New York-native John Cassese's motto is, "If you can walk, you can dance." The celebrity dance instructor and choreographer's own quick-stepping career began at the tender age of 10, jumpstarting a passion that would eventually take him careening across the stages of off-Broadway productions, nightclubs, dance competitions, and the occasional monster-truck rally. It wasn't until he relocated to Los Angeles that an agent dubbed him "The Dance Doctor," and soon after, he found his fleet-footed prowess and teaching abilities in high demand amongst production studios such as Sony, Paramount, and 20th Century Fox.
Between choreographing a Charleston dance sequence on AMC's Mad Men and singing at the 50th birthday parties of Billy Crystal and Wolfgang Puck, John leads a team of instructors as they teach celebs and everyday Tinseltowners the finer points of styles ranging from ballet to hip-hop. Despite all the fanfare, his biggest praise comes from his work with soon-to-be-married couples, who seek his advice on everything from basic steps and song selection, to the length of the post-cake-cutting conga line.
Whether they're seated in an oversized booth in the dining room or splitting a plate with nearby pelicans on the outdoor patio, Killer Cafe grants its diners picturesque views of the sparkling harbor. Eggs benedict and buttermilk pancakes are among the caf?'s morning fare. These dishes can be accompanied by fresh-squeezed juices, fruit smoothies, espresso drinks, and brunch cocktails. Later in the day, the menu is filled with loaded salads, and hearty burgers and sandwiches to indulge lunchtime appetites.
The Secret Family Recipe
It takes patience to properly prepare an order of the Michaels family's Killer shrimp. The secret spice blend must first simmer atop the restaurant's stove for 10 hours. Only then, when the sauce's piquant flavors are rich and intensely concentrated, do chefs place the shrimp directly in the sauce. Then, they add the crustaceans to specialty plates, such as omelets and breakfast burritos.
At twin cinemas in Hollywood and Santa Monica, American Cinematheque preserves the thrill of classic films and introduces the newest works by modern auteurs. A relic of the glamorous past, the Egyptian Theatre was built in 1922 and inspired by the search for the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. From its first showing of Robin Hood until today, it has operated as a movie house, and now sends 60-foot-wide images and crystalline sound flashing through the ornate mirage of its interior.
Today, the screens' ever-unpredictable and constantly changing lineup can include anything from the lightweight whimsy of Citizen Kane to the modern masterpiece Spaceballs, and frequent festivals focus on themes from world cinema to film noir.
At both cinemas, modern works are often further illuminated by their creators, with events and post-show discussions featuring the directors and actors.
At Wine Expo, named one of the "10 Best Wine & Spirit Shops in LA" by Los Angeles Magazine, racks teem with wine, craft beer, and liquor from every corner of the globe, plus, a generous selection of real Champagne. The knowledgeable staffers on hand know the difference between standard fruity, oak-infused bottles with lackluster taste and knockout wines that accentuate dinners of red meat or red crayons. They help guide oenophiles in selecting Portuguese whites or Tuscan reds, and organic sparkling white wines or a 31-year-old bottle of scotch. At the wine bar, sippers can sample the flavors for themselves, with flights of three whites, three to four reds, or glasses of beer. Small plates accompany the drinks, including mild cheeses, prosciutto, and crostini.
Beyond a façade of black-painted bricks blasted by a bright-red sunburst, M.i.'s Westside Comedy Theater's laughter authorities train up-and-coming comedians in the art of forcing other people to laugh. The theater opened in 2009, 11 years after six comedians from the touring group Mission Improvable moved from Massachusetts to Chicago to continue training in the art of the extemporaneous. Now, 50 members strong, Mission Improvable helps students hone their comedic instincts during weekly classes, performances, and pie-throwing workshops. Instructors have imported a grounded, distinctly Chicagoan comedic sensibility to the West Coast, building improv courses on Viola Spolin's seminal, creativity-unlocking theater games and standup classes on students' own experiences and observations.
As Karie Bible strides across Hollywood Forever Cemetery, the hem of her mourning gown absorbs dew from the gravesites of Douglas Fairbanks and Jayne Mansfield. She tours the cemetery for a living, leading groups to crypts and monuments that mark the remains of deceased celebrities. Whether recounting the legacy of actress Marion Davies or kneeling at the spike of grass that marks Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer's final resting place, she immerses tour-goers in Hollywood history. Each tour lasts about two hours and sheds light on cherished stars, as well as lesser-known entertainers and community members.