Consider it the guest list for the best cocktail party ever. The 2007 It List is our selection of the 34 most interesting, happening, talked about people in the state. If you got these folks all in the same room, no telling what would transpire, but you can bet it wouldn’t be boring. (It was all we could do to squeeze them all into the same magazine. Visit nhmagazine.com for more photos, info and links regarding this year’s It List.)
The Perfect Host
Maybe nice guys can win the race. At least that seems to be the case in the race for TV ratings, because nice guy Tom Bergeron, who got his start here on the N.H. Seacoast, has been flying high ever since he found his niche with a national audience as host of “Hollywood Squares.” He went on to charm the nation with his jovial doubletakes on “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” and now he’s one of the most recognized faces on TV thanks to a little reality phenom called “Dancing With the Stars,” which he hosts for its bazillion viewers each week on ABC. (See page 24 for an exclusive New Hampshire Magazine interview with Tom.)
Super Duper Senior
She become known as the nation’s “oldest political newcomer.” She walked across the country for campaign finance reform and walked across the state to win votes for her quixotic Senate campaign. When she ran against powerful incumbent Judd Gregg with paltry funds (by modern campaign standards) and some pretty radical ideas (by New Hampshire standards), she nonetheless earned 34 percent of the vote. Now she’s been discovered by Hollywood, or at least by cable TV. A full-length documentary outlining her grassroots appeal, titled “Run Granny Run,” appears on HBO on Oct. 18 and Nov. 6. Seems like a lot to happen in such a short space of time, but it may be just the beginning for Doris Haddock, aka Granny D. After all, she’s only 94.
Granite Rooted Rocker
He made his mark in the 1980s as a bandmate in the Del Fuegos (named best new band of 1984 by Rolling Stone Magazine) but like many of that era he’s grown a bit more domestic in the 21st Century. He spun off into the new genre of kid-oriented roots and rock music and became a bona fide superstar with the youngsters. His latest CD, “Dan Zanes and Friends: Catch That Train,” won the 2007 Grammy for Best Children’s Album. Dan lives part-time near Concord and is sometimes seen helping his mom feed the hungry and down-and-out at the Capitol City’s “Friendly Kitchen.” His social conscience also found expression in a recent CD of rockers playing to bring awareness and assistance to the homeless: “Give Us Your Poor.” www.giveusyourpoor.org
James Patrick Kelly
His science fiction chops were developed in the 1970s and are imbued with the psychedelic fervor of that era. In recent years James Patrick Kelly has envisioned a future where science has unlocked matter and biology, and reality itself has become the ultimate hallucinogen. He won Hugo Awards in 1995 and 1999 for the novelettes “Think Like a Dinosaur,” and "10^16 to 1." He just nabbed a 2006 Nebula Award for his novella “Burn,” which he recorded in his own voice and distributed via podcast. His work with Creative Commons licensing and online distribution gained the attention of online book site Audible.com, and he’s now the host of his own for-pay podcast magazine, “James Patrick Kelly’s StoryPod.” Oh, and on the local front, he just won his second Fellowship Grant from the N.H. State Council on the Arts, so it looks like the future is in good hands.
Guardian of the Arts
When the decision was made to expand Manchester’s Currier Museum by some 30,000 square feet, it meant a time of great change for the venerable institution. The museum had to be closed for 18 months to allow the $20 million construction to take place. Guided by Susan Strickler, the museum’s director, the Currier surmounted that challenge, found alternate and creative ways for the museum’s work to continue and, soon, to re-open, bigger and better. A woman of many interests and involvement, she’s been laying low of late, other than taking some good-natured ribbing from Union Leader columnist John Clayton about the 35-foot-tall steel sculpture by modern artist Mark di Suvero that will greet visitors to the Currier. “My work is my life right now,” she says. “But it’s fun. I can’t complain.”
The advertising business is a game of ups and downs, lefts and rights. No agency knows this better than Manchester’s Griffin York and Krause, which has gone through a few sets of initials in recent years. But managing change is what it’s all about, says new president of GY&K, Travis York. Setting the strategic direction for one of New England’s best known ad agencies sometimes involves zigging when most folks want to zag — particularly in New Hampshire. “There was a time when we lagged behind other parts of the country,” he says. “But we’ve caught up.” He should know. Local business is in his bloodline and his great uncle Peter Agrafiotis ran the first real advertising/PR agency in the state. Travis keeps his uncle’s old Remington typewriter near his desk, just to remind him how time flies in the advertising business.
David Mendelsohn came to UNH to study forestry, but soon gravitated to the photo labs. It was a good move. His photos began appearing in significant journals of photography and he received a grant from the NEA to photograph an extended road trip titled “Route 40.” It’s the kind of assignment most photographers would consider their ticket to the New York photo scene, but David liked it nearer to the trees. He kept his family in New Hampshire, but his work has found its way onto the walls of galleries and spaces as far-flung as Amsterdam, Tokyo and Paris. Magazines like Zoom, Communication Arts and Digital Photo Pro, where he once submitted photos, now publish editorial features about him. He was recently declared a “Nikon Legend” for his visionary ouvre that incorporates profound color, surrealism and humor.
Beyond Golden Pond
Ernest Thompson has been hosting a playwright workshop near his home in the Lakes Region for a decade or so, while writing and directing some of the most compelling and controversial theatre anywhere. His most recent play, “Ax of Love,” is a touchingly brutal look at how love survives whatever life throws at it. It premiered at Portsmouth’s West End Studio Theater and will appear in Boston and, most likely, New York next year. His latest movie, “The Love Line,” is shooting in Providence and his next, “Elysian Farm,” will be produced and filmed in New Hampshire. Oh, and his little N.H.-based play that went on to win him an Oscar, “On Golden Pond,” is still one of the most-staged theatrical productions ever.
The man who wrote what Time magazine called “The Novel That Ate the World” is at work (though there are rumors of writer’s block) on another book at his Rye home. Can publishing phenom Dan Brown — author of the all-time best-seller “The Da Vinci Code” — do it again? Brown and his publisher, always clever about PR, are already creating a stir about the new book, tentatively called “The Solomon Key,” with all the same elements that intrigued Da Vinci readers: encrypted messages, esoteric symbols and a secret society (this time the Freemasons). For clues about its plot, they point to the ciphers and symbols on the Da Vinci book jacket — one visible only with a magnifying glass. Bet we made you look.
She’s been the Enrichment Education Coordinator for the Henniker Community School for a decade, and has managed to make science and physics into hot topics of discussion for kids of all ages. Now she’s got the chance to make those topics lively and relevant for the U.S. government. Her selection to the Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Program allows her to inform policy makers on Capitol Hill about the need, and the techniques, to keep U.S. math and science education on the front burner. She’s one of four Einstein Fellows assigned to Congress, the other 10 are working in departments such as NASA and the Department of Energy.
Charles Scott and Norman MacLeod
The independent spirit of New Hampshire finds expression in lots of local attractions, but sometimes in a population center visitors can’t find a place to stay that isn’t the hotel equivalent of a Burger King. Norman MacLeod and Charles Scott, two self-defined “hotel guys,” are trying to rectify that situation. They’ve already refurbished the historic Centennial Inn in Concord and are working on the Wolfeboro Inn and the Inn at Exeter to enable them to provide a distinctive experience, while exceeding expectations for comfort and convenience. “Nothing is pretentious, everything is real,” says MacLeod. “These properties have a soul in them and can reflect the communities where they exist.”
Bode Miller and Sister Kyla
Good as Gold
Olympic skier Bode Miller and his family have been the recipients of some less-than-upbeat press in recent years, but behind the scenes the extended Miller Clan has been doing a lot of good that hasn’t gotten so much exposure. Case in point, the Turtle Ridge Farm and Foundation, which has been producing certified organic produce and livestock and facilitating Franconia’s first Farm to Restaurant initiative. The foundation promotes and supports community health, local sports and sustainable living. It has contributed financially to the North Country Boys and Girls Club and the Lance Armstrong Foundation, and runs the annual Bode Fest at Bretton Woods, benefiting the adaptive ski program there.
A native of Hampton, Chris Millette went on to Boston College and Tufts University, and then went into coaching college basketball. When he was hired as head coach of the Endicott College team in 2005 he was 28 and one of the youngest head coaches in the country. This didn’t stop him from leading the Endicott Gulls to a 19-10 record and their third straight CCC Conference championship. The next year they made it to the semi-finals. Not too shabby. The new season is just getting started, but he’s confident of another run at the championship. Meanwhile, he’s recruiting players out of New Hampshire (one from Dover shows particular promise, he says) and he’ll be speaking at the N.H. High School Coaches Clinic at Exeter High in November.
Red River, Silver Screen
Talk about pressure. Movie lovers in Concord have been trying to get a downtown, Main Street cinema open for more than a decade, pinning hopes and dreams of finally extending the downtown’s hot strip one more block to the south. Different folks had different ideas about the final product. All they knew for certain was the name: Red River Theaters — a reference to the Howard Hawks film about a grueling cattle drive. The person to see the mission to completion had to reconcile contrary views and get some very independent minds moving in the same direction. Looks like they found the right drover for this particular herd. New director Robbi Farschman has impressed just about everyone she has met, and the theater opens just as this article goes to press. First film to be shown? Red River.
Republican Distance Runner
These are not the glory days for Granite State Republicans. After the national elections were swept by the Democrats, the state soon followed suit and turned from red to blue. But the man in the hot seat as the chairman of the Republican State Party seems to be enjoying the challenge, heading up the conservative insurgency and taking pot shots at “liberal” initiatives via press release and interview. Fergus Cullen, a 34-year-old business owner, Yale graduate, high school coach and newspaper columnist, is also one of the youngest party chairmen in the history of the state. His political experience belies his age, and his zeal is tempered by his skills as a competitive distance runner. He knows that winning the race is as much about endurance and timing as it is about speed.
Queen of Cuisine
She and her partner Deb Weeks had created one of the hottest scenes in Portsmouth with the Green Monkey restaurant when a space opened up across the street. They took a bold leap and bought it, starting a new restaurant named Brazo with a South American ambiance and dishes that suggest ports of call from Cuba to the Yucatan Peninsula. Phelps Dieck is a graduate of New England Culinary Institute and her role at the Green Monkey was running the kitchen while Weeks took care of the front of the house. At Brazo, Dieck will manage the front and oversee the menu, while Chef Luis Gabriel Velez runs the kitchen. The congeniality and conviviality that made the Monkey such a happening eatery is likely to remain a priority. Anyone who says you can’t be in two places at once just needs to watch Dieck perform her magic.
He swore, after producing “The Civil War,” he would never do another documentary about war. But 17 years later the legendary Ken Burns of Walpole was persuaded to do another by the aging and dying of WWII veterans — seeing the loss of their stories as “historical amnesia too irresponsible to countenance.” The autumn airing of “The War” was designed in part to inspire individuals to interview veterans they know, to help in compiling an extensive oral history of “the greatest generation.” As with many cultural happenings, it’s hard to tell where the cause ends and the effect begins, but the country’s interest in the WWII era is peaking just as the series saturates the airwaves. Once again Burns is emerging as the perfect tour guide into the riches and the horrors of America’s past.
Scottish roots go deep into New Hampshire rocky soil, and the fruits of that rugged tree are such popular attractions as the Scottish Highland Games at Loon Mountain, the Southern Highland Games, the Scottish Heritage Tartan Dinner, the Scottish Heritage Golf Classic and the Strathspray and Reel Society. Now, David Christie, who has his fingers in just about every haggis in the state, wants to unite New Hampshire and Scotland with a $32 million cultural embassy situated in Concord. The 65,000-sq.-ft. Scottish Heritage Center and Museum of North America would be a world-class destination for exhibition and research. Sound far-fetched? Christie has the ear of some pretty impressive figures in the states, and the Scottish government is considering a substantial grant of seed money for the project.
Fooling Around, Big Time
Staying in the game is the formula for success for comedian Jimmy Dunn. After all, the New Hampshire Seacoast isn’t a hotbed of comedy clubs (though his new Comedy Oasis on Hanover Street might change that). But, just like his beloved Boston Red Sox, if you stick with it long enough, you come out on top. Dunn is riding high on his appearances on ESPN Fan Attic, Comedy Central, Jimmy Kimmel Live and appearances on the Red Sox pre-game show during the team’s historic 2004 season. The Hampton resident is now going into a new medium with his book “Funnyball: Observations from a Summer at the Ballpark.” His friend and cohort from NESN, Tom Caron, suggests that between the Sox winning the World Series and Dunn writing a book, the Apocalypse must be nigh. If it is, Dunn will find something funny to say about it.
He’s a quiet, unassuming man, but at this moment in time he is one of the most powerful people in the country. That’s because, as Secretary of State, Bill Gardner gets to set the all-important date of New Hampshire’s presidential primary, and all political eyes are on him, waiting for him to make a decision . Gardner won’t do it until all the leapfrogging and reshuffling of states is done; in the meantime his every move is checked for a sign of his intentions. As we go to press, still no decision and there’s talk of a December (!) primary, a long way from the original primary month of March.
The nation’s newest Poet Laureate already had quite a resumé: 18 books of poetry, one Pulitzer Prize (for “The World Doesn’t End”), finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry (for “Walking the Black Cat”) and a Jane Kenyon Award from the New Hampshire Writer’s Project for “A Wedding in Hell.” Not bad for a Yugoslavian immigrant for whom English is a second tongue. The Stafford resident, who taught at UNH for more than three decades, follows in the giant footprints of two other Granite Staters who have held the top poet title, Donald Hall and Maxine Kumin — make that three if you count Robert Frost.
She has a familiar face, having appeared on New Hampshire television for many years. She also knows the media inside out, having been an award-winning journalist at N.H. Public Television and WMUR. Good credentials for her new volunteer role as president of AARP New Hampshire, an organization that’s becoming ever more relevant with the state’s senior population expected to double in the next 20 years. Oh, and did we mention that you could tap her energy field and generate enough power to light a small state? With every presidential candidate making laps through New Hampshire, she’s turning on that wattage to promote AARP’s bipartisan Divided We Fail initiative, which emphasizes health care and financial security as the country’s most pressing issues.
Nabil Migalli and Dr. Marie Metoyer
Dr. Marie Metoyer is a retired psychiatrist and recipient of the Minority Health Coalition Award for her work to increase the availability of mental health services. Nabil Migalli is president of the Arab-American Forum, working to increase understanding between these different cultures. They recently joined forces with two colleagues in the state’s multi-cultural movement, Lillye Ramos-Spooner and Theresa deLangis, to revive an event held in the 1990s called the International Festival. Now known as People Fest, the fall event seeks to bring the state’s earlier immigrant communities, French/Canadian, Scotch/Irish and Vietnamese, together with newcomers from Sudan and Somalia. The joy of sharing music, food and dance is a common denominator of humanity.
Waking the Green Giant
A potentially limitless source of energy is right beneath our feet. It’s not secret coal or oil reserves, it’s grass, plant life — just about anything with cellulose, and cellulose is the most abundant organic molecule in nature. Cellulose can become alcohol, which burns in engines and generators, but it’s an expensive molecule to break down. Prof. Lee Lynd of Dartmouth Thayer School of Engineering may have figured out a way to coax the fuel ethanol out of this ultimate renewable resource. His company Mascoma has raised about $60 million and is beginning construction on a pilot-scale ethanol plant in N.Y. and a production plant in Michigan is next. Their secret weapon in the process is a bacterium that could be turned loose on a pile of wood chips and turn it into fuel. In a world that’s warming up, how cool is that?
James, Beth and Ana Aponovich
First Family of Art
If scientists were to map the genomes of the Aponovich family, they surely would find a chromosome that makes people pick up a paintbrush. James Aponovich, the current N.H. Artist Laureate, and his wife Elizabeth Johannson, both of Hancock, are each in their own way accomplished artists. Now their daughter Ana, a recent college graduate who lives on the Seacoast, is part of the buzz about the Aponovich family. Her vibrant watercolors are getting critical raves. The Sharon Arts Center last year sponsored an Aponovich family exhibition, saying :“Each artist may very well be the most significant and meaningful influence in each other’s work and lives. Their family values are as vital and rich as the art they create.”
Mark Constance left the Seacoast to make his mark in the music business, began directing music videos, then migrated into film, helping direct hits like "Terminator 3," "Being John Malkovich" and "Charlie's Angels." Now he’s back on the Seacoast with his wife Bethany, bringing Hollywood sensibilities to the Granite State. He produced “Sensation of Sight,” which had its world premiere at the San Sebastian International Film Festival, and is in pre-production on “Losing Jerry,” which uses local actors and locations to tell the story of the night Jerry Garcia died and the aftermath of that event in the lives of some of his fans. Local people, locations and technicians are all part of the mix for Constance and his team.
Karl Beisel and Keith Murphy
Keith Murphy and Karl Beisel are inviting you back to middle school. Except, this time, there’s beer. The business partners renovated Manchester’s former Omega building into Murphy’s Taproom after founding the New Hampshire Sports and Social Club, an organization that allows adults to, among other things, hurl squishy balls at one another. With kickball, volleyball, softball, flag football and — of course — dodgeball on the menu of entertainments, Murphy and Beisel have turned your former gym class curriculum into a chance for people to socialize and enter some friendly sports competition.
School of Hard Rocks
It’s not often that the local band breaks out onto the national and international music scenes, never mind earning three Grammy Award nominations, selling millions of records and headlining major tours. But Godsmack and its front man (not to mention song writer, singer, guitar and drum player) Sully Erna have done all that and more. For about a decade Erna and his hard rocking band have been finding success at every turn. After a start playing in their hometowns of Lawrence, Mass., and Salem, N.H., the band landed its first headlining tour, “The Voodoo Tour,” followed by joining Ozzfest and Woodstock ’99. Last February Erna switched from penning chart-topping songs to writing about life before Godsmack’s breakout in his book “The Paths We Choose.”
Star of Bethlehem
Geographically (distant north) and size-wise (a little more than 2,000 souls) you’d think Bethlehem, N.H., was the sticks incarnate. Well, not exactly. This tiny community has a culture as solid as rock and as cool as a mountain breeze. Its reputation is guarded by locals who are passionate about their little North Country enclave. Steven Dignazio, who has lived there since the 1970s, was a driving force behind the purchase and restoration of the Colonial Theatre, and he was appointed executive director in 2003. Since then, the theater has become a genuine cultural center and economic engine for the region. Looking for a first-rate foreign film? Why drive to Boston? The Colonial recently screened the Argentine film “Live-in Maid” when there were only four prints — the others in N.Y., Chicago and L.A.
“If you build it, they will come” works fine for mystical ballfields, but in the rough-and-ready real estate game, the risks are high and the outcomes uncertain. This field is an equal mix of dreams, guts and instinct. For 14 years, Arthur Sullivan and his partner Shane Brady have concentrated on revitalizing underutilized properties, notably the Manchester millyard, and have spurred a renaissance of interest in places written off by others. Perhaps symbolic of that is the current renovation of the old Cabletron site in Rochester — once a shell, and now nearly all 250,000 square feet is leased. The new frontier is condominium development to provide affordable workforce housing for the future — a daunting prospect in a weak home market, but that’s where the dreams, guts and instinct kick in.
Fresh Face of Horror
The New Hampshire seacoast has its share of creepy stories, from rock-throwing ghosts to alien abductions, but it’s also the home of Joe Hill, whose Pandora’s box of a mind is poised to spin out a world of dark fantasy and horror. His first novel, “Heart-Shaped Box,” has garnered critical raves and is queued up to be made into a major motion picture by Neil Jordan (The Brave One). His earlier book of short stories, “20th Century Ghosts,” was published as a limited edition in England, but an American edition with national promotion is due out as this goes to press. He even has a six-issue comic book/graphic novel coming out in January. It would be tempting to think of him as heir to the horror throne of Master of the Macabre, Stephen King, but that might be a redundant title since young Joe Hill is King’s flesh and blood son.
In 1965 Meredith Hall was pregnant at 16, expelled from high school and shunned by her small New Hampshire town and by her family. Now she has more awards and praise for her writing than will fit here, teaches writing at the University of New Hampshire and has published “Without a Map,” the story of her pregnancy, how her son was swiftly put up for adoption and how he found her 21 years later. A $50,000 Gift of Freedom Award from A Room of Her Own Foundation gave her the financial support to write “Without a Map.” Hall’s work was also honored by a Pushcart Prize, has appeared in The New York Times, “Best American Essays,” The Southern Review and more.
A year ago, Matt Keene was playing football for his Kimball Union Academy team when he went into cardiac arrest. Fortunately the school had an automatic external defibrillator (AED) device on hand and Matt’s life was saved. Since then he’s taken all the spirit he once brought to the gridiron and put it into raising funds and awareness to get more of those lifesaving devices into public places. He’s lobbied in Washington, D.C., to help pass an AED law, started his own foundation, raised about $60,000 so far, and placed 14 AEDs in his hometown of Berlin/Gorham, just to get things rolling. Oh, and he still finds time to volunteer for his school honor board, proctor for his dorm and to serve as assistant coach on the JV football team. You gotta admit it, the kid’s got heart.
Bishop Gene Robinson
Testing the Faith
If anyone thought that the flap over New Hampshire’s consecration of the first openly gay Episcopal bishop would fade away, they were mistaken. And if anyone thought that Bishop Gene Robinson would attempt to blend into the ecclesiastical background once appointed, they were wrong, too. The bishop has remained in the news, and even made some news of his own with his endorsement of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and his recent suggestion that Jesus, Himself, might have been gay.
This article appears in the March 2010 issue of New Hampshire Magazine