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Valley Chronicle

Ex-Aunt Vivian Has Her Own Studio and a Little Fresh Prince

August 23, 1993|SUE REILLY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

She dissed.

She danced.

She dished and verbally duked it out with the best of them.

As the elegant, imperious and feisty Aunt Vivian Banks on NBC's "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," Janet Hubert-Whitten had a part she could get her considerable talents around.

Then, not long after the birth of her now 8-month-old son, Elijah Issac, she found her part had been recast and she wasn't being invited back to the show for this season.

"I was hurt and disappointed. I'd worked hard and I never saw that coming," says the former Alvin Ailey dance trouper, who had studied acting at the Juilliard School on full scholarship.

But this woman, who supported herself during hard times by working at Dunkin' Donuts, and whose mother supported a family by cooking and cleaning houses, is not that easy to knock over.

She's keeping busy. She has the new baby, who, in himself, is a handful.

And then she has the Body Queue.

The Body Queue is yet another preemptive strike on this area's inhabitants who happen to hold the idea that the best way to experience life is in a prone posture.

Look out all you "fat and flabbies."

The Valley has a new exercise guru.

The Body Queue is Hubert-Whitten's new Studio City studio where she teaches something called Gyrotonics, which she describes as a series of exercises using a special machine that stimulates the body's organs as acupuncture and yoga do.

"The machine and system were developed by Julio Horvath of the White Cloud Studio in New York," says Hubert-Whitten, adding that the Horvath studio attracted a lot of dancers and actresses, which is how she found out about it and became a master teacher.

And why she decided to open a studio here.

Hubert-Whitten, who is the new studio's owner, operator and head teacher, says the machine is good for everyone from the flabbiest workout beginner to the jock who is keeping toned up.

One of her interest groups is mothers-to-be and mothers of newborns, many of whom work, as she did, up to the last minute and then return to work shortly after giving birth.

Hubert-Whitten says she worked on "Fresh Prince" until two days before her son was delivered and returned to the set two weeks later to do some final scenes.

"I weighed almost 200 pounds before I delivered and looked like I was wearing a fat suit. I'd look in the mirror and start to cry," she remembers, adding that working while pregnant is hard on both the body and the emotions.

Hubert-Whitten is now back to her normal emotional state as well as weight, and says that working out and teaching at her studio has speeded up the process.

"I'm almost 40," says the first-time mother and Burbank resident, "and it takes longer to pull it back together. But it's happening."

Volunteers Unleashed Bring Success to Animal Shelter

Bruce Richards, the head of the Agoura Animal Shelter, runs a facility that is the envy of other Los Angeles County shelter directors.

While they labor long with puny budgets and skeleton staffs, Richards, it seems, has an embarrassment of riches.

He can put on the dog, which may create a little envy and Agoura-phobia in his peer group.

The secret of his success, he says, is community support and interest.

"We couldn't carry out the operation we have and offer the kind of service we do without the time and money donations of people in the area," Richards says.

"We have a staff of about 13 and an equal number of volunteers usually on duty for this seven-days-a-week operation," he says, adding that "you couldn't tell who was paid and who was working for free."

He also has a list of people he can call when an emergency arises and money is needed for an operation or other procedure.

"Volunteers have even been known to extend financial support to pet owners who cannot afford medical care for their animals," Richards says.

Then there are the gifts of people, like the late Richard Lewis of Calabasas, which give the lie to the saying that no good deed shall go unpunished.

The good deeds of the Agoura shelter people have reaped great rewards.

"Mr. Lewis used to find ducks floating around his swimming pool and would call the shelter to have someone relocate them," says Richards. "He must have thought well of our efforts because, when he died, he left us $10,000 in his will."

The money will be used to provide a holding area for animals with specific needs, including abused animals and mothers with their young. It's expected to debut in September.

In the meanwhile, Richards is arranging a thank-you luncheon for his volunteers.

Hold On Just a Minute, Isn't That a Picasso?

Howard Lowery is, among other things, a menace to good housekeeping.

He's the kind of guy who makes some people hate to throw anything away.

In the current exhibition, at his Howard Lowery Gallery in Burbank, he has on display a work of art he values at $100,000 that he says was purchased a few years ago for $10 at a Hollywood garage sale.

It is an animation drawing of the Evil Queen from Disney's classic, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs."

Lowery says it has that value because it is in pristine condition and shows not only the Queen but the background, which is unusual in these kinds of drawings.

Lowery says a similar cel, which showed all the main characters from the movie, recently sold for $200,000 at a New York auction.

OK everyone.

Let's rummage through those boxes in the garage.

Overheard

"My grandmother is 78 and her elevator doesn't go all the way up anymore. She thinks Heidi and the Prostitutes is a new television show. In poor taste, mind you. But she thinks that if they were going to do it, they should have gotten someone better looking and more feminine for the Heidi role."

--Man to his Happy Hour companion at the Sagebrush Cantina in Calabasas

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