Ron Bender, 25, is the president of a Lake Geneva, Wis., company that specializes in outfitting motor vans with every luxury imaginable, starting with a kitchen sink. LRP (Leisure Recreational Products) Industries, which Bender founded in 1971 with his father and older brother, buys stripped-down van bodies and decorates them with such options as mirrored ceilings, shag carpeted walls and exterior paint jobs featuring the Jaws shark or a Canadian sunset. “Everyone wants to be recognized,” says Bender, a college dropout who became president at 21. “Our vans give people recognition and status. Any place you drive, you’ll be noticed.” The price tag for such vanity runs from $8,000 to $11,000, and among Bender’s clients are the Pittsburgh Steelers, who had a van customized to commemorate this year’s Super Bowl win. Bender predicts LRP, which employs 140 people, will gross $30 million this year, more than three times the 1974 figure. His ambitious future plans call for three-dimensional murals, customizing semitruck cabs and private planes. “We might,” he says, “just become another GM!”
Kristin Griffith, 22, has roles in two of the three plays in the new A Texas Trilogy, currently at Kennedy Center in Washington and due on Broadway in the fall. They are parts she was born (in Midland, Texas) to play. In Lu Ann Hampton Laverty Oberlander, Kristin is a rebellious teenager in the 1960s. In The Oldest Living Graduate, she plays a small-town society woman, “a little bit on the wild side.” Kristin left Midland at 16 to attend Juilliard’s drama school. After graduation she appeared in an avant-garde opera in Graz, Austria, then returned to the States to work as a waitress until Trilogy. Kristin, who practices TM, keeps slim on a vegetarian-like diet, and finds working on leather and tending plants “very soothing.” She lives in New York, sharing a small apartment with a singer and actor friend from Phoenix. “Basically I’m a very lopsided person,” she says. “All I really do is read plays and work on my scenes and scripts.” She hasn’t tried films or TV and wants no more “ingenue parts, sweet pure little girls” (after practically majoring in such sweet girl parts in college). One critic described her society woman as a “spiteful, vacuous, upwardly mobile materialist” and added that Kristin was “just right for the part.” The Texas accent comes in handy too.