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My LA To Z: Michael McDonald
The “MADtv” alum (best known for his role as Stuart) co-stars alongside his one-time student, Melissa McCarthy, in this month’s “The Heat.” Here the comedian monologues on secret wine warehouses, perfect date spots, and knocking one back with Richard Belzer
Not the fancy Hollywood one, but the original one in Studio City. It’s very authentic and unpretentious. I always get whatever the specials are because I’m not very imaginative. I walk up to the little dry-erase board and based on how enthusiastic the chefs get about the fish, that’s what I’ll order.
It’s the quintessential L.A. “thing,” to go outside and have a glass of wine at the Chateau Marmont on a sunny late afternoon. You’ll definitely see some showbizzy types which is always fun, but beyond all of that it’s just a beautiful setting. For a place that could be really pretentious they’re the most friendly staff that I’ve ever come across. They remember you and take care of you. I ran into Richard Belzer there once, who was looking at me—I didn’t know if he was staring at me or vice versa. He waved me over and I thought he was going to yell at me, but he ended up buying me a drink.
This is one of the most romantic restaurants you could go to, a great place to take a date. It’s a Morrocan restaurant, and it’s been around a long time. Great lamb, amazing couscous. All very fragrant and spiced. They call it Little Door because you walk through a little door onto a patio all strung up with café lights—at nighttime it’s just the most magical place. It’s a little on the pricey side, but it’s worth it.
This is where I got my start, and where so many of my friends got their starts, including Melissa McCarthy. She was my student there, and she met her husband there, too. I perform there often—I do the improv show on Thursday night, Cookin’ With Gas. It’s a mix of people who are currently in the company along with alumni and guests. It’s great place to bring family from out of town.
It’s a wine shop, a mom and pop place, and they know everything there is to know about wine. I grew up drinking—that sounds bad—drinking California wines, and I’ve grown to love European wines, but I don’t know anything about them. You can go and say, ‘I’m going to a party outside in the afternoon, and they’re serving kebabs, can you make a suggestion?’ and they’ll give you the perfect bottle.
Topline Wine & Spirit Co.
You will think I’m sending you to a place to get murdered. A G-rated murder, but murdered nonetheless. A fellow wine-lover told me about it: It’s in the warehouse district, and they throw open this garage door and all the wine is sitting there in boxes. The prices are really, really good, especially if you’re buying in bulk.
This is actually kind of an L.A. institution—it’s been around for about fifteen or twenty years. It’s an alternative stand-up comedy room owned by Beth Lapides that focuses more on storytelling, not polished acts. A lot of comics go there to practice a different form of storytelling. When I first got my start I saw Judd Apatow, Margaret Cho, Kathy Griffin, Julia Sweeney—all of those people were doing stand up there.
The Cheese Store of Silverlake
You can find the stinkiest, scariest cheese here. I like anything where people are really into what they do, and this isn’t some high school kid who got stuck selling cheese. These people know what they’re doing. They’ll make sandwiches, too.
Original LA Flower Mart
It’s just giant warehouse filled with roses taller than you in piles, and it obviously smells great. You can go here and not even buy flowers and I think it would still be fun. I go during the weekdays in the very early morning. Around the holidays, if you want to fill your house up with flowers on the cheap, you can go here and see flowers you didn’t even know existed. There will be a dude standing there with 300 blue roses and you just wonder, What is he doing with that? You have to be careful though—it’s only open to the public on certain days.
Los Angeles County Museum Of Art
I think LACMA has become my favorite L.A. museum because of the wine. It’s one of the few public squares in the city, and it feels like you’re in New York or Europe. You can eat and drink and watch the world go by. On Sunday nights they have live performances in the green area. You can BYOB, but they also serve wine and beer. You see families, couples, large groups, all kinds of people mixing together. Anywhere you can drink in public and be expected to act like an adult—and people actually DO act like adults—is fine by me.
Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA
This is where I got my dog. I think you should visit any animal shelter and adopt, but what I like about this one in particular is that it’s very well-run and very clean. And I scored there, so I want someone else to score there as well.
See Michael perform live this Thursday, July 11th, at the Ice House Comedy Club in Pasadena.
Photographs courtesy (in order): (1) facebook.com (2) facebook.com (3) facebook.com (4) facebook.com (5) du-vin.net (6) toplinewine.com (7) facebook.com (8) facebook.com (9) facebook.com (10) facebook.com (11) facebook.com