Art is a Risky Investment

Here are a few pointers for aspiring collectors who want to take the plunge.

We might fantasize that art is the perfect investment — buy something you love by an emerging artist, live with it for years and then sell it to make a small fortune on your foresight.

“One of my clients acquired two Helen Frankenthaler paintings in 1966, large paintings, and he bought them for $2,500 each,” says Culver City art dealer Edward Cella. “We helped him sell one for $700,000 and the other for more than that. The collector knew what he was looking for – Frankenthaler was already well known by then; she was an important emerging woman artist.” Indeed, by 1964 she had already been included in Clement Greenberg’s landmark LACMA show, Post-Painterly Abstraction, and she continued to work and exhibit; today she’s recognized as a major contributor in the history of postwar American art.

But, like most dealers, Cella cautions against expecting an art purchase to yield such a big return on your money — there are too many variables, including the artist’s career and reputation and the unpredictable art market in general.

For most people, buying art is a luxury. It’s true, you may be able to buy work for a few hundred dollars from small galleries or weekend art fairs, and anyone familiar with Antiques Roadshow on PBS has seen the lucky few who made lucrative finds in their grand-aunt’s attic or at a flea market. If you watch the show enough, however, you also know that some objects just aren’t worth as much as people expect, or they’re only worth a fraction of the going value, due to their poor condition or questionable provenance.

The art dealers interviewed for this story suggest that investment-grade art will probably cost in the thousands, and the buyer must be prepared not to get the money back when it comes time to sell. Although Citibank and some private dealers see art as an “asset class” like stocks and bonds, many question this idea. Most agree that investing in art is risky business.

One can buy wisely, however, writes Alan Bamberger, a San Francisco–based art consultant and author of The Art of Buying Art (Gordon’s Art Reference; 2002), on his website, artbusiness.com. “Anyone can buy and collect art intelligently … All you need is a love and appreciation of fine art, a desire to collect and a willingness to familiarize yourself with a few simple techniques that will allow you to assess and evaluate any work of art dating from any time period by any artist of any nationality.”

Bamberger proposes a set of questions for the potential buyer to consider, namely:

“Who is the artist?

“How significant is the art?

“What is the art’s provenance, history and documentation (or more simply, where has the art been and who’s owned it)?

“Is the asking price fair?”

This overlaps with advice the Los Angeles gallerists offered aspiring buyers: Begin with research, research and more research — going to museums, galleries and art fairs, and reading up on artists whose work you like. “The best thing an individual can do is to establish an aesthetic and an awareness of what exists,” says Jack Rutberg, who has been running his La Brea gallery for over 35 years and specializes in some blue-chip artists. “Spend time in museums. It really is important to look at the Old Masters, all the way through to the modern and contemporary artists. The Norton Simon Museum is probably the greatest tutor one could have — you could start with the South and Southeast Asian art, then the Old Masters such as Cranach, Memling, just look at the remarkable hand.”

Blue-chip artists are stars whose works can command six-figures-plus (think Richard Serra, Ed Ruscha, Agnes Martin, David Hockney). Like blue-chip stocks, they are pricy, but in a category that makes higher returns more likely when you are ready to sell them after a decade or more. “If a high priority is that the artwork retains value,” says Elizabeth East, a director at the prestigious L.A. Louver Gallery in Venice, “I suggest focusing on well-established artists with solid track records, like David Hockney. But there is never any guarantee.”

Of course, few of us can afford to buy those artists. So is it possible to put together a modestly priced art collection and expect its value to eventually increase?

Two areas often recommended for beginning collectors are prints and photographs. Since these works are produced in multiples, they are less expensive than one-of-a-kind art. Some of the same evaluation criteria hold, however, such as the condition of specific works by artists of reputation (those reviewed or featured in major publications, collected by museums, shown at biennials, etc.). With prints and photographs, it is recommended that you look for signed works in small, limited editions. Works produced in the thousands, for example, will generally be worth less than works by the same artist produced in an edition of 100 or fewer.

“In my exhibition, Surreal/Unreal [through Feb. 18], I have over 100 works, and every one would be worthy of a museum collection,” says Rutberg. “They range from $350 to over a million.” He points out that there are many things in the show under $2,000, including works by Giorgio de Chirico and Roberto Matta, one of the last to join the Surrealists. Cella suggested looking at the photographs of Pedro Guerrero, a principal photographer for Frank Lloyd Wright. Guerrero was the subject of a PBS American Masters documentary in 2015, and Cella’s current show, Guerrero: Calder & Nevelson, In Their Studios (through March 4), features photographs he took in the studios of artists Alexander Calder and Louise Nevelson.

It is important to determine the condition of the work and its provenance (origin or previous ownership). A reputable dealer can provide information about the artist’s background and track record and can vouch for the authenticity and source of the work. Sometimes artists do sell their own work, and the Photo Independent Art Fair was established in L.A. in 2014 to provide a venue for that. This year the fair takes place April 21 through 23 at The Reef in downtown L.A. Photographers have also sold their own work at another local fair, Photo L.A., which falls in January, although most exhibitors are galleries. Answering Bamberger’s question No. 4 — is the asking price fair? — can be particularly challenging. After gathering information about an artist you’re considering, you’ll want to look at comparable sales for that person’s work. You can do this online, and study databases on auction houses’ websites, or on artnet.com, blouinartinfo.com and artprice.com. Some sites require a subscription — for example, the Blouin Art Sales Index charges $39 a month or $199 for a year of access. On artnet.com you can search without a subscription for works currently for sale, although you often will see the note “price on request.”

Those with very large amounts to invest might want to look into services offered by specialized fund managers, such as Citibank’s Private Bank Art Advisory & Finance group. Its website says, “Our art advisors can guide you through the art world, providing personalized acquisition and selling strategies, as well as collection management services.” But even Citi, in the smaller print, offers the disclaimer, “Alternative assets such as art are speculative, may not be suitable for all clients and are intended for those who are willing to bear high economic risks.”

In the end, collectors and dealers share this mantra: Buy what you love. Then, whether or not the work appreciates in monetary value, you will still have it gracing your wall, enhancing your quality of life. “Perhaps the best return you can achieve from art,” says East, “is the enjoyment it gives you over time.”

TRUMP, TAXES AND YOU

The new president’s tax proposals include a huge cut for the mega-wealthy, but they also make it harder for them to donate to charities.

The federal income tax code is very complicated stuff. That’s why most news outlets don’t even try to explain its bloated and byzantine byways to Americans — 70 percent of whom do not even itemize on their tax returns. Most taxpayers want to know only how much they’ll have to pay or get back. Or, in the case of the uber-rich and corporations, whether they’ll be able to insulate themselves from taxes altogether.

Under President Donald Trump’s tax proposals, the very wealthy appear likely to receive a big bonanza in tax relief, depending on what news sources you read. The New York Times, for example, warned about potentially dire consequences of Trump’s proposal to repeal the estate tax. Last November, the paper reported that if Trump’s plan passes, “a host of taxes that affect only the very richest Americans may be eliminated, along with almost all tax incentives to be philanthropic. As a result, wealthy families may find it much easier to amass dynastic levels of wealth.” It went on to say that the plan would “allow for the creation of generational wealth to rival that of the last Gilded Age, after which the modern estate tax was enacted in 1916.”

Another story in the Times business section said “the wealthy are already partying like it’s 1989. If Trump makes good on his tax cut promises, billions are expected to go back into their pockets.” The writer inexplicably sought out Robin Leach, whose 1980s TV show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous got big ratings. “Cars will get bigger, houses will be more luxurious and it will be OK to wear jewelry and gowns again,” Mr. Leach, 75, enthused.

The current federal estate-tax exemption is $5.49 million per individual, almost $11 million per couple (surviving spouses can carry over each other’s unused exemptions). That means an individual can leave $5.49 million to heirs and pay no federal estate tax. Above that amount, the tax rate is 40 percent.

Current law also allows estate assets to receive a “stepped-up basis” designation which permits any capital gains to escape taxation when they are passed to heirs. In other words, a stock purchased for $100,000 that has appreciated in value to $1 million by the time of the original purchaser’s death, will escape capital gains taxes because the Internal Revenue Service “steps up” the initial purchase price to its valuation at the fine of transfer.

Trump’s plan seems to go much further, although it’s short on specifics and leaves a lot open to interpretation. It has a provision to repeal the estate tax entirely. Some analysts say it might then be replaced by a capital gains tax, which is currently 20 percent — half the estate tax. And even that 20 percent might be avoided, according to analysts at The Tax Foundation, who interpret Trump’s proposal to mean that “the gain would be subject to tax only when the inheritor sells the asset, not upon the death of the decedent.” Critics contend that means taxes may never be paid on a family’s real estate assets, like the Trumps’ hotels, residential buildings and golf courses; heirs could borrow against such holdings, while the properties themselves are passed down through generations.

We reached out to certified financial planner Mitchell E. Kauffman, ¬owner and managing director of Kauffman Wealth Management, an independent financial advisory services firm with offices in Pasadena and Santa Barbara. We asked his opinion of Trump’s tax plan and whether he’s noticed any jubilation among his wealthiest clients. Kauffman says no to the latter question and calls Trump’s tax plan, in his opinion, a “mixed bag, with a lot of moving parts,” many of which have not been clarified yet.

“Some things Trump is proposing are very friendly to high–net–worth people, but he’s also talking about putting limitations on deductions, which particularly affect mortgage deductions and charitable contributions. The affluent tend to be the strongest charitable donors,” he adds, so diminishing those deductions “most likely would not be very favorable to affluent people.” Nor would it be good for nonprofits, he adds. “We know that the National Council of Nonprofits has expressed concern over this, which they see as a potentially tremendous setback in their efforts to support charities and nonprofits.”

The estate tax, he says, is the easiest part of the plan to address. “Eliminating the estate tax has been a cherished goal of conservative Republicans for a number of years. And with a Republican congress and administration, most analysts are predicting that the estate tax will be eliminated — which would mean that when people pass, their assets would go to their heirs without any additional taxation. But estimates show that only .02 percent of all estates that are settled each year are subject to the federal estate tax, so proponents of this argue that the impact is more symbolic than financially impactful on the economy and the budget.”

A key concern for Kauffman is the possibility that if the estate tax is eliminated, the current stepped-up basis designation might also be eliminated. In that scenario, he says, heirs at all financial levels who inherit a property would receive the same cost base that the decedent had, which would create a much higher capital gains tax than under the current system.

Another key concern for Kauffman revolves around the proposed limits on deductions. “For a state like California, which has higher state and local income taxes, right now individuals can deduct those state and local taxes on their returns, which in essence puts some of the burden on the federal government. If the Feds limit deductions, it could prompt state and local governments to raise taxes in order to compensate.” And, Kauffman says, that limit on deductions might also impact how much mortgage interest people can deduct, “which could have a detrimental effect on affluent real-estate markets such as the one we have in Pasadena.”

The caveat to all this, Kauffman says, is that we’re just talking about proposals now, and we have no idea what Congress will actually pass into law that might differ in some basic directions or help offset any drawbacks.

A number of organizations have evaluated Trump’s tax proposal and come up with overview analyses, most of which predict tax cuts for all income brackets, with the biggest cuts going to the top tier of wealth. The Tax Policy Center of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution, for example, predicts “the highest income taxpayers (.1 percent of the population, with annual incomes over $3.7 million) … would experience an average tax cut of nearly $1.1 million — over 14 percent of after-tax income. Households in the middle fifth in income distribution would receive an average tax cut of $1,010, or 1.8 percent of after-tax income, while the poorest fifth of households would see their taxes go down an average of $110, or .8 percent of after-tax income.” Another group, The Tax Foundation, estimated that middle-class taxpayers, on average, will see a nearly $500-per-year income boost from Trump’s plan.

The most publicized analysis was performed by NYU law professor Lily Batchelder, an expert on tax policy who worked for President Obama’s National Economic Council. Her study examined the likely effects of Trump’s proposed tax law changes on individuals and families. Batchelder’s findings, which Trump spokespeople call “pure fiction,” estimate that more than half of America’s single parents and one-fifth of all families with children could see their federal income taxes rise if Trump’s plan is enacted. His proposed tax breaks for these families would add up to less than those they receive today, she said. She concluded that the plan would eliminate the head-of-household filing status along with personal deductions and would impose higher rates on certain income, all of which would combine to raise taxes for many low- and middle-income taxpayers.

Need a Financial Adviser?

Pros recommend strategies for consumers in the market for a financial planner who will look out for their interests — not his.

Selecting a solid financial adviser can be as bewildering as negotiating a maze.

There are many types of investment professionals with different titles, duties, qualifications and forms of compensation. Some adhere to a code of ethics that requires them to be a fiduciary — someone who acts in the client’s best interests, not his own — but others do not. (Dodd-Frank phases in a rule requiring all financial professionals who deal with retirement planning to act as “investment advice fiduciaries,” beginning April 10 — but the Trump Administration is expected to shred that mandate.) You also have to determine the type of adviser who will best understand your needs and comfort level with risk — avoid planners who typically work with a particular range of assets that don’t match your holdings.

A good way to begin your search is to weed out the people who are not qualified to provide objective financial advice or serve as fiduciaries. Brokers, for example, buy and sell stocks, bonds, mutual funds and other products for their clients. They are not fiduciaries and are held to a lower ethical standard. They also receive commissions — payments for opening an account for a client or on the sale of a financial product by the company offering that product — and may persuade you to buy these products, whether or not you need them.

Investment advisers offer guidance on buying securities and manage them for their clients; but unlike brokers, they are generally not in the business of selling securities. They are also known as investment managers, wealth advisers, asset managers, wealth managers or portfolio managers. Registered investment advisers (RIAs) are firms registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission that uphold fiduciary standards.

A third category — financial planner — explores all your financial needs and helps you devise a plan to achieve long-term fiscal goals. “It’s important that a financial adviser be well-versed in more than just investments,” says Mitchell E. Kauffman, a certified financial planner and financial adviser at Kauffmann Wealth Management in Pasadena. “They should know tax planning, estate planning, retirement planning and managing risk. Our clients prefer someone who is more comprehensive, who can look at the whole picture instead of parts of it.”

Certified financial planners, or CFPs, are licensed and regulated by the Washington, D.C.–based CFP Board, which administers an exam to people who wish to earn the CFP designation. CFPs may provide the most objective financial advice because they are fiduciaries, many of whom earn a flat, hourly fee rather than a commission, so they have no incentive to sell their clients products they might not need.

The CFP Board’s website (cfp.net) provides a list of certified financial planners, with their specialties and compensation methods as well as contact information. The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, a group of fee-only professionals, similarly lists its members on its website (napfa.org); you can also search the Financial Planning Association website (plannerssearch.org) for CFPs in your area. After you’ve compiled your list of names, use the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) BrokerCheck (brokercheck.finra.org) to see whether any have been disciplined for unlawful or unethical behavior.

You can now select three or more CFPs and schedule interviews with them to determine whom you should hire. During these interviews, “the most important thing you are looking for, by far, is total and honest disclosure,” Carl Richards, a financial planner in Park City, Utah, told The New York Times. “If you get the sense someone is hiding things or avoiding your questions, move on.”

Some financial planning firms prepare lists of questions for prospective clients. Leah Snell, a CFP and the partner and managing director of Pasadena-based Snowden Lane Partners, has a three-page list of detailed questions designed to unearth information about a financial adviser’s business structure and qualifications, relationship management, investment philosophy and compensation.

Percy E. Bolton, a Pasadena-based fee-only financial adviser, has a questionnaire on his website to help you determine if a prospective financial planner holds to a fiduciary standard. The final question asks the planner to sign a fiduciary oath declaring s/he will act in the client’s best interests, will not receive any money contingent on a client’s purchase or sale of a financial product and will disclose any conflicts of interest that could compromise the planner’s impartiality.

Bolton maintains that determining a financial planner’s fiduciary status and form of compensation should be paramount concerns for prospective clients. You should ask the planner if s/he charges a flat fee or works on commission and find out how much the adviser typically charges.

Other key questions include:

• What experience do you have and how does that relate to your current practice? CFPs are required to have at least three years of financial planning experience.

• What licenses, credentials or other certifications do you have?

• What services do you or your firm provide? Financial planners generally cannot sell insurance or securities without the proper licenses, and they cannot provide investment advice unless they are registered with state or federal authorities.

• What types of clients do you specialize in?

• How do you plan to manage my money? “Advisers can range in investment ideology and it is important to understand the types of investments you would likely own, the risk associated with the investments chosen and the scope of how those investment decisions are made,” explains Alexander Leu, managing director at Pasadena-based Penniall & Associates. “Clients should always understand their portfolio and be educated by their adviser along the way.”

“Planning advice is also crucial,” Leu adds. “What type of planning advice will you be getting? Will it be included in the investment management or will you be charged a separate fee?” He says his firm shows potential clients the planning advice they will receive and sets expectations for how this advice will be delivered. “It is important to know if you are getting a real financial plan or simply a CFP spitting out some basic projections via a financial-planning calculator,” he says.

• How much contact do you have with your clients? Some financial advisers meet with their clients once a year to review their investments; others may meet every three months or more frequently. If you believe you need more support, you will want to make sure your financial planner holds frequent meetings and respondsto phone calls.

• Do you work independently or with a team? Some CFPs argue that a sole practitioner will provide more personalized service than a large firm. Leu, like others, says, “Clients should be looking for a team approach and a firm with many qualified specialists …You want to make sure that the adviser you chose has … professionals around him that can provide a sounding board for collaborative advice they deliver to clients.”

• Personal characteristics: The CFB Board lists seven key traits you should expect from a financial planner: competence, objectivity, integrity, clarity, diligence, compliance and privacy.

It is important that you feel comfortable talking to your adviser and believe he or she understands your needs and goals. “One of the biggest things that is often overlooked is a person’s ability to listen,” says Kauffman. “One thing I’ve learned in my training is if I’m saying two or three sentences in a row, I need to shut up.”

“The most important thing, in my opinion, is chemistry,” says Linda K. Polwrek, a CFP in the Pasadena office of Waddell & Reed. “Do you trust this person, do you feel comfortable sharing your hopes, dreams and certain details of your life with this person? Financial planning is a very intimate process. You share not only your hopes, dreams and goals but all kinds of personal and confidential information about your health, money and financial dynamics.

“Integrity, trust, authenticity and a genuine desire to help people are paramount in an adviser,” Polwrek adds. “Trust your instincts about whether you can relate to each other.”

Bowie Through A Lens

A new Forest Lawn Museum exhibition presents intimate images of the rock star turned art tourist.

Ana Pescador carefully shuffles a pile of large color photographic prints on a table, thumbing through crisp bright images of the late pop star David Bowie visiting historic and cultural locations prior to his only concert in Mexico City, in 1997 — Bowie on the blue steps of the Frida Kahlo Museum, Bowie admiring details in a Diego Rivera mural, the rocker hiding behind a traditional mask.

As the new museum director of the Forest Lawn Glendale Museum, Pescador brings out an image of Bowie standing deep inside the massive Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan. Here is a man surrounded by darkness, illuminated only by a cigarette lighter. “This one is particularly poignant for me,” she says. “It has so many connections. [It evokes the] candlelight celebrations we do here at Forest Lawn, but it’s also about Bowie physically and spiritually inside Mexican culture.”

Pescador, a native of Mexico and former CEO of the Latino Art Museum in Pomona, is prepping for the first stop of a new traveling exhibition she curated — David Bowie: Among the Mexican Masters — which runs through June 15 at Forest Lawn. It features almost 40 intimate, never-before-seen images by renowned Mexican rock and jazz photographer Fernando Aceves.

Twenty years ago, Bowie arrived in Mexico City a few days prior to his Earthling concert, to soak in the local art, history and culture. Aceves said that Bowie had done his research and knew exactly what he wanted to see. Aceves’ photos were to accompany an article Bowie would write for Modern Painters magazine, but the article was never published. “I had already worked with many rock stars like the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Paul McCartney and others,” says Aceves. “But David was special for me. I had been listening to his music and watching him in movies for years. I was a little nervous, but I found him to be very human and approachable.”

Photographed only with ambient light, Aceves’ images show Bowie with a relaxed grin and child-like wonder exploring historical landmarks (e.g. the National Palace, the Palace of Fine Arts) and cultural treasures, including murals by David Alfaro Siqueiros and Jose Clemente Orozco, Rivera, Kahlo and more.

Part of the photographer’s assignment was to be a fly on the wall, capturing Bowie, not as a fashion model, but as an “artist paying tribute to other artists,” explains Aceves. “I think David’s gift was his ability to blend in and be local. I understood why people call him ‘the chameleon,’ because he became part of the scene, the landscape.”

The photos capture a casual side of Bowie that fans rarely saw. “David was used to being photographed throughout his artistic career. He knew how to model with makeup and lights,” says Aceves. “Here, these photographs show him looking human — not as a rock star or a movie star but as a human being experiencing the cultural landscape of Mexico.”

The Bowie exhibition is part of MXLA 2017, a yearlong cultural exchange between Los Angeles and Mexico City. The initiative celebrates L.A.’s connection with the Mexican community through performances, exhibitions and special events. MXLA 2017 will be part of the Pacific Standard Time L.A./Latin America project from Sept. 15 through Jan. 31, 2018, along with the Getty, LACMA, the Greek Theatre and Walt Disney Concert Hall, among others.

Located on the verdant grounds of the century-old cemetery, Forest Lawn Museum has been presenting eclectic programming designed to appeal to a wide audience — including many who aren’t traditional museumgoers. In the past few years, the museum has offered popular installations on the art of Legos, motorcycle design, record-album covers and movie posters. Prior to the Bowie photographs, the museum showcased the work of legendary Disney artist Eyvind Earle. After the Bowie exhibition wraps up in June, Forest Lawn will feature an installation from renowned Chinese artist Cao Yong, followed by a Charlie Brown and friends exhibition from the Charles Schulz Museum in Northern California. Those exhibition dates have not been announced.

It’s an ambitious slate for a small museum that’s still largely unknown. “So many people have said, ‘What? Forest Lawn? They have a museum?’” says Pescador. “I want people to see that Forest Lawn has a museum for the 21st century and that we are proactive in our choices. We are living in a diverse, multicultural society, so that’s what we want to reflect in our galleries. We want to be known as a museum of the community.”

Composed of three gallery spaces, the museum displays works from its extensive permanent collection in the front two galleries. On view are Remington bronze figurines, 15th-century stained glass by Renaissance master Albrecht Dürer, numerous paintings including Lincoln at Gettysburg by Fletcher C. Ransom and William Adolphe Bougereau’s Song of the Angels and even “Henry,” a Moai head from Easter Island.

“The world is changing so rapidly that it’s a challenge to attract new audiences,” explains Pescador. “To me there are only two options: offer innovative exhibitions, which we are doing, and two, make the museum available to the world. My goal is to be a virtual museum.” She’s planning a website dedicated to the museum’s offerings that would make its treasures accessible by art lovers around the world.

Glendale is the only Forest Lawn cemetery to have a museum. In the early 20th century, the idea for it percolated in the mind of Forest Lawn founder Hubert Eaton who, aware that many Californians could never travel to see art around the country and the world, decided to bring art to them. Eaton commissioned cast-from-the-original reproductions of Michelangelo’s Moses and La Pietà, among others. There’s also a re-creation of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper, painted in Italy from the original sketches, on display in an architectural space patterned after Westminster Abbey and Gothic cathedrals.

Now, instead of bringing art to the people, the museum’s goal is to bring the museum to the world. “It’s not the same experience seeing artwork online, but people who cannot come here, many want to know what we have here and what we are all about,” says Pescador. “We need to reach out and open our doors to the world.”

David Bowie: Among the Mexican Masters is a free exhibition through June 15 at the Forest Lawn Museum, 1712 S. Glendale Blvd., Glendale. Hours are 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. Visit forestlawn.com for the schedule of lectures and musical events coordinated with the show.

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DYNASTY

Remembering Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, royalty of Hollywood and a galaxy far, far away

It was unthinkable. If that story line had been written into a screenplay, no producer would have gone near the idea; too unlikely, it wouldn’t play well with audiences. But it really did happen at the end of last year, and the public reaction was huge: People were staggered by the news that Debbie Reynolds died one day after her daughter, Carrie Fisher, suffered a fatal cardiac arrest during a 15-hour flight from London to Los Angeles. They didn’t get to say goodbye. Carrie lay in a coma and on life support for some hours at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center before her death last Dec. 27. She was 60 years old; her mom was 84. And behind the shock and disbelief, nearly everyone had a few tears to shed. I know I did, although my friendship with Carrie had drifted away over a stupid argument many years earlier.

Buck Henry — best known for his screenplay of The Graduate (in which he also played the small role of a hotel clerk) and his many appearances on Saturday Night Live during John Belushi’s tenure — introduced me to Carrie Fisher in the early ’80s at a small party held in the courtyard of artist Ed Ruscha’s studio. Buck, whom I’d known since we both lived in New York, said, “You two dames have got to meet.” Then he took me by the hand and guided me to a spot where Carrie stood, surrounded by admirers. Buck was right: Carrie and I clicked, and during that first conversation I was fascinated by her blazing intelligence and touched by the overlay of disillusionment around her singular beauty. We exchanged numbers and soon I was being asked to visit her home in the canyon (I can’t remember which one; it was before the bigger house on, I think, Tower Road) on a fairly regular basis. Carrie liked company and usually there were people around. Once I saw Timothy Leary dive into the swimming pool. Steve Martin was a warm presence at a brunch I attended. I met Debbie Reynolds one afternoon at the house when I was walking past the living room and heard a small, nearly musical “Hello” coming from the depths of one of the sofas. I sat next to her and we talked for a few minutes — small talk, but very pleasant; there was nothing of the big movie star about her. 

Shopping with Carrie was an interesting — and rather maddening — experience. One had to be careful not to admire anything, because Carrie would immediately try to buy it for you. She was the most generous and talented giver of surprise gifts, as well. I have a vivid memory of a clear plastic tote bag with an inside container (also clear) that held a perfect replica of a trout, a wedge of lemon and three or four ice cubes. Carrie Fisher’s eye for deadpan kitsch was supreme: she kept a life-size replica of a Guernsey cow in the area near her pool, and  a lamp with a wooden base carved into bears climbing a tree in a guest bedroom. Carrie shared an October birthday with director Penny Marshall and every year it was celebrated with a big party at Carrie’s house. Tables were set out on the patio, the food — home-fried chicken and all the fixings — was supplied by Debbie’s housekeeper and cook, Gloria. The list of guests rivaled that of a seating chart at the Academy Awards and Carrie was an exceptional hostess: welcoming, funny and as always, genius smart.

It has been well recorded (by Carrie herself in her first book, Postcards from the Edge, and later, in Wishful Drinking) that she had a major penchant for drugs. During an interview with Diane Sawyer she admitted to taking LSD and using cocaine as well as a variety of other stuff. I had a memorable experience with Carrie one evening: I’d recently begun attending meetings at a 12-step program (I had my own bout with drugs) and I convinced her to come along with me to a meeting in Westwood. We stopped for dinner first. When we walked into the meeting, Carrie was immediately pulled into a hug by an award-winning leading man with whom she was friendly. She was able to sit through half the meeting before leaning in close and whispering, “I’ve got to get out of here.” On the way back to her home, she asked me to drop her off at a friend’s place so she could pick up her car. I pulled up to a duplex in Beverly Hills. Carrie got out and ran up a flight of stairs to the friend’s apartment.

I decided to wait, figured she was going for the car keys — her BMW was parked near the stairway — but what if the friend wasn’t home? It seemed to take a longer time than a fast pickup and I turned my radio to an R&B station. Halfway through a version of Tipitina, Carrie came out of the apartment. She was clearly high on drugs. I jumped out of my car and yanked the car keys from her hand when she swayed to the bottom of the stairs. I’d take her home, I told her. She didn’t argue, just slumped into the passenger seat of my car. Even by the dashboard lights I could see her eyes were unfocused. We didn’t speak during the drive back to her house; Carrie was slipping into a deeply drugged-out state. When we pulled into the driveway, I got out from behind the wheel, steered her to her front door and rang the bell — I knew she had a couple friends there. A young woman opened the door, a young guy standing just behind her. They asked me to come in and between us we guided a nearly unconscious Carrie to the living room sofa.

I was offered a cup of tea, took a sip and headed back out, weary of the whole evening, but as my car motor purred to life, I heard my name shouted. Both of Carrie’s friends ran up to my car to tell me she was more than unconscious: her lips were turning blue. I told them to make a kind of chair with their forearms and carry her to my car. They managed to slide her into the back seat and each sat on either side of the clearly overdosed Carrie. The guy — by then I’d learned he was the author Paul Slansky — held her head up, his hand under her chin, while the young woman, also a writer — Carol Caldwell — braced Carrie’s shoulders. We raced down the hill; I was heading toward Cedars-Sinai, the closest place I could think of. When we screeched into the emergency entrance, Carrie was placed on a gurney and rushed into a treatment area. I parked the car and we all headed into the waiting room. The three of us sat, waiting, for three or four hours — until Carrie’s stomach was pumped and she was taken to one of the celebrity suites.  I visited a couple times and she looked exponentially better each time, making wonderfully funny, self-deprecating comments, some of which appeared in her first book. After that, we argued over a guy and drifted apart.

When the movie version of Postcards, starring Meryl Streep as Carrie with Shirley MacLaine playing her mother, was released, I was surprised to see my part of that adventure-in-the-drug-trade assayed by Dennis Quaid. But who cares? Carrie Fisher is gone now, and her mom, Debbie, wasn’t able to stay behind.

That’s a Hollywood — and an international — tragedy.

JOICO TO THE WORLD

The Arcadia-based hair products company, known for its rich keratin conditioners, offers a kaleidoscope of bold hair colors along with classic California blonds.

Sarah Jones knows hair. Throughout her life, she has worked it from every angle: as a stylist, then a traveling salesperson for Redken and now CEO of Joico, an Arcadia-based midlevel beauty line known for restoring damaged hair. Under her 14-year reign, the company has expanded into producing a full line of products that reaches 89 countries.

Jones was hired in 2005 to turn the company around, three years after it was bought by Shiseido, a high-end Japanese beauty multinational. Mission accomplished: instead of bleeding money, Joico is today worth $160 million, according to the company.

Friendly and direct, Jones says she has always wanted to work in hair. Her ultimate dream was to own a salon one day. She passed on college in favor of cosmetology school, and she’s been working in the field ever since.

What sets Joico apart from the multitudes of hair products on the market? The company was a pioneer in infusing its products with keratin, the protein naturally found in healthy hair. “The original owner, Steve Stephano, was a hairdresser who could never get the conditioning results he wanted,” Jones says. “He was a chemistry buff and he had chemist friends. They decided it made sense to replenish compromised hair with the purest essence of healthy hair. They created this original keratin protein [formula] that went into the products [in the K-Pak collection]. It’s hairdressers’ go-to for severely damaged hair.”

That’s more important now than ever. Jones says the days of severe cuts are over. Today, her own tresses are a glossy, shoulder-length tawny blond. And she’s on a mission to help you achieve a healthy, natural look as well. “I used to think everyone needed help,” says the Claremont resident. “Now nothing makes me happier than to simply see beautiful, bouncy, shiny healthy hair. I really appreciate that because I know what it takes.”

Joico also surfs the wave of rainbow hair colors for people who like to stand out in a crowd. The company launched a vivid color palette in 2009. “We introduced blue, green and purple for a stylist who wanted it for his fantasy work. We never dreamed it would take off, especially on the East Coast,” says Jones, adding that Joico now offers hundreds of hues, including 30 metallic shades alone. Last month, the company introduced several new InstaTint Temporary Color Shimmer Spray shades for adventurous fashionistas (Hot Pink, Ruby Red, Light Purple, Periwinkle and Titanium). Also new are several Color Intensity “Metallic Muse” collection hues “that mimic the muted luster of liquid metal” (Moonstone, Violet, Bronze, Mauve Quartz and Pewter) and Color Intensity Confetti shades (Mint, Sky, Lila, Rose and Peach). If it’s in the rainbow, Joico has it covered. Customers can upload a photo and “try on” bold shades with the company’s new JoiColor System App.

Of course, the general West Coast trend has long been “blondie,” she observes.  Hair lightening has always come with a certain degree of risk because it takes harsh chemicals to remove natural pigment. That hasn’t stopped legions of women from seeking sunnier pastures. Many women opt for home coloring because a $12 box is much cheaper than a $90 pro treatment, although Jones notes that sometimes you get what you pay for. “It’s a tricky biz,” she says. “It doesn’t always cover the gray, or it’s too harsh. Or you want to lighten slightly but it lifts too much and then you have that brassy color.”

The other nemesis of healthy hair is hot tools. “Ten years ago, the tools you’d buy at the store didn’t have the heat of salon products. Today the tools are just as progressive as those in a salon. The girls are stripping their hair of moisture and protein, making it frizzy, lifeless and dry.” Somewhat paradoxically, “what’s bad for hair is good for business,” she says. “We sell a lot of blow-dryers, curling irons, flat irons.”

Fortunately, hair care tends to be recession-proof, since it’s relatively affordable — a cut and color seem to slice through whatever is going on with the economy.  “It’s a great business in terms of sustainability and income,” Jones says. In rough times, a person may choose not to buy a new car or eat out as much, but he or she will usually continue to get haircuts and highlights. And when times are good, salons are booming.

That’s true in part because hairdressers typically have the “expertise to analyze and prescribe,” she observes. “Think about it: you’re with your stylist for every big event in your life. As we get older, hair thins. A high percentage of women have balding problems. It’s devastating. So the stylist and client develop a relationship that deals with touchy personal issues as well as hair.”

Jones is as proud of Joico’s sustainability platform as she is of its products. The company invested in wind turbines as an alternative source of electricity to help power its plant in Geneva, New York. In 2011, it launched new packaging using a bioplastic resin hybrid, one of the first beauty companies to use this innovative material.

Jones is also an active philanthropist. She won the City of Hope’s Spirit of Life Award in 2011, partly in honor of her efforts to recruit beauty industry insiders to help raise funds for the top cancer hospital: in 2010, Joico created Beauty for A Cure, offering free online support for salons raising funds in their communities. “It started with Joico,” Jones said in a statement, “but the City of Hope Salon Industry. Leadership Council is very excited about exploring ways to take the program industrywide, as well as finding more ways to engage salons.” Beauty for a Cure has also helped salon pros raise funds for breast cancer and Hurricane Sandy charities.

Jones is in the office before 7 a.m. to make those East Coast calls to the corporate office in Connecticut. She heads home at 3:30 p.m. because, although it’s only a 17-mile drive, the traffic can be murder. She learned early on, during those traveling salesperson days, how to avoid burnout by balancing work and life. “My work is a passion, not a burden,” says Jones, whose 24-year-old daughter, Chelsea, works as a wedding planner in Oahu. Jones always takes her vacation time; not surprisingly, it involves plenty of visits to Hawaii. She and her retired husband of 26 years, Wayne, are avid golfers.

But Jones considers her work at Joico among her most gratifying pursuits. She frequently refers to a 2014 study that revealed the prime ingredient in a woman’s self-confidence — good hair. “You can have Manolo shoes, a Chanel jacket,” she says, “but if the hair isn’t good, you’re having a bad day. You’re not going to feel good if the hair isn’t right.

A Writer Written in the Stars

The West Coast seemed to exemplify the ’60s: San Francisco and Los Angeles had become gathering places for hippies. When I was living in New York and working as a fashion model, I’d only heard about this group of young people who were following the dictum of Timothy Leary by “turning on” and “dropping out” of high schools, universities and society in general. Now I was newly divorced and had come home to L.A. because that was where my family was. So I saw hippies in their natural habitat: grazing along the Sunset Strip, hitching rides from passing motorists and waving sticks of incense that trailed wisps of sandalwood- and patchouli-scented smoke. There were girls with waist-length hair and long dusty skirts and boys, long-haired and snake-hipped in their patched 501s, tie-dyed shirts and hand-stitched buckskin jackets. They were all very young. I found them colorful to look at but I wasn’t curious about what lurked beneath all that paisleyed finery.

I was working as Rudi Gernreich’s model and living with my daughter, Lisa, in one of those beautiful 1920s-built apartments in West Hollywood when I met Victory Rain. I’d become friendly with my neighbors, Glenn and Bill, and we often visited back and forth. Their place was furnished with collectors’ pieces, the hardwood floor gleamed and the air was filled with the cedar scent of Rigaud candles. It reminded me of New York, where everyone’s home, including ours, was awash in that fragrance. Glenn and Bill had another visitor one afternoon: a rather exotic woman who looked to be in her late 20s. She was seated, a penumbra of cigarette smoke around her head, in a nest of needlepoint pillows at one corner of a dark blue velvet sofa. On the wall above the sofa, a vintage Hermès scarf was displayed in a boxy Lucite frame.  This unsmiling, strangely attractive woman with her long black hair and falcon’s eyes, seemed quite out of place amid all the trappings of the uber-chic, and my initial thought was that she might be a gypsy. Then she smiled at me and patted the space next to her, and as we chatted I realized this was someone as intelligent as she was welcoming.

Her name, she told me, was Victory and she surprised me by saying she worked as chief bookkeeper at a production company that filmed commercials. She seemed not at all the type who would choose that kind of work. But her true passions, she said, were mysticism and astrology. I knew nothing about mysticism of any kind and I was profoundly ignorant of all things astrological. I knew I was an Aries (like my mother) and Lisa was a Leo. Full stop. Victory asked for the date, time, year and location of my birth. I noticed she wrote nothing down and we went on to talk about other things. She called a few days later to tell me she’d worked out my astrological chart and we made plans to get together. When I saw her, she told me things about my background she could not have known, stuff that neither Glenn nor Bill knew. She informed me that modeling wasn’t what I was meant to be doing — I was a writer, she said; it was right there in my chart: Jupiter in my ninth house. My response to this information was to tell her, with respect, that I thought she was nuts. I was doing pretty damn well with a modeling career; what did writing have to do with it? Victory smiled and changed the subject, the way people do when they realize the person on the other side of the conversation isn’t ready to take in information.

Within a month or so we were friends, speaking often on the phone, going out for meals and the occasional movie. I learned that Victory was a vegetarian — not because it was a popular thing to be in the late ’60s but because she’d made a moral decision not to eat meat when she was in her teens. She never tried to push it: I’d order steak at a restaurant and she’d have a salad or buttered pasta without comment or attitude. She didn’t push the writing, either, except to tell me my degree of Scorpio rising was similar to that of Charles Dickens. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I thought, and let it go at that. If I’d been a bit faster on the uptake, I might have saved myself some real time by taking her advice seriously. I have always been an avid reader and I was educated by Dominican nuns who hammered the correct use of language into my head. But it never occurred to me that I might become a writer (despite that astrological connection to Dickens). Maybe it just seemed like too much work. When I asked about her background, Victory told me about living with her foster mother in a trailer park on the outskirts of Chicago. The foster mother, Betty, resented the kid and assured her she would never escape trailer park life because she was too ugly, too stupid and too stubborn.

Two of these observations were patently untrue; the third was right on the money: Victory was stubborn. She loved school and when she was 9 years old, she walked into a used bookstore and told the owner she couldn’t buy any books, but was it okay if she just looked. When the owner said yes, the girl knew she had found a warming place. She sat on the floor and began to read — first a book on astrology, then she was drawn into studies of metaphysics. By the time she was 11, she had a paper route in the trailer park and the means to buy books. She was happy but unlucky. At 14 she was raped by a young guy who was AWOL from the Air Force. He spent time in the stockade and within two months of his release, Victory discovered that she was pregnant. Her son, Tom, was born six months after her 15th birthday, and his father, who’d barely seen the baby, demanded full custody, warning Victory about the people he knew who would swear to her inability to raise a child. She knew she was a good mother but she was frightened by the man’s threats. She was still a kid who didn’t know how to fight this guy, backed up by his wealthy family, and although she begged to be allowed to keep her baby, he took the child from her. It would be more than 30 years before she was able to reconcile with Tom, who now had other children of his own. She had moved to L.A., found her first job as a cocktail waitress in a jazz joint and enrolled in a city college where she learned accounting. She is retired now and has become close with her son and his kids. She doesn’t resent the man who fathered Tom and took him from her. “He thought he was doing the right thing in the only way he knew.” I wasn’t then and am not now able to be that forgiving. Victory says it’s because of my Scorpio ascendant.

She has never quenched her thirst for knowledge or her interest in astrology. She has never been in the business of making money from that knowledge; she will do only the charts of those people who have become her friends. When, at the tail end of the ’80s,
I told her I was beginning to write, she didn’t gloat, didn’t say she’d told me so. She simply smiled broadly — content that I was fulfilling the destiny she had seen so long ago in
my chart.

Sons and Daughters of Liberty

Let’s bring back the true meaning of “tea party.”

If you’re anything like me (and I can only imagine that if you are one of my readers, then we have at least a little in common), you are still shell-shocked. Every morning I wake up, am happy for about 10 seconds, then I remember our political predicament. There is a gray cloud of dread that follows me around like Pigpen’s dust. 

And I know you are probably hoping that I have an amazing culinary cure for this — something you can cook that will comfort you and yours. I hate to break it to you — no amount of macaroni and cheese is going to fix this. Sorry if that bums you out. I’m bummed too.

One reason the situation hit me hard is that I have always been a super fan of America. I am a U.S. history buff. When I was a kid I installed a mini museum in my room, with placards describing “artifacts” I acquired at gift shops on my bicentennial trip back East. I visited the Freedom Train, the Americana exhibit that toured the country in 1976. I bought a fife, learned to play it and talked my sixth-grade music teacher into letting me play it in the concert band. I wore out my LP of the soundtrack to the musical 1776. I voted as soon as I could. I cry actual wet tears every time I hear the national anthem. I was Betsy Ross for Halloween once. And a Minute Man the year after. I followed the trail of Lewis and Clark. The Fourth of July is my favorite holiday (even though the Declaration was ratified on the 2nd, and it wasn’t fully signed until August). I have seen every episode of all seven seasons of The West Wing at least a dozen times. I am deep, deep into Hamilton

In short, I love America, and I am not about to accept anything that is in the least little bit unAmerican.

But I am just a chef. I work with food for a living and have, like most people, a very small sphere of influence. There is no way that my flourless chocolate cake is going to change any minds. (Oh, if it were only that easy!) And I realize that no Tweet or Facebook post, no matter how on point, is going to convert anyone. All I can do — all any of us can do — is continue to call out injustice when it rears its ugly orange head.  Maybe I just need to call it out a little louder now.

No minds will be changed overnight. Change only ever really happens one on one. So maybe that’s it. If I set an example of American patriotism, I might be noticed by a couple of people along the way. So with that, here are the patriotic things I will continue to do:

I will welcome your tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Send me the homeless, tempest-tossed — I will lift my lamp on my front porch. I don’t care what you look like, who you love, what you wear on your head, what language you speak, what god you revere or how you got here. I just don’t. Because life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are the unalienable rights of all people — not just Americans. 

I will respect your freedom to worship however you like. I’d prefer that you didn’t try to make me join you. Just go about your business, and I’ll do the same.

I will say whatever I want. I promise not to endanger you with my words, but it’s very likely that I will annoy you. But I’ll let you do the same, so it’s even-steven.

I will relish the fact that the press can say whatever it wants. I will also choose for myself where I get my news, because I know that much of it is crap.   

I will continue to peaceably assemble. Not only is it fun, but it might lead to a redress of my grievances. If it doesn’t, I might burn a flag (though I probably won’t, because that seems dumb to me). But I won’t bully you, or try to scare you, or make you feel unwelcome. Flag burning is symbolic. Hate speech is appalling.

I will hold firm in my belief that our constitutional right to a well-regulated militia does not refer to those who are merely disgruntled, the Dukes of Hazard or the Bundys.

I will not quarter soldiers in my home (except when they are my invited friends), but I will continue to have great affection for the military.

I’m going to trust that the judicial system will follow the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Amendments before they get all up in my business.  If they don’t I will refer back to the First.

I will fight to keep my private business private. I’d prefer that you keep your nose out of it.   

And finally, if I see that you are failing to uphold these tenets of liberty, I will call you out on it. Loudly. Publicly. Righteously. I’ve got to believe it’s what the Founders would want me to do in times like this. 

Leslie Bilderback is a certified master baker, chef and cookbook author. She lives in South Pasadena and teaches her techniques online at culinarymasterclass.com.

The Digital Burn

Streaming exercise classes are mushrooming, offering fun, convenient alternatives for home exercisers.

Until recently, fitness-minded folk have had to choose between convenience and stimulation. Working out at home is certainly more convenient than traveling to a gym or studio and working scheduled classes into your routine — and then still having to deal with finding parking, changing and showering. On the other hand, a constant diet of the same home-exercise videos can be a bore, not exactly conducive to getting you off the couch. That’s why many people prefer the stimulation of a live class, with fresh moves and other people working just as hard alongside you.

But digital technology is starting to change the home-fitness landscape. Consumers can now stream live classes (or tap extensive libraries of videos) using their smartphones, TVs, tablets and computers. Some fitness companies have devised streaming services that even enable home exercisers to interact with instructors and other students.

Bryan O’Rourke, a fitness consultant and president of the Louisiana-based Fitness Industry Technology Council, believes the rise of digital technology, combined with the growing number of people who work from home, will spur future demand for home-exercise programs. In a report titled “The Club of 2020,” O’Rourke and Greg Skloot, a vice president of Netpulse, which creates mobile apps for gyms and health clubs, predict that by 2020 exercise services ranging from virtual training and coaching to on-demand trainers dispatched to customers’ homes will be commonplace. “More and more of the fitness journey will likely happen outside the club’s wall,” they conclude. Health clubs, they add, will also rely on a hybrid of “digital and physical” experiences to attract members who are willing to pay more for the convenience and experience of exercising at home.

Some online companies offer both live interactive online classes and prerecorded videos. Peloton (peloton.com) is one of the more successful, boasting on its website that its New York facility is “the first and only cycling studio to marry boutique fitness with live home streaming.” Peloton requires a hefty upfront investment of $2,000 for its own home spinning bike (a different animal from traditional exercise bikes), which can purchased online or at a showroom — the L.A. showroom is located at the Santa Monica Place mall. The bike comes equipped with a 21.5-inch sweat-resistant screen on which thousands of cyclists can stream live classes at any one time. Other features are designed to make the cycling classes an interactive experience. Cyclists can video chat with other users while they ride, use the activity feed to check the performance of fellow riders and view the real-time leaderboard to compete with other cyclists. And once clients invest in the bike, unlimited classes are quite reasonable at $39 a month, which also includes access to a library of 3,000 videos. Peloton’s monthly cost compares to SoulCycle’s price of $30 for one in-studio class, although first-timers pay $20 and discounts are offered on bulk purchases.

Several other companies infuse live, interactive classes with dance. New York–based Ballet Beautiful (balletbeautiful.com), for example, is a ballet-inspired exercise program created by Mary Helen Bowers, a ballerina and trainer who coached Natalie Portman for her role in Black Swan and claims Taylor Swift, Gigi Hadid and Karlie Kloss among her adherents. Customers access online instruction, which includes toning exercises, stretches and high- and low-impact cardio workouts. Another site, sleektechnique.com, was founded by two London-based ballerinas, Flik Swan and Victoria Marr; Sleek Technique offers live ballet-inspired courses in addition to prerecorded instruction. And the Powhow platform (powhow.com) streams live fitness, dance and yoga classes, enabling its professional instructors — dancers, musicians and artists — to connect with students via webcam, to broadcast and stream their in-studio classes live or to upload recorded videos for students to train at a time convenient for them.

Also in the mix is Yogaia (yogaia.com), which offers more than 100 new live and interactive classes each week. Its live-streaming yoga classes allow teachers to see students and offer instruction in real time. Monthly membership rates start at a wallet-friendly $9.99. Another exercise chain, Barre 3 (barre3.com), which teaches a technique combining Pilates, barre and yoga, allows members to choose from an array of more than 250 online workouts ranging in length from 10 minutes to one hour. More expensive options permit members to receive exclusive workouts and real-time guidance from instructors. Memberships range from $15 to $55 a month. At EMG Live Fitness (emglivefitness.com), you can stream live or recorded classes in cycling, barre, kickboxing and more from numerous gyms and studios, promising variety in instruction without having to travel for it. Clients pay for only one class at a time.

Easypose (easypose.com), a Los Angeles–based yoga instruction company, goes a step further: the firm makes house calls, in addition to offering prerecorded lessons. Clients can use the company’s website or mobile app to schedule yoga sessions in their home, office or hotel, selecting the date, time, and style of yoga instruction for one to 20 people. Easypose offers a first-class deal of $40; after that it’s $60 for up to four students. The year-old company has hired about 1,000 certified yoga instructors in Southern California and the San Francisco Bay and New York metropolitan areas. Cofounder Ruben Dua says Easypose was created because “people were very frustrated with doing yoga in a studio. The yoga studios are crowded and they are very intimidating to some people, more like a fashion show. We make it accessible and affordable; it’s easier for people to participate.”

While health clubs generally expect you to show up for their live classes, some clubs maintain libraries of recorded videos for home exercisers. Crunch, for example, was the first national gym chain to offer its group fitness programs online. Members can access Crunch Live (crunchlive.com), where they can stream 85 workouts — yoga, barre, dance cardio and total-body bootcamp — for a monthly fee of $19.99. Crunch Live also offers customizable workout plans and what its website describes as “playlists to keep you motivated, on track and having fun,” as well as 15-minute “quickie” workouts for people short on time.

O’Rourke estimates that streaming exercise programs account for less than 10 percent of the current U.S. fitness market, but he expects these services will expand in the future. He adds that health clubs and other fitness providers will be challenged to “create a seamless and relevant complete-user experience for gyms or studios. Just offering streaming isn’t enough; it’s about creating a contextually useful blend of in-gym and digital experiences that are enjoyable to member customers. The bottom line is that people want personalized, engaging brand experiences in all markets.”

Customers, he says, want “enhanced experiences” to be conveniently delivered via “omni-channels” – a wide range of different platforms and devices. “What this will mean will evolve through experimentation.” But while digital home fitness continues to evolve, there already are several ways to use new technology to exercise at home. So if your New Year’s resolution is to exercise more in 2017, there’s no excuse to procrastinate. Get off the sofa and start streaming so you can feel the digital burn.

Beauty Bites

Whether natural or enhanced, beauty is in the eye of the beholder – and the most critical beholder is usually the one you face in the mirror. But appeasing her can sow nice dividends: When you feel and look your best, you can move mountains, not to mention turn heads. As 2017 opens for business, check out the following products and services that will pamper, delight and upgrade your beauty quotient.

Hide Behind This Mask

No time for the spa? No worries, your skin can still receive a little tender loving care when you employ a high-quality Korean mask in the comfort of your own home. Applied to just about every body part from feet to hands, eyes, lips and face, these wash-off masks are made with natural ingredients and are available from Beauteque for all skin types. There are prices to fit every budget ($1.90–$33) and you can enroll in a monthly program to have beauty items and assorted masks delivered to your door.

Available at beauteque.com.

Scents of SoCal

SoCal’s diverse landscapes are the inspiration for this line of eaux de parfum that evoke wild California deserts, mountains and coastlines. Blended by hand in downtown Los Angeles in small batches, Los Feliz Botanicals scents contain no synthetics, preservatives or fillers. As many as 40 different essences are mixed drop by drop; scents are distilled from flowers, leaves, roots, resins, woods, seeds, peels and even lichens. Of course, perfumes smell different on every person; for example, Yucca Valley Eau de Parfum can be rosy on some and musky on others. Since the base is a natural perfume, it won’t last as long on your skin as its conventional counterparts; but the scents come in handy portable containers for easy reapplication. Prices range from $18 for a sample kit to $55 for 15 ml. Even better, the company donates $1 to charity: water, a nonprofit that brings clean water to people in developing countries, for every bottle sold.

Available at L.A. County Store, 4333 Sunset Blvd., L.A., and
losfelizbotanicals.com.

Grooming Guys

Get your groom to groom with Guise Etiquette, a new men’s skincare line created by professional makeup artist Ada Trihn, who has worked her magic on basketballer Kobe Bryant, actor Matthew Morrison and skateboarder-turned-model Shaun Ross. These apothecary-quality products are handcrafted in small batches and infused with high-end active botanicals. Ingredients are local, sourced from organic farms in California, New Mexico and Arizona. A simple three-step skincare system can transform the most befuddled of men into a skin pro in days. Guise’s facial cleanser is made with fresh cucumber and mint; skin tonic contains neoli oil to combat razor burns and bumps; and its plant-based moisturizer is infused with aloe vera and aspen bark.

Available at Ron Robinson, 8118 Melrose Ave. L.A., and guiseetiquette.com

Bee Beautiful

Botox on a budget? Many folks swear by the properties of bee venom as a natural way to lift and firm skin while improving blood circulation, thanks to its brew of antioxidant and anti-aging ingredients. Based in New Zealand, Saintsco is one of the leaders in the bee-venom beauty biz; their extensive line of products (eye creams, lip-plumpers and more) has been coveted by royals and celebrity users including Kate Middleton, Victoria Beckham and Gwyneth Paltrow. Best known for its Bee Venom Mask ($100.22), Saintsco encourages combining that application with Bee Venom Eye Cream ($61.67) and Bee Venom 24-ct Gold Serum ($92.51) for a skin trifecta that’s as smooth as honey straight from the hive.
Available online at saintsco.com.

Eco-friendly Hair Color

Can you pronounce all the chemicals in your at-home hair dye? Finding an eco-friendly hair dye that produces long-lasting rich colors used to be an impossible dream until BioKap Nutricolor Delicato arrived on the scene. Made with 90 percent natural ingredients, BioKap avoids troublesome chemicals such as paraphenylenediamine (PPD), which can cause skin to become swollen, red, blistered, dry and cracked. You won’t find ammonia, parabens or resorcinol in the BioKap mix either, yet these formulas still hold color longer than natural henna-based dyes. Based in Italy, BioKap offers a PPD-free line of at-home hair dyes that includes 18 colors and one lightening cream, all fragrance-free.

Available online at biokapusa.com

Blading the Brow

Eyebrows are easier to maintain after they have been professionally shaped and crafted through microblading, a new beauty technique that’s the brainchild of Beverly Hills–based Daria Chuprys. The procedure uses a bunch
of needles (not blades) to artfully create natural hair strokes that mimic eyebrow hairs — think of it as eyebrow embroidery. The results are glossy full brows that need no penciling or touchup. Born in Greece and one of the first microblading artists in Europe, Chuprys
established a teaching academy program in L.A. to share the technique with professional artists; students undergo an intensive 100 hours of training to learn the fine details.

Arrange a consultation at
dariapermanentmakeup.com.

Talking Skincare

Imagine having an in-depth skin consultation with an expert — as easily as picking up the phone. Promising an approach that will make you love your skin again, Orange County–based skincare guru Emme Diane offers Virtual Skin Coaching, a comprehensive phone consultation to match skin needs with appropriate products and techniques so you can be your glowing best. Known as the “skin whisperer” by her loyal fans, Diane covers the gamut of skin problems from acne to aging. She’ll ask about everything from your eating and lifestyle habits to how you apply your current products. She’ll also prescribe a customized regimen of cleansers, moisturizers and anti-aging treatments from her own exclusive collection of products and methods.
Consultation and products available at emmediane.com; products available at Emme Diane, 1835 Newport Blvd., Ste. 128, Costa Mesa.

Headphone Hair

More than just a music delivery device, headphones can be a hairstyling tool — if you know the right tricks. L.A.-based celebrity hairstylist Riawna Capri, who tends to Julianne Hough’s tresses, has created The Jet Set, a series of simple styling techniques for women on the go, especially travelers who want to avoid flat, messy hair at the end of a day on the road or in flight. Capri honed her techniques for creating breezy, carefree hairstyles using the Beats by Dr. Dre wireless earphone collection. The Beats Solo3 Wireless is particularly adept at “setting hair” the Jet Set way so that when you arrive, you will have cascading waves as you greet the unexpected airport paparazzi — or the extended family.

View Jet Set techniques at vimeo.com/189692346; find

Beats Solo3 Wireless at the Apple Store, 54 W. Colorado Blvd.,
Pasadena, and apple.com.

Harnessing the
Hair Dryer

More speed and less hair frizz set the AW 4600 Argan Dryer ($295) apart. This professional salon–quality styling tool relies on science, technology and an innovative oil nozzle. Air passes through the nozzle, which distributes the perfect amount of oil on your hair, thus reducing breakage while boosting luscious shine. No matter the speed setting, the Turbo produces gentle yet efficient air circulation for intricate styling or just your average blow and go.

Available at arganwoman.com

Skin and Lip Treats

Putting the glow back into winter skin and smiles are hydrating hand creams and lip-smacking Lip Calms ($9.98) from John Masters Organics. The rich and silky hand creams come in three distinct scents (Lemon & Ginger, Lime & Spruce and Orange & Rose) and incorporate nutritious oils, such as lime and orange peel. Made with an organic sunflower and olive oil base, Masters’ lip balms have yummy flavors with exhilarating scents (peppermint, raspberry and vanilla) that protect your pout against cold and wind.

Available at johnmasters.com

Beauty Smorgasbord

If these beauty bites make you hungry for more, head over to the second annual Indie Beauty Expo on Jan. 18, which will be open to the public from 5 to 7 p.m. at the California Market Center in downtown L.A. Browse new beauty and wellness products and discover under-the-radar brands and cult-favorite cosmetics, skincare, grooming and other beauty devices. Southern California brands will also be in the spotlight; check out offerings from Jordan Seban Hair, DNA Renewal, Beauty with a Twist and more.

California Market Center, 110 E. Ninth St., Penthouse 13C, L.A., 

indiebeautyexpo.com