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PALM LATITUDES

THE BIZ : Toast of the Town

June 25, 1995|Sandra Farrell Bazrod

There isn't an aspiring actor out there who doesn't envy performers who get bigger roles than they do. But imagine how you'd feel if your toaster was getting better parts.

Albert Valdez has appeared in a Perry Mason TV movie, soaps, B movies and many stage productions. He's also an artist who transforms vintage toasters into founts of light and shadow. He got his start in "toaster art" back om 1988, when he was looking for a gift for a friend. Inspired by the Toast Room, a Denver restaurant he frequented while acting in plays there, he bought an old toaster, refurbished it, then reconfigured it, using strategically placed illumination to send out a fan of light. Over the years, he made more toasters for other friends, who eventually urged him to market them.

Last year, he did. The toasters made their professional debut at Stage Left Cafe in Glendale, and are now displayed at Zipper in Los Angeles, where they sell for about $300. Valdez says he's planning to branch out. "Next," he says "I'm going into lava lamp blenders."

While Valdez is still a struggling actor, his toasters have already had a taste of the big time. ONe will appear in the upcoming film "Steal Big, Steal Little," directed by Andrew Davis of "Fugitive" fame, and another has been displayed on NBC's "Sisters." His toasters even have an agent: Pattee Stayrook, whose company, Artorama, does product placement, made the movie deal. "This is just the beginning of a great future," Stayrook says. "His work is unique and on the edge and no one else is doing it."

Does he care that the toasters are getting more work than he does? "I have no jealousy toward them," he says. "They can't recite Shakespeare or Chekhov."

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