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 Volume 10, Issue 50  |  June 22, 2018                                    


 

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Rick Conkey: Coached LBHS boys tennis team to CIF championship – would also like to change the world

Story by SAMANTHA WASHER

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Rick Conkey managed to do this year what no one has done since 1982: coach the Laguna Beach High School boys’ tennis team to a CIF championship. Not bad for a guy who just completed his first full season as the Breakers’ coach.

The secret might be “the rug,” his theory on how and where to make contact with the ball; or instilling in the kids his mantra of “pressure is a privilege;” or his method of breaking down the parts of the game into a step by step process. It could be any of these things and, of course, it probably has a lot to do with all of these things. However, I would venture that the most valuable thing Coach Conkey’s team learned from him is much more basic. “Instilling the love for the game is vital,” he says. 

His theories aside, he is quick to acknowledge that the team’s success was not a one-person job. He credits assistant coach Nicholis Radisay, in a big way. “His passion, dedication and organizational skills contributed to the team and its outcome.”

Additionally, reaching out to the larger community also had a positive impact.

“Many of the town’s ‘Laguna Tennis Legends’ were also invited down to give a fresh perspective and new energy…it all made a difference.” 

Tennis opens the door to music

Conkey’s passion for the sport of tennis is not subtle. He has dedicated almost his entire working life not just to playing and coaching, but trying to build a community around the sport he loves. It was this commitment to building a tennis community that opened the door to his other love: promoting music. The two activities may seem a bit at odds, but in hearing Conkey’s story, that one would lead to the other makes perfect sense.

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Rick Conkey, music promoter, tennis pro and now CIF Champion coach of the 2018 LBHS Boys Tennis Team

Teaching keeps him in the game

Conkey grew up in Newport Beach. However, he was not your typical tennis club kind of kid. Tennis lessons were an extravagance, but one his mother, a teacher, indulged by working as a tutor after her school day ended in order to afford them. He managed to get good enough to attend the World Junior Tennis Academy in San Diego on scholarship. Unfortunately, he got injured. Teaching became the way he could stay connected to the game he loved.

Coaching took him to Europe to work with top ranked juniors as well as stints at other prestigious programs, including the Jack Kramer Club where he remembers being asked to work with a young Pete Sampras.

Putting the community back into tennis

After his European coaching tour ended in 1996, Conkey came to Laguna. He opened a small tennis shop and tried to recreate the enthusiasm for tennis he remembered the town having when he was a boy. “When I moved here I could see that there was no passion, no community. The players didn’t even really know each other,” he recalls.

So, he compiled an extensive 1,200-person database with names, abilities and genders, along with a 300-person tennis ladder. He started a tournament that grew to 350 entrants but, still, things didn’t feel quite right. “There was an interest. It just needed something to bring it all together.” That “something” was simple enough: events for people to come socialize…and listen to music. 

“I’ve always been a lover of music,” says Conkey. “My brother is a flamenco guitar master. I never understood the depth of my musical knowledge until I started putting these parties together. The reviews of these events were fantastic and the reason was because of the music.” With the success of his events, Conkey began to look outside the tennis world. If tennis players liked the bands he found, he figured other people probably would too.

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Rick Conkey in action at the vintage Laguna Moss Point tennis court, where he has been teaching for years

The Blue Water Music Festival is born

This then led to the creation of his Blue Water Music Festival. The first one took place in 2014 with another one the following year. Conkey says he’s aiming for 2020 for number three. While the event allows Conkey to showcase musical talents he admires, the event also exemplifies a formula he is committed to: 50 percent of the proceeds go to nonprofits. “It’s a pie in the sky idea,” admits Conkey. “It’s about harnessing ideas, but we need to monetize that. I feel this town has an opportunity to demonstrate to the world that a music festival can raise money for many organizations. The musicians can be part of it, too, by bringing their audience.”

A blatant idealism colors every venture

Conkey is not shy about voicing his idealistic goals. He talks a lot about changing the world. He really believes he can create something out of the things he loves that can make a significant positive impact. 

His latest venture is BC Space in downtown Laguna. “It’s the vision of Mark Chamberlain (who recently passed away) and his original partner, Jerry Burchfield. Their vision was to present provocative art that makes people think,” explains Conkey. With Chamberlain’s passing, the mission has fallen to Conkey to keep it going. No easy task, especially as he says his rent for the space just doubled.

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Rick Conkey demonstrates a backhand volley at the Moss Point tennis court

Looking to keep BC Space alive downtown

BC Space is part art gallery, part music venue, part theatre, carrying on the legacy of Chamberlain and Burchfield (the B and C in the name). Conkey says he is in the process of creating a calendar.

“A huge transition is taking place,” he says. “We’re searching for patrons that understand the value of this amazing space.” For more information about the space visit www.bcspace.com. It has a lot of interesting background on what has become an almost too well-kept secret venue.

“Laguna is an artists’ colony. We should be the leader for demonstrating the power of art in the world. If we can demonstrate that this formula works, we’ll have a lot more fun, learn a lot more, and change the world forever,” says Conkey.

Sports, the arts and The Artists

And, oddly enough this all circles back to what brought Conkey to Laguna in the first place: tennis. He tells me of a discussion he had with his team and how they, now the LBHS Breakers, like to refer to themselves as “Artists” (the mascot LBHS used prior to becoming the Breakers). “The highest level of athletes are called ‘artists.’ The Jordans, the Federers, they are all artists. It’s kind of interesting when you think about it.” And this link between sports and art and how they can foster community is what fuels Conkey’s ventures and his idealism.

Will Conkey’s vision for art and music change the world? Such things are hard to quantify. The fact that he’s trying is certainly worth applauding. What is very quantifiable is his success as a tennis coach. Conkey never doubted his team would win CIF. “I took a long term vision. I thought it would take four or five years to get where we wanted. It took a year and a half,” he says with satisfaction. Changing the whole world will undoubtedly take longer, but Conkey is determined to keep trying.


Bob Mosier, Biscuit Bomber: From World War II to the World Wide Web

Story by MARRIE STONE

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

At a time when our world would most benefit from the wisdom of the Greatest Generation, we’re rapidly losing them. Men and women born into the Depression, who endured the atrocities of the Second World War with stoic patriotism, have something to teach us youngsters. They returned with resilience, a strong work ethic, and an unwavering sense of responsibility. They don’t view themselves as heroes, but merely as people called upon to do a job, and do it well.

For those who remain from that generation, time often takes its toll on the mind. Even if their memories are intact, many who fought in WWII feel reluctant to talk about their time overseas. 

All of this makes one gentleman in our midst a particular treasure. Bob Mosier, 93, eagerly shares his tales. Not only did he fight in WWII, he volunteered for the draft at the tender age of 19 and became a “Biscuit Bomber” by the time he turned twenty. His stories are legends, documented in his memoir, Flying with Biscuit Bomber Bob: The Untold Story of WWII Air Transport in the Pacific and a nearly three-hour film stored in the archives of the Palm Springs Air Museum.

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Bob Mosier at home with his book

War has a way of making men out of boys, and heroes out of commoners. Bob is no exception. He saw Hiroshima and Nagasaki first hand. He delivered food, ammunition and supplies to thousands, and transported hundreds of prisoners of war. A Japanese officer surrendered his sword at the sight of him. Risking his life became a daily decision for over two years. Those experiences can’t help but have a profound effect on a young man coming of age.

As George Santayana famously reminds us: “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Bob Mosier (or Papa Bob as he’s affectionately known by family and friends) has much to teach, and stories to tell. These are but a few of them.

An early fascination with flight

Bob’s introduction to flight was the sight of the German Graf Zeppelin when it completed its ambitious around-the-world adventure in 1929. Bob was only five when his father took him to see it. His gaze remained high, watching the barnstorming bi-planes doing stunts over Mines Field in Los Angeles. That’s when Bob first seized on his dream of becoming a pilot. 

But tragedy struck when Bob began high school. His father contracted meningitis and was admitted to the hospital one day, never to return home. “The family was so suddenly deprived of his love, help and guidance that we suffered from both his loss and our own bewildering future plight,” Bob says in his memoir. 

Whether it was that early exposure to the world’s most epic flight, or the sudden surprise of his father’s passing, Bob went headlong after his dream. He applied, and was accepted, for flight training in the U.S. Army Air Force. Bob was off to New Guinea, to fight in the world’s greatest war, while still only a teen. 

The Biscuit Bomber

Bob celebrated his 20th birthday on a troopship sailing to New Guinea. Once in the South Pacific, he joined the 57th Squadron, 375th Troop Carrier Group, known as the “Biscuit Bombers.” Flying C-46 and C-47s (called by General Dwight Eisenhower “one of the most important weapons of World War II”) Bob and his troop delivered ammunition, rations, and other supplies to forces on the ground, and transported wounded soldiers, army nurses, and POWs back to safety. Their planes were unarmed, often landing in the midst of enemy fire on inadequate patches of dirt carved out of the jungle, often not stable enough to hold the weight of a plane. 

Flying in the South Pacific meant Bob was over water more often than land, making navigation difficult and forced landings impossible. As Bob proved time after time, a meticulous mind combined with bottomless bravery makes an effective pilot.

Finding freedom in mortality

Bob went to war believing he wouldn’t come home. Embracing his own mortality, while retaining an optimist’s sense of adventure, allowed Bob to take even more risks than most – in an environment where risk was an inherent way of life. He adopted a philosophy that he was going to have fun, doing what he loved, for as long as he could do it. That attitude – along with tremendous flight skills, an outstanding sense of navigation, and a lot of luck – helped Bob survive. He never hesitated, and his bravery paid dividends.

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Bob with two-year-old Blackjack, a Pomeranian

On one notable occasion, Bob barely got his C-47 off the ground, not knowing the plane exceeded the maximum cargo weight by 2,500 pounds. A tall jungle surrounded the short runway. With only a few feet of altitude, and too much speed to back down, Bob spotted a small slot in the forest. He banked his wings, scalping several trees, but made it up and out. He was still a young pilot, without a lot of flight hours. Most of his experience was under extreme circumstances that looked more like scenes from action films than real life.

“I suppose you could say we had a steep learning curve,” Bob says in his memoir. “It is not an exaggeration to say that you either learned fast, or died trying.” 

Avionics have come a long way since 1944. Planes took off into thick clouds, heading out over the Pacific, with little more than maps and slide-rules to guide them. Navigating was done with TLAR (“That looks about right”) technology. As Bob tried explaining the complicated, yet primitive, calculation methods he used to determine his flight path, my head started to swim. What I understood was this: Bob flew a C-47 over endless expanses of water with limited fuel supplies, in inclement weather, and unreliable navigation systems. Even minor mistakes couldn’t be tolerated because landing wasn’t an option. His passengers were often prisoners of war, wounded soldiers, or army nurses headed to the battlefields. The stakes couldn’t be higher.

“A hero,” Tom Hanks once said, “is someone who voluntarily walks into the unknown.” Flying into the unknown is a whole other matter.

Unforeseen enemies of war

Weather was often Bob’s worst adversary. Storms and typhoons could be as dangerous as enemy fire to an aircraft. Forced landings had grave and unknowable consequences, and Bob’s position close to the equator put him in the center of several storms. 

In September of 1945 (after the signing of the peace treaty), while transporting British POWs from Hokkaido, Bob found himself flying into the eye of a typhoon. Lacking the fuel to turn around, he spotted a strip of dirt 150 miles from Tokyo and landed. As his crew looked around, a single Japanese captain came toward them, removed his sword, and planted it into the ground. The captain assumed Americans had come to capture him, and he signaled his surrender. Once Bob’s team explained they’d been forced to land, and had plans to leave once the storm passed, they were offered a hearty meal of rice – five pounds per person. Even for starving soldiers and POWs, five pounds apiece proved more than they could chew.

As the war wound down, and the weather heated up, Bob made several attempts for Okinawa, each time thwarted by a storm. Deciding he’d had enough, he soldiered through a dangerous squall and was the first plane to land in more than a week. A colonel came running out of control to greet him. Before Bob knew it, they were airborne again, headed for northern Okinawa. Little did he know, but Bob was delivering the colonel to the site of Japan’s surrender.

Comedy is tragedy’s twin sister

Often it’s the moments of greatest intensity that require a lighthearted attitude. War and peace are two sides of the same coin. So are comedy and tragedy. Bob has the heart of a comic. He’s quick to laugh, eager to seek out fun, and has the disposition of an optimist. His memoir is peppered with tales of good times. 

Bob and best friend Cliff made a secret map between them, a grid of random numbers scrawled across an axis overlaid on a map they each squirreled away in their gear. With this method, they could always find each other by communicating their location in code. And they did. Cliff sought out Bob for off-duty adventures whenever he could. 

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Bob Mosier signs his book

Who else but Bob would laugh while fishing a dropped flashlight from the foul muck of a latrine? Or play poker for 48 straight hours on a sleep-starved ship bound for New Guinea? But one of my favorite themes of Bob’s memoir was his internal radar primed to locate beautiful nurses. Based on the twinkle that remains in his eye, and the bikini-dotted beach below his home in Fisherman’s Cove, I’d say that radar is still intact.

I’m convinced his infectious optimism and fun spirit are largely responsible for his success, as well as his long life. Survival requires both instinct and attitude, and Bob is no defeatist. 

From World War II to the World Wide Web
(A line borrowed from Bob’s memoir)

Once Bob returned home, he went on to a storied career as an electronic engineer, working first for Collins Radio Company (which supplied much of the equipment in his C-47).  Bob’s work in digital communication paved the way for 4G broadband cellular technology still being developed today. His efforts aided in the creation of Navy Tactical Data Systems (NTDS) used to keep track of warships. He worked on the California Digital Computer (CALDIC), now on display at the Smithsonian. He was also an early pioneer of voice recognition software. Bob developed code for missiles used against Russia, cryptographic equipment, and frequency standards used in worldwide clocks. His efforts laid the technological foundations for cell phones, email, and the internet. The list goes on. 

Keeping family close and conversations interesting

Before Facebook, there was BOBNET, a computer network system Bob developed to keep over 1,500 family members and friends updated on life events. His daughter, Nancy, already spotted the potential privacy issues involved. But Bob’s motives were clear – family and friends always come first.

Bob’s passion for technology, unquenchable curiosity, and infectious love for learning kept his family dinners active. Meals were educational opportunities. A given night’s topic might be Morse code. His daughters learned not to ask passing questions unless they were ready for a dissertation from Dad.

Family, Bob says, is his greatest achievement. “Family is the best. If there’s anything worth preserving, it’s a happy family.” To them, Bob leaves the legacy of flight. Three of his children and two of his grandchildren are pilots. One grandson is a lieutenant colonel and professor in the Air Force. 

One day at a time

I call Bob up after our initial interview to ask for more advice. I want to know his secret to a happy and successful life. He laughs. “Well,” he says, “people always ask how I stayed married for 68 years. The answer is: one day at a time.” 

I think back on Bob’s time in the war, losing his dad, loving one woman for 68 years, raising four children, and his successful career as an engineer. Maybe that’s the answer to all of it – one day at a time.


Rosalind Russell: The “Goat Lady” has changed the lives of many Nepalese woman & children 

Story by SAMANTHA WASHER

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Rosalind Russell is surprisingly glamorous for a woman known as “The Goat Lady.” And while the nickname is accurate (Russell estimates 15,000 goats have been dispersed throughout villages in Nepal as a result of her work), it doesn’t tell the whole story. For that we’d have to attach additional words like “school” and “self-sustaining” and “female empowerment” to her nickname. For Russell has not only boosted needy villagers’ earning power with goats, she has changed their lives.

Finding Rabindra in Nepal

Back in 1988 Russell was traveling the world, visiting places she found of “spiritual interest.” She was in India when she met a friend who convinced her to see Nepal. “It was glorious,” she remembers. But the grinding poverty that she was grateful to have left behind in India was certainly present in Nepal.

While exploring Nepal, Russell met an 11-year-old boy named Rabindra. He stood out from all the other street urchins she encountered. “He had the best English,” says Russell. Rabindra convinced his new friend to let him show her around. “We just really liked each other,” explains Russell.  

 

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Rosalind Russell, aka The Goat Lady, and Founder and Director of R Star Foundation

Eventually, he invited her to meet his family. Russell first met the boy’s grandmother, who was resting at their Kathmandu home following cataract surgery. She recalls being dismayed to see the poverty in which they lived. Her hosts generously offered her some popcorn to eat and, while she wasn’t inclined to accept it, she says, “I could not say no.” This would not be the last time Russell found it hard to say “no” to Rabindra.

Making an empty promise that wasn’t

Over the two weeks they spent together, Russell and Rabindra formed quite a friendship. “I had really bonded with this kid,” she says. As she prepared to go back home to Laguna, Russell says she promised Rabindra she would return someday. But, she admits, it was a false promise. 

She had seen enough suffering. Whatever her plans were going forward they did not include a return visit to Nepal. “I was never returning to that country,” she says. Russell flew home to her husband ready for her next adventure.

Coming home to a new, unforeseen adventure

Once home there was definitely a new adventure waiting for her. Unfortunately, it wasn’t one she was prepared for. Her husband asked her for a divorce. So, Russell did what people frequently do in that kind of situation, she reassessed. “My whole life had changed,” she says. 

She contemplated going back to medical school (she had previously dropped out halfway through) but realized she didn’t really like it. She thought about becoming a vet because she loves animals. However, she couldn’t shake the voice in her head that kept repeating “ministry.” She eventually listened to that voice and became ordained as a minister in 1992. “I was one of the first straight ministers doing gay marriages,” she says with pride.

 

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Rosalind Russell holding a photo of herself with some of the Nepalese villagers her organization works with

Her ministry work kept her very busy as she performed both weddings and funerals. She even started a prison ministry that is now in its 37th year. Her longest running congregant has been with her for 27 years, and only one of the men she ministered to has returned to prison after his release. 

Finally, keeping her word – and bringing goats

Throughout all of this, there was still Rabindra. Even though it had been many years since Rabindra had seen his American “mom,” he never forgot Russell’s promise to return. (Rabindra started calling Russell “mom” with his own mother’s blessing. He explained to Russell that his mother said, “Yes, sure, she’s your mom too. She would die for you.”) Rabindra was insistent that Russell keep her promise and return to see him. “Mom, when are you coming over?” he would ask repeatedly. Russell finally acquiesced.

Since she was going to return to Nepal, Russell decided she wanted to arrive with gifts for Rabindra and his family. “I decided to bring goats,” she says after remembering how Rabindra spoke of their importance. Plus, “They’re in our backyard (grazing the hills in Laguna), and I’m a Capricorn and they’re kind of goat-like, so that’s how the whole goat thing started,” explains Russell, as if everyone would, of course, come to the same conclusion.

Not everyone thought goats were a great idea

 Rabindra was not impressed with his “mom’s” plan. “That’s stupid,” Russell recalls him opining about the goats. Nevertheless, she remained undeterred and 200 goats were delivered to two villages upon her return to Nepal. 

Two goats each were given to the women in the villages. They were ecstatic, but there were strings attached. In order to receive this gift, the villagers had to promise they would give away a goat. “It’s a pay it forward program,” explains Russell. The gift was accompanied by a micro-financing program. Another caveat: everyone had to work together. In the Hindu caste society this is no small order. And yet, though she was met with some resistance at first regarding both caveats, Russell says, “This has changed their hearts.” 

First goats, then a school

After such a successful return to a place she really hadn’t wanted to ever see again, one would hardly fault Russell if that were the end of her charitable acts. After all, in her one visit she had done more for total strangers than most people ever think about doing.

However, the goats were not going to be the end of it for Russell. One of her friends, upon hearing about the goats and the largely illiterate villagers who received them, suggested that the village needed a school. “I should have never listened to her!” laughs Russell. But she did. And now a TOWN-N school, catering to pre-school up to fifth grade, exists as a result of her work. Girls attend free of charge, and the children are taught in English, and are exposed to the outside world with Kindles and books. “The kids are testing in the top 10 percent. It’s outrageous,” exclaims Russell proudly.

A personal loss followed by a global one

And how nice if the story ended there. Unfortunately, two catastrophic events took place -- one global, the other personal – that forced Russell to reassess and adapt again. The first was personal. In 2008 Russell’s home of 29 years burned down. She fought the insurance company for years only to come away with virtually nothing. Now she lives in a one-room pool house. And yet she and her R Star Foundation never wavered from her Nepalese mission. She speaks of her loss as just that, something she lost. As one who has seen true suffering, third world suffering, she has decided that this event that caused her financial devastation was unfortunate, but not tragic.

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In her spare time, Russell trained her Abyssinian cat, above, to walk on a leash

The second event she definitely classifies as tragic. In 2015 Nepal was hit with an earthquake that killed an estimated 10,000 people and injured well over 22,000 people. The country has yet to recover. And this has changed R Star’s mission, but just a little. Russell says that while the earthquake struck on April 24, by April 28, Rabindra was leading the charge to deliver supplies to the villages. By June 2, the school was reopened. However, much of the infrastructure has not been rebuilt and this has handcuffed R Star and what it can do.

Working with limitations

Rather than acquiring more goats, Russell says the group has turned to a professional goat judge, Dan Laney. He is helping the villagers care for the goats they have. “He teaches them how to do hoofing, and things like that,” says Russell. The group has built 30 greenhouses as well as organized a coat drive to help keep the villagers warm since their houses, rebuilt since the quake, are subpar for the harsh environment.

An entire separate column could be written specifying all the things R Star has done – and continues to do – for the people in Nepal. Every dollar they raise goes to the mission. The group is adaptable, practical and, looking for “outstanding Board members.” 

And if I really wanted to keep it going, I could write about all the other community organizations Russell belongs to (trust me, it’s a lot). But, perhaps, that will be another story. This story is about a woman who has turned personal setbacks into a truly meaningful life’s work. Russell, herself, is quick to give credit to others, but it’s clear she is the driving force. So let’s give credit where credit is due. 

Despite telling me unabashedly that, “Poverty isn’t my pleasure,” Russell has unflinchingly continued to battle against it, even in the face of great personal loss. “We’ve gotten very good at what we do,” she says. “Now, I even like my moniker, “The Goat Lady.” And that’s fortunate, because there are a lot of people in Nepal who are hoping the woman it belongs to, is around for a long time.


A Life Rewritten: How a devastating diagnosis has put 

Summer Tarango’s future into sharper focus

Story by MARRIE STONE

Photography by Mary Hurlbut

Last July, Summer Tarango’s life looked fulfilling, at least from the outside. She was the operations manager at zpizza, a satisfying job she’d held for 14 years. She owned her own catering company. Her relationship with longtime boyfriend, Ed Benrock (a drummer for Jamestown Revival), stood on solid ground. Summer had a posse of good friends, two close sisters, and a strong bond with her mother. “I was happy,” Summer says, looking back. “But nothing was exciting. I was going through the motions.” 

Summer and Ed celebrated the Fourth of July weekend with a bike ride in Austin, Texas. She admits to some trepidation, but – true to her nature – Summer seemed up for anything, and didn’t want to put a damper on the day by confessing any fears. 

The ride ended with a bad fall. Summer suffered a significant laceration on her forehead and a banged-up knee, though nothing that time and stitches shouldn’t resolve. As the months wore on, however, the knee didn’t heal. Doctors suspected an infection. 

When Summer discovered a lump in her armpit, they feared the infection had spread. Afraid to pierce the lump and risk spreading it further, they waited…and waited, treating her with antibiotics. Nothing improved. Finally, before sending Summer off to an infectious disease specialist, her doctor performed a biopsy to rule out anything significant. They weren’t worried, they said, but they wanted to cover their bases.

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Smiling Summer presents a pretty picture worthy of her name

As Summer sat alone in a parking lot on her way to work the Friday before Thanksgiving, the call came. Summer, at 42 years of age, had stage 3C triple-negative breast cancer – and it was aggressive. Further testing revealed she also had the BRCA mutation. Treatment, she was told, could not wait. Within two weeks, Summer had begun her first round of chemotherapy.

A triple-negative diagnosis and the BRCA gene mutation

Triple-negative breast cancer is more common in younger patients, and more common still in women with the BRCA gene. The three typical receptors that fuel breast cancer – estrogen, progesterone, and the HER-2 gene – are not present in these types of tumors. The result is that common treatment methods – hormone therapy and other drugs – that target those receptors can’t be used. This cancer tends to be more aggressive, though still responsive to chemotherapy.

A BRCA mutation is a change in either of two genes – BRCA1 or BRCA2 – that prevents that gene from working properly. Both BRCA1 and BRCA2 are tumor suppressor genes. Summer is the only woman in her family with the mutation.

All this adds up to a complicated diagnosis, and a long and grueling treatment plan utilizing a combination of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. That would be difficult for any patient to hear. For Summer, coming from a background rooted in holistic medicine, her choice was made even harder.

Mother of all healing

Summer’s mother, Vijaya Stern, teaches and practices Ayurvedic medicine in Laguna Beach. Ayurveda is one of the world’s oldest holistic healing systems, developed approximately 5,000 years ago in India. It’s based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body, and spirit. 

“When the soul is hindered by the divisive nature of the ego, ‘dis-ease’ begins to manifest,” says Vijaya Stern on her website, www.livingrasa.com. 

Vijaya has studied this ancient healing practice since the late 1970s, when Summer was a toddler. At her Living Rasa studio, she offers healing, yoga, classes, and retreats. Vijaya’s patients are treated with herbs, not pharmaceutical drugs. Health is managed with diet, meditation, yoga, and other natural practices. 

Western medicine – particularly aggressive and invasive treatments like chemotherapy – is obviously in direct opposition to Ayurveda’s philosophy. Even the antibiotics Summer took for that initial knee infection were her first experience with Western medicine. Vijaya’s beliefs are clear: “Ayurveda sees all of creation as the Mother herself.” 

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Summer finds meditation calming, and combines Western and holistic/ayurvedic approaches to help her heal

“Going through chemo is not what she would have wanted [for me],” Summer says. “I told her, This is what I’m doing, and you have to accept my choice. She does, but she struggles with it.”

Summer’s diagnosis has been an amazing teacher for both mother and daughter, she says. “I thought we were so close, and we are, but we’re getting challenged. I don’t invite her to chemo. I can’t expect her to watch that happen. But I’ve found the places where she can be of assistance: dietary help, or just giving me attention and love.”

East meets west

Summer is embracing both ends of the medical spectrum on her journey to recovery. Perhaps that’s not uncommon. But, in Summer’s case, it feels a bit more urgent and necessary. She draws strength from her mother’s practice, following a strict diet as best she can, incorporating yoga and other spiritual practices. 

Summer works with an integrative medicine specialist, receiving Vitamin C infusions, weekly B12 shots, and other alternative supplements and strategies. She uses an app called “Insight Timer” for guided meditations and relaxing music, which I went home to download and now use myself. 

But she’s also enduring the debilitating rounds of chemotherapy (including a particularly aggressive regimen of a drug called “The Red Devil,” which is even worse than it sounds). And she’s planning ahead for a future full of more chemo, radiation, and surgery. 

“When I was diagnosed my first thought was, I’m going to be so inspirational to people. I’m going to show everyone how to cook. I’m going to stick to the Keto diet my doctor wants me on. I was going to show everyone how you can be so amazing during cancer. But chemo kicked my ass. Most days, I’m just trying to get any food in,” Summer says.

“Now I’m giving myself some grace. That plan didn’t happen, and it’s okay. I’m getting out of bed, getting dressed, and saying ‘yes’ to things. Just getting through is a victory.”

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Summer finds comfort in the natural beauty surrounding her mother’s home

As Summer tells this story, I find her authenticity far more inspirational than her original plan. Strength in the face of crisis takes many different forms, and “success” has shifting definitions. Discovering our limitations, accepting them with grace, and finding new ways to accommodate them…that strikes me as success.

A healing circle: the defining moment

About a month back, Vijaya held a healing circle for Summer. Thirty two women spanning several generations (from their 30s to their 70s), some close to Summer and some close to her mother, gathered in Vijaya’s home. They shared their hopes for her, as well as their observations of how Summer impacts their lives.

One friend told Summer she was the chain in their friendship necklace, gathering beads of women and stringing them together to create something unique and beautiful. “It’s the most incredible thing I’ve ever experienced,” Summer says.

A friend of Vijaya’s performed Reiki, a Japanese practice that promotes physical wellbeing through the laying on of hands, using touch to activate the body’s natural healing process. “Because of the Reiki, I was so incredibly present,” says Summer. She describes the music, the incense, the whipping of an eagle feather over her head, transporting herself back to the moment as she’s describing it.

“I’d never been that present in my life,” she says. “Six months ago, I don’t know if I could have taken that in. Now I was able to look in every woman’s eyes and listen. Before, I would have been self-deprecating. Now I need it. I need the love and energy. How else will I get through this?”

It’s clear, in our time together, that this moment marked a defining change in Summer’s life. “I didn’t know an experience like this existed,” she said. “And now I want more. I want to live in that moment.” 

Meaningful conversations: A Soulful Project

Summer also wants more meaningful conversations. Before her diagnosis, she’d been working with Summer Meek from Soul Project on ways to forge deeper connections with women. Summer is part of what she laughingly calls a coven – 13 girlfriends whom she’s carefully strung on her friendship chain. 

The dinners are intended to gather women together for meaningful discussions about soulful topics. In other words, not your typical ladies-night-out-wine-and-gossip. It’s a chance to be real with each other – vulnerable, authentic, and honest.

Summer looks forward to the day when she’s strong enough to make those dinners happen. In the meantime, she stays close to her coven. The women all show up for her in different and important ways. I ask how her diagnosis has changed her relationships with friends. “It’s just exaggerated things that were already there,” she says. For the good and the bad.

Summer’s Backyard Barbecue

In the meantime, before the Soul Project dinners and intense conversations, Summer is celebrating life with a Backyard Barbecue intended to raise money for her treatments. On Sunday, May 20 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., friends, family and anyone interested can join in at the Blinking Owl Distillery in Santa Ana. Ed’s band, Jamestown Revival, will play. Nirvana Grille will support the event (Summer’s sister, Lindsay, is the chef and co-owner of Nirvana). 

To learn more about how to attend or participate, visit www.youcaring.com/summertarango-1171518.

A life being lived, a story being rewritten

Not every narrative has an easy ending, and Summer’s story is still in progress, a new page written each day. There are a lot of unknowns. But there are also a few beautiful certainties. 

“I don’t see the point of working my way through this just to go back to a mundane life. What’s the point?” she says. “This is really hard. Chemo is hard. Here’s the chance to work through relationships, create the life I want, and explore my wildest dreams. What brings me deep joy? How can I bring these experiences that I’ve had to other women? I won’t finish this and go back to life as it was. I’m already seeing glimpses of it. It already looks totally different.”

Now and again, life forces us into a wormhole. Challenges arise that push us through some painful portal that changes us forever. Looking back from the other side – 

with the perspective gained from an intense experience, instead of the inevitable slow roll of time – our old lives can almost seem unrecognizable. Call it wisdom, call it personal growth, call it a gift. Not everyone gets it. 

It’s not easy to learn vicariously through others’ obstacles. But it’s worth reminding ourselves to pay attention, and to stop accepting the status quo if it’s no longer serving us. Other ways of living are within reach, if only we’re willing to stretch ourselves, take risks, and seize opportunities. That seemed to be the lesson embedded in Summer’s story. 

As Summer faces life’s biggest question – What’s the point? – I’m certain she won’t stop until she finds her answer. In many ways, maybe she already has.


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David Koning: With only half a heart, he does nothing half-heartedly 

Story by DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

When someone introduces himself with, “I am the only kid in the world that has a half of heart that is over the age of 31. I was dead for six minutes and came back to life four times,” it gets your attention. That’s David Koning’s opening line when he contacts people to make things happen and tell his story. And evidently, it gets everyone’s attention. 

As a result of his countless telephone calls, he’s appeared on Fox News, Good Day LA, The Today Show, and ESPN, to name only a few, and has been interviewed for every newspaper in Orange County. Contrary to what one might expect, he doesn’t get nervous. “I crave it,” he says. After 30 calls to Family Feud, he finally got his family on the television show. No obstacle is insurmountable, it seems.

Thirty-one-year-old Koning may have been born with only half a heart, but he does nothing halfway. Without exception, everyone at Glennwood Housing, an independent living facility serving special needs adults 18 through 59, where he’s lived for the past five months, agrees on his outgoing, upbeat personality, humor, and his ability to connect with people. And, most importantly, to get what he wants. Doggedly persistent, in his mind, nothing is unattainable.

The fact that he’s even here is a stunning example of turning the impossible into the possible.

Facing the impossible 

 David was born prematurely with hypoplastic left-heart syndrome, which meant he was missing the left ventricle. He was not expected to survive. His parents Chris and Pam, already with a three- and five-year-old at home, were given a short list of options: let him die, try experimental heart surgery or wait for a transplant. 

His mother Pam says, “We wanted to do everything possible, with no regrets.”

When David was one week old, they took him to Philadelphia for the experimental heart surgery. He spent several months in the hospital (his mother at his side) and subsequent surgeries followed. During the third surgery, when he was less than two years old, he suffered a cardiac arrest and was without oxygen for six minutes. 

Pam says, “Only a very small percentage of children survive cardiac arrest.” As a result, he developed cerebral palsy and seizures.

Given his time in the hospital, one wonders how he developed his amazing verbal skills. Pam says, “The hospital is where he learned to communicate. He spent months there, and the staff and doctors would come by and talk to him.”

LLP David Koning with parents

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David with his parents, Pam and Chris

Home schooled for five years, when his parents moved the family from San Jose to Laguna, David started Thurston Middle School. In 2007, he graduated from Laguna Beach High School with a diploma, not with a certificate of completion. He was mainstreamed during his school career, and not only was the 2007-2008 yearbook dedicated to him, he marched down the aisle at graduation right behind the valedictorian.

His mother gives the highest praise to the school and the principal at LBHS at the time, Nancy Blade, who not only stepped in to make sure he received a diploma and not just a certificate of completion, but tutored him in algebra. During his time at LBHS, he was busy as the team manager for both boys and girls volleyball, and could often be found having lunch surrounded by volleyball players.

Why Glennwood, why now?

At the beginning of this year, David decided he wanted to move out of his parents’ home. “I wanted some independence away from Mom and Dad.”

“We chose Glennwood because it’s a smaller group home. It’s a beautiful property with a great atmosphere and staff, and it’s near our home,” says Pam. “Caring permeates this town. I’m so thankful he’s in Laguna.”

Glennwood’s Chief Operating Officer, Faith Manners says, “David has a fantastic ability to connect with people in the community, and if Glennwood ever gets a news channel of our own, he would certainly have the skills to deliver as an on-air anchor for us! I think his confidence and quick wit have served him very well in his life, and he certainly has a tenacity that is impressive to many of us that know and love him. 

David grew up locally and so he has a real connection here in Laguna and in Orange County in general. We welcome his energy and enthusiasm and we are really grateful that he has joined our community at Glennwood House.”

Doesn’t take no for an answer

“A phone in my hand is a dangerous weapon,” says Koning, who spends hours on the phone each day getting things done – talking to the Mayor of Anaheim about the Ducks, contacting heads of corporations about what they’re doing to help the disabled, matching corporations with disabled organizations, and currently, persuading local businesses to donate items for the silent auction for Glennwood’s upcoming fundraising event. 

LLP David Koning looking down

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David makes the impossible, possible

“I don’t take no for an answer,” he says.

And that philosophy has paid off. His tenaciousness resulted in meeting Dr. Phil (“I know a lot of people in the TV world,” David says) and several NBA players, including Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal. In 2008, David started Changing Children’s Lives, an outreach for disabled and troubled youths, which connects sports teams with charities to provide tickets to sporting events. The concept developed during a business trip with his dad to New York, when he called the Mets, and got tickets to a game for the Boy and Girls Club. 

Zest for communication

His father Chris admits, “David has a zest for communication.” And not just the goal oriented kind. He has a knack for drawing out the other Glennwood residents as well and has been put in a leadership role. His verbal skills must be instinctive, because Pam says that as they traveled all over the world, he would make friends with cruise crewmembers. He likes traveling, “Once you get used to it, it’s fun,” he says.

He also has a zest for writing. David says, “I am writing seven books right now, and I have finished one of them. It’s a children’s book about a disability dog.”

Besides his love of writing and talking on the telephone, David loves basketball, the Lakers and Warriors (his dad is a big basketball fan), and hockey, especially the Ducks. Through phone contact, he has gotten to know the Anaheim Mayor, and he gives David tickets and use of the Mayor’s Suite for games.

 His interest in basketball started early. Pam says, “When David was a toddler in the hospital (he didn’t walk until the age of four), they put him in with blind kids to play basketball (the nets had beepers), and he would steal the basketball.” 

Basketball and good friends

Now David shares his love of basketball with one of his close friends. A student at Regis University in Denver, Chandler White will be soon be transferring to Chapman College in Orange. He met David through their mothers, and Chandler and David frequently play basketball together. 

Chandler says, “He’s a great friend, entertaining and energetic. I’ve never seen him down, he is always upbeat and easy to be around. I can always count on him to brighten my day.” 

Of course, David is hoping that Chandler will make it to the NBA. 

Chandler adds, “David is very smart and super encouraging. He’s my biggest supporter and always in my corner.”

When he can, Chandler reciprocates by watching David play on the Special Olympics Basketball Team, The Irvine Eagles, where’s he known to have a great three point shot.

Popular with Glennwood residents and staff

During our conversation, Glennwood staff members drift in and out, offering comments: With 45 residents and 20 staff members (some who are around David’s age), David has plenty of people to share conversations with. And it’s obvious, everyone loves having him around.

LLP David Koning shooting basket

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David nails the shot – all net

“David has been a great addition. He helps plan events and makes things happen, and he’s funny and entertaining,” says staff member Heather McGough.

Molly Minikey, another staff member adds, “He’s a unique person, very outgoing. Whenever you’re feeling low, he cheers you up. He’s very talkative, and can always make you laugh. And he loves Kobe.” 

Staffer Kyle Mayor says, “He likes to hold conversations. I think that’s a good thing.”

And all say he’s a big dancer. To celebrate birthdays, Glennwood throws parties and provides a DJ for dancing. Considering the number of residents (and staff), that’s a lot of parties.

David has garnered the attention of one resident in particular, and apparently, the feeling is mutual. Kelly was a guest of the Konings for a family dinner on Mother’s Day. 

Chandler says, “David called me the night before and said he wanted to sing Kelly a song on Mother’s Day. And he sang the song ‘My Heart Will Go On’ from Titanic. He has a good voice.” 

Konings host residents on Sundays

The Konings also host residents every other Sunday afternoon for ice cream sundaes. All residents are invited, and it’s clear by the greetings and hugs when Pam arrives at Glennwood, that she is considered everyone’s surrogate mother. 

Pam says, “I love these kids. They’re so sweet. They grow on you.”

Resident Spencer Vanduzer, who has two jobs, at Gelson’s and Panera, says, “David’s a great friend. He likes to talk about sports. He’s funny.”

Although Glennwood has a work program and encourages residents to have a job (two in Spencer’s case), David has yet to find one, and is still looking. Instead each day, he visits Harbor House in Laguna Niguel and participates in enrichment programs. 

Franklin Casco, the Jesus Coach from The Holy Spirit Broadcasting Network, who has known David for seven years, sums up what everyone else has said, “David Koning is a great young man, and he’s overcome some serious adversities. He’s inspiring to be around.”

A fighting spirit

Max Trueblood, who is acquainted with David through an exchange four years ago regarding relocating the Clippers to Anaheim, tweets for David and links his story to sports contacts. Max knows first-hand of David’s resolution. “I got 15 calls from him in one day.” 

He continues, “David is very persistent, but what people need to understand is that if he didn’t have this instinct, maybe he wouldn’t have survived. The fighting spirit kept him alive.”

It’s clear that although David has survived unfathomable difficulties, he’s also experienced many victories. He has the support of wonderful parents, his brother Michael and sister Michelle, and he has no lack of good friends, inside and outside of Glennwood. Through his diligence, he’s made incredible contacts and provided hope and assistance to those with disabilities. And, without a doubt, he’s engaging and funny and connects with everyone he meets. 

It’s easy to understand why he doesn’t take no for an answer, he doesn’t have to, who could say no to him?


Larry Ricci: Embedded in Laguna’s LGBTQ culture, then and now

Story by DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

During the time Larry Ricci owned his interior design firm, he was known as the “Spaceman,” because when he walked into a space, he knew, “It’s my canvas, I see what it’s going to be, and I execute it.”

Odd, and yet an apt nickname. In 1972, when he came to Laguna Beach, it’s as if he decided this would be the space, the canvas upon which he was going to design and build his life; one that included being an artist, musician, singer, songwriter, producer, original member of the Board of Directors for the Orange County Chapterof ISID, original board member of The Heritage and Culture Committee, and founder of Club Q. (And more endeavors that he didn’t get around to talking about during our interview.)

Creation of Club Q

We meet at Susi Q, where almost five years ago, he presented the idea of a club for LGBTQ seniors, a now thriving group, Club Q, whose slogan is, “A social club for the LGBTQ community and friends.” 

When I first interviewed Larry, a year ago, a monumental event had just taken place, one that affected him deeply. On May 9, 2017, the Laguna Beach City Council proclaimed June as LGBT Heritage and Culture Month. Larry says that as the last sentence of the proclamation was read, “Forever the month of June is recognized as LGBT month…” it was very emotional. The forever did it for him. “It was the first time I felt respected for who I am instead of being discriminated against for who I am.” 

And it’s apparent the words still resonate with him. He’s been waiting to hear them for a long time.

Arriving in Laguna Beach in 1972

Larry landed in Laguna after moving from his birthplace, Seattle, WA, to Huntington Beach in 1971, arriving here a year later. “This is where I came out in my adult gay life,” he says. “I met all these wonderful people and a huge community and within it, magnificent art and artists.” During the 1970s and 1980s, he was very involved in the art world and knew most of the LGBTQ artists. 

Recently, he found a way to celebrate them, with the first exhibition to feature art provided by LGBTQ artisans, “Harmony Art Exhibit.” 

Larry says, “I approached Susi Q when I knew the exhibit’s theme would be harmony, peace and unity. A lot of LGBTQ artists certainly helped shape the art culture in Laguna Beach. The idea was extremely well accepted by Susi Q and Gallery Q. The exhibit will feature current pieces, as well as historical works, from LGBTQ artists in the community. I was able to acquire many pieces from the 1960s forward to honor those decades in which the LGBTQ artists really did help shape the art colony as it exists today.” 

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Larry gets snacks ready for Club Q’s Movie Day

Scheduled in conjunction with Laguna’s Pride Month, “Harmony Art Exhibit” will be presented by Gallery Q at Susi Q (in the multi-purpose room) from May 7 - June 29, with the official reception on Friday, May 11 from 5 - 6:30 p.m. 

Three pieces from Larry’s own collection – by artists Pegi Wear, Barbara Brown, and Orlando Botero – will be included in the exhibit. His close friends, Wear and Brown (who are both now deceased), owned Contemporary Arts Gallery on the corner of Myrtle and PCH (the A-frame building) in the 1970s. Larry admits he drove by there not long ago, and thought, “Well, girls, we have one more show to do.”

Time now measured in decades

“I talk of time now in decades,” Larry says. And admittedly, he’s done quite a lot in over four of them.

During the ‘80s, he painted abstract mixed-media pieces that were shown in two galleries. As if that’s not enough, every Friday and Saturday for four years in the mid-‘80s, Larry and Jim Harding performed at Main Street Café, which was a piano bar at the time, sporting a grand piano, no less. Larry played the piano and sang, and Jim played the bass guitar and sang. “We did cover music from the ‘80s and some of my original songs,” Larry says. “I can still picture the crowd around the piano.”

In the ‘90s, he was a production designer on a short film and a feature film (for which he wrote the title song). 

For 25 years, he owned an interior design firm in Corona del Mar, and traveled all around the country designing: shopping malls, gourmet markets, funeral homes, retirement homes, yachts, and corporate buses. He freelanced for another 10 years after that, and while on a lengthy assignment in Alabama, he owned a 26,000 square foot Antique Mall and Consignment store. He now consults, proving true the adage he relates, “Designers never quit, they die.”

Stepping away as facilitator of Club Q

Now he’s embarking on yet another chapter. As of June 1, the fifth anniversary of Club Q, Larry has decided to “step away” from his position as full time facilitator. “Due to new commitments with work responsibilities,” he says. “It was an extremely difficult decision to make, because I’ve had this up and running for five years. And having been its founder, it’s hard to let go.”

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Club Q Movie Day, the third Friday of each month

Larry explains the plan for Club Q after he steps aside, “There have been multiple conversations and networking with other LGBTQ organizations. Three other groups, Shanti OC, LGBTQ Center OC, and the LGBTQ Heritage and Culture Committee, will be involved in upcoming gatherings of the Club. In co-partnering with these other organizations and services, each will take over one of the designated time periods a month. We have the first and third Friday afternoons of the month, and these groups will be woven in at these times to bring in more people. They will rotate in on the first Friday, and the third Friday will still be Club Q movie day. Susi Q will facilitate until a new steering committee is created.” 

He says of the new format, “It’s the arms and fingers of five years of networking, bringing these organizations in to Susi Q to be with LGBTQ family and friends.”

The Club Q members look forward to new and exciting adventures with Club Q, but, of course, they will miss the leadership they had with Larry. 

And, yes, he will still be part of Club Q, but as a member.

A time of celebration, a time of sorrow

The more one learns about Laguna’s rich gay culture of the past 40 plus years, the more it appears to embody periods of absolute joy or absolute grief. As described by Larry, it was a dizzying and dazzling life in Laguna in the ‘70s, a mecca of energy and artistry, and then came the impenetrable sorrow of the ‘80s and ‘90s.

Larry recalls those times, “In 1984, along with Ed Smith, Jim Reed, and Rick Hernandez, we put on a musical review in Jim Reed’s house from 11 p.m. to midnight and raised $26,000 as seed money for AIDS Services Foundation (ASF). The next year, we held it at the Woman’s Club and raised $100,000 for ASF. We skipped a year, and then in 1987, we raised $150,000 for them.”

An unforgettable walk

On December 1, 2017, I had the privilege of going on an unforgettable walk with Larry and members of Club Q to the police station to deliver toys for Spark of Love, and then to Main Beach for the commemoration of World AIDS Day. The day and evening, (which also included Hospitality Night), involved a strange juxtaposition of emotions. In the amount of time it took to reach the cobblestones at the beach, joy melded into sadness, as Larry and Ric Uggs related the stories of what it was like back then. 

Larry said, “I’ll never forget that 10-15 years of constant loss. In the early 1980s, we worried when someone said they weren’t feeling well. Because it seemed to happen quickly after that. They’d be gone in 30, 60 or 90 days. I was in the interior design business and many of design shops closed because the proprietors died. We’re here to celebrate those lives and grieve their deaths.”

Attendees at the ceremony were asked to write the names of friends and family members who died from AIDS on small pink hearts. 

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On June 1, Larry steps away as Club Q facilitator

Visibly shaken, Larry told me, “I started writing down the names of my friends, and I got to six, and I couldn’t go on. Back when they started dying, and the number got to 30, I said I don’t know what to do. A friend gave me some good advice. ‘Larry, stop counting.’”

Then a group of four people read the names of those who died, and a small bell rang after each name. And then the moderator asked for people to call out the names of those they knew who hadn’t been mentioned. Between Larry and Ric, they called out another 30 or more names. 

“These were sons, children, husbands, and wives. It’s not just a gay disease and never was,” Larry said.

Since 1972, Larry has both lived as part of and been witness to the LGBTQ culture in Laguna, a historian of the times. And his achievements – the founding of Club Q and now the co-partnering with other LGBTQ organizations, the first exhibition of LGBTQ art, and his role as one of the original board members of the Heritage Culture Committee – speak to the multifaceted life he’s led, the joy and grief of it all. 

In every case, he saw what could be, and he made it happen.


Pastor Rod Echols: Raised in Memphis, he loves Laguna and the Neighborhood Congregational Church

Story by SAMANTHA WASHER

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Just when Pastor Rod Echols decided he was ready to become a full time pastor, Laguna’s Neighborhood Congregational Church reached out to him. “I was approached by this church right when I started my search,” recounts Pastor Rod. Not intimately familiar with Laguna Beach, Pastor Rod says it did check one of his non-negotiable boxes: it was in southern California. So he did some research. “I started looking into the community. It was so strong, so progressive...It was evolving onto everything I wanted to be as a pastor. I was honored to be hired.” 

Finding the right place to make a big change

Now, with almost a year of full-time ministry behind him, Pastor Rod is nothing if not enthusiastic about the future. “I feel, especially being so new in my role, like a kid in a candy store.” He has embraced the city’s quirks, and is delighted to be in a community that is so close-knit. “I’ve never served in a town like Laguna. It’s a town that values conservation, healthy living; it has strong connections and values. You can feel it here; it’s so strong. I really love that.”

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Pastor Rod Echols of the Neighborhood Congregational Church

Finding it easy to honor his mother’s wishes

Pastor Rod is a member of the United Church of Christ (UCC). The UCC is a mainline Protestant Christian denomination. It is known for being socially progressive with an emphasis on interfaith efforts. As for how he came to be a pastor, he says with a laugh, “I was toldI was going to be a pastor.” Raised in Memphis, Echols says his mother had plans for her son. Those plans included him being part of the church, albeit a different church than the one he represents now, and not just as member of the congregation. It didn’t take long for his mother’s wishes to take root. “I had the desire very early,” he recalls. 

Leaving Memphis for Brown University

Another one of his mother’s wishes was that he seize his opportunities. This meant leaving Memphis to attend Brown University in Rhode Island. Echols originally planned on becoming a doctor. However, once there he says his eyes were opened to a wider world-view. All of this newness profoundly affected him. “There were so many different people and beliefs. I found myself going back to where I started.” He became an informal, in-house pastor to his fellow classmates, and this planted the seed. 

Seeing religion through a new lens

What helped the seed flourish were some of Echols’ professors at Brown. “They blew my mind,” he remembers. “They exploded the categories. Christ, salvation, love, grace…they made them more inclusive, more colorful.” This inspired him to go to Boston University for graduate school where he received a Master of Divinity. “Without them, without their persistence – and it was very strong persistence – I would not be here now,” he says with a laugh.

Despite his faith and the calling to serve, Echols’ paying job was that of a professional fundraiser. He has worked for universities and non-profits, like the United Way. A job with the University of California San Diego brought him west. 

Seeking counsel to take a very big step

Then he had an epiphany, of sorts. “In 2010 I shared my heart with the pastor at Fairview Church in Costa Mesa,” he says. He had been a volunteer pastor there for many years. “I opened up to her and expressed my feelings and my story to her. I started as a conservative, fundamentalist, black preacher and had become an open, affirming man of faith.” And he wanted to preach. “I knew my calling was to make this step.”

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Inside the lovely Neighborhood Congregational Church at 340 St. Ann’s Drive

A love for something greater, kindness and social justice

He believes he is well-suited to make an impact as a church leader because of his focus on three things: one is a “proactive” commitment to loving and worshipping something greater than one’s self; the second is a focus on kindness; and the third is a fierce belief in social justice. “I feel strongly for people who don’t have the built-in advantages that other people have. People of color, the homeless, the LGBQT community…I want to help people searching for wholeness. These are the things that drew me into being a pastor as opposed to staying where I was.”

These tenets of his belief fuel his ambitions for the Neighborhood Congregational Church. “I want this church to be an indispensable part of the community. I want our kids to have a safe place for nurturing. Here, we are seeking wisdom together.”

The World Peace and Justice Weekend, June 9-10

To that end, the weekend of June 9 and 10, the church is hosting its first World Peace and Justice weekend. Pastor Rod describes the weekend as “an embodiment of seeking wisdom. It’s active. You are embodying peace in action.” There will be interfaith dialogue and meditation, a hands-on justice initiative and a concert benefitting world causes, as well as a presentation on compassionate parenting.

A deep gratitude for his parents

Pastor Rod speaks devotedly about his own parents. “My mom is so proud of me. Her strong faith is now my strong faith. Her passion for helping others is my passion, Her kind soul is what I’m trying to be for the church,” he says. He is equally grateful to his father. “He has been a real rock for me. He is my practical guide. He has been so tremendous.” Pastor Rod hopes to pass on their example to his own family someday, but first he needs to find the right woman. And it would be a plus if she loved IMAX movies and comic books, as he does, though it’s certainly not a requirement.

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Historic plaque welcomes congregants to the Neighborhood Congregational Church

Making the NCC a vibrant part of the community

In the meantime, Pastor Rod will put his considerable energy into growing the Neighborhood Congregational Church and making it a vibrant part of the community.

When I ask him to describe the United Church of Christ he says this, “An old pastor friend of mine used to tell this joke: UCC stands for Unitarians Considering Christ.’” Pastor Rod insists that it’s funny (my religious ignorance made glaringly obvious by the fact that he had to assure me of its humor). But he went on to explain that while we could debate the joke’s humor, it was a fairly accurate description of the UCC. 

“It’s not rigid or closed off. It speaks to the idea that Christ is a unifying force. Some call it Buddha, some call it a spirit, some call it light. We call it Christ.” 

This is what Pastor Rod believes. He also believes in the power of his church to be a unifying voice in these fractured times. “What we are seeking to do, our goal, is to orient ourselves as the sacred gathering space for seeking wisdom in Laguna Beach and the wider community,” he explains. An ambitious goal, to be sure, but one to which Pastor Rod is committed.


Corwin Allard (10), calm and confident kid extraordinaire, is a TV and baseball star

Story by DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

There’s never been a more dauntless and collected kid than Corwin Allard in my view. During our conversation, I was tempted to ask his mother if she’s certain that he’s not really a small adult masquerading as a ten-year-old. Corwin juggles two demanding pursuits, as a TV actor and as an award-winning pitcher on Big West BPA Travel Baseball Team, while at the same time maintaining straight As in his fourth-grade subjects at Top of the World Elementary. 

All these responsibilities would put even an adult into a tizzy, but Corwin handles them as if it’s life as usual. And for him, it is. Nothing ruffles him, it seems. Just the weekend before, his Travel Baseball Team won the Big West 10U Elite DI Triple Crown Spring Championship Arizona Tournament (a three-day national tournament). 

But he had no time to rest on his laurels.

On the road again

After the tournament ended on Sunday at 6:30 p.m., he and his parents, Chris and Diane Allard, packed up and rushed back to Laguna, arriving after 12:30 a.m. With only time for a quick bit of shuteye, he and his mom then got back on the road at 6:30 a.m. for an 8:30 a.m. call for a guest shot on the finale of the long-running (nine seasons) ABC sitcom, The Middle.Whew!

How he got started on this-fast paced acting track began with a much younger Corwin sitting in front of the television watching live action shows on Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel, and deciding, “I can do that.” It appears that once he sets his mind to something, it happens.

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With the support of his parents, Chris and Diane, Corwin does it all

Soon after, he got an agent (he still has the same agent and manager). He then appeared in the 2014 movie, All I Want for Christmas, in 2017 as Decker Jr in the Cartoon Network series Decker, and then as Peter Gardiner, neighbor to the Huang family in the ABC sitcom Fresh Off the Boat.

“What television series would you most like to be on?” I ask.

“Stranger Things,” he says. “It never gets old. I’ve watched it over and over again.”

Even though Stranger Things is obviously not a comedy, Corwin admits that, as an actor, comedy is his favorite genre. And some funny unscripted things have happened on set.

“What’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened during filming?” I ask.

“During a Firestone Tire commercial, my fake mom was in the car, and she was supposed to pop out of the sunroof with a cake and a piñata, but she spilled the cake all over the windshield and ruined the piñata.” Retake!

Fun on the set

Recently, Corwin finished filming his role as Ben Rogers in The Adventures of Thomasina Sawyer, the story of Tom Sawyer told from a female perspective. The movie was made by USC film grad students and is currently in post-production. 

When you get a bunch of kids together, interesting things occur, it seems.  “Anything weird ever happen during filming?” I ask.

“During a break in filming The Adventures of Thomasina, my friend Jaden was eating a donut, and we were called back on set, and he said his line while chewing the donut.” Another retake?

Jaden has turned out to be a friend Corwin sees outside of acting, though sometimes, as Diane says, “They might be up for the same part.”

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A ring on every finger, Corwin sports his many baseball rings

“Are you ever nervous or get stage fright?” I ask him.

“No,” he says. 

Diane adds, “He doesn’t when he pitches and plays baseball either.”

Without a doubt, “unflappable” is a good quality for both acting and baseball.

Although there are no actors in his family, there must be a sprinkling of performance and athletic genes in Corwin’s makeup. Dad Chris played volleyball on scholarship for USC and went on to play on the AVP (Association of Volleyball Professionals) and MPVA (Midwest Professional Volleyball Association) tours for over 10 years before settling into a management role within the corporate world.

From fitness/figure competitions, Diane segued into a UFC sponsored infomercial and marketing program promoting a set of instructional workout DVDs featured in Shape magazine. A few years back, she also appeared on The Price is Right with Corwin’s older brother, Blake, 22, who is a guitarist with the band Joyous Wolf. 

It’s a big age difference, but brothers still fight, don’t they? 

“There’s not that much to fight about,” Corwin says.

Diane adds. “And they’re both very mature.”

Corwin recalls memories of playing chess, Banjo 1996, and video games on his first Xbox with his brother.

Now Corwin plays the interactive baseball video game “MLB The Show 18” with his baseball coach, Pac Gutierrez, which apparently is helping Corwin with his game. Not only is he a star pitcher, he plays third base as well.

Baseball treasures

Although Corwin’s room is filled with baseball memorabilia, there are two things (or rather 38 things) he’s especially proud of; his 10 baseball championship rings —awarded for being either tournament champions or finalists (second place) — and his 28 bats. “None of the bats are wood,” Corwin says. “You can’t use those until college.”

With all that’s going on, one wonders if there is anything typical about his life. Well, his fourth-grade class studied Missions (haven’t fourth graders been doing this forever), and his San Pedro Mission was made of colored beans. But, what’s not typical, is that to maintain his grades, when he’s filming, he works with a teacher for three hours a day between takes. His favorite subjects are math and history. 

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A roomful of baseball memorabilia

Along with school, either of his pursuits would keep any kid and his parents hopping. Yet the family appears to seamlessly interweave these two demanding activities. 

If there is a baseball tournament, “We book-out with the agent, so he won’t schedule any auditions for him,” Diane says. “Sometimes he does have to miss baseball practice because of auditions and call backs, but then on weekends, he puts in the work.”

The logistics of two demanding pursuits

Of course, none of this could be accomplished without the support of his parents. The logistics of keeping all these tops spinning requires a substantial amount of planning and driving. Traveling to auditions (which can involve multiple auditions with directors, producers, and writers for one part), and then back again for callbacks isn’t unusual. 

(And that’s not even factoring in the anxiety of waiting for callbacks and “an avail,” which is the step after a callback to determine the actor’s availability.)

Further, by the very nature of being on a Travel Baseball Team, there’s a lot of traveling involved with that too. Sometimes acting and baseball very nearly conflict, but the Allards seem to work that out. On one occasion, they had to leave a baseball tournament in Hacienda Heights to go for an acting call back, but returned for the next game, picking right up where they left off.

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Ready to swing

On March 31, Corwin and his parents were off to the USSSA (the national governing body for elite level players) All-American Showcase in Santee. It was the national tryouts for the Far West Region, in which 25 top elite players are chosen to compete in Florida during the summer. 

Diane reports, “The showcase for the USSSA All-American went very well, we think Corwin definitely has a good chance of making the team! We will not know for sure until June 21. We do know that Corwin had the highest corner infield velocity (60 mph) out of the entire Far West region (which included kids from the Mesa district, the Mira Loma district and the San Diego district) for his work at third base. He also had the second highest fastball pitch speed (58 mph) out of the district that he tried out in (San Diego).”

As competitive as Corwin is, it’s apparent there’s no competition between acting and baseball in his mind. He says, “I want to be a professional baseball player.” His favorite baseball player is José Altuve.

No limits in the future

Whatever he decides, the sky is the limit for Corwin, whether it be acting or baseball (or maybe there will be a third or fourth endeavor). Undaunted, this multi-talented kid extraordinaire can handle it all. And I wouldn’t be surprised if he one day appears on his favorite television series, since once Corwin sets his mind to something, it materializes. 

Stranger things have happened.


Laguna Logo

Sheila Bushard-Jamison: It’s all in the family

Story by SAMANTHA WASHER

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Bushard’s Pharmacy is part of the fabric of Laguna. That happens when a business thrives as long as Bushard’s has. Joe and Mary Bushard came to Laguna Beach in 1942. In 1960, after renting several spaces, Joe built his pharmacy on Forest Ave. where it still is today. 

From father to daughter

The Bushard’s daughter Shelia, now Sheila Bushard-Jamison, has followed in their footsteps, running the business both with a partner, as well as alone for the past 30 years. To keep the family business going was definitely not part of a master plan. Bushard-Jamison had other ideas for her life when she earned a masters degree in Environmental Science. But, she recalls good-naturedly, “I couldn’t get a job! My dad’s manager had sadly just had a stroke. He needed my help.” So she jumped in.

It was definitely not a foreign place. Bushard-Jamison had worked at the pharmacy in some capacity since she was 13. “My dad trusted me, obviously. And when he was ready to retire I took over in 1986. My partner at the time, Tony D’Altorio, was the pharmacist and we were partners for 22 years. He passed away in 2007, so since then, I’ve been on my own.” At least she was.

LLP Jamison closeup

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Shelia Bushard-Jamison, owner of Bushard’s Pharmacy, a Laguna Beach institution

Now a mother-daughter team

In 2010, Bushard’s daughter Marisa graduated with a business degree from Loyola Marymount University. The business climate back then was extremely rough for just about everyone, especially new graduates. This prompted Bushard-Jamison to ask her daughter if she wanted to come work with her. “She embraced it,” says Bushard- Jamsion. “She likes the business side of it. She’s so much more tech savvy than I am. And, a lot of my customers are aging. We have to keep the younger ones coming in.”

So, despite a lack of intention, it seems as though this family business will stay in the family for quite some time. Marisa is ready to take the reins, according to her mother, but it doesn’t sound like Bushard-Jamison is ready to “cut the leash” just yet. 

And this dynamic makes Bushard’s a rather unique place. It is definitely a modern pharmacy, but there is a palpable nostalgia one feels upon entering. Maybe it’s the building? Maybe it’s the employees, some of whom have worked there 20+ years? Maybe it’s how everyone knows your name when you come in? It is probably all of these things, and then there are the M & M’s.

A commitment to customers – and M & M’s

Bushard-Jamsion says she started putting a dish of M & M’s at the pharmacy counter many years ago. Her partner Tony was not a fan – at first. “Then he started buying them!” laughs Bushard-Jamison “I have to make sure we have enough all the time. I’m running to Costco to keep our stash full.”  The candy, small as it is, says a lot about the way Bushard-Jamison runs her business. People come in and have a few M & M’s, even if they’re not there to buy anything. “It’s fun to visit and catch up. We try to make people happy and have a good time. We always try to take extra care. We each have a group of people we know really well, and it’s really great to see them when they come in.”

Known for their perfumes, among other things

Another Bushard’s trademark is the perfume. People check in from all over the country in order to pick up a favorite fragrance that they can’t find anywhere else. “It’s so funny,” explains Bushard-Jamison. “Mitzi Interlandi…she started working here and was totally into fragrances. She created relationships with these companies, and it just kept building.” Interlandi came to work in 1980, retired in 2008, but not before she trained her replacement who now knows as much as her mentor.

LLP mother daughter

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The dynamic duo: Marisa Bushard-Jamison with her mother Shelia in front of their family-owned and managed business

While Bushard’s definitely echoes some of the better things from the past, it is not stuck there. Every Bushard who has been involved in the pharmacy has demonstrated innovative thinking. Joe Bushard fought the city to build the breezeway that connects the parking lot on Ocean to Forest Ave. “Can you imagine?” muses Bushard-Jamison at the thought of that ubiquitous pathway not existing. 

A voice for local merchants

While very active over the years with the Chamber of Commerce, Bushard-Jamison herself tried several different ideas to help keep locals shopping in town. She, like all Laguna residents, realizes the town is up against a fierce adversary: lack of parking. 

To combat locals’ inclination to head to a mall, Bushard-Jamison says they tried the  “Our Town Until 10:00” where businesses were encouraged to open early so locals could shop before the crowds came. She also helped convince the city that the parking meters should be for three hours instead of two. “You can’t go to lunch, look around and maybe do some shopping in two hours,” she explains. But the problem is only getting worse and that worries Bushard-Jamison. “I don’t think there’s a long-term plan and that concerns me.”

Deliveries help customers get what they need

 With that in mind, Bushard-Jamison decided the pharmacy needed to start making deliveries. “People who can’t get here or don’t want to try and get here, they still need their medicines. We deliver six days a week.” And as with all good business owners, when something needs to get done, sometimes you have to do it yourself. Her driver was going to be unavailable this weekend which means Bushard-Jamison was taking over. Driving on a weekend in full summer traffic is no picnic, but Bushard-Jamison was sanguine. Small business owners must wear many hats.

A family with deep roots in Laguna

And if there was an award the “The Most Local Family” of all local families in Laguna, the Bushard-Jamison’s would be hard to beat. Bushard-Jamison’s husband was also born in Laguna. His father was a member of Laguna Beach High School’s first graduating class. Both sets of in-laws were friends despite the children not meeting one another until college. This is because Bushard-Jamison went to a private school in Anaheim. She says her parents weren’t thrilled about Timothy Leary’s presence in Laguna and decided it was safer to send her away. After college, Bushard-Jamison says she traveled a lot, but never considered leaving Laguna. At the time, she didn’t want to leave her boyfriend. Since the two have now been married for 38 years, it seems like she made a smart choice. 

LLP Bushards breezeway

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The front of Bushard’s Pharmacy and its connecting breezeway that Jack Bushard fought for back in the late 1950’s

As a Laguna Beach native, Bushard-Jamison has watched her hometown evolve from an idyllic beach community to a world-class tourist destination. Talking with her about the old days, it’s easy to feel a sense of longing for what things were like then. “When I was a kid there were cows grazing in the canyon,” she says. Everything anyone needed could be found downtown, according to Bushard-Jamison. There were shops along the boardwalk (before Main Beach park was created) and Allen Cadillac sold its cars between Oak and Brooks Streets. And you could make it from point A to point B considerably quicker. Times have certainly changed.

What has not changed is how Bushard-Jamison values her customers who were once her father’s customers, and who will eventually be her daughter’s customers (and possibly her son’s, though he is currently enrolled in film school). This continuity is not something she takes for granted. “My dad loved Laguna. He was very encouraging for me to take over and that was a blessing. We’re all very blessed to live here, and I’m really lucky to still have this store.” 

Bushard-Jamison may call it luck, but luck isn’t delivering prescriptions over a sunny, tourist-packed weekend.


Thea Walsh: Water polo dreams

Story by SAMANTHA WASHER

Photos by MARY HURLBUT

Laguna Beach High School senior Thea Walsh is, like many of her fellow seniors, filled with mixed emotions. There is reluctance to close the chapter on her high school years along with excitement and anticipation for what is to come next. For Walsh, her next chapter officially begins when she realizes her dream and starts as a freshman at Stanford in the fall. “I’m so excited. It was a dream of mine to go to Stanford,” she says. “I didn’t realize I could actually get there until about 11th grade,” she says, still seeming a bit surprised at her good fortune.

A goal of many, realized by very few

As one of the best water polo players in the country, Walsh will play for the Cardinals and be reunited with her fellow Breakers Aria Fischer and Bella Baldridge. Walsh says she has wanted to attend Stanford ever since she played her first Junior Olympics there when she was 12. In that, she is not alone.

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LBHS senior Thea Walsh will take her water polo skills to Stanford in the fall

In age group water polo, the Junior Olympics alternate every other year between southern California and northern California. When they are held in northern California some of the games are held at Stanford’s pool. This experience translates into almost every young polo player declaring at some point, “I want to go to Stanford.” Alas, with a less than five percent acceptance rate, the dream becomes reality for only a very few.

An academic interest in science

Walsh says she hopes to study bio-medical engineering or human biology at Stanford. Clearly, her abilities aren’t just limited to the pool. “I’m excited to get to Stanford because I know I will get the best education and the best treatment (as an athlete),” enthuses Walsh. And her excitement is well-deserved. Her road to get there, and the schedule she has endured to make it a reality, have not been easy.

Surviving the grind

“With water polo you’re always grinding,” she says good-naturedly. “For the high school we have morning practice three times a week so I get up around 5 a.m. Then there’s school from 7:30 to usually around 1:30. Then practice after school every day for two to three hours. Then you have you find time to eat, sleep and do homework.” 

Finding time wherever possible

During club water polo season, the times may be different but the hours put in are the same, even more when you factor in the driving to and from practice. “Those days it’s like a four-hour practice,” she says. “I realized that those were four hours I could have been doing homework,” she says. “So I tried to find the one or two classes where I could do my homework when I didn’t have to do anything,” she admits. 

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The LBHS pool is practically a home away from home for Thea Walsh

The Junior National Team is another commitment

Walsh’s water polo is not confined to just high school and club. She plays on the Junior National Team, as well. Luckily, LBHS girls coach Ethan Damato just so happens to be one of her national team coaches. “If he had to miss something, I had to miss something,” she says of her overlapping commitments to her many teams. “Last year we missed three weeks in December, but other than that I haven’t missed too much of high school (polo).” During those three weeks she competed in the FINA Youth World Championships in New Zealand where the team finished fifth.

Rising to the competition

It is clear Walsh relishes the competition of the national team. “I love the national team because it takes me to the next level. They elevate my play. Every person there is the best from their high school or club,” she says enthusiastically. Plus it has broadened her horizons with trips like the one to New Zealand as well as the chance to play against college teams like UCLA and UCSB. This summer she says her goal is to again make the national team and go to the Youth World Championships in Serbia.

A band of sisters on the LBHS team

That being said, Walsh is equally devoted to her high school team. “Socially, I love the girls on the high school team.” She has played with most of the seniors on her team since she began playing when she was 12 years old. 

Trying just about every other sport before finding water polo

Walsh says she came to polo after playing almost every other sport there was. She was at the pool as part of the swim team when Laguna Beach parent Scott Baldridge began his recruiting. Baldridge, a former collegiate water polo player, along with Erich Fischer, a former Olympic water polo player, can be credited for helping build Laguna Beach into a girls’ water polo powerhouse.

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The encouragement of her community and peers means a lot

A persuasive parent gets credit

“I was on swim team and Scott Baldridge kept pushing (me to try water polo),” she remembers with a laugh.  Back then, Baldridge and Fischer encouraged, cajoled and occasionally begged their daughters’ friends to give the sport, which they coached through the city, a try. 

Two persuasive parents help create a dynasty

The two dads proved to be good coaches and excellent recruiters as many of the girls they coached have gone on to play collegiate water polo, including their own daughters who all went on to play at Stanford. Makenzie and Aria Fischer took it one step further by not only playing in the Olympics, but winning gold medals.  

Finding her place in the goal

For Walsh, once she found polo, she found her sport. “I started out as a field player and I was really bad,” she recalls. “On our 12 and under team we took turns being the goalie. I was pretty good at it and I just stayed there,” recalls Walsh. “I hated swim. I begged not to go. When I started polo I actually wanted to go to practice. That’s why I made the decision to play polo.”

Blocking penalties becomes her “thing”

Saying there was “no question” she was going to play in high school, Walsh got her first taste of big time success when her 14 and under team won the Junior Olympics. “I got MVP of the tournament. We went into a shoot out and I blocked some shots. I realized I liked that. Goalies aren’t really expected to do that and so that kind of became my thing,” she remembers. She adds, “A bunch of other girls could have gotten MVP at that tournament.”

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Walsh hopes to hang another banner, of the Olympic Gold Medal kind, at the LBHS pool someday

Knowing the value of waiting – and learning

Walsh is quick to credit her teammates, both past and present. Her freshman and sophomore years she played behind LBHS goalie Holly Parker. Some girls with Walsh’s pedigree and talent might have complained or transferred to a school where they could get immediate varsity experience. Walsh saw the wait as a positive thing. “I was able to get a handle on things. Holly is really good and she pushed me to compete. She is a big role model for me.” Parker currently plays for USC. 

Looking on the bright side

This year the team didn’t have the season they expected. Admitting that the pressure to keep their undefeated streak alive and win every game “sometimes sucked,” Walsh still sees the her final high school season’s glass as half full. “We overcame obstacles and ended on a positive note,” she says. When asked what she will miss most about leaving LBHS she doesn’t hesitate. “The girls,” she answers emphatically. “They’re like a second family to me now.”

Not afraid to go for her dreams

With her high school days winding down, Walsh can look ahead to a summer filled with “a bunch of different trainings.” And while getting to Stanford checked the box for one of her dreams, there is another one, an even bigger one, out there waiting. “Making the Olympic team is one of my biggest goals right now,” she says. Currently, there are three banners hanging at the LBHS pool in honor of the three LBHS water polo players who became Olympians. Here’s hoping Walsh can make it four.


The Honorable Paul W. Egly 

Story by MARRIE STONE

“Honorable” was the word conferred on Paul W. Egly in 1963 by Governor Ronald Reagan when he was appointed to the Superior Court of Los Angeles. But being declared honorable by judicial appointment is one thing. Being an honorable man is quite another. It comes from within. The decisions Judge Egly has made throughout his life, both on the bench and off, are consistently one thing…honorable.

Born in 1921 in Covina, a small town then ripe with oranges and discrimination, Judge Egly remembered the days of segregated swimming pools – no Latinos or African Americans allowed. The town had an ordinance making it illegal for black people to stay over night. 

Growing up steeped in racial intolerance and well-versed in history (he obtained a bachelor’s degree in history from UCLA), Judge Egly had strong opinions about discrimination. Those opinions would become the subject of excruciating controversy later in his career. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The sacrifices required of war

Judge Egly was drafted into WWII and sent to Germany during the war’s climax, though he rarely speaks of his time there. “A few days ago I asked Paul, ‘Don’t you want to tell me more about it?’” his wife of 34 years, and former Mayor of Laguna Beach, Jane Egly, tells me as we all sit together in their north Laguna home. “He was sitting in his chair. He bent way over, faced the floor, and said, No.” Jane pats her husband’s arm. “You can stick with that, dear.”

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Photo courtesy of Jane Egly

Paul Egly – a handsome young man in uniform

There was, however, one war story that stood out. Judge Egly was tasked with evacuating all the Americans from an East German hospital shortly after the war ended. A Russian general in charge of the operation ordered that no American would leave the hospital until everyone else had been evacuated. “He didn’t even raise his head when he said it,” Jane says. It took Paul nearly four weeks, working alone, to get everyone out. By the time he finished his job, Russians were outside, hanging people from the lampposts. He told Jane there was nothing to do but walk away.

Judge Egly listens to his wife tell this story before saying, “It’s more fun when we get back to California.”

But it took Judge Egly a while to return to California. First, there was law school at George Washington University (GW). Then he returned to Europe after the war, working in the US Occupation Courts in Germany, before opening a practice in Covina.  

A heart for justice, a mind for law

Judge Egly’s superior reputation on the Superior Court was no surprise. He took to the law instantly, knowing within two days of arriving at GW he’d landed on the right career. Jane says Judge Egly was known for his ability to distill massive amounts of material, absorb all the arguments made by opposing sides, and quickly hone in on the central issue. He applied his legal mind to a variety of cases, as he was willing and able to tackle anything that came through his door.

In a 2013 interview for La Verne Magazine, Judge Egly recounts a story from his early years practicing law. “In those days, people expected you to know what you were doing regardless of the kind of case. It was fun. There was a case that came in at four in the afternoon,” he said. “A woman wanted a will, and I had no gas for the car ride home. She asked me how much I would charge her, and I said $2. In that time, gas was 17 cents a gallon, so that $2 got me far.” Judge Egly even took criminal cases on a pro bono basis. “I didn’t make any money, but I enjoyed every minute of it.”

After a decade practicing law, Paul Egly was appointed by Governor Pat Brown to the Municipal Court in 1963 and, later that year, by Governor Ronald Reagan to the Superior Court of Los Angeles. He would serve on the bench until 1981.

The bus stopped here:

Crawford v. Los Angeles Unified School District

 Arguably the most seminal, and tragic, case of Judge Egly’s career came nearly a quarter of a century after Brown v. Board of Education. He was about to embark on a painful life lesson: doing the right thing would not always be rewarded. 

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Photo courtesy of UCLA/Photo by Joe Kennedy

Paul Egly seen through a school bus window

In the early 1970s, Egly successfully ordered the San Bernardino school district to align itself with the Brown decision and desegregate its schools. Several aspects of Judge Egly’s desegregation ruling in that case still stand: magnet schools, incentive pay for bilingual teachers, and year-round instruction were all part of that order. 

But a decade later, and 60 miles away, things wouldn’t go so smoothly. White Angelinos were loath to put their children on buses. As Patt Morrison wrote in an LA Times article in 1997 reflecting on the case: “It was an unlovely time in this lovely place, the shrieking suburbs vs. the shouting city, aggrieved white vs. angry black vs. out-of-the-loop Latino, armed school guards put on patrol the first day that thousands of kids stepped aboard buses, death threats and recall threats, the tragicomic effort to halt busing as a pollution risk.”

Judge Egly recounts the hundreds of threatening letters he received over the four years he worked on the case. He remembers a man who sat in the front row of his courtroom each day, wearing a sign saying, “Recall Egly.” His name, it was said, became the most popular four-letter word in Los Angeles. The turmoil claimed the health, and life, of his second wife. It took a dramatic toll on his psyche, if not his career. And the whole matter ended in a whimper, instead of a bang, as busing ceased when Proposition 1 passed, declaring his ruling unconstitutional. Segregation seeped back in. “Like some sort of embarrassing love affair: it ends—pfft—and nobody wants to talk about it,” Morrison’s LA Times article reported.

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Photo courtesy of Jane Egly

Paul Egly – Superior Court Judge

Egly came to think about the Crawford case as a kind of death, requiring post-mortems and autopsies, trying to diagnose precisely what happened. Doing what he felt was right, and being demonized for it, was difficult to accept. In its aftermath, he left the bench. “All that stuff about noble decisions. It’s BS. It’s the law of the land that changed me. Black is beautiful to me now. It’s that simple,” Egly said in a 1981 interview with the Claremont Courier

Egly sensed discomfort even among his colleagues who disagreed with him, as though their moral compasses may have covertly pointed in directions different from their stated opinions. “What does it mean, I’ve sacrificed my career? My career is in my head. Right?” 

That statement strikes me as the very definition of honor.

Making a case for service

Judge Egly’s career didn’t end with Crawford. He continued teaching, which was arguably his first passion. The U.S. Constitution, he said, had become his religion. Egly founded the University of La Verne College of Law in 1970 while still serving on the bench. He acted as its dean and taught constitutional law for 34 years. He loved nothing more than watching students’ eyes light up when they hit on some understanding. “It’s like a blossom blooming into a flower, seeing them begin to understand the cases,” he said in his La Verne Magazine interview. “You enjoy it with them; you learn with them and try to make it more interesting.”

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Photo courtesy of L. Gilbert Lopez

Judge Paul Egly with L. Gilbert Lopez

Egly also co-founded Judicial Dispute Resolution, Inc. in 1990, an independent, neutral panel of private judges hired to hear cases outside the court system. He took a wide variety of civil cases over the years. He also worked tirelessly in Laguna alongside James Dilley and others to preserve the city’s greenbelts.

Never losing sight of what’s important: 

The judge’s battle with macular degeneration

Judge Egly began his battle with macular degeneration just after retiring from the bench in the early 1980s. He lost his sight over the course of years, the world slipping away slowly over time. And, with it, his freedom. By the late 80s, he could neither read nor write, but he moved with Jane to Barcelona for a year, enjoying his final time with vision. “I know no one who adapted to that problem the way Paul did,” says Jane. “It was just remarkable.” Judge Egly sought out Braille and books on tape. “He still reads more than most of us,” says Jane. She shows me his tape recorder, saying he’s always got a book going.

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Photo courtesy of Jane Egly

Paul Egly at play

After 34 years together, their marriage still feels playful. “I think he married me because I could drive,” Jane laughs. Given that her husband has said she “was the luckiest thing that ever happened to me,” I’m guessing it’s more than Jane’s driving that kept them together. She remains in awe of his many accomplishments and proud of the legacy he’s leaving both on the bench and in Laguna’s greenbelts. 

Hard lessons learned from the bench

More than once during our interview, I reflected on the many battles Judge Egly fought over his storied career, and wondered aloud whether we’d made as much headway as I’d once hoped for. But Jane was quick to remind me of our country’s progress, particularly for women.

I returned home and sat with an article Judge Egly wrote nearly a decade ago, after being asked by the late Donald Dunn, dean of La Verne’s College of Law, to pen a post-mortem piece about the Crawford case. “The following pages will help with the understanding of the rocky marriage between politics and the court in public policy matters,” Egly wrote. What followed were 55 pages of long lament by an honorable man still – 26 years later – struggling to make sense of what had happened. 

He concluded the piece by saying, “It has taken me a while to understand that the best of legal principles can never become public policy unless embraced by a substantial segment of public opinion.”

I reflected on a few of the best legal principles our courts have upheld in the last decades – reproductive rights, marriage equality, immigration laws –often without the full support of public opinion. Honorable roads aren’t easy ones, but they’re unquestionably worth the fight. 

It’s unclear to me whether Judge Egly ultimately found solace in his decision. Maybe solace is less important than the legacy left behind. Progress, after all, is rarely a straight line, but more often a string of circuitous paths blazed by brave men like the Honorable Paul Egly.


Dr. Gregg DeNicola of Caduceus takes great care of patients, including many gallery owners and artists

Story by SAMANTHA WASHER

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Dr. Gregg DeNicola looks at his overall medical career like a basketball game. For the first half of his career he practiced in Yorba Linda. After 19 years there, he says he wanted to change things up for his second half. As a kid growing up in Covina, for Gregg, Laguna was a regular destination. 

“The first year we came down was 1969; it was the first year we had cars. We stumbled onto the Sawdust Festival, it was much more hippie-ish back then, more our age people. We loved it,” remembers DeNicola. So when it came time to decide where to begin his second half, he found an office near Three Arch Bay and rented it month to month, until 2007 when he found the place where he practices now: Caduceus on Thalia. 

Finding Caduceus on Thalia

Caduceus is a family practice. Originally, Dr. DeNicola says he thought he was going to be a pediatrician, but when it came time to put that choice on paper during the “match” process (where med students select their field and top choices for residency) he balked, feeling it was too limiting. He was an obstetrician for his first 19 years in practice. Now, as a family practitioner, he gets to see the whole family.

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Dr. Gregg DeNicola at his medical practice, Caduceus on Thalia

“Why would you want to retire?”

“Back when we were in our mid-40’s my friends were always saying, ‘We’re going to retire by the time we’re 55.’ I never really got that. Why would you want to retire?” he asks. Even now he says people ask him almost daily when he’s going to leave the hustle and bustle of his medical practice behind. “I say, ‘Why? That’s silly! I’m a block from the beach. I have the best patients. Why would I want to retire?”

Fundamental changes in health care that are not for the better

That’s not to say that there aren’t some things about practicing medicine that he wouldn’t like to alter. In a change he calls “disturbing,” DeNicola laments the turn away from the idea that the patient comes first to that of the payer coming first. 

“Whether it’s a PPO, an HMO, or a concierge service, with every patient the first question is ‘How are you paying for this?’ When I started out, five, ten, even 20 years ago we didn’t worry so much about getting paid. Now, if you have a 15-minute office visit, half of that time is committed to satisfying the paperwork. It used to be all the time went into the patient.”

Another example DeNicola gives regarding these changes is that his office now has three full time certified “coders” who assist in ensuring the charting the insurance companies demand is done correctly. “This is just one example of how money that used to be spent on patient care is now going towards the business end of things.”

Finding Laguna to be a special place to practice medicine

And that’s just one more reason, perhaps the biggest reason, DeNicola loves to practice medicine in Laguna Beach. “My practice works out really well in Laguna Beach,” explains DeNicola. “We take (all forms of insurance and payment), even Medicaid. We see gallery owners and artists gratis and are grateful to be able to do that.” Yes, you read that correctly. Dr. DeNicola sees artists and gallery owners for free.

Part of the reason is because DeNicola is a huge art fan. “I love art. I can’t draw at all, but I love art. I always have,” he says enthusiastically. He got into the local art scene by going downtown and walking through the galleries, the fairs and festivals.

“Then it evolved into artists bringing their work in. All of it is for my patients. I love having them come in here so we can talk about art,” he says. Which is how he came up with the idea to treat artists and gallery owners for free.

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Paintings by local artists are prominently displayed at Caduceus

Giving back to artists and gallery owners with free medical care

“I realized by talking to the artists that if they had a cold they couldn’t afford to see a doctor. I thought it would be an easy thing to do to help them out. I have never bartered for art,” he adds definitively. “But, I am a business man as well as a doctor.

“And by doing right it has also paid off in other ways when the artists’ families and friends come in. We only ask that they be a local artist or gallery owner. I couldn’t afford to help every artist in Orange County,” he says. 

As for why gallery owners, he says they struggle, too. “They can go weeks and weeks without a sale. I’ve lost a lot of gallery owners who have had to move out of town. Of course, they’re in it to make money but they all love art. That’s a tough field,” he says appreciatively.

A resident of Orange, but a life made in Laguna

Appreciation is something DeNicola has a lot of for Laguna Beach. Although he lives in Orange, he says he spends more time here than many people who live here. “My life is here”, he says. He’s so entrenched, he is the president of the Laguna Beach Historical Society. He came to become involved in the organization when he stopped in to see the Murphy Bungalow, which serves as the Historical Society’s headquarters.  “They had a form and it asked ‘Are you willing to help us out?’” DeNicola remembers. He marked “yes” and they promptly called him and asked him to sit on the Board. That was 12 years ago. 

The more things change, the more they stay the same

DeNicola says that the thing that surprises him most about how Laguna has changed over the years is how much things have stayed the same. “I’m shocked by how much it hasn’t changed. Laguna is so united. It’s a very traditional community,” except, he adds with a laugh, “Not its politics.” 

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Dr. DeNicola’s examination room is quintessentially “Laguna”

A true appreciation of Laguna Beach and its history

By learning the town’s history, DeNicola says he has a deeper appreciation of what makes Laguna special. “It’s really a unique place. I don’t know another community like it…maybe back east?” 

That’s the reason why, if you come to see Dr. DeNicola, you will find his waiting room chairs set in a circle. “I did it that way so people could talk to each other. You can hear people strike up a conversation, ‘Are you going to the Patriots Day Parade this year?’ Things like that. It just doesn’t happen in most other cities.”

Of course, DeNicola acknowledges that even in this special place, things aren’t perfect. “Even though we have our trials, I know as a community people are trying to get things fixed,” he says. 

DeNicola says it bothers him to see the empty theater and Hotel Laguna, among others. “It’s very disconcerting,” he says. But not enough to diminish his appreciation for his (almost) hometown. 

“We have a gem here,” he says. “It’s such a special place, and has such a special feeling. It’s a wonderful place to work, live, shop.” Dr. DeNicola’s enthusiasm for Laguna is only matched by his enthusiasm for practicing medicine…in Laguna.


Lenny Vincent: Laguna’s Spiderman and much more

Story by DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Entomologist, tango enthusiast, professor, photographer, archivist; which word doesn’t fit? Sounds like a question on a test. But for Lenny Vincent, they all fit. These are just a few fascinating facets of his life, and to those who read Creature Features, he’s Spiderman, the expert source of endless information on insects. 

“Perhaps you may be interested in writing a story on the, unfortunately, maligned yet beneficial spiders of either Orange County or Laguna Beach,” Lenny wrote in an email last summer. And I was. Now, because of him, residents know about several local species of spiders, where to find them (if one so desires), their various webs, and their titillating and complicated courtships. 

A debunker of insect myths

Graciously, upon request, he continues to debunk the myths and mysteries of the insect world.

A resident of Laguna Beach for over 30 years, he knows his spiders and he knows Laguna, especially the wilderness areas. Lenny has been teaching entomology and biology for 36 years; at University of California, Berkeley from 1974-81 (part time), Georgia Southern University from 1981-86, and at Fullerton College from 1986-2015. He is now a Professor Emeritus at Fullerton College, and teaches part time, although not this term.

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Lenny with Silas and Charlie

With a stunning view of Catalina and San Clemente Islands, Lenny has lived in his South Laguna home for 21 years. Curiously, it’s absent of the expected framed insect collections. Instead, it houses two other species; two dogs, a Beagle named Charlie and a Shar-pei mix (Lenny thinks), the handsome Silas, and two desert tortoises currently in hibernation under the house, Ompahpah and Bristowe, gifts from a student in 1993. 

“Tortoises live to be 100 to 150 years old,” Lenny says, “so I’ve had to find someone to take them over.”

No gallery of insects to be seen

Out of sight, but not out of mind (mine anyway), his spiders are confined to another room that serves as the lab. And in place of those anticipated assemblages on his walls, is a display of his beautiful photographs of insects and plant life. 

Surprisingly, one area is filled with black and white pictures (not taken by him) of tango dancers from a tango tour he went on. But that will come later in the story.

Lenny’s stepson, Matthew Haim, a student at San Diego State, walks through the living room on his way to school for exams. No, he’s not studying entomology, but something of the spider world must have rubbed off on him, because he did write an article on the brown widow spider that was published. Matt’s a business major (and writer) and has a local connection. He works at the Front Desk at Hotel La Casa de Camino.

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Collection of spiders in Lenny’s lab

As we wait for the dogs to howl at a passing fire engine, which Lenny says is quite a spectacular show, but sadly doesn’t materialize, the question of how and when Lenny decided to devote his life to insects and make it a career, comes up. “While I was in high school in Cleveland, Ohio, I would collect and curate insects and sell them to other students for biology. I did that for a couple of years.

Interest in spiders peaks at graduate school

“Then I majored in biology at California State University at Northridge and took courses in entomology and liked it. When I went to grad school at University of California, Davis, I was interested in Medical Entomology, but when people would ask about spiders, I was drawn to that, so I switched to arachnology,” he says.

He then went on to get his Ph.D. in Entomology at UC Berkeley.

And his enchantment with insects never waned. Just last summer, he and a former student made quite a find. He frequently hikes in Laguna Wilderness Park to search out and photograph spiders, and during one of these treks, they found an undescribed species of jumping spider. 

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In-house lab

“It will take a specialist in jumping spiders to describe a new species, and that could be a long process,” says Lenny.

A longtime wilderness supporter, he’s been on the Board of Directors of Laguna Greenbelt since 1995. He is also the President of the Board of Directors of the Schlinger Foundation, and has been on the board since 1998. A non-profit founded by a former Entomology Professor at UC Berkeley, the Schlinger Foundation just recently provided a grant to aid construction of the new Laguna Canyon Foundation headquarters. 

Hopes children will reconnect with nature

Lenny says, “By bringing children into the wilderness, I hope they’ll gain a connection with nature that’s been lost.”

If all that isn’t enough to keep him busy, for the last 10 years, he’s served as archivist for the American Arachnology Society, which entails, as he explains, “Archiving letters from retiring arachnologists for the Smithsonian Institute.”

During Lenny’s unrelenting study of spiders, he has compiled a remarkable and extensive OC Spider website, and it’s in the process of becoming a pictorial guide through a grant (for printing costs) from the Schlinger Foundation. Although it won’t be finished for a year, the guides could be a resource in places like Nix Center.

One imagines an entomologist to be sequestered in his lab all hours of the day and night cataloging insects and who knows what else (and I don’t mean the activities of the scientist in The Fly). Yet seldom does one picture “a man of the insects” out tangoing. But Lenny’s not your average entomologist (if there is such a thing). 

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Does that smile mean Lenny is dreaming of the next night out tangoing?

When he turned 50, he started taking West Coast Swing lessons, which led to ballroom, and then the tango. Every few days, he goes to Avant Garde Ball Room or Atomic Ballroom to dance. About 10 years ago, he went to Buenos Aires on a tour of tango clubs, which he says, “Aren’t too flamboyant.” Although in the pictures on his wall, the women do have roses in their mouths.

As if all this weren’t enough, Lenny finds the time to lecture a few times a year at The Audubon Society, the Environmental and Nature Center, and other organizations on subjects such as the biology of spiders or insects.

It’s endlessly intriguing why someone devotes an entire life to the study of one thing. When asked what other profession he might have wanted to take up, without hesitation, Lenny says, “If I had the skill, a cellist, but I have zero musical talent. I know, I took voice lessons for two years.”

Well, it might have been impressive to add that to his list of accomplishments, but right now, the “unfortunately maligned” spiders of Laguna, and the supporters of the Laguna Wilderness are glad he didn’t become a cellist.

For all you ever wanted to know about spiders, go to Lenny’s spider guide website, ocspiderguide.com.


Captain Jeff Calvert: Happy to serve Laguna Beach

Story by SAMANTHA WASHER

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Many young boys say they want to become police officers when they grow up. Laguna Beach Police Captain Jeff Calvert is one of the few who actually followed through with his boyhood dream. “I still have a report from when I was in fourth or fifth grade when I interviewed a police officer,” explains Captain Calvert. That first interview may have planted the seed, but a career day encounter with a law enforcement officer during his senior year at Laguna Hills High School, grew the seed into an emphatic career decision. “After that I knew what I wanted to do,” he says.

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Captain Jeff Calvert, a 22-year veteran on the Laguna Beach Police Department

When an enthusiastic Calvert went home that day to share his career of choice with his father, his father wasn’t nearly as excited. “He said, ‘You’re not doing that,’ remembers Calvert. His father was a businessman and he assumed his son would follow suit. But fate intervened.

A well-timed ride along

“When I was 20 my friend got a job with the Sheriff. He asked me if I wanted to go on a ride-along. Well, he got called on a Code Three and we got to drive with the sirens on, on the opposite side of the road…when it was all over I knew it was exactly what I wanted to do,” remembers Calvert. He broke the news to his dad and enrolled in the Police Academy. His dad eventually came around. “When I graduated, I had never seen my dad so proud,” he says.

An “eye-opener” for a first job

Calvert’s first job was with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. He worked in Norwalk. “That was an eye opener for a kid from south Orange County,” he says. Eventually, he came to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and worked at the Intake Release Center (IRC) for three years. The IRC is a maximum-security custody facility. “I learned all there is to learn about running a custody facility,” he says. And then fate intervened again.

Making his way to Laguna

“My heart was always in Laguna,” he explains. He even applied for a job with the LBPD right out of the Academy, even though there weren’t any openings. Finally, in 1996 he had his chance – a position became available at the LBPD. Taking that job has led to a 22-year career in a myriad of positions from patrol officer to undercover narcotics to sergeant to lieutenant and now captain. And Captain Calvert couldn’t be more pleased. 

An unusual partnership with the community

“I’ve always had a strong desire to help people,” he says. Helping them in Laguna is particularly rewarding. “Generally, the relationship between the police and the community ebbs and flows,” he explains. “I haven’t seen that here. The community here has always supported the police department.” And that support isn’t something Calvert, or the department, takes for granted, as witnessed by the department’s commitment to community outreach, in addition to trying to provide the best service possible.

Innovation is encouraged

Calvert leads the Investigations and Support Services Divisions. Field Services, led by Captain Jason Kravetz, and Civilian Services, led by Jim Beres, are the other divisions within the department. Under Captain Calvert’s leadership a Homeland Security Maritime Team, an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) program, K-9 program, a Know-Your-Limits program and many other innovative programs have been implemented. Listening to Captain Calvert explain each of these programs, it is clear how much he relishes his job. “Everyday I’m energized to come to work,” he says earnestly.

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Captain Calvert in the Dispatch Room at the Laguna Beach Police Department

An appreciation for learning – and Trojan football

Captain Calvert is also motivated to expanding his skill set. He received his Masters in Executive Leadership from USC Price School of Public Policy. “I drank the Kool-Aid,” he says with a laugh about his passion for USC – and its football team. Calvert is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy. “That was an unbelievable experience,” he says enthusiastically. “I was never one to really love school, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve come to really love learning and being part of something that is bigger than myself.”

A small town with a relatively sizable police force

Now, I, probably like many Laguna Beach residents, wrongly assumed the LBPD was a small organization (small town = small police department). Captain Calvert helped disabuse me of that idea. Despite a residential population of 24,000 people, Laguna’s police force of 52 sworn officers is considered relatively robust. The average force nationwide is made up of 10 sworn officers or less. 

A “well-rounded” crew

The reason for Laguna’s sizable force is the six million annual visitors we host. However, despite its size, Captain Calvert insists that the force is “well-rounded.” He uses the dispatch center as an example, “They do police, fire and marine safety,” he says. “They are a very talented crew down there…their skills are unique.”

New ways to keep unsafe drivers off the road

Additionally, the 133 drinking establishments within the city’s nine-mile limits can keep the officers busy on any given night. “Laguna Beach has more DUI arrests per capita than any other agency in the state of California,” explains Calvert. So programs like Know-Your-Limits, where officers enter bars and gently and unobtrusively ask people if they want to test their blood alcohol level, are a proactive way to help prevent a tragedy (or at least a DUI). “Thirty three percent of people who think they’re not at a DUI (level) are,” says Calvert. The participants in the “test” are given a $20 Uber credit to help make sure they get home safely.

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Captain Calvert in the driver’s seat with Chief Farinella in the Patriot’s Day Parade

Facebook as a crime fighter

Another thing Captain Calvert oversees is the department’s social media team. Its purpose is two-fold. Most obviously, it serves to humanize the department. “We use humor and the community has really responded,” says Calvert. “The Instagram account is more ‘life behind the badge,’” he explains. Their Facebook page communicates about crimes and things going on in the community. “We have solved three to four crimes with our Facebook page,” says Calvert with a chuckle. “It’s a terrific investigative tool for us.”

A deep appreciation for the community he serves

He again credits the community for stepping in and making a difference, as well as the people he works with. “It’s a team effort. It’s the amazing people I work with who care about their profession and the community. As for the community he serves? “I’ve had an amazing career here,” he says. “I have friends all over the country who just don’t have the community support that we do (in Laguna).”


Glori Fickling: The woman behind (and inside) the 

1950s private detective series Honey West 

Story by MARRIE STONE

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

This year, Gloria (Glori) Fickling again turns the age she’s always turned…29. Now, she says, you only have to hold that number up to the mirror. 

If ever a woman could convince you age is only a number, it’s Glori. She still exudes the same sense of fun adventure and daring flair for fashion she had 70 years ago when she met her late husband, Skip, while crawling backwards out of a hotel window wearing nothing more than a bikini. (Stay tuned for more on that story later.)

Best known for their collaboration on the first female private detective series, Honey West, that debuted in the 1950s, Glori and Skip celebrated a storied career.

We sit for a few hours – outside the home she and Skip built together in 1953, overlooking Laguna’s village with the church bells ringing below and the sun setting across the Pacific – and hold up that magical mirror on all the “29” glorious years of Glori’s life. 

Fashion first, fashion always

Fashion and a sense of style may be woven into Glori’s DNA. Born in Brooklyn and raised in Queens, fashion had been on her brain since she could remember. “Ever since I was a little kid, in my head I would be designing clothes,” Glori says. Before meeting Skip, Glori’s early career revolved around apparel. She worked for Women’s Wear Daily, the bible of the industry at that time. 

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The always-glamorous Glori in her library

Glori also became a fashion consultant for May Company, choosing all the clothing for their photo shoots. “In fact, I designed the first line of maternity clothes,” she says. Glori’s boss at the time grew jealous of her early and swift success, giving her only a small line in the magazine for her progressive designs.

Fashion became a theme of Glori’s life, influencing not only the concept and character of Honey West, but defining Glori’s sense of presence in everyday life. She’s known for her big-brimmed hats and trendy outfits, vogue jewelry and enviable shoes. Glori will never be caught looking anything less than the best dressed.

Except that one time…

Seventy years ago, still single and on a Catalina Island adventure with friends, Glori got locked inside her hotel room. With no other means of escape, and wearing only a rainbow-striped bikini, she took matters into her own hands. The window was low to the ground, but navigating it in a bathing suit made an entertaining scene. 

Skip Fickling sat on a railing outside her room, watching her progress. “Well, aren’t you cute,” Glori said once she made it to the ground. Skip asked her out on the spot, but Glori already had a date. 

Fortunately for Skip, Glori’s date turned into a disaster. Like a scene straight out of their later Honey West novels, Glori had to physically fight the man off. “The guy tried to nail me on the table,” Glori recalls. “I took my two feet, threw him across the room, and ran like hell back to the inn.” 

Skip was there waiting.

They spent a sweet weekend together. And, on Sunday, Skip accompanied Glori to church. He held her hand throughout the service. In a later 1959 appearance on the show “You Bet Your Life,” calling up this story, Groucho Marx asked Glori, “Why was that? Didn’t he trust you when the collection plate came around?”

The two eventually eloped to Las Vegas, getting married at one of those little chapels on the Strip. “The lady who stood up for us…she was only wearing a bathrobe, for crying out loud,” says Glori. “I asked her name. Skip thought that was so funny I wanted to know her name. But it was very sentimental to me. For god’s sake, I was getting married.”

A peach of a pair

Glori and Skip may have modeled their marriage after Glori’s parents. Glori talks about her father, Frank Gautraud, with some of the same reverence she has for Skip. “He was God’s gift to mankind,” Glori says about her father. “He had such a sense of humor. Mom and Dad were always laughing.” 

Her own marriage felt full of that same fun love. Skip and Glori loved travel, they loved Las Vegas, they loved working together. “A peach of a pair.” That’s what she called them.

“When you have parents who love each other all the time, you know you’ve got a chosen life,” says Glori. And Glori’s life has felt chosen.

How Honey was born

Twenty-first century women know the strength of being both smart and sensual. But in the 1950s, women who survived on bravery and wits, with more than a little sex appeal on the side, were a new breed. Skip and Glori were the perfect couple to usher that woman into the mainstream.

Honey West was based on Glori’s vivacious personality, Marilyn Monroe’s classic looks, and a Mike Hammer style hardboiled detective. A blue-eyed blonde bombshell with curves that wouldn’t quit, not to mention wit and wiles, Honey West was the first female private eye in American crime fiction. Named after the common and relatable pet name “Honey,” and “West” because, well, she lived in southern California. Out to avenge her father’s death, Honey was known to be “the sexiest private eye ever to pull a trigger.”

Writing under the gender-ambiguous penname G.G. Fickling (a nod to Glori’s maiden name Gloria Gautraud), the couple wrote 11 novels. Titles like “A Kiss for a Killer,” “Girl on the Prowl” and “Honey in the Flesh” all were born before the feminist movement took off across the country. 

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Honey West: “the sexiest private eye ever to pull the trigger”

This led to the eventual launch of a 1960s television show directed by Aaron Spelling and starring Anne Francis, who sported a tight black jumpsuit and sleek sunglasses, and kept company with a pet ocelot named Bruce. While the program only lasted one season, it became the precursor to later shows like Charlie’s Angels, Cagney & Lacey and Police Woman. 

Glori’s office is a shrine to Honey. Bookcases are crammed with copies in several foreign languages. Posters, dolls, memorabilia, and a long line of hotel room keys collected from their book tours line the shelves and walls.

“Her bravado, her great spirit, that’s what Skip saw in making me the role model,” Glori said in an interview last year with the Orange County Register

Glori’s great spirit

I ask Glori about her great spirit, and what she believes sets her apart. “I’ve always been so outgoing,” she says. “If I ever see anyone sitting alone, I always ask them to join me.” 

But, she tells me, there was one time she did not, and this led to one of her greatest life regrets. Once, Glori and Skip were having lunch and happened to see Marilyn Monroe sitting alone. “Almost any other time, I would have invited her to join us, but I was so humbled. She was gorgeous, like a glass doll.” Monroe felt untouchable and intimidating. It seemed too much of a stretch to ask.

Glori feels if she would have reached out to Monroe, told her that Honey West was based on her image, it might have made her day. As she recounts the story, it’s as though Glori feels the weight of responsibility in not alleviating some of Marilyn Monroe’s pain. “If I’d done that,” she says. “It would have been so cheering. What a foolish thing. Every other time, I would always ask.”

Not everything is easy

Glori forever looks on the bright side. But life doesn’t always offer its brightest sides, no matter how lucky you are. And in the mirror of her 29 years, there were some rough times.

At 14, Glori contracted a virulent case of rheumatic fever, forcing her to leave her home in New York, move away from her parents, and live with family in California. “The doctor said I had to get to some warm climate. I had relatives who lived here, and my mother sent me out.” 

It was a childhood illness that took her away from friends and family, but it led her west, to the great state where she’d meet her husband and make Laguna Beach her final happy home.

The hardships didn’t end there. Glori and Skip lost their first child shortly after his birth. The hospital made a mistake, sending Glori home when they shouldn’t have, resulting in complications they couldn’t control. This sunk her into a deep depression, one she wasn’t certain she’d crawl out from. But, she says, this heartbreak prevented Skip from having to fight in the Korean War. He knew Glori might not make it without him home. The couple went on to have three sons, three grandsons, and now a great-granddaughter. 

Years later, they would have lost their home in the 1993 Laguna fire, but for Skip’s training in World War II. He knew the roads, how to drive at night with the lights off, how to crawl through the brush and sneak back to the house when it was surrounded by police presence. That decision saved their home. Skip saw a hot-spot building next door and was able to contact the fire department in time to squelch it. Another lucky break, Glori tells me.

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Glori displays some foreign editions of the Honey West series

But Glori’s greatest loss was Skip, who passed in 1998. Skip had prostate cancer that he opted not to treat and, ultimately, it spread to his brain. “Meeting Skip was the great blessing,” she says. 

This is Glori’s way – turning every misfortune on its head to see the happy sides. Even as she tells me she doesn’t know why she’s lived this long, feeling like she should “give others their turn,” she recognizes she still has more life to live, and more to give the world.

Laguna’s latest grand marshal

At five o’clock, when the bells ring again and I think I should go home, Glori goes in the house to fetch us white wine, and we talk some more. Because with a life lived like Glori’s, there’s a lot to say. 

Glori is Laguna’s latest grand marshal. She’ll march at the head of the annual Patriot’s Day parade. This seems like an ideal choice. Forever the fashionista, the eternal life of the party, still dressed to kill, it’s little wonder Glori is Laguna’s darling. “This is my biggest honor,” she tells me. 

The road ahead

Always ahead of her time, Glori keeps facing forward, looking toward the future – to the possibility of bringing Honey West to the big screen and excited about her role as grand marshal. She’s still writing, anxious to contribute her talents wherever she can, still attending Thursday art walks and local events.

Like Honey, Glori is unstoppable. She’s a force of beauty and brains, style and ability. Her nails are perfectly painted, her makeup impeccably applied, her words carefully chosen. Nothing about Glori is left to chance. 

But what strikes me most is Glori’s warm acceptance, her willingness to say “yes” to life, to take in the stranger at the next table, and to turn every tragedy into an optimistic opportunity. Maybe that’s the secret to eternally turning “29.”


Patrick Fetzer: A childhood paper route takes an unexpected turn and lands him at Laguna Cyclery

Story by SAMANTHA WASHER

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Patrick Fetzer, owner of Laguna Cyclery, speaks eloquently about the feelings he had as a kid in Texas when he got his first bike, and the freedom it granted. But it was a love of music or, more specifically, a desire to become a member of the Columbia Records Club that really first launched his passion for riding. 

“The only way I could get the money to join (the Records Club) was to earn it so I got a paper route. I threw papers seven days a week using my mom’s ten speed bike,” he recalls.

Necessity breeds a lifelong love

Because the papers were heavy and balancing was tricky, Fetzer says he “crashed a lot.” So he found himself at the local bike shop – a lot. Hanging around there waiting for his bike to be fixed he says he became fascinated by the posters of the Tour de France riders on the shop’s walls. “I was a BMX kid. I thought people who rode ten speeds were dorky. But I was struck by the intensity of the Tour riders (in the posters).”

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Patrick Fetzer, owner of Laguna Cyclery, and his trademark dreadlocks

A paper route leads to a love of racing

Eventually, Fetzer says, he’d deliver his papers and then continue on with his trusty ten-speed going on longer and longer rides. “I was 12-13 years old. My friends are sitting around doing nothing. I’m out riding 30 miles and I’m really feeling my independence,” remembers Fetzer. His dad took notice, bringing home a flyer for a bike race. Fetzer says he entered it and finished fourth. 

“All these guys had these really fancy bikes. I was so intimidated, there with my cheap bike. But I was bitten by the bug.” And the bug has yet to release its jaws.

A trip to California leads to a surprising conclusion

Fetzer came out to California in 1996 to attend a bike convention. “I had just graduated from college, the University of Texas. I was working in a bike shop, but I had a college degree and didn’t want to keep turning wrenches,” he says. His boss encouraged Fetzer to go with him to Anaheim to attend the convention. With resume in hand, Fetzer made the trip west. 

A romance leads to Laguna

While the convention was the reason Fetzer came to California, it was a romance that got him to stay. During his stay, Fetzer met a woman who would eventually become his wife. She settled in Laguna, which is how he came to settle in Laguna, on Agate. “We left Texas in a record-breaking snow storm,” he recalls. “I thought that was a good sign.”

Still hanging out at the bike shop

Fetzer did a lot of odd jobs in the beginning of his life in California, but he was still involved in riding. This involvement introduced him to the bike shop on Thalia, housed in a big red barn, next to The Stand. The owners of the shop were a husband and wife team who had previously owned and successfully sold two other bike shops. “It surprised me there was no bike scene in Laguna,” says Fetzer. “The owners, they struggled with it. Laguna is a peculiar community.” The owners mentioned their intention to sell the business. Fetzer didn’t have the money to buy it and things went along as before.

Some prodding, a loan and no more cubicles

Then, a year later, his wife was inspired. She wanted him to own that bike shop. “She calls me and says, ‘You can do it!’ At the time, I was working for a civil engineer, in a cubicle, hating it…so I set out to get an SBA loan which wasn’t very easy.” One of the requirements was that Fetzer had to take an eight-week business course. “I learned more in those eight weeks than I did in four years of college,” he says with a laugh. May 1, 1999 the business was his. 

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Patrick Fetzer with his kids, Luke and Lauren; Luke rides and both are fixtures in the shop

This bike shop has some serious history behind it

With almost 20 years in business under his belt in the big red barn, it would be understandable if Patrick just concerned himself with his own tenure there. However, he is quite a historian of the space his shop inhabits. 

Laguna Cyclery has operated as a bike shop since 1971. Originally built as a meat and produce market in the 40’s, it then operated as the place where Have’ A Corn Chips were made, then a restaurant, finally a bike shop by way of a Peugeot bike distributorship. 

Fetzer says he’s the fifth owner of a bike shop in the space. “I’ve lasted the longest, obviously.” He remarks with a smile: “Although after two years I wasn’t sure I was going to survive.” Clearly, his fears were unfounded.

Replacing one team with another

As the shop became more established, Fetzer did his best to create the bike scene he thought the town deserved. In 2004 Fetzer sponsored a road racing team. “It was at the highest level of USA-based racing,” he says proudly. “That was a great period in my life. It was so much fun.” That lasted three years and then the team was sold off. He has since followed that with his involvement in the Thurston and Laguna Beach High School mountain bike riding teams, officially called Laguna Beach Interscholastic Team.

Working to keep high school kids on the team

The team is overwhelmingly made up of middle schoolers, his seventh grade son being one of them, although it’s a sixth to twelfth grade squad. “There are thousands of kids at these races,” says Fetzer. “It can be a bit intimidating at first, but once everyone gets sorted out it’s good.” 

The team competes in the National Interscholastic Cycling Association. “It’s great. There’s a place for everyone,” he says enthusiastically. “It’s for the kid who isn’t a baseball kid or a surfer kid, but we also have kids who do it all.” Fetzer says they’d like to recruit (or keep) more high school kids on the team. “There are more and more scholarships for riding. Schools like UC Davis, UCI, Berkeley, Boulder all offer riding scholarships,” according to Fetzer.

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Fetzer behind the counter at Laguna Cyclery still “turning wrenches”

A shift to the mountains

The enthusiasm that the team was met with speaks to the devoted mountain biking fan base in Laguna. With the abundance of trails surrounding us it’s certainly not a surprise. As a result, Fetzer says he has geared (no pun intended) his shop towards mountain bikes. “We are focused on mountain biking,” he says. “We’re all scared of cars and traffic. I’ve seen a huge shift to the mountains for riding.”

And while Fetzer certainly rides in the hills, he hasn’t abandoned the road. He is riding in a 100-mile road race that starts at the George Washington Bridge in New York. “I’ve never been to New York. For 100 miles there will be no cars, no traffic.  I’m really looking forward to it.” And after almost 20 years it’s likely the shop will survive without him for a few days, although when I met him there it was pretty much non-stop customers from the time he opened his doors to when I left.

Learning to adapt to whatever comes next

“It has never been easy,” says Fetzer of his business. “First it was catalogs, now it’s the internet. But I think it’s a love affair with this corner that keeps this shop open,” he says. “The town continues to support this business which is a testament to its love of biking and an active lifestyle.” 

A younger Fetzer, the one just out of college who didn’t want to “turn wrenches” anymore, might be surprised to find his older self still doing just that. However, it undoubtedly makes all the difference when the wrenches are your own.


Al Treviño: The visionary landscape architect attributes much of his success to “lucky breaks, and the people you meet”

Story by MARRIE STONE

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Sitting in the Bluebird Canyon home he designed and built almost 60 years ago –the home he nearly lost in the 2005 landslide – Alberto (Al) Treviño, 86, is eager to tell me about the new nonprofit website, www.seniors2seniors.com, that he is hoping to launch. 

The website will connect high school seniors with the elderly. “The goal is to help senior citizens while fulfilling community service hours for high schools,” he explains. The young are tasked with teaching technology to the old, giving them lessons on their smart phones, tablets and other devices. “I want to reach the administrators from each California school district, and get them familiar with the website,” says Al. 

A big project for a man who claims he’s retired. 

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Al has a great smile

No question in my mind that this new project will succeed. Al’s vision and accomplishments are legendary in Orange County. As a landscape architect, Al pushed the boundaries of conventional design. As a Hispanic, he pushed Orange County’s boundaries of discrimination. His professional legacy can be seen throughout Orange County and his influence extends well beyond. His personal legacy will last for generations. From 60 years of marriage to his beloved wife, Dolores, came 11 children, 22 grandchildren, and a collection of memories that seemingly have no end.

Out of Al’s imagination sprung the designs for Fashion Island and Linda Isle in Newport, and University Park and Turtle Rock in Irvine. His hand guided the path of the 405 freeway. His vision inspired Epcot Center in Florida. He served under three U.S. presidents as Assistant Secretary of HUD.

Humble, Al claims things were different with his generation. He felt less spoiled, more serious, and in tune with the generations before. He says luck played a role, and the people he met along the way made all the difference.

People like Frank Gehry, George Argyros, Howard Bolzt and even Joseph Kleitsch, though the latter’s influence occurred via a painting rather than a serendipitous meeting.

More about those serendipitous meetings later. But first, I ask Al to fill me in on the 

winding road of his life. 

Born into both distinction and the Great Depression

Al was born in Inglewood in 1931, at the height of the Great Depression. When business dried up in California, his father (who owned a chain of shoe stores) moved their family to El Paso, Texas. 

Al’s mother, Adelina, was from the Escajeda family. The Escajedas had a long history of power and influence in El Paso, and were the earliest pioneers of the town. King Ferdinand VII of Spain gave the Escajedas a land grant in 1818 and they settled San Elizario and Ysleta. Adelina’s name is still encrusted in the stained glass of the Ysleta mission.

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Al in front of a favorite painting

In contrast, his father’s family settled in Mexico in 1480. “The Treviños were known as Jews in Spain,” Al tells me. “The king, during the Spanish Inquisition, made a decision to throw out the Jews. They gave my family a choice: stay and be killed, or set sail for the New World.” Today, the Treviños still have a stronghold in Monterrey, Mexico, remaining a rich and powerful family.

Although the family returned to southern California during Al’s high school years, these earliest influences were, perhaps, instrumental to Al’s own destiny. Al was one of Orange County’s initial and significant settlers. He came to Laguna Beach in the 1960s, before any of the modern-day industries or businesses were built. His was the first house built in his Bluebird Canyon neighborhood. But Al arrived with vision – and degrees from both UC Berkeley and Harvard in landscape architecture. The Depression gave Al drive, and his history gave him confidence. 

The circuitous path to success

When Al began his academic career, he’d never heard of ‘landscape architecture.’ But he did like plants and trees. So, after graduating from Saint Francis in La Cañada Flintridge, Al set off to Cal Poly Pomona to study horticulture. During a design class, a professor saw his drawings and the head of the department pulled him aside. “You should become a landscape architect,” Howard Boltz told him. “You could get into Berkeley.” This single comment changed the course of Al’s life.

But Berkley nearly rejected his already approved application because of one stark ‘C’ on his transcript – in Spanish. “There was discrimination against Hispanics then, and I didn’t give a damn about the class. My mother spoke perfect Spanish. My sisters, to this day, speak Spanish. But I didn’t care about it.” Leland Vaughan, the head of the department and a prominent California architect, looked at Al. “Aren’t you Spanish?” he said, while signing Al’s admissions slip.

The interruption of war

Being a student wasn’t enough to spare Al from war. In the middle of his academic career at Berkeley, he was drafted into the Korean War. But because he tested well, he was sent to medical school in Fort Benning, Georgia. “I was attached to a tank battalion,” says Al. “We’d go out on maneuvers and people were always getting hurt. It was something I never expected to do.”

One night, while on maneuvers near the Alabama border, the lead tank ran over a civilian’s vehicle. “The fellow was pinned in the car. He was moaning, but there was no blood,” says Al. The man’s injuries were entirely internal. His stomach and chest had been crushed. “There was nothing we could do ourselves, so we called an ambulance.” When the ambulance arrived and took out their stretcher, they saw the man. “’You’ll have to call a black ambulance,’” they told Al. “’We only treat white patients.’” It took over an hour for the black ambulance to arrive. Too long, as it turned out. “That kind of thing was prevalent,” says Al. “And it really hit me.”

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Al contemplates his past

But the war brought Al nice surprises, too. One day, a starred general showed up asking about Al. He’d heard about Al’s talents in landscape architecture and decided it was time to improve the base. Al was transferred to special services. He was given a staff, a Jeep, and – eventually – a mission to improve all the officers’ facilities across several states throughout the southeast. 

“I walked into the Corps of Engineers looking for help. I yelled out, ‘Are there any architects here?’” Al recalls. “This little guy in the back raised his hand. He said his name was Frank.” Frank’s last name turned out to be Gehry. 

Al helped Frank Gehry get a transfer to Special Services, before leaving the army himself and attending Harvard. 

The house where dreams were made

Al returned to California after Harvard. But Pasadena, where his parents resettled, held no pull for him. Dolores suffered asthma, and the ocean proved better for her health. When Al discovered Laguna Beach – the tiny town that, at the time, held few professional opportunities – his father nearly lost his mind. He’d offered to help Al and Dolores buy their first home, but insisted that home had to be in Pasadena or San Marino. 

The owner knew Al’s reputation and talent. He agreed to give the property to Al for whatever he could afford. “I was only making $6.50 an hour.” Frank, his new friend and fellow architect, was jealous. He was only making $4.50.

Al remains in that same house today. In many ways, the house itself is a metaphor for Al’s life. Beautiful but impossible, perched precariously on the side of the hill. Its 1960s style is quirky, but enduring. The design is bold and ambitious, and the views are beautiful. 

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A wonderful view from Al’s house

When he brought his bride to the property nearly 60 years ago, he said, “Pretty nice view isn’t it, Dolores.” Al gets choked up recalling it. Dolores has been gone for over two years, but her absence still feels palpable to Al. “I haven’t really been happy since,” he says.

How Joseph Kleitsch rescued Al Treviño

The 2005 Bluebird Canyon landslide hit the Treviños hard. Their house was red/black-tagged. They had 30 minutes to remove a few personal items. Al’s son grabbed his mother’s favorite painting. To Dolores, it had only sentimental value, depicting the San Juan mission she loved. Al picked it up at a garage sale for twenty bucks some years before.

When the Treviños discovered insurance didn’t cover landslides, they feared they would lose the home. That’s when their neighbor discovered that the salvaged garage sale painting was, instead, “Evening Shadow,” an original oil from famed plein air painter Joseph Kleitsch (1885-1931). When the painting sold for $500,000 in a private auction, the Treviños were able to rebuild their home.

A dining table, cardboard and Polaroids –

The birth of Fashion Island

Around Orange County circles, Al is famous for his progressive vision that shaped Fashion Island. The original concept was a conventionally designed indoor mall. But Al didn’t like it. “There’s no need to have an enclosed mall by the ocean,” he told the developers. 

Basing his design on the Old Orchard mall in Skokie, Illinois, Al spread some cardboard cutouts across a dining room table to show investors his vision. The mall would be open-air, incorporating European-style piazzas and lush landscaping. The design would take advantage of the nearby Pacific and the Mediterranean climate. There would be sky bridges across to the surrounding office buildings with outdoor coffee shops and flower stands. 

When Al proposed high-rise office buildings in a county that had little more than dirt roads and orange groves, he said, “People thought I was smoking something.” But it all came to pass, just as Al envisioned it – minus the sky bridges, which Donald Bren decided would block visual access to storefront signage.

A county still mired in discrimination

This was the 1960s. Talent, intelligence and experience still weren’t enough to spare a man from the sting of discrimination. When Fashion Island was close to completion, the Irvine Company decided it didn’t want a Hispanic face on the front of its project. A white planner would be hired over Al to give all the presentations pertaining to the project. 

Al was well aware of the prejudice that existed against Jews and Hispanics in Orange County. The California Club, a country club in Los Angeles infamous for its discriminatory practices, had several prominent Orange County members. He knew it was time to take his leave. 

Life beyond the Orange County curtain

Although Al never left Laguna Beach, he took a lucrative offer from General Electric (GE) and continued his storied career, taking on large projects mostly on the east coast. Over the coming decades, he would work for GE and Walt Disney, then as Assistant Secretary at the Department of Housing and Urban Development under Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and George W. Bush and, later, as Assistant Secretary of Policy Development and Research.

Shortly after September 11, the White House flew Al to Madrid in an effort to build good relations with Spain. As Al prepared to deliver a speech on urban planning, he discovered George Argyros, famed Orange County real estate investor and U.S. Ambassador to Spain, was in town. The two spent their time together, traveling to Toledo Spain and to Eli Broad’s opening at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.

“My life has just been events like that,” says Al. 

Still conquering new horizons

I ask the question: Are men like this born or made? 

Al would say it’s all about lucky breaks. He credits meeting a long series of smart, engaged and talented people for many of the good fortunes he’s experienced. “Argyros, many of these people, we were all very poor young men. We’ve just been very nice to each other.”

As I pull away from Al’s home, watching him take his two caged birds inside for the night and turn off the living room lights, I can relate. I, too, feel lucky. These people we meet along the way – they make all the difference.


Lexi McKeown: the scholar/athlete with deserved honors and a bright and sunny future

By MAGGI HENRIKSON

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Laguna Beach High School senior, Lexi McKeown may only be a teenager, but her accomplishments are a lifetime’s worth. She’s a kind-hearted superstar volleyball player as well as a stellar student – and she’s just getting started.

Lexi McKeown

Lexi is a fourth generation Lagunan. Her grandpa is widely remembered in this town as McKeown Plumbing. Her mom, Kathy, laughs as she tells me that when people hear the name, they invariably ask oh, that McKeown? “I say, ‘It depends on whether you had a good plumbing experience.’” Lexi’s grandpa is known as Poppy, and she adores his sense of humor. “He was born on April Fool’s Day,” she says with a smile.

Lexi and her mom are very close, particularly as it was just the two of them – Lexi has not seen her father since she was three years old. Kathy and Lexi share the genetics of good humor, dedication to education (mom is a school principal in Irvine), and a passion for volleyball. Kathy played back when she was at LBHS, and went on to play at University of Notre Dame. Lexi’s volleyball future is looking very bright as she heads off to Florida State in the fall.

How do you pick a college?

She might have had her pick of colleges, with an academic record including Advance Placement (AP) awards and a 4.5 GPA. And then there’s her volleyball achievements, including being a four-year varsity starter, earning league MVP twice, and All CIF First Team awards. But Lexi’s choice of Florida State was a multi-faceted decision.

“I talked to six schools. I thought of UCLA, Cal, Stanford, but my coach suggested visiting Florida State,” she said. “I wanted something different from Laguna. I loved Florida as a state. I had this ‘aha moment’ walking on the campus. I love trees and brick buildings – that old-timey feeling.” 

She visited three more times and got to really appreciate the volleyball team and the coach. Florida’s Division One team is ranked number four in the nation. It all added up to the perfect fit for Lexi.

Dedication and commitment

The busy life as scholar/athlete started somewhere around age 11. Lexi was playing club soccer, but relented to mom’s suggestion that she try volleyball. “I originally rebelled against doing the same thing as my mom. I tried it more to appease her,” she said. “Then I found out I’m actually kind of good at it.” 

She was hooked.

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The journey commenced with age-group club play after school and on weekends. “You have to love it,” she says. “It’s a huge commitment. You give up a lot.” 

Kathy agrees, “That’s why she never skied till last week!” Her “Ski Weeks” were tournament times. Alas, Lexi found out last week that skiing is “not my thing!”

The athlete

These days the busy life includes strength training at the Rock in Newport Beach, beach volleyball at Main Beach or Doheny, with weekends and all summers dedicated to tournaments up and down the coast. Beach volleyball (vs indoor) is Lexi’s favorite, and she’s achieved a triple-A women’s ranking.

“I’ve always been kind of tall, so [with indoor] you don’t get to serve, just hit,” she says. “Whereas, in beach volleyball you get to do it all.” 

She pairs up with several different partners. “It’s fun because you get to learn everyone’s different aspects. 

“People come for summer tournaments from all over,” she continued. “Florida, Texas, California… The sport is really growing across the nation.”

Her favorite tournament is at Hermosa Beach. “There’s a lot of space and I really like it. It’s where the Junior Olympics and the Nationals are held.” 

Among her tournament awards are two first-place winnings in College Showcase Tournaments, and a third place medal in the National Volleyball League Women’s Pro Open Tournament.

The scholar 

A big part of what makes Lexi such a success is her level of commitment. She demonstrates that in volleyball and in the classroom. Her favorite subjects in school are also the ones that give most folks anxiety attacks – science and math.

“My favorite is AP Calculus with Miss Quigley,” she says with a smile. 

She was named AP Chemistry Scientist of the Month in Mr. Sogo’s class, and has also won awards in US History, World History, and the Orange Coast League’s Academic Achievement Award for three years. An impressive resume, to be sure, but Lexi handles it all with calm sensibility and humility. And she gives back of her time and talents, with the LBHS Athletic Leadership Team.

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Selected as a founding member of the Athletic Leadership Team in 2016, Lexi has helped younger kids as a positive role model. The program is designed to promote good sportsmanship, school spirit, respectful behavior, and personal accountability. 

“I mentor and help,” she says, simply.

Her warmth and kindness make her a perfect role model, and will no doubt serve her well in the future as she is planning to go into emergency medicine. She’d like to learn more by working with an ER doctor.

“I really like helping people,” she says. “You see a little bit of everything. I like the excitement!”

And when she has spare time, she enjoys the ER action on TV. “I love Grey’s Anatomy!” she beams.

With a bright future ahead of her, Lexi McKeown is ready for that leap from one coast to the next. We look forward to hearing about that journey as she trades the LBHS maroon for the garnet and gold as a Florida State Seminole.


Paula Arnold: Fiercely committed to the B&GC

Story by SAMANTHA WASHER

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

As with so many parents who are faced with the proverbial “empty nest,” Paula Arnold found herself, in her words, “looking for a purpose” when her youngest daughter went away to college 11 years ago. She considered volunteering for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), an organization that promotes court-appointed advocates for abused or neglected children. However, after thinking long and hard, Arnold decided against it. She was still a little raw from her daughter leaving and felt “it was too soon” to take on such an emotionally demanding role.

It all started with a friend

Fortunately for all concerned, a friend, Milt Naylor, suggested Arnold look into the Boys and Girls Club of Laguna Beach (the Club). “Milt took me to meet (longtime Club supporter) Donnie Crevier and I signed on,” she recalls. Naylor knew what he was doing when he recruited Arnold. Since then she has repeatedly chaired the Club’s Gala and the Girls Night Out events, in addition to serving as the Club’s first female president. 

Making an impact from the start

Arnold made her presence in the organization known right away. “Within in six months of joining the Board I was chairing committees,” she says. It’s not hard to imagine. Arnold exudes energy and charisma. “It was fun. I was single then, and I would come in with dating stories. I’d have a committee of 12 women, and we always had something going on.” 

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Paula Arnold, the first female president of The Boys and Girls Club of Laguna Beach, among many other roles at the Club.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, after some time chairing committees, Arnold says knew what she wanted to do next. “I said, ‘I’m the next president’. I’m very alpha,” she adds with a laugh.

Spending money to make money

By then she had definitely earned the respect of her fellow Board members. “I took the Gala, which had previously raised $200,000-300,000 and at least doubled that. I told them we had to spend money to make money. It was scary for them,” says Arnold. 

If the Board was nervous, Arnold was not. Relying on her former skills as a Director of Marketing for a hotel/casino in Las Vegas, Arnold was not unfamiliar with how to put on a gala. “I wasn’t an event planner in Vegas, but I certainly did a lot of event planning,” she explains.

Everyone is a fundraiser, whether they like it or not

Besides elevating the Club’s gala, Arnold says another change she fostered as president was the idea that the Board’s members needed to raise money. “I told everybody, whether you like it or not, you’re a fundraiser. I was one of them. When I first joined I said I didn’t want to ask people for money. But once they realized they were already doing it, by talking to people they knew, about what they and the Club were doing, they realized it was pretty easy.”

70 cents of every dollar comes from the community

And fundraising is a critical part of the Boys and Girls Club. “We fundraise for 70 cents of every dollar. People find that shocking. We get very little in grants, although we do get some from the school district and some from arts programs. But the rest comes from the community,” she explains.

Embracing county-wide responsibilities, as well

More recently, Arnold has taken on a role with the Orange County Area Council for the Boys and Girls Club. Not surprisingly, she is president of that group. “I have 15 clubs,” she says. “It’s all volunteer. It’s more of a bylaws type of position, but it has evolved into an idea exchange meeting. We want idea sharing (among the Clubs). Take the Tustin Club, they just had their first Girls Night Out event after seeing ours.” 

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Paula Arnold with Michelle Ray-Fortezzo, Development Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Laguna Beach, talk Art of Giving Gala

Spreading the success of Laguna’s Girls Night Out

There have been nine Girls Night Out events in Laguna, all at the fabulous home of Laguna Beach residents Holly and David Wilson. At the event, women get together, eat, drink and socialize while shopping at booths set up throughout the property. All proceeds benefit the Club. It’s an event that could (and should) definitely be replicated by other Clubs. Arnold’s enthusiasm and encouragement undoubtedly motivated the Tustin Club’s Board to give it a try.

Still committed chairing the Club’s events

 With her new county-wide responsibilities it would be reasonable to assume Arnold has backed off her commitments to the Laguna Club – reasonable, but not accurate. Arnold is still chairing the Gala (May 12 at Montage, Laguna Beach) and Girls Night Out. “I like standing up there and saying, ‘How about…?’ I’m clearly passionate about it. I see the lives we enhance, even change. We have so many kids at who are at risk.”

Working for a teen center

With so much accomplished, Arnold is still committed to doing more. “I would love to see our endowment get to $5 million. We need a fully functioning teen center. It has to be open and free,” she says. The challenges of creating a teen center that teens will want to hang out in is not lost on her, but neither is the reality that providing teens with safe, supervised a place they can go can greatly reduce reckless behavior. 

Celebrating a first grandchild on the way

The only thing that might hamper her mission is the upcoming arrival of her first grandchild. Arnold is taking a month to be in Hong Kong with her daughter as they await the big day. Beyond that, there is always the Boys and Girls Club of America, the national umbrella organization for the Boys and Girls Clubs. Arnold, while not actively seeking out a position with the group, says she is also not opposed to accepting such a position. Time will tell.

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Paula Arnold and Michelle Ray-Fortezzo outside the Club where they spend so much time working to advance the organization’s mission

Giving and getting back

In the meantime, she has more than enough going on with her current Club responsibilities. And while she has given so much, as with all giving, she has received much in return. Coming to Laguna from Las Vegas in 2003 as a divorced mother of two, it took awhile for Laguna to feel like home.  Getting involved with the Club helped that. Arnold says it provided her with her first “heart friend” way back when. The friend, Karen Jaffe, remains a dear friend to this day. “Now I go to the grocery store and I know half the people there. Las Vegas will always have my heart, but Laguna is home now,” she says.

The Club is always open to new volunteers

And if anyone out there is looking for a “purpose” or just wants to get involved with a really wonderful organization, Arnold says there is room at the Boys and Girls Club. “If anyone is interested in understanding what being a Board member is about we are always looking for our replacements. Until you get into one of these meetings and see these really smart, dynamic people, you can’t understand how inspiring it is.” After meeting Paula Arnold, I have a pretty good idea.


Mark Chamberlain: Photographer, gallery owner,

artivist, arteologist - one of Laguna’s great treasures

Story by MARRIE STONE

In 1969, after his discharge from the war, Mark Chamberlain drove west. He packed his 1963 MG Midget with cameras and optimism. Dubuque, Iowa faded in the rearview mirror. Mark drove away from a childhood battle with polio and a year spent in Korea during the Vietnam War that had profoundly changed the trajectory of his life. Ahead was Laguna Beach, the town that would become not only his lifelong home, but the inspiration for a career in environmental activism and a literal canvas for his photography.

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Mark Chamberlain, 2018

 “Meaningful art,” Mark says, “always has an autobiographical connection.” I spend the next hours with Mark, along with his partner and art journalist Liz Goldner, unspooling those long threads of connections. We travel through his childhood and the war, from his 1970s retrospective on his hometown, Dubuque Passages, to his current book, The Laguna Canyon Project: Refining Artivism, due out this year.

Mark calls himself an “arteologist” and an “artivist.” He uses his camera to excavate truth and to document humanity’s devastating impact on the environment. In one notable project, he photographed “Future Fossils” – those modern-day objects in our contemporary culture he imagines will soon be extinct: gas stations, automobiles, glitzy steel buildings and billboards, the gaudy super-color sprawl of urban landscapes. 

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Photo by Mark Chamberlain

Photographer: Last Boxcar to Dubuque, from Mark’s Passages series

But I’m interested in a different kind of study with Mark. And so, together, we embark on a conversational dig of our own, excavating the roots of Mark’s past and chronicling all the artistic fruits that emerged. 

How a childhood disease led to an enduring desire

Mark contracted polio when he was in the fifth grade. His mother, not one to accept common fate, employed unconventional (and controversial) methods to help her son. The therapy was arduous and painful, but it worked. Mark credits his mother’s strength and dedication for his full recovery, and for his feminist attitudes today. 

Still, Mark was bedridden for a year. During that time he read... and read... and read. He discovered Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn and, specifically, riverboats. From this came a lifelong passion to own a riverboat and traverse the Mississippi River.

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Photo courtesy BC Space

Adventurer: Mississippi River Queen, 1959

Mark emerged from his recovery stronger than his peers. He learned to swim in the mighty Mississippi that, of course, flowed right through Dubuque. His father had little choice but to buy Mark what he calls his first “magic carpet,” a 15 1/2-foot flatboat.  

To date, Mark has made his way down one-third of the Mississippi. He owns a 1959 shallow draft steel-hulled 25-foot houseboat with an outboard motor that can carry him through 12 inches of silted water. “Most people can’t even find the places I go,” Mark says. “It takes knowledge, which I have. And maps, which I also have.” Many hidden areas have been sealed off because railroads destroyed river traffic, Mark tells me. The currents silted them in, making the river impossible to navigate. But Mark has winches and tools – and determination.

Mark uses his boat as a shooting platform, giving him access to very tight and isolated river communities. “People tell me their stories. I have videos and photographs.” He anticipates this will make an incredible project. 

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Photo by Mark Chamberlain

Photographer: Mrs. Pillard, 1973, from Dubuque Passages

His desire to finish the final two-thirds is palpable. “Would you say you have any regrets in life?” his partner, Liz, asks. “Not finishing the Mississippi,” he says. “That would be my one.”

The unexpected blessings of Vietnam

Two days after Mark received his master’s degree in Operations Research from the University of Iowa, he was drafted. Though, through a series of lucky breaks, he was deployed to Korea instead of Vietnam. There he taught himself the language, as well as Korean culture and history, which ingratiated him to the locals. 

“I watched these 17 and 18-year old kids come in. They drank, gambled and whored.” Because the United States used Korea as a way station back to civilian life, many men were broken from time spent in Vietnam. “You could watch their lives change dramatically.” Mark was 24, on the older side of the draft, and a little wiser about life. He used that year as an opportunity, discovering photography and finding a Korean mentor to hone his craft. He had access to a Jeep and little need for sleep. In his free time, Mark documented his experiences, touring the country, talking to locals, and giving himself an education far more valuable than the one he received at home.

By the time he returned to Dubuque, Mark found himself deeply changed. His father had passed while he was away. “I didn’t have a home there anymore,” Mark says. “I didn’t agree with anything I was seeing.” Mark’s degree felt like a vestigial remnant of a life he no longer recognized. And so, camera in hand, Mark set out west to reinvent himself.

A partnership becomes a brotherhood

A few years after Mark arrived in Laguna, he met Jerry Burchfield. The two became instant friends. “Encountering Jerry under the circumstances I did was a meaningful passage,” Mark says. Jerry was an only child, Mark an only son. The two forged a kind of brotherhood they each were missing. Mark says Jerry is one of the only friends to whom he gave his early photographs from Korea. Although they were quite different, they shared a passion for photography, an interest in activism, and both felt changed by the war.

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Photo by Damon Nicholson

Jerry & Mark at the Nix Interpretive Center. On the left, an image from The Tell mural, leading into the trail. As part of their 25th anniversary celebration, the Nix Center will host a book signing of Laguna Canyon Project: Refining Artivism.

Together they co-founded The Laguna Canyon Project, The Legacy Project and BC Space Gallery, perhaps one of the longest continually running fine art photography galleries in the United States.

Although Jerry passed in 2009, there almost seems a soulful residue imprinted on Mark. He sometimes speaks of Jerry as if he’s still alive, at one point saying, “Jerry has a photograph from those days.” It makes me think, as I listen to Mark talk about Jerry, that’s how brotherhood should be – each absorbing the best of the other, and allowing them to live on.

Saving Laguna Canyon, one photo at a time

Longtime Laguna locals know Mark’s work well, even if they don’t realize it. Mark and Jerry were instrumental in saving Laguna Canyon from development by the Irvine Company. The Laguna Canyon Project spanned 30 years, and included one of Mark’s most ambitious projects to date: The Tell. 

Stretching 636 feet and rising 34 feet into the canyon sky, The Tell was a massive installation of photographs gathered from hundreds of community members in 1989. “No photograph was censored,” Mark smiles. “Though some had to be placed up high.” 

Its shape was meant to mirror the surrounding landscape, although it had a definitive head (representing Easter Island, and the inhabitants destruction of their own civilization) and a tail that trailed to the ground. The mural in many ways represented both the land and the creatures that roamed it. More important, it called people into the canyon. First, to search for their own photos. Then to commune with nature. And, finally, to take an active role in saving it.

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Photo courtesy BC Space

Artivist: The Tell overview, 1989

As the sun scorched the project and the hostile environment invaded, something new appeared. Where once the focus was on individual pictures and people, Mark and Jerry designed the mural so images of animals would emerge when the photographs faded – a dinosaur, a giant deer, people feuding inside the belly of a beast. 

“That’s part of the deceit of the piece,” says Mark. “If art isn’t entertaining to the artist, why do it?” They drew on the power of myths, archeological principles, and the history of Easter Island to play with the art and make a broader statement about the environment. “At the dedication ceremony, we had horsemen from Leisure World walk out from the throat. Men delivered speeches on scrolls of parchment. We tapped into every myth we could.” 

Mark calls his work a tricky seduction, his art operating on every part of the viewer’s conscious and unconscious mind. That’s the power of both myth and scale.

The Tell was dismantled in 1990. The skin came off first, Mark tells me. Then the skeleton came down. “Then the cross members were removed, so it became like Tellhenge for another two weeks.” Much of its remains were destroyed in the 1993 fire. Mark confesses it felt like a relief, the project almost a burden to keep alive. It died in much the way it was born – mythologically.

When asked if he would do it again, Mark says he’s guided by the principle that a project done once is art, and a project repeated is product.

The Great Picture – living life on a large canvas

Inspired by the success of the Laguna Canyon Project, Mark and Jerry turned their attention to the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, and to documenting the 4,700 acres of contiguous space in Irvine that would become Orange County’s Great Park. From that, The Great Picture arose. 

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Photo courtesy BC Space

Historian: The Great Picture

Three stories tall and 11 stories wide, the Great Picture is the world’s largest photograph made as a single seam image. By converting a jet maintenance hanger into a camera obscura, they achieved the exposure by creating a 6-millimeter pinhole lens projected onto a muslin canvas. Following a 35-minute exposure, the crew captured a black-and-white image that they processed in a pool-sized developing tray. The gelatin silver print portrays the control tower structures, tarmac and the distant San Joaquin Hills.

Breaking the Guinness World Record, and shown around the world, the image remains both a wonder and a masterpiece.

BC Space – the mouse that roared

As our time wraps up, we discover we haven’t discussed the gallery. BC Space, nestled beside the Candy Baron and above Violet’s Boutique on Forest Avenue, is hard to spot even if you know it’s there. There’s no advertising, barely a sign of any kind. 

Sometime after buying the gallery, Mark discovered the space used to be owned by the Masons. “The interesting thing about the Masons,” says Mark, “you had to ask to join. They didn’t invite you. You had to want to know more.” That’s the guiding philosophy behind BC Space. “I prefer to talk to people who know where they’re going,” he says. “You don’t walk in here by accident. If you make it up the stairs, you want to be here.”

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

BC Space: “If you make it up the stairs, you want to be here”

Like everything in Mark’s life, he continues to have big ambitions for the space. “There are so many things I want to do here,” he says. “Every show has been curated from here, generated from here. Usually in response to some current event, or long-term recurring situation.” 

Self-invention or self-discovery?

“I don’t think we invent anything,” Mark says as we conclude our time. “Instead I think we discover things.” 

I consider this long after I leave. 

Then there are the words of his partner, Liz, who seems so moved by Mark that it’s her reaction to him, as much as the man himself, that leaves a lasting impression. 

“Over our years together, I keep asking him, ‘What makes you, you?’ ‘How did you get to be this person?’” 

Mark smiles and shrugs as Liz asks again. 

“With all these insights, and passions, and emotional and intellectual understandings. How did that happen?” Liz keeps looking at him, as though waiting for an answer. “To have the confidence to do the crazy things you did. To have the confidence to save the canyon.” 

Mark sits silent. 

“I guess it’s just his DNA”

“I guess it’s just his DNA,” she finally concludes. 

So maybe it’s true of people too: we don’t invent ourselves, but rather discover ourselves. We’re there all along, living fossils waiting to be excavated. 

Perhaps that’s why art feels so gratifying and so personal. By creating something, we’re really discovering something about ourselves. We’re shining a light on those profound parts of our soul, digging them up and bringing ourselves to the surface, letting others see inside. 

Looking at the long arc of Mark’s work – across distance and time, and almost always larger than life – that’s just how it feels. Profound.

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