By Seth Combs
Photos by Brevin Blach

(Published in the July 2010 issue)

People like to brag that they knew about it first. It’s human nature. Whether it’s a song, a fashion designer or a book discovered way before Oprah loved it, we’re all guilty of one-upmanship at some point.

Covering eight facets of San Diego culture-from film and fashion, theater and television to nightlife and books-here are the people, places and things that’ll be all the buzz soon enough. So when the time comes, you can go ahead and brag that you heard it here first.




The Believer,

Gustaf Rooth

For almost a decade, Gustaf Rooth put his heart and soul into his Planet Rooth Gallery in North Park, opening it when the neighborhood was still a little sketchy, and then watching it blossom into an art and nightlife destination that was recently covered in The New York Times.

When rent issues forced him to leave the neighborhood a few months ago, he could have walked away from the art scene forever-he had his cat, his girlfriend, a new house in Hillcrest and was already making a good chunk of change from selling his custom-made wooden furniture.

But the guy who started the perennial neighborhood art walk, Ray at Night, wasn’t ready to hang up his trademark overalls quite yet.

“Just look at this place,” Rooth says, walking through his aforementioned new space on Fifth Avenue in Hillcrest. “This is going to change the art scene, dude, I’m telling you. Wait, come downstairs! You gotta check this out.”

And once you check it out, it’s hard not to get excited for Rooth-and for the city at large. The 19th-Century Victorian house and future home of the Gustaf Rooth Gallery is amazing. There’s the expansive downstairs that’ll serve as a gallery and boutique, complete with a vintage bar and space for musicians. Then there’s the showroom, where locals are already walking by and gawking at Rooth’s furniture in the window.

While the place is still being gutted from floor to ceiling (Rooth recently fell off a ladder while fixing the plumbing, but was miraculously unhurt), expect a soft opening in July, with full-on art shows featuring artists from San Diego and Rooth’s native Sweden in the not-so-distant future.

“There’s some great places around here that I think we could include in some kind of art walk,” says Rooth. “I’m thinking about calling it ‘5th on 5th’. It would be on the fifth of every month.”

His eyes light up.

“Man, Cinco de Mayo would be crazy.”

To catch a glimpse of the names that’ll soon be scoring solo shows and appearing in the collections of San Diego’s most affluent, look no further than the artists that were picked for the 2010 California Biennial.
The exhibition, which opens late October at the Orange County Museum of Art, will feature works by 45 artists from all over California, including nine from San Diego.

Some of our favorites include David Adey, whose work ranges from fantastical sculpture to intricate collage, and Andy Ralph, the Woodbury University School of Architecture instructor who crafts sculptural pieces out of things like lawn chairs and household tools. And while she may not be part of the Biennial, local abstract artist Heather Gwen Martin will have a solo show in September at the taste-making Luis De Jesus gallery in Los Angeles. Snatch up their work while you still can.



The Party Boy
Bryan McClanaha


Despite working in an industry that focuses on the scene, Bryan McClanahan prefers to remain behind the scenes. If you don’t know who he is (you’re not alone), you probably soon will-the man behind Reset Events throws some of the biggest parties this city has ever seen.

“The goal was to bring a big electronic show to San Diego and make it look good, and that’s exactly what we did,” says McClanahan.

He’s referring to the recent Reset SD Festival, held June 5 at the San Diego Sports Arena, where innovative electronic acts including Bassnectar, A-Trak, Flying Lotus and almost a dozen others played to a sea of more than 3,000 fans. Inspired by festivals like Ultra in Miami and the San Francisco Electronic Music Festival, McClanahan says he wants to produce these kinds of music festivals here-and he plans on doing them bigger and badder than in other cities.

“I’ve already called up to L.A. and told them to give me as many L.E.D. panels as they possibly can,” says McClanahan, who took his experience with helping to design theme parks and incorporated it into festival planning. “The idea is to make the main stage look as epic as possible.”

Next up? The Abstract Festival in September with huge names in electronic music, including Major Lazer, Rusko and Claude VonStroke already slated to play at the Sports Arena. Anticipate seeing enormous L.E.D. screens, lights galore, flame-throwing props and possibly a stage in the shape of a spaceship.

“People should expect the stages to get more complex and more intricate,” says McClanahan. “More production, more sound and the artists will be getting bigger and bigger with every event. That’s going to be our method and I think it’s going to change the whole game.”

Passing the Bar

Most bartenders are content with simply pouring shots and pretending to enjoy the music, but not all bartenders are like Nicole Novak (pictured). The U-31 server has begun to make a name for herself by becoming the club’s go-to talent booker for Saturday night events.

Since taking the reins, she’s booked artists that would have otherwise bypassed San Diego on their way to Vegas. On a recent Saturday night, for example, she arranged an appearance by celebrated British house-music DJ Kelevra-the joint was packed to the gills. She has also managed to entice big names from L.A., including DJ Tina T and Destructo.

Scoring acts of this caliber has earned Novak attention, so much that a higher-up at downtown’s Voyeur nightcltub recently remarked that she’s now competing with the big boys. Cheers to that!

Something Old, Something New

A ton of clubs are either opening or revealing new looks this summer, starting with one of Downtown’s major players, Stingaree. Perhaps inspired by designer Davis Krumins’ work on Fluxx, Sting is now sporting an earthier, au natural look complete with new landscaping, VIP cabanas and two gigantic Buddha statues thrown in for good measure (below).

The owners of The Fleetwood are hoping lightning strikes twice, this time closer to the coast, with their three-story Beachwood, in Pacific Beach. If you’re familiar with their Downtown original, you can expect a similar vibe in the bottom-floor bar area, featuring food by Fleet chef Mark Bolton. The second story and rooftop will serve as the venue’s club levels.

Also, be on the look out for the ‘70s-themed Analog Music and Burger Bar, coming to Fifth Avenue in the Gaslamp sometime in July. The project-a joint effort by the designer of The Pearl Hotel and the guys who own Vin de Syrah-will boast a dive-bar feel complete with karaoke nights and strong cocktails at affordable prices.



The Wordsmith
Tammy Greenwood

Like most writers, Tammy Greenwood obsesses over the particularities of words. It took her almost seven years to write and publish her last novel, 2009’s Two Rivers, mainly because she was trying a different stylistic approach.

“It was a lot less... plotty,” says the author from her Clairemont home. Well, apparently notthat particular.

Made-up words aside, Greenwood is probably the most promising San Diego fiction writer to emerge out of what is most assuredly an underrated literary scene.

The inspiration behind her characters and material stem from her having lived all over the U.S.; the resulting five novels run the gamut of literary topics: Death, adultery, obsession, drugs and redemption just to name a few.

Her hard work on Two Rivers paid off. The story of a small-town railroad worker with a mysterious and sullied past, it was not a huge bestseller, but it received accolades from Publishers Weekly, who declared Greenwood “a writer of subtle strength, evoking small-town life beautifully...finding light in the darkest of stories.” The book has since gone on to win the “Best General Fiction” award at this year’s San Diego Book Awards and is on its ninth printing.

Most recently, Kensington Press, home to many a New York Times bestseller, was impressed enough with Greenwood that they bought her entire back catalogue. And after reading her new book, The Glittering World (slated to be released in January 2011), they signed her to a three-book deal.

“I almost feel like I’m a new writer again,” says Greenwood. “Things have really picked up for me recently. The future looks amazing.”

Punk Prose

Justin Pearson’s music is not for everybody. The frontman for highly influential local punk bands including The Locust and All Leather, he’s more often screaming than having actual discourse.

So, what a surprise to learn that his recently published memoir, From The Graveyard of the Arousal Industry, is actually filled with insightful recollections of growing up punk in pre- and post-millennium San Diego.

Some of the names and bands in his book may be unfamiliar, but Pearson (center) pulls no punches when talking about an underground culture filled with drugs, betrayal and death-all in our own backyard. Rock bios are often stranger than fiction, and this one is no exception.

Fashionably Latent

Most spoken-word events conjure images of guys in awful turtlenecks with even worse writing, but if you want to hear some of the best young writers sow their oats, then hit up one of the semi-monthly events held by The Latent Print. Run by a collective of dedicated arts supporters, these weeknight gatherings (held mainly at the South Park bar, The Whistle Stop) have drawn huge crowds to hear stories, check out art, listen to bands and watch experimental films. The website,, has also become a taste-making forum of all that’s new and buzz-worthy in the local literary and arts scene.




The Snow Men

Matt Hoyt & Jason Sherry

Jason Sherry (pictured with blue parka) is a well-respected visual artist considered to be one of the most up-and-coming in town. Matt Hoyt (in red) co-owns Mission Hills restaurant Starlite. Both men have enough on their plates, but Hoyt still had an unrealized dream.

“For years, I had been pitching television show ideas or creating and modeling them in my head,” he says.

When CBS decided to launch a new online network of made-for-web programming, they came to Hoyt for ideas. Even after the project was scrapped, however, Hoyt still clung to one idea that he wanted to see to its fruition: a bizarre, surrealist sitcom called Antarctic... Huh?. Taking action, he enlisted his best friend, Sherry, to help design sets for the pilot episode.

The script’s absurd but hilarious plot tells the story of a pampered San Diegan named Preston Latterdale (played by Hoyt), who moves to Antarctica to work at a trash dump. Because there isn’t much need for a trash dump in Antarctica, Latterdale sets out to find himself by write the great novel he knows he has inside himself.

“It’s like Kurt Vonnegut meets Salvador Dali meets Taxi,” says Hoyt, “All rolled into one.”

After its completion, Hoyt submitted the first episode to Here, Not There, a Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) exhibition focused on burgeoning local artists. MCASD accepted, and Antarctic...Huh? now plays on a television at the exhibit. Surrounded by props used during the production of the pilot, the Hoyt-Sherry collaboration is of the most popular pieces at the show and has received a glowing review from theUnion-Tribune.

It’s almost absurd to think of what we did as art, but I guess it really was,” says Hoyt. “This thing can be developed way further than what we’re doing right now. We made it for no money in my backyard, and the curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art found it so rich and wild.”

Today, Hoyt says he’s beginning to garner commercial television interest. And although he remains mum on the details (lest he jinx it), he says he’s registering scripts and copyrighting the name-it’s gotten that serious.

“I don’t know,” he says. “Can we take a show that’s produced in a backyard for no money to Hollywood? Maybe. I don’t see why not.”

A League of Her Own

The glass ceiling may seem all but shattered, but when it comes to being a TV sports anchor, it’s still primarily a man’s world. But just like Christina Applegate ‘s character in Anchorman, Jenny Cavnar is poised to break down barriers.

Cavnar knows her sports-after starting out as a reporter for ESPN and CBS College Sports, she worked her way up to co-hosting the Padres’ pre- and post- game show broadcast on Channel 4.

She can wax intellectual with Phillies star pitcher Cole Hamels (pictured) about his fastball better than most fans, and she holds her own while hosting the local football show, 4th Down With Shaun Phillips. Last year, she was even tapped for a reporting gig during a Chargers game on NBC’s nationally-televised Football Night In America. Look out, fellas.

Oh, Sh*t! It’s Captain Kirk

Justin Halpern isn’t exactly a household name. He probably never will be, but more than over 1.4 million people are familiar with his father, Sam, whose expletive-laden diatribes appear on Justin’s Twitter page, @ShitMyDadSays.

Justin’s story isn’t all that uncommon: Guy in his late 20s gets dumped by his girlfriend and has to move back in with his parents in Point Loma. His dad’s welcome-home-son salvo: “All I ask is that you pick up your sh*t, so you don’t leave your bedroom looking like it was used for a gang bang. Also, sorry that your girlfriend dumped you.” Nice.

Three months into living at home again, Justin launched the Twitter page, which since begat an entire book of Dad’s phrases (naturally, it became a number one bestseller the week of Father’s Day) and, come fall, a CBS sitcom starring, drum-roll please...William Shatner playing the role of “Dad.”

Thus far, the closest Halpern has gotten to celebrity status was when a coffeehouse employee asked him if he was “the guy from the Twitter thing.” But, he says, no one has recognized his dad. “Or maybe they have,” Halpern says, “and he didn’t say anything.”

Seems unlikely.

Click here for Part 2