Tastemakers: Power & Grace

J.J. Abrams
Hollywood Multi-hyphenate, Founder of Bad Robot Productions
With blockbusters like Star Trek and Armageddon, not to mention TV series Alias, Lost and Fringe, the producer, director, screenwriter, actor and composer has set himself apart as an entertainment mastermind. Mission: Impossible III and Star Trek were both huge and critically acclaimed. Sequels are on the horizon for 2011 and 2012, but we’re certain it won’t stop there. Superman and graceful man? He’s definitely got the cred. And if that’s not enough, he’s a genius at graphic art and all things stationery, spending hours making showstopping personalized gifts.

Karen Bass
Speaker of the California State Assembly
Leading California to a more solvent, just and equal opportunity state is Karen Bass’ platform. For more than a year as Speaker of the California State Assembly, she has championed foster-care reform, insurance coverage for needy families and budgetary reform. With her around, we’re sure California will be able to pick itself up by its bootstraps. She has a brown belt in tae kwon do and hapkido, so don’t be fooled by her grace.

Art Bilger
Founder and Managing Member, Shelter Capital Partners
Before joining investment management fund Shelter Capital Partners, Bilger worked as president and COO of New World Communications Group Inc. (which was eventually bought by News Corp). He is on the forefront of the digital revolution and the convergence of business and media platforms. Two of his recent projects, companies Zumbox and Veoh, are delivering paperless mail online and personalized online entertainment video, respectively. Although one of the busiest people you'll ever meet, he can't sleep, so he runs on the treadmill at 5 a.m. Yet he always has time and grace for a heartfelt greeting.

Gene Block, PhD
Chancellor of UCLA
“You are on your way to becoming leaders of our society,” Chancellor Block told 2009 graduates of UCLA’s College of Letters and Sciences, emphasizing his undeniable dedication to community outreach. Projects created under his watch include the UCLA Community School, to be housed in a brand-new mid-Wilshire facility with six other pilot schools, and CleanTech Los Angeles, a partnership with Mayor Villaraigosa to provide research and generate jobs in the environmental sector. In addition to his work, Block is an expert in sleep-wake cycles, which, even for him, is derailed after his long outreach trips to Asia. But he cures that with plenty of coffee. And grace.

Reveta Bowers
Head of the Center for Early Education
She remembers every single student who has walked through her halls over the last 40 years. For Bowers, who was also on Disney’s board of directors, music education is one of the most important things a parent can give a child, and to that end, the Center for Early Education has aided in promoting an interactive honors orchestra. She has also served as president of the California Association of Independent Schools and treasurer of the National Association of Independent Schools. Her commitment to education and her grace get winning grades.

Edythe Broad
Edythe Broad is a leader behind forward-thinking, incentivizing and charitable foundations alongside her husband, Eli. Her steadfast commitment to the greater good in the fields of education (millions in college scholarships in support of closing the achievement gap), art (MOCA’s recent rescue plan), science (stem cell research advancements on the cutting edge) and civic initiatives are unparalleled and admired around the world. What we love about Edythe is that her decisions are always based on caring for the individual, and her grace shines from deep within her blue eyes.

Rick Caruso
President & CEO, Caruso Affiliated
Most notable for his behemoth real estate development project the Grove, Rick Caruso is at it again. This time he’s building the Miramar Beach Resort and Bungalows in Montecito and the Shops at Santa Anita, which may even need its own zip code! As a leader in merging commerce and lifestyle, he uses an approach steeped in grace—a walk through any one of his beloved "second homes" is comparable to a trip through a resort.

John Chiang
California State Controller
Controller Chiang is steadfast in his commitment to prosperous times ahead as our state’s chief fiscal officer. Former governor Davis calls him "the very definition of a straight shooter," someone for whom “public service is a very personal mission.” With grace in good times and in bad, he is a true leader and fights resiliently for tax credits and refunds for low- and middle-income families, as well as for protecting and leveraging our natural resources.

Julie Chrystyn
Publisher & Copresident, Dove Books Division of Phoenix Books
Her amazing story of success as a writer started when she immigrated to the United States from Communist Yugoslavia at eight years old and was subsequently diagnosed with severe scoliosis. That showed Chrystyn the ways of a graceful approach to life. Her new book, The Secret to Life Transformation, teaches people how to create a vision for their lives and turn it into reality. Her graceful, wide smile is as energizing as her infectious cackles, and her philanthropic generosity is always in full bloom.

Melanie Cook
Attorney, Ziffren, Brittenham, Branca, Fischer, Gilbert-Lurie, Stiffelman, Cook, Johnson, Lande & Wolf LLP
She’s the entertainment attorney to the stars but also a community do-gooder, participating in Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles, the National Breast Cancer Coalition and Hollywood for Habitat for Humanity as a founding member. In the tough world of entertainment, sitting across the table from Cook could be intimidating—but her grace under pressure belies a tough cookie.

Nancy Daly
After three decades, Daly knows a thing or two about helping our community. The former board chairman of LACMA and the Getty House Restoration Project has been called an activist and warrior for kids. In fact, to put focus back on foster care when none was given, she helped found the United Friends of the Children Emancipation Program, leading our youth to brighter futures. Tiny and forceful, she is made of steel and grace and adored by everyone. And when she sinks her teeth into something, watch out.

John B. Emerson
President, Personal Investment Management, Capital Group
Emerson continues to drive forward the sonic landscape of Los Angeles. During his first year as chairman of the board of Los Angeles Music Center, he oversaw the opening of Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall, which has become a symbol of grace in architecture and a linchpin of the revitalization of downtown. He was previously engaged in politics, serving on Bill Clinton’s senior staff at the White House and gaining membership to the Council on Foreign Relations. Now home in L.A., with a house full of girls and a legion of fans, it’s not a surprise that he is grace personified.

Dana Farner
Beverage Director, Cut
When complications with her vocal cords forced Farner to quit a career in acting and singing, the L.A. wine community benefited. Wolfgang Puck alerted her to the opening at Cut, and she has since become a goddess of graceful food and wine pairings, publicly favoring Rieslings. When you go to Cut, ask for her favorite must-have champagne: Moët & Chandon Imperial Rosé.

Rob Friedman
Cochairman, Summit Entertainment
Things changed when the former VP of Paramount, who held the post for a decade, was bitten by the vampire bug. At his new company, Summit, which set the bloodsucking genre ablaze with the release of the film version of Twilight—grossing around $70.6 million on opening weekend alone—Friedman has garnered accolades, like Sundance’s Nielsen Impact Award. Remember when vampire Edward Cullen told human Isabella Swan, “I don’t have the strength to stay away from you anymore”? Well, we can’t seem to stay away from Friedman. Stay tuned for more genius exploration of other genres and more grace on the big screen.

Jenny Fritz
Literary Agent, Paradigm
As a literary agent for several years at some of Hollywood’s top shops, including ICM and the former William Morris and BWCS agencies, Fritz now works in Paradigm’s Beverly Hills offices, guiding the careers of film and television writers and directors. Though she’s always firm and tenacious when asking for what she wants, no phone call ever ends without her signature wit and grace.

Suzanne Goin
With three kids under the age of three, it takes our breath away that Goin even gets out of the house. Culinary master, restaurant proprietor, chef, graceful host. She and her restaurants—A.O.C, Lucques and now Brentwood’s Tavern with partner Caroline Styne—are fixtures of L.A.’s food scene. We’re always craving to see what’s next—who does seasonal, farmers’-market fresh better, anyway?

Russell Goldsmith
CEO, City National Bank
Forbes has ranked Goldsmith as one of the top 10 CEOs in the country, and, considering his is now one of the largest banks headquartered in Southern California, we feel the honor is well deserved. Standing the test of economic turmoil, the Harvard and Harvard Law grad is now working to repay all TARP money received. Gracefully.

Harry B. Gray
Founding Director, Beckman Institute at Caltech
After decades of research in the field of electron transfers, Gray is a leader in our nation’s commitment to sustainability and an expert in solar and renewable fuels. Science and grace converge as his team explores the use of abundant nonliving materials and sunlight to economically generate hydrogen fuel and clean water. He received this year’s Welch Foundation Award for lifetime achievement in basic research, and he lights the halls of Caltech with his graceful and jubilant smile. A friend once said, “He is as concerned about his students’ professional development as he is their personal of his favorite statistics is the number of marriages between members of his research group—a number for which he is proud to take full credit!”

Antonia Hernández
President, California Community Foundation
With Antonia Hernández at the helm, the California Community Foundation, with its recent $3.75 million initiative to help immigrants improve job skills, learn English and thrive with grace and dignity in our community, is setting the pace for a vigorous cross-cultural environment. She served as president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) for 18 years, and she remains a vanguard and a civil-rights watchdog.

Robin Kramer
Chief of Staff, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
Kramer, the first female in the city’s history to grace the mayoral office under the chief of staff title when she joined Richard Riordan’s team, now serves in the same post for Mayor Villaraigosa. She also serves on the boards of the Jewish Community Foundation and the historic Breed Street Shul Project in Boyle Heights and is involved with the Broad and California Community foundations.

Mitch Kupchak
General Manager, Los Angeles Lakers
There are NBA general managers who like to throw their weight around, but nothing could be further from Laker GM Kupchak’s style. He brings the same understated grace to his current role with the multi-championship team as he did when he was playing power forward in the 1985 championships against the Boston Celtics.

Sherry Lansing
Entertainment Legend
The former CEO of Paramount Pictures and president of production at 20th Century Fox was the first woman head of a Hollywood studio. She created the Sherry Lansing Foundation, dedicated to raising awareness and funds for cancer research, and the Encore program, which galvanizes retired adults to return to their roots and teach in schools. Her signature of grace and style? Joy in her eyes—and always returning calls the same day.

Howard Marks
Chairman, Oaktree Capital Management
Investment guru Marks, who worked for a decade at TCW as chief investment officer for domestic fixed income and president of asset management before moving to Oaktree, is finding his own way to get the nation out of its fiscal rut, one graceful step at a time. He has built up his firm to support “distressed investing”—where investors buy the bonds of embattled businesses at lower rates to help keep them afloat. Oaktree has already raised around $2 billion to aid European companies. Maybe that’s why he and his wife, Nancy, are dividing their time between London and Los Angeles.

Vilma Martinez
Lawyer & Civil-Rights Advocate
As one of the first two women elected to the board of directors for the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), Martinez fought to insure that undocumented children have the right to public education and was instrumental in expanding the Voting Rights Act to include Mexican-Americans in 1975. A partner at the Los Angeles law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson since 1982, where she specializes in employment and commercial litigation, she is respected for her grace, integrity and ability to be a great equalizer. She also has a wicked sense of humor.

Wanda McDaniel
Executive Vice President of Global Communications, Giorgio Armani
McDaniel began working as a local journalist in 1977, when she joined the staff of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner. Her career continued as a writer who gracefully crafted words for Vanity Fair, Time and the Los Angeles Times. She is on the board of trustees for the California Museum for History, Women and the Arts. As the celebrity mediator for Mr. Armani, as she calls him, we have her to thank for practically inventing the relationship between entertainment and fashion.

Ron Meyer
President & COO, Universal Studios
He worked as an agent at William Morris Agency and founded Creative Artists Agency. Now a powerhouse at Universal Studios, where's he's been for over a decade, Meyer is behind some of the funniest films of the summer, from Sacha Baron Cohen’s Brüno to Funny People. Along with his wife, Kelly, Meyer brings grace and passion to his commitment to the environment—they both serve as cochairs of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Southern California division. He won’t use a BlackBerry—and holds the record for returning phone calls in less than 60 seconds.

Blake Mycoskie
Who knew that EZ Laundry, a door-to-door service for college students, would spark business endeavors in fields as diverse as driver's education and reality TV? That's where Mycoskie started, ditching an offer to play collegiate tennis. Now with six businesses to his name, we're watching his latest, Toms Shoes, become a philanthropic success. Buy a pair of shoes, give a pair away to a needy child. That type of philanthropy is keeping Mycoskie in our good graces.

David Nathanson
Executive & Entrepreneur
He’s not your average "E&E." The Rupert Murdoch–groomed Nathanson served as GM at Murdoch’s jointly owned TVG horse-racing network, which was recently sold. He is currently at Mapleton Investments, expanding on his career experiences with Fox Cable Networks and at News Corp as director of marketing. Watch for David, because whatever he does next—with grace—is going to make waves.

Christina Norman
CEO, OWN Network
She started her career losing sleep over Tylenol as a tabletop-commercial specialist. Now one of the highest-ranking African-American women in the entertainment industry, Norman has carved out a successful career at Viacom for 17 years, as president of VH1 and, most recently, as president of MTV. Oprah called her a “proven leader,” Multichannel News called her Wonder Woman. We call her graceful and powerful.

Stewart Resnick
Chairman, Roll International Corporation
Business tycoon and philanthropist Resnick, along with his wife, Lynda, has donated hundreds of millions to our city. Just recently it was in the shape of $20 million to the Resnick Sustainability Institute at Caltech for cutting-edge research in global energy and climate change technology. That’s only one of the major contributions they've made to our community as agents on the frontlines of health and wellness, environmental issues and education. Resnick is generous—in finances and in spirit. The clearest evidence of his power is that at first look, he appears to have no power at all.

Ramona Ripston
Executive Director, ACLU of Southern California
Although in her 80s, Ripston brings a fierce grace to her calling as a civil-rights activist and shows no signs of slowing down, holding the top slot at the ACLU since 1972. In fact, its new L.A. headquarters is called the Ramona Ripston Center for Civil Liberties and Civil Rights to honor her struggles against jail overcrowding, homelessness, warrantless wiretapping of Muslims and anti-abortion laws. Ripston practically invented grace, but it doesn’t fool anybody. That’s what fighting the same fight for 50 years does.

Alan Rothenberg
President, Board of Airport Commissioners
He is a professional taskmaster, heading companies and committees in a vast range of arenas, from sports to finance. The founder and chairman of 1st Century Bank, Rothenberg served as the World Cup Chair/CEO and commissioner of soccer for the 1984 Olympic Games. (There would be no U.S. soccer without him.) He also heads the board of the Airport Commission, where he is shepherding the Van Nuys airport out of a budget deficit and revamping LAX for the international stage. A devoted father and grandfather, Rothenberg makes sure to take time to mentor kids throughout the city. There is a certain grace to giving without glory, and it’s not for the accolades.

Carla Sanger
President and CEO, LA’s BEST
Children’s education policy and advocacy are her strong suit, one she wears with grace. For almost 40 years, the leader of LA’s Better Educated Students for Tomorrow has provided safe havens for children to explore their talents—musical, creative, or otherwise—during post-school hours. Sanger has served on the board of directors of the California Women’s Law Center, Child & Family Services, Getty House Children’s Committee and the California State Advisory Committee on Before and After School Programs, among others, and her energy is incomparable and infectious.

Ted Sarandos
Chief Content Officer, Netflix
Sarandos is known as an innovator in film acquisition and distribution. His first bid in the industry came as vice president of product and merchandising for Video City, where he brokered the first revenue-sharing deal between a retail video chain and a movie studio. Now, with Netflix as the dominant player in mail-order movie rentals—it has 10.3 million subscribers compared with Blockbuster's 3.1 million—Sarandos createed a more graceful entertainment interface by distributing directly to home sets last year. Believe us, he would show up at your house to make sure you knew how to work the latest Netflix tricks.

Henry Segerstrom
What started as a lima bean farm operation has now conquered Costa Mesa, proving that the managing partner of the family-run C.J. Segerstrom & Sons is a real-estate force to be reckoned with. His development firm is behind the intersection of grace and commerce—South Coast Plaza—and his contributions have paved the way for the Orange County Performing Arts Center, which features his namesake concert hall. Colleagues are constantly humbled by how Segerstrom interacts with everybody because of his genuine nature and sharp focus on long-term vision. Although he is in his 80s, he shows no signs of slowing down his creations.

Marc Stern
Chairman & CEO, L.A. Opera; CEO, TCW Group; Board, Qualcomm
Recently reappointed as interim CEO of the equity investment giant Trust Company of the West, Stern brings a graceful sensibility to his vision of the future, blending his business savvy with a passion for classic culture to serve the L.A. Opera. He’s come a long way from the vegetable farm in New Jersey where he grew up. For one thing, he met his wife there when he was 13—her dad was a chicken farmer next door—and they’ve been married for 43 years. That devotion is evident in his work life, too, and we wish him 43 more good ones.

Brian Swardstrom
Agent, William Morris Endeavor Entertainment (WME)
Tilda Swinton gave him a famous shout-out in her Oscar acceptance speech, noting she wouldn’t be in America had it not been for him. Other top-tier clients include Edward Norton and breakout star Emile Hirsch. Now at WME, Swardstrom remains one of the partners taking the entertainment world one step forward. Producer Howard Rosenman says it best: "In a world of bombastic, screaming agents, Brian is an island of silken coolness: graceful, the most loyal friend—and as an agent his strategic advice and tactical savvy is unparalleled." He also has a cached sense of humor, which he only shares with the few who are lucky enough to make him laugh. Just check out his famous photography collection.

Anne Sweeney
Cochairman, Disney Media Networks; President, Disney/ABC Television Group
ABC and Disney Channels Worldwide presented the world with Hannah Montana, Grey’s Anatomy and much, much more under Sweeney's fearless leadership. She has pulled in the ranks of viewers and shined doing it, embracing diverse audiences and new technologies. Just recently, Sweeney joined in a partnership with Hulu alongside NBC Universal, News Corp and private equity firm Providence Equity Partners. Sweeney is the consummate "nice girl," who demonstrates that grace and manners are powerful stuff.

Mark Wahlberg
Actor & Producer
"Marky Mark" (of the hip-hop group Marky Mark & the Funky Bunch) was the nickname that once preceded him. Wahlberg changed that image personally and professionally several years ago when he signed on to produce the hit show Entourage, based on his own tour to the top, for HBO. It’s a role he continues to explore as the producer of In Treatment, the upcoming comedy How to Make It in America and Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Lovely Bones. He may have worked it gracefully for fans of his physique back in the day, but it's his business acumen that sets him apart today.

Nicholas Weinstock
Head of Development, Apatow Productions
"Nicky is a rarity in this business,” Judd Apatow says of Weinstock. Others call him the nicest man in town. The former chief speechwriter for Rupert Murdoch and Peter Chernin and a former TV exec at 20th Century Fox, the silver-tongued Weinstock is immersed in the comedy world, working with the funnymen that brought you Knocked Up and Superbad. Apatow hopes that with Weinstock on board, Apatow Productions can bring comedy to the small screen, too—with Weinstock bringing a graceful sweetness to the table that transforms bawdy into nice.

Andrea Wong
President and CEO, Lifetime Networks
Wong has a lot on her plate these days: She oversees Lifetime, Lifetime Movie Network, and Lifetime’s public advocacy campaigns. She spearheaded Lifetime’s acquisition of Project Runway, a company coup. Wong joined Lifetime in 2007 after working as executive vice president of alternative programming, late night and specials at ABC, where she oversaw the development of reality successes The Bachelor, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and Dancing with the Stars. Classy, graceful and super smart, everyone looks forward to meeting with her.

Jimmy Yaffe
Partner & Executive Vice President, Windsor Media
Prior to joining Windsor, Yaffe spent almost seven years at the Endeavor Agency, where he founded the company's corporate consulting practice. There he stepped on the grand stage to build brands with American Express, EA and Time and businesses with key clients, including Ashton Kutcher, Pharrell Williams and the Pussycat Dolls. He delights in observation before delivering swift yet thought-out and gracefully constructed quips.

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