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Valley Talk

To Hell and Back You may sometimes go to work and think you’re in hell, but Todd Masters actually had to conjure up purgatory to do his job. Masters, the president of Mastersfx Inc., a special effects house, was one of the artists who worked on special makeup effects for “What Dreams May Come,” the Polygram Filmed Entertainment production that opened in theaters on Oct. 2. The movie stars Robin Williams as a lovelorn soul who, even in death, can’t bear to be separated from his wife, played by Anabella Sciorra. Williams must journey to hell in his quest to be with his beloved. Enter Masters, who was hired to create the images that Williams sees when he arrives there. Masters, whose workshop is in Arleta, worked with a number of paintings suggested by the film’s Director Robin Ward, including works by Hieronymus Bosch and Salvador Dali. He says he’s not particularly religious, but he has had a few of his own hellish images. “I think Los Angeles is pretty close to hell,” Masters quipped. “It’s not visually hellish, it’s more psychologically hellish.” Mega-Buck Networking The announcement earlier this year that biomedical pioneer Alfred E. Mann would donate $100 million to USC was a coup for the university. The campus might not have found out that Mann, who is chairman and chief executive of MiniMed Inc., a Sylmar-based insulin pump maker, was interested in donating that kind of money if it weren’t for Ruth Weisberg, the school’s dean of the School of Fine Arts. USC President Steven B. Sample said Mann, a patron of the arts, was hosting a fund-raising reception for the arts at his home when Weisberg and he happened to chat. The dean learned that Mann was looking to team up with a university to further biomedical research and had been in discussions with UCLA, his alma mater, about making a $100 million donation. Weisberg called Sample to let him know about Mann, and Sample was quick to act. “I just gave him a cold call out of the blue, and we just got together,” said Sample. Mann, not one to forget his alma mater, still intends on making a like donation to UCLA, once both sides agree on the structure of an agreement that establishes a research foundation. Mann has also broken ground on a new $80 million biomedical office complex on the north campus of Cal State Northridge, and he plans to relocate MiniMed’s headquarters there once it is completed. Police! Drop That Spray Can! Ever wonder what it costs to clean up graffiti? Just ask the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association. The group is conducting a fund-raising drive to help in its cleanup effort, and the letter being sent out to solicit donations delineates the different contributions concerned citizens can make. A donation of $300 buys a night-vision scope, binoculars that allow for nighttime surveillance to catch taggers in the act; $200 buys a computer printer, presumably for documenting graffitti-fighting efforts; $50 buys a Polaroid Spectra Camera for photographing the scene of the crime; and $25 buys a “3-pack” of Polaroid film. If the equipment wish list seems a bit over the top, it’s only because the homeowners and local police are not just out to get the one-time thrillseekers who defile the neighborhood, they want the hard-core serial taggers. A few years ago, the community, with the help of the Community Tagger Task Force in Van Nuys, began working on a program to charge graffiti-vandals as felons. To do so, the police needed evidence that an individual tagger had vandalized enough property to warrant a felony charge instead of just the misdemeanor charge usually handed out when an individual is caught defacing a single area. So the task force began taking pictures of all the property tagged with graffiti, so artists who have been sufficiently prolific can be charged as felons. Tough Meat Looking for a gift for that special tough guy? Try AV Winery & Buffalo Co.’s wine-tasting room/gift shop in Lancaster, which carries its own wines and sells a range of exotic meats. One of the top sellers is rattlesnake meat, says saleswoman Margaret Banks. She says the meat gets included in a lot of gift baskets that customers buy for men friends and relatives. “Yeah, tough-guy food,” she laughs. The store also carries meat from locally raised buffalo, frozen alligator meat, as well as cans of Cajun-style alligator meat and other unusual fare, like canned jackelope and pheasant soup.

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