Our Creative Corridor to a Stronger Economy

Last spring, on a local campaign stop, Mayor Eric Garcetti was asked for ideas on boosting San Pedro’s economy. He cited the usual harbor-related stuff you’d expect, but then he added another point that pleasantly surprised me; make San Pedro one of the creative corridors that exist in Los Angeles.

It shouldn’t have surprised me. According to the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Business Policy – “The creative industries are a major player in the regional economy, generating more than 640,000 jobs and over $200 billion in annual sales revenue.” Being creative is big business in L.A. and San Pedro has many of the necessary elements to be poised for making good on the mayor’s idea.

Much of the talent is already here. As a local filmmaker, I’ve personally collaborated on numerous projects with San Pedrans. As a matter of fact, I’m even developing a TV idea with San Pedro Today’s own Joshua Stecker (how many of you knew Joshua freelances for entertainment publications such as The Hollywood Reporter?) Our partner, Matt Misetich, manages Script Pipeline, a company that discovers and connects writers from all over the nation with Hollywood’s top producers and managers.

My greatest local collaboration to date was with San Pedran, Chris Burke, and his partner, Jared Cotton, on Bloody Thursday, a PBS documentary film that chronicles how West Coast longshoremen fought to win the ILWU. The film garnered us an Emmy, which has allowed us to go on and do numerous other projects.

It’s probably apropos that my first meeting with Chris was at San Pedro Brewing Co. because he and Jared just premiered a show called Brew Dogs for the new Esquire Network about a pair of hilarious Scottish brewers that travel America in search of great craft beer. And SPBC is at the center of numerous scenes in my documentary, A City Divided, about the USC vs. UCLA football rivalry, which premieres on Fox Sports in November. (And btw, Misetich has an office above SPBC, which seems to be fast becoming the center of the creative universe).

A great thrill in making Bloody Thursday was having a song in the film performed by Mike Watt. Ask almost any alt-rocker about San Pedro and they’ll tell you that it’s Watt’s hometown. Watt, the bassist in Iggy and the Stooges, was in the Minutemen, a seminal punk band at the forefront of a rock revolution that allowed musicians to control their own career fate with a do it yourself (DIY) ethos, which exists to this day. In fact, San Pedro’s Recess Records, headed by Todd Congelliere, has for over 15 years kept our town on the punk map with its DIY approach to promoting music.

However, punk isn’t the only form of music that’s emerged from San Pedro. For example, 2003 SPHS grads proudly watched the Grammys last February as one of their classmates took home a trophy. San Pedro’s Miguel Pimental won a Grammy for Best R&B Song, “Adorn,” and electrified the audience when he performed the song in a live duet with Wiz Khalifa.

In addition to all of the great talent that’s already here, I’m also heartened by the numerous opportunities that exist for local youth to help build our creative corridor. Marymount is constructing a state of the art production facility on 6th Street that will attract film students from all over the world. The Boys & Girls Club features an amazing studio that allows its members to record music, shoot short films, and create animation and 3D projects. San Pedro City Ballet nurtures the talents of young dancers and includes prima ballerina Misty Copeland as an alumna. And the Warner Grand Theatre is home to youth theatre company Scalawag Productions and Encore Entertainers.

We often discuss linkage between our downtown and the waterfront as a key factor in a sustainable economic future for San Pedro. I would propose that we also begin to include linkage between our local talent, youth and the creative industries of Los Angeles as a key strategy in developing San Pedro into one of the prosperous creative corridors that make L.A. the entertainment capital of the world. spt

Party Like It’s 1988

Happy 125th Birthday, San Pedro! There’s no way to predict what the next 125 years will bring, but I strongly believe that in the next 25 years we will do much more than in the previous quarter century. And, contrary to some local critics, we’ve come a long way in that time.

Consider this: In 1988, when we celebrated San Pedro’s Centennial, anyone venturing into downtown at night would have found a virtual ghost town, which was considered too dangerous to visit after dark. The only place of note to eat and/or drink at night around this time was Papadakis Taverna.

Everything changed almost immediately after 1988 when Alan Johnson opened John T’s, which was later taken over and changed to the San Pedro Brewing Company by James Brown. Suddenly, young San Pedrans had a downtown place for drinks at night. The crowd soon invaded Tommy’s next door (now Crimsin) and the spark was lit for a downtown scene where one can now eat and drink at numerous locations.

The fact that downtown is a much better nighttime place to visit than it was 25 years ago flies into the face of the nostalgia you often hear from old-timers. True, retail isn’t nearly as strong as it was in the years prior to the opening of malls like Del Amo, but that’s the case in downtowns all across America. And the next 25 years will get better – much better.

Everything starts with the port. There are currently two major developments – AltaSea and Ports O’ Call – that will not only change the face of the waterfront, but all of San Pedro, especially downtown.

AltaSea will greatly expand the current Marine Research Institute by relocating at City Dock 1. The research center, which is a collaborative effort of eleven major universities, including USC and UCLA, will feature seawater labs, classrooms, lecture halls, an interpretive center, and an opportunity to develop the world’s largest seawater wave tank.

A world class research center will drive to San Pedro a large wave of academicians, vendors, businessmen, and professionals that will either work at AltaSea, service its operational requirements, or create business partnerships that leverage the research being done there. The most natural place for these newcomers to locate their offices will be in downtown. And more people in more offices will establish the environment for a better variety of places to eat and drink in downtown… and at Ports O’ Call.

Ports O’ Call will create a waterfront dining and shopping experience that will spark tourism, as has happened in other port towns such as Seattle, Sydney, and Barcelona. However, the key to making our area a regional attraction will be our ability to integrate for visitors a seamless experience where they can traverse between a great waterfront and a vibrant downtown scene.

The reason I was so inspired by the choice of the L.A. Waterfront Alliance as the Ports O’ Call developer is that the team includes Eric and Alan Johnson. The Johnsons own property throughout San Pedro and understand the importance of an integrated plan linking the waterfront and downtown. What other outside waterfront developer would have been such a strong advocate for downtown? Alan has a vision for downtown that includes one-way streets with better parking, enhanced public performance space, wider sidewalks that allow for sidewalk dining, and transforming alleys into pedestrian walkways – much like in Old Town Pasadena (I’d add bringing the Red Car up 6th Street to Centre).

In addition, Alan is on the board of Marymount University and is very active in helping the college establish a film school at the Klaus Center on 6th Street, which could assist in Mayor Garcetti’s idea for making San Pedro one of the city’s entertainment corridors.

It all adds up to a downtown on the upswing… it should be a great quarter century for our town!

Jack Baric can be reached at jackbaric@hotmail.com.

Shooting For A Cause

James Brown and Jack Baric in UCLA Bruin gear.

Yeah, yeah, I know. I’ve got a Bruin jersey on. Blah, blah, blah…

It’s bad enough that UCLA broke USC’s streak of five wins in a row and twelve out of thirteen in the annual football game, but here I am in my hometown magazine being forced to wear the uniform of the enemy of my alma mater. But the reason I’m wearing the jersey shows that we’re really not enemies, just friendly rivals that share a city together.

For the past two years, I have worked on A City Divided, a documentary film about the history of the USC vs. UCLA football rivalry. The film has served as the catalyst for Rivals United for a Kure, a philanthropic campaign by the non-profit, Kure It to raise funds for innovative cancer research projects at the UCLA and USC medical centers.

The culmination of the campaign was a spectacular red carpet premiere of the film at Club Nokia at L.A. Live where Rivals United hosted a charity dinner and screening of A City Divided. Scores of my San Pedro friends and family attended the event, which made it so much more special for me. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to James Brown of the San Pedro Brewing Company for organizing a party bus with dozens of San Pedrans sipping on Bruin Blonde and Trojan Red beers for the ride to L.A. Live.

Maybe part of that debt is paid back in James getting to see me wear the Bruin blue of his alma mater in the magazine. James and I made a friendly wager where the loser in a Rivals United fundraising competition between the two of us would have to take a picture in the other team’s jersey.

A cool side note is that I’m wearing the UCLA jersey of San Pedro High grad, Robbie Franco. Robbie was the L.A. City defensive player of the year while a Pirate and a Bruins walk-on before injuries ended his career. (Okay, not that cool a side note. It’s still a Bruins jersey.)

I’m incredibly proud of the film and the campaign, which to date has raised over $250,000 for cancer research. Rivals United will conclude the campaign in December and you can still go to www.rivalsunitedforakure.org to contribute. Next football season, we will again run the charity campaign, with the culmination being the film’s television broadcast and the DVD release.

The same week that A City Divided had its premiere, another amazing moment occurred that was connected to a film of mine.

Searching for a Storm is a documentary I made in 2009 that detailed the 1991-95 war in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina and the war crimes case of Croatian general, Ante Gotovina. Gotovina is a hero to Croatians for leading the military operation that liberated their nation at the end of the war. However, Gotovina was later indicted as a war criminal for crimes that were alleged during that same operation.

I set out to make a film that chronicled the war and the story of General Gotovina because I felt his indictment was a grave injustice, motivated by political considerations. In 2011, I, as well as many Croatians around the world, was heartbroken when the international war crimes tribunal found General Gotovina guilty and sentenced him to 24 years in prison.

However, on the very same week that A City Divided premiered in Los Angeles, across the globe at The Hague in the Netherlands, a war crimes tribunal overturned General Gotovina’s verdict on appeal, declaring Gotovina was not guilty, and set him free the very same day. The local party here at the Croatian Club in San Pedro was as emotionally an uplifting celebration as I have ever experienced. Everyone felt such great joy that a man who had sacrificed so much in the defense of his nation was able to finally go home.

It was an amazing ending to a great and proud week for me. I am so thankful that I’m able to make films for causes that I believe in. On that note, the next project I am shooting will honor all the various workers on our waterfront, from longshoremen to fishermen, to marine research divers, and more. American Waterfront, made in partnership with PBS SoCal, will showcase the importance of the port to the nation’s economy and how vital it is for our community to keep the great middle-class jobs that are available on the waterfront. Look for the film on PBS around Labor Day 2013. spt

Jack can be reached at jackbaric@hotmail.com

Bruins & Trojans Unite for a Cure

Jack Baric and James Brown showing their respective college pride. (photo by John Mattera)

Although there are multitudes of great places in San Pedro to meet friends, it can be easily argued that the social center of our town is the San Pedro Brewing Company. The conversation at the bar leans pretty heavily toward sports and especially the debate between Bruin and Trojan fans over their teams – this is especially true because Brew Co. owner, James Brown is as proud a UCLA alum as you’ll ever want to meet. It’s why I took such great joy in getting him photographed in this magazine a few years ago wearing the shirt of my alma mater, USC. We made a bet over the annual rivalry football game – the alum whose team lost would have to be photographed in the rival’s shirt. I can’t recall what year JB had to do it, but let’s do some football math – the original version of the publication launched in 2002 and the Trojans won that year and in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 so we know it wasn’t in 2006 because that’s the only year UCLA has won since 1998.

This year the bet returns, but with a twist. First, I must give kudos to UCLA because it’s the first year in a long time that they’re playing exciting football and it’s shaping up to be one of the best rivalry games in ages. However, our bet will be a little different this year. We are competing to see who can raise the most money for cancer research, the San Pedro Bruins vs. the San Pedro Trojans. JB is generously supporting a film and philanthropic project that I’m a part of. I’m making a documentary film called A City Divided about the history of the USC vs. UCLA football rivalry and the film will serve as a catalyst for a campaign called Rivals United for a Kure with proceeds going to Kure It, a non-profit dedicated to cancer research. Kure It will equally donate all its profits from the project to the UCLA and USC cancer research centers.

The campaign’s co-chairmen are former USC All-American quarterback Paul McDonald and former UCLA star quarterback Matt Stevens. Paul and Matt are the radio announcers for USC and UCLA football and have been speaking about the campaign on the air. The message is especially poignant from Matt because he survived a very tough battle with cancer and is an eloquent spokesman. The red carpet premiere for the film will be a Rivals United fundraiser on November 12 at Club Nokia at L.A. Live and JB has agreed to coordinate buses from Brew Co. for the premiere. Tickets for $60 will include a ride on the chartered bus, admission to the screening, and admittance to the after-party, featuring a number of former USC and UCLA players. I’m hoping that all our friends, Bruins and Trojans, are going to show the entire city of L.A. the Pedro spirit that we are so proud of by rocking the balcony that night with loud competing chants of “We are SC” and the UCLA eight clap – and, more importantly, leading the way in stepping up to fight a terrible disease that has touched us all.

Locals that attend the film will see a lot of faces they recognize. Being a born and raised Pedro Boy, I found a way to sneak a lot of locals into the film, including interviews with John Papadakis and JB (he took the role of UCLA pop-off!), cameos from the Bebich brothers, Fong sisters, Michael Varela, Ron Galosic, and a host of kids from some of the following families; Baric (that’s me), Setlich, Pirozzi, Desai, Lusic, Sestich, LaPine, Basich, and Danelo. I’d especially like to thank the Danelo family for allowing me to include the moving story of Mario Danelo, their son/brother – and San Pedro’s friend/star. The tribute to Mario in the film illustrates how we put aside the rivalry and united together as a community to honor a young man when his life tragically ended short. Mario’s brother, Joey (a very devoted Bruin!) is fantastic in the film talking about his brother.

I’ll leave you with our slogan…a city divided becomes a city united as Bruins and Trojans join together to fight cancer. We will unite, we will fight, and we will win. spt

For more info about the non-profit, please visit www.rivalsunitedforakure.org. For more info about the San Pedro Rivals United Challenge and tickets to the premiere, please visit www.sanpedrobrewing.com.

Jack Baric can be contacted at jackbaric@hotmail.com.

A Lifetime in the Making

(photos by John Mattera Photography)

Ryan and Jenna Lusic’s love was a lifetime in the making. Having both come from Croatian families and being raised in San Pedro, Ryan and Jenna grew up knowing each other, and working alongside the other’s family.
The history between their families runs deep, as both of their didas (grandfathers) were involved with the Dalmatian-American Club. Ryan’s dida ran the catering for the club with Jenna’s mom and aunt both waitressing for him. When he passed away, Ryan’s dad and two uncles took over and Jenna, her sister and cousins began work there while Ryan bartended. Likewise, Jenna’s dida was the manager at Glendale Federal Bank where Ryan’s mom worked for many years.

However, it wasn’t until Jenna and Ryan worked together a second time that they realized they wanted more than a friendship.

Jenna, 26, daughter of Tim and Margie Meadows, began working at the Trump National Golf Club when she was 18. Ryan (or “Hatch” – a nickname given by his dad when he was born because of his “hatchet head”), 31, son of Nick and Kris Lusic, began working at Trump when he was 20. But because he is five years older than Jenna, he had already been working at Trump for three years by the time Jenna joined the staff.

The staff would often get together after work to hang out, which resulted in Hatch and Jenna’s friendship blooming into something more. In May 2006, they began dating. As Jenna would puts it, “Everything just fell into place.” So much so, they got their first dog, Bailey, together the very next year. In 2008, they took their relationship to the next level and moved in together. Then came their beautiful daughter Camryn in June 2009, an addition to their lives that brought much joy.

“We knew we did things a little out of order,” admits Jenna. “But to us, we were committed to each other, and marriage wasn’t a big priority at the time.” That is, until Hatch surprised her with a marriage proposal in October 2011.

Here’s how it went down: Hatch and Jenna, as well as all of Hatch’s family, met at Trump’s for dinner, celebrating his sister and brother-in-law’s seven-year wedding anniversary. The setting wasn’t unusual to Jenna as they often went to Trump’s for dinner. Hatch took Camryn to the back to show her off to the cooks (one of which was Jenna’s cousin Matt). This too was not unusual as Hatch still worked at Trump’s and liked to show Camryn off whenever she was around. Five minutes later, Camryn waddled of the kitchen holding a black box. Close behind were Hatch and Matt, who had a dessert platter in his hand. When Matt put the plate down, Jenna read “Will You Marry Me, Jenna?” spelled out in chocolate syrup. Hatch got down on one knee and proposed only to be answered with an exclamatory “YES!”

“Hatch did such a good job of surprising me,” says Jenna. “He really threw me off by using his sister’s anniversary as an excuse and having his whole family there.” It wasn’t long after that they decided to get married on April 14, 2012, a date that has significant meaning as Jenna had to get married on an “even numbered day.”

“I have a weird superstition with even numbers,” she explains. “I was born on February 4, 1986, was one of four kids, and had an even number on my basketball jersey in high school. I’m sure it’s the OCD in me but everything has to be even numbered – even the number of the gas pump I pull up to. So my wedding day was no different.” Not only is April 14 an even date, it’s also Hatch’s birthday, a factor that made the day even more special.


Having grown up in San Pedro, Hatch and Jenna couldn’t imagine celebrating their day anywhere else. Their ceremony, which was at Trump’s, hosted 300 guests and featured numerous meaningful moments, including Hatch walking Camryn down the aisle, something he was adamant about doing knowing he’d only get the chance to do so one other time in his life when she gets married. Then, as Jenna began her walk down the aisle – to the tune of Prince’s “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” – Hatch met her half way, coming to the altar as one. Additionally, their close friend Jason Dorio conducted the ceremony, and Jenna’s grandmother Joann and uncle Mike said a prayer and shared a blessing during the ceremony.

Hatch and Jenna also wanted to include all of their closest relatives and friends within the bridal party. On Jenna’s side were Maid of Honor Andria Kordic (Hatch’s sister) and Bridesmaids Katie Barich, Kelsie Barich, Christina LoGrande, Heather Thomas, Leea Sarmiento, Selena DeHart, Meghan Smith, Krysalynn Brown, Cara Williams, Danielle Herrera, and Breanna Stipicevich. Junior bridesmaid was Karly Kordic, and the flower girls were Camryn Lusic and Kelsey Kordic.


On Hatch’s side were Best Men Steve Kordic and Chris Lusic, and Groomsmen Matt Meadows, Rick Sysak, Bobby Fain, Danny Fain, Rob Piñel, David Hernandez, Ryan Diaz, Matt Bommarito, Aaron Reynolds, and Danny Sandoval. The ring bearer was Steven Kordic.

The day continued with the reception at Michael’s Tuscany Room, where guests enjoyed taking photos in a photo booth and danced well into the night. “Everything about our day was great,” gushes Jenna. “Our bridal party was amazing and everything just went our way.”


The newlyweds honeymooned in Las Vegas for three days, where they stayed at the New York New York Hotel and Casino and went zip lining and rode roller coasters.

Currently, Hatch and Jenna reside in San Pedro and are excited as Camryn enters pre-school this year. Jenna is a hair stylist at Andre’s Hair Studio, and Hatch is still bartending at Trump’s, works as a longshoreman, and sometimes DJs at places such as Crimson and San Pedro Brewing Co. on the side. There’s also a possibility of Baby #2 sometime next year.

“It’s funny how you can go your whole life thinking marriage was just about a piece of paper,” says Jenna. “But it really is more of an affirmation to each other. It’s special to be husband and wife and it makes the everyday routine more meaningful.” spt

 

 

Remembering Tom Phillips

Artist Tom Phillips (right) with Mrs. Mary Thomas (left) widow of Assemblyman Vincent Thomas, photographed at the Arcade Building in historic downtown San Pedro beside the original painting of “The Cinematic Bridge,” commissioned by festival director Stephanie Mardesich for the key art for the first official poster for the L.A. Harbor International Film Festival (LAHIFF), April 2004. (photo courtesy of LAHIFF)

Tom Phillips was happiest in his studio, painting. He was considered a bit of an introvert, and his love of art seemed to overshadow most other areas of his life. But it was this mindset, and dedication, that put Phillips on the map – early and often.

Until May of this year, when Phillip’s life tragically ended due to post-surgical complications after a lung procedure, he could always be found creating something – he could always be found pushing the limits of his artistic ability.

“He was selectively reclusive, his world outside of painting consisted of a small group of high school friends, myself and our son,” says Laura Davidson, Phillip’s ex-wife. “But he was very in tune with what he wanted to do and when he wanted to do it.”

With strong roots in San Pedro, and a lineage that can be traced back four generations to Southern California, it is no wonder that in the final stages of Phillips’s career, as well as some of his beginning work, he focused on painting pictures of his beloved city.

“He was very proud of his family and where he came from,” Davidson says. It was this love, shared through art, that have made Phillips’s paintings so iconic in San Pedro. From the decorating of the walls of the San Pedro Brewing Co., to his painting of the “Cinematic Bridge” that became the poster image of the Los Angeles Harbor International Film Festival, Phillips made is mark in San Pedro, and he made it through his painting.
After his passing in May, Davidson, their son, and Ron Sesco, owner of The Distinctive Edge Gallery, joined together to host a gallery in Phillips’s honor, to “cement recognition for his work.”

“Tom was one of San Pedro’s most renowned artists of the last 30 years and will be missed and remembered alongside the likes of Violet Parkhurst,” says Sesco. “Tom chronicled the essence of San Pedro history through his paintings of historical local buildings and landmarks that bring great memories of the past. His paintings also included farmland area of the Palos Verdes Hill where his great grandfather, Harry Phillips Sr., worked as a foreman on the Bixby Ranch in the early 20th century.”

“After his death, we found pieces he was working on and they were exciting,” Davidson says. “We were in awe.”
Upon deciding the date of October 27 for the show’s reception, Davidson, her son, and Sesco, whose gallery will host the event, are collectively deciding what works to feature. “This show is a celebration and recognition of his life. It’s for his clients to be able to come and view his work from beginning to end,” says Davidson. “It will be the fruits of his labor on the walls.”

Phillips, a native of San Pedro, was a man which life afforded many opportunities, who chose to live and die an artist in its truest form. His familial roots firmly planted in the ground of San Pedro, he kept this city forever close to his heart and made it an integral part of his work, says Davidson.

Phillips ex-wife speaks volumes on the life and work of her late husband. Their marriage ended amicably, resulting in one son. Davidson, who also has a background in art and a career in art galleries, says Phillips career took off almost immediately. “When his career first took off, it was at a furious pace. Everything he painted, he sold,” she remembers fondly. “He showed at the National Academy of Design in New York, two years in a row, on first submissions, which is unheard of. It’s an honor just to get in, let alone show work two years in a row, for a newcomer.”

When she saw his work at the beginning, she wondered why he wasn’t painting professionally – at this time he was pursuing a career in business law. This quickly changed, as Phillips followed his heart and dreams and was quickly rewarded with amazing opportunities. One of those opportunities came after an art show featuring three artists in the home of Sharon Disney.

“They wanted him to be part of WED Enterprises, doing illustrations and artwork, this was when EPCOT was being built at Disneyland,” Davidson says. “During his show in Sharon’s home, big wigs present, he was quickly offered a gig.” Although a tremendous career turn, Phillips declined in the interest of having sole responsibility of his work and his career. Davidson says that was one of many difficult decisions that paid off.

His career started booming, and around 1974, with Phillips selling paintings as fast as he could finish them, he was commissioned to do ranch pieces. Gene Autry even had a painting done by Phillips in his collection. Yet, even with such success, Davidson remembers these beginnings as humble. She says they were selling paintings out of their home, entertaining future buyers with “wine and cheese parties, and enjoying the rapid pace of life.”

A graduate of one of the best fine art schools in the United States – Art Center College of Design in Pasadena – Phillips knew that perfecting his technique, and always being open to learning new things was important to a life dedicated to art.

“His roots were always here,” says Davidson. “He loved San Pedro, and painting this city was always some of his best work.”

Now, as Davidson, their son, and Sesco, prepare to honor Phillips and his work one last time, they remember fondly the talent and drive he had.

“Picking the pieces to feature has been a real challenge,” explains Davidson. “We want the community, his clients, and those that never met him to have a chance to view the work that was his life. This gallery, this showing of his work, is the cement that will keep his name and his work in San Pedro forever.” spt

Tom Phillips (1948-2012) Exhibit & Sale Reception is Oct. 27, 5-8pm at The Distinctive Edge Picture Framing & Gallery (29050 S. Western Ave., Suite 113, Rancho Palos Verdes). Serious buyers & collectors, please call (310) 833-3613 for a preview and information.