The orchestra had finished its tuning and had fallen silent. Ken Loesch stepped to the podium and spread his arms in the time-honed stance of a conductor demanding his players' acute attention. "Can you play taps?" he asked. And this was only at rehearsal.
Several months previous, Loesch, vice president of commercial development for Southmark Pacific Corp., a local real-estate firm, had attended a fund-raiser for the Los Angeles Pops Orchestra. As top bidder, he'd won the chance to conduct the Pops during a summer concert at the Century Plaza Hotel.
"Nervous? I'm partially paralyzed," he said before his first--only--rehearsal with the group. "It's kind of a Walter Mitty thing. I love music, and I've conducted frequently--in front of my stereo. I've got butterflies and I'm a little uptight, but I can't wait to do it."
After regular conductor Carlo Spiga had led the Pops in an initial version of John Williams' "Olympic Fanfare," it was Loesch's turn. Nervous at first, he was beaming and bouncing toward the end of the piece, loving every minute. "Lead the orchestra," Spiga counseled gently. "Don't follow it."
Next night, the performance. "I was out of control at first," Loesch confessed later. "You tend to be more comfortable when you know what you're doing. But as soon as they started playing I started enjoying it. I got into the flow. Of course, the musicians are real pros, and once they knew I'd donated some money in support of the orchestra, they were real supportive. I think they liked me better than Toscanini."
And the audience? "A standing ovation," Loesch said. A career change in sight? "After much deliberation," Loesch said, "I've decided to stay in real estate.
"But never say never. . . . "
California's Hispanic Family of the Year
They're what this country is all about, the Martinez family, and last week they got a little recognition--not that they were looking for it.
"We founded our own company 14 years ago," said Harold Martinez, honored with wife Gloria, five children and nine grandchildren as California's Hispanic Family of the Year. The company, Able Industrial Products, manufactures weather stripping, rubber products and adhesives, and at first "it was a nightmare," said Harold, 50. "We had a young family--five children by the time I was 23--and we were working so hard it almost cost us our marriage. We survived only because of Gloria's understanding and support."
Now three of the children, grown, work for AIP: business end, quality control, computers. "I sometimes wish they'd spin off," Harold confessed, "but they like it here."
Harold, "an Indian of Mexican descent" from Tucumcari, N.M., and Gloria, "from the L.A. area, born of Mexican immigrants," live a comfortable life in Hacienda Heights now, but they've never forgotten how grueling it was to launch their own firm. Harold is a founder of, and active in, the Latin Business Assn. "We focus on business development, education and advocacy," he said. "Basically, we try to assist businesses--primarily Hispanic--to succeed."
For Harold Martinez, it's simple: "No compromises in quality. This is our business. Like I tell the kids, I'd rather make 3% of something than 50% of nothing."
Only one problem: "I'm five-oh and I hate it. Where did it all go?"
Head and Shoulders Above the Rest of Us
High society from around the world assembles this week at the LAX Marriott. From Monday through Saturday, (July 4-10) Tall Clubs International celebrates the organization's 50th anniversary with social activities, sports events, discussions on mutual triumphs and problems, and benefits for Marfan Syndrome, a tissue disorder that takes a large toll among the tall.
Tall Clubs generally insist on women being at least 5-foot-10, men 6-2 or more. Whatever the height, most members--particularly the women--have had to overcome the social stigmas that attend to unusual height.
"I'm proud to be tall--now," said club spokesperson Yvonne Bentley, 5-11. "I get a lot of attention and I like that. You've got to learn to carry yourself regally. As a matter of fact I'm wearing three-inch heels right now. But when I was a teen-ager it was agony. Yes, people still make remarks like 'How's the weather up there?' We have a T-shirt now, though, that reads, 'No, I don't play basketball. Do you play miniature golf?' "
Among those expected to attend the L.A. convention are representatives of 20 clubs in Europe, and 6-3 Kay Einfeldt of Santa Cruz, Calif., who, as Kay Sumner, founded the first Tall Club in L.A. in 1938 in reaction to stares, cramping seats and a dearth of clothes that fit. (Ironically, at the time, Einfeldt, a Disney illustrator, was assigned to draw the Seven Dwarfs.)
Problems of the tall--"Only about 5% of the world's population," Bentley said--have diminished somewhat since Einfeldt's day. For persistent gawkers, though, members are quick to quote one of the Tall Clubbers' favorite mottoes: "I may be the first one to be rained on, but I'm the last one to drown."