If you wanted to find the cream of the L.A. tech community a couple of weeks ago, you didn't need to look farther than Austin, Texas?

That's where upwards of 50 local tech people including Andrew Warner of Mixergy.com, Paige Craig of Lincoln Group, Mike Prasad of GirlGamer, Sean and Laurie Percival of Lalawag, and Nicole Jordan of Rubicon Project were for South by Southwest 2009, a megafestival presenting the latest in music, film and new media.

Besides networking with fellow tech people from New York and Silicon Valley, the L.A. contingent hosted a barbecue at an Austin ranch house that was attended by peers from New Orleans.

"It was one huge tech love-fest," said Jordan, communications director for Santa Monica-based Rubicon.

The CIA Wants You

When USC student Michelle Mark heard that her marketing class would create a recruitment campaign for the Central Intelligence Agency, it made her feel uncomfortable.

"Most people's impressions of the CIA are all from Hollywood," she said. "When I first heard about the project, I thought of debonair agents and lots of government red tape. But when we met with agents, I realized they are real people with real families."

What's more, the agency is one of the few organizations actively seeking employees in a dismal labor market. The class organized an event at USC for April 7 titled Around the World With the CIA.

And what about Mark's discomfort?

"Now I'm nervous," she said, but for a different reason than her initial discomfort. "It's up to our class to deliver for the client. It's the first time I haven't thought about a grade because we have a real client counting on us."

Getting Hairy

Chris Willson-White and his wife, Sandy, will be shaving their heads this week for the seventh year in a row. At least 23 friends will be shaving theirs as well.

It's all part of an annual event at Redondo Beach's Riviera Mexican Grill sponsored by a non-profit called St. Baldrick's and organized by Chris Willson-White, 61, who retired last year as senior vice president of international marketing for Mattel. The ritual sacrifice, he said, will be made to raise money for pediatric cancer research in honor of the couple's 5-year-old son, Zack, who died of the disease in 1994.

The mass shearing will be anything but somber, however.

"We have a barber on hand," he said. "Basically we bring in the victims two by two and a good time is had by all."

The event, in which shorn participants persuade sponsors to reward their bare-headed audacity with contributions, raised about $89,000 last year. Because of the bad economy, Willson-White predicted that this year's scissor-fest may bring in less but is still likely to be a great party.

"There are normally 200 people standing around drinking margaritas and having fun," he said.

"Usually we get our hair back in a couple of months" though his personal waiting period has lessened considerably. "I have a lot less hair to grow back these days than I used to," Willson-White explained.

Staff reporters Charles Proctor, David Haldane and Joel Russell contributed to this column. Page 3 is compiled by editor Charles Crumpley. He can be reached at ccrumpley@labusinessjournal.com.

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