Away from the fast-track glitz of Los Angeles and Hollywood, kids are still able to be kids in Ventura County. But they can also make it big in show biz. There are plenty of talented young people in the area. Four Conejo Valley youngsters who have hit the big time have managed to attain the best of both worlds by balancing family values and adolescent pursuits with careers.
Fourteen-year-old Kellie Martin, with her trademark large, round red glasses, has become familiar to Sunday night television viewers as Becca, Corky's smarty-pants sister on "Life Goes On."
The family oriented series debuted last fall on ABC. Critics praised the show for its portrayal of a young man with Down's Syndrome (played by Chris Burke) who attends mainstream classes at his sister's high school.
Kellie's acting career began when she was 7 years old. She has been in more than 30 commercials and has guest-starred on numerous TV series, including "Dallas," "The Tracey Ullman Show," " 'thirtysomething" and "Mr. Belvedere." In addition, Kellie has appeared in feature films, including "Troop Beverly Hills," and has performed voice-overs for cartoon programs.
During a normal school week, Kellie can be found on the set of "Life Goes On." She and her mother, Debbie, are usually at the Burbank Studios at 9 a.m. and often don't get home before midnight, although she is limited by law to working a maximum of 9 1/2 hours daily. "It's a crazy schedule," Kellie said, "but that's what it takes and I'm used to it."
A high school freshman, Kellie has three hours of school each day with tutor Marge Schlaifer, who ensures that learning is a high priority. After graduation, she would like to study theater or fashion design.
Despite her success, Kellie's family comes first. On a recent Saturday morning Kellie baked peanut blossom cookies for younger sister Heather's basketball team.
"She's playing her championship game today," Kellie said, "so we're going to cheer her on."
Why, you might ask, does Leila Josefowicz wear boxing gloves to play tether ball with her brother, Steven? Since taking up the violin at age 3, the Toronto-born, 12-year-old virtuoso has been perfecting a talent acclaimed by the music world. Though Leila avoids hand injuries, she does the things that most girls her age enjoy, especially bike riding and swimming, and her favorite denim jacket from the Hard Rock Cafe is covered with slogan pins.
Unlike her peers, however, Leila's prized object is the rare 1793 Guarnarius del Gesu violin on which she performs, loaned to her from the collection of Bein and Fushi, dealers of rare instruments in Chicago.
Parents Jack, a physicist, and Wendy, a biologist, discovered that Leila had perfect pitch one day when she identified the note emitted by the vacuum cleaner. Her father, who is musically trained, works with Leila several hours a day, guiding her practice. For the past four years, however, she has studied with Robert Lipsett in Los Angeles. She also receives an annual scholarship from the Young Musicians Foundation.
Leila and Itzhak Perlman are two of only four violinists managed by the IMG Artists agency. Soloist offers would keep her booked year-round, but her parents limit engagements to ensure that her school and family life do not suffer. The Westlake Village seventh-grader loves to read and attends public school, where she is an A student.
In December the family will travel to England for Leila's London debut as soloist with the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, conducted by Sir Neville Marriner. Leila will be the featured soloist Sept. 14 and 15 for the final two gala fireworks concerts at the Hollywood Bowl. Also, Leila was honored by an invitation from the Vancouver Symphony's new conductor, Sergiu Comissiona, to be the soloist this November in her native Canada.
Troy Damien's mother, Robin, couldn't talk about "Spaced Invaders," the feature film her son will be appearing in at the end of this month. She said they had to sign an agreement to keep the movie's story line secret.
But Troy, who lives in Westlake Village with his parents, Robin and John, was more than willing to talk about the weekend Lake Casitas backpacking trip with his Boy Scout troop.
And the 11-year-old is just as likely to talk about Nintendo games, Little League, guitar, cotillion and karate as he is about the McDonald's commercial that was his first job, or the feature films, television shows--including "Totally Hidden Videos" and "The Judge"--and the 12 commercials that he has done since.