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20 janvier 2009

Green business in full blossom on Mare Island

By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN/Times-Herald staff writer, Posted: 01/19/2009

Besides being international musical superstars, what do Willie Nelson, Paul McCartney and Madonna have in common?

They've all been clients of Vallejo's Suite Treatments owner Jacqueline Barsotti of Vallejo, who provides "green" event and dressing room decor for entertainers and others. Suite Treatments is in The Coal Shed artist's studio on Mare Island, which serves as Barsotti's home base, though much of her work involves travel, she said. Originally from the Concord-Pleasant Hill area, Barsotti, 41, said she moved to Vallejo by way of Yosemite in 2005. "I chose Vallejo to start my business because Mare Island is a great place to have a business," she said.

Divorced and with no children, Barsotti said she got her start pampering rock stars when she worked for Bill Graham Presents. Her office is lined with in-concert photos of superstars like Sting, Santana, Bonnie Raitt, Dave Matthews and the Judds, which Barsotti said she shot herself in her Bill Graham days.

"I started as a runner and worked my way up to producer and then I decided to go out on my own," she said. "I learned that many entertainers want plants in their dressing rooms, and I knew that was a business I could do." Now, she and her team create "green," relaxing spaces for special events and dressing rooms and has more than 150 clients, she said. She's handling decorations for Willie Nelson's event at San Francisco's Fillmore Auditorium in honor of Barack Obama's presidential inauguration, she said.

Barsotti said she's not star-struck, is rarely interested in meeting the clients and never asks for autographs. She's much more interested in subtly sending "green" messages wherever she goes "I'm a green business," Barsotti said. "I run my vehicles on bio-diesel, and if someone wants me to advertise, I ask a few questions, like do they print on recycled paper. This can sometimes create a chain reaction."

Though unwilling to disclose any really juicy stories, Barsotti said when working with stars and other important people, one can't help but learn things. "Peter Gabriel was awesome, a very nice person," she said. "The Rolling Stones are easier to work with than you'd think." One of her anecdotes involves rap artist Snoop Dog's six-foot bong. "Snoop Dog has his candy, and (last year) we made this huge bong to hold it," she said. "He loved it, and now it's on tour with him."

Some stars are notorious for making what seem to be strange, unreasonable demands, but often there's a method to that madness, Barsotti said. "Sometimes they ask for difficult-to-find things to see if the promoter cares enough to read the rider," she said, adding that her firm is most often hired by promoters seeking to pamper a favored client. The world's water has been among Barsotti's main focuses since her only brother drowned in the Napa River after a solo vehicle accident in 2005. He was 31. "I took his ashes to the Ganges River - the holiest river in India - and that started me thinking about the state of our water," she said. "I needed to get people to do things differently, and if artists do things differently, people will pay attention."

Another defining moment in Barsotti's life was seeing her grandparents lose everything in the Oakland Hills fire. "It helped me realize that you don't really need anything," she said. In addition to her Suite Treatments work, Barsotti hopes to join Valcore Recycling's board of directors and is involved in a planned bio-diesel manufacturing business coming to Vallejo, she said. "That's the future. It's very exciting," she said. Valcore's Jane Bogner is equally excited about Barsotti. "She has a wonderful green company and an incredible green spirit and such energy, it's really exciting to be around her," Bogner said.

Though she works with the rich and famous, Barsotti said she also does private parties and events and would love to find more work locally. No budget is too small, she said. "The rock 'n' roll industry taught me the concept of 'cheap and cheerful,' " she said. Even as a child, Barsotti said, she knew she was meant to be involved with the music industry."I had boyfriends who were in bands, and I just always liked the atmosphere," she said. "I think it's the vibration from the crowd. They give off more joy than anything."

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