Every city has its interesting people: the artists, the inventors, the dreamers, the visionaries. You can find actresses in Omaha and activists in Albuquerque.
But only in L.A. can you find Shorty Rossi.
I found myself thinking about Rossi as we put the final touches on this issue, mostly because he has the sort of story you can’t help but turn over in your head. A dwarf raised in the San Fernando Valley, Rossi fled his abusive father by moving as a teen into a friend’s home in Watts, where he promptly joined a gang and got busted for attempted murder. But this ex-con has been thoroughly rehabilitated: He’s an actor, the owner of a talent agency representing little people, the founder of a thriving pit bull rescue and, naturally, a reality TV star. He may be 4 feet tall, but in Skylaire Alfvegren’s affectionate portrait, Rossi is, yes, larger than life.
Or what about Carrie Fisher? Born a Hollywood princess, she’s become something much more interesting: a brilliant actress, an accomplished script doctor, a talented memoirist whose one-woman show unflinchingly confronts her own mental illness and substance abuse. When writer Libby Molyneaux arrived at Fisher’s Coldwater Canyon compound to interview her for this issue, she accidentally knocked on the wrong door and found herself face to face with an annoyed Debbie Reynolds, the movie star who just happens to be Fisher’s mom. Only in L.A., kids.
And then there’s David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim. The design school graduates (now a married couple) were just goofing around when she sent him a handmade toy, a doll so ugly it was cute. But when he showed it to his friend Eric Nakamura, of West L.A.’s Giant Robot, Nakamura immediately ordered 20 — and sold them all in one day. As Gendy Alimurung details in her profile, with that, the Uglydoll was born, and today, the product is so ubiquitous, the couple is developing a screenplay. No way that would be happening in Omaha.
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Something in the air here fosters creativity; something both nurtures our natives and helps smart, ambitious transplants to thrive. Only in L.A. could Lauren Faust develop a revival of My Little Pony — and end up with a modern cult classic. Only L.A. could produce Govind Armstrong, the Inglewood native who apprenticed with Wolfgang Puck at 13 and today helms a restaurant of his own. And only in L.A., I suspect, would Bert Chan still be teaching tap classes at 88, decades after becoming one of the first female plumbers in California.
We profile 69 fascinating people in this issue, but we easily could have come up with a list of 690. It’s that kind of city.