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89 FOR 1989 : Meet Southern California's Rising Stars

January 01, 1989

The editors and writers of The Times have chosen some of the brightest of Southern California's rising stars to showcase in this second annual special issue of the magazine. The people profiled in the following pages already have achieved a measure of greatness in their respective fields, but they were picked to be among this select group of 89 because of their potential to achieve even greater fame and recognition. These rising stars are expected to be heard from during 1989 as they play bigger roles in making a difference in a changing, dynamic Southern California.

ARTS

JOHN ALEKSICH, architect

Aleksich's simple yet sophisticated designs for several local savings and loans have made him a leading candidate to rescue Los Angeles from the blandness of its commercial strips. Aleksich, 48, was the man behind the idea of using scaffolding to build the colorful temporary structures for the 1984 Olympics. During the past few years, he has designed the entrance and mall at the Los Angeles Zoo, a sports pavilion at Loyola Marymount University and a striking office complex on Arlington Avenue that overlooks the Santa Monica Freeway. All three projects won design awards. In the next year, Aleksich's ideas will be visible in several projects that he says will "establish a retail urban-design vocabulary for Los Angeles."

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday January 1, 1989 Home Edition Part 1 Page 3 Column 5 Advance Desk 9 inches; 307 words Type of Material: Correction
Because of a mistake by a pre-print production house supplying The Times, three photographs in today's Los Angeles Times Magazine were incorrectly paired with profiles in the "89 for '89" special issue. The correct versions: STEVEN CORBIN, Novelist When Corbin, 35, was growing up, his grandmother captivated him with stories about Harlem of the 1920s--the glamour, the elegance, the clubs. His first novel, "No Easy Place to Be," pays tribute to the Harlem Renaissance era. Simon & Schuster will publish the historical epic next month. A selection of the Literary Guild, the book also seems a likely prospect for the movies. Corbin, who teaches fiction writing at UCLA, did a reading in New York six weeks ago with Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne. In the audience was E.L. Doctorow--with whom Corbin has been critically compared.
HUGH M. DAVIES, museum director When Davies became director of the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art five years ago, it was, in his words, "insular and doctrinaire" with "the appearance of elitism." But Davies, 40, buried that image with a far-ranging exhibit schedule and a downtown exhibition annex that plopped the museum in the midst of San Diego's gritty arts district--and the museum's annual attendance rate tripled. Now on his second five-year contract, Davies is about to oversee an expansion program that will include an $11-million Robert Venturi-designed overhaul of the bluff-side La Jolla facility and the addition of several thousand square feet to the downtown space. STEVEN EHRLICH, architect Ehrlich can stand in the middle of Windward Circle in Venice with a sense of accomplishment. Soon to be completed there is the last of three exuberantly high-tech buildings that he designed to energize the historic traffic circle. In addition to this ambitious mix of shops, offices and studios, Ehrlich's flashy design for a deli is taking form in downtown Santa Monica and, later this year, the construction of a fanciful gymnasium and community center in the Mid-Wilshire District's Shatto Park is scheduled to begin. Throw in commissions for residences, and it's easy to see why this 42-year-old architect's career has moved into high gear.
PHOTO: STEVEN CORBIN
PHOTO: HUGH M. DAVIES
PHOTO: STEVEN EHRLICH

JON ROBIN BAITZ, playwright

It's fitting that Baitz's new play, "Dutch Landscape" (opening Jan. 19 at the Mark Taper Forum), should be about Americans abroad. In his 27 years, Baitz has spent time in Holland, London, Brazil and South Africa, where he lived from the ages of 10 to 16. His well-received "The Film Society," in which a boys' school became a microcosm for the staid malevolence of South African society, was gleaned from personal experience. Produced at the Los Angeles Theatre Center in 1987, it went on to stagings in New York and London. "My work is about emotional honesty," Baitz says, shrugging, "something I feel is lacking in me."

M. NEEMA BARNETTE, director

Barnette, 37, believes that art should "enlighten or reflect society," and she is well on her way to making her statement through directing. She won an Emmy in 1984 for "To Be a Man," an "ABC After School Special" about urban teen-agers discovering their Southern rural roots, and in 1987 won one of the four coveted slots in former Columbia Pictures chairman David Puttnam's New Directors Program. This year she'll finish work on her Columbia feature, "Listen for the Fig Tree," and direct episodes of "Hooperman," "227" and "Baby Boom," as well as return to her "first love," off-Broadway theater.

PETER CHACONAS, cable TV performer

At 38, Chaconas could well become the first performer to make the transition from public access to big-time commercial TV. He recently signed a contract to develop a syndicated show for Viacom. Known simply as "Mr. Pete" to his fans--who crowd into a tiny TV studio in Santa Monica for his tapings--Chaconas is host of "Take a Break With Mr. Pete," a campy Sunday night talk program that features heavy doses of double-entendre, slapstick and audience insults. "Mr. Pete" asks probing questions of guests such as Elinor Donahue and George Carlin, and he sponsors contests with the typical prize being a box of macaroni-and-cheese mix.

STEVEN CORBIN, novelist

When Corbin, 35, was growing up, his grandmother captivated him with stories about the Harlem of the 1920s--the glamour, the elegance, the clubs. His first novel, "No Easy Place to Be," pays tribute to the Harlem Renaissance era. Simon and Schuster will publish the historical epic next month. A selection of the Literary Guild, the book also seems a likely prospect for the movies. Corbin, who teaches fiction writing at UCLA, did a reading in New York six weeks ago with Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne. In the audience was E. L. Doctorow--with whom Corbin has been critically compared.

HUGH M. DAVIES, museum director

When Davies became director of the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art five years ago, it was, in his words, "insular and doctrinaire" with "the appearance of elitism." But Davies, 40, buried that image with a far-ranging exhibit schedule and a downtown exhibition annex that plopped the museum in the midst of San Diego's gritty arts district--and the museum's annual attendance rate tripled. Now on his second five-year contract, Davies is about to oversee an expansion program that will include an $11-million Robert Venturi-designed overhaul of the bluff-side La Jolla facility and the addition of several thousand square feet to the downtown space.

PATRICIA DUFF-MEDAVOY, film producer

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