Vicki Iovine ’76

For the Bravo network’s first foray into scripted television, they chose source material as colorful as any real housewife or top chef: Iovine, a mother and writer who found her niche with the hip, bestselling Girlfriends’ Guide seriesThe Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce, premiering in December 2014 and starring Lisa Edelstein, Janeane Garofalo, and Beau Garrett, follows a seemingly perfect self-help author who is forced to hide the fact that she and her husband are separated. Produced by Iovine, it’s based on one of 10 of her books that dispense funny, real-world advice to women at every stage of the family game and pull no punches when it comes to life after babies … and marriage. “Iovine anticipates every conceivable question, and her responses are warm, wise, and witty,” wrote Publisher’s Weekly of The Girlfriends’ Guide to Pregnancy, the first in the series. Armed with a Berkeley journalism degree, Iovine has also contributed to several magazines, newspapers, talk shows, and Internet outlets, including a Huffington Post column. She also earned two law degrees, married and divorced a music industry mogul, and raised four children. Find Iovine on Facebook.

 

Arts and Entertainment, Writing

Adrian Tomine ’96

Tomine, an acclaimed cartoonist and illustrator, started publishing his Optic Nerve mini-comics in high school, and “even the earliest and roughest of them,” wrote the Houston Chronicle, “feature the mix of wit and bullied awkwardness that would inform his subsequent work.” By the time Tomine entered Berkeley in 1992, Optic Nerve was making waves and, two years later, was picked up by prestigious publisher Drawn & Quarterly. It wasn’t long before critics and fans began debating whether or not Tomine was indeed the voice of self-conscious Generation X. ”The first time it came up,” he told The Believer, “I was doing a talk at a bookstore, and the woman … introduced me using that phrase, and I remember just feeling like, ‘Oh, now I’m really in trouble.’” His work has now been collected in seven books, and he has taken on some high-profile gigs — including myriad interior illustrations and more than a dozen covers for The New Yorker. His 2004 cover “Missed Connections” became iconic and, according to the Paris Review, sums up what makes city life frustrating but also thrilling.” Keep up with Tomine on his website.

Arts and Entertainment

Frank Portman ’87

While DJing in the mid-1980s at KALX, Berkeley’s student radio station, Portman, AKA Dr. Frank, became what most people only dream of: a rising rock star. He cofounded The Mr. T Experience (MTX) — a leading light of the Bay Area pop-punk scene that launched Green Day — and has remained its primary songwriter, singer, and guitarist since then. In recent years, Portman has turned his knack for writing smart, humorous, and youthful songs into writing young adult fiction. His 2006 debut novel, King Dork, is now a cult classic and was described by the San Francisco Chronicle as “smart, funny, occasionally raunchy, and refreshingly clear about what it’s like to be a geeky guy in high school.” Andromeda Klein (2009) follows an occult-obsessed teenage girl, and King Dork Approximately is due this fall. In describing his reluctance to shift from songs to books, Portman said in an interview: “When I found out that Random House had bought [King Dork], my first thought was, ‘Oh, my god. Oh, no. Now I have to finish it.’ … It’s like with music. There’s an energy you get from discovering how to do something that is special.” Find Portman — plus updates on the movie version of King Dork — on Dr. Frank’s What’s-it blog, Facebook, or Twitter @frankportman.

 

Arts and Entertainment, Writing

Rue Mapp ’09

Yosemite National Park officials were reportedly elated when two African American tour groups visited on one day in 2011, spotlighting the fact that only 1 percent of its visitors are black. Mapp wants to close that racial divide. As a child, she farmed and hunted on her family’s ranch, then later joined Girl Scouts and Outward Bound. While studying art history at Berkeley, she was inspired by artistic representations of forests and the power of images to tell stories. These passions came together when she founded Outdoor Afro, which uses social media to connect African Americans to nature and shift perceptions about who can enjoy the great outdoors. Beyond offering recreational activities, Outdoor Afro is reminding black people of their historical connection to the land and engaging them in protecting the wilderness. “Minorities need to see that these places belong to us, too,” she told Backpacker Magazine. Mapp won a 2014 National Wildlife Federation conservation achievement award, among numerous recognitions, and has worked on environmental and children’s health initiatives at the White House. She envisions the day “when I’m on a backcountry trail and I see another African American and it’s no big deal,” she said. Find Outdoor Afro on Facebook and Twitter @outdoorafro.
Arts and Entertainment, Environment, Innovators

Allan Alcorn ’71

In 1972, as a newbie at the young game-maker Atari, Alcorn was asked by company cofounder Nolan Bushnell to make a simple ping pong game under a contract with General Electric. Although the contract didn’t really exist, Alcorn worked hard nonetheless to make something good. Three months later, the first coin-operated Pong machine was installed at Andy Capp’s Tavern in Sunnyvale, CA — and became an instant hit. As Bushnell would later say, it was “so simple that any drunk in any bar could play.” Alcorn designed both the arcade and home versions, and Pong’s popularity sparked the globally ubiquitous, multi-billion-dollar game industry we know today. “It wasn’t my intention. I’m just as surprised as the next guy,” he told the Computer History Museum in 2011. After Atari, his crucial involvement with many Silicon Valley startups earned him an Apple Fellowship; his own company, Zowie Intertainment, was acquired by LEGO in 2000. Alcorn continues to remain involved in tech’s fun side through Hack the Future, which offers daylong “hackfests” to school-age kids that teach them programming and connect them to mentors. Follow Alcorn on Twitter at @alalcorn.

Arts and Entertainment, Innovators, Technology and Engineering

Howard “Howdy” Brownson ’48

As the tune “Do-Re-Mi” from The Sound of Music concludes, “When you know the notes to sing, you can sing most anything.” That was certainly true for Brownson, a demonstrably kind man nicknamed “Howdy.” Once he learned his do-re-mis as a child, he didn’t stop singing in barbershop quartets, choruses, or church choirs until his death in 2013. A founder of the University of California Men’s Octet, Howdy was a treasured guest at every Octet reunion, where he enchanted younger alums with colorful tales of the old days and led them in Cal fight songs. In this rare video clip of Howdy singing with the Barbary Coasters, one of about 10 quartets he joined throughout his life, he said he wasn’t interested in serious competitions. “This is just for the hell of it. It’s good stuff.” That same motivation drove a passion for volunteering and traveling as well. He and his wife, Mary ’48, were generous lifelong supporters of Cal music and the Cal Alumni Association, and had a huge world map covered with pins marking where they had been. His advice to other travelers: “Just have fun. We go places for the going, not the getting there.”

Arts and Entertainment

Vijay Iyer M.A. ’94, Ph.D. ’98

2013 winner of the MacArthur Foundation’s “genius” grant, Iyer, a jazz composer-pianist, is quickly ascending as a trendsetter through his eclectic mix of improvisation-based solo and ensemble compositions, cross-genre collaborations, and research on listening. Although Iyer, who holds a Ph.D. in the cognitive science of music, had planned on a career in the sciences, “Little by little I found myself pulled into a community of artists that valued the history and the aliveness of jazz,” he said in a video. Counting the classical music of his South Indian heritage, West African drumming, and African American masters such as Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk among many influences, Iyer creates imaginative, rhythmic — even disorienting — works. While Accelerando features his superb trio and topped charts worldwide with its accessible experimentalism, his latest project, Holding It Down, is a collaboration with poet Mike Ladd that focuses on the experiences and dreams, from the mundane to the harrowing, of veterans of color who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Follow Iyer on Facebook or Twitter @vijayiyer.

Arts and Entertainment, Honors and Awards

Chris Pine ’02

When Pine landed the role of James T. Kirk in J. J. Abrams’s 2009 Star Trek reboot, he wrote the USS Enterprise’s first captain, William Shatner, to explain “who this punk kid was taking over for him.” That self-deprecating nature has stayed with the rising star, even as the film’s sequel — hailed by the Washington Post “as a triumph of casting” — hits theaters. Balancing respect for Shatner’s historic portrayal with making the part his own, Pine said, “The first thought is always don’t screw it up.” Like fellow Bear and crewmate John Cho ’96, Pine didn’t catch the acting bug until he was an English major at Cal, despite his Hollywood roots. He grew up in a house where his father, a veteran film and television actor, “had good years and lean years.” But for the younger Pine, 2013 will be a very good year. He’ll soon swap out his yellow shirt and spacecraft for black threads and a motorcycle in the title role of Jack Ryan, Tom Clancy’s beloved CIA analyst, releasing this December.

Arts and Entertainment

John Cho ’96

Following a path from Korea to Cal to the final frontier, Cho practically stumbled into acting as a Berkeley English major when he spontaneously filled in for an actor who had dropped out of a play. Today he is one of the most popular Asian American actors of his generation. Cast in comedies when “people didn’t think Asians could do comedy,” he counts the American Pie and Harold and Kumar series among his credits. His latest undertaking has been reprising the iconic Sulu in the films Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013). George Takei, the first Sulu and Cho’s hero, lured him into the series as a kid. “When you’re switching the channels and you see someone who looks like you, you freak out,” he said. A quote in his IMBD profile said he wasn’t interested in splashy debuts, but rather “sustaining a career, because that’s what’s truly difficult.” Let’s hope Cho is just getting started. Follow him on Twitter @JohnTheCho.

 

Arts and Entertainment

George Takei

Best known for playing Sulu on the original “Star Trek” TV series and the six movies that followed, Takei is unlikely social media royalty. Unofficially dubbed the King of Facebook, he counts 4 million fans in his online empire — including “Trekkies,” Howard Stern listeners, and the LGBTQ community — who devour his quirky mix of kitten jokes, “Star Trek” references, heartfelt messages, and sci-fi/fantasy memes. An outspoken advocate for civil rights, Takei has used his unmistakable baritone in several satiric PSAs, including one in response to Tennessee’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill that encourages viewers to say, “It’s okay to be Takei.” His current projects include the musical Allegiance, drawn from his experience of growing up in a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II, and the recently published Oh Myyy! There Goes the Internet. Follow the king’s rule on Facebook or Twitter @georgetakei.

Arts and Entertainment, Public Service and Activism