Arson spree in L.A. narrowly misses “Bite Marks” actor and SMU alum Benjamin Lutz

Lutz on the set of 'Bite Marks'

After director Mark Bessenger posted on Facebook that Benjamin Lutz was almost a victim of the recent arson attacks in Los Angeles, I contacted the former Plano resident and SMU alum to see just what happened. He responded with the good news that he’s OK, but described how it went down.

“Yes, my parking garage was one of the ones hit by the arsonist,” he said. “It was on New Year’s Eve and I was at my apartment getting ready for a dinner party.  I heard people yelling ‘fire,’ and sure enough the car next to mine was set on fire. I was lucky enough to move my car in time and the fire didn’t spread to my apartment. Sadly, three other cars and the side of the building didn’t make it. It was a weird holiday and I couldn’t get back in my apartment for a long while. I did not lose my car, but some of my friends mistook the info as my car being blown up.”

Lutz starred in the 2011 indie horror flick Bite Marks which we featured in our coverage of the Fears for Queers film festival and its recent DVD release. The perp was arrested on Monday and will appear in court today.

Scary stuff.

UPDATE: Soon after posting this, I learned that former Dallas Voice writer Alonso Duralde and his partner Dave White were directly affected by the arsonist as their two cars were firebombed at their West Hollywood complex. A fund has been set up to help cover repairs and replacement of their vehicles (one was not insured). To contribute, click here.

—  Rich Lopez

Tube review: ‘Rocco’s Dinner Party’

For the most part, there are two kinds of TV cooking shows: Those that teach you techniques — the ones that are all about entertaining and fun with food — and competition shows, where chefs demonstrate their skills in the hopes of winning something (money, a job, bragging rights). Rocco’s Dinner Party, which debuts tonight on Bravo, splits the difference.

The premise — three promising chefs compete to put on a dinner party for Rocco’s guests (including, in the first episode, gay actor Bryan Batt from Mad Men), and the one who presents the best meal, including the decor and style, gets $20,000, with the first of the three eliminated after the first challenge — combines Chopped, Top Chef and Top Design with Martha Stewart Living.

It’s not a wholly successful mashup. The host, Rocco DiSpirito, has been better known for the last decade as a celebrity than as a cook, with reality shows like The Restaurant, as well as for writing cookbooks. He seems more interested in bullying the contestants and demonstrating his own superior knowledge about cooking than actually teaching (or learning) anything. He’s such an annoying smartypants (frankly, he has been every time I’ve seen him on TV), you kinda want his dinner party to fail. And the now-annoying habit of waiting until the challenge is half-way over before the show throws a wrench into the plans (surprise! your guests have dietary restrictions we didn’t tell you about before you went shopping!) has infected the entire genre with its false drama and predictability.

As the Bravo style of shows go, there are far worse out there, and if Rocco tones down his snippiness (who would want to attend a dinner party with him?) it could grow on me. Until then, I’ll stick to take-out.

 

—  Arnold Wayne Jones