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The Valley Line: Starting 2014 with a reconnection; defense attorney Mark Geragos keynotes at Oakmont League meeting

All aboard! This New Year’s train is leaving the station and chugging into February with a carload of hearts and flowers.

There was one more televised award show to tide me over until the Academy Awards airs on March 2. It was the music industry’s evening to shine this past Sunday night.


The Grammy extravaganza is always fun with a lot of surprises, be it the voluminous gowns to hardly any clothes at all or edgy musical performances to traditional. Pink swung from the rafters in a tiny costume, singing the entire time. And then there was that silent French duo Daft Punk, incognito in their signature tuxedos and robot helmets, who were winners of multiple Grammys. My, my, you just never know what is going to happen next.



I greeted this new year with a reconnection with an old friend, Jan Du Plain. She grew up here in La Cañada and is the daughter of the late Joe Du Plain, who was the owner and publisher of the Valley Sun for 40 years.

The facilitator of our reconnection was Julie Battaglia, another well-known La Cañadan. Julie met up with Jan in a workshop in Charleston, S.C., during the prestigious “by invitation only” Renaissance Institute New Year’s weekend. This event was founded in 1981 by Phillip Lader, who once served as the U.S. ambassador to the Court of St. James, and his wife, Linda LeSourd Lader. The Laders host four such weekends each year.

These events are designed to build bridges among innovative leaders of all ages, with exceptionally diverse perspectives. Unusually candid, the programs are always provocative, fueled by a unique interaction of thought-leaders, trendsetters and authorities.

The weekend attracts chief executive officers, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, Nobel laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners, artists, educators, scientists, astronauts, Olympians, judges, diplomats, social entrepreneurs, nonprofit leaders, change-makers of Silicon Valley, Hollywood, Wall Street, Main Street, professors, priests, Republicans, Democrats and Independents.


Jan, who has often attended the weekends, told me she was dumbfounded when she saw Julie’s name badge that said she was from La Cañada. “Nobody knows where La Cañada is so I was so excited to discover a neighbor and kindred spirit in the public relations business,” she said.

Jan lives in Washington, D.C. and has a weekend home in Virginia. I have visited her in D.C. and she is a powerhouse lady — she kept me on the run the entire time I was there which was fun, not to mention exciting.

Jan and Julie had a lot to talk about concerning their respective businesses. Julie was delighted to introduce Jan to her husband Dave and their children, Chris, who is a senior at Emerson University in Boston and daughter Kate, who is a freshman at Emory University in Atlanta.

Jan, welcome back to the pages of the La Cañada Valley Sun.



Another longtime La Cañadan also appeared on my radar this week. Mark Geragos, the high profile defense attorney. Mark was the keynote speaker at a recent Oakmont League evening meeting at the Oakmont Country Club.

When Mark stepped to the podium, he said that he remembers very well when he was just a kid he delivered the La Cañada Valley Sun door to door, along with two other newspapers. His favorite home belonged to Dr. Kraus and he thought that one day he would like to live there. And now, many years later, he, his wife Paulette and their children live in that very house. Mark’s mother, Betty Jane, is a former member of the Oakmont League.

Chris Halajian, president of the League, opened the meeting before dinner was served. Two new members were introduced to the general membership that night, Lydia Trout and Claudia Sysock. Lynn Dittrick, program chairman, introduced Geragos.

Among some of 60 members and guests attending were Carolyn, RJ and Ron Beaton; Mary Broerman, Fran and Terry Buchanan, Michaellynn Cashion, Ann Chadney, Patsy, Chip and Lisa Dewey; Lynn and Mike Dittrick, Stela Fajtek, Glady and Jack Kabateck, Jeri Benton and Bob Clark, Marion and Paul Greene, Judy and Joe Mendicina, Roberta Raffaelli, Nina Ratliff, Cheryl Rider, Chloe and Lee Ross, Donna and Frank Sauer, Pam and Ian Spiszman, Monica and Jose Sierra, Eveline Siracuse, Barbara McCullough, Marlene Hirt, Sofia MacIsaac, and Marguerite Marsh.


JANE NAPIER NEELY covers the La Cañada social scene. Email her at with news of your special event.