Cafe au L.A.

Searching for the heart of young hollywood, it's easy to get lost. though there's no geographical center to this oh-so-pretty community, there is always one trendy pastime which is captivating the "in" crowd. thing is, they either won't admit to being a part of it, or won't agree that it's happening at all. these days, the coffeehouse scene is what's flourishing--ancient storefronts house joints with too cool names, filled with plush, vaguely antique furniture on whose broken springs languish girls in crushed velvet hats nibbling carrot cake, and boys scribbling in leather-bound diaries or, better yet, tapping into portable word processors...

The trend may be over by the time you read this, but for a while, it burned ever so brightly, with an aroma of Turkish tobacco and $3-a-cup mocha Java--perfect with a slim volume of advice from Rilke resting strategically above the hole in the knee of a perfectly worn pair of jeans. ■ "I love coffee," says Scott Coffey, while sipping an iced one. But Coffey (shown here with Heather Graham, his co-star in the upcoming Shake It Up) is somewhat less fond of coffeehouses themselves. "I've been a couple of times," he admits. "I like the idea--but this is L.A., so the same people you try to avoid, the ones who pose all over town, end up there. They put on their actor's uniforms, and get on their Harleys, and go to one of these places--but in fact, these are development people, all of them talking too loudly about how much Julia Roberts is making on her next movie." ■ The first thing Keith Coogan sees at Java is an actual actor friend of his sipping a beverage at a nearby table. "You really come to these places and drink coffee?" he asks, surprised. The actor pal holds up his glass and says, "It's Diet Coke." So Keith (featured in the upcoming Book of Love, Toy Soldiers, and Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead) is not a regular patron? "Oh no, no, no. My girlfriend's into the coffeehouse thing, but I'm not. I'm a pizza-eating, video-renting kind of guy. I read a lot, but I wouldn't come to a place and bring a book to be seen reading. I think books are a personal thing and should be read in the privacy of your home." Depends on what you read, Keith. ■ Sean Astin, who's in Toy Soldiers, asked if he could be photographed at Johnny Rocket's, a simulated '40s Melrose malt shop. Coffeehouses, Sean--we're doing coffeehouses. He gets right to the point then: "They've become the thing now, because drinking is no longer popular in Hollywood--everyone's either alcoholic or dying." This is not too far from the truth, and that's enough to make one long to, well, live somewhere else. "When I do have free time, I try to leave L.A.," Sean agrees. "I'd rather be kicking back in Idaho with my family." ■ If Beitila Damas could do anything of an evening, she says, "I'd rather go dancing--salsa, of course. Coffeehouses are for talking. I'd prefer to move. Either that or I'd stay home and reupholster my furniture." Of course. Featured in two upcoming films, Nothing But Trouble and Files Within, Damas says that since arriving here a year ago she hasn't found anything about L.A. that she doesn't like. "People are much more lighthearted here than in New York. I'm living in Hollywood and I wish I could write on my envelopes, 'Hollywood, U.S.A.' Can you do that?" You bet. It's just one more thing to like about this town. ■ There's one in every crowd, of course, and in this crowd it's Kyle Secor (pictured here with Gabrielle Anwar, who stars in Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken). "I don't drink coffee," says Kyle, "but I think coffeehouses are very sexy. I'd go all the time if I weren't so busy working." When not shooting films like City Slickers, Delusion, Sleeping With the Enemy, and Late for Dinner, Secor prefers coffeehouses to the club scene because "in clubs you have to scream, and in places like The Living Room you can communicate by talking. Coffeehouses don't care how your career is going; for the price of a cappuccino (or in my case, hot chocolate) you can just sit with strangers and exchange ideas and opinions--it's tough to do that at, say, Denny's." ■ Cut to: the Very Near Future. Coffeehouses are suddenly out, and coffee shops are in--particularly the Denny's over on Sunset. Hollywood's young players fill these slippery, simulated leather booths from noon to night. It seems they now favor $2.29 egg-and-bacon specials over Kona Java roast, and that they actually prefer beefy waitresses in pink hose and hospital shoes, the sound system that cranks Mantovani, not Mozart or Monk, and the piquant scent of a truck driver's stogie forever wafting over from the next booth. Kids today, I'll tell ya. . .Now is that Julia Roberts, or just a D-girl with her smile?

Joshua Mooney