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A Pali High Boy’s Cherished Life Inspires a New World Mission

Remembered: from the Pali High Yearbook, 2008 Photo courtesy of the Henry Family Archives

Remembered: from the Pali High Yearbook, 2008
Photo courtesy of the Henry Family Archives

By JOHN HARLOW | Editor-in-Chief 

The terrible grief of loss can anger, destroy and even send you into madness. Look at King Lear.

Or it can reboot, inspire and drive you to embrace life as never before—all in the name of love.

For long-term Palisadians Harriet Zaretsky and Steve Henry, the shock of losing their 17-year-old son Dillon Henry in a car wreck on Sunset Boulevard nine years ago will never fade.

Dillon Henry Photo courtesy of the Henry Family Archives

Dillon Henry
Photo courtesy of the Henry Family Archives

And yet, while still lost in the miasma of pain, the couple reached out in Dillon’s name to other young people in need. And, as a result, they have transformed hundreds of lives.

So far, 83 Palisades Charter High School students have benefited from their financial aid scholarships for college.

Dillon scholars from Pali High: From left, Angelica Gonzalez, Isabella Barber, Franscisco Rubio Fernandez, Kiana Billot-Vasquez, Biniyam Asnake. Plus Steve Henry and Harriet Zaretsky Photo courtesy of the Henry Family Archives

Dillon scholars from Pali High: From left, Angelica Gonzalez,
Isabella Barber, Franscisco Rubio Fernandez, Kiana Billot-Vasquez, Biniyam Asnake. Plus Steve Henry and Harriet Zaretsky
Photo courtesy of the Henry Family Archives

And then there are the paid 16 summer interns, or Dillon Henry Fellows, helping the environment through Surfrider Foundation.

Or the many children in foster care in Los Angeles, helped through CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) and the Henry family’s support.

Because that is what Dillon, who once helped a stranger stranded at a gas station, who rescued a young woman meandering in a street in a drug haze, who gingered up 300 students at Pali High protesting curbed summer vacations, would have liked.

But next month, on Sept. 25, a day that honors what would have been Dillon’s 27th birthday, Harriet and Steve are raising the stakes at their third annual Copa De Dillon Soccer Tournament by launching World Soccer Day.

Friends in faraway places­—the Copa De Dillon in Congo Photo courtesy of the Henry Family Archives

Friends in faraway places­—the Copa De Dillon in Congo
Photo courtesy of the Henry Family Archives

The event will be held at Pali High, with families and friends in the community invited to attend. They will be entertained and will watch eight teams play soccer on the gorgeous sward beloved of Dillon—“a hardworking defender who was respected by his teammates for playing with heart,” recalled Harriet.

The day will be a meeting of old and new friends including, hopefully, young Palisadian actor Alden Ehrenreich—breakout star from the Coen Brothers latest, “Hail Caesar!”

Ehrenreich, who will play the young Hans Solo in future Star Wars movies, helped create a video supporting World Soccer Day.

It’s a powerful kickstarter to a $350,000 campaign to build a very different school 8,800 miles away in Mumosho, a village near the Democratic Republic of Congo’s border with Rwanda. The family hopes the Congo Peace School and premier soccer field will share the same generous spirit that Dillon loved at Pali High.

So, why Africa?

“When Dillon was a young teen, he watched [the 2004 film] ‘Hotel Rwanda’ with us, and he was broken hearted and in tears after watching the genocide.

“He wanted to take action to aid the people of Africa, as that was the kind of boy he was. He became engaged in a water well project in Dafur. After his accident, we formed a partnership with Jewish World Watch, as we felt we could make his ambitions and aspirations come true.”
The family, while drowning in sorrow after the tragedy on July 6, 2007, shared this sadness at a funeral attended by over 1,000 mourning friends.

Yet weeks later, the family, with deep roots in liberal social activism, were transmuting their agony into action.

Within 12 weeks they had raised $100,000 for a new building in the Central African Republic on the border with Darfur, a center that still boasts the name the Dillon Henry Community Health Clinic.

And, another $100,000 for the Dillon Henry Youth Centers, providing activities for children of all ages, in the dismal refugee camps in Darfur.

“I still don’t know how we did it, I don’t know where all the money came from, friends and relatives, but we knew it had to be spent as Dillon would have wanted,” recalled Harriet last week.

Their focus has moved to the Congo, a nation with arguably the most brutal recent history in Africa that is still being bloodied by never-ending civil war, to work with local leaders in Mumosho.

They have partnered with a local Mumosho educator, Amani Matabaro Tom, thus avoiding the “nice white people rescue Africans” aid trap that all too often ends in corruption and waste.

The Afro-Palisadian partnership got off to a flying start last September when Amani organized a soccer tournament between the local Institute Mumosha and three rival teams. The organizers, who were providing Dillon-emblazened caps and T-shirts for fans and dictionaries for the winner, expected maybe 100 people to turn up.

By the end of a jubilant tournament, more than 3,000 Africans were celebrating both the game and the life of a boy they had never met in an event now known as the Copa De Dillon.

A second tournament in Congo this September, now with four boys teams and four girls teams, will cement the partnership to create an educational facility for these same children.

Former Pali High student, Irvin Kintaudi, visited Mumosho in 2014 and said today Dillon is famous in eastern Congo.

“I was warned that I could be snatched away by a militia at any moment, but I know the attitude that I share with Dillon—positive and humanitarian—will help me get through anything. And this is what I wanted to share there with my people,” said Kintaudi, whose parents come from the Congo.

Kintaudi was one of 10 Dillon scholars at Pali High in 2008.

It was an award that he said changed his life.

“It opened up other worlds to me and has carried me to grad school [at the University of Southern California], which might otherwise never happened.”

Ten days ago, he was at the annual barbeque that Steve and Harriet throw at their Rustic Canyon home for their scholarship kids and families every summer.

“It is the opportunity where we can all catch up and share stories—one person who won a scholarship the same year as me, just got married, two weeks before—but also stay connected like the big family that Harriet and Steve have brought together.”

For Steve, Harriet, and (sister) Taylor, there will always be a Dillon-shaped hole in their hearts.

But for the hundreds who will be helped in Dillon’s name over the coming years, some even thousands of miles away who may never know his full story, this is one Palisadian spirit who will continue to shape the world.

For more information, email harriet@dillonslist.org.

Amelia Earhart Photos Discovered in Palisades Home

Late Photographer’s Sons Recount Tales of Father’s Connection to Missing Pilot

By JACQUELINE PRIMO | Assistant Managing Editor

Many have the experience of going through their aging or recently passed parents’ homes, sorting through a lifetime’s worth of clothes, furniture, miscellaneous knick-knacks and things collected over the years, all in preparation for selling the home or readying it for new residents.

Randy and Ed Bresnik stand in front of their late father’s home on Sunset Blvd. Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

Randy and Ed Bresnik stand in front of their late father’s home on Sunset Blvd.
Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

Yet, it is safe to say that brothers Randy and Ed Bresnik had a unique experience during the year they took to go through their father’s house on Sunset Blvd. in Marquez Knolls. From January to December 2015, the pair traveled two days a week to the property from their homes in LA.

Their late father, longtime Palisadian Albert Louis Bresnik, was an avid photographer who built a career and a life around the art of photography. Among the tens of thousands of photographs and negatives his sons Randy and Ed uncovered when going through his house in the Palisades were portraits their father had taken of the missing—and declared dead—pilot Amelia Earhart.

The late Albert Bresnik with one of his photos of Amelia Earhart. Photo courtesy of Randy and Ed Bresnik

The late Albert Bresnik with one of his photos of Amelia Earhart.
Photo courtesy of Randy and Ed Bresnik

“Evidently Amelia was more relaxed around him. He was her photographer. Anytime she was around and needed photos, she would call Dad,” Randy told the Palisadian-Post.

Earhart was one of the many pilots Albert would photograph with their airplanes in the 1930s. Albert, who was often taking photos at local airports around LA, formed a friendship with Earhart and would come to take many photos of her between 1932 and 1937 when she disappeared, keeping between 60 and 70 photos of her for customers, his sons explained.

Randy and Ed said their father Albert was considering going with Amelia on what would become her last flight—a second attempt to circumnavigate the globe in 1937—but Amelia told Albert, “I need 150 pounds of fuel more than I need 150 pounds of photographer,” the brothers told the Post.

Albert Bresnik with a photo of Earhart and a map of the final legs of her last flight. Photo courtesy of Randy and Ed Bresnik

Albert Bresnik with a photo of Earhart and a map of the final legs of her last flight.
Photo courtesy of Randy and Ed Bresnik

Neither Albert nor anybody else ever saw Earhart again, and her disappearance remains one of the world’s greatest mysteries to this day. His sons remember how Albert kept photos of Earhart in a window of his photography shop in Hollywood, which he ran from 1937-1954 before opening Bresnik Studio and Photography on Swarthmore in the Village in 1967.

Albert’s photos of Earhart were some of the last ever taken of the famed pilot.

One of Albert Bresnik’s original photographs of Amelia Earhart Photo courtesy of Randy and Ed Bresnik

One of Albert Bresnik’s original photographs of Amelia Earhart
Photo courtesy of Randy and Ed Bresnik

Born on Feb. 3 in 1914, Albert Bresnik attended Manual Arts High School before working for Columbia Pictures from 1932-1937. During this time, he took photos of such Hollywood stars as Mary Martin, Shirley Temple, Jane Withers and Palisadian Walter Matthau. He even reportedly introduced Clark Gable and Carole Lombard to one another.

Albert moved with his wife, Mary, and children, including Randy and Ed (born in 1937 and 1947, respectively), son Roger and daughter Dianne to Pacific Palisades in 1948. Randy was 10 years old and Ed was only 1 when the Bresniks moved to a lot on Sunset Blvd. where Albert first built a two-story, five-bedroom home. On the adjacent lot, which Albert also owned, he eventually built a single-story home with a movie room and a tennis court.

“That’s the house we really remember,” Ed told the Post.

The Bresniks’ home with a projection room—surely an unusual sight at the time, well before having a home theater was commonplace in the Palisades—was a gathering spot for neighborhood kids and the first choice of location for celebrations and gatherings, Ed added.

In 1954, Bresnik Studio and Photography moved from its first location, across from Hollywood High School, to Santa Monica before finally landing in the Palisades in 1967.

A portion of Albert Bresnik’s photography equipment at his November 2015 estate sale. Photo courtesy of Hughes Estate Sales

A portion of Albert Bresnik’s photography equipment at his November 2015 estate sale.
Photo courtesy of Hughes Estate Sales

By the time Bresnik Studio was at its Palisades location on Swarthmore, Albert had expanded the shop to include selling camera equipment. And it was only to be expected that Albert’s children were brought up in the business—as well as in front of the camera at home.

“All of us grew up in the business,” Randy said, noting that brothers Randy, Roger and Ed worked at the store as they grew up. Additionally, Albert would take the kids out on wedding photo shoots and other photo sessions, teaching them how to take the photos and then develop and retouch them—long before the days of Photoshop.

Randy and Ed recalled a single upholstered chair Albert would use for all the baby pictures he took.

“Dad’s annual family portrait was Christmas cards,” Ed added with a laugh. “One year, we were in Santa’s sleigh, and our faces were on the reindeer going over the house,” he elaborated, describing his father’s retouching skills.

“He was such an artist,” Randy said. “He would take two or three photos and you would select out of that.”

Photos like these, family photos as well as photos of celebrities including Amelia Earhart, were among the negatives and photos Randy and Ed uncovered when going through their father’s house—a home which they said held 65 years worth of pictures, memories and old photos.

Between 10,000 and 12,000 photos and negatives were found in the Sunset home, Randy and Ed said, including more than 100 slide trays with 100 photos each, as well as projectors, cameras and other photography equipment.

The brothers said their father’s organizational system over the years included having a filing cabinet with current negatives of the past year or two and another filing cabinet with the past few years’ worth of negatives. Albert would move these negatives into large military boxes over time.

In addition to life as a photographer, Albert worked for North American Rockwell as an inspector and in a plastics factory in the afternoons. He was also a Reserve Beverly Hills police officer, part of Hollywood 20-30, the Pacific Palisades Optimist Club and the boating group Santa Monica Power Squadron.

But his experience photographing Earhart, among other pilots with their planes, must have been a dominant part of his DNA because Albert passed along the passion for flight to his sons and grandsons.

Randy was a pilot in the U.S. Army from 1964-1968 and worked at Long Beach Airport for 20 years. He was a Deputy Sheriff and flew helicopters with the LA Sheriffs Department, including many missions over to Catalina Island when needed, he said.

Randy’s son, also named Randy, now 49, was a military pilot and flew in Iraq in 2003. In 2004 the younger Randy Bresnik was taken into NASA as an astronaut.

In 2009, he was part of a crew that went to the International Space Station and he performed two space walks for a total of 11 hours outside of the space station. Randy will be space station commander for six months starting in November of 2017.

“My son took after me,” Randy said of his astronaut son, beaming with pride. “He said the hardest thing to do was to keep from looking down [while in space].”

Ed, who was in the first graduating class of Palisades Charter High School in 1965, worked for North American Rockwell for about 15 years in various programs, primarily working on the B-1 Bomber.

Albert’s first wife and the brothers’ mother Mary passed away in 1987. Albert remarried in 1988 at the age of 79. Although Albert died in in 1993, his second wife Gabrielle lived in the home on Sunset for 22 years until she died in September 2014.

In addition to the photographs, equipment and negatives the brothers turned up while going through their father’s house, Randy said they were able to identify the Graflex camera Albert used to photograph Amelia Earhart.

“They told a lot of interesting stories about their dad, which made it enjoyable to work with them,” said Jon Cates, a realtor with Coldwell Banker, who said selling the Sunset house and working with the Bresnik brothers was one of the most memorable homes and client experiences he has ever had.

Cates said Randy and Ed made sure “all of [Albert’s] photographs and belongings were distributed thoughtfully to family, friends, charities and auction houses. After 11 months the house was completely cleaned out, put on the market and received 11 offers.”

“They’re both uniquely different and interesting,” Cates said of Randy and Ed. “They’re great guys. They’re awesome.”

Life’s A Beach!

Veteran State Beach Volleyball Players Bump, Set, Spike Through Life’s Ups and Downs

By MICHAEL JOHNSONSpecial to the Palisadian-Post

State Beach saved my life. Or should I say, State Beach gave me a life. I needed one, because I had left my old life behind.

Just as people have for decades I headed to the western edge of America to find myself. The allure wasn’t only the sand and surf. The real star was beach volleyball, and in the late ’80s and early ’90s State Beach (officially known as Will Rogers State Beach), where Chautauqua Boulevard meets Pacific Coast Highway, was Mecca.

Veteran State Beach volleyball players reunite for a photo at Sorrento Beach, where many of the State Beach regulars have migrated. (Back row, l to r): Paul Asher, Dave Schroeder, Geoff Plowden, Jeff Hicks, Gabi Sheikh, Shahid Sheikh, Tony Zapata, Michael Cohen, Wil Sharpe, Jeff Benzler, Karl Owens. (Front row, l to r): J.B. Saunders and kids, Bill Robison, Steve Gurevitch, Jeff Conte, Scott Bellomo, Michael Johnson, Charlie Frank, Miguel Vidaurre and Dr. Paul Austin with daughter McKenna. Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

Veteran State Beach volleyball players reunite for a photo at Sorrento Beach, where many of the State Beach regulars have migrated. (Back row, l to r): Paul Asher, Dave Schroeder, Geoff Plowden, Jeff Hicks, Gabi Sheikh, Shahid Sheikh, Tony Zapata, Michael Cohen, Wil Sharpe, Jeff Benzler, Karl Owens. (Front row, l to r): J.B. Saunders and kids, Bill Robison, Steve Gurevitch, Jeff Conte, Scott Bellomo, Michael Johnson, Charlie Frank, Miguel Vidaurre and Dr. Paul Austin with daughter McKenna.
Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

But this isn’t a story about the well-known players of the time. Yes volleyball legends like Palisadians Sinjin Smith and Randy Stoklos and Palisades Charter High School standout Kent Steffes roamed the State Beach courts. They traveled to exotic places and cashed increasingly large checks.

Former Sunset Mesa resident Michael Johnson says, “State Beach gave me a life.” Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

Former Sunset Mesa resident Michael Johnson says, “State Beach gave me a life.”
Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

No. The heart and soul of State Beach were the weekend warriors, those who started checking the weather reports every Wednesday to make sure the sun was shining come Saturday morning games.

We weren’t pros—some were better than others. We came from all walks of life—Palisades trust funders, entertainment industry agents, waiters, actor/models, carpenters and even a few homeless guys. I was a former tennis pro running a tennis academy in La Cañada looking for a new sport.

Palisadian Kevin Waterbury spikes the ball circa 1980s. Photo courtesy of Kevin Waterbury

Palisadian Kevin Waterbury spikes the ball circa 1980s.
Photo courtesy of Kevin Waterbury

At State Beach, it didn’t matter what you did for a living. When someone stepped on to the sand in a pair of neon pink board shorts, all men were created equal…until the game started.

Palisadian Steve Gurevitch hits a ball in the days of neon shorts. Photo courtesy of Steve Gurevitch

Palisadian Steve Gurevitch hits a ball in the days of neon shorts.
Photo courtesy of Steve Gurevitch

Then your ability to pass, set and “sideout” defined your beach status. It defined who you were. That and your nickname. I was MJ.

Among the Palisadians: Gurv/Three Bean (Marquez Knolls resident Steve Gurevitch), Wilbur (El Medio Bluffs resident Wil Sharpe), Conte (Marquez Knolls resident Jeff Conte), Mother (former Sunset Mesa resident Garrett Jamison) and Water (Marquez resident Kevin Waterbury).

Palisadian Jim Kanan (left) hits the ball as Scott Bellomo attempts to block. Photo courtesy of Jim Kanan

Palisadian Jim Kanan (left) hits the ball as Scott Bellomo attempts to block.
Photo courtesy of Jim Kanan

There were many other Palisadians in the mix such as Jim Kanan (Alphabet Streets), Dr. Paul (El Medio Bluffs resident Paul Austin, MD) and Andy Fay (El Medio Bluffs).

There were also the guys who made the drive or bike ride from Santa Monica and other surrounding areas: Bumpy (cuz he would always bump set the ball rather than hand set it), Old School Bill, Argonaut. Nobody was a boring “Bob.”

It was possible to see the same guy every weekend for years and have no clue about his real name, his profession or where he lived. No one cared. Only “were ya cool” and “could you help me win.”

Good times with the State Beach volleyball crowd circa 1997 Photo courtesy of Scott Bellomo

Good times with the State Beach volleyball crowd circa 1997
Photo courtesy of Scott Bellomo

We did not play games. We had wars.

The friendly handshakes and pregame small-talk ritual turned into alpha male battles with profanity and threats, and that was just to your own partner.

Come sundown things took a different turn—a more social, drunken, partying turn. Most of us were between 28 and 35 years old and single. The Westside had no shortage of women and bars. You do the math.

I had grown tired of the commute from La Cañada to State Beach and then never having a place to shower and prepare for the inevitable night out after volleyball. So when two recent college grads told me they had a room available in their apartment in Sunset Mesa across from the Getty Villa with a big-screen TV (come on, it was 1993, they were rare), I jumped at the chance.

Pulling together: The State Beach volleyball players and their families gathered in 2013 on Sorrento Beach to celebrate the life of Kiki, who passed away far too young. Source: Facebook

Pulling together: The State Beach volleyball players and their families gathered in 2013 on Sorrento Beach to celebrate the life of Kiki, who passed away far too young.
Source: Facebook

Our place became party central, a crucial meeting place in the transition from day to night. Nights usually began at Marix Tex Mex in Santa Monica Canyon, where pitchers of Margaritas flowed and the day’s games were retold in great detail.

After, we would hit Renaissance nightclub on the then-newly refurbished Third Street Promenade, where our favorite doorman was a guy named Ronald Goldman. (We were stunned when Ron was stabbed to death and OJ Simpson later stood trial for his murder.) Then it was off to the Deuce Club 217 just down the street on Broadway to close the night.

As beach guys we were afforded VIP status and without fail our group of three could grow to a traveling circus of 10 times that by the last stop of the evening.

We would wake up on Sunday morning and step over someone sleeping in the living room with no idea who they were—in the best possible way.

I had grown up in a strict religious family. The key word in my life until I found the beach was “No.” No, you can’t do that. No, God doesn’t approve. I now lived in a world of “Yes.” I wasn’t in Kansas anymore; I was at State Beach.

Time marched on. Weddings on a Saturday replaced volleyball. There were bachelor parties and going-away parties. We would always say, “They’ll be back.” But most of them never returned.

There was a revolving cast of girlfriends who became wives who became ex-wives.

And kids, lots of kids.

Conte used to back his SUV up to the wall, open the trunk and toss out a load of umbrellas, towels and toys. There was so much stuff for his four kids, we called it “Contetown.”

Six-packs became “no-packs” and the golden tones the sun painted us became wrinkles.

There were those who left this earth too soon: the Mayor of State Beach—Lenny, our precious Kiki gone from brain cancer and Jan killed in a car accident on PCH on New Year’s Day 2000.

There were plenty of divorces—including my own. Those who were married were single again, those who were single now married.

We still play volleyball, but somehow the State Beach crowd migrated to Sorrento Beach. Doubles is slowly giving way to the less strenuous Fours.

“Morning after” talk of wild nights morphed into talk of AYSO soccer matches and what vintage wine you drank last night. For 30-plus years we’ve had a place “where everybody knows your name,” a rest stop on the road of life.

And still, in a far more complicated world, when I find happiness to be out of my reach, get me to the edge of the world—get me to the beach.

Palisadian Head of LA Trial Lawyers’ Charities Helps Grow 3rd Annual Casino Night Fundraiser

By MICHAEL AUSHENKER | Contributing Writer

On the surface, the scene inside the historic Fairmont Miramar on Saturday, May 7 felt like something out of the Grand Casino in Monte Carlo. In fact, all the poker playing, blackjack dealing and roulette spinning raised funds for multiple great causes.

Yes, the third annual Los Angeles Trial Lawyers’ Charities (LATLC) Casino Night and Texas Hold’em Tournament was the nonprofit’s most successful outing yet, far surpassing last year’s $215,000 total. While over 900 people made the official guest list, organizers estimate over 1,000 were in attendance. The event cleared $325,000 before the silent auction.

The evening’s driving engine: Scott J. Corwin of SJC Law. As the current head of LATLC—a 501c3 nonprofit organization formed in 2006 by seven trial lawyers headed by Bruce Traney and past president Joseph Barrett—the longtime Palisadian has helped grow Casino Night and LATLC’s membership to over 3,000.

Palisadian and head of the LA Trial Lawyers Charities Scott J. Corwin (top right) with City Attorney Mike Feuer (3rd from left), LATLC Board Member Ivieri Seck (4th from left), LATLC Past President Minh T. Nguyen (2nd from right) and this year’s scholarship winners Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

Palisadian and head of the LA Trial Lawyers Charities Scott J. Corwin (top right) with City Attorney Mike Feuer (3rd from left), LATLC Board Member Ibieri Seck (4th from left), LATLC Past President Minh T. Nguyen (2nd from right) and this year’s scholarship winners
Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

The personal injury attorney came with wife and 2014 Golden Sparkplug winner Susan Corwin, vice chair of Vista Del Mar Child & Family Services, as well as son Joshua Corwin, 23, who was instrumental in launching Vista Inspired Teens.

“We’ve always believed in helping,” Scott Corwin said of himself and his wife of 25 years.

(L to r): City Attorney Mike Feuer, Palisadian and head of the LA Trial Lawyers Charities Scott J. Corwin, Assemblymember Matt Dababneh and LATLC Past President Minh T. Nguyen at the 3rd Annual Casino Night Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

(L to r): City Attorney Mike Feuer, Palisadian and head of the LA Trial Lawyers Charities Scott J. Corwin, Assemblymember Matt Dababneh and LATLC Past President Minh T. Nguyen at the 3rd Annual Casino Night
Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

Upstairs, festivities included a Texas Hold’em Poker Tournament and buffet dinner. Downstairs, the fun continued with massages, manicures, reflexology, henna tattoo artists, tarot card readers and magicians while Maria De La Vega and the Wayward Five performed classic jazz and blues from the 1930s through ’50s.

Thi Nguyen works in healthcare but she returned as her attorney boyfriend’s date for her third consecutive year.

“It’s grown so much in the last two years,” said Nguyen, in between a massage and manicure.

With Sen. Ben Allen, Reps. Mike Gatto and Matt Dababneh and LA City Attorney Mike Feuer on the guest list, the event was able to live up to its official credo: “Justice in the Courtroom, Service in the Community.”

As Feuer told the Palisadian-Post, if there’s “a lot of skepticism” toward lawyers, “this organization and event is the antidote.”

The event drew a cross-section of LA’s legal industry. Eric Kingsley, a principal of Encino’s Kingsley and Kingsley firm, said he welcomed the chance to participate in this legal-world benefit.

“Giving back to the community shows that trial lawyers do well,” Kingsley said.

For longtime Palisadian Kathy Volz of Empathy Law, LATLC’s monthly volunteering efforts are a main reason she supports this organization.

“They provide hands-on outreach,” Volz said. “They don’t just write a check. They actually go there and engage.”

“I love this event because it allows us to get a different view of what attorneys are really about,” said Carmen Sabater. “This gives us a chance to dispel some of those myths.”

Before working at Marina del Rey firm V. James DeSimone Law, Sabater worked with inner-city kids while an NYPD police officer.

“Kids are the future. We have to give them positive direction,” Sabater said.

As Palisadian Steve Mindel observed about his profession, “Trial lawyers do a lot of good, create a lot of progress with safety in cars and airplanes. Big companies don’t change unless they get sued.”

Guests lauded Palisadian Corwin for his efforts.

“He’s a prolific political fundraiser, and he’s a mensch to the 10th degree,” said LATLC Past President Minh T. Nguyen, who oversees student scholarships. “I can’t do Scott [Corwin] justice: the energy, the commitment, the time, the sacrifice he’s put into this organization.”

Corwin’s friend of 25 years, Leo Madnick, brought wife Amy Madnick and daughter Becca. Other LATLC Palisadians included Spencer Lucas and Lisa Maki.

The evening’s emotional centerpiece was when 11 college-bound students from area schools gathered onstage. Each of them was the recipient of a $5,000 scholarship.

Some of them hail from low-income areas such as Stanford-bound Maria Vargas of Southgate’s South East High School and incoming Pepperdine student Ikechukwu Egwuonwu of Narbonne High School in Harbor City.

“I was very thankful to receive it,” said a beaming Starlett Francis of Long Beach’s Cabrillo High School, whose family is struggling to make ends meet.

In addition to its focus on education, LATLC also makes donations to organizations that assist battered women and that work to end homelessness. The organization facilitated the donation of $235,000 worth of food to provide 115,000 meals at LA Mission and Food Bank of California.

“Since January 2015, we’ve given back to the community with grants, gifts and goods totaling $1.4 million,” Corwin said.

Corwin is no stranger to fundraising for causes that he’s passionate about. He has canvassed financial support for Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Antonio Villaraigosa.

“I was brought in to do my thing,” Corwin said. “I had heard of their organization, and I had been to a couple of their small events.”

Casino Night outgrew 2014’s Casa del Mar digs, which only holds about 400 people. Hence, the change in 2015 to the Miramar.

“We took over the entire lower level—5,000-6,000 additional square feet—and moved our spa downstairs and created a speakeasy room with Maria’s band, a specialty scotch bar and burlesque dancers,” he added.

At last year’s sold-out Casino Night, guests included such Palisadians as Drs. Morteza and Karen Khaleghi, Thomas and Liza Zaret, Lucas, Mindel, the Madnicks and UCLA freshman Sarah Popelka. Congressman Ted Lieu and LA City Councilman Paul Koretz also attended last year’s event.

Moneys raised went to a roster of nonprofits including Venice Family Clinic ($25,000), Clare Foundation ($20,000), Vista Del Mar Child & Family Services ($20,000), Los Angeles Mission ($15,000) and Downtown Women’s Center ($10,000).

Jr. Reporter Gavin Alexander Attends the Caruso Appeal Hearing

By GAVIN ALEXANDER | Jr. Reporter

3rd Grade, Palisades Elementary Charter School

My parents let me miss school on Thursday, April 28 to go to Van Nuys City Hall to the appeal hearing regarding Rick Caruso’s Palisades Village project. My grandpa was nice enough to take me.

Gavin arrives early at the City Planning Commission hearing at Van Nuys City Hall. Photo: Jayrol San Jose

Gavin arrives early at the City Planning Commission hearing at Van Nuys City Hall.
Photo: Jayrol San Jose

We arrived early and had seats in the second row. Mr. Caruso asked me to fill out a comment card and speak at the appeal. I was one of the first speakers and I got up in front of a room filled with people to share my support of the project.

Mr. Jack Allen, who had filed an appeal, was not present due to a medical procedure. His lawyer was there on his behalf.

Speaking at the hearing, Gavin says Rick Caruso’s Palisades Village project will “help the community to have fun.” Photo: Jayrol San Jose

Speaking at the hearing, Gavin says Rick Caruso’s Palisades Village project will “help the community to have fun.”
Photo: Jayrol San Jose

There was one woman who spoke against the project because she did not want the trees to be cut down. Everyone else was supporting the project.

At the hearing, I learned the importance of patience. I learned that the City Planning Commission takes a lot of time to make decisions because they want to know all the facts.

Gavin gets a high-five from Rick Caruso after speaking. Photo: Jayrol San Jose

Gavin gets a high-five from Rick Caruso after speaking.
Photo: Jayrol San Jose

I was so happy the appeal was denied. I can’t wait to see what Mr. Caruso is building for the Palisades. I know it will be awesome.

Related story:

Jr. Reporter Gavin Alexander Interviews Rick Caruso

Jr. Reporter Gavin Alexander Interviews Rick Caruso

By GAVIN ALEXANDER | Junior Reporter | 3rd Grade, Palisades Elementary Charter School

Ever since I learned the property in the Pacific Palisades Village had been purchased by Rick Caruso, I wanted to meet him and ask him questions.

On Tuesday, April 26 I sat down with Mr. Caruso in his office at The Grove and asked him a number of questions. Mr. Caruso was so nice. He does need our (kids’) help so make sure you read to the very end.

Gavin and “The Great Garbanzo” at Rick Caruso’s office at The Grove. Photo courtesy of Gavin Alexander

Gavin and “The Great Garbanzo” at Rick Caruso’s office at The Grove.
Photo courtesy of Gavin Alexander

Gavin Alexander: What did you want to be when you grew up?

Rick Caruso: I always wanted to be in business and build buildings, actually, to do what I am doing today.

Gavin: What kids’ entertainment are you planning for the Palisades Village?

Caruso: We plan on having a really cool outdoor park. And in the park we want to do things for moms and kids and dads and kids. So there will be Mommy and Me programs in the morning and kids’ concerts in the afternoon.

It will also be a place to hang out, throw down a blanket, enjoy the day and be with the family—a lot of stuff like we do at our other properties. I’m a big believer in families hanging out together. So the whole idea of this project is for families to be together and hang out with their friends.

Gavin: What stores are there going to be in the Palisades Village?

Caruso: The stores in the Village are going to be super cool, unique stores just for the Palisades. We are going to do a really great ice cream store, have a really great family restaurant, we are bringing back the Bay Theater, a local grocer, stores for kids, a toy store, clothing stores and a really good burger place. It will be a whole different variety of stores.

Gavin: What does it mean to be President of the Police Commission? (Caruso served as President of the LA Board of Police Commissioners for four years.) 

Caruso: The President of the Police Commission is actually in charge of the police department. The Chief of Police reports to the Police Commission. It is a really big job. I loved doing that job.

I was there for four years and it’s important because you need to do things in the city to fight crime and keep neighborhoods safe, and that is what I enjoyed the most.

Gavin: What attracted you to want to do a project in the Palisades?

Caruso: I’ve loved the Palisades for a long time. I have four kids, they are older now, but they all played sports in the Palisades. We shopped at Bentons. We used to go to the deli. We knew it very well, and it is close to my home.

I wanted to create something cool for the neighborhood I love and do something that is close to my own home that I could enjoy with my family.

Gavin: Did you have a nickname when you were younger?

Caruso: Yes. I haven’t told many people. It was The Great Garbanzo. I started a club called the Garbanzo Club when I was about your age. My friends used to call me The Great Garbanzo because I loved garbanzo beans.

Gavin: Do you have any advice for kids my age looking to get into business?

Caruso: My advice if you want to get into business is study hard, do your work and then take your time, not be in too much of a rush and find out what you really love to do. If you do what you really love to do then it’s actually never “work.”

I never think about coming to work every day and doing work because I love what I do.

Gavin: What type of security will you have?

Caruso: At the Palisades Village we have a lot of security. My first rule is always keeping everyone safe. We will have our officers on the property and we will have a security room and a security department. We will have cameras around the property making sure everyone is safe. We will work hard to get LAPD officers to be there hanging out with us.

Gavin: How will you address the homeless situation?

Caruso: The homeless situation is a really tough problem in the Palisades and everywhere throughout the city. There are no easy answers on the homeless. We have to find ways to take care of them and be respectful.

But at the same time, we don’t want anybody loitering on the property or causing any problems. We have to deal with it in a way that is respectful but also protects our guests at the property.

Gavin: Who is your role model?

Caruso: My role model was always my dad and he still is. My dad is 94 years old and I look up to him and I love him dearly.

Gavin: What was your first job?

Caruso: My first job was in high school washing cars at a car rental company.

Gavin: What are your hobbies when you are not working?

Caruso: My favorite thing to do when I’m not working is to be with my family. I love being with my kids. I’m with my kids and my wife all the time. I love playing tennis. I have buddies I play tennis with every Saturday. And I like just hanging out and being with my friends.

Gavin: When will the project be done?

Caruso: I’m hoping that we are going to be done if not at the end of 2017 then in 2018. It really depends on when we are allowed to get started.

Gavin: Is there anything my friends and I can do to help with the project?

Caruso: Yes. I want to hear what stores and restaurants you would like to see in the Village.

To my friends and fellow kids in the neighborhood, please email your suggestions to me at askpalikids@gmail.com. If you don’t have email tell your mom or dad and have them email me your ideas.

Related story:

Jr. Reporter Gavin Alexander Attends the Caruso Appeal Hearing

Julia Louis-Dreyfus Talks ‘Seinfeld,’ ‘Veep’ at ‘Hollywood Masters’ Conversation at LMU

By MICHAEL AUSHENKER | Contributing Writer

She wowed us as the precocious but overall charming Elaine Benes on the classic sitcom “Seinfeld.” She was the titular divorcée in “The New Adventures of Old Christine” and she’s currently straight killin’ it as President Selina Meyer on “Veep.”

Like Elaine’s awkward dance moves, critics have stuck their thumbs way up for multiple Emmy- and Golden Globes-winning actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

Now Loyola Marymount University School of Film & Television has singled out the Palisadian as a “Hollywood Master.”

At the season-closing installment of “Hollywood Masters,” the youthful, petite Louis-Dreyfus blended in among the LMU students. The April 6 conversation featured a career-overview moderated by Hollywood Reporter Senior Editor Stephen Galloway and clips from key performances, including the acclaimed indie film “Enough Said.”

Louis-Dreyfus discussed “dialing down” her acting in scenes with James Gandolfini for the 2013 dramedy. She enjoyed working with Gandolfini—whose professional insecurities post-“Sopranos” boggled her. “He wasn’t that confident in his acting,” she said.

Before she was famous, Louis-Dreyfus had a tiny part in Woody Allen’s 1986 Oscar-winner “Hannah & Her Sisters.” She recalled repeatedly flubbing a scene.

The screw-up, however, didn’t discourage Allen from employing her in 1997’s “Deconstructing Harry.” She said that while making “Harry,” she was too in awe of Allen to ask if he remembered her “Hannah” bungling.

Louis-Dreyfus recounted her childhood, moving from New York to Sri Lanka to Washington, D.C., and later attending Northwestern University where she pursued improv comedy.

At 21, her life changed one night when a “Saturday Night Live” producer was in the audience watching one of the Chicago comedy troupes she belonged to. Her future husband of 29 years Brad Hall was also a member of the troupe. To their shock, she and her colleagues were offered “SNL” jobs.

What appeared to be a dream come true for the girl who idolized Gilda Radner as a teen quickly soured. “It was very misogynistic,” she recalled. “There were also a lot of drugs going on.”

She commiserated with one of the show’s writers whose material was equally shunned. “He couldn’t get a sketch on the air,” she said.

That person  was future “Seinfeld” creator and erstwhile Palisadian Larry David.

Years later, as NBC was seriously considering airing David’s Jerry Seinfeld vehicle, the network insisted on a female character. The rest is history.

Of course, “Seinfeld” remains the crown jewel of her career. By the time the show ended after nine seasons, “I was sort of done with it,” said Louis-Dreyfus, who wanted to raise her kids.

She recounted how co-stars Seinfeld, Jason Alexander and former Palisadian Michael Richards broke down crying before the final episode. Seinfeld wept saying how this series would forever link the four of them, she said.

HBO’s “Veep” doesn’t emulate any presidential administration. Yet life seems to be imitating the show’s over-the-top art. “When we started out, it was satire and now we look at it as a sober documentary,” she deadpanned.

While Louis-Dreyfus didn’t name-drop her Pacific Palisades community, the actress alluded to her longtime home while sharing how she almost stepped on a rattlesnake while hiking.

Galloway pressed her for where this happened. Her response: “Will Rogers.”

LA Times Film Critic Shares Insight at Library Event

By DAYNA DRUM | Reporter

Film lovers and amateur critics gathered at the Palisades Branch Library on Thursday, April 7 to hear from Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan.

Turan discussed his most recent book, “Not to be Missed: Fifty-Four Favorites From a Lifetime of Film,” and took questions from the nearly full audience about his career, the book and, of course, films.

Kenneth Turan, former LA Times film critic, speaks at the Palisades Library on April 7. Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

Kenneth Turan, LA Times film critic, speaks at the Palisades Library on April 7.
Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

Beginning with an introduction to the book, Turan explained, “If I was on a desert island with a DVD player, these are the films I would take with me.”

The hardest part of writing the book was narrowing it down to just 54 titles, Turan said. Reading from a portion of the book, he described the process and reminisced on hearing films crying out to be chosen and not left behind.

The number 54 seemed like a reasonable number to Turan, not to mention he liked the alliteration of the F’s. Raised as an Orthodox Jew, Turan only realized later from a conversation with a friend that he unknowingly gravitated to a multiple of 18—a Jewish lucky number known as “Chai.”

Turan’s latest book. Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

Turan’s latest book.
Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

The book lists the films in order of release date rather than a standard ranking system. The 54 consist of many obscure films, not often celebrated or widely known.

When someone in the audience asked how someone becomes a film critic, Turan joked, “Bad career advice.”

Audience questions included many about changes in the film industry and the evolution of movie theaters. One attendee asked the highly disputed question of which should come first, the book or the movie.

Turan responded that he always sees the movie first or else he has the book in his head.

“It’s not fair to the film,” he expanded.

The regeneration of the Bay Theater as a part of Rick Caruso’s Palisades Village project was brought up by an audience member, and Turan shared that he would like to see one film off his list shown once a week in the new theater.

Palisadians Co-Chair 2016 Food Fare on March 3

Palisadians Elisa Marks and Cindy Scheinman are two of the co-chairs for this year’s Planned Parenthood Los Angeles (PPLA) Food Fare, taking place at Barker Hangar on Thursday, March 3. The fundraising food fest will serve up some of the most delectable food and wine from the LA scene.

“Bring your appetite,” Marks told the Palisadian-Post.

Chef Alain Giraud of Maison Giraud, at the 2015 Food Fare, will return this year. Photo: Michael Aushenker

Chef Alain Giraud of Maison Giraud, at the 2015 Food Fare, will return this year.
Photo: Michael Aushenker

Food Fare is known for challenging over 100 chefs (including Alain Giraud of Maison Giraud), restaurants and caterers to bring their A-game in epicurean categories such as comfort, fusion, desserts, ethnic and more.

New participants this year include Akasha, Mud Hen Tavern and Girasol. Among the eateries returning from last year are Lucques, Clementine and Avara Thai Cuisine. Wash it all down with coffee, beer, wine and spirits.

The early session is 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; evening session 6:30-9:30 p.m. with a VIP reception from 5:30-6:30 p.m. For more information, visit pplafoodfare.com or call 213-284-3300. Barker Hangar is located at 3021 Airport Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90405.

—FRANCES SHARPE

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