1. Donald Bren
Chairman, Irvine Co. // 74, Newport Beach
Simply put, Orange County looks like Orange County--much of it uniformly manicured and catering to the high life and high tech--because of the influence of one man. UC Irvine, Fashion Island, the Irvine Spectrum, University Research Park, Newport Coast, Orange County’s thousands of acres of wilderness and parkland and its enviable public school systems all bear Bren’s imprint. So does the New Majority, a growing coalition of wealthy, socially moderate Republicans who helped vault Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, an old skiing buddy of Bren, into office. He’s the richest man in Orange County--worth an estimated $7.5 billion, according to the O.C. Business Journal--and has been snapping up property in Century City, San Diego and the Silicon Valley as well. He is publicity-shy and enigmatic but don’t let his style fool you: Bren’s involvement can mean life or death for a voter initiative, political campaign or philanthropic cause. His priorities are education, conservation (penance for a guy who has paved over a good chunk of the county?) and continuing to lift the O.C. out of L.A.'s long, but ever-shortening, shadow.
2. Eli Broad
Civic Leader // 73, Brentwood
It’s one thing to be rich. It’s another to use your money--in Broad’s case, $5.6 billion, according to the L.A. Business Journal--to insert yourself into virtually every major decision affecting the civic life of a city. Broad’s zeal for a renaissance in downtown L.A. saved Disney Hall when lagging donations threatened to turn it into an expensive underground garage. He has given us a serious high school for the arts while shaping the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Grand Avenue project. He’s also expressed an interest in buying The Times. Broad has heaped a fortune on Caltech, UCLA, Pitzer and USC, which this year received $25 million to create a stem-cell research institute named for him. His foundation trains public school superintendents, he recruited Roy Romer to head the Los Angeles Unified School District and he now supports mayoral control of LAUSD--so strongly that he recently spanked Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for ceding too much power to the teachers unions. Before all this, Broad made his mark in other ways: His homebuilding company, Kaufman & Broad, sowed Greater L.A. with middle-class ranch houses--what some would call the region’s signature sprawl.
3. Barbara E. Kerr
President, California Teachers Assn. // 59, Riverside
It’s not clear if Kerr has ever gotten her first-grade class in Riverside to listen. But she sure has the attention of the mayor and governor. No issue is more critical to the future of the region than education, and nobody wields more influence in this arena than does Kerr, president of the 335,000-member union. With United Teachers Los Angeles President A.J. Duffy stepping back and letting her do most of the talking, Kerr engineered the deal in June with Villaraigosa that would, among other things, strip power from the LAUSD board and give individual teachers much more sway over classroom instruction. Critics say the mayor caved in to the unions, but it’s no surprise that Kerr has Villaraigosa’s ear. Under her direction, the CTA helped defeat Villaraigosa’s opponent, incumbent James Hahn, with a TV attack ad in 2005. The LAUSD deal must next pass muster in Sacramento, where Kerr knows how to mix it up. Just look what she did to Gov. Schwarzenegger last year after he reneged on an education-funding agreement. Kerr and her troops went to war, helping defeat a slate of special election ballot measures that Schwarzenegger was pushing. Who’s the Terminator now?
4. Antonio Villaraigosa
Los Angeles Mayor // 53, Windsor Square
Much of his power is derived simply from his position as head of the region’s biggest city. But it’s far more than that. With seemingly boundless energy, Villaraigosa is bent on putting his stamp on all of the local hot-button issues of the day--crime, transportation and education--in a way that his predecessors never managed. He has forged close ties with the City Council, winning easy passage of his first budget and an increase in trash collection fees to pay for more cops. Although he is L.A.'s first Latino mayor in more than 130 years--making him an important symbol locally and nationally--Villaraigosa has worked hard to embrace different communities throughout the city. His detractors say he is perpetually in campaign mode and can be weak on policy details. And he has taken plenty of lumps on the LAUSD deal. But Villaraigosa still has the benefit of the doubt from all the players who really count, be they in the union halls; the Legislature, where he once called the shots as Assembly speaker; or the governor’s office.
5. Roger Mahony
Archbishop, Archdiocese of L.A. // 70, Los Angeles
With 5 million Roman Catholics in L.A., Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, Mahony boasts a huge flock, especially in the Latino community. Some say the church’s sex abuse scandal has undermined his influence, but there’s another way to look at it: Mahony’s ability to keep secret the files of priests suspected of misconduct underscores just how powerful he is. (The church was compelled in April to turn over internal documents to a Los Angeles County grand jury, but Mahony is still resisting in civil cases.) All the while, he remains a force in the immigration debate. The We Are America coalition used pleas from Mahony to help turn out hundreds of thousands of protesters in May. Mahony has also helped change the face of downtown with the $200-million Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels--a concrete and alabaster edifice that wags have dubbed the “Taj Mahony” and “Rog Mahal.”
6. Philip Anschutz
Industrialist // 66, Denver
Southern California has more than its share of absentee landlords. Few, however, have had as much impact as Anschutz, who Forbes says is now worth $6.4 billion. The tycoon made his first fortune in oil and gas and built a 130-mile pipeline from Kern County to Wilmington. He owns Staples Center, the Home Depot Center in Carson, the Kings hockey team, the Galaxy soccer franchise and (with Ed Roski) nearly 30% of the Lakers. Staples has been an anchor in the revitalization of downtown Los Angeles, and Anschutz’s entertainment company AEG--operating through L.A.-based lieutenant Tim Leiweke--plans to spend more than $1 billion to construct an adjacent hotel and commercial development that promises to inject even more life into the area. Anschutz is also a mover in Hollywood, with a controlling interest in movie theater chain Regal Entertainment and an eye for producing films geared toward children and families. He’s had his misses--"Around the World in 80 Days” was a box-office dud--but “The Chronicles of Narnia” served as a $1-billion lesson to the rest of the industry on the profitability of family entertainment.
7. Henry Samueli
Cofounder, Broadcom Corp. // 51, Corona del Mar
Samueli isn’t your typical Orange County mogul. Sure, he owns the Anaheim Ducks hockey franchise and the company that manages the Arrowhead Pond. But before his net worth swelled to $2.4 billion (according to Forbes), this son of Holocaust survivors ran a liquor store. Samueli became a professor of electrical engineering at UCLA, and today is the named inventor on 36 U.S. patents; besides serving as chairman of chip maker Broadcom, he remains its chief technical officer. The youngest member of the Top 10 list, Samueli is a rising star in regional affairs, where he has given more than $160 million mostly to educational and healthcare institutions. Two engineering schools are named after him (at UCLA and UC Irvine), and a center for alternative medicine at UCI is named for his wife, Susan. Samueli may become even more of a household name if he realizes his next dream: bringing an NBA franchise to Anaheim.
8. Jerry Bruckheimer
TV and Film Producer // 61, L.A. and Bloomfield, Ky.
Nobody in Hollywood has more clout these days than this master of screens big and small. His new release, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” has shattered box-office records. Each one of Bruckheimer’s movies is a mega-operation, supporting hundreds of local jobs (even when filming occurs elsewhere), and a substantial part of the next chapter in the “Pirates” trilogy is slated to be shot in an old aircraft hangar in Palmdale, a big lift for regional film production. But in some respects, it’s in TV where Bruckheimer is making the deepest impression. He is the producer of eight prime-time series now on the air--two shy of the record he set last season. These include his “CSI” franchise, “Without a Trace,” “Cold Case” and his hit reality series “The Amazing Race.” As much as anything, it was Bruckheimer’s move into prime-time television in 2000 that helped lift the stigma of working in the genre and signaled the start of L.A.'s shift from Tinseltown to TV town. With that has come a boom in TV shoots--and many thousands of jobs for actors, writers, craftspeople and more.
9. David Gelbaum
Conservationist // 57, Newport Beach
You may never have heard of him and, at just 5-foot-5 with a slight build and soft-spoken demeanor, Gelbaum may not seem particularly powerful. But by donating more to conservation causes than anyone in the state--anonymously--this hedge-fund multimillionaire has taken a leading role in safeguarding something near and dear to the hearts of many here: the outdoors. Under the guidance of politically savvy environmentalist David Myers, Gelbaum’s gifts have protected enough mountain and desert land to create another Yosemite National Park, and his donations to wilderness education programs have sent nearly half a million inner-city schoolchildren to the mountains, desert or beach, many for the first time. Crucial tracts of the Mojave National Preserve have been protected, thanks to the Wildlands Conservancy, which Gelbaum cofounded. These days, the conservancy finds itself in the thick of the debate over the development of Tejon Ranch in the Teha-chapi Mountains. The Gelbaum-backed group, along with the Sierra Club and others, wants to reduce the amount of the ranch that will be paved and preserve 245,000 acres as wilderness-- a tussle that will help define the limits of growth in Southern California.
10. Haim Saban
Media Mogul // 61, Beverly Hills
We’ll be honest: Saban wouldn’t have cracked the Top 10 a few months ago. But his recent involvement in a deal to buy L.A.-based Univision Communications, by far the nation’s largest Spanish-language broadcaster, catapulted him to the fore. Though Saban doesn’t have nearly as much money in the $13.7-billion purchase as do the private-equity firms with which he’s partnered, it will be largely up to him to figure out where the company goes from here--a vision that will ultimately be reflected in millions of TV sets throughout Southern California. That’s because Saban (who speaks five languages, including Spanish) is the one with an extensive background in entertainment and media, having built his wealth (estimated at $3.1 billion by the Los Angeles Business Journal) on Mighty Morphin Power Rangers cartoons and the sale of Fox Family Worldwide. Saban’s civic involvement has run more to national and international issues than local ones. However, he gave $40 million to Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, where wife Cheryl serves on the board, and he has been a major supporter of the Motion Picture & Television Fund, which helps provide for those in the business who are in need.
The Next 90
N. Christian Anderson III
Publisher and CEO, Orange County Register; 56, Coto de Caza
It’s tough to admit it, but Anderson, a virtual lifer at Orange County’s leading newspaper, first as editor and then as publisher, waged a block-by-block newspaper war with the L.A. Times on its home front until Tribune Co. bought The Times and all but waved the white flag. It’s impossible to “out-local the locals,” Anderson said then. In proving his point, he has solidified O.C.'s separate identity in Southern California.
L.A. County sheriff; 64, San Marino
His 8,000 deputies protect 2.7 million people and guard America’s biggest jail system. Turnover is high, homicides are up and 150,000 inmates have been released early over the last four years amid crowded conditions that a federal judge called “not consistent with basic human values.” Yet Baca--so quirky that he is known within law enforcement circles as “Sheriff Moonbeam"--just won a third term with ease.
Editor, L.A. Times; 49, Santa Monica
Yeah, we know what some will say: How self-serving to put your boss on the list. But Baquet, who won a Pulitzer Prize in Chicago and served as the New York Times’ national editor before coming to L.A. in 2000, sets the agenda for the most powerful media voice in the region. With resources shrinking, how well Baquet weathers budget pressures from long-distance owner Tribune Co. will go a long way toward determining how robust that voice remains.
Founder, Small Schools Alliance;
47, Silver Lake
Through his Green Dot charter high schools, he’s been a serious pain for the L.A. school district, luring away top teachers, organizing a parents union, launching five charter schools near Jefferson High after the district rebuffed his takeover offer, testifying in Sacramento and, along with California Charter Schools Assn. head Caprice Young, generally ratcheting up the debate over the future of public education.
Stephen L. Bing
Real estate heir, 41; Los Angeles
Bing is perhaps best known for getting socked by actress-model Elizabeth Hurley with a successful paternity suit. But he is the playboy with a bit of policy wonk in him. Last year he spent $4 million to deep-six Proposition 77, the redistricting initiative. Now the big Democratic donor is bankrolling a measure to help fund alternative energy. Bing also invests heavily in film projects and gives lots of dough anonymously to local causes, including education and the environment. Recently spotted dining at Jar with Villaraigosa.
Bishop Charles E. Blake
Pastor, West Angeles Church of God in Christ; 66, Beverly Hills
With the Rev. Cecil L. “Chip” Murray retired from First AME Church in South L.A., Blake has become the man to see when courting favor in the city’s African American community. With 24,000 members, his congregation is among the largest in Southern California. Villaraigosa--who is close with Blake’s son-in-law, fallen labor leader Martin Ludlow--sat up front at a recent service, and the Democratic gubernatorial candidates came by to pump Blake’s hand.
William J. Bratton
L.A. police chief; 58, Los Feliz
He’s more than a law-and-order man; he’s a celebrity, and with that comes the power of celebrity. As recent events show, Bratton is tough enough to take on the City Council--and savvy enough to know when to kiss and make up. Politicians seek his endorsement, and other chiefs across the country look to his example. Most importantly, he’s been quite effective, restoring a measure of order and dignity to the long-suffering (and, some would add, insufferable) LAPD.
Harry “Skip” Brittenham
64, Santa Monica
Operating largely under the radar, the highly trusted and intensely competitive Brittenham represents more top studio executives than any other Hollywood lawyer, while also counting among his clients some of the town’s biggest A-list stars--Tom Hanks included--and major corporations. Indeed, Brittenham has factored into virtually every huge deal in Hollywood over the last two decades, including the sales of DreamWorks SKG to Viacom and Pixar Animation Studios to Disney.
Government affairs consultant;
As the former GOP leader of both state houses before he was termed- out of the Legislature, Brulte has deep connections that run clear to the White House. He hangs his hat these days at California Strategies, a top political consulting firm. Brulte was the founding member of the budding Inland Empire chapter of the New Majority, and has filed to run for the state Board of Equalization in four years. Meanwhile, Gov. Schwarzenegger has enlisted him to frame debates with Phil Angelides, and on the other side of the aisle, he delivered crucial support for Villaraigosa’s election.
Investor; managing partner,
Yucaipa Cos.; 53, Beverly Hills
The billionaire, who just missed our Top 10 list, maintains close relationships with politicians of all stripes (from Villaraigosa to former Gov. Pete Wilson) and is said to give generously (and anonymously) to local causes. A big friend of labor, the onetime supermarket magnate dispenses advice to the United Food and Commercial Workers. He has been involved with trying to bring an NFL team to L.A., and he’s signaled interest in buying The Times.
Owner, L.A. Lakers and L.A. Sparks,
73, Playa Vista
Some fans will never forgive him for letting relations between his two top players fester and ultimately casting his lot with Kobe over Shaq (who just picked up another championship ring in Miami). But the fact remains: In spite of the Clippers’ rise, the Lakers remain the No. 1 show in a sports-obsessed town. Its games are the place to be seen by Hollywood royalty and myriad other power brokers, and Buss is the man who has engineered the spectacle for more than 25 years, bringing eight championships to town.
Developer; 47, Brentwood
A kitsch-meister? Perhaps. But the developer of the Grove, the outdoor mall adjacent to the L.A. Farmers Market; the Americana at Brand near the Glendale Galleria; and other retail-entertainment projects has altered the shopping landscape and transformed neighborhoods. The former head of the L.A. Police Commission can play tough too: When opponents tried to stop him in Glendale, he beat back a ballot initiative and then sued his rivals.
Founder and CEO, American Apparel;
37, Los Angeles
He’s gotten into some hot water for creating a sexually charged atmosphere at his company, but this outspoken advocate for immigrant rights has made his mark in a more profound way as well: He has shown that you can compensate your workers decently and still compete in the local garment business. Charney’s downtown L.A. factory is the largest single apparel plant in the nation, employing 3,800 workers, the vast majority of whom are Latino. He pays an average of $12.50 an hour, and many of his workers purchase cheap, company-subsidized health insurance and enjoy other perks.
L.A. County health specialist;
50, Temple City
Chiu has dispensed letter grades at hundreds of Chinese restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley. There’s no way to be sure if she and her colleagues reduced hospitalizations for food-borne illness--13% countywide, according to one study--but we feel better about our kung pao knowing that Chiu has been on the case.
Surf forecaster; 54, Seal Beach
Those empty cubicles all around you mean one thing: Surf’s up. An early developer of the online surf check, Collins’ website (www.surfline.com) pulls in 1.5 million visitors a month. Some boarders grouse that Collins has made the beach intolerably crowded, but his unmatched ability to accurately predict the size and destination of rideable waves ensures that no “sick” day ever goes to waste. And so, thanks to him, at least the workplace is a lot more mellow.
Warren M. Christopher
Senior partner, O’Melveny
& Myers; former U.S. Secretary
of State; 81, Beverly Hills
One of a handful of octogenarians on the list, Christopher has slowed some of late. But behind the scenes, he continues to advise local leaders on a variety of matters, including effective governance. The man who investigated the causes of the Watts riots in the ‘60s and headed the commission that reformed the LAPD after the Rodney King beating is now looking into whether to scrap or extend L.A.'s term limits for public office.
Robert Addison Day
The grandson of Superior Oil Co. founder William M. Keck and founder in his own right of Trust Co. of the West, Day oversees the W.M. Keck Foundation, a $1.3-billion nonprofit that has underwritten, among other things, the Keck School of Medicine at USC, the Keck Graduate Institute at Claremont Colleges and health and medical facilities in East L.A. The billionaire--who also sits on the boards of the Broad Foundation and Claremont McKenna College--is a major, albeit low-key, philanthropic influence.
President, Chapman University;
59, Villa Park
Doti has transformed a quiet private college in Orange County into an influential university with seven- and eight-figure gifts pouring in. Political insider Paul Folino sits on the board of trustees. Financier Lawrence Dodge and his wife, Kristina, kicked in $20 million for the new film school. Doti has doubled physical growth on campus since 1991, when he took over, and tripled academic space. On top of all that, the PhD economist helps produce a financial forecast that’s well respected by the business community.
Peter M. Douglas
Executive director, California Coastal Commission; 64, Larkspur
Douglas doesn’t get a vote on the commission, but he is no mere bureaucrat. As the panel’s senior staffer for more than 20 years, he has as much--if not more--influence over coastal communities and beachfront access as any of its 12 members. After the commission beat back Hollywood mogul David Geffen’s effort to keep the public off the beach near his Malibu home, Douglas didn’t mince words: “With all of the lobbying power and legal power he could afford to buy, in the end, the public’s rights prevailed.”
Dr. Michael V. Drake
Chancellor, UC Irvine; 55, Irvine
Call him Dr. Fix-It. Arriving just as UCI was being nailed for hospital and medical school-related scandals--yet again--Drake launched investigations into problems with the transplant program, beefed up oversight of the medical school and medical center, and demoted the hospital’s chief executive. The result: UCI’s lackluster relationship with the rest of Orange County is already improving, with fundraising now at record levels.
Maria Elena Durazo
Executive secretary-treasurer, L.A. County Federation of Labor // 53, El Sereno
Because she was elected in March, it’s too soon to know just how effective Durazo will be in running the region’s largest labor group, an organization that counts under its umbrella 350-plus unions representing more than 800,000 workers. Doubters say Durazo--the widow of the federation’s late leader, Miguel Contreras--will never match her husband’s immense clout. But she has a lot going for her, including a longtime friendship with Mayor Villaraigosa. The big question is whether the woman who showed herself to be a firebrand while leading the hotel workers union (her husband called her “agitational”) can in her new role build bridges to business, government and other unions.
Executive director, Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy;
57, Pacific Palisades
His critics mutter that he has built an empire that is off-limits to everything except his ego and his lust for more land. But the conservancy now controls more than 62,000 acres of once-private turf between east Ventura County and the Whittier Narrows largely because of Edmiston’s political and financial savvy. Among his recent trophies: the 2,900-acre Ahmanson Ranch.
Douglas R. Failing
Director, Caltrans District 7 // 48, Arcadia
Failing oversees a stretch of 1,188 miles of freeway in L.A. and Ventura counties on which drivers log the daily equivalent of 4,000 trips around the globe. Of course, sometimes it feels like 8,000. But Failing is trying hard to move in the right direction. Under his leadership, Caltrans is set to build the first high-occupancy-vehicle lane on I-5 in L.A. County, has added 21 miles of carpool lanes on the 405, has installed electronic signs with estimated travel times, has launched the 101-405 interchange improvement project and has taken numerous other steps to try to ease gridlock.
CEO, Emulex Corp.; 61, Coto de Caza
A onetime backer of an after-school programs initiative started by then-actor Schwarzenegger, Folino now heads the founding chapter of the New Majority, a group of wealthy Republicans organized in early 2000. A key fundraiser for the governor, he has elevated the organization from an “insurgency of misled millionaires,” as one GOP hard-liner once grumbled, to a broadly inclusive, center-right juggernaut with 150 members in O.C., 85 in L.A. County and new chapters in the Inland Empire and San Diego County.
Longtime record producer; cofounder, DreamWorks SKG; 63, Malibu
Geffen is another enormous name who barely fell out of our Top 10 list. The UCLA School of Medicine--where Geffen pledged $200 million, the most ever to a U.S. medical school--bears his name. So does the Geffen Playhouse, Geffen Contemporary and other local institutions. He also has given significant sums to AIDS organizations, including at a time when the topic made other philanthropists a little queasy. Downtown power brokers grouse that he doesn’t do quite enough civically these days. But that could all change if he steps in to buy the L.A. Times.
Architect; 77, Santa Monica
The West Coast’s reigning star architect languished in L.A. for years. But he started to roll in the early 1990s, and since its completion in 2003, Disney Hall has made Gehry a symbol of L.A.'s creative life. He’s now working on the Grand Avenue project, intended to give downtown L.A. a residential-commercial heart. In five years, it’ll be easy to look back and see how many local buildings, from low-slung Westside homes to downtown skyscrapers, are his.
Anti-illegal immigration activist;
57, Aliso Viejo
A retired accountant, this cofounder of the Minuteman Project and his volunteers began patrolling the Arizona-Mexico border last year with private planes and night-vision goggles. The unsuccessful congressional candidate has put fresh heat on a perennial hot button, fomenting debate--and division--from national political circles to hometown parades in places such as Laguna Beach and Pacific Palisades.
Managing director; executive vice president, OTX; 44, Studio City
Got a blockbuster in the pipeline? Chances are that Goetz will have something to say about how it gets released. The hottest market research company in Hollywood is OTX, where Goetz and his team provide studios with tracking information about audience interest in upcoming films. A former child actor who has appeared in many commercials--he was the Domino’s pizza boy for a couple of years--Goetz personally tests about five movies a week and has a hand in about half the flicks that leave Hollywood.
Stanley P. Gold
CEO, Shamrock Capital Advisors; chairman, USC board of trustees;
64, Beverly Hills
Gold may be best known for joining with his associate, Roy Disney, to lead a shareholder revolt against Walt Disney Co. and then-CEO Michael Eisner in 2004. But Gold’s local influence has long reached beyond Hollywood. Shamrock, the Disney family’s investment company, manages a $150-million fund that puts money into low- to moderate-income neighborhoods around L.A. It also owns industrial and commercial properties in Koreatown, Carson and other parts of the Southland. Gold himself has made millions in gifts to USC, where he has chaired the board since 2002.
Restaurateur; 40, Hollywood
A certain clout comes with being the owner of the hottest restaurant in L.A., and as the owner of Koi, Haque hasn’t been shy about exploiting it. Celebrities are thick on the ground at his establishments, which include Bridge, and Haque’s anti-paparazzi system is said to be one of the most elaborate and hardest to crack in the city. Nonetheless, rumor has it that at least one celebrity magazine has spent thousands of dollars on meals at Koi just so gossip columnists could sit in the dining room and report on star sightings.
President and CEO, California Community Foundation; 58, Pasadena
The foundation--which boasts assets of $800 million and shepherds tens of millions of dollars in donations to local nonprofits each year--is one of the most vital philanthropic organizations in L.A. County. Since taking charge of the group in 2004, Hernandez has pushed it in new directions, focusing on quality-of-life issues for the elderly and at-risk youth while steering away from job training and other areas where it has been harder to show gains. Before coming to the foundation, Hernandez for 18 years headed the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Attorney; 52, Sherman Oaks
The former California Assembly speaker is one of the few local politicians with credibility and solid connections on both the left and the right, as evidenced by Hertzberg’s working relationships with Villaraigosa and Schwarzenegger. Although Hertzberg lost his bid for mayor of Los Angeles, he remains a discreet advisor on civic issues such as economic development, transportation and term limits, and he’s an important champion for the San Fernando Valley.
President, Warner Bros.; environmentalist; 63, Bel-Air
Warner Bros. has had a disappointing summer at the box office with “Poseidon” and “Lady in the Water,” but Horn gets high marks across Hollywood for being a class act and a solid guy. He makes our list, though, for another reason: In between green-lighting movies, Horn has shown himself to be green in another way, enlisting a bevy of entertainment executives to back the National Resources Defense Council. Now it’s arguably the state’s leading environmental organization and, with Rob Reiner (a former partner of Horn at Castle Rock Entertainment) and Laurie David in its corner, one of the hottest causes on the West Coast.
Deirdre ‘Deedie’ Hudnut
Admissions director, the Center for
Early Education // 58, Beverly Hills
It could just be a myth that Los Angeles’ most sought-after elementary school
(and a favorite among the elite of the entertainment industry) is step one on the Southern California fast track to the Ivy League. Still, up to 1,000 applicants a year vie for about 60 slots there. Hudnut shares the task of picking, but she’s the one who does the bulk of the interviewing. Incidentally, her husband is headmaster at Harvard-Westlake, the private high school that’s step two, or so they say.
Principal, Economics & Politics Inc.; 65, Redlands
Husing provides economic analysis and counsel to every major city in the Inland Empire, as well as to both Riverside and San Bernardino counties and two community colleges. He has also been key (along with Southern California Leadership Council co-chair Bob Wolf) in positioning the area as a logistics and transportation hub. In his private life, Husing has trekked in the Himalayas, but the biggest mountain he has climbed is convincing people that the Inland Empire--long regarded as a backwater--is now a potent economic force.
CEO, Walt Disney Co.; 55, Brentwood
Long gone are the days when one entertainment chief--namely, MCA’s Lew Wasserman--was so powerful that his presence transcended all of Hollywood. Today, top executives pretty much keep their heads down. But Walt Disney Co. is simply too big a fish--or should that be mouse?--to ignore with 30,000 employees in L.A. and Orange counties. Iger, of course, is at the helm of it all, having been named CEO following the tumultuous reign of Michael Eisner. Iger has quickly stepped out of Eisner’s shadow, acquiring Pixar Animation Studios, continuing to shake up the Disney board and taking steps to move the company forward through the application of new technologies.
Chairman and CEO, Bridgecreek Group // 57, Huntington Beach
Jao got his start in the 1970s with a strip of vacant industrial buildings that he turned into a shopping center serving his fellow Vietnamese exiles. Since then, the man known as the “Godfather of Little Saigon” has owned or developed roughly three-quarters of Orange County’s best-known ethnic commercial enclave and remains the community’s biggest landlord. Some 1,500 business tenants lease space in the half a dozen developments he owns there, and his holdings keep expanding. His latest ventures include the district’s first major residential project. Also, Coastline Community College has opened a Little Saigon-area campus, thanks in part to his largesse.
Earvin “Magic” Johnson
Urban developer; 46, Beverly Hills
People believe in Magic to the point that his mere involvement gives cautious corporate investors the confidence to venture into inner-city neighborhoods. His Magic Johnson Theatres (a partnership with Loews Cineplex Entertainment) are lighting up the Crenshaw district more than a decade after the 1992 riots. His real estate fund (another partnership, with Canyon Capital Realty Advisors) has underwritten redevelopment in Hollywood and downtown L.A. His deal with Starbucks--he’s its sole outside partner--has brought jobs (and $3 lattes) to more than three dozen low-income neighborhoods in Southern California. His political endorsement is among L.A.'s most influential, and talk persists of his mayoral potential.
Lucile M. Jones
Seismologist, U.S. Geological Survey; 51, La Canada-Flintridge
Technically, Jones is a specialist in earthquake probabilities, but for 20 years she’s been the “earthquake mom,” calming the public after a temblor with her reassurance and expertise. She’s also an outspoken member of the state’s Seismic Safety Commission. When Schwarzenegger’s administration tried to fire Jones earlier this year (on the centennial of the San Francisco quake, no less) the reverberations were so strong that the governor overruled the removal the same day.
Steve “Jonesy” Jones
Indie rock deejay; former Sex Pistol; 50, Benedict Canyon
His playlist on KDLD/KDLE-FM (103.1) is pretty much whatever the bloke feels like ‘earing, which has made “Jonesy’s Jukebox” not just one of L.A.'s hottest radio shows but the source of a cottage industry in downloads and CD sales. Virgin Megastores now feature “Jonesy’s Picks” sections. At least three fledgling bands have gotten major label deals because Jonesy played them. And though the station doesn’t match the ratings or signal strength of L.A.'s alt-rock big dog KROQ-FM (106.7), it’s credited with forcing rivals to get edgier or step aside.
Chairman, KB Home; 60, Bel-Air
In the homebuilding industry, Karatz is known as a master marketer. He has spent two decades helming the former Kaufman & Broad Home Corp., the company that virtually created suburban Southern California. His concept in 1996 of “pre-selling” homes before they’re built--a revolutionary idea at the time--is now common. But beyond that, Karatz is a major civic presence, serving over the years on many important local boards (from USC to Rand Corp.) and wading into Democratic politics (though he backed the wrong horse--Bob Hertzberg--for mayor).
CEO, DreamWorks Animation;
cofounder, DreamWorks SKG;
55, Beverly Hills
Katzenberg not only leads the chief competitor to Disney in the animation arena, but he has evolved into an important civic presence. A major fundraiser for AIDS service and treatment organizations, Katzenberg also chairs the Motion Picture and Television Fund, which underwrites home healthcare and housing for the needy who have worked in the entertainment industry.
Executive director, Port of L.A.; 54, Long Beach
Knatz came to the Port of L.A. this year from the neighboring Port of Long Beach, giving her a thorough understanding of the nation’s biggest harbor complex. Together, the ports generate some 500,000 jobs, dwarfing other major industries here. But until Knatz made her move, L.A. and Long Beach behaved like bitter rivals, creating a chronic obstacle to air-quality improvement. Now, with Knatz reaching out to her old boss, Port of Long Beach Executive Director Richard Steinke, the two appear destined to work together on pollution reduction and more. “She gets up at 4:45 in the morning and kicks butt all day,” one admirer has said.
John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou
Talk-radio hosts; 45 and 50, Beverly Hills and Hermosa Beach, respectively
OK, OK. We know these are two names (technically making our list The West 101). But there is no way to separate John and Ken, the guys behind L.A.'s top-rated afternoon-drive talk show on KFI-AM (640). Whether you agree with them or not, the impact of their angry-white-guy campaigns is unmistakable. When Villaraigosa declared that the nation relies on immigrant workers, saying, “We clean your toilets,” John and Ken fans deluged City Hall with more than 1,000 toilet brushes. Their daily rants against Gov. Gray Davis (Gumby, they called him) were instrumental in the 2003 gubernatorial recall, as was their support of Schwarzenegger, which has--uh-oh--been wavering.
Chief of staff to Mayor Villaraigosa; 53, Windsor Square
Press-shy but preternaturally plugged in, Kramer has been the right hand of so many downtown heavy-hitters that even she may have lost count. She was chief of staff to former L.A. Councilman Richard Alatorre, then chief of staff to Mayor Richard Riordan, then senior director of Eli Broad’s foundation and now--after intensive lobbying by Antonio himself--chief of staff for Villaraigosa. Her fingerprints are, by the nature of her job, invisible, but her name brings instant credibility to any boss or cause.
President, AEG; 49, Brentwood
As Phil Anschutz’s L.A. lieutenant, Leiweke handles dealings with the Kings, the Galaxy, Home Depot Center and Staples Center, among other matters. But he is powerful enough to call his own shots too. Lately he has shifted his attention overseas and ceded some local duties to others in his organization, but he’s still the point man here, with unmatched influence over the sports and entertainment experience in L.A. and the future of the Figueroa corridor.
Real estate developer; 55, Claremont
Much of the Inland Empire looks the way it does because of the Lewis family’s homebuilding company. Besides constructing houses, it also underwrote parks and theaters that still dot cities such as Pomona and Rancho Cucamonga. Randall’s parents eventually sold their business, yet the Lewis name remains dominant in Inland Empire real estate, with four sons specializing in master-planned communities and commercial projects. Randall has emerged as the company’s public presence, and other developers view him as a big thinker. Among other things, he cofounded an influential educational alliance with Arrowhead Credit Union President Larry Sharp (another Inland Empire power broker) and is promoting a set of locally based public health initiatives.
Editor, Defamer.com // 32, Silver Lake
With 8.5 million page views a month, Lisanti has proved how scary an irreverent guy blogging in his underwear can be. He--and the legion of celebutainment gossips mimicking his mouthy online persona--have shortened the news cycle from 12 hours to 15 minutes and irreversibly changed the tenor and power structure of Hollywood coverage as Old Media has chugged to catch up. Sure, the couch Tom Cruise jumped on belonged to Oprah. But it was Lisanti’s cellphone-snapped photomontage of the episode and hilarious commentary that ricocheted wildly online until they wound up going mainstream, ensuring the star’s rapid public-opinion plummet.
President, Creative Artists Agency;
Under Lovett, Bryan Lourd and five other partners, CAA has earned a rep as the Microsoft of talent agencies, snapping up rivals and scooping up clients so that making a movie without them is now next to impossible. They’ve also branched into sports managment, signing slugger Derek Jeter and quarterback Peyton Manning. CAA has also snagged Xbox wizard Seamus Blackley to guide it in the burgeoning market for video-game deals--an area that has become an L.A. power center in its own right (especially since industry giant Electronic Arts opened a giant Playa Vista games studio in 2003).
Chairman and CEO, William Lyon Homes Inc.; 83, Coto de Caza
For decades, Lyon has been one of the first calls politicians make when they need support in Orange County, and it’s not because he’s a soft touch. A major O.C. homebuilder, New Majority member and chairman of Team California, the state GOP’s pro-Arnold fundraising campaign, Lyon is inordinately influential, both within his party and his industry. Lyon also gives time and money to a range of causes, including the Orangewood Children’s Foundation and the Orange County Center for the Performing Arts.
Chairman, Capital Pacific Holdings; 58, Newport Beach
Ever wonder why so many Orange County Republican fundraisers happen to take place at the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort and Spa in Dana Point? Hint: The hotel’s developers are local GOP heavyweights, Hadi Makarechian and his son, Paul. The elder Makarechian made a fortune in construction on the East Coast, retired in 1990 to California, then made another fortune building coastal McMansions. A board member of Orange County’s New Majority, he has donated prodigiously to Schwarzenegger and his various initiatives. Meanwhile, Paul, a fledgling commercial developer, has helped launch GenNext, a New Majority spinoff for younger GOP members.
Alfred E. Mann
Biotech entrepreneur; 80, Beverly Hills
His biotech ventures--11 at last count--have involved pacemakers, insulin pumps and much more. The Alfred E. Mann Institute is an incubator for biomedical research. (USC was granted the $100-million-plus gift after the billionaire got fed up with the red tape at UCLA, his alma mater.) But perhaps just as important, the 167-acre Mann Biomedical Park, which houses several of his start-ups, spawned a biotech cluster that has perked up Valencia.
Developer; 41, Whittier
Meruelo is said to be the largest private landowner in downtown L.A., controlling more than 100 properties with millions of square feet. But what made political types really take notice was the $197,300 he spent last year--more than any individual--to help elect Villaraigosa. Now he’s making headlines for his aggressive real estate tactics. Among them: battling architecture school SCI-Arc out of a downtown property it wanted and getting barred for five years from developing a parcel near Union Station as punishment for demolishing structures on it without a permit.
Investor, philanthropist; 60, Encino
Yes, there will probably always be that boilerplate: “disgraced former junk bond king.” But Milken has been tireless in his other life as a philanthropist. He and his family have donated more than $750 million--a fifth of it locally--over the last three decades. And he doesn’t just give; he takes on causes, with education high on the list. Additionally, his underwriting of research into life-threatening diseases (cancer runs in his family) has meant new treatments for leukemia and breast cancer at UCLA. To top it off, his Milken Institute is a leader in analyzing the local economy.
Arturo “Arte” Moreno
Owner of the Angels; 60, Phoenix
Moreno’s first act upon taking over the Angels in 2003 was to endear himself to fans: He cut ticket and beer prices. Later, he forced Anaheim to let him wedge some other nearby city into its home team’s name. Orange County-ites and Dodgers devotees in L.A. protested, but Moreno hung tough and his strategy is paying off. Sports junkies from all over Southern California feel increasingly free to root for the Angels. Moreno has also moved into Spanish-language radio, the team has signed a lucrative broadcast rights contract, and Forbes recently estimated that the team is now worth about twice what Moreno paid.
Chairman, Dole Food Co. and
Castle & Cooke; 83, Hidden Valley
The billionaire has been a big local political donor and a philanthropic pioneer. When he built a $4.5-million communal housing complex for the mentally ill near Camarillo last year, the state’s mental health director praised him for having “set the model for the state.” Now, the health-conscious Murdock (he’s a self-professed “fish vegetarian” and has pushed Dole heavily into nutrition research) is off on a new venture: He has brought in a UCLA scientist and insurer WellPoint Inc. to help create the must-have reservation for well-off Southland boomers. Scheduled to open in November in Westlake Village, the California Wellbeing Institute Four Seasons portends an evolving niche: luxury healthcare.
Chairman, Southern California Music for Live Nation; 58, Studio City
There are more important tastemakers in the concert world--Paul Tollett’s annual Coachella Music and Arts Festival, for one. But Murphy’s company, spun off in December by Clear Channel Entertainment, recently acquired its largest competitor, House of Blues Concerts, and thereby strengthened its dominance in deciding what we hear.
CEO, SBE Entertainment Group; 31, Beverly Hills
With his father’s real estate business as a leg up and club impresario Brent Bolthouse as a partner, Nazarian has taken control of most of the velvet ropes in L.A. The newly remodeled Privilege; the soon-to-reopen Area; the celebrity petting zoo of the moment, Hyde; the swank supper club Lobby--they all are Nazarian’s. At the reopening of Privilege in July, the crowd spilled onto Sunset Boulevard like fans at a Hollywood premiere. Next up: a chain of Japanese restaurants, Katsuya, the first of which just opened in Brentwood.
Chairman, East West Bank; 47, Pasadena
Ng has taken ethnic banking mainstream. At East West, founded in Chinatown in 1973 and now the second-largest commercial bank based in Southern California, the staff greets customers in Spanish and Vietnamese as well as Cantonese, Mandarin and English. The company’s stock price has tripled this decade. Meanwhile, Ng raised record funds for the United Way of Greater Los Angeles by bringing in new donors, solidifying his leadership in philanthropy as well as finance.
Henry T. “Nick” Nicholas III
Investor; philanthropist; cofounder, Broadcom Corp.; 46, Newport Coast
Though best known for his gigantic ego, intense work style and high-profile marital problems, there’s no doubting the import of Nicholas’ influence. With Broadcom cofounder Samueli, he helped give Orange County a new high-tech gloss. And as a local philanthropist, he’s heaped millions on the arts and a range of education and technology projects. The billionaire has also donated vast sums to law-and-order causes, his interest stemming from his sister’s murder 23 years ago. Nicholas is credited, in particular, with fending off an overhaul of the state’s three-strikes law.
Plant guru // 50, Upland
In 16 years as a senior horticulturalist at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont, the Harvard-educated O’Brien has achieved a cult following for his ideas on redefining beauty in the garden. Out with Chinese gardenias, in with California lilac. No one has done more to bring the glory of our native flora to the attention of nurseries, landscapers and gardeners. Drive down any street in Southern California and where lawn gives way to penstemons, monkeyflowers and poppies, an O’Brien convert can be found.
Ronald L. Olson
Partner, Munger, Tolles & Olson;
His clients have ranged from the Filipino government to Warren Buffett, but at home in L.A., he’s one of the most sought-after power lawyers around. Olson played a key role in minimizing damage to Southern California Edison during the energy crisis of 2001, and defended Mike Ovitz and his severance package against Walt Disney Co. shareholders. He represented Merrill Lynch in the Orange County bankruptcy and Brad Grey when his name came up in the Anthony Pellicano investigation. Recently, the Getty Trust called on him amid its scandal.
Music supervisor // 38, Pasadena
One snippet of a song playing in the background while, say, Seth pines for Summer on “The OC” and--boom--an indie rock star is born. Patsavas, who picks songs for the hit show (as well as for “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Without a Trace” and “Rescue Me”) has become one of the most powerful gatekeepers in the entertainment business. Each week she is deluged with CDs from record labels, band managers and artists.
Private detective; 62, U.S. Metropolitan Detention Center, Los Angeles
He’s behind bars, where clout tends to be hard to come by. But information, as they say, is power, and Pellicano--alleged wiretapper to the stars for more than a decade--has amassed reams of it in his long service to the city’s most high-profile entertainment figures and their lawyers. In fact, one reason this list is short on L.A. attorneys is that so many have seen their power eroded because of the probe into Pellicano, who--so far at least--claims not to have talked to the authorities.
A. Jerrold Perenchio
Outgoing chairman, Univision Communications Inc.; 75, Beverly Hills
“Zelig-like” was the way a recent Times profile described Perenchio’s involvement in entertainment, politics and sports in the region (and nationally). He built Univision into the nation’s dominant Spanish-language broadcaster, and recently sold out to an investment group that includes Haim Saban. His personal take is estimated at about $1.3 billion, leaving him poised to increase his philanthropic power. By some estimates, Perenchio--Malibu’s largest landowner--has already given away many millions to Disney Hall, UCLA and others. The Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, it is said, probably wouldn’t be getting built without him. But quantifying his contributions isn’t easy because Perenchio’s preference is to remain far under the radar.
Anaheim mayor; 47, Anaheim
Pringle has taken some heat for having lost Anaheim’s name-change fight with the Angels and for struggling to muster consensus on courting the NFL. Still, Pringle is not only running unopposed, he’s also been endorsed by his biggest critic. It’s a testament to the skill and war chest of the ambitious GOP leader of Disneyland’s hometown. More broadly, Pringle has built such a strong reputation for his aggressive pro-business approach to governance (creative tax waivers, sweeping zone changes, market incentives to redevelop run-down parts of the city) that other local officials have coined a verb for his philosophy: “to Pringle-ize.”
Chairman and CEO, Allergan Inc.;
52, San Juan Capistrano
He’s the man who took Botox mainstream. It has been more than 15 years since Allergan bought the rights to an obscure little treatment for eye spasms. When Pyott became CEO in 1998, few outside the Hollywood underground knew that Botox could also smooth wrinkles. Pyott ramped up spending on research and development, got the FDA to approve Botox for cosmetic uses and has marketed it so aggressively that it’s all but a way of life in looks-conscious Southern California. Allergan’s next possible blockbuster: Juvederm, a dermal filler that reduces the appearance of lines and folds.
Lawyer; 50, Altadena
An L.A. civil rights attorney (and the second cousin of Secretary of State Condi), she has weighed in on transportation, race relations and dysfunction within the LAUSD, among other things. Most recently she chaired the Blue Ribbon Rampart Review Panel, charged with providing a final accounting of the notorious police corruption scandal. As is Rice’s style, the report throws down a gauntlet, calling for an expansion of the LAPD and an end to the culture of “warrior police.”
Executive director, ACLU of Southern California; 79, Marina del Rey
Police abuse, jail crowding, reproductive rights, school desegregation, gay rights, crosses on L.A. County’s seal--name a civil liberties fight, large or small, and Ripston has fought it. Of late, she has found herself defending plans to honor Salam Al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. Also recently, she was named by her old friend Villaraigosa to L.A.'s commission on homelessness.
Founder, Kitson boutique; 42, Hollywood Hills
Love him or hate him, Ross controls the celebrity fashion machine that has made women everywhere covet initialed handbags, truckers caps and crystal-studded Ugg boots. By courting Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie and other “It” girls and feeding information about their shopping habits to US Weekly and People, he has created dozens of fashion trendlets since he opened the Robertson Boulevard store in 2002. When stars come in, he makes sure the paparazzi are there. (He even has an investment in Sunset Photo and News.) Ross also has a kids’ store, an Internet business, a soon-to-open men’s store and a coming shoe line.
Artist; 69, Venice
With surprisingly resonant images of otherwise banal subjects such as Standard gas stations, a Norms restaurant, the Hollywood sign, parking lots and the Sunset Strip, Ruscha has personified “L.A. artist” since the mid-1950s. Perennially popular, he has gained increasing respect in the last decade, and in 2005 represented the United States at the Venice Biennale. This year, the L.A. County Museum of Art purchased 156 works from Ruscha in an effort to acquire a complete set of his prints, while the Museum of Contemporary Art elected him to its board of trustees.
Composer; conductor and music director, L.A. Philharmonic; 48, Los Angeles
The dashing Finn was a rising star when he arrived here 14 years ago. Since then, he has matured into one of the world’s most impressive conductors and composers, while turning the L.A. Phil into the hippest, hottest cultural ticket in town. Thanks to the orchestra’s with-it image, the classical music audiences in Disney Hall are now urban, edgy, diverse--nothing like the dowdy crowds of yore.
Steven B. Sample
President, USC; 65, San Marino
Once USC was branded the University of Spoiled Children. No longer. Under Sample’s leadership, USC has become a magnet for foreign students, with Nobel laureates on the faculty, average SAT scores that rival UCLA’s and influential institutions such as the Annenberg School for Communication and the Marshall School of Business. Sample is also a force on L.A. civic issues, reaching out to help develop the low-income neighborhoods around the campus.
California governor; actor;
It’s good to be the Governator. Good for Southern Kollyfornia too. Though Schwarzenegger is, of course, in charge of the entire state, his ties here create a special ripple effect. His bond initiative to buttress the state’s infrastructure would, if it passes, have a disproportionate local impact. Many of his closest advisors hail from the Southland. And Schwarzenegger’s election has dramatically raised the profile of his Republican backers in Orange County’s New Majority.
Developer; 83, Newport Beach
The patriarch of one of Orange County’s leading farm families, Segerstrom famously turned a tract of bean fields into South Coast Plaza. The rest, as they say, is history. Segerstrom has also been the major force behind the O.C. Performing Arts Center, which will expand into a new hall in September--named, naturally, for the man and his family.
Religious director, Islamic Society
of Orange County; 62, Fountain Valley
Siddiqi, whose mosque is among the largest in North America, is the religious leader of thousands of Southern California Muslims at a time when xenophobia is running high. After Sept. 11, the White House invited him to preside over interfaith services at the National Cathedral. Since then, he has been a leader in driving home the point that Muslims in the U.S. are peace-loving.
Chef; restaurateur; 52, Hancock Park
A big percentage of the current generation of L.A.'s chefs came from Silverton’s kitchen at Campanile (which she founded with her ex-husband Mark Peel, who now pilots the place solo). With her weekly sandwich nights there, antipasto nights at La Terza and mozzarella nights at Jar, she’s changed the way Angelenos eat. She was the first baker to give all of L.A. access to artisan bread (at her La Brea Bakery, sold in 2001 for $56 million). And the restaurant she’s about to open with Mario Batali, Mozza, is the most highly anticipated in years.
Senior VP, House of Blues Concerts; 53, Glendale
Simonitsch has helped bring Latin music into the mainstream of cultural life in L.A. through her work at Universal CityWalk’s Gibson Amphitheatre. When she started there in the ‘80s, Julio Iglesias was the only Latin act who had played the venue; now it books more of them than any other major spot in the country.
Michael S. Sitrick
Chairman and CEO, Sitrick & Co.;
59, Pacific Palisades
L.A.'s king of crisis PR. His firm has handled press for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles during the pedophile priest scandal. He helped Stanley Gold and Roy Disney fight Michael Eisner. He helped O.C. save face after its bankruptcy, and assisted Beverly Hills when it was accused of racial profiling. Longtime clients Michael Ovitz and Terry Christensen turned to him after their names came up in the Pellicano scandal. And he crafted strategy for Ron Burkle in his battle with the New York Post’s Page Six.
Eddie “Piolin” Sotelo
Spanish-language deejay; 35, Los Angeles
When Congress threatened to crack down on undocumented immigrants, Sotelo--L.A.'s top-ranked morning deejay--gave organizers of a proposed pro-immigrant rally four hours on his program on KSCA-FM (101.9). Sotelo then worked with KBUE-FM (105.5) host Ricardo “El Mandril” Sanchez and others to pump up the volume. Urging protesters to carry American flags and to be peaceful, the deejays summoned half a million or more to L.A.'s streets.
Movie director; cofounder DreamWorks SKG; 59, Pacific Palisades
Beyond moviemaking, Spielberg is perhaps best known as a worldwide force in Jewish philanthropy. But his local impact is significant too. He has established a repository of 52,000 testimonies of Holocaust survivors at USC, as well as given to the film school there. He has also been an active donor to the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. The virtual megaphone attached to his fame, though, is his chief source of influence, and most any cause he champions (think driving a Prius to the Oscars) can become an instant trend, first in show business circles and then beyond.
History professor, USC; state librarian emeritus; author; 65, San Francisco
Starr’s influence may ultimately last longer than anybody’s on this list, because he is helping us to interpret what it means to be Southern Californians. Some have criticized Starr for being too boosterish. But his “Americans and the California Dream” series of books--now standing at six volumes, with nearly 10,000 pages--is dazzling in its breadth and depth of knowledge.
Financial executive; 62, Malibu
Stern has been the quintessential L.A. insider for decades, having served as the right hand to Eli Broad and Robert Day. He also has been a Caltech trustee--long a position held by the real lions of Los Angeles--and an influential force in the arts world as chairman of the Los Angeles Opera and a director of the Performing Arts Center of L.A. County.
Co-owner and wine director, AOC and Lucques; 39, Hancock Park
Chef Suzanne Goin’s rustic-yet-refined cooking aesthetic is reason enough to frequent Lucques and AOC, but it’s Styne’s impressive range of wines by the glass that has shaken up the local restaurant world. Before Styne, L.A.'s wine scene was all about cult Cabs and Chardonnay. But she has inspired sommeliers at restaurants citywide to dare Angelenos into becoming more adventurous drinkers and spawned a burgeoning wine-bar movement.
Trader Joe’s Tasting Panel, Monrovia
We cannot name them. We cannot show their faces. Otherwise, Trader Joe would have to kill us, and that would mean no more chili lime peanuts and Two-Buck Chuck for us. What we can say is that there are more than 10 of them and fewer than 40, and they’re easily the most powerful group of food critics in Southern California. The Monrovia-based grocery chain has more weirdly addictive foods--and a more cult-like fan base--than probably any supermarket nationally. The reason is its expert tasting panel, which meets daily in secret to determine down to the last package of mandarin orange chicken what will go on the shelves of Trader Joe’s groceries, which now number 256 in 20 states, including 82 stores regionally.
Managing director, Contrarian Group Inc.; chairman, U.S. Olympic Committee; 68, Laguna Beach
He was CEO of the 1984 L.A. Olympic Organizing Committee and then baseball commissioner. In 1992, after the riots, he was brought in to head Rebuild L.A. Now, in the midst of his day job as a corporate turnaround artist, he and fellow members of the Olympic Committee board will determine which U.S. city, if any, bids for the 2016 summer games. Among those under consideration: L.A.
Lawyer; 59, San Marino
Wardlaw was a key advisor to two of the last three mayors, and he put L.A. Councilman Bernard Parks through mock oral exams the first time he was running for LAPD chief. He’s a friend of Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and has the ear of Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Wardlaw’s clout has waned since Villaraigosa’s election--he had chaired James Hahn’s reelection campaign--but not much. The reason? He’s an old friend of Villaraigosa too. Most importantly, the Freeman Spogli & Co. attorney understands the crucial nexus in L.A. between Democratic politics, labor politics and ethnic politics.
Rev. Rick Warren
Pastor, Saddleback Church; 52, Trabuco Canyon
His congregation now numbers more than 20,000 and his weekend services are attended by one out of every nine people in south O.C. But that’s all multiplied by the way the Hawaiian-shirted Warren deploys his flock, sending them out to enlist others in good works. Bigger than Harvest Christian Fellowship’s Greg Laurie, cooler than Crystal Cathedral’s Robert Schuller, people-friendlier than Calvary Chapel’s Chuck Smith, Warren is in a class by himself. And then there’s his book, “The Purpose Driven Life.”
KROQ-FM (106.7) program director; 43, Calabasas
The most powerful rock signal west of the Mississippi is KROQ, and Weatherly, in an era of blandly calculated playlists and national uniformity, is one of the last true hit makers in radio. Whether it was Sublime in the 1990s or the Killers now, KROQ relies on Weatherly’s instinct for picking the next star.
Richard “Wooly” Woolcott
CEO and president, Volcom;
40, Laguna Hills
Robert McKnight Jr.'s Quiksilver may have brought surf wear to the masses, but its designs aren’t the cutting edge they used to be. With a film division, a record label, a robust online art gallery, skateparks, a grass-roots contest series called Let the Kids Ride Free and two brick-and-mortar retail stores, the Volcom brand has become the new bridge between Southern California’s hard-core surf-skate-snow culture and the mainstream.
L.A. County supervisor; 57, Los Angeles
County supervisors have a v