The Next List

The Changing of the Guard Starts Now. Meet Boston’s New Buzz-Makers. With Chris Evans, the Next Ben Affleck.

Chris Evans

the Next Ben Affleck

After he caused a minor sensation as Johnny Storm in the 2005 comic-book hit Fantastic Four, Chris Evans recalled a pre-Armageddon Ben Affleck—easy to look at, reasonably talented, but with the jury still out on his long-term career prospects. This could be the year that removes that question mark, as roles in four high-profile films promise to do for the 25-year-old Sudbury native what the 1998 asteroid thriller did for Affleck: rocket him past the critical uncertainty and into the realm of the A list, where reviews become almost irrelevant, paparazzi document your every Starbucks run, and crash-and-burn romances with hip-hopping, Bentley-driving starlets seem perfectly normal.

Evans, for his part, is taking nothing for granted. At the Manhattan studio where this month’s cover was shot, he describes his morning spent filming scenes for April’s The Nanny Diaries, in which he plays the love interest to Scarlett Johansson’s stressed-out Manhattan babysitter. He’s not on set every day; it’s possible Scarlett doesn’t know who he is, he jokes. Evans has even been mistaken for a set hand. But he’s got his fans, for sure. Little kids went nuts for Fantastic Four, and for the fire-throwing superhero he played. More than a year after the film was released, they still call to him on the street, “Hey, Johnny! Flame on!” Grownups have taken note, too: Some critics called his performance the only good thing about the movie.

Another Affleckian trait: No matter how big he gets, Evans wants you to know he’s just a guy from Boston. His mom’s family still lives in Somerville (his uncle is the congressman and former mayor Mike Capuano). And when Evans visits, he makes a point of stopping by Leone’s Submarine Shop for a 6-inch sausage-and-pepper. He remains conscious of doing right by his hometown pals, of being almost obsessively true to his roots (“Like, I hate that I have frosted tips right now,” he says, referring to the cloying highlights he dons for Diaries). At Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High, he played lacrosse, wrestled, and dabbled in drama club. “I think I thought I was cool,” he says. “I don’t think I was, though. I was 140 pounds and had a bowl haircut. I didn’t have sex until I was a senior. I was terrified.

“My friends think it’s a weird world,” Evans says. “They think I’m a horrible actor—they can’t take me seriously.” When his then girlfriend, actress Jessica Biel, was named Esquire's Sexiest Woman Alive in 2005, the phone calls came pouring in. “They’d say, ‘Dude, where you gonna go from there? It’s all downhill,’” he says. “I was like, ‘You’re totally right.’”

But they weren’t, or at least that’s not what it looks like now—not with Evans set to reprise the role of Johnny Storm at least once more: A sequel, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, is due out in June. He’ll also be heard in the animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, along with Sarah Michelle Gellar and Patrick Stewart, and seen in the indie flick Sunshine, helmed by Trainspotting director Danny Boyle. Finally, he’ll star opposite Bryce Dallas Howard in The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond, based on a Tennessee Williams play. As Affleck himself once said about a career on the cusp: “Sometimes it’s like, ‘Here’s your five minutes in the toy store. You gotta do all the good movies you can before Chuck Woolery rings the bell.’” —Alyssa Giacobbe

Ray Montgomery

the Next Patrick Lyons

The first time Ray Montgomery met Patrick Lyons, he all but blew off the Boston nightlife king. It was 1998 and a crazy night at Tunnel, New York’s erstwhile “it” club, where Montgomery was busy managing the room. Lyons, who owns iconic haunts like Sonsie, Avalon, and the Paradise, had come to check out the competition. “I shook his hand,” Montgomery remembers, “but I had about 2,000 people in the club. I said, ‘Look, I’d love to sit and chat, but I’ve got Dan Aykroyd and his pregnant wife in the next room, and Prince coming in 10 minutes.’” And that was that.

Still, Lyons was impressed. So much so that five years later he hired Montgomery away from Manhattan. Now, as Lyons takes his club empire national, his protégé is stepping up to fill the boss’s shoes here at home. Montgomery’s schmoozing skills (he’s hung with everyone from Clooney to Diddy) and attention to detail have already added oversight of promotions to his original portfolio as operations director—and the 43-year-old one-time insurance agent has no plans to slow down. “What Patrick did here is genius,” he says. “If I could accomplish what he’s done by the time I’m his age, I’d be in heaven.” He certainly seems on the right track. —Sascha de Gersdorff

Jenny Johnson

the Next Maria Menounos

Everyone has to start somewhere. For aspiring TV personality Jenny Johnson, it was three years of purgatory as a host on the Wayne’s World–esque cable channel She caught a break in 2004 when NECN foodie program TV Diner offered her a spot as an associate producer, and last year Johnson’s appealing combination of charm and ambition nabbed her an additional role in front of the camera. Like Maria Menounos, who got her start as Miss Massachusetts Teen USA and now stars on Access Hollywood, Johnson works the bombshell-meets-girl-next-door thing in her newly inaugurated TV Diner segments. In one recent spot, she shows up at a local eatery and fawns over the menu—and the plucky 21-year-old owner. “I’m feeling a little inadequate,” she laments, hand on head. “What have I done with my life?” We’d say for 24, she’s doing just fine. —Rachel Baker


the Next Back Bay

This fall Natick (the town) welcomes Natick (the new and improved mall), a shopping-living complex offering city style without the commute. And we mean without the commute. On-site condos Nouvelle at Natick will let residents get their Louis Vuitton fix without ever braving the outdoors. Only a short walk from more than 100 new stores, the units will sell for $425,000 to $1.5 million—a lot less than Back Bay real estate. “We’re appealing to young professionals, as well as empty-nesters,” says Claude Hoopes, sales director for the complex. Close to the Pike, and just a 25-minute drive from Boston, the development appeals to city dwellers, too: Blueprints include a blissful 389 parking spaces. —Cheryl Alkon

Jeff Taylor’s Eons

the Next Facebook

Before the internet was the Internet, Jeff Taylor was imagining its future. In 1994 he snatched up the 454th domain on the nascent Web: Perhaps you’ve heard of it.

Last year Taylor launched Eons, a website that does for baby boomers what Facebook—that ubiquitous Harvard-born social networking site—does for kids the world over. That is, it changes the way they use the Net. Taylor’s idea is to give the 8,000 Americans who turn 50 every day a place to set some goals, plan a trip, or simply stay in touch. At 46, Taylor isn’t among those he’s trying to reach, but as usual he’s looking ahead. He’s come up with the first search engine for older people (a site called Cranky), and also hosts an obituary database at Eons. Morbid? He’d argue celebratory. “People deserve more than a paragraph in a newspaper,” says Taylor, who’s doing his best to ensure his own legacy will be that of one of the giants of the digital age. —Geoffrey Gagnon

Gretchen Monahan

the Next Todd English

More than a decade ago, Todd English called on good looks, celebrity friendships, and charismatic self-promotion to catapult himself to national renown. Now glamour girl Gretchen Monahan, who’s earned no shortage of coverage in these pages (we’re a little obsessed), is following suit. Her growing empire of eponymy (four salons, two boutiques, Gretta knitwear and shoes) is set to make her the next big brand out of Boston. English took Olives to Manhattan in 1999; he now has 17 restaurants (his newest a joint effort with Eva Longoria) and has dabbled in television, books, and cookware design. Monahan brought her “Gretta Style” to Manhattan in 2005 with an appointment-only studio, and now scores spots all over TV, including ads for Dove soap. What’ll she do for an encore? A boutique with Teri Hatcher, maybe? —Alyssa Giacobbe

David Friedman

the Next Gloria Larson

Newly minted as attorney general Martha Coakley’s number two, David Friedman will never forget the career advice he got from a boss a decade ago. He was a cub lawyer at the time, ending a clerkship, and that boss happened to be U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. “Don’t worry about what you want to do for the rest of your life,” the jurist told him. “Decide what you want to do next.”

It’s an approach that Friedman adopted—and one that’s helping him solidify a reputation as a dazzling lawyer with a wide-ranging set of skills. His jaw-dropping résumé and penchant for politics suggest a worthy heir to the likes of Gloria Larson, a power player who’s served variously as a corporate lawyer and political appointee. “I want to have a job that makes me feel like I’m making a difference,” Friedman says.

He’s only 36, and already he’s had a few. He followed up his stint at the Supreme Court working for the venerable (now dissolved) firm of Hill & Barlow. There, he won a class-action suit on behalf of mentally retarded people that secured his clients a package of state services now worth more than $100 million. During the 2000 election, he pitched in on Al Gore’s recount team until his efforts were halted by a certain Supreme Court ruling, for which his old mentor wrote the fierce dissent. And as an adviser to state Senate President Robert Travaglini, he helped advance last year’s landmark universal healthcare law.

Happily installed in the Attorney General’s Office, Friedman’s too busy for much long-term career planning. But that’s not stopping others from speculating on his future. Travaglini, a big fan of Friedman, doesn’t shy away from setting the bar high. “Someday,” he says, “these traits will carry David to the top of the legal profession in Massachusetts as a member of the Supreme Judicial Court.” Of course, the way Friedman’s going, there’s always that other Supreme Court to consider, too. —Francis Storrs

Matt and Joe Kennedy

the Next Kennedy Brothers

The way Massachusetts Democratic Party chairman Phil Johnston sees it, there were three big political stars that emerged from last fall’s election. One was Deval Patrick; you know his story. The other two were Matt and Joe Kennedy, the sons of former Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy II and grandsons of Robert F. Kennedy.

Disarming and dashing—in the classic Kennedy style—the 26-year-old fraternal twins were tapped by their great-uncle, Ted Kennedy, to run his reelection campaign. Sure, it wasn’t exactly a nail-biter—Teddy cruised to his ninth term—but the brothers took nothing for granted, crisscrossing the state with “the Senator” (he’s “Uncle Ted” when the family gets together) and laying on the Kennedy charm with fresh-faced aplomb. “When we campaigned together,” the senator says, “it was hard to tell if people were cheering for me, or for Matt and Joe.”

The Stanford-educated pair are in the thick of grad school at Harvard (law school for the red-headed Joe, business for Matt). Around here, the hopes placed on smart, articulate Kennedys can be weighty—and don’t think it hasn’t occurred to them that when the next election occurs they’ll be just a year younger than JFK was when elected to Congress. Still, while last year’s political coming-out might have offered the brothers a low-risk primer on the family business, they say it wasn’t meant to foreshadow runs of their own. “My father and my other aunts and uncles have shown that there are numerous ways to contribute,” says Joe, who served two years in the Peace Corps. Fair enough, but if they’re looking to lower expectations, they aren’t getting any help from their proud uncle. “I can’t wait to see what they both do,” he says. —Jack Gray

On Broadway

the Next Good Will Hunting

It’s been a while since we got a Boston movie that wasn’t about crime or baseball. The last best, of course, was Good Will Hunting, which seemed to capture that ephemeral thing that some call public mood. Now there’s hope for a successor. On Broadway, due out this year, is about an amateur theater production in the back of a Boston pub. And it stars a raft of hometown talent: Joey McIntyre, Eliza Dushku, and Amy Poehler, among others. “It’s about regular folks doing something exceptional,” says writer-director Dave McLaughlin, far left. Regardless of how it performs in theaters, just by making a Boston film without mobsters, cops, or Robin Williams with a Southie accent, he’s already done well. —Andrew Rimas

Tagg Romney

the Next Cam Kerry

A corollary to the law that says Massachusetts must produce a presidential hopeful roughly every other cycle holds that our candidates must also enlist their kin in the effort. So it was that when Cam Kerry served as consigliere in big brother John’s White House campaign four years ago, he was subjected to the inevitable comparisons with Robert Kennedy, who’d performed a similar duty during John F. Kennedy’s run a generation earlier. Mitt Romney, for his part, has an older brother, Scott, who’s active in his presidential bid. But Scott’s got a life out in Michigan. The real Romney relative to watch would seem to be the candidate’s 36-year-old son, Tagg.

Two months ago, the Harvard Business School alum quit his job with the L.A. Dodgers to devote himself full time to Romney for President; one of his responsibilities will be to recruit other young voters. But no matter how Dad fares, Tagg’s putting down roots here. “My wife said this is our last move. So whether or not [my father] wins, I’m going to end up in Boston.” —Shannon Mullen

Beth Myers

the Next Andy Card

Or she hopes to get the chance to be, anyway. Until then, the working mom and Mitt Romney presidential campaign manager has some advice for any woman who wants it all: “You just have to grab opportunities, whatever comes your way.”

Myers jumped at her chance in 1980, joining Karl Rove on Reagan’s presidential campaign in Texas. Later, she volunteered to help governor-to-be Romney with campaign debate prep. When he won, Romney tapped Myers to be his chief of staff.

With two teenagers at home, she balances family and career with the help of her husband, plenty of takeout food, and a few massages at Bella Santé. And if “the Gov” wins in 2008? She’s coy about whether she’d want to follow the lead of Andy Card, Massachusetts congressman turned Bush chief of staff. “I don’t jinx things,” she says. “I don’t even go there. I think one month at a time.” —Shannon Mullen

Chuck Hogan

the Next Dennis Lehane

Despite the four solid-selling novels under his belt, Sharon author Chuck Hogan has seen his following largely confined to the dedicated throng of readers who gobble up thrillers. Expect that to change.

His most recent book, The Killing Moon, about murder and police corruption in a small Massachusetts town, has been pulling steady sales since its January release. And later this year, director Adrian Lyne—the visionary behind Fatal Attraction and Unfaithful—will begin shooting the film version of Hogan’s third novel, Prince of Thieves. Hogan’s in talks with other directors and, like Mystic River author Dennis Lehane before him, has found a reservoir of literary and film material right here in Boston. “I don’t know exactly what makes Boston such fertile ground for these kinds of books,” he says of his pulse-pounders. “I’m just hoping people will get into them as much as I do.” —Blythe Copeland

Stone Hearth Pizza Co.

the Next Legal Sea Foods

In their first-ever food venture, Stone Hearth Pizza Co.’s Jonathan Schwarz and Chris Robbins have created a restaurant for the zeitgeist—casual enough for the family but sophisticated enough for a date; fresh but not fussy; ethical but never at the expense of taste. Pies are topped with handmade Vermont mozzarella, salads made with beets and greens from Concord’s Verrill Farm, and gelato churned at Belmont’s Angelato. The recipe has thus far proven successful: Following acclaim in Belmont and Sudbury, the pair will unveil a third location next month in Needham. Their sights are set on 20 more by 2012. —Jane Black


the Next Aerosmith

The requisite killer rock-and-roll sound is obvious as soon as you hear the righteous vocals spitting catchy lyrics over tight guitar licks. As for the legend-inspiring rock-and-roll backstory, how’s this: Last year Vazquez, the bassist for the six-year-old Boston four-piece (above, second from right), suffered a freak brain hemorrhage and fell into a coma. He awoke two days later, interrupting a priest who was giving him last rites.

With its bassist back on his feet, Damone ripped through the album it had been recording. Last year the band dropped Out Here All Night, a rollicking disc with hints of AC/DC, Veruca Salt, even Alice Cooper—an album that calls to mind a brash, bygone kind of rock. The CW television network boosted Damone’s exposure by building a commercial around the group’s music, and this month the band takes its glam show to Europe. But young fans closer to home can jam out every time they power up their PlayStation or Xbox: Damone’s tracks already show up in three different video games—which these days might be the final ingredient for rock super-stardom. —Carolyn V. Marsden

Adam Reilly

the Next Dan Kennedy

If there’s any one thing the Boston Phoenix has consistently been known for, it’s a renowned media column. For two decades Dan Kennedy and Mark Jurkowitz were must-reads for every journalist in town—if only so we could find out how our peers were screwing up (our profession is deeply rooted in schadenfreude, you see). When Kennedy departed for academia in 2005 and Jurkowitz finished his second tour of duty in 2006, we feared it signaled the column’s death knell. But when the Phoenix moved ace political reporter Adam Reilly over to the media beat, we found reason to smile. And then we worried that Reilly—a younger but suitably snarky heir to the job—would be coming for us. “I told him: It’s easier not to pull your punches with politics than it is with the media,” Kennedy says. “It’s inherently harder to beat up fellow journalists, but I like what I’ve seen from Adam.” So do we—though, admittedly, he hasn’t really beaten us up yet. —John Gonzalez

Storrow Drive

the Next Big Dig

You’d better sit down for this. Wait, don’t sit—you’ll be doing plenty of that in coming years as the next big traffic snarl hits. This one, as you may have heard, will be on Storrow Drive, where engineers have to replace the tunnel near Berkeley Street. Designs aren’t final, but expect Big Dig flashbacks: 103,000 cars a day will need a new route. Gary Hebert, a transportation consultant at Fay, Spofford & Thorndike, says if the state plans ahead, we could survive. Maybe. “I don’t think this is an impossible task,” he says. That’s not exactly optimism. —Jason Feifer

Dr. Ruth Tedaldi

the Next Dr. Ramsey Alsarraf

Dr. Ruth Tedaldi has a goal. And it’s not to make you look better. Well, maybe that’s part of it, but what she really wants to do is make you feel better. And if it takes a bit of Botox, some Juvéderm filler, and a course of chemical peels, so be it.

The pediatrician cum cosmetic dermatologist doesn’t believe in the traditional quick-fix facelift. Instead, she develops less invasive treatment plans centered on improving skin and erasing wrinkles. In a profession once dominated by men like star Newbury Street plastic surgeon Ramsey Alsarraf, Tedaldi’s approach to cosmetic dermatology has created national buzz—and a lengthy waiting list in her Wellesley office.

Now she’s branching out. Tedaldi had her own radio show and is working on starting up another within the year. Her patients needn’t worry—she’s not about to ditch her practice. “So many doctors out there just don’t get it,” she says. “Life becomes very boring if you’re not intricately involved with your patients.” —Sascha de Gersdorff

Brian Bilello

the Next Theo Epstein

In Los Angeles, they’ve just inked pretty-boy superstar David Beckham. That’s good for the Galaxy, and for American soccer’s media profile in general, but tapping Mr. Posh Spice almost feels like cheating. Brian Bilello, the New England Revolution’s fast-rising chief operating officer, is finding more-clever ways to get local soccer fans fired up about their team.

“It’s a challenge, but we have to educate people in the nuances of the game,” says Bilello, an athletic, 32-year-old MIT grad and former business consultant who spent four years rising through the ranks of the Kraft Sports Group. Unlike Red Sox wonderboy GM Theo Epstein, Bilello has to devise ways to champion an oft-ignored sport. Ideas for this season, starting next month, include JumboTron videos and stats to help casual fans “appreciate that the game is more than goals and saves,” he says. “We don’t want to turn it into a circus, but we have to get people engaged in what’s happening on the field.” —Jason Feifer

Patrice Oneal

the Next Denis Leary

When Denis Leary left the Hub for Hollywood, the local comedy scene, you could argue, lost a little bit of its edge. You could also argue that it got a good deal of it back the night Roxbury native Patrice Oneal heckled his way onstage at Club Estelle’s on Tremont Street. Oneal’s been in the spotlight ever since, and though his unfiltered, off-the-cuff style has sometimes been termed a little too tasteless (cracking sexist jokes at a fundraiser for homeless women?), like Leary before him, he’s never reined it in. So far, it’s working: His caustic wit has earned him an XM radio gig, as well as regular appearances on Letterman, VH1, and Chappelle’s Show. —Anthony Costanzo

Ron Bell

the Next Melvin H. King

Ron Bell had no experience in partisan politics when he signed on as Deval Patrick’s deputy campaign manager last year. What the 44-year-old activist did have was something Patrick lacked: street cred. Bell also knew the minority voters Patrick wanted to excite with his grassroots campaign; as head of the advocacy group Dunk the Vote, Bell had registered 40,000 people to vote since 1992. When he asked them to get behind Patrick, they listened. Rose Arruda, who was Patrick’s deputy field director, says the governor’s strategy was simple: Reach everybody. “And the way to get there fastest, and most efficiently, is Ron Bell,” she says.

Governor Patrick is still making use of Bell’s skills as a political connector: Last month he tasked Bell to head a newly created public liaison department. Though in its infancy, we can see Bell’s rise tracking that of legendary Boston activist Mel King, who started as an organizer in the 1950s and nearly became the city’s first black mayor in the early 1980s. Having helped the state’s first black governor to office, Bell wants to see more candidates of color—he’s talking of launching an institute to groom them. And more than a few folks are telling Bell he ought to make a run himself. “Maybe I should,” he says. “Anything’s possible right now.” —Keith O’Brien


the Next Newburyport

For years it’s been tough going for Amesbury, an old mill town perpetually in the shadow of its more fashionable neighbor, Newburyport. But now the smaller city is beginning to strut with a new swagger. Amesbury is wrapping up a nine-year renovation of its Victorian downtown, converting old mills into artist’s studios, and attracting plenty of businesses put off by higher property values closer to the coast. With its retooled main drag, the river city is aiming for a classy balance between old-school charm and modern panache. Ray Shockey of the Alliance for Amesbury admits his up-and-coming town is fixing for a tussle. The competition with Newburyport, he says, is a “friendly rivalry, if you will.” —Jason Feifer

Phil Kessel

the Next Phil Esposito

From the time he was in high school, the people whose business it is to know such things had decided Phil Kessel was destined to be a star. Blessed with speed and creativity, the 19-year-old is the kind of offensive force made for today’s faster NHL. He also seems tailor-made for the Bruins, whose new management finally accepted that a latter-day Phil Esposito wasn’t going to magically materialize—and went out and got the team an infusion of youth and skill. Kessel was easing into the usual rookie-as-franchise-savior script until December, when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer and underwent surgery. “I’ve had a couple of setbacks,” he says. Still, two weeks after the surgery he was back on the ice, and in January he notched a hat trick in the NHL’s YoungStars game, putting the league on notice that he’s going to be a powerhouse for years to come. —Paul Flannery

Linda Leddy

the Next Rachel Carson

Don’t get them wrong—the scientists working under Linda Leddy at the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences are serious about research. It’s just that they’re also refreshingly skeptical of the idea that science alone can change minds. “At best, society considers science dull,” says Leddy, whose nonprofit focuses instead on how research gets applied in conservation questions. Her small group of advocate-scientists pursues a mission of education not unlike that of the late Rachel Carson, whose lifelong kinship with the ecosystem she found along Buzzards Bay began when she was working as a scientist out of the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole. Carson went on to write stirringly of our shore and sea, and practically invented the modern environmental movement with her 1962 book, Silent Spring. Manomet takes its research (into bird migration and forest health, among other topics) and similarly slips it into the public dialogue. A prime example is the photo-laden book Manomet published last year on the Alaskan Arctic, which is meant to inform the debate on drilling for oil there. “We want to take science off the shelf,” Leddy says, “and put it to use.” —Geoffrey Gagnon

Jim Apteker

the Next Robin Brown

A 42-year-old host par excellence, Jim Apteker has ingratiated himself with the city’s biggest names by providing fresh options in event hosting, replacing the tired hotel-ballroom experience with venues that sparkle with personality. Like the castle setting of his Brookline ballroom, Veronique, for example. Or the 33rd-floor aerie atop 60 State Street that is the State Room. Apteker’s trick? Dovetailing the space of a hotel function room with the dining and service of a great restaurant. “We’ve got a sushi team. A pastry department. We cook everything on-premises,” he says. The attention to client satisfaction is making Apteker’s number one of the city’s most dialed, just as it did for Mandarin Oriental developer and former Four Seasons GM Robin Brown. “Make friends,” Apteker says, “and it all comes full circle, fast.” —Alexandra Hall

The Zakim Bridge

the Next Citgo Sign

The Zakim Bridge is the bumblebee of Boston landmarks. It simply shouldn’t fly. For all its grace, the bridge is an anomaly, complementing none of the city’s other architecture. It’s a prominent feature of the despised Big Dig. And yet we’ve embraced the space-age span as the successor to another Boston original that really doesn’t fit: the garish Citgo sign.

More surprising than our affection for the Zakim itself is the speed with which it won us over. It took decades for us to acknowledge the Hancock Tower’s elegance. We’re still not comfortable referring to the highway that bends around our city by the number the rest of the East Coast uses. The “new” owners of the Red Sox are beginning their sixth season. And yet just four years after its unveiling, countless businesses incorporate the Zakim into their logo; newscasts flash its image in their opening credits. Unlikely? Perhaps. But a symbol of the new Boston nonetheless. —John Wolfson

Vanu Bose

the Next Amar Bose

“Whenever I asked my dad a question, i didn’t just get an answer,” says Vanu Bose. “I got a lesson.” Not surprisingly—given that his dad is acoustic engineer and Bose Corporation founder Amar Bose—that tutelage is paying off. After getting his Ph.D. from MIT (like his father), he founded his own company in 1998. With Vanu Inc., he’s aiming to revolutionize the cell-phone business by simplifying the networks used by wireless devices. The Cambridge company has designed complex software to boost wireless functionality and is experimenting with innovations to bring cell service to areas where building towers hasn’t yet made sense—places like rural Alaska and Canada, where it’s running pilot programs.

This year Vanu will introduce something called a “personal base station,” a household device that runs off broadband and serves as a cell-phone tower in your home. It should mean no more dropped calls when you’re trying to help, say, your father with his home electronics. “It’s impossible to understand everything,” he says. “So I’m my dad’s 24/7, on-call tech support.” —Francis Storrs

Willy Mason

the Next James Taylor

By the time Willy Mason was 21, he was on tour with Radiohead. This month, the 22-year-old releases his second album, If the Ocean Gets Rough. The Martha’s Vineyard native’s rock covers everything from homelessness to world peace; his raspy voice makes him sound like he’s already seen it all. Not since James Taylor picked up a guitar has a local kid shown this much promise. And though it’s hard to see Mason posing goofily with a grin and freshly chopped spruce tree (see Taylor’s latest, James Taylor at Christmas), it’s not so hard to imagine he’ll eventually achieve a similarly large following. But for now, he’s keeping it close to home: Mason records in the Berkshires and has plans to expand his fledgling Vineyard-based music label. Perhaps J.T. can lend a hand. —Rachel Baker