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Ate is enough, visits from the stars at Coppola's 

Street Talk

Ate is Enough
Instant Karma: But is it Good?
Salon has Brush With Martha Stewart
Work at UR: Kids go Free
Park's Life Sparks Picture BoookAte is Enough

That whippersnapper upstart Dawson has got nothing on two real celebrities-about-town recently.

First came the always-watchable Sam Neill ("Jurassic Park," "The Hunt for Red October"), who made a fairly well-concealed visit with family members last month to Coppola's Delicatessen in Carytown.

The unmistakably handsome New Zealander, 52, was spotted after he and several relatives arrived for lunchtime sandwiches, but reportedly they were able to enjoy them unpestered. In fact, as Neill wore a baseball cap, "it was kind of hard to tell it was him," says deli manager Barry Bell. "He doesn't really look like his On-Net commercials" (which seem to air every seven minutes, unfortunately, for MCI Worldcom).

Neill apparently got word of Coppola's tasteful treats during area shooting for "The Memoirs of Sally Hemings," a CBS miniseries expected to air in early 2000. Neill plays the amorous Thomas Jefferson himself; the accent alone should be a hoot.

While things continue to be filmed apace around town, Bell says it was the deli's first major celeb appearance in his eight years as manager. So imagine his surprise when, last week, Coppola's served up its fifth lunch order in six days to Dick Van Patten (star of "Eight Is Enough," six other TV series, 24 movies, 27 Broadway shows, and storm-window infomercials), in town for rehearsals on the musical variety show "Scandals," premiering Nov. 17 at TheatreVirginia and running eight times a week through Dec. 18.

Sounds like Van Patten's been loading up on dairy. "He gets the fresh mozzarella sandwich and some cheesecake every time," Bell says, adding the actor called it the best he's ever had. And, Bell adds: "I figure Dick Van Patten's eaten a lot of cheesecake in his time."

Still bright-eyed and boyish at 70, Van Patten and his charming wife, Pat, stopped to chat with this reporter during a recent stroll in Carytown. They raved about the weather, gracious Richmonders and the "nice, college-town feel" of the city.

And where's your star on the Walk of Fame, Dawson?

— R.M.

Instant Karma

Here's another reason to watch where you walk on the streets of Richmond: You may be stepping on sacred Tibetan Buddhist mantras.

The mystical, runelike inscriptions, written in an all-but-indelible white paint or waxy substance, have been appearing on sidewalks around town since the summer. While the messages they impart are mostly positive, if enigmatic ("The jewel is in the lotus," reads the one in front of Ipanema Cafe on West Grace Street), the karma they're working up among local Buddhists is less than Zenlike.

Richmonder Kathy Grace says she was nonplused when she and a Buddhist friend visiting from Tibet stopped by Ipanema last month and almost trod upon the mantra. "'Oh, this is a very bad thing,'" she recalls her friend saying. The bottom line: Such inscriptions belong on elevated places, like mountainsides, not lowly Fan District concrete. And to make graffiti of them is, at best, inconsiderate.

Grace and Richard Mercer, a board member of Ekoji Buddhist Sangha, an interdenominational Buddhist temple here, surmise the ignorant author of the mantras probably is a young person new to Buddhism who doesn't realize he or she is being disrespectful. "It seems like a childish thing," Mercer says. "I don't think it would have a particularly bad effect on his karma."

Some nearby businesses themselves haven't minded. Jon Bone, manager of Ipanema Cafe, reports "it's been business as usual. No bad karma has struck." Terry Murphy, manager of Plan 9 Music in Carytown, which also boasts an inscription out front, says "business has been good. And for some reason more people seem to be selling [used CDs and records] to us. I'm just glad it's not some kind of satanic thing."

And there is good news, too, for those who inadvertently trample the teachings: "I'm sure innocence helps a lot," Grace says.

-R.M.

Salon has Brush With Martha Stewart

Imagine having to live up to Martha Stewart's standards. Yikes!

But it was a challenge Beth Astin and Ken Langston, owners of Austin's Salon and Day Spa in Carytown, were eager to accept.

Last December, the duo was asked by the soon-to-be bride Rebecca Thuss, senior editor for Martha Stewart Weddings magazine, to do the hair and makeup for her and her three bridesmaids on the big day.

Thuss learned of Astin and Langston through her New York stylist who works in another Aveda salon. Astin says they were told at first that they would be doing Martha Stewart's hair and makeup also. "That made us a little nervous," says Astin, because of Stewart's notoriety for being a perfectionist. But Astin says the day of the wedding, Stewart unexpectedly couldn't attend.

A bit relieved, Astin says she created pulled-back hairstyles for the bride and her attendants, tucking cyclamen blossoms, berries and leaves around the nape.

The wedding took place Dec. 12 at the historic Dumbarton House in Georgetown. Nearly a year later, Thuss' wedding is featured in the current issue of Martha Stewart Weddings magazine.

And even though Martha Stewart wasn't there, Astin feels certain the queen of style would have given the hairdos four words of approval: It's a good thing.

— Brandon Walters

Work at UR: Kids go Free"

"I think they're very effective and a great way to reach our potential audience," says University of Richmond spokesman Brian Eckert.

He's talking about those somewhat-static bus ads ("University of Richmond — Now Hiring") the school has been running recently. But what they lack in aesthetic zip they surely make up in strategic zing, right?

After all, the ads are perfectly clear. They also leverage the fact that UR has long been on a Greater Richmond Transit Co. line, making it easy for city dwellers and car-free citizens alike to take the bus to work there. And low-income workers are, in fact, the most in demand at the school, for positions in areas such as dining services, maintenance and the custodial department.

— R.M.

Park's Life Sparks Picture Book

Does the name Boscobel ring a bell?

To most, the answer is no. It was the name of Forest Hill Park 200 years ago when it was a working farm and country estate owned by the prominent attorney Holden Rhodes. But do people care? Do they even know where Forest Hill Park is? The Friends of Forest Hill Park hope that if they don't, they soon will.

Parks north of the James seem to get all the attention — and the visitors. And it's understandable: Byrd Park has the Carillon and Fountain Lake, and Maymont has Dooley Mansion and a petting zoo.

But soon The Friends of Forest Hill Park, a citizen group that aims to help the city of Richmond preserve and maintain the 119-acre park, hopes to remind Richmonders of this park's illustrious history.

This month, the group presents its soft-bound, 40-page book "An Illustrated History of Forest Hill Park" by historian Lynne A. George. The book traces the history of Forest Hill Park from its Colonial roots in 1768 to its turn-of-the-century stint as a trolley terminal and amusement park. In its heyday in the 1920s and 30s the park marked the end of the trolley line. It even had a roller coaster, carousel, dance hall and penny arcade.

"This is the land that time forgot," says Monica Rumsey, co-chair of Friends of Forest Hill Park. "Many people don't cross the river, but we're working on that."

The book has a price tag of $7, and a portion of the proceeds will go to restoration of The Old Stone House and park landscaping. The book is available at The Tea Room on Forest Hill Avenue.

— B.W.

Senior Swimmer Strikes Again

It was another banner tournament for Marie Kelleher, and not just because the 86-year-old United States Masters Swimming member got to help carry Virginia's broad pennant at the head of the state contingent last month to the National Senior Games — The Senior Olympics in Orlando, Fla.

It also was an opportunity for Kelleher, who swims with her husband, Mike, at Richmond's Jewish Community Center, to set some more national records and wear home another neckful of medals.

She did — big-time: Kelleher raised the national bar for the 85-to-89-year-old women's grouping in three events, and came away with five golds and a silver from the three-day swimming competitions in late October.

The Kellehers own several heating-oil and related companies here and they still go into the office each day after their morning swims at the JCC. With their full lives and family to keep up with, it's clear Marie Kelleher doesn't do this for the gold or the glory — she refuses even to estimate how many medals she's won since she started competing nationally back in the '80s. The ones she hasn't given away to grandkids are "probably in a drawer somewhere," adds Ed Kelleher, one of her four sons. "There's no wall of honor or anything like that."

Instead, swimming for Marie Kelleher mostly is about getting out, staying active and keeping those competitive, life-affirming juices flowing. "They didn't have many sports for women when I was in school. I guess it wasn't ladylike," she says of her better-late-than-never entry to the sport at 65.

That fact alone refutes what Kelleher's peers often say on learning of her accomplishments: "A lot of people tell me that they couldn't do that. I tell them, 'How do you know? You don't know until you try.'" —
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