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Laguna Beach

Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach’s 20th Annual Art of Giving Gala to be held at Montage

Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach is proud to announce that its 20th Annual Art of Giving Gala “Together Again” will be held on Saturday, June 12 at the Montage Laguna Beach. 

Event co-chairs Jimmy Azadian and Carrie Click are planning a fabulous VIP evening for all. Guests will get to indulge in the experience of this iconic event at Laguna Beach’s finest resort.

Boys & Girls Club peace

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Gala co-chairs Jimmy Azadain and Carrie Click

The evening will begin on the Montage lawn with tasty morsels and signature cocktails and continue with an elegant dinner and rousing live auction. The night will top off with dancing to live music presented by “Hard Day’s Night,” a Beatles tribute band. Guests will have the chance to dress up in their grooviest threads. This year the event will be more intimate and will follow all social distancing and safety guidelines to ensure a fun and safe evening for all.

Table sponsorships are available now at There will be limited seating available. For more information, contact Michelle Fortezzo at (949) 715-7584 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

For over 65 years, the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach has been an indispensable asset to the community. From preschool to parenting classes, the Club offers an array of services that focus on academic success, good character and citizenship, healthy lifestyles, and creative expression. 

The Club serves youth ages 3 to18 years of age at their two sites, Canyon Branch and Bluebird Branch, in Laguna Beach. For more information about the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach, visit or call (949) 494-2535.

Give the phone a “break” – April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and the Laguna Beach Police Department (LBPD) encourages drivers to give the phone a break and focus on the road. Throughout the month of April, LBPD will have additional officers on patrol specifically looking for drivers who violate the state’s hands-free cell phone law.

According to the 2020 California Statewide Public Opinion Survey, more than 75 percent of surveyed drivers listed “Distracted Driving because of TEXTING” as their biggest safety concern.

“A driver’s number one focus should be on the road. Anything that distracts you from the task of driving, especially a phone, puts yourself and others at risk,” Captain Jeff Calvert said. “Not driving distracted is a simple, but significant behavior change.”

Under current law, drivers are not allowed to hold a phone or other electronic device while behind the wheel. Drivers under 18 are not allowed to use a phone for any reason, including hands-free.

If you need to make a call or send a text, pull over and park at a safe location. Drivers should silence their phones or put the phone out of reach, such as in the glove box or trunk.

Funding for these Distracted Driving operations is provided to the Laguna Beach Police Department by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Guest Column

Tune in to KXFM on April 19 to hear from our new city arborist 

By Barbara and Greg MacGillivray

A month ago, our City Council/Public Works announced the hiring of a new City Arborist to fill the seven-month vacant position for leading the City’s Urban Forest Management Program. This was widely celebrated by all of us who love Laguna’s historically artistic and health-providing arboreal cover. Our wise City Council/Public Works teams persevered through COVID challenges to hire Matthew Barker as our new arborist.

Matthew has more than 11 years of prior tree care experience, coming to us from his Municipal Arborist position with the City of Alexandria, Virginia. Prior to that he was an arborist and tree climbing specialist for the Architect of the Capitol, maintaining the trees on the extensive grounds of the U.S. Capitol. Our beautiful canopy will certainly benefit not only from his tree expertise but also his tender touch!

Guest Column Tune in Matthew Barker

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Arborist Matthew Barker

It was while at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, that Matthew decided to switch from neuroscience studies and petri dishes to follow his youthful passion for the Tree Community and its Ecology. And passion is what defines Matthew. You can hear this passion in his upcoming radio interview on the “Mornings with Ed” show on KXFM 104.7 on Monday, April 19 at 8:30 a.m. We encourage everyone to tune in!

Matthew will explain both his love for trees and what he’s learned about this very special arboreal community, as well as present this year’s Arbor Day plans, which he immediately took on upon his hiring. A special addition to this year’s livestreamed Arbor Day Tree-planting, scheduled for National Arbor Day on April 30, will be a youth outreach feature designed by Matthew and his PW team. 

All LBUSD students are now encouraged to participate in this year’s Arbor Day Art Contest by providing entries with the theme of “What Trees Mean to Me.” Multiple media including poems, paintings, or drawings can be submitted, in a format no larger than 8” x 5” x 11”, to the City Hall check-in area until April 26. Winners will be announced during our live streamed Arbor Day, April 30. The winning pieces will be displayed in City Hall and each winner will receive a tree-themed gift box. 

We are so happy to welcome Matthew, his wife, and daughter to our community.

A hidden gem in plain sight: LB Lawn Bowling Club celebrates 90th anniversary this month


Photos by Mary Hurlbut

A jewel of the community for nine decades, Laguna Beach Lawn Bowling Club is obviously in plain sight, however, it’s anything but “plain.” From its Heisler Park perch, the greens offer a spectacular view of the ocean and lush foliage of surrounding areas. Due to its location, it has the largest club membership in America – 305.

Few clubs or organizations in Laguna can boast such longevity. For many residents, Laguna Beach Lawn Bowling Club needs no introduction, but for those unfamiliar with this one-of-a-kind resource for exercise, fun, and socializing, this unique entity deserves revisiting. 

Club Historian Linda Jahraus, who joined the club in 1992 and served as president from 2005-2006, has been researching its history for 15 years. Thanks to her persistent digging into the nitty gritty of its inception and early days, residents are privy to a bounty of fascinating details. 

A hidden Curt shirt

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Curt Bartsch sporting club shirt

Curt Bartsch, club president from 2010-2011, clearly has a passion for the Lawn Bowling Club. “When I retired in 2006, my wife and I were looking for something we could do together. This is perfect. Before the pandemic, we used to have Thursday socials, and we met people socializing. There’s a lot of comradery here and in the sport in general. We’ve visited lawn bowling clubs around the world – when you visit, they ask you to play. It’s a sport that’s conducive to friendships and companionship.”

“It’s also a very economical sport,” Linda adds, “and it’s a lot more exercise than it looks. There’s a lot of bending, especially during a tournament.”

The club has 70 sets of bowls they loan out to members. 

Jahraus influence 

The Jahraus family, one of the few multi-generational families in Laguna,  has been here since 1903 and played a significant role in the evolution of the site of the Lawn Bowling Club. Linda is married to Jeff Jahraus.

In 1929, Elmer Jahraus (Jeff’s great-grandfather) was instrumental in saving what was to become Heisler Park. Developer Howard Heisler, who deeded the land to Orange County in 1924, decided to go back on his promise to dedicate the land as a park and instead wanted to build a hotel and houses. Then Anna Hill and Jahraus stepped in with a lawsuit that went all the way to the Supreme Court – and they won. Ultimately, the land became Heisler Park.

A hidden view

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Bowling with an ocean view

Laguna residents can thank Harlan S. Kittle for the development of the bowling green in Heisler Park. An avid lawn bowler, whose father was also into the sport, Kittle moved to Laguna from Beverly Hills shortly after Laguna Beach was incorporated in 1927. He immediately began a campaign to develop a bowling green on the point of the cliff in the parkland.

The Jahraus family built one of the first houses above the greens, and Kittle tried to purchase it, but they were unwilling to sell. 

It took some doing, and a little money to get the greens going.

Kittle gets the ball rolling

“Kittle got the garden club involved and recruited 20-25 people who donated one dollar,” Linda says. “He also received money from the city and in 1931 built the first green for a thousand dollars.”

A clubhouse was built in 1933, mainly to store the bowls. As the popularity of the sport grew, so did the club. A second green was added in 1952, qualifying the club for tournament play. A tournament in 1953 drew 30 teams with 89 men and one woman participating.

The City Council declared Laguna Beach the lawn bowling capital of the United States in 1957.

However, the council denied the club permission to add a third green in 1958, but a new clubhouse was approved and built in 1968.

A hidden clubhouse

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New clubhouse built in 1968

The proposed third green would have been where the picnic tables are now, which back then was a croquet court.

Lawn Bowling was first played in Laguna on November 2, 1931, on a green installed by the bowlers, and the club had 114 members on opening day. Laguna Beach Woman’s Club members helped with the planting.

It originally was an all-male club. “There were a couple of members who didn’t want women to play,” Linda says. “They eventually allowed women to play, but on different days than the men – men on one day, women on another.” 

Currently, out of the club’s 305 members, 60 percent are male and 40 percent female.

Another interesting fact is that the club is self-sustained. They pay for everything themselves, including maintenance and mowing the lawn three times a week.

Trivia and traditions

Sports trivia fans might be delighted to know that the membership has included Gavvy Cravath, Babe Ruth’s predecessor at home run king, and Jimmy Austin, third baseman for the old St. Louis Browns.

Although the rules of lawn bowling have changed over time, the fundamentals seem to have remained consistent, certainly since the 1300s, according to Jahraus.

Rules of attire are a significant tradition in lawn bowling, depending on the country or in some cases the club. Curt says, “They used to always wear white, and women’s skirts couldn’t be too short.”

A hidden Curt and banner

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Banner made for 90th anniversary 

The Newport Beach and Laguna Clubs have no color code for weekday pick-up games.

Linda relates a few memorable events that have happened over the years: a helicopter landed on a greens for a diving incident, and due to the emergencies that have occurred on the greens, they now have a resuscitator charger at the clubhouse. 

During the 1993 fire, “I picked up my kids and their friends at school and took them to their grandmother’s house across from greens,” she says. “The kids were apprehensive, so I told them to go stand on the greens if the fire got too close. Of course, it didn’t come down this far, but the greens were covered in ashes.”


“Lawn bowling is played all over the world. It originated in Egypt. It’s called bocce in Italy, boules in France.” 

The definition of lawn bowling: bowls, or lawn bowls, is a sport in which the objective is to roll biased balls so that they stop close to a smaller ball called a “jack” or “kitty.” It is played on a bowling green (a finely laid, close-mown, and rolled stretch of turf for playing the game of bowls) which may be flat, convex, or uneven. 

A hidden bowlers

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View of the grounds 

Modern rules vary somewhat from country to country and the bowls vary in size, weight, and degree of bias, depending on local conditions. British bowlers prefer lighter balls for their wet, soft grass. Floridians prefer a minimum bias; Californians choose heavier ones. Every green has its peculiarities, just like golf courses.

Historians suggest that the game made its way across Europe with Julius Caesar’s troops and became entrenched in the British Isles. The Southampton Old Bowling Green Club, organized in A.D. 1299, is still active, the oldest on record.

The sport remains popular in England, Canada, and Scotland, where Glasgow claims 200 public bowling greens, including enclosed ones for winter play.

The American Revolution and anti-British sentiment stifled the game in the American “Colonies,” but Canadians kept it alive in the New World.

New Jersey is credited with the resurrection of lawn bowling in the United States. A small private club was started on the Atlantic coast in 1879. Two years later, it had spread to the Pacific shore.

A hidden ball

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Custom made – Laguna Beach #1 

“In the 70s the club membership was below 100,” says Curt. “We held an open house celebration to commemorate our 75th anniversary. We invited people to come, offered deals for memberships, and we got 14 new members. After that, open houses went nationwide when other clubs heard we got 14 new members in one day. They saw it as a way to get new members. So after that, every club nationwide, on the second Saturday in May, except for last year, we have a Saturday on the Greens.”

The greens were open during the pandemic and Curt says, “We wore masks and followed protocol. It was a place to go that was safe. But there were no tournaments or the U.S. Open.”

Before COVID-19, they also held parties on the outside patio. 

An International Tournament, the U.S. Open, draws players from all over the world: Australia, Canada, England, Netherlands, New Zealand, Northern Ireland,  and Scotland. Typically, visiting players bring mementos to hang up in club house and, in the past, exchanged club pins.

Future plans

“We’re trying to be an Olympic Event, however, it’s not fast-paced. In the 1923 Olympics, it was a demo sport,” Linda says. “We’d also like it to have more television coverage. There’s a lot of indoor bowling, which is similar to curling.” 

There’s no lack of greens in Southern California, 30 to be exact. A few of the places that have lawn bowling greens are: Santa Ana, Newport Beach, Laguna Woods, Los Angeles, Santa Anita, San Diego, Riverside, and Balboa Park. 

On April 24, members will celebrate their 90th milestone with club towels and pins and then continue the celebration all year long.

Young, old, novice, or veteran players can all enjoy both social and tournament bowls. The club provides ongoing complimentary lessons in basics, strategy, etiquette, and team games. Visitors may try different bowls. New members must take three lessons.

The Laguna Beach Bowling Club has much to be proud of – they have grown and prospered since 1931 and continue to be one of Laguna’s extraordinary treasures. 

The Laguna Beach Bowling Club is located at 455 Cliff Dr.

For more information, go to

Dennis’ Tidbits


April 13, 2021

Hail yes, in quite a few places

Dennis 5The latest round of severe weather throughout the South and Southeast has produced an unusually heavy and widespread amount of hail, with hailstones the size of baseballs or even bigger. Most severe thunderstorms produce hail but not with the intensity of this particular episode. It’s all about the speed of the updraft that determines the size of a hailstone.

Just to refresh your memory, hailstones are precipitation in the shape of lumps of ice that form during some thunderstorms. Hail can range in size from that of a pea to a softball or once in a while, even larger. The biggest recorded hailstone hit the ground on a farm in Nebraska and was the size of a soccer ball, weighing well over two pounds! Fortunately the soccer-ball-size stone landed in an open field, posing no threat of damage or casualties, despite falling from the sky at nearly 110 mph! It produced a crater two feet wide and several inches deep in that field of soft soil.

Hailstones are usually round, but may also be conical, or irregular in shape, some with pointed projections. While it takes about one million cloud droplets to form a single raindrop, it takes about 10 billion cloud droplets to form a golf-ball-size hailstone.

 Hail is formed when ice pellets (which were initially snowflakes or frozen raindrops) strike supercooled water droplets within a storm cloud. The supercooled water flows over the ice particles and part of it freezes instantly. Some of the unfrozen water remains attached to the growing hailstone until it freezes, and part of it slips away. 

This continues until the weight of the hailstone can no longer be supported by the updrafts, and it falls to the ground. The multiple trips through updrafts and downdrafts result in alternating bands of clear and cloudy ice within a hailstone. 

As many as 25 layers have been counted in one hailstone. The ultimate size of a hailstone is determined by how fast the updraft is and how far above the ground it goes, thus penetrating higher and higher in the cumulonimbus cloud allowing more layers of ice to add to the growing hailstone. The speed of that updraft on steroids that manufactured that soccer-ball-size ice meteorite was in excess of 150 mph! That’s what allowed the surrounding air to keep supporting such a monster!

Let’s break it down: An updraft of 40 mph will usually result in a ping-pong-size hailstone. At 50 mph a golf-ball-size stone will fall. When the updraft reaches 75 mph, you get a tennis-ball-size hailstone. When the updraft is at 90-100 mph, you’re talking baseball size. At 110-120 mph the hailstone reaches softball size, so you can imagine the strength to produce the soccer ball size is off the charts!

Of the thousands of thunderstorms that strike the U.S. each year, only about 10-15 percent produce potentially dangerous hailstones similar to what is going on right now in the South and Southeast. Hail-producing thunderstorms are most frequently found in eastern Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming, but they’ve occurred in all 50 states at some point. 

The city of Cheyenne, Wyoming, observes the most hailstorm days per year, averaging nearly a dozen, but second place for frequency would go to the Western Plains, the Midwest, the Ohio Valley, the Deep South, and Southeast. We even get an occasional hailstorm out here, but it’s mostly marble size or smaller, as the surrounding atmosphere is nowhere near as unstable as other areas, because the tops of cumulonimbus clouds around here only extend upwards of 25,000 ft at the most.

Damage estimates from hailstorms alone reach up to nearly a billion dollars annually in the U.S. The most costly single hailstorm in the U.S. struck on July 11, 1990, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and resulted in $625 million in damages. Baseball-size hailstones pelted thousands of roofs, vehicles, windows, and other property.

Hail also causes injuries but rarely death, believe it or not. In fact, during the 20th century, only two deaths were reportedly due to hail – one was a farmer in Lubbock, Texas, in 1930, and the other was an infant in Fort Collins, Colorado, in 1979. Injuries too are sparse, but more common. 

When I was in Weather School in Amarillo AFB, I witnessed baseball-size hail on April 1, 1967. What a thrill that was, at least for me. I love watching severe weather as long as I’m in a safe place.

See y’all of Friday, ALOHA!

Where’s Maggi – the answers!

There were a couple of good tries – but they missed the mark. Then there were a couple of correct answers as to where Maggi is now…

In the win column were Susan Wanstreet, Ernest Farnisi, and Nancy Wade. Ernest had further info that the artist, a man named Eider, was from San Diego, and that now his grandson is reproducing the sandcasts of the pelicans.

Thanks, everyone, for playing along! 

Check in on Friday for a new challenge.    

Where's Maggi 4 13 21

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Pelicans adorn the building on South Coast Hwy at St. Ann’s, above 

the Cottage Furnishings shop

Rotary Club features Rosalind Russell at its first in-person gathering since COVID struck

The Laguna Beach Rotary Club recently held its first in-person gathering since the pandemic began, featuring Rosalind Russell (also known as “The Goat Lady”) as the speaker.

The meeting was held at the newly renovated CAMENO restaurant, formerly K’ya. Rosalind was a member of the Laguna Beach Rotary Club for nearly 10 years, so it was a reunion of sorts for her. She’s remained part of Rotary, but with a club that has an all-electronic meeting base, the eClub of the West, where she currently serves as President.

Rotary Club Rosalind

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Rosalind Russell in traditional Nepalese costume

Rosalind gave an update about her ongoing work in Nepal during the COVID shutdown. Few organizations remained as forward-moving as R Star Foundation for those long months, she said. 

Due to the numerous questions, the meeting went overtime, which is seldom allowed, but Rosalind was enthusiastically received by members.

Of her experience being an in-person speaker for the first time in a long time, Rosalind said, “It was like being home with my longtime friends asking me what I had been up to these past few years. It couldn’t have been more fun for me to share my passions with like-minded people!”

To learn more about R Star Foundation, or if you’d like to feature Rosalind as a speaker at your meeting, visit or call (949) 497-4911.

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Rum Social asks Laguna Beach to dance

By Diane Armitage 

As we emerge tattered and weary from our COVID year, we all just need a little time away at a balmy Caribbean island…with an infinity pool…sipping rum drinks while Bobby McFerrin croons, “Don’t worry, be happy.” 

Fortunately, our new restaurant, Rum Social, will be happy to whisk us away to that island vibe, and we don’t even have to board a plane to do it. 

Rum Social Kitchen & Cocktails has plans to open in July 2021 in the old Watermarc restaurant in Peppertree Lane in downtown Laguna Beach. At first glance, what an incredible “vacation” experience it looks to be. 

Rum Social logo

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Courtesy of Rum Social

“An upscale Hemingway speakeasy”

For the first time since local favorite Eva’s Caribbean closed in December 2018, our town will be celebrating phenomenal Caribbean fare with fine rum and spirits all around. 

“I like to think of it as a Caribbean/Asian concept inspired by rum,” said Kenneth Ussenko, the concept designer and a principle in the restaurant. 

“Think of it as an upscale Hemingway speakeasy,” he said with a grin. 

  A combined 100 years of restaurant experience 

Longtime restaurateurs John Fisher, Steven Sherwood, and Kenneth Ussenko have partnered as principles in the Rum Social excursion, having worked with each other for many years on other concepts. In fact, John and Steven were already operators at the Peppertree Lane Gelato Paradiso when Chef Cohen decided to close Watermarc in March 2020. 

“I knew that [Peppertree Lane Operations Managers] Paul and Alaine Caraher were fielding quite a few interested restaurateurs for that space because I was there so often, but it didn’t even occur to me to throw our hat in the ring until a few months later,” said Fisher. 

The Rum Social concept moved into reality with final contract negotiations on December 9, 2020.   

Inside: A lush island retreat 

On Friday last week, the originators treated me to chocolate croissants and a first look at the concept. 

For the time being, I’ve been sworn to secrecy on many specifics. (Yes, you’re correct. This practically kills me.) 

I can assure you, though, that Kenneth Ussenko, the designer behind the first K’ya rendition, The Drake Laguna Beach, Chef Rich Mead’s Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens, and the Drum Room at the top of Morongo Casino, has created a lush, swank culinary retreat that will absolutely transport you. 

“This is not a thatched hut kind of place,” said Ken. “So much of the Caribbean resort feel has a European influence; it was perfect to design this concept in Laguna Beach where you still see and feel that rich kind of influence.” 

With local architect Todd Skenderian’s help, the famed (and giant) Watermarc bar, inherited from the former Partners restaurant, has been moved – in its entirety – upstairs! The main floor is now considerably more open for 50-56 dining seats. 

The bar room upstairs will provide another 30 or so seats with the bar, itself, now a square in the middle of the room. Flamingo and teal accents will swim throughout, partnering with rich, three-dimensional wood palm leaves on the ceiling, and floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors to the outside patio. A giant TV monitor will reside on the main bar wall, displaying live shots from tropical beaches with an occasional video beach stroll interrupt by someone like James Bond’s Sean Connery. 

Diners on the main level will enjoy similar island-friendly color accents coupled with large black-and-white framed photos of tropical island scenes. 

“Ken has done an amazing job at creatively integrating the new tropically-themed restaurant into the European fabric of the historic Peppertree Lane,” said Todd Skenderian, lead architect on the project. 

“These two ambiences will be successfully married together to present a cohesive and enjoyable experience. It’s been a pleasure helping them bring this to life,” said Skenderian. 

Seafood-forward fare 

We all know, though, that any memorable tropical vacation has to also include that unforgettable dinner and drink. 

At our Friday meeting, the Rum Social team showed me their “beta” menu in a nano-second flash. I managed to catch blessed seafood, seafood, seafood items, and…oh, there’s a Jerk Chicken dish that I’ve got to try…and then, the menu went dark. 

They have already selected their Executive Chef, but his or her name remains as secretive as a voodoo doctor’s business card. They tell me the Chef is a longtime, high-level creative juggernaut, and that’s all they give me. For me, that’s enough for now. 

Fine rums will certainly be on the menu, joined with other heady, refined spirits. 

“We’re not just a rum house,” said Fisher. “We want this to be a fun exploration of great cocktails that span the gamut.”

Rum Social martini

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Courtesy of Rum Social

A rum martini awaits at Rum Social

How it all came together 

Several years ago, Steven Sherwood, a real estate developer by trade, took over the Laguna Beach-based Gelato Paradiso in Peppertree Lane. He pulled in longtime friend and restaurateur John Fisher for assistance, and together, they’ve shored up the Gelato Paradiso brand in three other locations. 

Fisher has been working in the restaurant in industry for more than 40 years. He began working at his first Del Taco when he was 16, and he hasn’t left restaurants since. First working his way into the highest level of operations of Naugles’ 150 restaurants, he then worked with Del Taco ownership in that takeover. 

By 1990, Fisher had purchased his first Ruby’s restaurant, eventually owning nine stores before settling back down to his favorite, which still resides at Balboa Pier. All the while, he has purchased and consulted on a number of other restaurants and concepts. 

In the same 1990s era, Kenneth Ussenko was finding his way into hospitality, managing Club Med resorts all over the world in his early 20s. 

He leapt into hospitality design a few years later, establishing his own company, Kenneth Ussenko Design. In a matter of months, it seems, he was redesigning the private room upstairs for Crustacean Beverly Hills by House of An, the entire Crustacean restaurant remodel in San Francisco, and then added casinos to his restaurant portfolio. 

After developing the Drum Room concept at the top of Morongo Casino, he was asked to redesign the entire casino floor. From there, it was on to Las Vegas, Todd English’s Napa Valley, Duane and Kelly Roberts’ Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, and even Pieology’s concept redesign now being rolled out to 250 franchises. 

Although Kenneth designs vastly original concepts every year, Rum Social (also named by Kenneth) is near and dear to his heart. 

“I used to manage all these amazing vacation spots with Club Med, but the Moorea location in Tahiti was so memorable,” said Kenneth. “You just escaped from the entire world there. That’s what I want Rum Social to feel like.” 

“I want you to walk in and feel transported,” he continued. “Even if you live in the paradise that Laguna Beach is, you still need an escape from everything out there in the world. 

“That’s what Rum Social is here for. Leave all your cares and worries at the door. We’ve got this, friend.”

Stay tuned for emerging details

As new details become available, you’ll be the first to know. Check out my blog, and opt-in for “breaking news” emails, or follow me on Instagram or Facebook @BestofLagunaBeach. 

The best-selling author and blogger on The Best of Laguna Beach™, Diane Armitage is on an endless quest for the most imaginative adventures in Laguna’s restaurants, events, and lifestyle. Check out chef interviews, retail and restaurant news, and favorite events at and follow on Instagram @BestofLagunaBeach (look for Diane’s smiling face).

Local Democratic activist Mary Carter named Volunteer of The Year

Longtime Laguna Beach Democratic Club (LBDC) member Mary Carter was named a Volunteer of the Year by the California Democratic Party. Deborah Cunningham-Skurnik, Director for Region 18, presented Carter with the honor. 

“In just the last several months, Mary led our Club members in our winning effort to elect Katrina Foley to the Board of Supervisors; helped collect hundreds of towels for the homeless and donations for the Food Pantry,” according to Gwen McNallan, president of LBDC. “She also helps feed our community by picking up grocery store donations and delivering them to the Laguna Food Pantry twice a week.” 

Local Democratic Mary Carter

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Mary Carter named Volunteer of the Year by the California Democratic Party

Carter, who has been a Democratic volunteer since 1987, explained how she got started in Democratic politics. “I was inspired by Jesse Jackson’s run for president. The National Rainbow Coalition trained me by telling me what is important, and then threw me into the pool. Since then, I’ve volunteered in every presidential and senatorial campaign and dozens of local races,” she adds. 

Completely hands-on, one of Mary’s favorite memories was refinishing the floor of the 2004 Democratic campaign headquarters in the old Pottery Place.  “The most fun I’ve had was working in the various campaign headquarters over the years,” she says.

Carter was a World War II baby. She was born in Riverside County, where her family owned a ranch, and grew up in Compton. She moved to Laguna Beach in 1967, where she worked for business owner Gail Pike in the hospitality industry as a waitress and then office staff in one of his restaurants.

“Now I devote almost full-time to organizing volunteers, writing postcards, making phone calls, and knocking on doors to elect Democratic candidates. I’m motivated by their values,” Carter concludes.

For information on the LB Democratic Club, go to

LBUMC gives “Blessing Bags” to homeless

Members of Laguna Beach United Methodist Church have long been involved in helping the unhoused population in the city. This year the church’s Outreach Team created “Blessing Bags.” Led by Slade Carlton, the group put together the bags for parishioners and others to give to those in need. 

These bags, which are really backpacks, contain hats, socks, toothbrushes, bottled water, granola bars, and gift cards, among other personal hygiene items that people who have no homes could use. The project was supported by this year’s Easter Offering at LBUMC.

LBUMC gives backpacks

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Olivia Carlton introduces “Blessing Bags” assembled by Outreach Team of LBUMC

In preparation for the project, Carlton noted that some neat things happened. “Our church was given 124 brand new $80 backpacks by a couple in Lake Forest,” said Carlton. “The donor and his wife were touched by what we were doing.” Other members of the packing team were Pastor Lynn Francis, Dori Florence, Jeanne Ann Moore, and Slade’s daughters Olivia and Zoe. 

This year’s team continues the long history of LBUMC’s connection to providing help to the homeless. Since 1988, when Colin Henderson, pastor of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, started Friendship Shelter, members of the LBUMC congregation immediately participated in this endeavor. They have continued to provide a significant number of volunteers and financial contributions.

Over the past 32 years, Friendship Shelter has served more than 10,000 homeless adults in a variety of programs. It works with them to secure housing, employment or other forms of income, and increases their self-sufficiency. Currently, 91 former homeless persons are living in housing programs, monitored and assisted by social workers from Friendship Shelter.

Friendship Shelter also oversees the Alternate Sleeping Location, where four teams from LBUMC continue to deliver meals on Wednesdays. Prior to the opening of the ASL, LBUMC was one of several Laguna Beach churches to offer a place to sleep on inclement nights in winter. 

The late Don Healton began bringing a vat of soup from home to offer the night visitors. This encouraged the congregation to begin providing meals for them, which they did until the teams were formed to feed the homeless in Laguna Beach.

For more information on LBUMC, visit

Laguna Beach United Methodist Church is located at 21632 Wesley Dr.

Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor & Writer.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are our photographers.

Alexis Amaradio, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Maggi Henrikson, Sara Hall, Stacia Stabler and Suzie Harrison are our writers and/or columnists.

In Memoriam - Stu Saffer and Barbara Diamond.

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