View Blog Posts About: San Diegans in the Spotlight

San Diego a Hotspot for Reality TV Contestants


Do you have what it takes to be a star on Reality TV? Do you ever wish some talent scout or casting director would pluck you off the street for their next show?

It turns out San Diego is the place to be for a chance to be on Reality TV. The Union Tribune recently published “Reality TV Likes What It Sees in San Diego’s Talent Pool“.

A casting director quoted in the article kindly spoke of San Diego’s outgoing lifestyle: “I think of San Diego as an independent and life-loving city. People in San Diego are going out and doing things they enjoy, as opposed to being couch potatoes.”  That spirit and our proximity to Hollywood makes San Diego a prime spot for plucking soon-to-be reality stars out of obscurity.

Three of the latest stars plucked from San Diego made their debuts in the past week.

Sydney Wheeler, a model and part-time interior designer in San Diego, made her debut on the newest season of Survivor. (CBS Thursdays at 8PM.) She was picked while hanging out at Bar West in Pacific Beach.

Kris Klicka and Amanda Blackledge made their debut on the Amazing Race. (CBS Sundays at 8PM.) Kris was spotted by a CBS casting agent at the Ivy in the Gaslamp Quarter. They follow on the heals of San Diego contestant Mark Yturralde, who competed in the last edition of the Amazing Race. (By the way, you can follow Yturralde on Twitter.)

Last summer, I wrote about the TLC reality TV show “Must Love Kids“, which was made up entirely of San Diego contestants and filmed throughout the county.

The UT article notes several more San Diego residents who have become reality TV stars, including contestants on Project Runway, Top Chef, American Idol, and The Bachelor. For those who have the time and knowledge, it might be interesting to post a list of all the San Diego based contestants below to see how many San Diegans got their 15 minutes of fame on Reality TV.

Will you be the next Reality TV contestant to get plucked out of San Diego?

College Filmmakers From San Diego Produce Documentary Seen Around the World


A camera purchased on eBay + three college students with an interest to visit war torn Sudan and Uganda = 5 million viewers, the launch of a World Tour, and the establishment of a major non-profit to change the plight of children in northern Uganda and other war-torn areas of the world.

Three friends, Bobby Bailey, Laren Poole, and Jason Russell set out to find a story to tell the rest of us about atrocities in Sudan. What they came back with is the attached video called “Invisible Children”. It’s an hour long but I implore you to make the time to watch it with family, friends, and coworkers.

The children you will meet in the movie ask the filmmakers not to forget them. They hold hope that the ‘tape’ being made of them can be used to tell their story to the world.  That story is the brutal torture and kidnapping of children ages 5 – 12 for service in the Lord’s Resistance Army. You will see and hear the stories of children who gather together at night to sleep in the middle of town with the hope they do not become the next victim. You will also meet those who have escaped their captors but must exorcise the demons now stuck in their heads.

I was impressed with the maturity and communication skills of the elementary school age children interviewed for the film. This is one heck of a documentary created by college aged kids in 2003.

Starting with one showing at a San Diego community center, the work of these filmmakers, which includes some follow-up documentaries, is finally starting to receive some mainstream attention. Up until now, their films have been shown in schools and churches around the country.

As ‘Invisible Children’ gained momentum, donations from viewers wanting to help the children started pouring in. ‘Invisible Children’ is now a San Diego based non-profit that provides help to the Sudanese refugee camps in Uganada, provides educational materials, instructors, and scholarships for the children of northern Uganda and sells products made by former child captives. Their amazing grass roots story is told in the February issue of Success Magazine.

This week, ‘Invisible Children’ began their international tour to promote their cause to an even wider audience. I hope you will take the time to learn more about Invisible Children and consider following their blog.

RB Alum & Injured Iraq Vet Featured in Success Magazine


Here is an inspirational story for entrepreneurs. If you think the odds are stacked against you, think again. Consider the story of Dawn Halfaker, a former star basketball player at Rancho Bernardo High School, who was riding in a Humvee in Iraq when it was attacked by a rocket propelled grenade.  It hit her right arm, “broke five of her ribs and bruised her lung before exploding just behind her head. Doctors didn’t expect her to live.”

That was four years ago. Today, Halfaker is the founder and CEO of Halfaker and Associates, a 90 person national security firm in Washington, D.C. with projected annual revenues of $10 million. You can learn more about Halfaker’s amazing story in this month’s issue of Success Magazine.

So, when you have a bad day, remember the story of San Diego native Dawn Halfaker and keep the faith that you will enjoy brighter days ahead.

Elusive San Diego Billionaire Featured in ‘The Predator’


Some billionaires seek the limelight to showcase their extreme success as entrepreneurial titans.  For example, think Donald Trump.  You will often see these billionaires in the media meccas of New York or Los Angeles.

However, did you know there are a number of billionaires who fly under the radar?  You won’t see them starring their own reality TV shows.  You won’t see them giving interviews on TV.  You won’t even seem them with a listing on Wikipedia. (Just about everybody who has had 30 seconds of fame is profiled on Wikipedia … even Joe the Plumber.)

San Diego is home to some of the unknown entrepreneurial titans who fly under the radar.  It’s hard to find information about them.  However, when it does become available, I’ll be sure to share them with you.

First up is Neal Blue, CEO of defense contractor General Atomics. A rare profile of Neal Blue can be found in the November 10th issue of Fortune Magazine.

Blue’s current company, General Atomics, has become popular of late for developing the Predator drone, which I have written about in previous posts. It has received praise for helping to win the war in Iraq to helping fight wildfires in California. The success of the Predator has brought attention to this large, but little known, employer in San Diego and its owner.

Neal Blue did not always fly under the radar. As you will read in the Fortune Magazine article, Blue and his brother Linden were featured on the front page of LIFE Magazine back in 1957 as the nation followed their successful attempt to fly over the Andes Mountains. That was only a year after Blue financed a college road trip from France to India “by selling articles to the New York Times and persuading Chrysler to donate a Dodge station wagon”.

Neal Blue showed an uncanny ability to carry through with adventures that only the most imaginative people ever dream about. This has led him to own signficant business and real estate assets around the world including uranium mines in Australia to oil deposits in Canada.

Read more about Blue’s story in an extensive interview he allowed for Fortune Magazine. You will learn how he took a desire for unmanned planes in the 1980s to overthrow the Sandinistas in Nicaragua (where he owned a banana plantation) to creating the Predator drone now used to fight the war in Iraq. I’ll entice you with one more quote from the article. “Over the course of his five-decade career he’s built a sprawling global business that spans four continents and enriched his family. But he has also made enemies and infuriated customers.”

If you are interested in learning more, you can see the Blue brothers in person when they are inducted into San Diego’s CONNECT Entrepreneur Hall of Fame in January.

Richard Dreyfuss Teaching Civics in San Diego


Hollywood star and San Diego resident Richard Dreyfuss is making plans to create a non-profit aimed at improving our knowledge of civics.  The timing could not be more perfect as the Intercollegiate Studies Institute just announced last week that our knowledge of civics is at an all-time low.

The latest civics survey found 68% of U.S citizens failed a basic civics test.  Unfortunately, our elected officials did not score any better on average.  You can visit the Intercollegiate Studies Institute web site to test your knowledge of civics.  This is a great time as any to brush up on your knowledge and be an active participant in our political process.

Dreyfuss noted in a recent AARP interview that he wants to do his part to save us from the “forces of evil — apathy, ignorance, and the lack of civility”. He has been traveling the country giving interviews on TV, such as an appearance on Huckabee,  to gather support for his initiative and giving public seminars.  The next seminar will be given in Dreyfuss’s hometown Monday night.  He will be speaking at San Diego State University. The seminar is free and starts at 7PM.

The Dreyfuss Initiative is aimed to increase civic education for those in Kindergarten through 12th grade.  I was not able to find a web site or details on how others can help Dreyfuss with his new non-profit.  Hopefully, something will be available soon so either I or someone else can add the details in the comments below.

As for Richard Dreyfuss’s connection to San Diego, Diane Bell reported in yesterday’s Union Tribune that he moved to Carlsbad four years ago and is now moving to Encinitis. So, if you think you saw Dreyfuss around town, it probably was him! Make sure you know your civics before you say hi.

Rancho Bernardo’s Cole Hamels Set to Win World Series


Rancho Bernardo High School’s Cole Hamels, a 2002 graduate, will be the starting pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies’ in Monday night’s Game 5 of the World Series. Should the Phillies win the game, they will be the winner of the World Series. (I’ll be cheering for them since they’re my old hometown team!)

Cole Hamels is a 24 year-old left hander who won the MVP of the National League Championship when the Phillies beat the Los Angeles Dodgers to reach the World Series. Cheer him on tonight as he seeks to win his fifth game in this post season. The Phillies are odds-on favorites to win due to the strength of their #1 pitcher, who won Game 1 of the World Series.

Hamels is not the only major leaguer from Rancho Bernardo High School. All-Star Hank Blalock of the Texas Rangers is a 1999 graduate. They are just two of the 33 major league baseball players from San Diego who played in 2008.

Let’s cheer on San Diego’s own Cole Hamels as he seeks to secure the Phillies’ first World Series since 1980. Who knows, he may just secure the MVP of the World Series as well. The game will be at 5PM on FOX5.

Read more about Cole Hamels from the Philadelphia Phillies web site.