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Wednesday, Feb 1, 2023

L.A. Stories

Creative Juices

Their Bush vs. Kerry cartoon satire put them on the map last year, and now Gregg and Evan Spiridellis have money in their pockets, thanks to beer giant Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc.

The Spiridellis brothers’ Santa Monica-based JibJab Media has signed a contract with Budweiser to create multiple spots, mostly for online viewing. The first short piece is now available online, with a longer form creation on the way within the next few weeks.

JibJab has been approached by at least six Fortune 500 companies to do corporate advertising, but the brothers chose Budweiser because of its reputation for originality.

Budweiser executives were originally drawn to the brothers’ ability to reach the key audience of 21- to 27-year-olds. Details of the agreement have not been disclosed, but the Spiridellis brothers “have an endless supply of beer,” according to Budweiser Brand Manager Bob Scheetz.

Spencer Kallick

Locals Only

Next to its counterparts in the music downloading industry, Fonogenic Digital Sounds is tiny. While Napster and iTunes each have a catalog of over one million songs, Fonogenic’s Digital Sounds Boutique offers the songs of only 30 singers and groups. Each song can be downloaded for 99 cents.

“What makes us different is that we try to have a direct relationship with the artist. We’re going to hand pick the music and decide whether we feel that it is worth selling,” said Tal Pink, founder of Van Nuys-based Fonogenic.

Pink said there are no specific genre labels to define their music selection but much of the music has a rock/pop sound. Many of the artists on the site are local bands that play at venues such as Spaceland, the Viper Room, and Hotel Caf & #233;.

Fonogenic got started last year when a small community of artists including Pink and his band Remote tried to find a way to market their music. The company also represents artists for film, television, video games, and other media.

Sarah Filus

An Activist Passes

Virginia Charon, who helped lead the battle against graffiti, drugs, and prostitution in her Hollywood neighborhood, died recently at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. She was 85.

“She fought for the people, for their properties, for their rights,” said her niece, Mary Ann Ward.

Charon moved to Hollywood in the 1940s and worked at the Pig ‘n’ Whistle, Dodger Stadium, and the commissary at Universal Studios.

In 1989, she founded a neighborhood watch group called the Cherokee Sentinels to remove graffiti and battle street prostitution. “The police gave them the walkie-talkies and they used her house as the base station,” Ward said.

Charon also led the Hollywood participation in National Night Out, an event meant to fight crime by having residents march in groups through their neighborhoods. In 1997, Charon was recognized by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce in its annual Women of Distinction Awards.

“She’s probably the 2 percent of the people in the world who said ‘This isn’t right,’ and then actually did something about it,” Ward said.

Sarah Filus

Gaming Out

Ron Rosenberg said his new Arena Lounge in West L.A. is this generation’s bowling alley, or even pool hall, although video arcade might be a closer fit.

Gamers can sit in sofas with built-in speakers and choose from a wide variety of video games to play or buy. Arena Lounge also has “game sommeliers” offering instructions and advice to novices. “During the week we do leagues,” said the 26-year-old. “On the week ends we want to see guys taking girls on dates.”

There have been several examples of interactive gaming lounges, but not enough to produce a significant trend, said Christopher Swain, professor of interactive media at USC and co-director of the EA Game Innovation Lab. Walt Disney Co. and Dreamworks SKG have re-created the virtual theme park experience in malls, and he has seen bars offering video game tournaments and interactive features, like video cameras focused on different tables and people.

But the combination of a bar and interactive gaming without a cover charge isn’t common.

Katherine Gray

Good Looks

Don’t like what’s on TV anymore? Maybe it’ll look better on one of these sets.

Taiwan-based company Hannspree is introducing its new line of designer television sets that come in three themes sports, fantasy, and style among more than 100 models. These include sets with the look and feel of real baseballs (complete with the required 108 stitches), plush cows, and even a bag of fries. (The remote for that one looks like a packet of ketchup.)

“Each of these sets was a distinct design challenge on all levels to produce,” said Michael Galvin, brand manager for Hannspree. The company hired design firms such as Frog and Ido to create TV sets for many different tastes.

Yu-Chi Chiao, chairman of the Chinese LCD screen manufacturing company HannStar, came up with the idea when he decided to make a TV that he thought would allow people to express themselves through their choice of design.

“When component audio systems became popular in the ’60s, everyone started using the look of gray, black, and silver,” said Galvin. “Chiao thought it didn’t have to be that way.”

Katherine Gray


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