LOS ANGELES - Mendes Napoli, the former KSTP-TV veep and news director turned on-air talent agency owner, is living large in California.
Know how you can tell?
By the building he owns, which also leases space to two other businesses. It's across the street from O'Gara Coach -- the Beverly Hills dealer of Rolls-Royce, Bugatti and other brands with starting prices in the $200,000 range.
His previous offices were prime real estate, too, until the landlord booted Napoli for some "little guy's" new production company. That "little guy" Napoli didn't recognize when he came in to chat about the location was Tobey Maguire, aka "Spider-Man."
I caught up with Napoli during my recent trip to California to cover Brittani Senser's music video shoot with Levi Johnston.
Once inside Napoli's offices, I joked to his assistant, Lynda Ruffino, that my unannounced arrival was going to cause Mendes a heart attack. "I am going to have a heart attack," Napoli responded from his office, where he was on a phone call. "Plus, you're shooting video?!" Informed of the planning I'd devoted to this surprise visit, Napoli responded, "So this was premeditated?"
When Napoli left in 1993, there were people I know who did not think Napoli Management Group would succeed.
Ha! NMG has become "one of the most prestigious agencies in the industry," said Bill Dallman, who was not among the doubters.
"The things he taught still stick with me today," said Dallman, veep and news director at Fox 9 and a former 10 p.m. producer at KSTP for Napoli. "Mendes always stressed effort and quality."
Napoli doesn't have many Minnesota clients these days. WCCO-TV's Frank Vascellaro, Fox 9's Bill Keller and KSTP-TV's Bob McNaney are Napoli's remaining clients in Minnesota.
"I used to have so many there," Napoli mused. "Oh well, we moved them all."
The move that meant the most to Minnesotans was KARE11's uber-anchor, Paul Magers, who departed here after 20 years of market dominance to join KCBS in Los Angeles, which he has lifted from the No. 4 station to No. 2.
Magers, a native Californian, doesn't miss Minnesota, but does Napoli?
"Only in the summer," said Napoli, a veteran of "10 winters," with a laugh. "I loved Minneapolis, I seriously did. It's a great city."
There's great pride in Napoli's voice when he speaks of his place in Hubbard Broadcasting history. "Five-and-a-half years," said Napoli. "I still hold the record" as news director at KSTP.
Although there isn't much NMG business in Minnesota, the state still has an emotion tug for some people in his office, I learned while visiting with Napoli, Ruffino, agent Laurie Jacoby and veep of business affairs Kathy Peterson.
Peterson received about 500 applications for a job opening in the office and picked Andrew Thomas because his permanent address was Plymouth, Minn., where she formerly lived.
"The resumé itself wasn't that impressive," confessed Thomas. But "Kathy happened to be from Plymouth, [her] daughter went to Wayzata High School, and here I am." And Thomas has obliged by bringing a touch of Minnesota back into the office: He had a Twins game up on one of the computer screens at his desk the day I was there.
Take a good look at Andrew's gorgeous mug at startribune.com/video and look for him at a Twins game over the Labor Day weekend. He's coming home to visit the parents, Tom and Eva Thomas, and check out Target Field.
There's a special greeting from Andrew to his family on my video. And Mom, I've got your back! After getting a scolding from me, while Napoli and others laughed in the background, Andrew should do a much better job of calling home.
Take a minute to watch ...
Bernard Berrian and Visanthe Shiancoe, two of the Vikings' best personalities, are playing Guy Fieri's "Minute To Win It" on NBC for charity on Tuesday and Wednesday.
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