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89 FOR 1989 : Meet Southern California's Rising Stars

January 01, 1989


Miller, 27, was just another promising young musician until one fateful day last season when Andre Previn got sick. As assistant conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Miller took over his boss' program on 36 hours' notice, demonstrating professional flair and personal calm. Since then, he has confirmed his authority in numerous Philharmonic programs. A traditionalist who also specializes in difficult modern scores, he will lead the Philharmonic next month in a program that will include Mahler's First Symphony and a new work by Daniel Lentz. And in April, Miller will find out if he'll be the new head of the underrated Long Beach Symphony; he's one of five finalists for the job.

FRANK MILLER, comics artist

At 31, Miller is already a bona fide star in the realm of comic books--or as the longer ones are known, graphic novels. His graphic novel of 1986, "The Dark Knight Returns," revived the character of Batman and took the comics industry in new, bold, decidedly adult directions. This year, Miller--creator of the sexy and deadly Elektra--promises to continue making waves. He has three books scheduled for release; one features a new black heroine, Martha Washington. And Miller is trying something new: He's writing the screenplay for "RoboCop II." "Which would seem to make sense," he says, "since the first film was, essentially, a comic book."

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.

TIM MILLER, performance artist

Autobiographical performance art is his medium, but politics has become the message for Miller, who uses his poignant combinations of dance, music, narrative and set design to enlighten audiences on the subjects of about AIDS and gay cultural identity. Miller, 30, is also active in the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power and raises money for AIDS research through benefit performances across the country. Miller, born in Whittier, recently won a $5,000 American Choreographers Award, and in the next few months he'll open at the Performance Project in Santa Monica, a much-needed platform for local performance artists.

CAROL MUSKE DUKES, poet and novelist

After her first book of poems was published in 1975, Carol Muske Dukes began hearing another voice in her head. It was a woman's voice but, unlike her poetry, it was funny. So, using that voice, Muske Dukes sat down to write her first novel. She set it aside after a few chapters, published two more poetry books, went to Italy on a fellowship, married and started lecturing at USC. But the character she created never quit nagging the 41-year-old writer, and she finally finished the novel in 1987. "Dear Digby," about a letters editor at a feminist magazine, will be published by Viking / Penguin in April.

JEFF STETSON, playwright

Stetson, a career college administrator, sat down to write his first play five years ago as an antidote to negative media portrayals of blacks. "The Meeting," about an imaginary conversation between Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, was so acclaimed that this month it is being staged in a dozen U.S. cities, and a film version is scheduled for May broadcast on PBS' "American Playhouse." While working full time in public affairs for the California State University system, Stetson has managed to write five other plays. The latest, "Fraternity," will premiere in Montclair, N.J., in March. Stetson intends to quit his day job sometime in 1989 to concentrate on TV and film.

SYD STRAW, singer

Born in Hollywood, Straw, 29, moved to New York in 1978 and launched her career singing in comedy clubs. Seven years later she became the star attraction with the avant-rock group the Golden Palominos, and in 1987 she was signed to Virgin Records as a solo artist. Since returning here last year, she has appeared regularly at McCabe's, where her eclectic mix of country, rock and pop has won her a devoted following. Her debut LP, set for release in March, features appearances by Joe Ely, Ry Cooder, Dave Alvin and John Doe. It should establish Straw as a talent to be reckoned with.

JON SWIHART, painter

Long ago, without conscious intention, Swihart, 34, must have taken an artist-monk's vow of aesthetic obedience: He took 10 years to finish 20 small magic-realist scenes of ancient myths acted out by modern youths in jeans. While painstakingly painting in a bedroom studio in Santa Monica, he supported himself by developing photos at the Getty Museum. But last year the respected Tortue Gallery gave Swihart his first solo exhibition, and then he received a grant to spend six months in Monet's gardens at Giverny, painting the French landscape. He plans to spend 1989 in artist's heaven: painting full time for the first time in his life.

LARRY TOTAH, architect

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