Meet, Greet and (Oh, Yeah) Eat

Hot restaurants in Los Angeles can cool as quickly as one's career in this image- obsessed city. Where you eat, like anything, definitely makes a statement about who you are.

Atop the heap these days is the Monkey Bar in West Hollywood, where Jack Nicholson, Nick Nolte or Rod Stewart dines on any given day. Roxbury got noticed when Shannen Doherty had her famed catfight there.

Arnold Schwarzenegger can be seen breakfasting at his own Schatzi in Venice. And Sharon Stone was recently spotted slurping a giant shake at Larry Parker's Diner.

The other night at Toscana in Brentwood, superagent Mike Ovitz was chowing down with Rob Reiner. Morton's is still the hangout for industry honchos on Mondays. And Spago -- while sometimes a haven for the geriatric star set -- still attracts hordes of paparazzi.

Granita, in Malibu, is run by the illustrious chef Wolfgang Puck. Although it's smack in the middle of a Santa Monica mall replete with parking, nary a customer would ever consider parking his own Jaguar.

Brown, Moonlighting in S.F.

If Jerry Brown still has a political agenda, he's playing coy as to what it might be: "I'm planning a number of things, but I'm really not ready to go into it quite yet."

We found Bill Clinton's last surviving Democratic rival at his home in San Francisco, where he recently moved his of operations from L.A., and where he may or may not be planning a run for local office. "You'll be hearing in a couple of months," he told us mysteriously.

Brown also modestly pulled his punches on the Clinton administration, saying that "it's a bit early" to comment.

But wait. Hints of the old Jerry return when he brings up the East Liverpool, Ohio, incinerator project -- the what? -- a controversial waste disposal plant that Brown thinks the administration hasn't done enough to stop. "It seems that's a promise that, at least to date, they're not keeping. ... It's the most important environmental issue to date -- a major test. It really goes to the heart of the whole matter."

While waiting to unveil his agenda, Brown says he's been writing op-ed pieces, speaking on college campuses and pushing those same social causes that got him dubbed "Gov. Moonbeam" years ago.

He won't say whether '96 is an option. But as to the famed 800 fund-raising number he flashed during the campaign, "It's still open for business."

Chuck, the Pick of the Parkers

He may still dream of parking cars at the White House one day, but all told, he's done pretty well to date. When producer Ted Fields is having Bill Clinton for dinner, he calls Chuck. When Tony Curtis is getting married -- again -- it's Chuck whom he wants front and center. He's parked Jimmy Stewart's same Bentley for 30 years, and ferried cars for the Beatles, Queen Elizabeth, Marvin Davis, Henry Mancini and Joan Rivers.

Yes sir, Chuck Pick, the unabashed parker to the stars, is at your service. And frankly, you ain't nobody if you haven't been parked by Chuck.

"You name the star, I've parked them," announces Chuck, from his office in the San Fernando Valley.

Only in Los Angeles can a professional valet parker become a symbol of prestige and wealth, having name recognition nearly as high as those he parks.

"I've had people call to find out if I'm doingthe parking -- they say if you are I'm bringing the Rolls, if not I'm bringing the station wagon," he says. "I swear on my children's lives."

Chuck's work on wheels started when he was 16 years old and landed a job parking cars at the now defunct Romanoff's, one of Hollywood's glitziest watering holes. He caught the eye of the late Peter Lawford, who eventually hired Chuck to park at a private club. One thing led to another, and now Chuck is Hollywood's parker nonpareil. His 60-man service parks for about 100 events a week.

"It's not just like hiring ground chuck," he says (he really said that). "If we're gonna do it, we do it right. I've seen so many times people spend four hours at a party having a wonderful time and the next day they're saying they had to wait 20 minutes for their car. They don't remember the party."

Most memorable park: "At Peter Lawford's house, I brought up a '56 T-Bird and Marilyn Monroe got in -- and I didn't want to get out."

Scariest park: "One of the members of a private club where a party was didn't like the way I was directing traffic and pulled a gun and threatened to kill me."

It's all in the line of duty for Chuck.


Hollywood was aghast yesterday over the sudden and bizarre death of 27-year-old actor Brandon Lee, who was filming in Wilmington, N.C. Most stunning was the fact that Lee, viewed as a rising star, was the son of kung fu legend Bruce Lee, who died suddenly at age 32. The son was killed by a metal projectile from a gun that should have been loaded with blanks on the set of "The Crow" -- which has been plagued by other strange mishaps.

The recession seems to have hit even affluent Beverly Hills hard. At least half a dozen stores are sitting empty on Rodeo Drive and Wilshire Boulevard, and several others advertise moving or closing sales.

Oscar producer Gil Cates is still enraged that presenters Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins and Richard Gere made political statements on the broadcast Monday night. "I wouldn't invite them to my home, and I won't invite them to a future show," he told Reuter.

CAPTION:Big wheel Chuck Pick.