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Saturday, August 03 2013 21:17

A Dog Park in the Name of My Friends...

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I don't know how many of you know about this since it all happened prior to my starting The Rock Father, but on February 1, 2010, I lost one of my closest friends to a single-car accident on a rural road in Southeastern Wisconsin. JUSTIN MENTELL was just 27 years old, a talented artist that excelled at everything he'd attempt. We'd met back in 2004 while working on the set of a movie called ROLL BOUNCE, and over the next six years, we'd share many adventures, collaborate on some things, and above all, have each other's backs. After moving to Hollywood for a few years to work on projects like BOSTON LEGAL and PALO ALTO, Justin moved back to Illinois after the premiere of the Disney Film, G-FORCE, in which he had a supporting role. He'd begun focusing on his painting and music, and his German Shepherd, Meisner was a constant companion. Just over six months later, everything came to an abrupt stop.

On Saturday, September 7, 2013, the Justin and Alicia Mentell Dog Agility Playground will have it's Grand Opening at the Callahan Dog Park in Waukegan, Illinois. Justin's Mom, Alicia, recently retired from the Waukegan Park District, and this new playground will be a fitting tribute to both of them. Local dog owners are being invited to the Grand Opening, which will take place at 2pm. Nearly $8,000.00 worth of new equipment has been placed in the agility playground, and if you're interested in taking part, hit this link for the location.

If you knew Justin, then you've probably already seen this... but if not (or if you want to see it again), here's the video that I cut for his public memorial three years ago... set to the music of ANGELS AND AIRWAVES - a band we'd seen together in concert at his Alma Mater, Northern Illinois University back in 2006.

Justin seemed to have made an impact on most everyone that he met, and I'm always asked who some of the people are that are pictured with Justin in that video. Many of the photos came from family and friends and I do not have all of the names. Some of the others in the video are: William Shatner, Betty White, Henry Gibson, Jessica Alba, Olivia Munn, Will Estes, Vanessa Lengies, Adam Willard (Angels & Airwaves/Offspring drummer), Ryan Michelle Bathe, Julie Bowen, Candice Bergen, Anthony Heald, Michael J. Fox, Tom Selleck, Kurt Fuller, Christian Kane, Mark Kidwell, Robert Kurtzman, Ben Brezinski, Jay Stephen, Patrick Read Johnson, John Francis Daley, John Johnson, Jennifer Widerstrom (aka Phoenix), Travis Barker (Blink 182 drummer), Ben Savage, Aaron Ashmore, and Rip (Joshua Mallett).

More than three years later, it's incredible how much life has changed around here. While she won't remember it, my little Addie did get to meet Justin on several occasions over her first few months of life, including the first time... when she was just six days old:

Justin Mentell and Adalyn Zahn in 2009

 One of Justin's paintings has been hanging in Addie's bedroom ever since.

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James Zahn

James Zahn is not a journalist, nor a blogger, though he may be credited as such by others, or even accept the title... depending on the circumstance.  Instead, he considers himself largely to be an "entertainment and lifestyle writer," bringing 25+ years of experience in the entertainment and publishing industries into the family realm as THE ROCK FATHER™.

As a media personality, commentator, adventurer and raconteur, James now finds himself raising a pair young girls - The Rock Daughters™ - along with his wife from their Illinois home.

He is a member of The Toy Insider Parent Advisory Board, a writer for the Netflix #StreamTeam, and serves as a Brand Ambassador and spokesperson for several Globally-recognized pop culture and lifestyle brands in addition to consulting for a number of toy manufacturers. Current special projects include promotional campaigns for PJ Masks (eOne/Disney Junior) and Beat Bugs (Netflix). 

Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for bands such as FEAR FACTORY, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands. He currently serves as an artist manager and video director for Napalm Records' PRODUCT OF HATE.

James and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, NBC, ABC, WGN, G4, The Chicago Tribune, BusinessWire, Babble, Fangoria, Starlog and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360 alongside Anderson Cooper, and has been interviewed by Larry King. In the past he served as a writer for  Fandango Family and PBS KIDS, penned articles for Sprout and PopSugar, and was a contributor to Chicago Parent.

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