Mike Burcon, 27, worries about becoming a 72-hour-a-week workaholic running his all-natural pizza business, Weird Beards Inc. of Allendale, Mich. But his obsession may soon be paying off: Burcon boasts he will sell one million pizzas this year. That’s counting two outlets he owns around Grand Rapids plus shipments of frozen pizzas to health-food stores and eateries in 49 states. Burcon uses only 100 percent stone-ground whole wheat and honey for the crusts (no preservatives) and fresh vegetables for toppings. Price of a 12-inch pie: $4. Burcon grew up in the rural western Michigan town of New Era, where his father owned a furniture store and served as mayor. At 18 Mike borrowed $7,000 from Pop to open a small restaurant, the Eager Eater, where he worked summers to pay his way through Grand Valley State (in philosophy). He hitchhiked through Alaska and did a stint as a bodyguard and assistant to Evel Knievel before starting Weird Beards in 1975. A girlfriend gave him that nickname, he explains, “and it seems the crazier the name, the better the restaurant.” Mike isn’t a millionaire yet. “I’ve just gone deeper and deeper into debt,” he sighs when thinking about his $110,000 in mortgages. He did, however, purchase a Lincoln Continental to make deliveries. Reason: The car holds 100 dozen pizza crusts.
Bettina Cato, 25, was probably the only child in the world whose mother praised her efforts when she painted all over their living room walls. “She was very proud,” recalls Bettina. Cato is still painting—and still being praised. Her delicate watercolors of flower arrangements, shells, antique porcelains and old-fashioned fabrics are being sold (prices range from $400 to $500) exclusively at the Staircase Gallery in Beverly Hills. She now has a six-week waiting list for commissioned pieces. The daughter of a fashion model and an art director (abstract expressionist Willem de Kooning was a family friend), Cato was born in Manhattan and raised in tony Southampton, Long Island after her parents’ divorce. Her mom pushed her into modeling as a child, and she appeared in McCall’s and Harper’s Bazaar. But “I hated it,” she says. “I was a tomboy and I would much rather have been riding a horse than wearing a dress.” After deciding against college, she worked at the Yves Saint Laurent boutique in Manhattan, then went to South America to gather fabrics en route to California. There she tried living in a mountain log cabin in Mendocino County with a since-departed boyfriend and began painting wild flowers. “I never thought,” says Cato, pleased by her success and busy schedule, “I’d make my living from painting.”