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Can you say ‘coattails’?

It was billed as the 1997 Los Angeles Technology Venture Forum, a once-a-year chance for 20 or so local technology firms to show their stuff to a room full of well-heeled venture capitalists.

Compared to their Silicon Valley brethren., L.A. firms are kindergartners when it comes to venture funding. So it was more than a little surprising to find Vision Information Systems of Palo Alto pitching at the forum for cash to market its 3-D software.

Explanation?

Northern California candidates attract more notice from investors than L.A. firms do. If more investors come to the event everybody wins, said Brent Rider, chairman of the Southland Venture Alliance. Also, he added, “We picked the (companies) most likely to succeed. We want a good track record ourselves.”

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Seems everyone is trying to cash in on volcano-themed entertainment lately Universal Pictures with its “Dante’s Peak” movie, 20th Century Fox with its soon-to-be-released “Volcano” flick, and Sears Roebuck & Co. with its “A Raging Volcano Goddess” production.

Yes, Sears.

The retailer best known for such down-to-earth products as Craftsman tools and Kenmore appliances has gone Hollywood, sort of.

Sears is sponsoring the one-woman show, “A Raging Volcano Goddess,” opening March 17 at The Hudson Theater in Hollywood. Promising part comedy, part Chekhov, the show is about tragedy and survival.

Sears has decided to get active in sponsoring artistic programs in local communities, and “Goddess” is its first “grass-roots” (small-time?) sponsorship. Sears has already sponsored big-time shows; it’s currently sponsoring Gloria Estefan and has sponsored Phil Collins and a circus.

Power lunching

California Gov. Pete Wilson and former Gov. George Deukmejian were spotted together last week at the venerable California Club in downtown L.A., the bluest of blue-blooded venues in the city.

It seems the two were enjoying a lunch together, in what representatives of the two characterized as a purely “personal” luncheon.

“They’ve been friends for years,” says Wilson spokesman Ron Low, adding that the governor and former governor have known each other since the days when Deukmejian was California attorney general and Wilson was mayor of San Diego.

The two men talk to each other periodically, says Low, though more of their meetings occur by chance, at political events, rather than at scheduled lunches such as the one last week.

So what do two political giants talk about over lunch?

“They talk about policy, about California, about personal affairs,” says Low.

Terms of endearment

In an effort to attract first-timers and boost repeat sales, Los Angeles-based Princess Cruises is hawking a Love Boat Loan. For just pennies a day, the company says, almost anyone can afford a romantic trip on an ocean liner.

“(Our) real competition is with all the other businesses seeking a consumer’s discretionary dollars big-screen TV companies, personal computer manufacturers, stereo equipment makers, refrigerator and washing machine companies, even automakers,” said the cruise line’s President Peter Ratcliffe.

So like those retailers, the cruise line has decided to offer easy financing. For the price of a fast-food lunch or about $6 a day a couple could finance an 18-day African safari cruise tour. Of course, that’s a fast-food lunch every day of the week for the next three years.

“We know that the key issue for consumers today is affordability,” Ratcliffe said. “The Love Boat Loan addresses this head-on.”

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