Jermain Hodge Johnson, 9, and Brian Godfrey Wilson, 12, were selected by Norman Lear from a field of 4,000 young actors in 14 states to star in Palmerstown, U.S.A., the current CBS miniseries based on Alex Haley's boyhood experience with a white friend. Lear and Haley had sought unknowns, genuine Southern kids—and Southern they are. Jermain, who plays the Haley character, Booker T. Freeman, is from Houston, while Brian lives in Mobile, Ala. Brian, the son of a banker and a school librarian, had a small role on NBC's Movin' On. Jermain, the son of a truck driver and a housewife, had no professional experience. But acting, he shrugs, "is not too hard." Brian concurs. "It's more being ourselves than acting." But they disagree on emotional scenes. They are Brian's favorite—"a challenge"—but Jermain complains that it takes him 10 to 30 minutes to work himself into tears by thinking about his dead grandfather. During the filming the boys became close friends—though both missed their playmates back home. If Palmerstown, U.S.A. becomes a regular weekly series, Brian and Jermain are resigned to moving to L.A. "I'll feel lonesome," allows Jermain. "But I want a million dollars."
Ginnie Johansen, 20, could not find a belt to wear two years ago, so with some hemp, ribbon and a buckle she stitched up her own on her mother's sewing machine. She then asked her father, Gerry, a Dallas management consultant, to help her market her creation. "I wasn't impressed," he admits. Undaunted, the Southern Methodist University undergrad sold a few to boutiques around Dallas, then teamed up with her younger sister Jane for an overnight selling trip to shops in Waco, Austin and San Antonio. They came back with $1,500 in orders. Finally convinced she was "really going after the brass ring," her father put Ginnie in touch with a local belt manufacturer and helped her set up headquarters in the family guest house. Today Ginnie Johansen Designs (she is founder and vice-president; Dad is president) employs 14 people, has 1,300 outlets across the country including Brooks Brothers and Lilly Pulitzer and figures to gross $1 million this year. Ginnie has added pocket squares, headbands and side combs to her trendily preppie line of belts, which retail for $10 to $12. She shares an apartment with two Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority sisters and can manage to attend classes only two nights a week. Still, Ginnie has no intention of quitting. "College," she explains, "keeps me in touch with where I should be."
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