Author: Stu VanAirsdale

Sacramento Film Commissioner Jennifer West

As a one-time Hollywood studio accountant, Jennifer West used to routinely play one of the most important roles on a movie set: She was the one who made sure megastars like Julia Roberts, Anthony Hopkins and Val Kilmer got their paychecks. Today, after a two-decade industry break, West wields a new kind of celluloid influence as Sacramento’s first-ever full-time film commissioner. She talks about building the city’s film office from scratch, nurturing the next generation of local auteurs, and her bold vision for creating a mini Hollywood of the North.

Sacramento Public Library CEO Rivkah Sass

Since taking the helm of the Sacramento Public Library system in 2009, Rivkah Sass—who was named Librarian of the Year by the "Library Journal" in 2006 while serving as the executive director of the Omaha Public Library—has shepherded the 28-branch organization through the past decade with the introduction of services like digital access to more than 200,000 e-books and the ability to check out everything from an electric guitar to a GoPro camera. We spoke to the Manteca native about what’s new at the SPL, ways to keep the library relevant in 2020, and bringing big names—from best-selling author Neil Gaiman to rapper 50 Cent—to town.

Food Literacy Center CEO Amber Stott

Despite its status as America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital, Sacramento has not escaped the growing childhood obesity crisis. In fact, a recent study of the city’s fifth, seventh and ninth graders found that more than 40 percent are either overweight or obese. Amber Stott is on a mission to change that stat. As CEO of the local nonprofit Food Literacy Center, she is spearheading a new 2.5-acre headquarters, farm and cooking school at Leataata Floyd Elementary in Upper Land Park. The org’s “chief food genius” talks about bringing the bounty of the region to underprivileged youth, tackling picky eaters, and why cooking and nutrition should be on the curriculum along with reading, writing and ’rithmetic.

Funny Business

In his new B Street Theatre show about his long stand-up career, comedian Jack Gallagher plays for laughs while sharing professional highlights (his "Tonight Show" debut) and lowlights (his "Tonight Show" encore).

Mercy Pedalers Founder Sister Libby

Her name is Libby Fernandez, but everyone knows her as Sister Libby, one of Sacramento’s most tireless advocates for the city’s homeless. The 58-year-old Catholic nun earned the distinction in large part through her long tenure (including 11 years as executive director) at Loaves & Fishes. Her latest endeavor, Mercy Pedalers, tends to the hungry and impoverished at street level, with squads of volunteers helping the less fortunate by bike and trike. We tracked Sister Libby down to talk about her growing organization, how best to address the homeless crisis, and how just saying “hi” can be the start of a beautiful relationship.

William Burg

The Queen of the Sacramento Tenderloin. The nightclub owner who first brought jazz to town. The public officials who resisted the frenzied carnal currents of the downtown’s most integrated, energetic district. They’re all chronicled in William Burg’s new book "Wicked Sacramento," a history of the city’s long-gone West End neighborhood that once stood where sprawling landmarks like Capitol Mall, Old Sacramento and Golden 1 Center are today. Burg speaks about the West End’s seamy charms, its important cultural impact, and where to find what might be the lost neighborhood’s last surviving building.

Dolores Huerta

Arguably no woman wielded more influence on 20th-century California history than Dolores Huerta, who transformed state politics and the lives of millions as a community organizer and the co-founder (with Cesar Chavez) of United Farm Workers. The Smithsonian Institution chronicles the activist’s life and work in its new traveling exhibition "Dolores Huerta: Revolution in the Fields/Revolución en los Campos," which makes its debut in March at the California Museum. Huerta, 88, speaks about her early days as a lobbyist in Sacramento, the value of sacrifice, and seeing her legacy among the next wave of American leaders.

Author Melissa Dahl

As the editor of "New York" magazine’s blog Science of Us, Melissa Dahl spends her days exploring some of the most intriguing scientific notions, research and revelations in the news. In her first book, "Cringeworthy: A Theory of Awkwardness" (out Feb. 13), she guides readers on a funny and enlightening tour through one of her favorite topics. The Sacramento State alumna talks about the upside of awkwardness, battling “cringe attacks,” and why nothing—not even Valentine’s Day—is as cringeworthy as it might seem.

Choose Your Own Adventure

Sacramento, class is in session. Whether you want to learn how to surf or sail, fly-fish or fly a plane, craft a cocktail or a cocktail table, we’ve found teachable moments all over town. Got skills? Here are 50 fun ways to add more arrows to your quiver (literally--our how-to list includes archery lessons). Let us edutain you!

Sactown's Best BBQ

Sweet, savory, spicy, smoky… There’s no flavor that doesn’t come through in the magical realms of barbecue. And there’s no better time than these warm-weather days to bite into the meaty marvels grilled up by 10 of our region’s best barbecue wizards. Whether you prefer tender ribs straight out of Cajun country or Texas-tinged pulled pork smoked for 18 hours—or a heaping helping of both with three-alarm sauces and five-star side dishes—we’ve got your ’cue cravings covered. Dig in!

Ready for Prime Time

Forty years after his first break at KCRA, Lester Holt was tapped this summer for the top spot in American broadcast journalism—the anchor of "NBC Nightly News." Here’s how “Lightning Bolt Holt” guided his career from the streets of Rancho Cordova to the heart of Rockefeller Center.

The Art of the Matter

When a sculpture by world-renowned artist Jeff Koons was selected in March as the centerpiece of the plaza outside the new downtown arena, it triggered an explosion of controversy--and an unprecedented opportunity for civic leaders and local artists to influence the future of public art in Sacramento. Here’s how they are attempting to work together to shepherd this nuanced and often heated debate, and how they’re racing against the clock to do it. Can they pull it off?

Leading Lady

From Anne Gust Brown’s days as a trailblazing executive at Gap to her work in Sacramento helping craft some of the biggest political milestones of the past decade, get to know the woman whose fierce intellect, pragmatism, candor and energy has quietly redefined what it means to be California’s first lady.

Finding His Religion

For his new book—inspired by the events of 9/11—essayist Richard Rodriguez traversed the globe for a full decade, from Paris to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and beyond, exploring connections between the world’s religions, while also attempting to reconcile the inherent contradictions between his Catholic faith and his sexuality. But the roots of his spiritual journey started in the pews of a Sacramento church and perhaps the unlikeliest of places—in the glow of the silver screen at the Alhambra Theatre.