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Young former locals are realizing their dreams coast to coast

By Mardee Gruen
of The Chronicle staff

December 19th, 2003

From New York to Los Angeles, young adults from Milwaukee have hit the road running. Here’s a sampling of what some of our favorite sons and daughters are doing out there. And, of course, we invite our readers to let us know of other interesting stories for future issues.

Stacia Dubin’s face — and her words — are fast becoming well known in Chicagoland, where she is a newscaster on the CBS affiliate WBBM Channel 2.

Unlike Dubin, Mia Kaminsky works behind the scenes as casting producer for the syndicated reality television show “Blind Date,” which is filmed in New York.

A self-described “doubtful” political candidate, Bari Lurie is director of special projects for Friends of Hillary (Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.) in Washington, D.C.

And, he may not be in front of the camera on “Fear Factor,” a reality show that airs on NBC, but Josh Silberman is preparing what can only be described as “gross” contests and testing some stunts for contestants in Los Angeles, where the show is filmed.

The Milwaukee natives, and coincidentally Nicolet High School grads, found a few minutes in their hectic schedules to share their experiences with The Chronicle. Not surprisingly, their mothers only gave us their cell numbers because in their words, she/he “is never home!”

Stacia Dubin

Dubin graduated from Nicolet in 1990 and majored in journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “I was vacillating between journalism and advertising and wrote a few articles for the Badger Herald. I was lucky to get an internship the summer after my junior year at Channel 6 in Milwaukee and guess that’s when I knew I wanted to get into broadcast news,” she explained.

Dubin started paying her dues in the broadcast field in Rhinelander. “Everyone starts out in a small market, but this was really small,” she said. “We wrote our stories on typewriters and literally pasted our scripts together. Fortunately, I was only there seven weeks before I was picked up by a station in LaCrosse. Though I took a pay cut, it had a live truck, which is really important for TV, and a computerized newsroom.”

A year-and-a-half later she re-joined Channel 6 in Milwaukee. “I was visiting old friends in the newsroom and was invited to send a tape. I worked there for four years before heading to Chicago in November of 2000. I’m an anchor reporter for the morning news show, which airs, unfortunately, at 5 a.m., and a general assignment reporter.”

Her most memorable story, she said, was for Channel 6 and involved a woman who was carjacked in West Allis. “Coincidentally, this woman had seen an episode of ‘Oprah’ about what do if you are ever attacked. She implemented some of the suggestions, which led to the capture of the suspect. For me, it was a very compelling story,” Dubin recalled.

She also covered the Rose Bowl in 1999 when UW-Madison played its famous New Year’s Day game. “I think I got the assignment because I was an alum,” she said, “and could add some personal color. It was really exciting for me.”

Admitting that she has made some “on-air blunders,” Dubin said, “On live TV things happen. Luckily, being on the early morning show, we can laugh them off.”

She said she really enjoys her job and is content, though, “since I get up at 2:15 a.m., I don’t have much of a social life. But at least I love what I do. If a New York station came knocking at my door, would I go? Probably. But right now Chicago affords me a big city opportunity in a big market. And, best of all I’m close to my parents, Carl and Sari Dubin, who live in Bayside.”

Mia Kaminsky

Kaminsky and her crew of 11 literally canvass the streets of New York recruiting candidates to appear on what Kaminsky says is the country’s first television reality show, “Blind Date,” which just completed its fifth season.

After graduating from Nicolet in 1994, Kaminsky headed to Syracuse University to study TV and film. “I was always intrigued by it. I like current events and news and was always interested in how people get their information,” she said.

Admitting she didn’t watch much TV growing up, she laughed, “My dad still teases that I’m the best TV major who never watched it. I still don’t watch much, but I love Larry David’s ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm.’ I think it’s brilliant because it’s not scripted.”

Like Dubin, Kaminsky also got an early break when she was hired by the William Morris Agency in New York after graduation. “That job opened a lot of doors for me because I met a lot of people in the entertainment field. I knew I wanted to work in TV and was doing some freelancing on the side. I got a call to work on ‘Ship Mates,’ which was also a matchmaking type show. I didn’t know a lot of people in New York then, so I relied on family and friends to cast participants.

“One of my first ‘victims’ was Nathan Firer, who graduated from Nicolet with me. That’s something I’ve learned about this business — that’s is so important to keep up my Milwaukee and college network.”

At “Blind Date,” Kaminsky conducts on-camera interviews with the potential participants. “I ask questions about their personalities, what they’re looking for in a partner and why we should pick them for the show. It’s fun because I never know where these questions will lead,” she said.

Then, she matches up the couples for what she called “pretty elaborate dates. They include lunch and dinner and a variety of activities, such as a salsa dancing class or wine tasting at a vineyard. We film the entire date to try to capture the chemistry. Sometimes it’s love and sometimes it’s hate. It’s a 50-50 crapshoot.”

Now that “Blind Date” has completed its pre-production season, Kaminsky is working on a new show called “Date Patrol,” which is designed to help those unlucky in love learn how to be a better dater.

The daughter of Don Kaminsky and Louise Kaminsky, both of Milwaukee, she said, “Ultimately, I would like to create and produce my own television show. I have no idea what it would be about, so if anyone has any ideas please send them to me!”

Bari Lurie

At just 22, Lurie’s résumé reads like that of a seasoned political guru. She got her start while a junior in high school when she was one of 19 teens selected to spend a semester as a U.S. Senate page in Washington, D.C. Further, during her summers and senior year she worked in Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl’s Milwaukee office before enrolling at George Washington University and returning to D.C.

As a political communications major, she was required to have an internship every semester, so she continued to work for Kohl in his press office in Washington. And, like Dubin and Kaminsky, she got a lucky break.

“I heard about an internship in the White House, and since I had some good recommendations, I applied for it and got it. I started working with Capricia Marshall, who was head of the Social Secretary’s Office in the West Wing. She was really my springboard to work for the Clinton Administration.

“My experience was amazing, and I got close to the-then first lady through event planning and other projects. I thought it was all over after the 2000 election, but Capricia headed the transition office and asked me to stay on,” she explained.

Admitting to being in the right place at the right time, Lurie said, “I knew some big players in the Clinton camp from the White House days and was asked to swing over to the former first lady’s senate campaign, which I did. And after I graduated last May, I stayed on with Friends of Hillary, which raises funds for her campaign. I’m a part of it all — from mailings to planning events to getting her ready for meetings.”

Lurie said she works a lot of hours, loves what she does and will keep doing it until it’s not fun anymore. “I have a great relationship with the senator and her family and have spent time at their homes in both New York and D.C. They’ve been great to me and she is my role model. She’s demanding on her staff, but no more so than she is on herself.”

Lurie finds the senator “fun to be around” and “very mothering.” “She’s not a cold person, as some perceive. She’s always worrying if I have my jacket on,” she laughed.

Lurie, the daughter of Debbie and Marc Lurie, said that she doesn’t want to be a politician but would like to deal with some of the high-profile people who are involved in politics. “I think there are a lot of under-tapped ways to make people aware of issues, and sometimes it takes a celebrity to get the process going. I’d like to coordinate those kinds of efforts.”

Josh Silberman

Silberman, 23, doesn’t know anyone else who does what he does. “I’m probably the only ‘gross chef’ I can think of, and it’s pretty ‘rank’ to do it for the country’s top-rated reality show, ‘Fear Factor.’ Nothing pleases me more than to see the contestants freak out. Puking is good,” he laughed.

While the producer plans the menus, Silberman does the food preparation and makes sure no one will actually get sick. “Grossed out, yes, but sick, no,” he said.

In an especially ironic twist, Silberman’s mother owns Karie’s Kitchen, Inc., a catering business here that is geared to the “discriminating palate.”

He said, “It’s so funny that my mom is a gourmet chef cooking things to taste good while I’m preparing things to taste bad. I do call her for cooking advice, but definitely not for recipes.”

A film, radio and TV major at UW-Madison, Silberman said he knew he wanted to get to L.A. eventually, but spent a year as a ski bum in Vail, Colo., before making the move.
Always thinking of himself as a creative person, he wanted a chance to pitch scripts for film or TV. “Sitting behind a desk would be worse for me than cooking cow brains,” he quipped.

His older brother, David, was working as a production assistant on “Pyramid,” which is hosted by Donny Osmond. And, like the previously mentioned young adults, Silberman also got a break.

“David helped me get a job as a camera assistant on Pryamid, which led to a stint with ‘Survivor,’ another reality show. One thing led to another and I landed on ‘Fear Factor,’” he explained.

“I was lucky because it’s hard to make it off the street. My philosophy is that if I work hard, I’ll meet the right people,” he added.

He likes comedy and is working on scripts in his spare time. “I’ll just keep writing them to make something happen. Also, I would love to be a TV producer, probably of some kind of reality-based show. I think that’s what audiences seem to want.”

Like the others, Silberman loves what he’s doing and the people he works with. “I’ll stay with ‘Fear Factor,’ which I see is as long term as TV can be,” he said.

The show features “average Joes and Janes in their 20s and 30s” who think they can handle any stunt. “Many find the experiences to be much tougher than they imagined, but the successful contestants take home a prize of $50,000. Our best shows, I think, are when the contestants are too afraid to do the stunt. That’s when we know we did good,” he said.

“I’m not sure why TV viewers love to watch people do these gross things. Maybe the fear in their eyes provokes an emotional response. For me, it’s a fun atmosphere in which to work,” he said.

In addition, Silberman, also the son of Jim Silberman of Milwaukee, will be featured in the February issue of Teen People magazine. Also, E! News Live will do a behind the scenes interview of the photo shoot for the article while he is covered with cockroaches, worms, spiders and eyeballs!