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 Volume 10, Issue 65  |  August 14, 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.


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Master of the Pageant? That would be Diane Challis Davy, long-time director of the show

Story by MARRIE STONE

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Diane Challis Davy’s mind must work like a carefully curated museum. If we could wander around inside, I imagine we’d find vast halls filled with classic paintings, marble sculptures, antique clocks, and art deco furniture. Chamber music might swell at any moment – maybe a minuet or an occasional Beach Boys song. I picture long corridors of mental rooms where costume makers sew taffeta gowns, makeup artists apply their magic, and set designers paint every blade of grass with precision. Diane, known as “Dee Dee” or “Dee” amongst associates and friends, has not only been the director and producer of the Pageant of the Masters for 23 years, she’s been the visionary, the overseer, and its chief cheerleader.

The longest running director in the Pageant’s 85-year history, and one of only a small handful of women in that role, Dee imprinted both her vision and passion on the Pageant and made it utterly her own. “I can think of no one more perfect for the position,” says Dan Duling, the 38-year veteran scriptwriter for the Pageant. “She grew up in Laguna, studied theatre and art, volunteered in the Pageant, learned all she could about every aspect of theatre during her education at Laguna Beach High and later CalArts, and proved herself capable behind the scenes at the Pageant, mastering every facet of production.”

It takes a unique personality, and a complicated mixture of skills, to wear so many simultaneous hats and wear them all equally well. Dee has mastered the art.

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Diane Challis Davy, aka Dee Dee, aka Dee

The art of organizing art

The notion of orchestrating the Pageant around a chosen theme was Dee’s brainchild. Prior to her involvement, the show was simply an assemblage of random pieces of art produced by “masters.” The only exception was the 1976 Bicentennial show. That show, its theme and its organizational structure, inspired Dee. Now the theme is selected more than a full year in advance. In fact, “Time Machine” has already been announced as the 2019 theme.

“It’s been a godsend for writing and researching the show, as well as for marketing each year as being fresh and worth coming back to see what’s next,” says Duling. “I think of it as looking at art through different prisms, and sometimes being able to re-approach a piece we’ve done before but from such a different angle and storytelling perspective that it feels brand new.”

So when Malcolm Warner, Executive Director of the Laguna Beach Art Museum, approached Dee last year to suggest the Pageant commemorate the Laguna Beach Art Association’s 100th anniversary, the spark for this year’s theme ignited. “Dee was very interested in our 1930s model of the original LBAA art gallery, and worked hard to include it in the program,” says Janet Blake, Curator of Historical Art at the Laguna Art Museum. “It’s a great tribute to the LBAA, which we really appreciate.”

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Dee surveys the lineup of scenes for the Pageant

In many ways, Dee’s role seems as much curator as director. “I see a curator as a catalyst, generator and motivator,” Hans-Ulrich Obrist, art historian and critic, once said. “A sparring partner…and a bridge builder, creating a bridge to the public.” I don’t know if Dee would agree, but decades of sold-out shows suggest she’s built innumerable bridges.

Making the magic happen

How does Dee do it, year after year? “You have to be aware and open to new ideas,” she says. “With Google, it’s easy to dream on different subjects, and easy to do research. In the 1980s and early ‘90s, it was a lot of trekking to the library.”

Once she settles on a theme, a group of volunteer research committee members begin their annual competition for selecting the pieces of work. They take the theme title and start making suggestions. “It’s a competitive game we play, the 80 to 100 people who sign up to make recommendations vie to get their work in the show.” Dee holds a “show and tell” meeting in September, allowing every member to argue their case for a piece of art. 

“Dee and I have the most fun…when we start kicking ideas around, daring each other to try things we’ve never tried before, looking for as fresh a variety of elements as we can,” says Duling. “We put things on the board, rearrange them endlessly, the reject pile gets bigger and bigger, and just when we think we’ve come up with a great show with a beginning, middle and end, we pick it apart and make it even better.” 

“Hundreds of images are emailed,” says Dee. “They have to be analyzed based on whether they will be presentable on the stage, whether they can be reproduced.” Then they must be sequenced. “We like to move the show from side stage to roof to garden. We make a program that has movement and good pacing.” 

Selections are made in late October, and the launch party occurs in November. By January, the cast is selected and rehearsals are underway every Thursday evening (rain, shine, wind or frigid air) until the Pageant debuts in June. “June is panic time,” Dee says. “We rehearse like mad. We bring in the professional orchestra and rehearse four times with them.”

The surrounding neighborhood always gets a sneak peak. “They heard music by the Beach Boys this year and got pretty excited,” she laughs.

The importance of surprise

The goal is to keep the show fresh, interesting and exciting. That might mean a gondola floating into the audience, an unexpected ambush by Native American Indians, or a horse galloping across the stage. The audience should expect something new, year after year.

And, because it’s live theater, anything can happen at anytime. Surprises aren’t always reserved for the audience. Once, a skunk wreaked havoc in the orchestra pit. More recently, a posse of raccoons fought so loud in the bushes, it became a significant distraction. Then there were those “privacy patches” that failed to adhere. And a marble sculpture who fell from his perch and was forced to crawl off stage. Of course there’s always the child actor who wiggles or giggles. 

“These are some of the audience’s favorite moments,” says Dee.  Of course, she’s right. Art is best when it’s fun, and even better when it’s unpredictably funny. When art is relatable and human, full of frailties, vulnerabilities and surprises, the audience feels as much participant as observer. They know they’re seeing something unique and special, just for them.

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The audience loves to see the secrets behind the “living painting” – this one is "Catching Fish at the Beach" by Franz A Bischoff

And, of course, context is everything. “Dee and I share a deep fascination with the psychology of time and the paramount importance of context,” says Duling. “Context can make a tragic image funny, a comic motif painfully sad, a failed life a personal success, a simple gesture a life-changing moment.”

If you build it, they will volunteer

The Pageant of the Masters has operated under the philosophy, “If you build it, they will come” for 85 years. Not only does the amphitheater sell out night after night, but the volunteer staff grows year after year, swelling now to over 500 members. Of an original pool of 1,300 in the initial casting call, only 450 people are chosen. A full two-thirds are turned away. There are two rotating casts of roughly 150 people each, as well as substitutes and understudies.

“Volunteer sign-ups have continued to grow during Dee’s tenure,” says Duling. “The volunteer research committee was once a handful of folks looking to take part in the earliest stages of the creative process. Now it numbers over 100 members. This is all because Dee knows that the more involved people are, the more the show’s success will mean to all involved. She leads by enthusiasm, example and a superhuman work ethic. And she does it with grace, style and a wicked sense of humor.”

I ask Dee what contributes to this enthusiasm. “It’s the cachet of being at the beach in Laguna. It’s tradition. Plus people are fun backstage,” she says. “They love to meet lifelong friends. Generations of families participate – little kids and grandparents. It’s a generational mix and people just love to be there.” 

Dee met her own husband during the show. In the early 1980s, Steve Davy came as a guest of local photographer Rick Lang. He met Dee backstage and then, a second time, when Dee entered his antique shop to have a Chinese screen repaired. They began dating then, and went on to have their only son, Tommy Davy. 

How frequent are those marriages and connections at the Pageant? Dee laughs. Two years ago, Dan Duling did an entire article for the souvenir book on the many connections forged at the Pageant.

The enduring gifts of Dee and the masters

Dee has a ribbon of nostalgia that runs right through her core. She recently moved into the apartment over her father’s old art gallery. The Patriots Day Parade is her favorite annual event, along with the Pageant of the Monsters (held once every five years). “I’m really into the nostalgic local traditions,” she says. 

I suspect that streak plays a critical role in her success. Along with her love for theater, art and costume design, Dee’s passion for connecting the audience to the past, as well as fostering lifelong bonds within the community, is what makes the Pageant both emotional and beloved, whether one is spectator, cast or crew. 

“This is where we live,” says Duling. “In a theatre of art, telling stories abetted by surprising, original music, and using stage illusions to reveal what the Pageant has always been about at its core: a testimonial to art’s inclusiveness, the belief that it has something for all of us. Endlessly simple, mind-bogglingly complex.”


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Brittany Charnley: Hometown girl and blogger carries on Laguna traditions in a cool hip mom way

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

If readers recognize Brittany Charnley from her picture, it’s no surprise. From the moment she arrived here with her family as a two-year-old, she began a life-long (though she’s only 29) love affair with Laguna. It’s next to impossible to mention an activity offered in the city in which she hasn’t participated or a place at which she hasn’t worked or volunteered. The connections are as varied as they are endless, and as a result, Brittany is deeply embedded in Laguna’s culture, and it in her.

Her emotional ties to the City brought her back to Laguna after graduating from Pepperdine University in Malibu with a degree in Public Relations. But why return when so many young adults want to leave their hometowns, especially when the cost of living here is exorbitant? 

Love affair begins

Brittany says with obvious affection, “I love Laguna and the hometown feel.”

And it goes without saying, a big draw is that her parents are still nearby.

Although she wasn’t born here, she doesn’t remember living anywhere else. Her introduction to the City began after her parents, Michelle and Sam Clark, moved here from Denver with toddler Brittany and her older sister in tow. At that point, her dad’s career in the Navy had ended, and he went into equipment leasing. Her mother Michelle worked in Laguna’s Waste Management Department for 20 years and was also very involved with the Chamber of Commerce. 

Brittany Charney closeup

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This hometown girl loves her town

Brittany’s kinship to the town can be credited to her parents. Due to their busy careers, they put her in numerous programs and activities, and that’s when her relationship with Laguna began to form. She attended Anneliese Preschool, then went on to Top of the World and then Thurston, and graduated from Laguna Beach High School in 2007. 

During those years, she was a member of the Boys & Girls Club, winning the Member of the Year Award in 1999 (which means she’s always a member). She credits LBBGC with her love for sports. 

“That’s where I learned to play pool, and I’m a good player,” she says.

Also active in basketball at LBBGC, the high school basketball coach saw her playing and recruited her for the LBHS team. She ran track in high school as well, and participated in soccer, but it conflicted with basketball, so she had to make a choice, and basketball won. 

With the support of her parents, she excelled. Brittany says, “Although they worked, my parents attended all of my sporting events.”

No grass grew under her feet

Apparently, as a child, she was rarely idle. Her parents kept her busy, very busy, making sure she was jumping into all Laguna had to offer. Brittany joined Brownies and Girl Scouts, and also took dancing lessons at the community center (before it became Susi Q).

In 1996, when she was in first grade, she appeared in the painting “Sunday Morning” at Pageant of the Masters and made the cover of the program. Her mother was a volunteer backstage, working on headdresses. 

Brittany adds that Festival of Arts artist Michael Obermeyer appeared in the painting as her dad.

Although not during consecutive years, Brittany appeared five times in the Pageant, and then worked as an usher for a year. 

Brittany Charnley with family

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Kent, Blake, and Brittany enjoy a day in the park

The ties to the artistic community don’t stop there. From age 15-25, she worked summers at the Sawdust Festival at the Taco Bowl and Thasos restaurants. (Through the years, she’s also worked at other places around town: House of Big Fish, Nirvana Grille, and The Marine Room.) 

At the Sawdust, she came to know many of the exhibitors, and one in particular who played a pivotal role in Brittany’s important life events. A long-time Sawdust exhibitor, Mary Hurlbut, Stu News staff photographer, took Brittany and her husband Kent’s engagement and wedding pictures. And the ceremony was, where else, but at Hotel Laguna. 

For Brittany, it seems everything happens here in Laguna. She even met her husband Kent, who’s from Michigan, at Ocean Brewery. He’s worked all around town as well: Big Fish, zpizza, Banzai Bowl, and the Montage.

Creating a sense of community online with thecoolhipmom.com

In 2017, Brittany found a way to incorporate this hometown feel into a wonderful and beneficial enterprise. Last year, she launched her blog www.thecoolhipmom.com as a resource for parents and to create a sense of community among mothers and families in Orange County. Even before her two-year-old daughter Blake was born, Brittany had questions – What should I pack for the hospital? What about playgroups? How should I be feeling? – and nowhere to get answers from her peers.

In a sense, blogging is a way of alleviating isolation, and the response has been overwhelming. And although she wanted to be a television reporter when she was younger, she can now use this desire for reporting and storytelling in her blog posts.

“The response has been all positive,” says Brittany. “I’ve had no negative comments.”

Its focus is multi-faceted: Motherhood, Disneyland, Laguna Beach, and family fun. But it also includes social commentary and technology news. A few of the recent blogs topics have been: The Ultimate Kid Friendly City Guide to Laguna Beach, 12 Things You Must Do at the OC Fair with Your Toddler This Summer, LA Dance Project’s OC Debut, and One Hope and Global Genes’ New Wine Collaboration Helps to Support Rare Disease Patients. 

Brittany Charnley jumping

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Brittany jumps for joy in her new endeavor, OC Lifestyle and Mom Blog

The concept to initiate a blog came in a roundabout way. After Brittany became a mother, she met with a visiting college friend who mentioned, “You’re literally the same person. You haven’t changed.”

Brittany’s response was surprise, as if why wouldn’t I be? She admits, “There’s a misconception about how mothers are supposed to act. We can just be who we are, and I want to inspire and encourage moms to remain who they are.”

Much like her parents during her childhood, Brittany and Kent are now busy as well with their careers. She works full-time as the Director of Marketing for a private Christian school (with four campuses) in Yorba Linda. Kent is A/R Business Office Associate (in Finance) at Rock Harbor Church in Costa Mesa.

Passing on family traditions

Although Brittany’s blog is named “the cool hip mom,” she admits that’s not a self-proclaimed title, however, it seems a role she fits to a “T.” She’s already instilling in Blake a sense of community and tradition. Her daughter is attending the Anneliese Preschool just as Brittany did, and no doubt will go to the same elementary, middle, and high school, possibly even have the same teachers. 

Brittany says, “Many of the same teachers I had are still in the district, although they may have changed schools.”

Like Brittany, Blake also goes to Hospitality Night (Brittany holds fond memories of the karaoke at Hobie Surf Shop), park concerts, and the Patriots Day Parade in which Brittany rode on various floats during the years. 

Brittany Charnley walking

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Laguna will be home to old and new family traditions

The connections are endless.

Her parents are friends with Kelly Boyd, and she remembers spending the Fourth of July celebrations at the Boyds’ home. 

However, many young adults who were raised here and have good memories have moved away. (Her older sister now lives in Las Vegas.) So how many grads in Brittany’s high school class have stayed here or come back? 

After attending her 10-year LBHS reunion last year at the Hotel Laguna, Brittany says, “Many have stayed here, some are vendors at the Farmers’ Market or have other endeavors in town.” 

It’s not difficult to label Brittany a hometown girl; she knows this town inside and out. Yet even in her short 29 years, she’s witnessed changes. 

“I understand that the town must cater to tourists,” she says, “But the vibe still flourishes, and the City has stayed true to the heart of hometown, local feeling.”

She agrees that it’s a perfect place to raise her daughter, “The public schools are like private ones, and you can walk everywhere, and there are so many activities outside.”

A new generation grows up in Laguna

What wonderful traditions Brittany’s parents have passed on to her, and which she, in turn, will pass on to her daughter.

Her mother Michelle says, “We were super excited when Brittany decided to come back to Orange County and start her career and family. It brings us such joy and brings back the memories when we pick up our granddaughter from preschool.” 

Brittany says, “As my daughter grows up, I hope that the family atmosphere and spirit of community remains in Laguna and that she grows up to see how unique the
town truly is!”

Although Brittany may not claim to be a “cool hip mom,” from all accounts, she certainly appears to be. After all, she’s raising another hometown girl who, no doubt, will love Laguna just like her mom.


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?


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SliDawg: An enviable life of adventure

By SAMANTHA WASHER

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

When Steven “SliDawg” Chew’s family home burned down in the ‘93 Laguna Beach fire, he says, “It kind of freed me.” His family basically lost all of their possessions, though the family has since rebuilt. “It taught me that all we really have is family and friends. Nothing can burn those down. I became less materialistic.”

This became a seminal event in Chew’s life. Born and raised in Laguna, Chew went through Laguna’s schools and surfed Laguna’s beaches as a kid. He was on the NSSA National Team in high school and when he graduated he had to make a choice: go to college or try to become a professional surfer. He chose the former and headed off to San Diego State to study painting.

A trip to Bali is life changing

The year of the fire, he was in his last year at San Diego State. He didn’t go back for his final year. Instead, he got a job designing for the brand World Jungle. This led to an opportunity to create a line for a Japanese brand, Roar. 

“I made some money. So I went to Bali for two months. I got some incredible waves,” he says. “It changed my life.”

LLP SliDawg Chew

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Steven “SliDawg” Chew

 Bali was life changing for Chew because it instilled in him a bug for travel that has yet to release its grip. Since then he has managed to live an enviable life of surfing and travel and he has no intention of changing lanes anytime soon.

Surf camp, Tavarua, and Purple Corduroy

Chew funds his travel with two steady gigs: he runs the SliDawg Surf Camp through Laguna Surf and Sport in the summer, and he works as a lifeguard on the Fijian island of Tavarua in the winter. Designing t-shirts is still a passion (he is currently working with Soul Project and Laguna Surf and Sport, among others), and he is a partner in the wine label Purple Corduroy. As I said, it’s hard not to envy Chew’s lifestyle.

LLP SliDawg Waves

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SliDawg’s surf campers hit the waves in Laguna

The surf school he now runs was originally started by Billabong and headed by one of their team riders, Donovan Frankenreiter. When Frankenreiter’s music career took off they asked Chew to take over. He has been running it for the last 17 years. “It has always been like a fun summer job,” he says. “Every year it gets more and more fun.”

When asked what’s the biggest change he made to the program since taking it over, he laughs and says, “I got more help!”

Surf Coach of the Year

The camp is incredibly popular. Last summer, there were weeks when Chew says he was “overwhelmed” with kids just showing up. “I can’t take 50 kids to the beach!” he says shaking his head. 

Even when 75 percent of the kids who attend are local, they still need attention and supervision. He no longer needs to advertise. People just find him. Chew was voted “Surf Coach of the Year” by OC Weekly. (This means his sessions fill up fast, so make sure there’s room before you send your kids).

It’s no wonder Chew’s camp is in such high demand. His genuine enjoyment at being in the water day in and day out with the kids is obvious. ”We have a lot of fun,” he says. “If I’m not having fun then the kids aren’t having fun!”

LLP SliDawg Camp

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Everyone has fun at surf camp! 

And there seems little chance that Chew is not going to enjoy himself.

After surf camp, the next adventures begin

When surf camp is over in September, Chew’s next adventure is in Pahones, in Costa Rica. He says it’s the “longest left” in the world. “I’m a goofy foot and that’s good for left point breaks. It’s really beautiful and rustic, lots of wildlife.” He plans to stay for at least a month. In October he will head to Tavarua to lifeguard and stay through December. 

Fiji is a special place for Chew. “It’s hard to beat Fiji,” he explains. “They’re the nicest, warmest, funniest people. After 20 years, it’s all about the Fijians.” 

This past year he went from Fiji to New Zealand with his old high school friend and Foo Fighters’ drummer, Taylor Hawkins. “We spent a month there. It was super beautiful.” 

He also recently taught Google founder Larry Page’s kids to surf. “They flew me and my crew to Fiji. I taught them how to surf. They’re not the computer nerds you’d think; they’re super active. They were helping save sea turtles, pretty down to earth people,” he says. 

I would be writing page after page if I detailed all of the adventures Chew mentioned to me. Suffice it to say, not all trips have been surf trips, although it is definitely a theme. “The ocean and my surf board are my lover,” he says. He found this out when he decided it was time to “get serious.” 

Growing up is overrated

“In 2004 I was like, ‘Alright, it’s time to find the gal, have the family, get the solid job.’ I tried that for three to four years, and I found that being a grown up is overrated. I do have Peter Pan Syndrome, but there’s no time to waste in this life.” So, he has tried to follow his dad’s advice and be a “well-rounded” person. 

And while acknowledging that not everyone is suited for his globetrotting ways, he is a strong advocate for travel in general. “I’ve never met a racist traveler. It opens you up.”

Despite his love for seeing the world, Chew isn’t ready to become an ex-pat anytime soon. “I don’t want to turn my paradise into a bitter place. And I’ve seen that happen a lot,” he says. “I like to spend at least two to three weeks, get the local vibe and then move on.” 

When he has finished moving on, he always comes back to Laguna. He knows home is where the heart is, “Laguna is the best home base ever. I get sad when I fly into LA, but once I’m in Laguna it’s all good.” 

And as good as Laguna may be, Chew will nevertheless head off for another adventure, only to come back and do it all over again.


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Discovering What Lies Beneath: Festival of Arts Exhibitor Kathy Jones Trains Her Gaze on Hidden Delights

Story by MARRIE STONE

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

As a kid, Kathy Jones lived inside her imagination. Convinced that a secret button existed behind her bedroom wallpaper that could open a portal to another place, she peeled the paper off the wall. “My mother wasn’t happy about that,” she says. Neither was Kathy when she discovered nothing more than plaster and drywall.

Certain that tiny singers lived inside her family’s radio, Kathy stared at the back of the box and waited for them to come out.

You can write these anecdotes off as youthful fantasy and an active imagination. Or you can see them as early signs of an artist’s mind at work. A few tiles in the mosaic of one woman’s creative worldview – one that is complicated and concealed, the surface never what it seems. 

Discovering What closeup

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Kathy Jones, painter, has exhibited at the Festival of Arts since 2000

Seven decades later, Kathy’s curiosity hasn’t waned. She continues to be drawn to discovery and delighted by surprise. Compelled to keep pulling back life’s wallpaper, her work always attempts to discover something deeper and more fundamental to the human experience. “If a piece doesn’t surprise me in some way,” Kathy says, “you’ll never see it.”

An early appreciation for art

Kathy’s father was a newspaperman. His job took their family from the Bay area, where Kathy was born, to southern California while he worked first for Hearst and then for Norman Chandler at the LA Times

Newspapers gave Kathy access to some early tools of her trade. Her father brought home giant sheets of newsprint and Eagle drafting pencils. “I drew princesses and fantasy landscapes for my animals,” she says. She carried that love of art with her to Stanford University. 

“I’m a restless human being,” says Kathy. “When I had to declare a major my junior year [at Stanford], I thought ‘Why don’t you just handcuff me?’” While she studied drawing, printmaking and sculpture, she majored in French. Why? Because after studying abroad her sophomore year, she’d already taken the required courses. That freed her to explore every whim that interested her – from journalism to Middle Eastern history – any class was possible. 

That early curiosity across disciplines, and her willingness to take intellectual risks, still infuses everything Kathy does. It’s reflected in her art, in her eclectic Laguna Canyon home, in her career in academia, and in her rich friendships. While curiosity may have begun as an innate trait, she’s known how to feed it in various ways throughout her life. It continues to pay dividends.

The trips of the trade

Kathy credits her time abroad for informing much of her work today. Living in France and Germany played an important role in her development as artist and woman. But it was her two years in Egypt, in her early 20s, that transformed her thinking and influenced the lens through which she views the world. 

From 1964 to 1966, Kathy and her first husband lived in Cairo and spent time on the banks of the Red Sea. His work as research scientist and college professor took them to exotic locales. They trained around the perimeter of India, spent time in Saudi Arabia, but made their home in Egypt where Kathy taught art in the Cairo American College. “There was a sense of cultural adventure and cultural celebration,” says Kathy. That influence remains in her work today. “The textiles and the silver. The markets. Egyptian souqs had bags of spices and Turkish jewelry. It was all dazzling to me.”

Her work continues to be steeped in those vibrant colors. “Every painting is an unknown journey,” Kathy says. She’s carried that sense of adventure, those rich textures and tones, and that discovery of the unknown onto her canvases. 

An homage to women

Some years ago, Kathy became captivated by the work of Ernest J. Bellocq, who photographed New Orleans Storyville prostitutes in 1912. “His book always meant a lot to me. The respect and care Bellocq showed in these portraits always touched me. I wanted to pay homage to these girls.” So she created her own Storyville series.

Kathy came of age right before the feminist movement. “In college, only a couple of women went to medical school or law school.” Kathy says she was born between things – too late to be affected by WWII, too early to bear the full brunt of the Civil Rights movement and feminism. 

Her mother was a powerful influence, an Iris Apfel character, modeling Apfel’s fashion iconography and bold style. She owned a shop in Laguna, Townsend’s, specializing in gorgeous textiles and ornate beads. “She’d pair simple muslin pants and tops with incredibly beautiful jackets. Beads from all kinds of sources.” Kathy appreciated the ethnic celebrations in her mother’s work.

Kathy’s own two daughters carry on the legacy of strength. Hallie is the Executive Director of the Laguna Canyon Foundation. “Hallie is a reader and a writer,” Kathy says. “Meg is a maker. She’s always doing something cool. Tie-dying or making beads.” 

Discovering What girls

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Kathy with her daughters, Hallie and Meg

Kathy’s latest exhibit (on display now at the Festival of Arts) is called “In the Mood.” It reflects particular moments in her life and the feelings those moments evoke. Watching her daughters as women and mothers inspired some of this latest work. “One painting is the feeling I have when I watch my daughter and her adolescent girl begin to separate. Another is about watching the career choices my other daughter has to weed through.”

Women – whether strong and powerful, quiet and reflective, in positions of influence, or as steadfast mothers – are important to Kathy. She uses words like ‘homage’ and ‘respect’ more than once when speaking of the women in her life.

A room of her own

“You walk into an art studio and there’s this wonderful aroma,” she says. “And this sense of possibility.” 

Kathy keeps a space at the Laguna Canyon Artists’ Studios, which she’s had since the early 2000s. “The first time I wrote a check, it felt like an indulgence. I’m paying money for just a space to paint. Then I thought, ‘Wow!’ And I still have that feeling every time I walk in. This space means that these paintings are my paintings.”

Discovering What in studio

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An intimate look inside Kathy’s art studio in Laguna Canyon

Her space used to be a dance studio. It still has a giant mirror on one wall. Kathy uses the mirror as part of her process, looking ahead while painting and then, periodically, looking back at her work through the mirror to give herself a different perspective. “It’s an iterative process,” she tells me.

Kathy says the surfaces of her paintings need to be as important as the content. Texture is everything. “I like to see the artist’s hand in the work,” she says. “My paintings are about silence, solitude, space, and shadows – about the moments between actions. I paint people waiting, or gazing, or pausing, or moving from one place to another.” If a piece is working well, Kathy says her audience will feel inspired to bring their own history and stories to the work, making it a shared experience.

Business before art

Prior to devoting her time to painting, Kathy had a storied career in academia. She was the first female Vice Chancellor at UCI and a Vice President at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. After leaving Georgetown, she worked in management consulting and strategic planning consulting.

“To me, a well-run organization has structure, focus, and balance. That’s not different from a painting. There’s an organic whole to both of those.” Kathy says her experience as an artist influenced her management side, incorporating some sense of vitality and fun into the work. She was driven, and accomplished a great deal, but with a lot of joy, respect and civility that’s often absent in the business world.

The delights of aging

We talk about growing older, and the pressures time places on women. “I don’t mind getting older. It’s freeing,” she says. “I came to realize this life is finite. As a result, things matter more to me. You drop the petty stuff (not that I ever dwelled on the petty things anyway). But I recognize this is what it is, and I’m going to take full advantage of it.”

Kathy almost seems giddy talking about this time in her life, and the unexpected surprises that keep coming. “There was a period of time when I was younger and I looked at people my age. I thought they’d done everything. They had their kids, they had their career. There’s nothing new under the sun for them. And I was completely – 100 percent – wrong. That is so great!” 

The gifts of the Festival of Arts

Kathy has exhibited in the Festival of Arts since 2000. “Showing one’s work is hard,” she says. “Having to stand in front of it, talk about it, hear about it. It’s not where I wanted to go. But you have to put your foot in that puddle.”

Discovering What at FOA

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Kathy showing her work to a Festival visitor

From the Festival, Kathy has gotten clients and gallery connections. It’s given her authority to embrace the role of artist. “There’s also a sense of companionship and respect,” she says. “I’m touched by the support that artists give each other, and the joy they take in other people’s accomplishments.” 

I ask how she knows when a piece is finished. “Paintings talk to you like children. When you’re a mother, you’re always hearing, ‘Mom! Mom! Mom!’ When a painting stops yelling at you, you know it’s done.” 

Perfection is the enemy, Kathy tells me. You have to know when to let it go. “I never wanted to be one of those old women who was crushed by the weight of her paintings,” she says. Letting them out into the world seems a necessary part of her process.

Behind the next door…

Whenever people ask Kathy which piece is her favorite, she tells them it’s her next one. “The next one has infinite possibility. That gives me a sense of optimism.”

That seems to be Kathy’s best-kept secret: Never stop peeling back the wallpaper.


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.


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Dr. Jerry Tankersley: After 46 years the time has come to say goodbye to Laguna Presbyterian

Story by SAMANTHA WASHER

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Dr. Jerry Tankersley preached his last sermon at the Laguna Presbyterian Church last Sunday. After 46 years at the church, Dr. Tankersley leaves large shoes for his congregation to fill. 

As for why now, Dr. Tankersley says, “Well, I think I’ve accomplished what I set out to do when I came here.” However, he acknowledges that while he may be ready to pursue other things, “The work of the church goes on and on. We’re always redefining ourselves. We’re always asking ourselves where the spirit is leading us.”

Retiring but the work won’t stop

That drive forward is certainly not halting with Dr. Tankersley’s retirement. He has every intention to continue his life’s work. “I am going to have to find other places to teach. I’ll have plenty of opportunities to use whatever gifts God has given me. It’s a whole new mindset. I’ve got to find a new definition for what it means to continue to serve.” 

In his role at the Presbyterian Church, Dr. Tankersley has found many ways to serve, both far and near. This, plus the fact that he finds Laguna a very stimulating place, is what has cemented his longevity. 

“I came here when I was 35 years old. It has been such an exciting place. All the major events of American culture through the past 50 years have blown through Laguna,” he says. 

This is important because, according to Dr. Tankersley, the Presbyterian Church is a socially engaged church. “We are a denomination that takes on major issues: war, peace, human sexuality…The church came to America in the 1600s. It has been a part of every major debate in the history of this country.”

LLP Tankersley close up

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Dr. Jerry Tankersley, lead pastor of Laguna Presbyterian Church for the past 46 years, is retiring

This would explain the depth and breadth of Dr. Tankersley’s service. Back in the 1980s, for example, he was named the first pastor to serve on the AIDS task force by Laguna’s mayor. “That was very rewarding,” he says. 

And that kind of reach has continued ever since.

A reach that has extended far beyond the walls of the church

As far as his activities outside of Laguna, Dr. Tankersley rattles off a list of mission trips and exchanges he has led over the years, in Mexico City, East Africa, India, Israel, Palestine, Romania; returning to some of these places multiple times. Each trip had a specific purpose – rebuilding an orphanage, ministering to recovering lepers, establishing a Presbytery. He describes them all as “wonderful,” “meaningful,” and “fascinating.” 

Getting exposure on a national stage

In addition, Dr. Tankerlsey has been able to work with the Presbytery at a national level. In 2002, he was “drafted” to stand for moderator of the 214th General Assembly. “Thankfully,” he says, “I was not elected, but it opened doors for me.” 

These “openings” allowed him to get involved with issues surrounding Israel and Palestine as well as building relationships with other Christians as well as Jews and Muslims. 

He also worked on the Belhar Confession. 

“After eight years, the General Assembly adopted it,” he says. “It deals with race and racism. That was a very rewarding experience. I grew up in Texas during the time of separate but equal, so it is an important issue for me.” 

For someone with a PhD in Government, these extracurricular activities clearly added more stimulation to an already invigorating career.

There were times of restlessness

This is not to say that Dr. Tankersley never thought about leaving Laguna. He says he got a bit “restless” when he was 45-55 years old. Other churches, larger churches, had contacted him and tried to woo him away. 

“I visited. I thought it through. I prayed it through,” he says. “I didn’t see a church that could match this one. After I flirted with these other situations, I finally decided ‘I’m going to go for broke and go deeper here (in Laguna). If they decide they no longer want me, so be it.’ That day never came.”

Leaving on his own terms

Because “that” day never came Dr. Tankersley has the luxury of leaving on his own terms. Big projects, like the $15 million retrofitting of the church he undertook have been seen to completion. “We have paid all the bills,” he says. “The church is debt free.”

If it was otherwise, one gets the sense Dr. Tankerlsey might feel there was still unfinished business to deal with. Now, with no major loose ends, the time is right to retire. 

LLP Tankersley family

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Dr. Jerry Tankersley and his family celebrate his last sermon at Laguna Presbyterian

As he reflects on the past 46 years, Dr. Tankersley says, “It all went so quickly!” 

He remembers when he first came to Laguna. “I came trembling,” he says. But he was embraced. “There are a lot of churches that devour pastors. This is not that kind of church. It builds pastors. There is so much gracious support. In the 100 years of this church, I am only the third long-term pastor. It has a way of absorbing your life. If you come here, you better plan on staying.”

A future filled with work and a little relaxation

Dr. Tankersley would like to spend his future reading and writing. He has volumes of sermons to organize and even books to write. 

“I hope to have some opportunity to smell the flowers,” he adds. “I am looking forward to enjoying Laguna, walking on the beach, looking out at the hills.” 

He says he’d also like to travel, but sadly his wife had a stroke last year. She continues to recover, so those plans will have to wait until she is ready.

“It’s a mystery how my life has played out the way it has,” he says. He certainly never thought he’d stay in Laguna for 46 years. In fact, at one point in his life, he wasn’t sure he’d be welcomed back to the church at all. 

Finding grace in the church when he most needed it

As a young man, Dr. Tankersley was divorced, and this is not something the church takes lightly. “I thought my life was over,” he explains. “Then I experienced the grace of God.” 

At the time he was connected with the Presbyterian Church in La Cañada. The pastor there had, according to Dr. Tankersley, a “similar experience.” Dr. Tankerlsey was pleased to find his life in the church was far from over. He was embraced, and that experience has never left him. 

 “People need a church that is filled with grace. I don’t recommend it [divorce], but it happens.” He explains that when he stood for Moderator during the General Assembly he told his fellow pastors. “I wanted them to know me,” he says. “This has become part of my style. I try to be transparent about who I am.”

LLP Tankersley preaching

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Dr. Jerry Tankersley preaching his final sermon on Sunday

“People know I’m quite serious about my own spiritual life,” he adds.  “I not only want to talk the talk, but also walk the walk.”

After 46 years, still striving to improve his message and messaging

Dr. Tankerlsey’s quest for openness and grace is a consistent theme in his sermons. However, there have been stylistic changes over the years, if not thematic ones. When he first started preaching, he says he was very concerned about “literary precision.” In 1990, he decided to preach from the center of the church. “That has brought a dynamism,” he says. Now, he says, “I feel like my preaching is at a whole new place. It has a depth I didn’t have in the early days.” 

Even so, after all these years, Dr. Tankersley feels he is still honing his craft.  “I’m still trying to interpret text and be faithful to the story and also preach in a relevant way to the congregants. You never feel you’re adequate for it.” 

Clearly, his longevity would indicate he has not been “adequate,” but, rather, exceptional.


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Bella Nenadov: This young entrepreneur has things figured out

By SAMANTHA WASHER

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Bella Nenadov is not afraid to take risks. She’s also not afraid of change. Both of these traits have served the 13-year-old Thurston Middle School student well since she arrived on the West Coast from Ohio three years ago. 

Immersing herself in foreign languages

Bella says her father’s job is the reason the family relocated. Originally, the family relocated to Laguna Niguel. But, Bella says, “My parents heard how good the schools were in Laguna Beach so we moved here the next year.” And Bella has taken advantage of Laguna’s schools, immersing herself in one of her passions: foreign languages. This September, when Bella starts 8th grade, she will take French and Spanish. Additionally, she says she is determined to teach herself Italian over the rest of her summer.

Embracing one of Laguna’s specialties: water polo

Another project Bella has taken on this summer is to become competent as a water polo goalie. She’d like to fill the position on the Laguna Beach 14 and under girls’ water polo team when the new season starts in September. “I want to be the B team goalie,” she says. She explains the current goalie moved on to high school so there is a position that needs to be filled. As a new recruit to the game (it’s not a big sport in Ohio), she has decided it’s her best chance to make a contribution. “We just got a pass to the pool so I will go and do drills. And my dad and brother will throw balls at me,” she says with a laugh. There is no mention of private lessons or clinics, instead she seems determined to master these skills on her own.

Known for her treats for both people and pooches

This self-determination doesn’t end at the pool. Bella came to our attention because she makes natural, homemade dog treats, in addition to baked goods for people, and sells them on the weekends at Moulton Meadows Park. Her schedule isn’t rigid, but she tries to set up her table at least every other weekend. Her treats, it seems, are quite a hit.

LLP Bella closeup

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Bella Nenadov is 13 with a reputation for baking exceptional treats

Her motivation for creating the dog treats was her own dog, a Yorkie-bichon. “They’re very picky,” she says. Her motivation for creating her human treats was herself. “I love cupcakes,” she says smiling. “My favorites are probably blueberry-lemon or raspberry-lemon. I go outside of the box, but not crazy.”

Besides selling to her neighbors, Bella has fans who work for the city, too. “There was this one city workman who bought some cupcakes ands granola. Then he got on his radio and said, “Guys! You’ve gotta come down here!” says Bella. Her mom Jessica adds, “It was a treat for everyone. They enjoyed it and they made Bella feel really good.”

An entrepreneur who keeps it in the family

While Bella has taken ownership of her baking, it has been a family affair. She says her mom is an “amazing” baker, but credits the idea for selling her treats to her dad. “He’s in business. He said, ‘Bella, you could be an entrepreneur.’” She took his words to heart. Her younger brother also has a key position. “He’s my little publicist,” she says.

LLP Bella working

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Bella in action, carefully creating her delicious dog treats

Using her profits for another Laguna specialty: surfing

The success of her venture allowed her to set a goal for her profits: surf camp. The Ohio native wanted to learn how to surf. “I told my mom and dad that I wanted to do surf camp and that I was going to pay for it.” So she did. And while learning to surf wasn’t easy, the idea of giving up was never entertained. “It’s always better when you work for it because you stick with it,” she explains.

A surprisingly sound business philosophy for a 13-year-old

Despite all she has going on, Bella has plans to grow her business. “I want it to be pretty big,” she says. “I want to spread it to our city.” She plans to continue her sales at least every other weekend (water polo schedule permitting) when school resumes. She has an email address for orders: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., but after that she plans on just seeing what happens next. Her business strategy is relatively simple. “Just keep working hard. Have that mindset and always be patient. And be willing to put yourself out there,” she explains.

LLP Bellas treats

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One of Bella’s finished products

She offers such wisdom in a very matter-of-fact way. She is only 13, after all, so she has no idea how unusual her commitment to her goals is. Of course, her mom knows. “She’s very courageous. It’s amazing to watch. She is very inspiring for others. And she has a good voice for being courageous.” 

She is also a great example of just doing it because you want to. When she set up her table at Moulton, she had no idea how many people, if any, would show up. “At first you think no one is going to come. And then, later, some people come, and then more people come. You just have to wait it out,” explains Bella. Hard work, faith and patience are key ingredients to success. For Bella, it’s just one more recipe she has managed to perfect in a very short amount of time.


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.


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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.


Laguna Logo

Amy Eidt Jackson: Painter, teacher and tree hugger

Story by SAMANTHA WASHER

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Amy Eidt Jackson says she did not know the alphabet when she entered first grade. This, despite her mother, a teacher, working diligently with her. “It was miserable for me,” she recalls. The thing that saved her was art. “I had an amazing art teacher. I excelled there. It was the only thing that gave me self-esteem as a child.” 

Finding confidence through art

Jackson managed to slog through elementary school to make it to a seventh interview with Harvard and an acceptance to Smith College. She decided to attend the University of Massachusetts for economic reasons. Clearly, whatever plagued her in her younger years she grew up to conquer. But it was art in those early years that gave her enough confidence to persevere.

10 years at the Sawdust Festival

Now in her 10th year of exhibiting her paintings at the Sawdust Festival, it is clear that the importance of art to her life has not diminished. In addition to exhibiting her paintings she also teaches art to children and adults, has a history of involvement with the Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Plein Air Painters Association, and other local arts organizations. 

LLP Jackson close up

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Amy Jackson, artist, educator and Laguna Beach resident

The fact that she is an exhibiting painter with her works in galleries in Los Angeles and Vence, France, where, Jackson tells me, Matisse retired, may seem like an obvious outcome for someone to whom art was such a salvation. However, her path to becoming an artist took some time.

Becoming an “artist” was not a goal out of college

Jackson studied art history, economics and fine art in college. She made a conscious choice not to become “an artist” because, she says, “I didn’t want to suffer.” After she graduated, the Massachusetts native spent time in Italy and England where she decided that being an art dealer would combine her talents and interests. Then her parents relocated from Massachusetts to Mission Viejo.

Mission Viejo is definitely not Laguna

Feeling like she was losing contact with her family, Jackson came west, too. Knowing that Mission Viejo was not going to win over their daughter’s heart, her parents took her to Laguna Beach and told her that it was Mission Viejo. That ruse didn’t last long, but blood is thicker than water and Jackson stayed anyway.

The Laguna Art Museum is the genesis of many lasting things

Eventually, Jackson moved to the real Laguna and got involved with the Laguna Art Museum. She met her husband on a blind date set up by friends she’d met at the museum. “It’s the genesis of a lot of great art programs as well as my marriage,” says Jackson of the museum with a laugh. 

Despite her involvement with the museum, Jackson’s career at the time was in interior design. By happy accident, Irene Updike, a well-known designer at the time and now a very well known author and speaker about the Holocaust, was her mentor. “It wasn’t my dream,” says Jackson of being a designer. “So I didn’t care about it. That made it really easy to succeed. As an artist I find it very difficult to sell my own work because it’s so important to me.”

Her children lead her to teaching art

When the third of her four children was born, Jackson stepped away from designing. This allowed her the time to begin painting in earnest. Her children got her involved in teaching art. She began working in their El Morro classrooms with a “Meet the Masters” program. When she moved her youngest child to the CLC program at Top of the World she began teaching there. Eventually, she says she was asked to step down. “I was too messy and unstructured,” she says with a shrug.

LLP Jackson studio

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Amy Jackson at work in her backyard studio

Surrounded by artists around her Laguna Beach home, Jackson credits them with motivating her to begin exhibiting at the Sawdust. “I have always loved the feel of the Sawdust and what it is about,” she says. She was painting on her own and very involved with LPAPA. “I was selling a lot of my work and I wanted a gallery space that was mine.” Taking a booth at the Sawdust checked all of those boxes.

Several years ago, Jackson began teaching art again, this time at St. Catherine’s in Laguna. “They wanted a more creative art program,” she says. Her program, called “Art Studio Education,” turns the classroom into an art studio. “I teach the kids the tools to express how they feel,” she says.

Teaching is a give and take

She takes her job as a teacher very seriously, even though it is very time consuming and cuts into her personal painting time. “It takes away,” she admits. “But it also gives back.”

Jackson will be teaching two classes at the Sawdust this summer. The first one, “The Language of Landscape Painting” is a color theory class that will be held this Wednesday. 

A love for Laguna’s trees leads to a stylistic shift in her painting

While Jackson is known as a plein air painter, her style has evolved over the last few years. She credits her newfound passion for saving Laguna’s trees with helping her transformation to a more abstract style. “It’s interesting that my interest in trees brought me to paint horizons and not trees,” she says laughing. 

She has an ambitious plan for helping save Laguna’s trees. Jackson wants to organize a “tree hugger” event. “One of my biggest passions is to have a paint-off of our beautiful trees. We can sell the paintings to buy plaques to present to people who have a heritage tree on their property. I’m hoping to do this next year,” she says enthusiastically.

LLP Sawdust booth

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Amy Jackson’s booth at the Sawdust holds a good representation of her work

More ambitious plans for art education

For now, Jackson has her hands full manning her booth at the Sawdust, teaching her classes and making plans to open an art school at her Back Bay studio. “I’m looking to create art studio education in Back Bay, but I’m also looking to foster more creative arts programs in schools.”

And, of course, she will continue to paint. Influenced by Matisse and Wolf Kahn, as well as street art, Jackson says, “I want my art to be something that speaks to people and gives them joy. I know that sounds trite, but I want everyone to recognize their own voice. A lot of people have started paining at my encouragement,” she says. And it’s easy to see why. 

While Jackson certainly knows the “rules” of painting, she is definitely not bound by them. Her methods may be “messy” and “unstructured,” but isn’t that the fun of it all?

“Art has that magic ability to turn places around,” she says. What it can do for places, it can also clearly do for people. 


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.

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