Jill of All Trades – A Profile on the Immovable Jennifer King
“The key to staying young at any age is to keep learning, and everyday, I learn something.” And with that declaration, I look at the regal woman sitting before me in subtle admiration. With too much energy and enthusiasm for someone on a 500 calorie-a-day diet, Jennifer King- with a career that spans over forty years- shows no signs of slowing down. With a smile that soothes and a passion that ignites, she’s been an actor, model and dancer on such television classics as The Dean Martin Show, she was the first woman ever to anchor the news at KNBC in Los Angeles, she was a lawyer with her own practice for 22 years, and she’s currently a successful entrepreneur with three businesses: KZG, the #1 Custom ProLine in golf equipment, Trillium Actors Studio and Trillium International, Investment Banking, all operated out of their main headquarters in North Hollywood. With such an extensive resume, I’m pleased to be sitting down and chatting with Jennifer in her KZG office.
“Most of my day is spent on KZG; we’re the #1 Custom Proline in the world,”
Jennifer comments. “Phil Mickelson, as well as many of the other touring professionals have played our clubs. In fact, our clubs are played on every tour in every category except the putter category. We make exceptional product, and our network of professional clubfitters make it unbeatable. Studies indicate that 92% of all golfers are still playing ill-fitting clubs, a real tragedy. We are trying to change that embarrassing statistic.” Like the ultimate multitasker, Jennifer does everything from designing product and catalogs to talking to golf pros and dealers about her company.
And when not engaging in fundraising, promoting KZG, or raising money for start-up companies through Trillium International, she’s busy with Trillium Actors Studio. Housed in the same building as KZG, located on Lankershim and Magnolia Blvd in the NoHo Arts District, Trillium Actors Studio consists of ten rental spaces perfect for castings and commercial shoots and free parking for up to 75 cars. But whether or not you’re an actor, casting director, professional golfer, or someone with an innovative idea for a new business (all of whom Jennifer has helped or serviced in one way or another), one thing everyone can agree: Jennifer King is a pioneer – confidently leading by example – proving that “in this country, you can be anything you want to be.” Not bad for a women who, after a divorce left her single with two small children to raise in the 60’s, had no real plan.
The Game Changer
It was Los Angeles in the mid 60’s, and Jennifer, who had dreamt of becoming a doctor, did what young women during that period were supposed to do: she got married and started a family. “You have to keep in mind that when I was growing up, girls were housewives or maybe a teacher,” she says, “that’s what we were brought up to be.” So Jennifer, the former valedictorian of her graduating high school class, did exactly that. Yes, she had what many perceived to be a standard lifestyle, but Jennifer would prove to be anything but standard with her bankable smile quickly landing her modeling and commercial work. “Then somebody at NBC saw my work and wanted me to come in and interview for a news casting position,” she says, “and I ended up being the first woman newscaster in Los Angeles at KNBC.”
Jennifer joined the newscast at KNBC in 1969, and from there, like a dinner bell attracting hungry children, became a lucrative meal ticket for Hollywood execs. By the late 60’s, The Dean Martin Show had proven to be a huge hit for NBC, consistently earning solid ratings in large part thanks to the show’s producer Greg Garrison, who came in as a replacement for the original producer. Garrison got wind of Jennifer via KNBC, and persuaded her to audition for a part as one of The Golddiggers on the program. “They wanted me to sing, and I can’t sing at all,’ Jennifer remembers, “and by that time, I was doing the news, so I couldn’t be a Golddigger on The Dean Martin Show. But, finally, Greg talked me into one show, so I go in – and they figured out that I couldn’t sing – so they spent a whole day teaching me how not to carry a note. They gave me the song Chattanooga Choo Choo, and I was so nervous, and couldn’t believe I was even there, so I just went out there and did it really big. They loved it!”
Not only did Dean Martin’s people love it, but Jennifer had fans on other productions as well, eventually booking gigs on The Bob Hope Show and Laugh In. But it wasn’t exactly the life she had hoped for. “I was on the talent side instead of the producing side, so I had no control,” she says. “So I was working, but it was a weird kind of working. Two or three days here, a couple of weeks there, but you’re always at somebody’s mercy. And you have to get up at 4am to be in make-up by 6:30, then you sit around and wait for your part of the shoot, which might not be until 2pm. Come on, that’s not fun. And even as a newscaster I was just reading the news, I wasn’t doing the news.” Jennifer was becoming restless and the odd hours and serious demands of her several jobs were putting a strain on her home life until, conclusively, her marriage came to an end.
“After my divorce, I knew I had to figure something out and find a way to support myself and be on my own,” she recalls, “and I would’ve loved to pursue becoming a doctor, but I also knew that I couldn’t spend four years in med school and then another year as an intern with two small children to raise. So I decided to go to law school instead.” She not only went to law school, she killed it, graduating in only two years with her name firmly in place on the Dean’s List.
Jennifer went on to open up her own law firm, spending a short time practicing criminal law before making the switch to business law. And it was during this time that she developed an understanding of how businesses function – most notably serving as a lawyer for the famous men’s line Guess? for Men in 1981. It started in a small single office and with Jennifer’s help, turned a little company known as GUESS? Inc. into a 120 million dollar empire in just two years. And that was only the beginning.
Jennifer’s business law practice lasted for 22 years until a run-in with a relative changed her focus, and the course of her life. “My drunk cousin showed up at my mother’s funeral, and he was a golfer, and he kept talking about this really great golf club,” she remembers. “And we didn’t take him seriously, of course, and didn’t hear from him for another six months. Then he comes to my law firm six months later with this golf club. So my husband and daughter tested it, and we thought, ‘Wow, this is great.’ And from then on, we’ve been in the golf business.”
It was 1994, and Jennifer – along with new husband and KZG business partner Bruce McKinnon – launched KZG as a technology-based equipment company that sold new technologies to major golf companies. In 1997, Jennifer and Bruce reinvented and upgraded KZG by introducing Orlimar to a new technology, selling more than 1.75 million TriMetal and TriMetal Plus golf clubs.
“And KZG does have a fitting facility right here in NoHo because a lot of touring professionals come here to be properly fit,” she says, “but we also keep it open for the public.” Something else they had at their large facility was a lot of empty office space, so- recalling her passion for the arts, Jennifer got creative.
“The idea behind the Trillium Actors Studio was to have a central area where people could go for help with specific acting skills,” Jennifer says. “Originally, we had all kinds of talent and coaches. One coach’s forte was comedy, another’s drama or body motion, or language expert or speech therapist. Clearly, one acting coach can’t do all of those things.” So Jennifer, recognizing the need for a place with a multitude of services for actors, teamed up with two young people from Texas and launched the Trillium Actors Studio. But that still wasn’t enough for Jennifer King. “I’m a deal-maker,” she admits. “My husband’s an entrepreneur; we start businesses, that’s what we do. And everyday, it’s like a new world opening for us. The more we see, the more we know, the more we can help.”
And from this desire to help came the genesis of Trillium International, Jennifer’s investment banking business that finds capital for start-up companies and companies that need additional financing for new ventures and/or expansion. “At Trillium International, we’re open to all kinds of businesses,” she says. “I love medicine because I think there’s so much to do, which is why I’m raising money for dialysis centers. Also, right now, our country is obese, and obesity has so many medical ramifications; people are dying, and I don’t know why nothing is changing. So I would like to invest in doing something about that as well.”
It would appear that Jennifer King has a hard time slowing down and sitting still. A mogul with a zest for life, she even designed the furniture for her three homes. But even someone with her passion can’t do it alone, and- unfortunately- the two business partners who oversaw the Trillium Actor’s Studio had to leave town, forcing Jennifer to temporarily close shop on all the services and rent the space out for film, television and commercial shoots instead.
But don’t cry for her, she’s simply refocusing on other areas where she can be of use, founding the International Professional Association of Clubfitters as a start. “The purpose of the association is to have IPAC members be comparable to what the PGA is to teaching,” she says. ‘The idea is to raise the bar for the profession of club fitting and to share technological ideas because- as documented by Golf Illustrated- 92 % of golfers are playing with ill-fitting clubs, and you can’t teach around ill-fitting clubs. So it’s my attempt at helping golfers around the world enjoy the game more.”
Yes, without a doubt, Jennifer King has proven that the sky is truly the limit for anyone daring enough to reach for it. But for Jennifer, it’s never been about chasing money or getting rich, it’s a simple state of mind that she’s always possessed.
“The minute I stop being curious, the minute I stop learning and wanting to learn and wanting to meet new people, I might as well be dead,” she says. “That’s what it’s all about isn’t it? It’s exciting!”