Famous and Andy—It’s a good thing that Andy Eppinger didn’t listen to the first person he told about his proposed Sacramento Speakers Series, now in its fourth successful season. “He was a prominent land use developer here, and when I told him some of the people I had in mind—and these were big names—he said, ‘Let me get this straight: You want me to pay to hear these people speak?’” Since then, Eppinger and his wife, Anna, have brought at least 25 major celebrities to the Sacramento Community Center Theater every year—people like überreporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward (who’ll be in town Jan. 14) and humorist Dave Barry (April 27). They’ve corralled everyone from Mikhail Gorbachev to Dan Quayle, George Will to the late Tim Russert. “We have no political agenda,” Eppinger says. “We don’t invite people here because they’re pushing a book they’ve written. We just thought there were enough people in Sacramento in their 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s who didn’t think spending an evening at a rock concert or Kings game qualified as entertainment.” Asked if he and his wife find it thrilling to meet some of the speakers, Eppinger says, “What I find more fun is talking to our patrons, who always seem astounded that we were able to bring these people to this town.” So how does he get them to come here? “We ask them,” he says.

Keep It Clan—Everyone who dines downtown at Sacramento’s Ella, at 12th and K streets, goes Dutch. That’s because the place’s spectacular décor is the work of Amsterdam-based UXUS Design. The ceiling alone consists of 500 pairs of recycled, pastel-painted shutters from Hungary. “There are no shutters left in that country,” joshes Josh Nelson, the 36-year-old chief financial officer of the burgeoning Selland eatery empire, which includes The Kitchen and Selland’s Market-Cafe. Nelson tells me that the design for the year-old Ella, named for his 5-year-old niece, was essentially put together during a four-day shopping trip that he, sister Tamera Baker, mom Nancy Zimmer and step-pop Randall Selland made to Amsterdam some years back. “I love art and was raised around it, but I have about a 15-minute shopping threshold,” he says, which in my mind makes him a fully certified guy. Nelson says the family business is operated “on a truly tribal basis. We make all of the decisions together.” In fact, he kept things that way when he married his wife, Gina, this past August: She’s the manager of The Kitchen.

Write This Minute—If you’re a writer, a woman and someone who’d enjoy hanging out with other women writers, you might want to sign up for one of
Jennifer Basye Sander’s “Write by the Lake” retreats at her Tahoe home. Sander co-wrote The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Getting Published and is the sole author of many other books. (My favorite’s The Martini Diet, on which I lost no weight but for some reason didn’t care.) “I’m happy to build a cozy fire and chat all night long about the trials and tribulations of the publishing world,” says the former Random House editor, reachable at “Imagine the insider secrets someone might pick up over a glass of our custom-made house wine, Well Red.” 

Joint Powers Authority—On a recent front page of the Mountain Democrat, the venerable Placerville newspaper, this headline appeared: “New doc at Cool marijuana clinic.” No, the paper hasn’t altered its conservative politics. Cool was capitalized—meaning the town of, not the state of.