The Business Journal's weekly Interview feature continued to capture the interesting, as well as the unlikely, in 2005. What follows is a snapshot of the past year's give and take.


Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Linda Lefkowitz on violence at courthouses: "This is a very volatile population, and many of them are very angry when they get here and very angry when they leave. We deal with people who are at the end of their ropes. I see a lot of people who have a range of mental problems when they come in here in the morning."


Apparel industry consultant Kenneth Wengrod on high-priced jeans: "It wouldn't surprise me if people are willing to pay $1,000 or more. Really, I think they definitely have a ways to go. There is a lot of money in this consumption market and people are willing to spend."


AIG Retirement Services head Jay Wintrob on what happens when investments don't go well: "One of the philosophies we've got around here is you need to be confident about making mistakes. Look at baseball. If you could bat .400 that's hitting four out of every 10 at bats you're a star player. I always thought if you could make six or seven great decisions out of 10, you shouldn't be ashamed of the two or three that didn't work. The easiest way to avoid a mistake is to not do anything very interesting."


International Medical Corps CEO Nancy Aossey on the best and worst of the human condition: "I've seen some very horrific stuff. In Somalia, security was so bad we actually had to have armed guards. There was this really nice, nice man who we worked with, his name was Jackson. We were at the airport. He came to watch us load up the airplane, and all of a sudden we hear these gunshots. I looked up and watched him die. A guy came up behind him with an AK-47 and shot him four times in the back. It was some kind of a blood feud."


Arden Realty Inc. Chairman Richard S. Ziman on graduating from USC but having a school named after him at UCLA: "I had a terrible experience with a professor in law school at USC. He tried to flunk me. He tried hard to flunk me. I went to the dean at the end of my first semester and told him the guy was terrible. They wouldn't do anything about it. He's still there."


Television executive Paul Jackson on the difference between American and British audiences: "The only generic term I can give you is sensibility. I think the American audience's level of interest with minor celebrities is much less than the U.K.'s. They don't enjoy the same sense of irony about those celebrities that the U.K. does. The U.K audience is actually interested in minor celebrities and loves you to make them look stupid."


L.A. City Councilman Greig Smith on getting involved with police work: "My wife and I witnessed a murder. We were coming out of a movie rental place and it was a road-rage situation, and there was a gun battle, and a kid got killed and his brother went to the hospital and almost died. There was an altercation going on in the parking lot about 25 feet away between a car full of young guys and two kids on motorcycles. The brothers were deaf-mute and the kids from the car were yelling at them, and they couldn't respond. As I was walking over to check it out, one of the kids pulled out a gun and shot the brothers. For me, it was just like a light bulb went off, while I was sitting down with the detectives and going over the crime. My wife had reservations about me going on patrol as a reservist she still does."


Former Los Angeles Times editorial and opinion editor Michael Kinsley on the Internet replacing newspapers as a primary news source: "There is something big going on and we don't quite know what. I don't think newspapers as they exist now are going to be here as they are now. Newspapers as institutions are going to continue in some form, but I find it hard to believe that in 10 years you're going to have trucks delivering huge rolls of newsprint around and have presses turn them into huge printed pieces of newspaper and trucked to houses all over Southern California."


Anti-tax advocate Joel Fox on whether Proposition 13 should be scrapped or tinkered with: "Proposition 13 is not ruining the state's finances or the state economy. The only thing I would change is some of what the Legislature did after Proposition 13 passed namely, taking some tax collection power away from the local governments and pushing it up to Sacramento. I want to see some of that power restored to local governments."


Restaurant designer Thomas Schoos on local tastes: "L.A. is very conservative. It is very beige, and I think life is too short to be quiet. As a designer, you should be flamboyant; you should be able to hang a purple cow from the ceiling. For instance, at the Huntley Hotel, I dropped African fertility stools in the middle of the lobby. People said, 'Oh, you cannot do it.' Did you know that everybody looks at them, and then they go closer, and then they go closer, and then they talk about it."


L.A. union leader Maria Elena Durazo on growing up as a migrant farm worker: "I'm number seven in the family of 11 children. Both my parents were born in Mexico. Each one of us was born in a different town. We went to two or three different schools or we had to leave early at the end of the year, depending on the crops. So we didn't grow up with a group of friends that we knew through the years. It wasn't until I was about 12 or 13 that we settled down in Fresno."


Aerospace executive William Ballhaus on the second shuttle disaster in 2003: "It reaffirms a few things about the importance of attention to detail and quality and not letting unresolved problems go unaddressed. And making sure you're not operating outside your certifications. The shuttle wasn't certified to take a hit from flying debris. We never thought that debris could be a problem. Now we know that's false. The striking thing to me about the investigation was that it said this was nobody's fault and that there is no clear accountability."


City National Chief Investment Officer Richard Weiss on being in front of an audience: "I still get nervous before speeches. I can't eat before them. But I eat a lot afterward. Let's face it, all else equal, investments and the economy and economists in general are pretty dull. It's a dull topic with dull-speaking people. If you inject just a little humor into a presentation, you make it more accessible and more appealing."


StreamCast Networks CEO Michael Weiss on free music online: "For decades, consumers have been getting music for free over the radio, and it has helped fuel record sales, build careers for performers and has helped sell lots and lots of tickets. That's a good thing. If peer-to-peer is today's radio, it could be used to give the same value that artists and copyright holders get for radio now."


Former Gov. Pete Wilson on why state Republicans continue to have problems finding strong candidates: "The last two gubernatorial races were frankly very bad campaigns. They made a lot of mistakes. (Dan) Lungren never had a clear message, and he failed to take advantage of an opportunity to go after (Gray) Davis on educational issues. He spent most of the time talking about crime, which was not really the issue in that campaign. The next time, Bill Simon, who was a novice, made almost every mistake in the book, including some of which were hard to conceive of. They're both decent, good men. But they were not good campaigners."


Kor Hotel Group executive John Arnett on his first job out of college: "I went to work for Hyatt Hotels. I started out as a corporate management trainee. They assigned me to a hotel in Washington D.C., a big 350-room hotel. I was so excited I drove all night to get there. It struck me as odd when I drove up, and the driveway was dirt, and the asphalt hadn't been poured. I got to the front door, there was a tarp. The hotel wasn't open. I spent the first few months just unloading tractor trailers."


Real estate developer Jerry Snyder on hitting rock bottom: "Oh, I think 1991 was the lowest I sunk. That recession was terrible. It felt like it would never end. I made some guarantees I never should have made, and got myself into a couple of deals that worked out badly. Suicide felt like an option. On one project in the Marina, I had to declare bankruptcy because the lender wouldn't restructure my loan. It took me eight to 10 years, but eventually I was able to make everything right."


Political insider Bill Chadwick on whether he would ever run for public office: "No way, never. The problem is I'm not very interested in other people's opinions. If you're not saying what I think, then I think you're wrong, because I am right. I am interested in public service and giving back. I would want to be Treasury Secretary or something like that."


*Contributors to this page: Amanda Bronstad, Rachel Brown, Kate Berry, Laurence Darmiento, Matt Myerhoff, James Nash, Howard Fine, David Greenberg, Andy Fixmer, Hilary Potkewitz and Aarthi Sivaraman.

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