Part 38: They love L.A.

Part 38: They love L.A.

With the UI celebrating birthday No. 150 this year, we caught up with hundreds of graduates who have gone on to big things. Every Tuesday throughout 2017, Editor JEFF D'ALESSIO will tell their tales. Today, in Part 38: Illini in the City of Angels.

Looking back, JOSH RUBENSTEIN realizes now, he should have known better when his buddies convinced him to room with them at an off-campus spot with a familiar name.

We speak of the La Bamba apartments, as they were known in the early '90s, when Rubenstein, now the public information director for the Los Angeles Police Department, was a sophomore living outside of a dorm for the first time.

"The building earned its name because the first-floor tenant was home to the burrito as big as your head," says Rubenstein (BA '93). "For an entire year, we lived over La Bamba restaurant, and the smell of Mexican cooking wafting through the building into the early hours of the morning. While it was a welcome odor on many a night returning from Kam's and CO's, it did get old pretty fast.

"I live in L.A. now, home to some of the best Mexican food in the country, and as I pass certain restaurants, it brings me back to the corner of Fifth and Green."

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Topping fellow Los Angelino CLARK BENSON's what-was-I-thinking list was "a very un-PC memory that wouldn't be likely to happen in today's world."

It was the late '80s, two decades before the Internet innovator founded, which pulls in more than 30 million unique visitors a month with lists like the 988 most famous UI alums (HUGH HEFNER, LARRY ELLISON and JESSE JACKSON go 1-2-3) and celebs who ought to run for DONALD TRUMP's job (a Hanks-DeGeneres ticket in 2020?).

Benson (BS '90) was a freshman living in Snyder Hall, where he'd befriended "a short, slightly pudgy guy who liked a good laugh." They'd just gotten back from the bars, when Pudgy slipped into "this high-end ninja suit he'd randomly mail-ordered," as Benson remembers it.

"He looked kinda ridiculous, and in our inebriated state, we decided it would be very entertaining to go to the girls' side of the floors" and sneak into any unlocked rooms, "not all that uncommon in the '80s. Our stubby ninja would stand in the middle of the room and say 'Psst, wake up. I'm a ninja. Wake up — I'm a ninja' until someone stirred, screamed or threw a pillow at us.

"The next day at lunch in the cafeteria, the women in general seemed a bit disheveled and there was a bunch of chatter about some sleep invader. To us, it was just stupid collegiate hijinks, but my guess is if you got caught doing that in today's college environment, you would probably face expulsion."

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Next to scarfing down cookies from Fat Don's, KRISTINE KAZANOVSKI's most vivid memory involves an activity not so popular in California, where the finance director for McDonald's now calls home.

"Second semester senior year, I was lucky enough to get into the ice skating class," says Kazanovski (BS/MS '04). "We had a mid-term exam scheduled the same afternoon as Unofficial. Needless to say, about 90 percent of the class had been out all day — and had the green mouths to prove it.

"I'm not sure how anyone was able to lace up their skates, let alone pass the exam."

AS SEEN ON TV: Three L.A. Illini on the small screen share their favorite Campustown spots

ESPN NBA analyst and Los Angeles FC soccer owner TOM PENN ('93) picks ... the IMPE pool, "where I spent most of my time as a graduate assistant swim coach and where I met my wife, MELISSA WHITFIELD ('95)."

TV producer JANELLE LAND ('01), with credits that include 'Dr. Phil' and 'Judge Judy,' picks ... the Armory Theater, "where I first learned to really flex my creative muscles as a part of Inner Voices."

NFL Network producer HEATHER PINK ('12) picks ... the Yellow House on First Street, which "used to be the football house. A group of Delta Zeta sorority sisters and I took it over for our final two years."

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