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Thursday, Jun 8, 2023

PEOPLE – A Few Words to Live By

PEOPLE – A Few Words to Live By

From start-ups to corporate boardrooms, government to the arts, an individual perspective on L.A. business

People do say the darndest things. Each week, the Business Journal’s Interview page profiles a prominent person who either is in the news or just has an interesting story to tell. We’ve spoken to politicians, entrepreneurs, lawyers, doctors, bureaucrats, producers, federal agents and even the Lakers broadcast analyst. Sometimes, they’re guarded; sometimes, they’re full of surprises. What follows is a snapshot of the past year’s interviews.

Mark Lacter

Defense attorney Harland Braun on what he likes about the job: “It’s really human. You see people at their best and at their worst. You see the complexity of who is telling the truth and who is lying. You see people who’ve made serious mistakes. You see the worst of human nature and the best. And the worst is sometimes the judges, not the clients. Some have a vicious streak in them. They like the power of inflicting pain on people.”

Former District Attorney Gil Garcetti on feeling punch-drunk after losing re-election: “I may not have realized it, but yes, I probably was. I don’t know if it was destiny or just a bad draw of the cards to get a string of cases like I did in those eight years. My biggest disappointments were just personal disappointments about people so-called friends who turn on you.”

Lakers broadcast analyst Stu Lantz on million-dollar player salaries: “The public feels like that if you are playing a game you’re more than happy to take whatever is being offered you. But it is a business from both sides. If you don’t produce, you’re out the door. The life span of a professional sports athlete is not that great. We live in a supply and demand market and they’ve got something that’s in demand so they should be able to get as much as they can.”

Inglewood Mayor Roosevelt Dorn on changing the city’s high-crime image: “(If) you drive through Inglewood, you are not going to see graffiti. If you call graffiti in before the end of the day, it is gone the next day. You can look at our streets and see that they are resurfaced. You drive through the residential areas, you will see trimmed lawns. That is how we show the city is doing well.”

Adelphia cable executive Bill Rosendahl on why the public affairs shows he hosts are important: “Half the American people don’t participate (in voting) and one of the reasons they don’t is the irresponsible media that we have. It’s sound-bite journalism. It’s ‘gotcha’ kind of television. It’s dumbing down and the only way you’re going to get the voter turnout that we should have is to help people connect to the issues of the day.”

KNBC General Manager Paula Madison on whether ratings drive news coverage: “Ratings can be an indication of viewers’ satisfaction with what you’ve produced. But it’s not as simple as that because sometimes the vote can be for the wrong reason.”

White collar defense attorney Jan Handzlik on Congress beefing up corporate malfeasance laws: “I think it’s window-dressing and silly. The (existing) laws on mail fraud, wire fraud and securities fraud carried substantial penalties. It may make the American public feel good and may give the impression that Congress is doing something significant, but it doesn’t mean anything. The fact that many of the new requirements are being placed on corporate directors and CEOs is very troubling. It’s usually not the responsibility of the CEO to roll up his sleeves and make sure every entry in the books is correct.”

Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Roy Romer on whether his current job is as challenging as being governor of Colorado: “This job is more difficult than being governor. The politics are more difficult. I was governor for 12 years. I had a legislature that was all Republican (Romer is a Democrat) and I had to work at it, but at least I had the power. Here, the administration of the organization is more challenging. It’s larger than the state of Colorado in terms of size and budget. There’s a fractured quality about this community’s decision-making there’s trouble reaching a consensus.”

Defense Attorney Howard Weitzman on why he went back to law after six years as a corporate executive: “I just got bored. I was an entrepreneur in both spirit and practice from the time I got out of law school. In the large corporate world, decision-making is more difficult because there are a number of constituencies you have to deal with. You have to have more patience than I had, and you have to have the fortitude to be able to play the politics involved in corporate life. And I’m probably not the most political person in the world.”

Investor’s Business Daily Founder William O’Neil on the newspaper’s early days: “We were very na & #271;ve and we didn’t even really realize it was the advertising business so it took us a year or two to figure that out. I hope this doesn’t sound sexist, but we looked around and took all the secretaries and clerks and people that we didn’t have to have upstairs and we put them downstairs in the newspaper and that was our ad/sales department, our circulation department.”

Manatt Phelps & Phillips Managing Partner Paul Irving on why he went into law: “I wanted to work with smart people and be in a challenging and changing environment. I didn’t have a lot of role models in law, so I didn’t have a specific sense of what I was getting into. Sometimes it’s frustrating, and sometimes it’s really boring. But I like being in an atmosphere of change, being in a job that’s really stimulating.”

Former Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg on first learning of Enron’s collapse: “I remember the arrogance. I’ve met Ken Lay many times, talked to him many times. A very affable fellow, but (he had) this arrogance about the free (power) market.”

Internet pioneer Sky Dayton on how he got his name: “Very artistic parents in 1971. New York City. Greenwich Village. My father’s a sculptor. My mother’s a poet. It was a little bit of a battle between Sky and Dylan not after the singer but after the poet. My mom wanted Dylan and my dad wanted Sky and they flipped a coin.”

Architect Thom Mayne on Los Angeles: “We live in a city with multiple centers. You couldn’t possibly think about it like you could think about Paris or Madrid, where there’s the cultural and social hub of the complete city. L.A. is unknowable. It’s changing faster than you can absorb it. Nobody even knows how many people are here it’s getting close to Sao Paolo or Mexico City. It’s so enigmatic, and it’s amazingly ugly, and it’s annoying in its lack of resolve or logic.”

Attorney Kenneth Klee on whether there’s abuse of the bankruptcy code: “You see a few cases where a high-profile movie star or athlete or politician files for bankruptcy and comes out with a mansion in Florida or Texas. It’s the cases of the rich and famous that get the attention. But most people who file are unwed mothers, people who have medical situations, people who have lost their jobs, had a spouse die, been divorced.”

L.A. City Councilwoman Wendy Greuel on meeting her husband: “I first met Dean at one of my campaign events. His courtship was precinct walking and fundraising for me. We figured if we could make it through the campaign we could probably do anything in life together.”

Political consultant Harvey Englander on how campaigns have changed: “Before Watergate, when a candidate ran an ad, it usually focused on the qualities that he or occasionally she would bring to the office. Then it became ‘What I would do if elected, and, oh, by the way, my opponent is bad.’ Now, it’s simply, ‘My opponent is bad.'”

Laemmle Theatres owner Robert Laemmle on how he selects movies: “I go to the Telluride Film Festival every year. That’s my favorite festival. I ended up seeing ‘Frida’ there. I saw probably another dozen films there we will play. There’s a variety of things. I see about 250 movies a year.”

99 Cents Only Store Chairman David Gold on items that sold badly: “We bought sleeves, just plain sleeves that were not with anything else. You could zip them onto your jacket, but you had to have a jacket they could zip on to. Eventually, they sold to roofers, who bought them so they wouldn’t get sunburned. That was about two years after we had them.”

Internet business consultant Marty Pichinson on why the good Web ideas fail: “We had one client that went through $50 million. We asked them if their plan was going to work and they said, ‘Absolutely.’ ‘Have you surveyed any of your potential customers?’ ‘Oh no. We don’t want to tell anyone what we’re doing until we’re ready.'”

L.A. County Department of Health Services Director Dr. Thomas Garthwaite on the U.S. healthcare system: “The fact that 40 million people don’t have insurance doesn’t bother us enough to demand something be done about it. We are spending 14 percent of our gross domestic product. I truly believe we are spending enough on health care. The challenge will be to change the incentives and move some of the money around.”

Fox Sports Net President Tracy Dolgin on the network’s “The Best Damn Sports Show, Period” appealing to the lowest common denominator: “That’s the TV business, isn’t it? It goes back to my overriding philosophy: I would rather produce a show that is the favorite show for a percentage of the audience than being just an OK show for the entire audience.”

Bar operator Rande Gerber on how business is holding up: “Actually, it’s pretty good despite the economy. When times are good, people drink. And when times are bad, sometimes people drink more. Right after Sept. 11, our business dropped 10 or 15 percent. But three months later it started right up again.”

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