Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Kingston Trio: 'Just 3 guys standing on stage with their guitars'

By Cathy Scott

The Kingston Trio, circa 1960
I met Nick Reynolds, a founding member of The Kingston Trio, when I interviewed him in the summer of 1990. I was the business editor at the time of the La Jolla Light newspaper, and the band was having a reunion concert there, so I covered it.

I called Nick to set up an interview, and he invited me to his Coronado home. Once there, we sat down in his family room, surrounded by Kingston Trio memorabilia and musical instruments. His then-girlfriend was there too. My sister Cordelia, brother-in-law Bob, and I attended the group's reunion concert, part of a two-dozen cities tour, this one held at the Hyatt Regency La Jolla at the Aventine, outside on the tennis courts.

Backing the band was the San Diego Chamber Festival Orchestra. Our seats were up front and you could see the emotion in the band members' faces as they performed. "When we go into a ballad and the orchestra comes in behind us, tears come to my eyes," Nick told me. "It's powerful -- not just three guys standing on a stage with their guitars."

So it was with surprise and pleasure this week to see The Kingston Trio receive a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award for their work. It was long overdue and well-deserved. They were a pioneering folk group and leaders of the ’50s folk revival best known for the chart-topping songs "Tom Dooley," as well as "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" and "Tijuana Jail."

What struck me about Nick, who played a tenor guitar, was his enthusiasm for the group's music, even after all those years. He strummed his guitar during a break in the interview. In the room was memorabilia from the days when the group was in its heyday. A couple of The Kingston Trio members switched off over the years, but Nick Reynolds, Bob Shane and John Stewart were the best-known lineup. I saw Nick again a few months later at the Honolulu, Oahu, airport, when we coincidentally ran into each other while waiting at the gate for a flight back to San Diego.

Nick didn't live to see the group's Grammy honor. He passed away in 2008 from chronic heart disease. Bob Shane, the only surviving original member, accepted the award on behalf of The Kingston Trio. Nick would have been proud.


Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Sambalatte: Where Everybody Knows Your Name

By Cathy Scott

There's a new place in town, where everybody knows your name. It's called Sambalatte.

Step inside this caffee lounge and espresso bar, and you’re welcomed by your first name. The baristas and owners know everyone, and the guests know just about everybody too. It reminds me of the popular TV show “Cheers” and the fictional neighborhood bar, where everybody knew your name. “Cheers” was a welcoming watering hole, a place for friendship and comaradarie. 

Now, Sambalatte is the new “Cheers” and the place to hang out in Vegas.

Since it opened last fall, it's been embraced by the community, and the media have discovered it as well, including The New York Post, the local NPR affiliate, Fox 5, and a Brazilian TV station. Haute Living ranked Sambalatte No. 1 in its Top 5 coffee shops in Las Vegas. Word is spreading all over Twitter and Facebook too. And Seven magazine wrote, because of the micro-roasted varieties, “this just might be the freshest, most distinctive cup of coffee you’ve ever had in Las Vegas.”

Owners Sheila and Luiz have taken the time to not only focus on the brews, but on customers too by offering quiet attention and friendly smiles, and creating a cheerful atmosphere for people to stop in for their morning organic java and French pastry or sit at a table and sip while reading the paper. They’ve created an upscale boutique coffee lounge with a welcoming atmosphere that’s tough to beat. There’s a European feel about the place, found mostly in coffeehouses in New York and San Francisco.

Located on the West Side, in Fashion Village Boca Park, Sambalatte is already filling a niche in the area. The owners have created an environment that welcomes students, entrepreneurs, business people, and friends for a place to meet up by offering comfortable couches, tables and wireless Internet. The mezzanine upstairs is a favorite for some visitors. It’s already being called the best place in town to spot celebrities. But that list also includes local lawyers, cops, journalists, and dancers and performers from the casinos on the Las Vegas Strip.

When the sun is out, people flock to the outdoor umbrella tables and bring their dogs with them (there's an outdoor doggie station too). The shelves are stocked with books, magazines, board and table games, the morning paper, as well as an alt-weekly newspaper, and children are welcome. By nightfall on Friday and Saturday nights, it’s a coffee lounge with live music.

Urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg, in his 1989 book The Great Good Place, called such spots “third places,” where they’re not work and they’re not home. Instead, they’re “the heart of a community’s social vitality, the grassroots of democracy,” he wrote. In his book, he examines gathering places and reminds us how important they still are.

Sambalatte is just that: a great gathering place, where guests feel connected. Located between the Cheesecake Factory and Kona Grill, some stop by for a short time. Others go in with their Kindles, Nooks, laptops, netbooks and iPads, to work while sipping a white mocha or a chai latte, or lunching on an Italian sandwich or Caprese on a bagette (my favorite), yogurt, or a fruit-and-cheese plate. Fresh-baked goods are made in-house daily, so there's a lot to choose from.

Opening Sambalatte was a good move, choosing a corner of Boca Park Fashion Village that has an almost-village feel to it, with a waterfall, a meandering walkway and greenery. The place caught on quickly.

Like “Cheers” and its characters, who regularly hung out for the camaraderie, Sambalatte has become the place to be, where everybody knows your name. You can smell the fresh-roasted aroma before you walk in, and, somehow, the world seems better for it.

Take a virtual tour, with this video, and see for yourself:

Sambalatte Torrefazione
750 South Rampart Blvd
Las Vegas, Nevada 89145

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Book Signing for Vegas Author

By Cathy Scott

One of my favorite things is being around other writers, especially fellow authors. Such was the case on a recent Saturday when I attended my friend Matt O’Brien’s book signing at Barnes & Noble. It was for his latest book, My Week at the Blue Angel.

I got there just a few minutes after the event started, and already two people were buying books.

Then, an author friend of Matt’s–JJ Wylie–showed up, as did local photographer Bill Hughes and prolific author Bill Branon.

I hadn’t seen either Bills in a few years, so it was like a homecoming. Bill Hughes took the photos that are featured in Matt’s latest book, as well as the cover art, and I worked with Bill a few times back when I freelanced for Las Vegas CityLife.

Matt explained that the blue angel pictured on the cover, taken by Bill, is prominently standing at the seedy hotel on East Fremont Street–in Las Vegas’s red-light district–and is a 10-feet high piece of art standing in stark contrast to its environs.

Branon is a fellow author at my first publishing house, Huntington Press. And Branon has left an impressive list of books in his wake, including his first, Let Us Prey, which made The New York Times' 1992 Notable Books of the Year–a large feat, considering, before it was picked up by HarperCollins, he'd self-published it.

 Congrats to Matt on a successful signing, and a good time with old friends.

Photo of Matt courtesy of JJ Wylie.