Magazine

Matadors in Hollywood

 

EVE PLUMB


Born in Burbank on April 29, 1958, Eve Aline Plumb started television work at the tender age of 6, in various commercials. Famously cast as “Jan Brady” on the 1970s sitcom The Brady Bunch, she played the middle child of three blonde sisters, from 1969–74. When the series ended, Plumb finished high school at Montclair Prep in the San Fernando Valley. Years later, she attended California State University, Northridge as a theatre major.

After choosing not to sign a five-year contract in a Brady Bunch reunion attempt, she moved on to more mature character roles such as a made-for-TV movie, Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway, where she played the role of a young prostitute. In the following years, Plumb grew into a sought-after and popular TV movie actress, starring in movies as well as popular TV series such as Little Women, The Facts of Life, Wonder Woman, Murder, She Wrote, The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. Most recently, Plumb appeared on the daytime soap opera All My Children in 2003 and the nighttime soap Army Wives in 2013. In 2013, she also had a guest-starring role on Law and Order: SVU. In January 2016, she played Mrs. Murdock in Grease: Live on Fox.

Plumb is also an acclaimed realistic painter, working in her Laguna Beach home studio. She recently resumed her stage acting career. In 2010, Plumb originated the title character in the New York production of Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating and Marriage, inspired by a book and website of the same name. She also starred in Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron’s award-winning Love, Loss, and What I Wore. —Gabriela Aguirre

 

RICHARD DREYFUSS


Before he battled Jaws or had an encounter of the third kind, actor Richard Dreyfuss braved the heat of Northridge as a San Fernando Valley State College student in the mid-1960s. However, the kid from Brooklyn via Los Angeles already had launched an acting career before he stepped foot on the campus.

By the time he was 15, Dreyfuss was starring in a TV production, In Mama’s House. Living in Los Angeles, he was always surrounded by film royalty — especially at Beverly Hills High School, where his classmates were comedy legends Rob Reiner and Albert Brooks. Dreyfuss continued working in TV on shows like Gidget and Bewitched before he earned his first hit in 1972 in George Lucas’ first feature, American Graffiti. He soon followed that up with two classics, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws in 1975 and Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1977. In 1978, he won an Oscar for best actor, for the romantic comedy The Goodbye Girl. He was 29 and, at the time, the youngest actor to receive the honor. —Alex Ferreyra

 

MICHAEL GRILLO


Michael Grillo ’71 (Business Administration) has become the go-to executive producer for Marvel films. His most recent movie, Ant-Man, opened July 17 and grossed more than $500 million worldwide. Grillo also has been the executive producer of Marvel films Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Amazing Spider-Man, and he signed on in October for two more.

He grew up in Encino, studied business and marketing at CSUN and transitioned into film after graduation. Grillo trained in the Directors Guild Training Program and took classes at UCLA. But he learned things at CSUN that he employs every day on the set.

“There was a lot of collaboration, camaraderie, sharing, communication and looking out for each other,” Grillo said about his time at CSUN.

He began his career working on the sets of TV productions, but stuck with movies after his first job as second assistant director on Young Frankenstein. Grillo worked on The Deer Hunter, The Big Chill, In the Line of Fire and more than a dozen other movies in directorial assistant capacities. He also produced films such as The Accidental Tourist and Grand Canyon.

When DreamWorks launched, Grillo was hired as the first director of production. He oversaw production on DreamWorks’ live-action movies from 1996 to 2006, including the company’s first film, The Peacemaker, on which he also served as executive producer. —Cary Osborne

 

JOAN CHEN


Discovered at age 14 in China by the wife of Chairman Mao Zedong and selected for the state-run acting school in 1975, actress Joan Chen ’92 (Radio-Television-Film) made her way to the U.S. in 1981. Traveling with her parents, Joan enrolled in the State University of New York at New Paltz. She hated the climate. When CSUN came calling that year — physics professor emeritus Paul Chow was helping organize a Chinese film festival and invited her to participate as a guest speaker — California (and its weather) won her heart.

She transferred to CSUN, and she was soon making her mark on Hollywood, achieving international fame in The Last Emperor — Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1987 best picture winner. In 1990, she achieved TV cult status as the character Josie Packard in David Lynch’s original Twin Peaks series.

“It took me 10 years to finish my bachelor’s degree,” she said in a 2012 interview, when CSUN honored Chen with the Distinguished Alumni Award. “After I was there for two and a half years at Northridge, I started working in films. I kept taking incompletes, or I would go back and take one class. Today, I feel very proud that I stuck to it.”

Chen, 54, is an award-winning, internationally acclaimed actress, director, screenwriter and producer. After achieving acting fame in the U.S., she tried her hand at directing. Her film Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl (1994) swept the Golden Horse awards — the Chinese-language Oscars — for best film, director, script, actor, actress, music and production design. She is currently starring in the Netflix original series Marco Polo, about the Italian explorer’s years in Asia. —Olivia Herstein

 

RICHARD "CHEECH" MARIN


Actor, director and comedian Richard “Cheech” Marin always loved art. The 68-year-old comedian from South Central Los Angeles moved to the Valley as a young boy and was fascinated by paintings and the stories they told. He gained his first real appreciation of art while an English student at then-San Fernando Valley State College. “I took a pottery class and I found my medium,” said Marin, who said he always felt like an artist. “Art is just a wonderful way to communicate.” Today, the CSUN alumnus has one of the largest private collections of Chicano art in the world, owning more than 600 pieces of art.

He is best known as one half of the comedy duo “Cheech and Chong.” Marin and his partner, Tommy Chong, released a series of best-selling comedy albums in the 1970s and received a Grammy Award. The comedians’ movie, Up in Smoke, became the highest-grossing comedy of 1978, topping $100 million at the box office. The partnership lasted 15 successful years, and Marin went on to direct and star in numerous films and TV series.

Marin has played many cameo roles, including cartoon voice-overs (Ferngully, The Lion King), and he co-starred opposite Don Johnson in the 1990s TV drama Nash Bridges. In 1996, Marin was cast as Kevin Costner’s best friend in the golf comedy Tin Cup. He also appeared in all three segments of the Spy Kids series and voiced the quips of “Ramone” in Pixar’s Cars and Cars 2. Most recently, the comedy legend has guest starred on the award-winning TV show Jane the Virgin.

Marin has maintained his connections to CSUN, and in 2004, the university honored him with the Distinguished Alumni Award. —Shanté Morgan

 

DON HAHN


While attending CSUN, the aspiring artist Don Hahn ’75 (Music) scored a summer job as production assistant at Walt Disney Animation Studios. He delivered coffee and transferred art from “the morgue,” a basement storage vault for Disney’s old art pieces, to animation giants such as Marc Davis, Ollie Johnston and Wolfgang Reitherman, who produced classics such as Fantasia, Dumbo and The Jungle Book.

“I think of my time at Disney as a whitewater rafting trip,” said Hahn, who never imagined that he would one day produce movies. Years later, he created his own classics — The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast.

The CSUN alumnus was an undeclared major before majoring in music with a minor in graphic design. Hahn, who focused on percussion, said he found great mentors while studying at CSUN who helped him explore his passions. One of those was Joel Leach, head of the Department of Music at the time. “A terrific guy,” Hahn said. “He really inspired me to express myself through my music.”

The producer has maintained a strong bond with his alma mater. He spoke at Commencement in 1999, presented at the Department of Art in 2007 and hosted a lecture in CSUN’s Commerce of Creativity series in 2012. In 2011, the CSUN Alumni Association honored Hahn with a Distinguished Alumni Award.

“[CSUN] is one of the major universities in terms of its plugins to the motion picture and entertainment industry,” said Hahn, who is currently producing a live-action version of his 1991 classic Beauty and the Beast. —Cati Mayer

 

FRED NIGRO


It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call Fred Nigro ’74 (Accounting and Information Systems) one of the most important business managers in Hollywood.

Nigro is a partner with Los Angeles- and New York-based accounting and business firm Nigro Karlin Segal Feldstein & Bolno, which has represented some of the world’s top entertainers and is recognized as one of the most significant business practices in the country. The firm started as Nigro Karlin & Segal, LLP in 1981, after the trio left the accounting firm of Ernst & Whinney (now part of Ernst & Young) with three clients.

Nigro has made The Hollywood Reporter’s list of “Hollywood’s 25 Most Powerful Business Managers” every year this decade. He also was profiled in a 2010 story, “Hollywood business managers keep an eye on more than money.”

Nigro has served as business manager for some of Hollywood’s heaviest hitters, including David Letterman, Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Demi Moore and the bands Fleetwood Mac and REO Speedwagon.

Before setting foot on campus at CSUN, Nigro spent four years in the U.S. Navy and served in Vietnam. He was a highly decorated serviceman, earning the Bronze Star for bravery and a Purple Heart for being wounded in action. —C. O.

 

LILLIAN LEHMAN


For more than 29 years, Lillian Lehman ’79 (Theatre) balanced a busy TV acting career and her role as professor at her alma mater. Now a professor emerita in the CSUN Department of Theatre, Lehman has had an extensive career as a professor and actress, best known for appearances on TV shows such as LA Law, Magnum P.I., Dallas, Sanford and Son, Diff’rent Strokes, 21 Jump Street, ER, Seinfeld, The Closer and Cold Case, among others. Lehman played the role of Dr. Joyce Meadows on daytime soap opera General Hospital, on the ABC network, for several years. She also appeared in films such as Albert Brooks’ Defending Your Life and Body of Evidence.

She returned to CSUN as a part-time professor in 1985, rising to full-time professor in 1990 and receiving tenure in 1996. She noted that she found her dual role as working actress and full-time professor to be a challenging balance.

“Teaching was fulfilling for me,” said Lehman, a native of Selma, Ala. “I’d put it at the top of what I have done in my life — and what I’ve enjoyed most. I felt lucky to be [at CSUN].” —Maritsa Ramirez

 

MICHAEL KLAUSMAN


The Hollywood story of Michael Klausman ’74 (Biology) is a true bootstraps tale. In 1971, he started work at CBS television as a page. Today, he’s the president of CBS Studio Center and senior vice president of the network’s West Coast operations and engineering. He’s currently responsible for the marketing and operations of the iconic TV and film studios in Studio City and Los Angeles.

Prior to graduating from what was then San Fernando Valley State College, Klausman worked as a page on TV classics All In The Family at Television City and The Mary Tyler Moore Show at Studio Center.

Klausman has earned accolades for his accomplishments in the industry, but he also has been a tireless community leader. The city of Los Angeles, the California State Assembly, the Jewish Labor Committee, Variety, the San Fernando Valley Business Journal and the Special Olympics have all recognized him for being a champion of a variety of causes. In 2007, CSUN honored Klausman with the Distinguished Alumni Award.

He is a California native who has been married more than 40 years to his wife, Beckie. They have five children and nine grandchildren. —C. O.

 

PAUL BUCCIERI


Paul Buccieri has climbed just about every rung on the ladder to Hollywood success. Buccieri ’98 (Radio-Television-Film) started out in TV as a runner on the show Sister Kate, and he has worked his way up to the ranks of executive leadership for two of the top channels on cable. He assumed his most recent post as president of A&E and History in January 2015. As president, Buccieri oversees all content creation, programming, brand development and marketing for the two channels, which are part of A&E Networks.

Before A&E, he served as chairman of ITV Studios U.S. Group and ITV Studios Global Entertainment, a U.K. media company. He credited his success to old-fashioned hard work.

“The piece of advice I would give [students] is, hard work and dedication — as well as a passion for what you do — will serve you well in Hollywood,” said Buccieri, 49. “In Hollywood, you have to be comfortable with failure. You have to be persistent and passionate in what you do.”

A Los Angeles native, Buccieri grew up about a mile and a half from CSUN. He loved his time as a student on campus, he said, recalling one favorite professor who had written for the TV show The Fugitive. “He taught me that writing is rewriting,” Buccieri said. “He really inspired me.”

As he worked his way up in television, Buccieri said, he had the luxury of working hands-on in almost every level of production. As a developer of new content and projects — and now as an executive — that experience has served him well. —O. H.

 

GLENN GAINOR


The magic of making movies lies in the collaborative process for Screen Gems executive Glenn Gainor ’95 (Radio-Television-Film). As president of physical production for the Sony Pictures company responsible for popular hits such as The Perfect Guy, The Wedding Ringer and Think Like a Man, Gainor could spend his days working in his office on the Sony lot — taking only an occasional glance out a window that offers a bird’s-eye view of the soundstages where classics such as The Wizard of Oz and Singin’ in the Rain were made.

But Gainor admits he is not that type of film executive. He likes to be in the middle of it all — helping find locations for a shoot, offering suggestions for “non clichéd” casting and even lugging heavy equipment cables around if that’s what’s needed. “There’s a lot of hard work from a lot of people that goes into making a movie, and there’s no place more exciting to be than on a movie set,” he said. “I really believe wholeheartedly in the collaboration of all the crafts that it takes to make a movie. That’s what makes our business special. [As a producer], what I love is knowing and touching all the people with those skills and putting them together.” Gainor said the lessons he learned in CSUN’s film program influence the decisions he makes every day at Screen Gems: how to structure a story from professor Alexis Krasilovsky, how to remain focused and an appreciation of film history from professor

 

TERI GARR


Raised in Los Angeles by a former vaudeville performer (her father) and a former Rockette (her mother), Teri Garr began her career in entertainment at a young age. She danced ballet professionally from age 13 and at 16, made her dancing debut with the San Francisco Ballet. As a teenager, Garr moved to New York City and enrolled in the renowned Actors’ Studio. She even danced alongside “The King,” strutting her stuff in various Elvis Presley films in the 1960s. Garr graduated from North Hollywood High School, and then she attended what was then San Fernando Valley State College from 1962–64, studying acting and dancing. The CSUN Alumni Association honored Garr with a Distinguished Alumni Award in 2008 for her accomplishments and longtime connection with the university.

She landed her first major role in 1974 in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation. Following her successful debut in the film, she landed roles in hit films such as Young Frankenstein (also in 1974) and Tootsie (1981), which earned her an Academy Award nomination. Her career in entertainment has spanned more than 50 years and more than 140 films and TV appearances. In 1985, she hosted a benefit to raise scholarship funds for the CSUN Department of Theatre, and Garr remains connected to the campus. —M. R.