Rainbow Reflections

A regular column about LGBTQ Life in Laguna by CRAIG COOLEY

Last week, Shanti OC celebrated its 30th anniversary at [seven-degrees] on Laguna Canyon Road, and what a grand party it was, especially as we also got a chance to honor Sarah Kasman, former executive director, and undisputed Belle of the Ball, retiring after 24 years of service to Shanti OC.

It is hard to put into words how Shanti started and the path it has taken. I will attempt to…It was an idea to just “do something” as so many were dying from AIDS in the early 1980s. It was born out of compassion for those spending their last few days here, to comfort them, to bring some modicum of happiness to their lives as they ended.

And that’s exactly what Shanti did in Laguna Beach, where we had the highest rate per capita of HIV infection in the nation.

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Chris Tebbutt and Craig Cooley enjoy the festivities

From diagnosis to death it was a short journey of two weeks to three months in those days…truly a death sentence. From those difficult days of assisting the dying to helping those infected with HIV and improving the quality of life with new drugs and procedures, to the present, Shanti is active in assisting the management of HIV disease and many other life altering diseases as well as case management for anyone with health and mental issues. 

Shanti OC has indeed moved with the “times” yet they have never lost their core values of compassion. 

The Men Alive Gay Men’s Chorus kept the party festive. It was a heartfelt event…to see everyone, the survivors included, as we paid homage to the leaders, such as Sarah! I love you, Sarah!

Lunch with Toni – and how I first met her (now this is embarrassing)

This last Friday at the Woman’s Club, I attended a luncheon in honor of another Laguna Beach luminary, Toni Iseman. It was real, it was powerful, and it too, was heartfelt. 

I missed an opportunity at the event to say how I met Toni… but here it is… 

About a year ago I was late to a LB LGBTQ Heritage & Culture Committee meeting. When I arrived I found my space near a lady I had never met – well, there were several persons there I had never met.

During the meeting I got very vocal, as anyone knows me well would not be surprised to hear. On my soapbox I touted in no uncertain terms just what I felt the City of Laguna Beach should do regarding the items before the LGBTQ group in attendance, and the particulars of what I felt was the best way to run a city government. 

I was loud, I was strong, maybe I ranted a little. 

The lady to my left just listened then offered some very honest comments. With my hand on her arm, I continued to bird-dog her with my mantra… again she listened and offered her honest response. She then suggested a proclamation for the City to be read at the next City Council meeting. I thought that was bold, and asked her who would read it to the council. She offered to take the honor. I still didn’t get it!

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Craig Cooley

One of two tables of LGBTQ supporters at the outgoing Mayor’s Luncheon

Later that day, when I was back at the office, Ms Nelson asked if I enjoyed meeting the mayor. I said “Was he there? Tony something?” 

Well, yes, she said, that woman to your left was Toni. I thought back to all my tirades and comments and her candid responses 

I decided her forthright responses were a testament to her honest and caring character – she’s all business, let’s get the job done, no pretense! And indeed, it was confirmed again and again with the tributes and testimonials to her character that beautiful afternoon last Friday in our fair city. 

Rainbow Radio broadcast engenders new Art Consortia

This last Saturday our radio show was the second in a series regarding the Arts in Laguna Beach. It’s a kind of a monthly Town Hall session. My guests were Jason Roberts, Leah Vasquez, Fonje DeVre, Muffin Spencer-Devlin and Jonathan Burke, all of whom are caring individuals supportive of the arts. 

We came to a clear decision regarding art in the community and how we might quickly support artists and by the end of the broadcast the decision was made to form an Independent Arts Consortia. 

The first project will be to ask local artists to find artists whose art conveys a strong message, elicits a profound response from the viewer and makes a strong cultural statement. Named the Empty Spaces Art Placement Project, the goal is to revitalize, surprise, inspire, and welcome experiential and new ideas to the downtown commerce areas of Laguna Beach. 

It will be quite an undertaking… it would be great to see a lot of community support. Check it out on Facebook: search for Independent Arts Consortia. 

This coming Saturday the Rainbow Radio program will be about all the various fun things to do with an LGBTQ flavor in the greater Laguna Beach area. So be certain to tune in on KX 93.5 FM or go to to listen to it at your convenience! 

HRC taps Laguna talent for charity mixer

The Human Rights Campaign has tapped our Tony and Endora for a charity mixer on February 14, Valentine’s Day, at LUXE Restaurant in Dana Point, 24582 Del Prado Ave.

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Tony and Endora will perform at HRC mixer

Everyone is invited to the party and there is special entertainment, with Tony and Endora of Main Street Bar & Cabaret fame. 

After the dinner head over to Main Street to catch the cabaret show…now that is a full evening for a fabulous Valentine’s Day!

Until next week…this is Craig Cooley here, doing my best to keep up with all the LGBTQ fun in Laguna Beach. 

If you would like to submit suggestions for this column, please contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ';document.getElementById('cloakbc4c97017f894fbf6414750136373507').innerHTML += ''+addy_textbc4c97017f894fbf6414750136373507+'<\/a>'; as we love to keep everything interesting and relevant, and well, yes, fun and entertaining!