Movers and Shakers

Our August Movers & Shakers

By Erin Carlson

Seven high achievers on our radar this month, from Bay Area heavyweights to the next generation shaking things up.

 John Legend

The Grammy-winning “All of Me” crooner has released his fourth wine with Rutherford Vineyards proprietor Jean-Charles Boisset for LVE: Legend Vineyard Exclusives. The LVE Côtes de Provence Rosé — a pale pink hue with notes of peach blossom, strawberry and white nectarine is now available online ( Says Legend, married to A-list Instagram queen Chrissy Teigen, “Chrissy and I both love rosé, and we enjoy serving it to our friends. It’s the perfect complement to a beautiful summer day with the ones you love.” I’ve yet to get my hands on it, but one imaginary sip of this wine takes me back to a sunset-soaked July eve in Napa, when the only thing I have to worry about is what’s for dinner.

Alex Vardakostas

The robots are coming! And they make a pretty good burger. Just ask Vardakostas, the co-founder and CEO of Creator, which opened the world’s first burger robot restaurant in San Francisco this summer, serving up $6 cheeseburgers with a stylish efficiency that recalls “The Jetsons.” For Vardakostas, who studied physics at UC Santa Barbara, the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. “My parents have a burger joint,” he’s said. “My job was to make several hundred of the same burger every day. You realize there’s so much opportunity not taken because you don’t have the right tools, and it’s hard work.” Lest the concept seems too “dystopian,” even in the Trump Era, Vardakostas has hired human staff, whom he vows to give the opportunity, à la Google, to take on side projects.

Dr. Roberta Katz

Congrats to Katz on her election as The Exploratorium Board of Trustees’ new Board Chair. She assumes the role as the institution approaches its 50th anniversary next year, and succeeds George W. Cogan, who’s held the position of chair for 11 years. “I personally believe we are in midst of some very dramatic changes globally and want to make sure the Exploratorium continues to be a positive part of that change,” says Katz, a senior research scholar at Stanford University. “At the Exploratorium, one is struck by the vitality of the place, by the beauty of the exhibits, and perhaps most of all by the fact that people are deeply engaged not only with the exhibits in front of them, but with one another.”

Danielle Madeira 

The Another Planet executive, one of the most powerful women in concert promotion, is beyond excited about this year’s impressive Outside Lands line-up, which she’s organized with Superfly. The pop legend she’s dying to meet? Janet Jackson, back in business after a long hiatus from performing. When Madeira was a tween growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, she talked her way backstage after one of Jackon’s concerts, but missed the singer by minutes. “I was like a dog sniffing for bombs: Where’s Janet?” she jokes. It’s this quality — knowing how to break into the most VIP music scenes — that makes Madeira such an impresario in her industry. Now she’s the one brokering introductions to legendary performers.

Joshua Ponton and Nina Point Dujour

A big round of applause for Dujour and Ponton on winning arts scholarships from the Steve Silver Foundation and Beach Blanket Babylon! The two high school students won $15,000 toward their college education after performing for an impressive panel of judges including Tracy Chapman, Gordon Getty, Matthew Shilvock and Randall Kline. Dujour, a young actress from Marin Oaks High School, performed a monologue from Ruined, and Ponton, a dancer from the Oakland School of the Arts, wowed with his interpretation of Bach’s Passacaglia. Says Point, who nailed her character’s African accent, “It felt validating to win the scholarship and it gave me the push I needed.” Adds Ponton: “All the passion that I have for dance really came out on stage.”

Patrick Barber

Note to prospective home buyers and sellers: The affable president of Pacific Union International is launching Private View — touted as the industry’s first digital marketplace to privately view listings before they go public — in Northern California. Barber sees the new initiative as a “win-win way” to foster transparency in the Bay Area real estate market, where some 22 percent of homes sold never actually make it to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). With Private View, he says, a seller need not spend weeks on an upgrade before opening her house to a potential buyer. The buyer, meanwhile, gets a look at an abode not seen on MLS, Redfin or Zillow. “We’re really trying to take down the barriers,” he says.

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