LABJ's LA Stories

Pirate Fighter

What do you get when you cross a cop with a computer programmer and movie buff?

Answer: Someone who could get a job at the Motion Picture Association of America, the movie industry trade group.

As the MPAA gears up to go after illegal movie downloaders, it's hiring for a growing piracy investigation team that will work out of Encino. The latest posting: Internet investigations manager. Be warned: tech novices need not apply.

The ad asks for someone with law enforcement experience and an extensive understanding of Windows, Linux and other operating systems.

"Well, the posting is the dream person," said Matthew Grossman, director of digital strategy and corporate communications at the MPAA.

The MPAA said it doesn't have specific plans to sue anyone for illegally downloading movies. But lawsuits could come soon: Grossman was asked when the MPAA hopes to hire someone for the new position. "Last week," he answered.

Andrew Simons

In the Spotlight

Usually, the Spotlight Awards honor Southern California high school students' artistic achievements. At this year's Dorothy Chandler Pavilion ceremony, they did that, and honored a former presenter, too.

The late John Ritter was the subject of a film clip tribute that showed him in his familiar self-deprecation and pratfalls throughout his career, from an appearance on "The Dating Game" to his final role as the father in "Eight Simple Rules for Dating My Daughter." The actor died of a heart ailment last year.

In a film clip, he discussed how he'd been asked to present at the Spotlight Awards without knowing what they were, then became a supporter of the Music Center program. This year's presenters were two actors from the TV series "Joan of Arcadia," Mary Steenbergen and Jason Ritter, John's son.

Among the judges were Kevin Eubanks and George Duke, on the jazz panel. Liza Minelli attended with a friend, non-classical voice judge Sam Harris.

Steve Silkin

Gatorade Gratitude

The story of 5-year-old Ruby Bustamante, who survived 10 days in a car at the bottom of a Riverside County ravine by drinking Gatorade, won't become part of the product's lore.

"We're very thankful that we were there to help save this girl's life after a terrible tragedy," said Andy Horrow, spokesman for Chicago-based Gatorade, a division of Pepsico Beverages & Foods. The crash killed the girl's mother.

"It's a silver lining to a tragic event, but that said, we would never attempt to capitalize on this occurrence. I'm not sure there's anything we could do to ease this girl's pain and suffering," he said.

Horrow said that if the company had any contact with the family for charitable purposes, it would not be made public.

"We would never market to this. It's in terrible taste. It's completely inappropriate," he said. "Anything we're doing, anything we would do, is something that would be kept very private."

Steve Silkin

Pitch Man

How did Eric Gagn & #233; become the first closer in baseball history to go a complete season without blowing a save? Well, maybe Farmer John had something to do with it.

Last year, the sausage company donated $500 to UCLA Children's Hospital every time the pitcher stepped in for at least three innings and maintained a narrow lead.

"That was something that was important to him," said John Olguin, the Dodgers' director of public relations. "Hopefully it did have something to do with it. He's been phenomenal. And Children's Hospital got more than $25,000."

The company has continued the pledge into this season, too. By last week, he had already extended the streak by five games, to total 68.

Gagn & #233; has visited kids in treatment at UCLA, and donated half of his $20,000 award for being the Major League Players Association Pitcher of the Year to the university hospital, Olguin said, with the other half went to a charity in his native Canada.

Steve Silkin

The Roving Eye

Freeing Young Minds

Cleaning up the beach or enrolling in boot camp might teach discipline to teens convicted of minor misdemeanors, but one local judge thinks a little creative inspiration might do the trick.

Since 1996, Pamela Davis, a referee in Los Angeles Superior Court's "informal" juvenile court in Santa Monica, has sentenced a handful of her young convicts to an after-school program that teaches them how to write a play, stage choreography and take photographs. The five-month program, one of several operated and funded by Inside Out Community Arts, takes about 25 kids at a time who range in age from 11 to 14.

Founded by two actors, with funds primarily from foundations and corporate donations, Inside Out holds workshops once or twice a week in which four professional artists introduce kids to the arts and have them put on their own play, said Camille Ameen, co-founder and co-director of Inside Out. "They write the plays, they paint their set pieces, and they perform them," she said.

Davis, who hears about 50 cases each day, said she selects kids for the program who are first-time offenders of non-violent crimes, such as truancy and petty theft, and who may live near Inside Out's Venice headquarters.

"If a person can find an outlet to express himself or herself, and express feelings and connect with others, and not feel so angry and stifled, a lot of times that helps the kids become freer and on the right track," Davis said.

Inside Out will recognize Davis with its Civic Leadership Award at its April 29 fundraising dinner.

Amanda Bronstad

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