Issue #4 2020
DARREN DI LIETO
FOUNDER OF “HIRE AN ILLUSTRATOR”
AUTHOR OF THE ONE-EYED JACK SERIES
TOP AGENT AT PLG ESTATES
BRANDING AND MARKTING EXPERT
BEVERLY HILLS RESTANTEUR
Comic, Writer, Actor
talks with us
Lon Levin/Levinland Studio CalRE# 01965638 Editor/Contributing Writer
©2019 Lon Levin Real Estate All Rights Reserved
REAL CREATIVE MAGAZINE is a subsidiary of Lon Levin Real Estate (LLRE) CalRE 01965638. ©2018 Lon Levin Real Estate. All Rights Reserved. All content is the property of LLRE and cannot be copied or used without the expressed written consent of the publisher Real estate agents affiliated with PLG Estates Brokerage are independent contractor agents and are not employees of the Company. ©2020 PLG Estates. All Rights Reserved.
STAY CALM The Editor expresses his feelings about “iPhones, electronic devices and keeping your cool”. MATT NAGIN One of the brightest talents around lets us in on the joke. But watch out “Don’t Feed this Comic! JADE DRESSLER
Marketing, Branding and “big ideas” are the staples of one of the country’s best creative minds.
DENA BURTON PLG’s colorful and exciting real estate agent knows her business and her clients and they love her for it! CHRISTOPHER LYNCH Creator of the One-Eyed Jack series teaches at-risk youth writing, climbs mountains and mentors max-security prisoners DARREN DI LIETO An illustrator who helps other illustrators find work thru his organization “Hire An Illustrator” DANA COLLINS An innovative artist/designer puts his own stamp on all of his projects. PETER GARLAND Growing up in Beverly Hills inspired Peter to ceate the iconic Porte Via Restaurant. KAREN SNOOK A former corporate executive has found her calling working with animals.
It is not the beauty of a building you should look at; its the construction of the foundation that will stand the test of time.
Photography by Lon Levin
Photo: Lon Levin
Just My Opinion
calm: /kä(l)m/ adjective
by Lon Levin
“ Rushing into action, you fail. Trying to grasp things, you lose them. Forcing a project to completion,you ruin what was almost ripe. Therefore the Master takes action by letting things take their course. He remains as calm at the end as at the beginning.” - Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
Are you feeling me? I cannot leave my house without my iPhone. I find it unnerving to not know that my phone is charged and safely in my pocket. In fact I’m more concerned about that than brushing my teeth or brushing my hair. So many of us have grown dependent on these handheld devices—perhaps even addicted. We’re not be alone, thank God: a Stanford University survey administered to 200 college students claims just that. On a scale of one to five, where five is full blown addiction and one is not addicted at all, 10 percent of the respondents ranked themselves as a five, 34 percent a four, and only 6 percent were a one. That’s okay, but 32 percent of the people who said they weren’t completely addicted said that they worry they may someday walk among the iPhone addicted.
Among those surveyed, I can sympathize with the 85% who use the phone as their watch, and even the 89% who use it as an alarm clock. Those jungle chimes, that righteous guitar riff? Much more peaceful than the BRRT BRRT BRRT of any alarm clock I’ve owned. As for the 75% who fell asleep with the phone and the 69% who were more likely to leave their wallet behind? I’ve done both, and just the other day! And the 15 percent who claimed the iPhone was turning them into media addicts? Well, it’s easier than ever to watch news videos, play music, games and to turn yourself into your own social media PR agent!, so why not? But then you get to the part where students talk about how the iPhone is like an extension of their bodies, and it starts getting a little looney. A startling 41 percent said that losing their mass-produced iPhone would be tragic, while 30% hailed the device as a “doorway into the world.” WHAT?? And 25% thought the phone was “dangerously alluring,” which is perhaps why 7% had a roommate or a partner that felt abandoned by the device’s constant use. Then you get to the affection that a curious minority feels for their iPhones: 9% have patted their iPhone; 3 % claim that they don’t let anybody touch their iPhone; 3% have named their iPhone; 8% even thought their other devices were jealous of their iPhone. Truly, the pet rock of old has some real competition these days. The survey’s administrator doesn’t think that it’s an unhealthy addiction; the article points out that it’s still left to question whether or not addiction to personal electronics even qualifies as a mental disorder. Seriously?? Rather, it’s just that these students really like their iPhones. With 70% claiming that the iPhone has made them more organized, 54% claiming that it made them more productive, and 74% claiming that it made them feel cool, it seems as though it might be a net positive effect. Look, who am I to pass judgement? I use my iPhone for so many things and I do think it makes life easier and more efficient. Now if I could just train my phone to walk my dogs my life would be complete!
MATT NAGI N When did you first think about writing/acting as something you wanted to do? Were you encouraged or discouraged by family, friends, teachers, mentors? I first started writing after reading a book by Jim Morrison, the lead singer of The Doors. Morrison’s poetry seemed highly metaphorical, and, at times, almost transcendent, which I thought was really cool. I started reading other poets and filling up notebooks with my own work. At first, it mostly seemed a weird hobby. As time
What kind of kid were you? Where did you grow up? What were your influences? I grew up in small town on Long Island called Jericho. As a kid, I was, at one point, kind of shy and reserved. In third grade, in fact, the teacher put me in a special class for slow kids. This was ironic, since, in fourth grade, I was put in a class for gifted kids. I guess I’ve always been a bit of an enigma. I used to get bullied quite a bit, and, because I could make crazy statements, at times, people tried to shut me up. I think this contributed to my wanting to be a writer. It also may have contributed to my interest in comedy, in particular, since I tend to push the envelope and aggravate some people today just as I had as a kid. There is something about skirting the line of the acceptable that always intrigued me. My early influences were not literary in nature, although, at a later point, I developed an affinity for a wide range of thinkers and creators…. William Blake, Friedrich Nietzsche, Emily Dickinson, Charles Bukowski, Jonathan Swift…to name just a few.
“In short, the Matt Nagin you experience today continues to experiment with a wide-range of creative forms.” went on, though, I got more into it and started producing all types of creative work—essays, fiction, screenplays etc. My family, for the most part, was discouraging. My mother wanted me to be a lawyer or doctor. My father thought I should follow in his footsteps and enter the real estate business. After a semester in Cornell’s Hotel School, I switched to Arts and Sciences, becoming an English Major. This was upsetting to my family, but, with time, they learned to accept my path.
What’s your background and how does it relate to what you’re doing now? I obtained a B.A. in English Literature from Cornell University and an M.A. in Humanities and Social Thought from NYU. This gave some grounding in the literary arts, and, after some more pedagogical training, I taught college writing at seven institutions over a period of fifteen years. Writing led to standup comedy and acting, both of which I am still engaged in. I’m also, of course, a writer, and, of late, I’ve published three books, the most recent one being a humor collection, “Do Not Feed The Clown
You’ve written in a couple different genres. How did that evolve into the Matt Nagin that we experience now? I write in quite a few genres because, to me at least, genre is not as important as others think. In other words, many of the same principles apply, regardless of the type of writing. For example, poetic writing can be humorous and humorous writing can be sensual and detailed in a way that resembles poetry (indeed, this may add to the comedic effect). Actually, changing the type of writing I do is part of my overall strategy as a writer. I think switching up genres keeps the writing fresh and interesting. I’ve continued with this trend, for, as it just so happens, my next two books (both of which I have drafts of) are in genres I have not attempted in book form to date: a short story collection (fiction) and comedic tales from my early days (memoir). In short, the Matt Nagin you experience today continues to experiment with a wide-range of creative forms. I think this is intentional, on the one hand, and, on the other, part of my persona (I’m a Gemini, and, like my astrological chart suggests, a bit of a chameleon). I hope it helps make each book distinctive and keeps readers coming back to see what I’m up to next.
“My family, for the most part, was discouraging. My mother wanted me to be a lawyer or doctor. My father thought I should follow in his footsteps and enter the real estate business.”
You do so many different types of writing and producing. What is your favorite area to work in??
Continued/ What’s your background and how does it relate to what you’re doing now? I don’t really go into projects by thinking about the level of demand for the subject matter. Rather, I write because I’m compelled. Generally, my thought on this is that if it is interesting to me than it might be to someone else as well. Besides, usually if you go deep enough, or reach an authentic enough place in the work, it will be intriguing to others. So, for me, this is the critical goal…authenticity.
Yes. I’m involved in acting, standup, writing, even a bit of filmmaking. But, of all these areas, I’d say writing is my primary passion. And, of all types of writing, ironically enough, I’d say the novel is my favorite. It’s a more involved process and offers a level of depth that you can’t get in perhaps any other creative mode. It’s strange I feel this way, since I’ve yet to publish a novel. Truth be told, I’ve written a few. They are just mostly in unfinished form. I’ve of late, started going back and trying to finish them, so that, eventually, I can put them out there. The good part is the shorter works I’ve created have helped prepare me for the structural and aesthetic challenges a novel can present. In sum, I believe my voice has developed over the years and look forward, excitedly, to the projects just ahead.
Can you explain what your poetry is all about? In the movie “The Gambler,” after Lauren Hutton tells James Caan a horrific story, he quotes E.E. Cummings: “Buffalo Bills defunct.” What does that mean? Certainly, he’s referencing disappointment. Perhaps, even, it’s an illusion to death, as mentioned in the poem. But it’s not spelled out. Why? Because that’s poetry. Poetry is metaphor, enigma, parable, allusion. It’s stretching out towards an idea but never quite landing on it. It’s all the mysterious elements in the universe colliding, somehow, on the page. It’s the absence, the lack, the thing you’d rather not explain clearly because that would ruin it. Anyway, that’s how I see poetry. In simplified terms, critics have called my writing imagistic, have compared it to beat poetry, and have suggested it is in the gnomic tradition. I’d also say it’s heavily influenced by meditation, the psychedelic movement, transcendentalism and music. Finally, there is my preoccupation with death, which, for whatever reason, has been featured heavily in my poetic work. What’s going on in your head when you work on a book/poetry/performing? Your fears, anticipation, confidence, etc. How do you know something is finished or I it ever finished? Whether I’m acting in a scene, or writing a book, not much is going on in my head, since I try to really immerse myself in the process. I’m not going say it’s quite zen meditation, but it’s something akin to that. I try to not be the person looking in on myself creating. Rather, I try to enter the process, to fully immerse myself, so that all else is put aside. The reason for this is, generally, the work is better when I operate this way.
Dick, Brett Easton Ellis, Woody Allen, Nora Ephron. Then, too, like all writers, I’m influenced by my dayto-day experiences, by comedians and actors I meet, by students, by people I meet on the Subway, by groups I’ve been involved in, by travel, by anything, really, that strikes me as interesting. I’m curious about how you choose what to work on. Is there a certain type of project or subject matter you gravitate towards? I tend to gravitate towards material, that, in some way, is personally meaningful for me. In other words, I try to connect in my own past and experiences and put some of my own emotions into the work. Whether I am looking at incidents through a humorous lens or a poetic lens is not important to me. The key element is that putting matters through these creative filters provides an avenue for healing and understanding and play. Secondarily, I often gravitate to material that others are not focusing on. Originality, is, of course, critical, and, in my case, this is one of my top priorities. I am always looking for something off the beaten path, in terms of subject matter, or, in the very least, something I can tell in a unique way. As Emily Dickinson once wrote, “tell the truth, but tell it slant.” What do you do to promote yourself and your productions?
I used to have great difficulty knowing when something was finished. I would not say this is the case anymore. I just get a sense of it, usually. It’s instinctive. Besides, we have to give up on the work at some point. As Da Vinci wrote, “art is never finished, only abandoned.”
Every month I send out an email blast. I also promote comedy shows on Eventbrite. Finally, there is Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, which are great for getting the word out there about your work. In terms of book sales, after readings or comedy shows, I find it is easier to sell books. The audience has gotten to know you and trusts you a bit more and often will be happy to support you. This may be the best way to get your work out there.
Who if anyone influences your work?
What’s th future hold?
There is a very long list. I mentioned some influences earlier, so, here, I will just focus on some contemporary influences: Chuck Palahniuk, Denis Johnson, Phillip K.
As I mentioned above, I am hoping to put out a few more books. I also would like to keep acting. Finally, I’d like to direct another short film, maybe even, one day, a feature.
“Poetry is metaphor, enigma, parable, allusion. It’s stretching out towards an idea but never quite landing on it.”
I guess, in terms of an ultimate goal, it would be to produce more creative work about which I am proud and which represents me in the best possible light.
had a confident curator’s eye and I knew it even at a very young age. I remember clearly one day teasing the kids we were playing with that I could draw a perfect circle. Which I then executed perfectly with a red crayon."
When did you first think about art/design/ marketing as something you wanted to do? Were you encouraged or discouraged by family, friends, teachers, mentors? I was the type of kid born with imaginary, oversized, futuristic Hollywood sunglasses looking at the world as if every molecule was a crystal ball into the future. I was always confidently doing things a little different like in third grade, deciding to defiantly wear a brand-new crisp light blue Swiss dot pajama top as a blouse with my grey flannel pleated skirt as a precise outfit choice full of contrasting texture and meaning. (for me in any case) I vividly remember the thrill of sitting in class with a secret, that I was wearing a PJ top. At 15, I was instructing my needle-pointing Aunt to make a Warhol soup can on a lime green background for a pillow she wanted to make for my bedroom. My visual and style confidence was in the creation of art, no matter what form.
I always felt like a playful old soul, always creating, always inspiring, lovingly-teasing and suggesting to other kids what they should do with their art. (that’s where the PR, brand consultant aspect comes from!) In high school pottery class I convinced a classmate to a challenge that, whatever the assignment was, we had to over-embellish and go a million miles beyond in the assignment. It was like the “Showstopper” challenge on The Great British Baking Show reality show except with clay. My family were fiddlers who created outside of the lines. My Aunt Adele colored flowers on her plain white curtains with Crayola crayons for décor and I was mesmerized.
“My influences as a teen were considered “alternative lifestyles” back then in the 70’s” (Continued) My Dad would tinker in the garage to take a copper cooking pot lid and make it into a centerpiece of an antique fireplace grill. My mom wrote a silly poem with little drawings on every birthday or Xmas gift. I collaged the walls of our playroom with magazine images and drawings which became my studio in later years. I always think where your ancestors came from influences your life path, those that came from Romania and Russia give me my gypsy spirit and the side from Vienna gives me the focus of a meticulous crafts-person. I was encouraged by family and teachers. I had many mentors. One, Frank Hyder, artist and teacher at Moore College of Art taught me the sacred art of non-doing, just looking at a simple object or scene and taking time to visually record it, versus feeling that lines, brush strokes or marks be made on canvas with the fierce passion of an abstract action painter. Slowing down has always been a teacher! What kind of kid were you? Where did you grow up? What were your influences?
I was an alternative, nerdy, cool kid that grew up in the suburbs. As a toddler, my toy preferences were pouring over magazines. Saturday morning cartoons were shunned in favor of Soul Train, voraciously
consumed and studied, and of course, being a suburb of Philadelphia, the Gene London show, featuring an illustrator who drew pictures and then went into magical worlds. I was also very influenced by a relic from my mother’s youth. Her next-door neighbor growing up was a lawyer named Ilo Orleans, who illustrated a 365-day book with little rhymes for his kids. I was fascinated by the charm of it all, the simple, humorous illustrations & poems. Impressed and influenced by the idea that a man self-published his own book! My influences as a teen were considered “alternative lifestyles” back then in the 70’s, the African American and gay cultures. They seemed to know how to have more fun in life. I tell a story in my book about my first encounter with a gaggle of fantastically-dressed trans-people at a Gay Pride parade. Around color, the worlds of fashion, art and entertainment opened up. I wanted to be there! Then, when I was 16 I entered a national Levi’s denim design contest and won an award. That set my path towards fashion and fashion illustration. When I was 16 in 1976 I went to Europe for the first time. I was like a sponge in London, awed by the people on the streets, the punk rockers with huge, colored Mohawks contrasted with the proper banker types. I still have the ID magazines documenting the street style photography and describing the individuals photographed. It really was the first I saw the documentation of street style that is huge today on Instagram. Capturing moments and sketching inspiring people and making little stories today, well there’s where it all started for me!
How has the background you got at Moore College, Parsons Paris and in Siena played a part in your career? I got a first year scholarship and majored in fashion illustration at Moore College of Art with fantastic teachers and mentors. Moore gave me life drawing, solid tools in illustration and my classes in the rich history of mythology influenced me greatly. Parsons Paris gave me precious access to the archives of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs at the Louvre and a new love of architecture. Siena, Italy was a month of richness in a precious medieval town, where drawing in pastels was luxurious and hours upon hours to sketch with pen and paper was so freeing. While at Moore I also found my first freelance job, sketching garment trims for a manufacturer to share with clients. You’ve worked in a couple different genres with your clients. How did that evolve and was that an asset for you or a problem getting those clients? My first “real job” as a Visual Merchandiser at Macy’s had me creating for a wide range of brands, from fashion to housewares, from kids clothing to cosmetics, etc. You’d go from installing your delicate, surrealistic, sophisticated window design for Obsession perfume to creating a jungle for a summer shop for the Junior clothing department complete with a massive, illustrated cut-out Tarzan and Jane floating above. I was able to make my art and I liked the refreshing constant change of channels. Today, I think a certain type of client is turned on by the creative mix of our clients and work. In the late 80’s visual merchandising at Macy’s was like a reality
show between brands. I’m grateful that overall the company had very strong visual standards, yet each store’s Visual Merchandising Director could invent fixtures, shops, and store windows. Creative concepts could get picked up to roll out to all stores. I was only in my 20’s and was lucky to have designed a branded shop that rolled out to all stores. That level of standards and knowing that each genre was a chance to learn, I think that really enhanced my boldness in being able to see the creative possibilities in different genres! Over the years I feel incredibly lucky to have worked with talented personalities, brands and non-profits that have gone on to do great and important creative things in the world. I like to say that I’ve creatively directed with all types of people from coaching Michael Phelps and Olympians for an ESPN Cold Pizza segment to directing video interviews with Karl Lagerfeld + Marc Jacobs backstage at Paris Fashion Week. The history of how you arrived to where your agency is now is fascinating. Can you give us a brief overview of how that happened? I designed jewelry and accessories in the 80’s with my company called Jamp. We dressed the runways of Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta and Mary McFadden, had major media coverage and sold to stores all over the world. It was a very conceptual collection, inspired by the micro
"When I was 16, I entered a national Levi’s denim design contest and won an award. That set my path towards fashion and fashion illustration."
to macro cosmic patterns in the Universe. I noticed when I spoke to the media about the collection, my exact words appeared in print. It made me realize the power of PR which I had never really thought about. I actually don’t know if I even knew PR existed then! After my jewelry design days I took corporate positions in the fashion and music fields. My title was Marketing Director, so I used the creative skills I knew and learned many new ones. The music business had 5 offices internationally and I directed their PR agency in London in between raves at night and balancing the huge marketing budget in the morning. While I was still managing teams of creative people, somehow PR seemed like the next level of messaging and creativity. I then left my corporate position and freelanced with PR agencies to really learn more. From celebrity events, to mass brands like Sunglass Hut and Speedo, I really enjoyed when a creative idea became real, like proposing a beach scene to the Today Show with a lifeguard touting sunglasses. The arc from my email idea pitch to the Today Show producer to the show actually creating a huge beach of sand in the middle of NYC was a kind of a thrill! After freelancing and developing my own clients at a certain point I decided to have my own PR agency focusing on the clients I was fascinated by. Over the years we did a lot of creative work in addition to PR and so a few years ago I declared that overall we are a creative agency! Our next focus is our artisan collaborative work via Slow Luxury creative co*labs and the launch
of our 9 Star Passport, a revolutionary way to design + live more creatively in our bodies, our spaces, our world. Based on a new take on ancient divinatory systems amped up dimensionally, the 9 Star Passport process reflects how we work with brands and physical spaces. Your style is very unique. Did you work on developing a style or did that naturally came out of you? I love drawing a free, expressive line! It is pure communion. We can’t capture the glint of a star or the state of love, this is the closest thing. I am most inspired in nature for this reason. The eye sees ephemeral beauty, the pen is that gesture of love replicated. It is what naturally desires birth! My style was and still is inspired by the glory years of fashion illustration, the 1970’s and 80’s. I poured religiously over the illustrations of Lorenzo Mattotti in Anna Piaggi’s Vanity, an Italian concept magazine based on illustration vs. photography. Jean-Paul Goude’s drawings and videos with Grace Jones ~ these influenced my abstract visions. My line was always
fluid and dramatic with a solid life drawing/Renaissance love for the human body like the masterful Antonio Lopez. The outsized expressions of Japanese anime fascinated me and still do. My illustrations for my coloring book Immortal Beloved, The World’s First Goddess Perfume and Coloring Book, are done in a more intricate style with many details that I think were more influenced by my giants of illustration like Andy Warhol, Peter Max and Chris Ware. The comedic story-telling aspects were definitely inspired by Chris Ware’s Acme Novelty Library. I think the art sits between Warhol’s early frilly and fancy illustrations as fantasies to amuse and Peter Max’s simple spiritual illustrations for an obscure how-to book on how to survive on wheatgrass called Survival into the 21st Century. For the coloring book, which is also has written stories of 12 global goddesses, I wanted people to have a wild coloring orgy discovering cultural ideas, shapes and interactions that spark memory, connection or a release of held karmas. I always felt I had several styles, even now I feel
like my style is evolving and I’m less focused on perfection. “Perfection” is of the moment and sometimes what the brain says at first is a wrong turn, is actually one that expresses something, reveals something valuable. Today I am most inspired by something I see on the street, an interaction or emotion that strikes me as vibrant and very quickly out comes the simple and silly illustration (ala Ilo Orleans) I work with an everyday Bic pen on paper, I really like the simplicity and the effects are more endearing to me. I notice the edgy quality to your work and the clients you serve. Is that intentional or did that evolve out of who you are? The edge is where the boldest explorers go and that’s what turns me on. Astrology is a window into the “edgy quality” as I am an Aries with Aquarius rising. My Aries sun sign translates to being a pioneer and the rising Aquarian aspect means I am wired to feel and see what the future is. I’ve always have been tuned into what people will be looking for.
How do you stay up to date on styles outside of your projects? Instagram is an illustration networking event of the highest order! I like to see the work of other artists there, it’s heavenly! I keep a visual digital and physical file of images that speak to me, especially from film. A genuine human moment on film is my holy grail. It’s about developing your eye/heart to what makes it react and why that emotion is so human and so relatable. What do you recommend to younger art director/brand designers who are just developing their portfolios? Go to Europe, Asia, or the next town over. Get out of Dodge, get on the streets and let yourself be the free artist your soul desires! Pay attention to dropping your ideas and expectations. Drawing is a ritual and it is sacred. If you are not in that vibe your work will be stale. Go to HR or the jobs center if you are in school, they are a source for freelance jobs to get your feet wet in a professional opportunity. Work to your passion. Whatever it is, draw that. It could be cars, emotional moments, or erotic fantasy scenes. The point is that your art will be at its best when you are true to what you love. You do so many different types of branding, art and design. What is your favorite area to work in?
Video. Film. I really adore doing videos for clients. Creating the story, enlisting the talent and the editing … orchestrating all those creative elements. It’s really magical.
That said I am looking forward to working with animators who can take my work to the next level! How has the computer affected your work? Does your agency work traditionally and digitally?
We work digitally and traditionally. I put together PDF sample drafts of the creative whether it is a website or a video shoot. Sometimes I sketch things to direct the creative but it’s more effective to make a mock-up with digital images. In many ways I believe I came back to illustration because the simple non-digital act of drawing feels like a soothe and a defiant gesture to having my nose constantly in the machine! What’s going on in your head when you work on a piece/campaign? Your fears, anticipation, confidence, etc. How do you know something is finished?
What I’ve learned is that even the best-planned projects have their own organic way and timetable in coming together. Tough spots are asking for a re-look. I keep entertaining and giving space to my playful imagination until something comes up that just feels right. Sometimes the idea, tag line, concept comes instantly. Or even the finish of a creative project can come instantly. I trust that. Your artwork for your portraits is great. Love the “Empire” piece. How did that end up as something you do a lot of ?
Thank you! I love Empire too!
The funny thing is that I did about 24 of these celebrity portraits at the request of a large agent’s talent scout to propose representation. It took me a while, as you might imagine, to decide who to draw and then finish all 24! The agency was interested in my work but their first offer was to sketch customers in a cosmetic counter at a department store. While I was honored, the opportunity wasn’t really for me, and I actually declined the offer and thus they did not represent me. I can’t explain exactly why that opportunity did not appeal to me, but most importantly, I trusted and followed my instinct. What made you focus on luxury lifestyle and pop-culture brands?
That tag line occurred to me when my clients at one simultaneous moment included a Parisian luxury expert and XXL, the famous hip hop magazine. I realized these were two of my favorite expressions and celebrations of life and thus they became my favorite areas of focus. I’m curious about how you choose what to work on. Is there a certain type of project or client you gravitate towards?
At the beginning of my agency, I would do bold outreach, like calling a 100-year old luxury hat maker brand in Vienna on a whim to see if they wanted to sell in the US (which they actually did with our help) These days most clients come by referral, and we are now working with the next generation, who now have their own businesses and join our client pool!
The credo: “benefitting the world, creativity or turned-on ideas” is my main benchmark. There are things I’ve said “no” to for those reasons. Also if the potential client demonstrates a way of working that is not the right vibe for us before we even begin…then it’s a hard no. Who if anyone influences your work? Everyday people! Living in NYC is an endless inspiration. I love the everyday moments of humanity or goofiness I witness on the street! Another influence is a dear friend, the very talented TV and film producer Little Marvin… he always remains a muse. A SuperCreator, he always encouraged me to “just do it.” It’s the basis for my own work on a whole other scale: live performance art installations like the award-winning Love Notes in Union Square; my Slow Luxury co*lab’s Beauty and The Beasts in NYC’s Bryant Park; and our Green
Provocateur in Milan for Salone.
THAT is a turn on!
Creators inspire me. An art disruption on the street to women marching with a global protest song and dance to bring attention to gender inequality. Stunning sculpture in a vast NYC gallery or the takeover of a museum by a giant like Matthew Barney. Warehouse music in Detroit in my ears via my Iphone. Indigenous cultures protecting the earth to Brooklyn roof gardeners.
What do you do to promote yourself and get work?
I think it used to be that what was a shock in gallery spaces eventually filtered back reinterpreted into popular culture. An advertisement mimics or references the concept then suddenly it’s on the street via fashion, music and even coffee cups. But in a more true form, art is now seen, made and acknowledged in the raw street, the playa or social media. This is a democratization of creativity that was always there and is bringing the globe together.
Connecting with my networks, either online or at events is the best way. I’ve had a blog since… let’s just say a long time! Sharing the blog with my email list has been the most formal way to network. I’ve spoken at conferences and met many great people such as leading a future trend panel for the massive design trade show, ICFF (International Contemporary Furniture Fair) in NYC to speaking about our Portal du Sol project in Brazil for Boomspace, a design conference with Karim Rashid and other top designers on the bill. What’s the future hold for you? Any ultimate goal? We’ve been developing my two brands for a while now and the future goals are so exciting!
QUEEN We are bringing my Immortal Beloved goddess book to life in a docu-series called QUEEN. We filmed this summer in NYC and we will expand the idea globally for a multi-touch point ART & COMMERCE global platform celebrating global goddesses, both in real life & those in mythical legends. THE 9 STAR PASSPORT I designed this system as a treasure map to enhance engaged awareness, connection, and balanced relationships of Body to Spaces to the sacred geometry of Earth. Today I use the 9 Star Passport method with clients to sync plans and intentions and to the design of private or public spaces, and also to the development of a new brand or even to a new sense of Self. I’ve studied and practiced ancient divination methods from many cultures all my life. When I studied Feng Shui over 20 years ago, I discovered intriguing links and patterns that became my 9 Star Passport system. We are currently working on the launch of a new site with expanded services and a booking system. The dream is to apply this to projects which benefit the world. This could take the form of books, games, a web or TV series or even a travel/learn program to sacred sites on the planet. Slow Luxury co*labs are where these two long term projects, among others, are shared. Ultimate goal through all is to create, share and help to evolve the planet towards MORE LOVE!
If you could meet anyone in the field you’re in who would it be and why?
There is a way he lightly and deeply sees life and culture and I’d love to sit and chat with him.
Jessica Walsh, the Creative Director who famously worked with Stefan Sagmeister, graphic design powerhouse. She now heads her agency, &Walsh and Ladies, Wine & Design, a nonprofit organization to encourage women to work together rather than compete, with 73 local chapters around the world. Not fun-fact: only 0.1% of creative agencies are women-owned, while women drive about 80% of consumer purchasing. Jessica’s talent is off the chain and I’d love to partner with her in a white gallery ala a Marina Abramović or Jay Z performance.
That would be full circle. From the perfect red crayon circle I drew as a kid to talking art with an idol in front of Jeff Koons’ floating basketball.
I wish I had more time with Franca Sozzani, the Italian Vogue editor. I met her once, we had a long talk and was captivated. She glowed. Her desire was to change the world, open up the fashion and enterprise dialogue with countries like Africa. She invited me to her home in Marrakesh, which would have been amazing, but she sadly passed on. I did draw her as Italy itself. My other idol naturally is Stefano Tonchi, former editor of W Magazine, which he joined from the same role at T: The New York Times Style Magazine. We’ve crossed paths literally at least 5 times, in my total nerdiness and fandom I’d either stare in sheer idolatry from across the room or one time he was entering his home on Park Avenue just as I walked by and I cheerily said, “Hi Stefano, it’s Jade!” to which he smiled and waved. I am most obsessed with one of his eloquent editor letters describing living with Jeff Koons’ One Ball Total Equilibrium, a sculpture where a basketball floats in the center of a water tank. Eventually the ball sinks reflecting impermanence.
CONTACT JADE DRESSLER Instagram.com/jadedressler/ Twitter.com/plantme Thejadedress.com Thejadedressshop.com Slow-Luxury.com
“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching, Love like you’ll never be hurt, Sing like there’s nobody listening, And live like it’s heaven on earth.” -William W. W. Purkey Purkey -William
Photography by Lon Levin
Dena Burton next act best act Department Stores- now Macy’s. I became the youngest Department Manager in the company’s history at 18, youngest Assistant Buyer at 19 and youngest Store Divisional at 21. As a young turk in retail I educated myself on how to influence sales via floor plans, merchandise placement and advertising. Purchasing our weekly ads in the LA Times taught me to look at every detail - the number of styles featured in the ad to the best price points to draw traffic to the stores. I would spend Mondays tracking how each of these elements had increased business and then reporting back to the executive team. The short answer is that I had a lot of exposure to Marketing early in my life and career. I was already doing it before I even knew it. What kind of kid were you? Where did you grow up? What were your influences?
When did you first think about Marketing as something you wanted to do? Were you encouraged or discouraged by family, friends, teachers, mentors? Long story short and when people say that it never is a short story… as a first grader I poured over the pages of my mother’s American Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar magazines. I fell in love with this incredible world of glamour, allure and beautiful people. I was born in Los Angeles, the only child to my elegant mother and charismatic father. Both of my parent’s homes were like growing up at a casting call for the newest sitcom on prime time TV. There was constant witty banter and the feeling that you were always “on.” I started modeling at 13 years old. The world of fashion seemed elite, ultra cool and sometimes kind of camp, (think roller disco parties at the Playboy Mansion.) Within a few years I understood that modeling was a job. There was hard work involved, tough discipline required, and sometimes insensitive discrimination. Teen model life in LA definitely got me to see college goals as less important than my peers. I started classes and stopped more than once. At some point I planned to go back. And then I didn’t go back. Modeling also gave me an early education in Marketing myself. At around the same time I started working part time in local boutique. I then worked my way up within Federated
My mother’s house was Beverly Hills adjacent My father lived in BH, first in a home above Sunset and later in an apartment close to the high school. Go Normans BHHS! As a kid I loved to read and adored my chocolate brown poodle (Bon Bon) more than anything. I would spend my free time drawing with pens, crayons or permanent ink on every surface in front of me. This energy lead my mother to bring reams of paper home from her office. Excellent plan Mom, as without paper close at hand I would also draw on every wall, sidewalk, more than one car interior (3) and even on the cloth top of my father’s Mustang convertible. I walked to the library every day after school (aka the library was child care before there was child care since my mom worked till 5pm.) I finished the kids ‘section in the library by the age of 10 and began making my way through the grown-up books. It’s still TBD how much I understood from this section. However I did walk away with an eternal love of books. I still freak out when I see books thrown away. I aspired to be Mary Tyler Moore, Diahann Carroll with maybe a little Audrey Hepburn thrown in. Sitting in front of the tv in my room I would imitate Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett.
Safe to say these women were my early influences. My weekends started with Saturday morning cartoons and figure skating lessons. When Olympic champion Peggy Fleming visited one of the rinks where I trained, Kindergarten Dena skated up to her, introduced herself and told her that she would be better than her one day. So much Chutzpah! What’s your business background and how does it relate to what you’re doing now? At some point in my 20s, I asked myself for the first time “is this all there is?” That question has since become a guidepost in my life. The first time that I asked myself this question I got up the nerve to take an acting class. I signed up for a weekend workshop and told no one. That way in case I was crap I could still protect my ego. At the end of the weekend as all the students were exiting the instructor pulled me aside and told me that he could see that I was talented and that I should pursue this acting thing. I had a huge grin on my face when I answered “you just changed my life.” At which point I quit my job. NOW back to your original question- my parents were in agreement that my quitting my job was a horrific idea. Luckily most of my friends concurred that I could always go back to retail. That weekend class lead to more acting study. I found myself refining my craft alongside the real deal actors
at Milton Katselas’ Beverly Hills Playhouse. Following my more serious training, improv showcases taught me to stand on a table if I felt like it. On a dare from my coach I booked a play in just 3 days of auditions. That production lead me to secure my first theatrical agent. I appeared in what seemed like every episodic in the 90s (short list of speaking roles includes, Melrose Place, Ellen, BH 90210 etc.) I landed series leads on Nickelodean and the Disney Channel. Key takeaway - being a working actor is very similar to a running a business. Once again I found myself marketing me almost every day. I loved being a working actor. As I moved up the ranks in the industry I became even more aware of the limited number of roles available to women of color. I’m not complaining, just stating a fact. This time when I asked myself the “is this all there is” question, it was more about being fulfilled at my work on a consistent basis. I felt frustrated at the pace of film and television projects available to me. I began reaching out to friends from my past to see what new possibilities were available to me all these years later. I worked as an executive assistant for one of the original power agents in LA. Following that I worked as Marketing Manager at Fox Family Channel, and spent a brief period in pharmaceutical sales to heart surgeons. Finally I landed a sales position with Calvin Klein Collection which promised travel to NY twice a year. On the first trip to New York I extended my stay for one day and scheduled interviews.
Myths become dreams, dreams become goals, goals become reality."
Out of a crowd of applicants I triumphed and was named Regional Coordinator for Ralph Lauren Collection. Following my instincts lead me to an incredible next act working for major fashion brands. While still based out of Los Angeles, I worked in New York and traveled around the world on behalf of these businesses for the next 15 years. Can you describe how it was to work for major brands like Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors? As compare to running your own business now I learned so much from these incredible mentors. I was fortunate enough to work directly with both Ralph Lauren (soft spoken and incredibly gracious) and Michael Kors (fantastic sense of humor and a wonderful sense of style.) Being backstage at Fashion Week is what I imagine it to be like in a Victorian Lunatic Asylum. Screaming, crying, and clothing flying everywhere. How can anything good come from this? And then just when all seems lost, miraculously, just on the other side of the curtain is absolute perfection! All of the world is in the palm of your hand! Dena, WTF does that mean? To me this means that seeing craziness around has always moved me to a keep a cool head. While working with top designers in NY I developed a talent to see around whatever madness presented itself with a keen eye, quickly considering the options and then move forward with a plan. This process
worked repeatedly for me whether I was styling fashion shows, strategizing with key retail partners or developing a new recruit on my team. My mind works something like this: 1) assess, 2) communicate relevant feedback and 3) take action. My real estate business means that every day I am reviewing what is happening in the market and disseminating what is most important to share with my clients. This is how we work as partners to determine their best next steps. Top of mind in these conversations - be mindful that this is a really big deal for them. We are in process on a transaction that very well may be the biggest purchase of their lifetime. When and how did you decide to become an agent? After growing my scope of responsibilities with Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors I was recruited to develop a new team at an up-and-coming brand called Tory Burch The company had just 3 small US stores when I came on board. By the time I departed we had expanded to hundreds of TB stores in over 40 countries and were now carried in every major department store across the globe.
In addition to being hugely successful in developing a lifestyle brand Tory taught me to be a better leader and reminded me the importance of giving back to the community (no matter how busy your life and career may be.) After almost 10 years with Tory Burch I made the decision towards two simple words- come home. At that time I began reflecting on all the things I had done with my career, and asked myself what might my next act be? In a quiet moment I remembered that as a little girl, my father and I used to read the real estate section of the newspaper together. At that time this part of the newspaper in LA was on Sunday. We would sit with hot tea, peruse the featured homes and determine if they were above the hill from us, below the hill or on the other side of the hill (this meant the valley.) As I got older he would drive us around together, checking out some of the nicer locations, and compare recent sales data. Yes my father and I were running comps together back then! I was excited to come back to LA and see if my talents in sales and marketing could be utilized as a realtor. How do you stay up to date on what’s happening in the market? We all check the MLS daily and of course all of our clients are on every real estate app known to man, so they know what’s going on almost as soon as we do. Key for me is reaching out to my sphere of realtor colleagues in LA. I know realtors that are dominating areas that I am less familiar with. Others agents work directly with developers and know what properties are coming to the market 12-18 months from now. These relationships enable me to keep my finger on the pulse of the LA market. Do you have a favorite part of the RE biz that you like best??
YES! It actually happens in two parts. After looking at sometimes 100s of homes for months, losing out properties to other buyers with higher offers, we can all get discouraged. It seems like we are at the 999th appointment and then my clients walk into the foyer…and its like a cinematic moment.
They turned to me, wide eyed and say “ OMG, this is the one!’ and then continue to go throughout the house repeating the same phrase in every room. While part of me thinks, “Oh crap I hope I can get this” I double down, get on the phone, get on the loan and do everything possible to get them into that property. The second part happens a tiny bit when their offer is accepted although not quite yet. My absolute favorite part is when escrow closes and I call them to say that the home is theirs! Can you explain why you are so comfortable in front of the camera pitching your wares?? Funny, most people assume it’s because I was actor. Actually these are two separate things and if anything I am even more critical of myself on camera. Acting is playing a character and you get to hide behind that person. Real Estate is being yourself which feels much more vulnerable. The comfort I have in front of camera now is that I know my stuff. When I am explaining the features of a property or what happens during the contingency period I know what I am talking about. This helps my information come across with ease, almost conversational. The other part is that after watching hours of other people on YouTube (and this includes realtors, dog trainers, all different types ) I realized it was okay to relax. It’s also okay to have fun! In fact it’s even preferable as these traits make you more relatable. When I am creating content I will sometimes accidentally flub a line or stumble over my words. I used to start the recording over again or make time consuming edits. Now I just laugh, correct myself and keep going. What’s going on in your head when you work on a listing or with a buyer? Your fears, anticipation, confidence, etc. How do you know when you’ve struck the right tone? My fear is probably that I want the deal, doesn’t everybody? I keep my focus on going in and being of service. How can I help them? This helps keep my mind off the commission. The most important thing is to LISTEN. I have seen other realtors just
just talk and talk- I used to make this mistake too. We go in with a rehearsed speech/agenda and aren’t listening to anything that the client says. Sure, it is smart to have an outline of points that you want to cover and you also have to hear what the client is communicating to you. Determining the right tone is another form of listening which is to “read the room.” Does the client look happy, curious or excited? Do they look like they want to run out of the room as fast as they can? If you can’t tell, then ask them an information seeking question like,“Does this timing work with your children’s school schedule?” Once they answer you can get an idea of how the presentation is going. Who if anyone influences your work? As a Realtor and Content Creator, Peter Lorimer 100%. I found PLG on YouTube after my first year in Real Estate. I had immersed myself in education, real estate summits and mind-numbing conferences. I was starting to feel like realtors were all the same and that we were being encouraged to stay that way. I think I Googled some topic like “what a new realtor should know” and there was Peter, smart, smiling and full of positive energy. We eventually met and I quickly joined PLG. Peter showed me that we can build a client base and develop business as a realtor without having to be so vanilla :-) I’m curious about how you choose what to work on. Is there a certain type of project you gravitate towards? I am forever enthusiastic about the creative process. During grade school I produced the Dena Burton Show in my backyard. I also wrote the skits, starred in, directed, (I think you get the idea.) I even developed little commercials on my lined notebook paper. Around the same time I got a Kodak Instamatic camera and then proceeded to photograph every single thing in my path. And then I went to museums and photographed every piece of artwork! I might not have been much for what kids are “supposed” to be into, however I did benefit from one of the perks of growing up surrounded by show business. Starting with old movies on television, I developed a heartfelt passion for film. As a teen I wanted to see every new release and would trek to old movie houses to see the classics. I feel like that the goal of seeing everything has become impossible now with so much film being produced every year. As you can imagine once I got an iPhone I turned into a my own version of Orson Wells. Or Stanley Kubrick.or maybe Mel Brooks?
What do you do to promote yourself and your business? I have developed a large following on social media. Mostly that means that my name is more recognizable and I have established myself as a brand. However a large following alone does not bring money into your business directly (exception here for paid product endorsements.) Engaging with your followers via DM and answering their comments to your posts is what grows your business. This helps your audience begin to know you and trust you. Please note that I am talking about authentic engagement, not just a thumbs up. What’s the future hold for you? Any ultimate goal? Late in 2018 I felt compelled to address a part of our culture that was being all but ignored. Approaching my own mid-life and looking beyond found I started to reflect on what the next opportunity might for me and my peers. I discovered support and education for lots of groups of women - dealing with fertility, work life balance, children and career, equal pay and more. Late in 2018 I began working as a Life Strategist for women aged 40 and above who are ready to create an amazing next act in their life story. I have found success across varied industries such as acting, teaching, marketing, and luxury real estate. I have cracked the code of the “change your life” game in both romance and career and my methods are helping other women do the same. My clients say that I have a gift. Maybe that’s because I can talk to you and within an hour know exactly what your “deal” is when it comes to romance (and why it’s “deal or ‘no deal.” Haha.) Utilizing my life experience and intuitive sense, I help my clients to realize they are more than their age, and that it’s never too late to find your next act. Your best act. Learning to love yourself and finding romance again is no joke, but it can happen. I have found the key ingredient and help my clients to do the same.
EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org OFFICE: 3107880700 MOBILE: 3103870387 BRE #: 01997546 IG:@denaburtonlife
“Los Angeles author Christopher J. Lynch has written for numerous local and national publications on a variety of topics including: Interviewing one of the last surviving Buffalo Soldiers, visiting incarcerated veterans in a maximum security prison who perform fundraisers to raise money for our troops overseas and telling the story of a Manhattan Beach test pilot who was the first man to survive a supersonic bailout of an aircraft” A lover of crime fiction, he has published several short stories, and is the author of the One Eyed Jack series about a professional blackmailer that operates in and around the South Bay area of Los Angeles. The debut novel in the series was a 2013 Shamus Award finalist, and a 2014 Writers Digest honorable mention for genre fiction. Christopher likes to give back to his community by teaching writing to at-risk youth, and serving as a mentor for the Men For Honor writing program at the maximum-security prison north of Los Angeles. When he’s not writing, Christopher enjoys mountain climbing and distance cycling. He’s reached the summits of Mount Whitney, Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, as well as a trek to Mount Everest Base Camp. He once trained and led eleven blind hikers to the summit of 10,000-ft. Mount Baldy, the highest point in Los Angeles County, and the third highest point in Southern California. A documentary film is being made of the adventure.
When did you first think about writing as something you wanted to do? Were you encouraged or discouraged by family, friends, teachers, mentors? I actually didn’t start thinking about writing until I was in my mid-twenties, and then, it was for all the wrong reasons; to become rich and famous. I was unsuccessful for many years until I learned a very hard lesson; you have to be passionate about what you write – your stories, your characters, and not chase fame or fortune. As soon as I adopted that strategy and only wrote about the things, people, and places I was passionate about, I began to sell, and my writing career took off. What kind of kid were you? Where did you grow up? What were your influences? I grew up in the South Bay area of Los Angeles, which is where my One Eyed Jack novels are set. As far as I know, it is the only book series set in the South Bay. I grew up without a father and we were poor. Because of this I didn’t have many toys and had to be very creative to entertain myself. I was very imaginative, but not in the literary sense. I mostly had a lot of boyhood fantasies about cars, planes, rocket ships, traveling to other places, etc. but I didn’t write them down, they just existed in the theatre of my mind.
“I actually didn’t start thinking about writing until I was in my mid-twenties, and then, it was for all the wrong reasons; to become rich and famous.” I also got into a bit of mischief, but I never got caught because I planned out my capers very well, looking for any flaws and developing contingency plans (alibis) in case we were stopped, separated, and questioned by the police. It worked, and I think it has really helped me plot out One Eyed Jacks forays into the other side of the law. How does your background relate to what you’re doing now? I was in the mechanical/technical field for most of my life and worked in the oil industry. I once heard a fellow employee who was very angry with the company talk about how you could sabotage the facility and get away with it. It always stuck in my mind and I began to wonder if a commodities trader had someone working on the inside, could they cause a disruption and profit handsomely from it? This became the premise for my first novel, One Eyed Jack.
veteran’s causes, and she heard from a friend about one of the last surviving Buffalo Soldiers living in our city. I was able to make arrangements to meet and interview him and it was a great experience to hear him talk of his time in the service. I have since gone on to write several dozen profile pieces on veterans including many who were Japanese-Americans who fought in WWII. It’s a great experience and although every story is different in its own way, a common thread of duty, honor, and patriotism runs through all of them.
How cool was it to write about Ken Osmond (Eddie Haskell)? Do you meet him?
How did you come up with the One-Eyed Jack series?
It was a fantastic experience to write about someone who I not only watched on TV as a child, but also became an icon of television characters. Yes, I met and interviewed Ken many times as well as Tony Dow and we all remain friends to this day. I also interviewed Alice Cooper for the book as well as the actor Harry Shearer, who played the forerunner to Eddie in the pilot episode of the show which was titled, “It’s a Small World.” Equally cool is interviewing the last Buffalo soldier. Can you tell us a little about it?
My wife and I are very supportive of veterans and
I became fascinated by the concept of blackmailers (which is actually different from extortion BTW) and how they straddle the line between good and bad. After all, One Eyed Jack quips that “He has never blackmailed an innocent man.” To this end I wrote a short story about a blackmailer who picks the wrong target and ends up paying a hefty price for it in the form of losing one of his eyes. The original working title of the story was “The Squeeze” but at the denouement of Jack losing his eye, I decided to re-title it as “One Eyed Jack.” It’s available as a short story on Kindle. I also immediately fell in love with the character and when the short story was so well received, I decide to expand on the concept and turn it into a novel.
And that novel then became the series with 4 books (1 more a WIP) Three of the books have also been turned into audio books with the fourth soon to come. I also will be releasing a box set of the series and with only one Audible credit, a listener can enjoy 4 books for the price of one.
“My wife and I are very supportive of veterans and veteran’s causes...”
How did the story about the test pilot come about? What was the most interesting part of that story to you? I actually found out about it by reading about Joseph Kittinger’s famous parachute jump from 103,000 feet back in the early 60’s. In the book, “Project Excelsior,” a very brief reference is made about a test pilot who was the first man to ever eject at supersonic speed and survive. After doing more research into it, I learned that he was from Manhattan Beach, California – only 5 miles from my house! I was hooked then and dug in even further, learning all about his life and about the incident. It is still one of my favorite articles. What’s going on in your head when you’re working? Your fears, anticipation, confidence , etc.
Fear? Yes. And any writer who says that they can sit down without any trepidation as they stare at that blinking cursor on the screen is probably not being very honest. But I love challenges and the exhilaration that comes with overcoming them. I’ve climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, as well as trekked to Everest Base Camp. I’ve also ridden across Cuba on my bike. My biggest accomplishment though was training and leading a group of blind hikers to the summit of 10,000 foot Mount Baldy in California. A documentary about the adventure was filmed and you can watch a trailer of it at: https://vimeo.com/66597143 But back to writing; it is a challenge, but once I get into the groove it is really almost a Zen experience for me. I would be writing at the computer some times and my wife would tell me that she is going to the store and I wouldn’t even be aware of it until she got home. As far as my writing process, I am basically a ‘pantser,’ meaning that I fly by the seat of my pants. I start with just basically a premise and a couple of characters and just run with it. I do outline chapters in a very rough fashion as I am going along - which helps to maintain the momentum, but mostly I don’t know what’s going to happen to One Eyed Jack until the very end – which makes it fun for me as well.
Who if anyone influences your work? My favorite fiction writers are Raymond Chandler and Lawrence Sanders and I have read everything they have written. I think they each had the most amazing voices and can make you understand a scene or a character in just a few words. Also, they had a wonderful bit of sarcasm to their writing and especially dialogue, and that’s what I like to do with One Eyed Jack.
From Scratch and Seasonal, Using the Freshest Ingredients.
For non-fiction, I think that Tom Wolfe had no peer. What do you do to promote yourself and your business? I’ll be very honest here in the fact that I don’t do very much in the way of promotion: Social media, Facebook, Twitter posts, etc. It takes away from actually writing, which is what I truly love. Besides that, I’m not sure how good it is as a return on investment. A very successful author once said to me regarding social media and promotion, “You know what sells more books - more books to sell…so keep writing them!” One exception to my dearth of interest in promotion is the free self-publishing seminars that I give. It does help to promote me as an author and sell some books, but basically I like to reach out and help other aspiring writers achieve their dream. I hold these seminars at libraries, writing clubs, etc. and have one scheduled next month as a matter of fact. What’s the future hold for you? Any ultimate goal? Just to keep writing. I have another One Eyed Jack book in the works, as well as a stand-alone thriller. I also plan to keep experiencing great adventures – which I use the proceeds from my writing to pay for. In mid-April 2020, I’m taking a ride on the Zero G plane, aka: “the Vomit Comet.” And a couple of weeks later I’m heading down to Oklahoma for a tornado chasing tour. And my ultimate goal is to go into space. I’m on the wait list for both Virgin Galactic and Amazon’s Blue Horizon rocket ship. If you could meet anyone in the field you’re in who would it be and why? Unfortunately, they’re all deceased.
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Questions by Lon Levin / Portrait by Chris Teague When I say Darren Di Lieto is dedicated to illustration I mean that not only as an illustrator myself, but as an artist who is concerned about helping other illustrators get work and know the business they’ve chosen a little better. The statistical information he’s gathered through the State of Illustration, illustrator’s survey is priceless and in line with what we at the Journal feel is our mission. We’re honored that he’s taken the time to have a chat with us. When did you first think about Illustration as something you wanted to do? Were you encouraged or discouraged by family, friends, teachers, mentors? I’ve always wanted to be an illustrator or an artist as far back as I can remember. I think everyone kinda assumed that’s what I would do, with no questions asked. I had a natural talent for it, so was always given lots of encouragement. Winning a number of art competitions in school also helped boost my confidence when it came to following a creative path. It’s just a bit strange now that I’m running a community and service for illustrators rather than being one of the illustrators myself, as it was all I ever wanted to be. What kind of kid were you? Where did you grow up?
What were your influences?
I grew up in Torquay in Devon and I was a shy, quiet kid with big ears who loved comics and narrative artwork. Playing with action figures like He-Man,
Ghostbusters, Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles while watching all the related cartoons pretty much sums up my childhood. My friends and I would play games like Monopoly and D&D when we were younger, and as we got older we became obsessed with Atari, the Spectrum ZX, then the Sega Master System. Although Atmosfear (a VHS game) became our go-to game at the weekends. How does your background relate to what you’re doing now?
Growing up in the period I did means illustration and artwork has always been an integral part of my life. When you think about the aesthetics of the media and merchandise from the ‘80s and ‘90s, it was all
trippy hot rod monster artwork or more well crafted illustrations from the likes of Drew Struzan - even graphic design was being influenced by the surfer art and artists of the time. We had an evolving punk scene, we had a series of what are now considered iconic movies, all made with practical special effects no less. It was really an era where you could appreciate what was being created by hand and by real people. I think like most of my peers, you’re stuck with what you grow up with and it heavily influences how you see the world and how you think it should be. I actually used to believe by 2020 we’d be seeing the formation of an organization like the Federation, from Star Trek. I don’t think we’re there yet and may not be for a while, but I’m still hopeful.
their similar shape, a script simply wouldn’t work rather than make me feel stupid. I really do like code. It also didn’t really help my freelance illustration career when I kept suggesting alternative illustrators to clients who’d contacted me, who I thought were better suited to the job. I’m just lucky that I kept making the right calls and it grew into what I do now.
When and how did you decide to change from an active illustrator to what you’re doing now?
How do you stay up to date on what’s happening in the market?
Out of necessity, during my stint as a freelance illustrator, I became a coder and it came to me as naturally as putting a pencil to paper did. I also found I had an affinity for managing and organizing massive amounts of data. In a way, I think it helped that I’d always struggled with the written language due to being dyslexic, and coding languages were so logical and unforgiving, that they made perfect sense and there was no ambiguity. Commands are kept simple without variations and if I was to mix up a D and B because of
I try not to get wrapped up in trends as they come and go so quickly. Quality is always timeless, so that and integrity is what I focus on. Other than that, I keep an eye on all of my social feeds for upcoming events and the current topics of conversation in the industry. I do miss the days where I followed a hundred and one blogs of people who actually wrote longform posts, but because of the astronomical rise of social media, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn is where it’s at these days. You just need to find a way to work around their algorithms or you end up missing a helluva lot by being fed only the posts you’re most likely to react to. It’s an echo chamber of bliss or nightmares depending on your disposition.
"I became a coder and it came to me as naturally as putting a pencil to paper did."
Do you have a favorite part of the Illustration biz that you like best?
I simply love being able to check out new and wonderful illustrations created by the talented people I work with on a daily basis, it’s fantastic. There’s also the pride I feel when I know I’ve helped bring a commission to fruition. Sometimes it’s easy to connect
a client with an illustrator, other times there’s a lot of work involved. The client might need help working out their budget or figuring out a style that fits their brief. Illustrators may need help dissecting a contract or coming up with a quote and appropriate license for a job. Doing my job is my favorite part of the illustration business. Can you explain why what you’re doing now is so important to other illustrators? For some members, 100% of their clients come directly through us and they have been members since they began their careers over a decade ago. We do what we can, when we can, going above and beyond for those who use our services or are part of the Hire an Illustrator community. As a result, most of our members join us through word of mouth or referrals from other illustrators and even those who leave us for one reason or another tend to return at some point. We’ve created a professional and constructive environment for freelancers and commissioning
editors, designers and art directors alike. We’re always on stand-by to help. It’s not an understatement to say there’s a lot of pressure and people rely on us for their livelihoods, so what we do is done with the passion it deserves. What’s going on in your head when you’re working? Your fears, anticipation, confidence , etc. There’s a constant fear that what we’re doing isn’t good enough. It keeps me up at night, but all I can do is try and ignore it and do the best I can and keep pushing forward. My mind races at a hundred miles an hour and I have more ideas than I can note down on a jumble of post-itnotes, let alone ever pursue. I’m always telling people how they can improve what they’re doing or explaining to them how to redirect their business down a path they may not have considered. I want the freelancers I work with to have long and prosperous careers and when you’ve been doing this as long as I have you can see all the pitfalls and weak spots people wander into blissfully unaware. The problem is there aren’t any rules, I have to be confident with what I’m saying as I know it works, but my underlying impostor syndrome is always on the verge of breaching my defences. Who if anyone influences your work? Anyone with a decent dose of creativity and good work ethic has always influenced the direction I’ve taken my work. I don’t want to go naming names as I’ve seen so many talented folks come and go, but it’s the ones who are still around that I really admire and appreciate, they know who they are.
What’s the future hold for you? Any ultimate goal? I’m working on rebranding Hire an Illustrator as Hireillo, and I’ve partially built a new website and system for the community which should be good to go by the end of 2020. I have a pricing, contract and licensing workshop I’m slowly putting together for 2021. There’s a new exhibition in the works, plus a million other projects I should probably keep under my hat for now. While that’s all going on, I’m going to carry on doing what I do. I will continue to advise and offer impartial advice to our members, help clients connect with the freelancers they need for their projects and continue to advocate for a better working environment and equality for everyone I represent. If you could meet anyone in the field you’re in, who would it be and why?
That’s a really tough question as I’ve actually met most of the people I’d like to meet and are part of the industry I work in. With all the conventions and conferences going on all the time, it’s really not too difficult to do. I do somehow always manage to miss British comic book artist Jock and I think artist Paul Kidby would be a really nice guy to meet one of these days. I’ve also always been a fan of New York based art director Charles Hively, so it’d be nice to grab a meal or coffee with him, if I ever get the opportunity.
What do you do to promote yourself and your business? I actually try not to promote myself on a personal level too much, as when I have done it ends up adding too much to my already heavy workload. I don’t hide in the shadows, but I do tend to take a backseat when I can, plus there are already a few too many people about with egos big enough for all of us. As far as HAI as a business is concerned, we promote it and our illustrators any way we can, whether that be straight up advertising in periodicals, sponsoring events and workshops, doing talks, or various other initiatives like the State of Illustration. Obviously we run several social network accounts and we take full advantage of these with regular updates, promotions and crafted campaigns like the mini portfolio reviews I do via Twitter two or three times a year. In addition to all the things mentioned, we’ve run several
Showcse 100, published by Darren Di Lieto as part of a 2015 group show
hireanillustrator.com stateofillustration.com/19 facebook.com/hireillo twitter.com/hireillo linkedin.com/company/hireillo instagram.com/hirello
An Interview with Lon Levin
“My stint at Art Center is referred to as “the midlife crisis” in my current household. Before Art Center, before moving to L.A. ”
When did you first think about art/design as something you wanted to do? Were you encouraged or discouraged by family, friends, teachers, mentors? I was doing design actually before I knew what it was. I played in a punk/hardcore band from age 13-20. We toured, made records, the whole shabang. We would make our own flyers, stencils to graffiti with, xeroxed record covers … etc. After the band, I worked at a small newspaper company. The company published 5 or 6 small neighborhood daily newspapers. I used to work and maintain the stat camera, spec type for the typesetter, do pasteup, cut rubylith …this was around 1988 just before computers came along and changed how print work was produced. I was doing these things but wasn’t aware of the term graphic design.
Shortly after that, I went to Seattle Central Community College, and was accepted into the graphic design program there. It was an excellent program. I went in thinking that I would be an underground comic book artist. I really had no idea what graphic design was—even though, in some very low to the ground ways, I had practiced it. My first year of school, I struggled; I just kept getting in my own way. I equated graphic design with what you saw at shopping malls and banks. Every shitty brochure I saw at a dentist’s office or whatever-I thought that was the be-all and endall of what I was being trained to do. It didn’t feel right. I was quickly losing interest. Claudia Meyer-Newman, an instructor there, pulled me aside and asked me about punk, my record collection and finally told me “this (punk) is what you should be doing with graphic design.
speak. I wasn’t familiar with him or his work. I almost didn’t go—I thought this student group was a kind of a pretentious butt-sniffing party for a particularly annoying click. Claudia suggested I should go regardless.
Be who you are, stop trying to play it safe.” She lent me her Neville Brody book and ended up giving it to me. I started barreling through my record collection linear notes to figure out who designed what. Not long after that, the student AIGA group invited Art Chantry to
What kind of kid were you? Where did you grow up? What were your influences?
At the talk, Art walked in and it immediately dawned on me that I have seen this guy at punk shows for years. We were kinda sizing each other up ala-familiar. We struck up a conversation. After I graduated, He hired me for freelance work at The Rocket, a monthly music newspaper in Seattle. Charles Burns, Matt Groening, Lynda Barry all had quarter page comic strips in the pages of The Rocket. Before Sub-Pop was the now famous record label, it was a music column in The Rocket, written by Sub Pop founder, Bruce Pavitt.
I guess I was maladjusted for a lack of a better way to say it. My Father was a Navy pilot. He flew an A-6 Intruder. He was shot down over Laos during
the Vietnam war. He was a radar jammer— flew low and fast through mountains—a hazardous occupation by its very nature. I guess the “enemy” had a lock on him, he tried to shake ‘em, was fired upon, and flew into a mountain side at 600mph. I was born in 1967. He died in 1969. I don’t remember him (or at least I don’t think I do). I have what might be my only memory of him or maybe it was a dream—I honestly don’t know. In this memory-or-dream thing, he was wearing formal Navy digs, white gloves, the black and white barrel hat, shined shoes, black lapels with gold stripes, medals… polished to the nine’s…while he was teaching me and my sister how to eat spaghetti without making a mess.
That’s when the band started; With us two. It was a “ok you sing and I'll learn the drums” kind of thing. We got a healthy ration of shit on that Island. You were either a stoner or a jock there. There wasn’t any room for deviation. I would tell my mom I was going to school, and would head to Seattle to practice with the band, go to record stores, get loaded … etc. We would book little two-to-three week tours to Eastern Washington State, Vancouver, Victoria, Oregon, San Francisco, Montana, Idaho …etc. I would tell my mom I’m going, she would protest. I would go anyways. I ran away a few times. I was living in one place, but my life, my people were in another.
I grew up with my sister and mother. I grew up in a Navy town within a very conservative machismo military culture, isolated on an island (Whidbey Island, in the Puget Sound, about an hour north of Seattle). You were either a rich officers’ kid, or enlisted and living in a trailer-court or on-base housing. I was supposed to be the officer’s kid, but ended up being neither. I tried to fit in early on, but around 5th grade, I was pretty fed-up with it all. Skateboarding and punk rock ended up being my safety valve. I spent a lot of time by myself. I was a loner, flippant. In 7th grade I met the only other punk rocker on the Island. His parents were stationed in from Oxnard/Point Hueneme.
How has the background you got at Art Center played a part in your career? I went to Art Center midway through my career; I was 42 (I am 52 now). My stint at Art Center is referred to as “the midlife crisis” in my current household. Before Art Center, before moving to L.A. I cut my teeth art directing at a weekly newspaper in Denver, Colorado called Westword. This was from 1994-2000. I was very much influenced by the editorial illustration work of the 90s; The stuff found in the American Illustration annual.
—Jordin Isip, Melinda Beck, Marshall Arisman, Rob Clayton, Gary Baseman, Mark Ryden … etc. I was also delving into graphic design history head first; where I discovered such luminaries as David Stone Martin, Richard Powers, Fritz Kahn, Ben Shahn. Brian Stauffer was an art director at a sister paper in Miami (Miami NewTimes). Miami New Times and Westword where both owned by the New Times Corporation. He was doing his own illustration for the covers at Miami. I would call him and bug the shit out him, but he always answered the phone and spoke with me anyways. I think with Art Center, I was (admittedly) being nostalgic, grasping back for that era in hopes of re-stoking that flame to some degree. You’ve worked in a couple different styles. How did that evolve and was that an asset for you or a problem for art directors? I would sift through all the illustration annuals, would ape those I liked, would experiment by mixing and matching. I spent a lot of time (probably too much time) trying to find that “silver bullet” style … totally over-thinking the shit out of things. I was (and still am) very intrigued with what I regard to as “the 3,” Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes and Charles Burns. I am a comics/graphic novel dilettante at best, but those three guys are my favorite within this industry (design and illustration). The humor, the narrative, the beautiful hand-done typography, the inking, the level of obsession behind it all … never gets stale.
How do you stay up to date on styles outside of your projects? What do you recommend to younger art director/designers who are just developing their portfolios? Claudia had it right (see my answer to the second question). I believe we all have a “something-or-other” that is unique to each of us; a psychological/emotional slant on things that is unique, like a fingerprint. If one is curious about discovering what this is within themselves, and applies it to the world around them, that will culminate into something
that will serve the world much more than some focus grouped “how do we make every one likeit”, mindlessness. I think it is much more important to create your own path, develop your own voice and answer those questions only you can answer, than it is to be concerned with style or trend; being true to yourself and being dedicated to honing your own voice will sustain and evolve; trying to follow hollow trends without idea, without a unique voice; trying to do work everyone will like, will die from a lack of guts. Your design work for magazines is superb. How did that end up as something you do a lot of? Thank you, Lon! I honestly stumbled into it. I do like to read. I like thought-driven things. I tend to get on with writers, idea people, eccentrics. I moved to L.A. when I was hired as an associate A.D. at LA Weekly. I thought I would do that for a while and then jump over into designing music packaging. This was 2000, a lot of music work walked off the cliff at that time. I cherish that I was involved with music at the time that I was, but think my mind has grown and allowed for other things. I have really enjoyed the handful of book designs I have done very much and hope to do more—I would like to replace the periodical work with book design. … Or at least swap the current lopsided balance between the two things. I very much miss working at City Beat. That editorial crew where total pros, amazing big
hearted people. It was the first publication branding/template that I built from scratch. The other weeklies I worked at previously, where pre-existing templates. What’s going on in your head when you work on a piece/campaign? Your fears, anticipation, confidence, etc. How do you know something is finished? I honestly don’t always know when I’m done. Sometimes I do know when I’ve applied that one thing that tips it all over the edge, and then I step it back. I always start with a thumbnail; get the thinking done first; build a map of sorts and then execute it. I do get fed up with myself when it comes to repeating similar formula; reaching into my old bag of tricks to make things go. I also am equally frustrated when I go too far the sother way and walk away from what I know, only to end up making stupid mistakes; Mistakes I know by experience not to make. I think its good to have worked long enough to have devised a good cache of chops, but also think its important to experiment against this safety net I have built for myself. That’s the balance to strike for; use those things that experience has taught me, so that it all works to the final purpose, is on time, will not cause problems at the press ...etc, but also search for contradiction to the limits I have set for myself. Force that evolution to move forward and continue learning, without throwing out the language/purpose/service of the work.
Who if anyone influences your work? Its honestly all over the place; I did mention a good amount of “who” names here; I think “what” influences is worthy of mention as well. I like to observe people, eaves drop, the humans … oh man; Great ideas waiting to happen there. A lot of funny, scary, strange, smart, dumb … etc …going on in the grocery line, the book store, the school fundraiser, the unnecessary boardroom meeting … etc. It's such a strange ongoing comedy if one pays attention. I love finding old printed matter, books, packaging, records, pamphlets, cookbooks, manuals… etc. some of the most amazing printed matter I have found, I don’t think it is even possible to know who designed or illustrated most of this stuff. Los Angeles is particularly rich with it; all the swap meets, garage sales, the cultural mishmash … its a seemingly bottomless well of archival artifacts from humanity. Being in a place like L.A. --if man has made it, it's been through here. I’m curious about how you choose what to work on. Is there a certain type of project or client you gravitate towards? What is amazing about this industry is that as you move from one workplace to another, one client to another, project to project, you end up seeing and learning a lot about other industries and how people work and behave. Its like travelling from one puny planet of humans to another puny planet of humans. I am going and seeing what “that” may be like “over there” and if I am of service there. Even if it is a bad situation, you learn from it. Ultimately, there’s nothing to lose. Again, I would like to do more books. I love the idea of doing high end art gallery type of books. Artist’s monograms, hard cover things— Phaidon, Taschen, The Folio Society, come to mind. Interesting subject matter--where the design serves by being smart and well-crafted, where the design has a voice but sits back and doesn’t interrupt the content What do you do to promote yourself and get work? In the past I have always geared up to promote myself, and then have gotten hired at an in-house gig right when I’m about to launch it all. Its always hard to say no to an in-house gig when there are car payments, a mortgage, children …etc. I have a profound, neurotic fear of letting my family down.
I have created postcards, business cards, a new website …etc … all designed and ready to go to press, but that stuff has yet to see the light of day. It is currently just sitting in the hopper. The pattern is such that I either quit or get fired/laid off. I then get a headful of steam and update/ re-strategize my promotional effort, put it all in the proverbial catapult, and like clockwork, right before I’m about to unleash it all into the world, I then get work and it all gets pushed back into the chamber. With that said, two things have seemed to work well within these interims; 1.) I have gotten my best work unexpectedly and by word of mouth. 2.) It doesn’t happen often, but every few years, someone needs a magazine designer and/ or art director, and as they try to suss one out, they discover there just aren’t many experienced designers that hold editorial design as a forte anymore. Editorial design is a practice that brings with it a lot of moving parts. Most people who have decided to publish a magazine are searching for someone who has done it before and can hit the ground running. There aren’t a lot of us left. 99.9% of my career has been that of editorial design and editorial art direction; I’ve been at it since 1992; It’s the whole chimp and the typewriter thing. What’s the future hold for you? Any ultimate goal? Well, I do have all that promo stuff in the catapult… ha! I would like to do more work that is in service of sub-culture, intellectual pursuit, art, literature,—those beautiful strange things usually found at the low end of culture or at the high end of culture; to hell with all that mainstream garbage in the middle—it is infested with mediocrity. I want to collaborate with those who do things to promote thought, not sequester it. I’ve been pondering the thought as of recent and do think it may be relevant here; In this economic infrastructure, we are all consumers. There is no way around it. But we are also human, and death is the only way out of that one. So … we are both. If you decide to try and escape this by telling your boss to go piss up a rope, cutting the soles off of the bottom of your shoes and climbing a tree to play a wooden flute, it still applies. If you have billions of dollars and have all the toys that come along with that to hide behind, an island with your name on it and servants to serve your every beck and whim, it still applies. I think we need to ask ourselves: Am I more human or am I more consumer? Which one of these two forces am I going to hand the wheel over to?
Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase. .
Interview with Peter Garland
THE MAYOR OF
It’s in the DNA
“There was nothing better than making money as a kid for me!”
To the outside world Beverly Hills is a city that symbolizes wealth and prosperity. Home buyers will sacrifice home size and surrounding grounds just to be in the right zip code, especially 90210. It means a lot to them. But, to the natives of Beverly Hills this gem of a city means something else. It means community, a common bond of living and growing up in what still feels like a close-knit village. The stores, streets and businesses change but the personal connection does not. I grew up in Beverly Hills during the 60’s and 70’s. My friends and I used to ride our bikes after school to hang out at Gunther’s Drug store on Canon and little Santa Monica. Behind the counter serving up burgers and fries was Roger, a fairly flamboyant attendant who regularly chided us on being spoiled brats and not tipping enough. There was Toy Mart, Rudnicks, Phil’s Poultry, Pixie Town, Harry Harris Shoes and many others now a part of our collective memories.
The bistros and high end stores of today’s Beverly Hills have replaced those long forgotten icons but one restaurant still thrives on that community feeling,...Porta Via on Canon Drive.
Porta Via is the brainchild of Peter Garland, a Beverly Hills native who like me, is a Beverly High graduate. Peter’s mother had a clothing store called MG across from the famous Mr. Guy’s in Beverly Hills for many years. It was there Peter told me he first encountered the value of attention to details, customer service and being present, all parts of his practice today as a top restaurateur. “I observed my mother and how she paid attention to everything and it had a great effect on me.” Peter has always had a love for food and hospitality. Another early influence was the Crown Room at the Hotel Del Coronado. “I loved getting bananas and cream at the Del. The china, the sterling and the sounds of people enjoying themselves all made a big impression on me.”
“While at the PR firm I got to work with hospitality clients and I was drawn to them.” He started working very early on in his teens. His mother knew the manager at Gelson’s in Century City who gave him a job as a boxboy. “There was nothing better than making money as a kid for me!” He worked at Hunter’s Books and Burger Hills on Beverly Drive and then during college he worked at PR firms Rogers and Cowan and Baker, Winokur, Ryder. “At the agencies I worked with hospitality clients and I was drawn to them.” In 1994, Peter sensed a need for a new great place to dine and get together in Beverly Hills. Inspired by Wolfgang Puck and Michel Richard he created Porta Via with the goal to “serve beautiful food that tastes great!” As he explained to me “good food is just easier to work with.” I asked Peter if he cooked himself and as he explained to me while he doesn’t, he knew his success depended on working with the best young chefs around. He started working with Chef Sandy Gendel (owner of “Pace”). Other young people were excited by his venture and they wanted to be a part of it, like J.P. Amato who is now in charge of rebranded Musso & Franks. He knew consistency was all important to make Porta Via a success so he kept the menu and staff together.
For the first six years he operated out of a 900 square foot space. The restaurant on Canon Drive soon became destination dining. Clientele grew. Actors, producers, directors, sports stars and everyday people interacted together to create a “must see” happening bistro. The restaurant expanded to 1500 square feet, then another 1500 square feet to the north. Soon after stars like Jessica Alba, John Lithgow, Magic Johnson, Derek Jeter and Mel Brooks frequently showed up. “Mel sits outside so he can wave at the tour buses that pass by!”
“I loved getting bananas and cream at the Del. The
china, the sterling and the sounds of people enjoying themselves all made a big impression on me.”
As one BH native to another I asked Peter if he thought the physical changes to our city had changed it’s character, it’s improbable description as the richest small town in America, an adult Disneyland of top clothing stores, high end Bistros and a plethora of medical practices geared to keep it’s patronage youthful. “No, he mused,”It’s still the same as it was when we were kids. Everyone knows everyone else. We’re a close knit community.” After an hour or so Peter asked me if I’d like some lunch. “Of course, I’m at Porta Via!” I quipped. Peter ordered Sea Bass for us both then we returned to the interview.
“The restaurant biz is like a Broadway Show. It takes a lot of preparation.” I asked him to walk me through a typical day for
him as the “Producer” . “First thing in the morning I take my kid to school, after that I head to Porta Via. I touch base with the chef
and the servers to see what needs to be done. I used to be anxious about all that but not now.” After his morning meet in Beverly Hills Peter heads to his latest endeavor, Porta Via in the new Palisades Village complex which opened on September 22nd. It’s the first time he’s built a restaurant from the ground up, hiring the architect and designer along with all the subcontractors. “I worked with architect Greg Ginter out of Santa Monica and a great designer who is a newcomer to Los Angeles, Sophie Goineau from Montreal. We aimed for an evolved Porta Via look that has a more coastal vibe”. I stopped by on opening day to wish Peter good luck. I noticed Larry David dining outside with his daughter and didn’t see an available seat in the house. The restaurant and the Caruso complex were bustling . It looked like everything Peter hoped for had come to pass. He was on the floor talking with staff and customers. Off to a good start!
Photography: Lon A Levin
Interview with Karen Snook
by Lon Levin
Karen Snook is the Executive Director of the “Kindred Spirit Animal Rescue Farm”. We met for the first time when my wife and I took our grandkids to the “farm”. We were all taken by the animals and their personal stories of how they arrived at this wonderful refuge in the middle of the residential suburb of Reseda. What follows is my interview with this fascinating and energetic lady who saves animals for a living. After 20 years in the corporate world where her last role was Vice President of Leadership Development for Countrywide Financial Corp., Karen decided to follow her heart and work in the non-profit world. She got her undergraduate degree from UCLA and her MBA from Pepperdine. She has been the Executive Director for three other animal advocacy organizations and learned a lot from each experience. She earned her Permaculture Design Certificate from Larry Santoyo, and enjoys designing super-efficient multi-function gardens. Kindred Spirits Care Farm is the fulfillment of a dream for her. When did you first think about what you wanted to do as an adult? Were you encouraged or discouraged by family, friends, teachers, mentors? I’ve always been a bit of a loner – super independent. I never shared my dreams with teachers, friends or family. I might share plans, but once I had a plan, it really didn’t matter what anyone thought, whether they encouraged or discouraged me. Once I had a plan, I had made my decision and people’s opinions were irrelevant. I think the only one I shared dreams with is my husband, and he is totally supportive. He kept me going in the beginning when I was so unsure of myself. What kind of kid were you? What were your influences? I was a weird kid. Skinny and smart (not a good thing in our culture). I liked adults much more than I liked kids.
Other kids in my school valued people who were rich and/or pretty and/or athletic and I knew I was none of the above and would never be any of the above. So, from the start, I knew I had to find some other path than the one taught by popular culture. I grew up in a suburb in the San Francisco bay area. What is now known as Silicon Valley. I was the poor kid who grew up with rich kids, but growing up with rich kids taught me in no uncertain terms that money does NOT make you happy. To me it seemed like the richer my peers were, the more miserable they were. I was lucky to have the freedom of my financial poverty, so I did not have the pressures of those who were Harvard or Stanford bound. I had the freedom to become me rather than being pressured to live the expectations of demanding parents. My influences were trees. And Granite. And Water.
I have always looked to Nature to teach me what was real and reliable. Nature always made sense. Humans?...Not so much. Our culture is built on lies, greed and jealousy. Not something I ever felt drawn to.
vulnerable people through sustainable care farming. It took me a few years to get my act together and get started, but Kindred Spirits Care Farm got started in 2013 and there is no turning back.
Is my weirdness obvious yet? I really don’t fit in. I don’t take selfies. I hate telephones. I don’t listen to music much. I prefer silence. I don’t shop. I don’t care about food. I prefer to be alone 90% of the time.
You’re basically in a residential area? How does that sit with neighbors? Have you found them welcoming or otherwise?
How did you transition from the corporate world to rescuing animals?? I actually started rescuing animals while I was still in the corporate world. My husband and I went to a 13-day Kalachakra Initiation with the Dalai Lama in 1999. At the end of the session, the Dalai Lama told the audience that attending the Kalachakra was just the beginning and that we had to DO something with the gift he had just given us. He wanted us to not just go home and have everything be business as usual. He wanted his hard work to translate into compassionate action. So I started trying to help animals. I volunteered at the local animal shelter, and soon enough, I was fostering animals and then running a rescue organization. I didn’t start working with farmed animals until later. I went vegan in 2008 after hearing about the horrors of the dairy and egg industries. In 2009, I knew I wanted to start my own non-profit that would help animals and
The neighbors love us. We have cleaned up the farm and built gardens. The students are happier and better behaved because they feel better. We have neighbors who volunteer to help out on the farm and in the gardens. The place feels better, looks better and smells better since we got here, so neighbors are very happy. Why did you think you could be successful and happy at what you’re doing now? This is a complicated question. I knew I would by happy because I would be doing meaningful work that helped animals, people and the planet. Financial success is still uncertain. No insurance plan in the U.S. will pay for participation on a care farm. My “customers” tend to be poor, vulnerable, and unable to pay for participation. I have to fundraise for everything, and I’m not very good at that yet. But, I grew up poor, and am pretty comfortable with a frugal lifestyle, so I expect I will have time to learn.
How does the program with the kids work? How does the artwork they’ve done factor into the whole? Learning on the farm, working with the animals and in the gardens are programs to re-engage the kids with learning, with compassion and with self-care. The artwork is another program with the same basic cause. We want the students to re-connect with their creativity, with self-confidence, with positive thoughts about themselves and their potential. What do or did you do to promote yourself and get more backing? Not enough! The first three years Kindred Spirits Care Farm existed, we just worked on this farm trying to make it into the very special place it is today. We really just started promoting ourselves last year and we are learning how to do it as we go. We go to local vegan events when we can have a booth. We hold very special dinners here at the farm twice a year around the solstices. We have our Facebook page and website. We are certainly open to suggestions for more and/or better ways to promote ourselves. What is your ultimate goal or goals in life? My ultimate goal in life is to help save the planet. I want to do my part to bring this place back to balance. We are so very far off track right now, it’s uncertain whether or not we will be able to survive our own arrogance.
Go to www.delish.com for this and other great recipes
AROUND TOWN THE MIXOLOGIST’S SECRETS
FIG SIDECAR BEVERLY HILLS HOTEL POLO LOUNGE
Add ice to a mixing glass and add all ingredients. Shake and pour into a chilled martini glass with a sugared rim. Garnish with a spiral lemon twist.
2. | For the fig infused Remy 1738 Cognac: Fill a 2 Liter
mason jar with the figs. Fill the 2 Liter mason jar with 90% Remy 1738 Cognac and the remaining 10% with Homemade Spiced Brown Sugar Simple Syrup.
3. |Cover lid and refrigerate for one week to allow flavors
INGREDIENTS 2 oz. fig infused Remy 1738 1 oz. Cointreau 1 oz. fresh lemon juice lemon twist FOR THE FIG INFUSED REMY 1738 COGNAC: 1 black mission figs 1 bottle Remy Martin 1738 cognac Brown sugar syrup FOR SPICED BROWN SUGAR SIMPLE SYRUP: 2 c. brown sugar 2 c. water 3 cloves
to infuse. Strain through a cheesecloth or filter to remove figs, seeds or sediment. Pour contents into clean bottle and label.
3. | For the spiced brown sugar simple syrup: Put brown
sugar and water in a medium sized saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and add cloves, cinnamon sticks and split vanilla bean. Simmer for an additional five minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Strain through a cheesecloth or filter to remove cloves, cinnamon sticks and vanilla bean. Cover and refrigerate.
“Ho! Ho! Ho! To the bottle I go. To heal my heart and drown my woe. Rain may fall, and wind may blow and many miles be still to go.But under a tall tree will I lie and let the clouds go sailing by” ― J.R.R. Tolkien
A MOMENT IN TIME Beverly Hills and Los Angeles before all the glitz and glamour.
Ever wonder where the local street names of Beverly Hills come from? Burton Way? Whittier Blvd? Doheny? The fact is these three streets were named after very prominent business men who founded the city more than a hundred years ago. In early 1900, Burton Green, Max Whittier and Edward Doheny along with other business partners bought the Hammel and Denker Ranch. Their intention was to set up an oil drilling company, Amalgamated Oil which was set up to explore the area for “black gold”. For six long years they drilled and came up empty handed. In 1906 the leader of the venture, Burton Green created a new venture, The Rodeo Land and Water company. The idea was to create a new and exclusive community with tree-lined streets, spacious lots and generous parks.
The Hammel Denker Ranch in 1903
The new community was given the name “Beverly” after Beverly Farms in Massachusetts, an area Mr. Green fondly remembered from his youth for it’s beautiful landscape.
“Burton Green built a magnificent estate on Lexington Road that became one of the first landmarks of the area”
On January 23, 1907 the subdivision was officially recorded. After a year of prime infrastructure construction, advertisements were placed in the papers to attract potential buyers. Within three years it looked like the hills of Beverly were not as enticing as it’s owners had once thought. In 1910 a new plan was put into to place to attract visitors and buyers. A new hotel would be built right in the heart of Beverly which backed up into the hills. The Beverly Hills Hotel was completed in 1912. New visitors could stay at the hotel and take tours of the area to see where they may want to build a new home. There were horse trips into the canyons and hills to explore building sites. Finally potential buyers could see for themselves the value of having a home in the area. In 1914 Beverly Hills was incorporated.
With the prestige of the new hotel, Beverly Hills took on a new spirit and activity. Wilbur Cook, a prominent landscape artist from New York was appointed to create a master plan for the area. It included the preparation of estate lots north of Sunset Blvd surrounding the Beverly Hills Hotel and the smaller lots to the south.
Editor: I want to thank The Beverly Hills Historical Society, Phil Savenick for his help and Marc Wanamaker for supplying the historical information via his book “Early Beverly Hills”. More to come in the next edtion and on our Instagram feed at levin.lon
The journey starts with the first step