I have not been back since 2019, and that was the biggest trip I had out there. I want to go back to my homeland of Hong Kong. I really do miss it.

“I’d love to go back to Santa Fe sometime this year but explore outside of the immediate city. I’d go to Taos and explore the wilderness a little bit. I’m also hoping to journey out to Japan. Asia — or anywhere that calls me, really — would be a big focus of mine this year. I was approached about doing a trip to South Africa. I’m looking into that as well.”

The key to his trips, photography and home renovations is the story and preserving it.

“I’m never that photographer who shoots in your face or who makes you pose in a certain way,” he says. “I find it uncomfortable, just as a bystander. I try to photograph people in their element, their best light, their natural state. I want to tell the stories around me no matter what I do. I love that act of preservation, solidifying that moment in time that you can never truly go back to.”