A raven-haired dynamo in a city of beachy bottle blondes, Liz Edwards would probably stand out even if she didn't take a camera crew with her everywhere she went. With wide dark eyes, a sweet Australian accent, an impish grin and the energy of a woman half her age, Edwards is the founder and face of the website www.letsplaydowntown.com, and she's on a mission to connect locals and the world at large to the posh side of San Diego.
"I like to promote our city,"Edwards says. "It has some wonderful things, and I like to share that with other people. I see myself also as an ambassador for the various venues that I've interviewed at, and they're numerous."
Essentially, Let's Play Downtown is a live-action version of the back pages of those glossy rags so many hipsters love to hate. Snappily edited and presented in easily digestible two-minute segments, Edwards' videos bring the frozen, white-toothed grins of magazine VIPs to life. Visitors to the site are invited to spend hours picking from a dizzying selection of clips and watching the glitterati display their goodies while they talk up the venue and the event du jour.
Watching Edwards conduct the interviews, it's evident that she revels in the activity and relative glamour of her job. It's probably because her life couldn't have been set up to turn out any differently.
Growing up in Sydney, Edwards was a shy Greek girl living under her father's thumb. At 16, she married a Greek man almost twice her age and moved straight from her father's house into his. She was the main ingredient in an age-old recipe for domestic despair, but 10 years and two children later, Edwards found her feet, left the Greek, met and married a charming Brit and began a whole new life.
"I think all the years of being stifled in my Greek life kind of came out,"Edwards says, ruminating about her metamorphosis from introvert to social butterfly.
Edwards and her husband, Alan, eventually started a software company that brought them from Australia to America. Thirteen years ago, they were looking for a place to live around San Francisco when Edwards came to San Diego to run a half-marathon.
"I never even knew that San Diego existed,"she says. "We got to La Jolla and I thought, This is it, I love this place. I said, "Forget the house in the Bay Area-we're moving here.'"
Edwards says they settled in La Jolla primarily for the sake of their children's education, but lately she's been itching to get closer to the action.
"Everything I do and I focus on has literally been downtown,"says Edwards. "If [my youngest daughter] wasn't in school, we would sell the house and move downtown, or I'd move into the Bankers Hill or North Park area. I think the lifestyle is all here. Everything I like is here. You can walk, don't have to worry about cars, traffic, and you have a community of like-minded people."
Even when she's not filming, Edwards stays firmly planted in the midst of the downtown scene, hitting up three events on a recent Wednesday evening.
The first was hosted by Bosa, the condo-development company-a sedate, sandwiches-with-no-crusts, botox-infused affair at the San Diego Symphony. Edwards arrived early to mingle and cut out before the end of the opening act, heading next to a noisy prom-dress-donation party at the Wine and Culinary Center, where scores of 20-somethings were availing themselves of free pluck-your-eyebrows-while-you-party services. Finding it too loud and a bit too young for her taste, she ended up down the block at the new Aussie restaurant Bondi, which was hosting a fundraiser for the local Boys & Girls Club.
Between greeting friends and networking, Edwards put her expertise to use, sharing how she plans to spend her summer days in downtown San Diego.
A distance runner and former aerobics instructor, Edwards says she likes to start the day early by running up and down the stairs at the Convention Center and then taking a jog around Seaport Village. Post work-out, she enjoys either the late brunch and sweeping views at the Altitude Skybar at the top of the Marriott Hotel (660 K St.) or an early lunch at The Fish Market (750 N. Harbor Drive). If it's a game day, she might take out-of-town friends to a game at Petco Park, but she's more likely to take herself on a stroll through Balboa Park and then check out some art at the L Street Gallery (628 L St.) or Gallery 5+5 (540 Sixth Ave.). Around happy hour, she might stop for the $5 burger-and-martini special at the Omni Hotel (675 L St.) or beer and pizza at Bar Basic (410 Tenth Ave.). She likes to see plays at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza and the Civic Theatre (1100 Third Ave.), and is most likely to be found sipping a nightcap at the W Hotel's outdoor beach bar (421 West B St.)
"I've seen the city change and grow to what it's becoming right now, and when I'm away from here I refer to San Diego as God's country,"says Edwards. "We've got the weather, we've got the art, we've got the culture, we're getting it all."