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The Rise of the Bus-Riding Celebrity?

Mad Men actor Vincent Kartheiser rides public transit in Los Angeles and does not own a car. Why don't more eco-minded celebrities take the bus?

Why don't more eco-minded celebrities in Los Angeles take public transit?


In the weekend Style section of The New York Times, there's a column called "A Night With" that usually follows an emerging star (and his entourage) out to some throbbing Sunset Strip nightclub. But this week's profilee, Vincent Kartheiser, who plays the smarmy Pete Campbell on Mad Men, used his night out a bit differently: The actor, who lives in Los Angeles and does not own a car, took reporter Tricia Romano on a public transit adventure.

A brief story in the Hufflingon Post a few weeks ago mentioned Kartheiser's car-free status (as well as the fact that, at the time, he did not own a toilet, although it appears Kartheiser has moved into a fully-equipped Hollywood apartment). But what's amazing about this weekend's story is that the article focuses almost completely on how Kartheiser moves around the city without a car: He tells Romano how he takes the subway or two buses to the Mad Men set while he works on crossword puzzles or practices his lines, thinks it's easy to navigate the various bus routes, and changes into his clothes when he arrives at auditions to stay fresh. He even utters some pretty memorable lines about how much he enjoys being part of the 10% of L.A.'s population that's transit-dependent:

“It’s wonderful,” he tells the reporter. “Instead of driving and being stressed out about traffic, you can work your scene, you can do your exercises or whatever on the bus. Everyone’s got their own deal.”

“I like that my life slows down when I go places,” he said. “I have all these interactions with the human race and I can watch people living their life and not just in their car.”

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There's also a remarkable moment when he encounters a fan at an Echo Park bar who admits to taking public transit for the first time in L.A. Kartheiser reveals some encouraging statistics to his fellow rider: “They’ve done a study and they’ve found that people under 30 no longer view cars as status symbols or even positive things. They look at them as pollutants.”

Which got me thinking: Celebrities put their visibility behind so many environmental causes, from raising awareness about climate change to raging at the government about oil spills. Yet they all still drive. Where are the celebrity public transit advocates?

Judging from this article, a car-free member of the L.A. entertainment industry is still such a novel concept that a new rider would surely get attention in the media. Privacy shouldn't be an issue: In New York, of course, celebs of all stripes take the subway. And if you think about it, it's no more or less of a public place than a grocery store—Kartheiser says he never gets recognized, even when a Mad Men ad was plastered on the side of the bus. Besides, could you imagine TMZ waiting at subway stops and chasing down buses to snap shots of celebs? (Actually, I'd really like to see that.) It almost seems like a better way to go incognito, slipping onto the Red Line to go downtown, unnoticed.

Of course Kartheiser certainly isn't the only celeb famous for riding the rails: Actor Ed Begley Jr. is as well-known for his environmental activism as he is for his acting roles. I spoke to Begley about his use of public transit in a story for Dwell, and how he once showed up to an awards show on a bike, in a tux. Begley, who also drives an electric car, told me that the shift would take more drastic lifestyle changes for his fellow celebs, who are used to living in low-density neighborhoods atop L.A.'s hills, which require driving (or a hefty hike).

But I know that some celebs are moving into walkable neighborhoods like Hollywood and downtown. And I know that celebrity backing for causes can move product and change perception. If more celebs rode transit and talked about its benefits, I think it would get some starry-eyed followers to get on board. Plus their endorsement of proposed rail lines to higher-income areas like Santa Monica and Beverly Hills could help garner local support. And perhaps these pro-transit celebs will produce more pro-transit entertainment, reversing the trend Tom Vanderbilt recently noticed in films: Carless characters are usually losers.

So where are the other celebrities who talk about eschewing their wheels for walking? Surely a few of the New York transplants who have never gotten their license would be willing to try the bus. In fitness-crazed L.A. there's sure to be at least a few celebrities who get around exclusively using bikes. Right?

Until then, it looks like Kartheiser is the unofficial car-free transit advocate on behalf of Hollywood. On last night's Mad Men, there was even a possible wink to Kartheiser's carless existence. A rival ad man hopes to entice Kartheiser's character to join his firm by mentioning their newest client, Italian automaker Alfa Romero. Kartheiser looks at him blankly, and says, with deep conviction, "I don't drive."

Articles
via Collection of the New-York Historical Society / Wikimedia Commons

Fredrick Douglass was born into slavery in 1818. At the age of 10 he was given to the Auld family.

As a child, he worked as a house slave and was able to learn to read and write, and he attempted to teach his fellow slaves the same skills.

At the age of 15, he was given to Thomas Auld, a cruel man who beat and starved his slaves and thwarted any opportunity for them to practice their faith or to learn to read or write.

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via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

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For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

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In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

Communities
via Chela Horsdal / Twitter

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

The show is loosely based on an alternative history novel by Philip K. Dick that postulates what would happen if Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan controlled the United States after being victorious in World War II.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

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In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

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Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?

Lifestyle

Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

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