A guest column

Focusing on the Pageant Binocular Concession

I have to admit that I battled a sick feeling in my stomach as I walked on to the Festival of Arts grounds a few weeks ago. Until this summer, my family had owned and managed the Binocular and Blanket rental concession that serves the Pageant of the Masters. Last fall we got a letter in the mail from the President of the Festival of Arts board thanking us for our steadfast and good work, but that the Festival of Arts had decided to take over our business and run it themselves. The decision they said was a financial one. Since times where hard, they needed the money. After 45 years of serving the Pageant Of the Masters, this summer is very different for us. I was walking to the Art-A-Fair when my curiosity got the better of me, I had to go and see how the Festival was managing our Binocular Concession.

It was my brother Wally Wethe who started the Binocular Concession in 1964. He was the Student Body President of Laguna Beach High School that year. Jobs were hard to find for baby boomers then and like my parents had done, the Wethe kids were expected to earn their own way through college. It was my Mom, Joyce Wethe, who finally gave the sage advice to think about “providing a service” rather than “getting money”. Wally’s Sunday school teacher was the one who gave him the idea of renting binoculars for the Pageant of the Masters. Wally thought it was a great idea.

When Wally approached the Festival of Arts about the idea however, they turned him down because they were afraid the binoculars would ruin the effect of the show. Not being a quitter, Wally went to the mayor of the city to ask if he could rent property outside of the grounds to run the concession. The consent was granted. The first Binocular Concession was erected where the Festival ticket office is now. When the ticket office was built on that spot, the booth was moved to the parking lot across the street from the Pageant. The booth was constructed to look like Lucy’s booth in the Peanuts cartoon. It had a sign on the front reading, “The Keeper of the Glasses is In”. My brother wore a white shirt and black bow tie.

Robin Altman PhotoWhen Wally finished college in 1968, my brother David bought the Binocular Concession from Wally. He ran it for a few years and then I bought it from him in 1971 when I was just 16. I was lucky that I was the youngest child in the family. I received the same lecture from my Dad that the boys had heard, “Be businesslike, respectful to the customers and above all, be honest and pay your taxes.” In 1972 I was granted an art Scholarship from the Festival of Arts. The scholarship was granted to me for four consecutive years increasing each year because of my good grades. I also got my first booth at the Sawdust Festival in 1972 and began selling my paintings and shell necklaces. I’d be at the Sawdust all day and the binocular concession every night. I was able to pay for my entire college tuition outright with those three sources of income.

In 1973 we heard a rumor that the binocular concession was on the agenda of the city council meeting. The person said we better show up if we wanted to keep the concession. Someone on the city council had the idea of taking over the business and letting council members take turns running it in order to raise money for their annual party. I was trembling as I stood in front of them that night explaining that I needed my business to earn my way through college. My Dad sat in the front row giving me the thumbs up. I guess they didn’t think it would be good PR to take a business away from a kid earning their way through college in order to fund a party, because they voted that idea down.

Those years renting binoculars and also blankets out on the canyon road were interesting. I was like a sitting duck to all sorts of characters that roamed the canyon back then. I often did feel like Lucy. Sitting under my kerosene lamp, I was preached to regularly by evangelists. I was given free dinners from the Harikrishnas and I would explain to tourists which Festival was which. One night a very angry young man sat on his bike telling me his tale of mistreatment while repeatedly throwing his switchblade into the telephone pole that my booth was anchored to. I listened very patiently. Donny, the local motorcycle cop, loved to hide next to my booth waiting for drivers who would race through the crosswalk while tourists crossed.  Once I was a witness for him when he ticketed a person. But the most common question asked me was, “Why in the heck are you renting binoculars and blankets out on a busy street?” Many people who pass the Festival don’t have a clue as to what the Pageant is. I was “Ambassador of Festival Information.”

In 1980 the concession was threatened again. Someone else wanted to have a summer business in the city parking lot and I was setting a precedent. By this time the Festival of Arts knew that their patrons wanted Binoculars and Blankets available. It was Sally Reeves from the Festival Board that paved our way on to the Festival Grounds. After 17 years the patrons would no longer have to leave the grounds and cross a dangerous street to rent their binoculars and blankets and I would no longer have to breath exhaust from all the cars.

By this time my business had become truly a family affair. My husband Dan and I took turns running the business so that our children could be looked after too. When each of our three girls was old enough to stand still, they became Pageant volunteers in the show.  As well as volunteering they eventually got jobs selling programs, ushering and working at the “Tivoli” restaurant. It felt good to have them gainfully employed and within our site every night. In 1993 I became an artist on the grounds and remained so for 10 years.  They put my booth right next to the Binocular Concession so we could mind both businesses.

That brings me back to my visit to the Binocular Concession this summer. As I walked on the grounds several sympathetic eyes greeted me. We have lots of friends there. They have been like family to us. People are aware of the fact that we’d lost our business. “How are you doing Robin?” “How are the kids?” “What are you doing now Robin?” Their eyes were sympathetic; this was tough. The binocular concession was our main source of income. My heart beat louder the closer I got to where the booth stood. I rounded the corner and there it was. The signs were different, the counters were rebuilt, and the blankets had the Festival of Arts Logo on them. I recognized the woman who was running the booth. She apologized for taking the job of managing our business. She logically explained that if she had refused the job, someone else would have taken it. I told her it wasn’t her fault and I understood her desire to have a job. She was training a young helper and nervously said to the girl, “This is the woman I was telling you about that used to own this business”, the girl looked at me uncomfortably. We exchanged a few more sentences before I said I had to be going. She went back to sorting the binoculars and I turned and walked away, after almost 50 years of serving the festival, that door had closed.

It was hard getting the letter saying they were taking over our business. Harder still that the board would not meet with us to discuss the matter or even return our calls. As a member of the Festival of Arts, I went to the annual meeting hoping to question the board and see if there could be any sort of compromise. I had to at least try to communicate. Alas, there was no allotted time for any questions or complaints from the members during this meeting. I was in awe of the fact that the meeting was about how well the financial situation was for the Festival even though times were hard. When the meeting was adjourned I stood in a daze. Not willing to give up, I stood outside the forum waiting for the board members to come out so I could have a chance to talk to them. I spoke to a few of them as they exited and they seemed quite sympathetic. One of them said the person I actually needed to talk to was the Festival President. He finally came out. He didn’t know who I was so I introduced myself. Recognition finally swept over his face. I asked him personally if we could have the chance to meet with the board to discuss the matter of our Binocular Concession. After all of these years it seemed to me like a fair thing to do. We felt there were things they had to know about the managing of the Binocular Concession. He confirmed that a meeting was not going to happen and then he turned away to join the others for cookies and coffee.

I struggled painfully over the next few days. I worried about my livelihood. Finally I resolved that I had a choice; I could be fearful and resentful, let depression overwhelm me or I could choose to focus on the positive and even find an “open window” somewhere. It wasn’t easy, but I chose the latter path. I made a decision to focus on the fact that we had 45 great years with the Pageant of the Masters that benefited our family and them greatly.  We were a part of a great community of friends and family there as well. I also console myself by knowing that the Pageant of the Masters is continuing to be supported by a great service that my family and I carefully grew and nurtured from a $1000 a summer endeavor to almost a hundred times that. Patrons of the Festival came to know and trust us and in 45 years of Pageants and we never missed one night of service.

••••

Robin Wethe Altman grew up in Laguna Beach from the age of 5 years. Her father Lt. Col Wallace Wethe was an Ace Fighter Pilot in the Marine Corps, her mother an artist, writer and homemaker. Her Grandmother Grace Wethe was one of the DAR members who started the Laguna Beach Patriots Day Parade. Robin is a Laguna Beach Entrepreneur, Festival of Arts Scholarship recipient, and full time local artist at the Art-A-Fair Festival and Watercolor Gallery. Her new series of paintings called her “She” series honors the role of women in society.


Make traffic, not skateboarders, the PTC priority

Sometimes I wonder about the priorities of our city’s government.

Our P.T.C. [Parking, Traffic, Circulation Committee] holds public hearings and debates over what to do about skateboarding on city streets while there seems to be no plan under consideration or being developed to better accommodate our worsening traffic problems. It’s not just in the summer season anymore. Traffic snarls have become a daily nightmare.

Traffic management seems non-existent, excepting when the Police Explorers direct traffic on summer weekends (and they do a commendable job). The summer time trolleys are a great help but the daily passing thru traffic increases year after year. Look at how many cars are passing over our streets in peak traffic hours with only one occupant, the driver. Passing thru traffic is killing our town.

What can the PTC do? For starters, banning or restricting skateboards will never solve our traffic problems. Considering that PCH, Broadway and Laguna Canyon become nearly impassable (or impossible) in rush hours, shouldn’t the PTC be paying more attention to how to move the “passers thru” traffic over our narrow streets and thru town?

There are just three surface streets exiting to the north off of Broadway and three to the south. In each case an already over crowded PCH is one of these, leaving residential streets as alternatives to the north. Narrow Glenneyre and the steep Third Street hill are available to the south. Again, both routes lead into residential neighborhoods. Our residential streets were never designed or intended to accommodate this sort of vehicular traffic volume.

Cal Trans one day will expand the two-lane Laguna Canyon Road into four lanes, but you just can’t fit a size 14 problem into a size 10 shoe. The problem becomes even worse, so we have to plan ahead for the expected.

I’m no traffic expert by a long shot, and I have no idea how to address our terrible traffic problems, and the options are limited because of the city’s layout. It just seems to me that our PTC should be holding public hearings on how to resolve our worsening traffic problems particularly with no improvement on the horizon. The skateboarders are not the problem. Let’s get our priorities straight.

Don Knapp

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Mission Hospital – one year in Laguna Beach

A letter to the community from Michael Beck

It has been one year since Mission Hospital became your new neighbor in Laguna Beach. Time has flown by since we moved in last July, and I wanted to take this opportunity to share our progress and our vision for the future. I also want thank those of you who have shared your experiences with me, introduced yourselves and taken the time to speak with us about your healthcare needs and opinions. Without your open feedback, navigating through this first year successfully would not have been possible.

Following our $3 million commitment in renovations prior to occupying the 50-year-old facility, we tackled an additional $8 million to $10 million for refurbishments. As these improvements help ensure the best and safest environment for our patients, their families and our employees, we also focused our attention beyond the hospital’s walls and into the community.

With the invaluable help of 400 Laguna Beach residents last fall, we identified the health and quality of life needs of the community. This past spring, we shared those results with you through a variety of forums and worked with community members to prioritize and select the highest area of needs. Our primary focus in the community will be on the prevention of alcohol and substance use among youth. Furthermore, we are working with community partners to determine resources in the areas of mental health and depression, as well as job skills for the homeless. Though it isn’t possible to successfully tackle every identified need, we feel we can make the greatest impact by narrowing our efforts where they can be most effectual.

We are now embarking on the second phase of our journey: strategic planning. Over the next several months, we will be working with key stakeholders in the community to form collaboratives and develop strategies that address these issues. As we move forward with purpose, we will continue to seek ways to collectively work with you to ensure our efforts remain focused and effective.

With this, we hope that our long term commitment to the coastal communities is evident. Mission Hospital has spent nearly 40 years caring for south Orange County residents and investing back into the communities we serve. We are dedicated to serving south Orange County’s beach cities with the same passion and attention.

We understand that there is still a lot to learn from our new neighbors, and we will continue to seek opportunities for open dialogue with residents, our affiliated physicians, employees, volunteers and donors. From the polling process for our new name to multiple neighbor forums we have hosted, we hope that you feel welcomed to share your input with us. Already, it has been both humbling and rewarding to hear staff, volunteers and patients share their positive experiences with our hospital. We hope that our culture of providing advanced care and advanced caring will continue to resonate with those whom we’ve had the privilege to serve.

In the years to follow, Mission Hospital is committed to establishing an enduring presence in the beach cities and continuing to provide residents with the compassionate, high-quality care you have come to expect from your local community hospital. We are admirably appreciative for the community’s support in welcoming us to this neighborhood and hope to discover new opportunities to work in partnership to enhance the quality of life in our beautiful beach communities.

•••••

Michael Beck serves as Vice President, Operations at Mission Hospital Laguna Beach. In this role, Beck will oversee all hospital operations, programs and activities of MHLB. He will also be responsible for aligning MHLB with Mission Hospital’s core values and business objectives as part of the St. Joseph Health System (SJHS). As a member of the St. Joseph Health System, Beck is also responsible for implementing health system goals and initiatives within the hospital ministry.

To reach him visit http://www.mission4health.com/online-inquiries.html


Don Williamson: The Master of the Pageant

A Tribute

Contributed by the Pageant of the Masters

Architect and former Pageant of the Master Director Don Williamson passed away on Friday, July 23. He was 96.

Williamson will go down in Festival of Arts history for his many accomplishments and innovations that helped to shape the Festival/Pageant into the success that it is today.  He provided the original architectural designs for the Irvine Bowl stage house, only slightly modified since its construction in 1953. He also designed the Tivoli Terrace restaurant with its futuristic “hyperbolic paraboloid” roof, the permanent Festival grounds exhibition area and the Forum Theater. In his many capacities, including serving as Festival board president and Pageant director, Williamson was an innovator whose involvement with the organization spans more than six decades.

Pageant director Diane Challis Davy is quick to acknowledge her debt to Williamson. “Don was the Renaissance man,” Challis Davy stated. “He was an award-winning architect who did all his own research and came up with great ideas. He knew a lot about theater. He knew how to touch the audience. I really admired his work and the fact that he was also very much an innovator. We still use the same techniques of set building and set design that he established in the ’60s. Don will be missed”

Beginnings…

Don Williamson was born in Mexico City and lived there for the first seventeen years of his life. He came to Southern California to study at USC and pursue a career in architecture. He formally moved to Laguna Beach in 1950 when he received a commission to design a new bank building. Set design for the theater became a logical extension of his architectural skills, and Williamson’s willingness to pitch in, both backstage and onstage, earned him the respect of his peers. Don’s mother, Marjorie, had deep roots in the theater, first at the Pasadena Playhouse, then in Laguna, where she was instrumental in the development of the Community Players. Williamson’s name can be found among the cast lists of some of her early theater productions in Laguna. He met his wife, Jo, in a play at the Community Playhouse, where he later served as a board member and president.

The Pageant souvenir program in 1938 listed Don Williamson as assistant to director Roy Ropp, “the father of the Pageant,” helping to build and paint sets. Nearly three decades later when Williamson became Pageant director, his appointment was the logical culmination of that apprenticeship with Ropp.

In 1951, Williamson was elected to the Festival board. That same year, his mother was appointed as director of one of the three Pageant programs presented in repertory that summer. Marjorie Williamson therefore holds the distinction of being the first woman to direct the Pageant, with the caveat that she was one of three serving under producer Clarence Upson Young.

With the added involvement of Jo and Don’s children, Jenni and Doug, the Williamson family had three generations devoting their efforts to the success of the Pageant. And in 1978, Williamson’s last year as Pageant director, when his grandson Juan came to spend the summer working backstage with his grandfather, a fourth generation briefly joined in.

Don Williamson Time Capsule PhotoDirecting The Pageant

As Pageant director from 1964-1978, Don Williamson was always searching for new ways to enhance the inherent theatricality of the Pageant while remaining faithful to its artistic intentions. He utilized every possible staging area, including the roof of the stage house and created some of the most memorable moments Pageant audiences had ever witnessed. His thematically linked Bicentennial program established the precedent for today’s themed Pageants. And his tribute to the Civil War art of Gettysburg became a moving and oft-repeated Pageant special.

In 1971, in a treatise he prepared for the Festival board, entitled, “Anatomy of a Pageant,” Williamson articulated his vision of the challenges and potentialities of producing tableaux vivants. His “Anatomy” still stands as a kind of “how to” guide and a passionate manifesto about the production he loved. Stressing the importance of original music and narration as key, complementary building blocks in the creation of vivid Pageant moments, Williamson applied his analytical skills to detailing some of the unique technical challenges faced in presenting tableaux on the Pageant stage.

The First Builder

Among his many innovations, perhaps the most enduringly popular one that is still in use today, was the presentation of the first “builder,” in which he opened the curtain and assembled a “living picture” in full view of the audience. Apart from its educational possibilities, a “builder” has the effect and impact of a magician showing how a trick is going to be performed, and then still managing to elicit a gasp when the trick is ultimately completed. As obvious as that may sound, it had never been tried until Don Williamson had the courage to ask his crew to give it a shot with the curtains open and see how it would go. The very first builder was presented by Williamson on July 8, 1966, as the opening tableau of the Pageant’s program. It was “Oarsmen at Chatou” by Auguste Renoir, and the overwhelmingly positive response from audiences that summer assured the reappearance of “builders” in future Pageants.

The Williamson Legacy

Unquestionably, one of Williamson’s greatest sources of pride was the work done by his son Doug, who began backstage as part of the stage crew and eventually took charge of, and dramatically improved, all sculptural construction and design. For a few brief years, father and son enjoyed a backstage collaboration that inspired them both.

When Don Williamson took over as director in 1964, volunteer involvement was languishing. Within a couple of years, he had completely turned this around as well. A true man of the theater who motivated those around him by his example, Williamson, along with the rest of his family, found themselves surrounded with intensely loyal volunteers who were inspired to care as deeply as their director did about the production they were creating together.

Under Don Williamson’s guidance, the Pageant was given the opportunity to grow into a thoroughly unique theatrical presentation. We offer our perpetual gratitude to Don Williamson for everything he has done for Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters.

Williamson is survived by his daughter Jennie Riker, four grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

•••

A memorial service to celebrate Don’s life will be held on Friday, August 6 at 11 a.m. at the Forum Theater on the Festival of Arts grounds with a reception at Tivoli Terrace immediately following. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be sent to the Sawdust Festival Benevolence fund and/or the Festival of Arts Scholarship fund.

 


Laguna Beach Green Chamber of Commerce

Transition Laguna has accomplished a lot in the year or so it has existed, including the remarkable and very well attended ‘Unleashing’ this last spring.

Walk through Laguna Village and you’ll find signs marking Transition ‘pocket gardens’ on nearly every block. Chris Prelitz, author of Green Made Easy (Hay House, 2009) and one of the founders of Transition Laguna, bears much responsibility for that.

Chris has excellent green credentials, and he has opted in with the brand new Laguna Beach Green Chamber of Commerce. This sounds like a good idea to me. I know that the local chamber of commerce maintains a green stance and that’s admirable. There is a green page on their website that looks pretty good. But by definition the first priority of the chamber of commerce is business. For just one example, it will be a cold day in Uganda when the United States Chamber of Commerce adopts any stance in opposition to big oil, no matter what the oil industry may do.

In any conflict between promoting business and upholding green policies and values in such an organization, business will win out every time.

At the same time there is a quickly growing interest in conducting households, families, schools and business with a consistent eye on preserving our environment, and the specialized green chamber will address that. Just as the British-American Chamber of Commerce promotes British commercial interests in the area, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce advances Hispanic interests or the Disabled Chamber advocates businesses run by and for the disabled, you can anticipate that the Laguna Beach Green Chamber of Commerce (LagunaBeachGreenChamberofCommerce.org) will consistently advocate businesses seeking new ways to adopt sustainable business practices and green policies.

There is no conflict between the interests of the chamber and the green chamber. Any notion of competition between the two organizations is based on false assumptions.

Jim Rue

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Police Employee Association Board of Directors voted to oppose Proposition 19 – the legalization of pot initiative

Over the past two years, Laguna Beach Police Employee Association members have been trained in the detection, investigation and arrest of motorists driving under the influence of Cannabis.  As a result a slight increase in arrests for Vehicle Code 23152, specific to Cannabis influence, has been noticed.  As more police officers are training in detecting persons under the influence of Cannabis, the numbers of arrests will increase.  Unlike alcohol related DUI arrests, Cannabis influence DUI arrests are seen during the day and night time.

This will dramatically increase if people are allowed to legally smoke marijuana.  If Cannabis is legalized, as someone who has had a sibling killed by a DUI driver, I can only imagine the devastation this will have to our community.  LBPEA supports Public Safety First, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Senator Feinstein and many other law enforcement organizations and the public in opposing this proposition.

Let’s keep our families and roadways safe!

Larry Bammer
President
Laguna Beach Police Employee Association


Two ministers express their concerns about immigration enforcement in and out of Laguna Beach

We are writing to you today as local ministers and Laguna Beach residents. We are writing to you because we are concerned about the way immigrants are treated and spoken about in America today. Yes, this is an issue of Federal law, which Washington will one day deal with. But it is also an issue on the streets of downtown Laguna Beach. Here in our town, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officers have detained several people suspected of being illegal immigrants.

We are concerned about families and those most vulnerable in our community. When immigrants are detained or deported, they are often separated from family members who depend on them for basic needs. Detention and deportation shatters families who have made America their home.

We are concerned about the safety of our community. In Arizona, and now, much of Orange County, laws are being written that require local police officers to enforce Federal immigration laws. To some that might sound like a move toward more security. However, those laws actually increase crime. Those laws make the entire immigrant community suspicious of the police. Without a relationship with the community they serve, the police find it nearly impossible to collect information necessary to prevent crime. Also, the additional burden of enforcing Federal immigration law distracts from the work of providing for basic public safety. Since the passage of AZ SB 1070, crime has increased significantly, not decreased.

We are concerned about families, we are concerned about the security of our community, and we are concerned about the type of world we build when exclusion is the order of the day. Immigration is not only a political issue, it is a moral issue as well.

Both Hebrew and Christian scriptures admonish us to welcome the stranger. Hebrew scriptures, recalling the oppression the children of Israel suffered as foreigners, teach us to love the stranger, the outsider. The Book of Leviticus instructs, “You shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”

Jesus and his followers went beyond welcoming the foreigner to the more radical practice of welcoming the marginalized: children, women, tax collectors, the poor, lepers, prostitutes, even enemies. In Jesus’ vision of the Kingdom of God, there are no foreigners.

The Buddhist tradition arrives at a similar place by a different road. In some ways the Buddhist perspective is the most radical. Buddhism teaches that the very distinction between one group and another, between insider and outsider, between citizen and alien is an illusion.  We are all deeply related at the very core of our being, and the great end in religious life is to discover and embrace that connection.

Unitarian Universalists talk about the inherent worth and dignity of every person. They believe that every person counts, regardless of race, nationality, sexual orientation, physical ability, or any other contrived barrier. The religious journey is living a life that honors the dignity of the stranger in our midst.

As ministers and residents of Laguna Beach, we are deeply concerned about immigration enforcement. As the topic of immigration comes to the fore of our political consciousness, we simply ask you to keep your eyes and ears open.

Let us form our opinions based not on fear, but on fact. Let us listen not just to voices that echo our own, but learn from a variety of sources. Let us move forward not in fear and assumption, but in discernment and compassion. And together we can bring about a meaningful answer to the challenge of immigration justice.

Rev. Kent Doss

Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Laguna Beach

Rev. B.J. Beu

Neighborhood Congregatioal Church


American Legion, VFW, appreciate Monday’s hospitality

Big thanks go to the Board of the Festival of Arts and June Neptune of Tivoli Terrace restaurant for providing a wonderful evening for a hundred veterans and their support staff on July 12.

This year the Laguna Beach American Legion and VFW Posts invited veterans from Long Beach, Loma Linda and San Diego Veterans’ Hospitals and from the Barstow and Chula Vista Veterans’ Homes to attend the famous Pageant of the Masters and have dinner at Tivoli Terrace.

Our fellow veterans never fail to be amazed and appreciative of this special Laguna Beach hospitality. Thanks so much.

Frank Daniel, Commander American Legion Post 222

Bill Sandlin, Commander VFW Post 5868


Could a new Boom make a lot of $$?

Laguna Beach Mayor Elizabeth Pearson’s statement that we as a town are tolerant is true, but her statements saying every bar and restaurant is a gay and straight bar is questionable. Ms Pearson and Mrs. Egly are slightly out of touch with reality. .

The Boom Boom Room and Coast Inn was a destination bar/cafe and inn. The ‘boom’ did $60,000 plus on big weekends years ago and gays, lesbians and others from around the planet enjoyed gathering in their own establishments and landmarks such as West St. Beach in South Laguna, another international destination which attracts thousands every year and brings millions into our economy.

Yes, whoever you are, you are welcome in Laguna, but with the hotel bed tax down nearly 20% and sales tax revenues down 25%, this is no time to claim we are beyond certain groups gathering in their favorite places. The Laguna Visitor’s Bureau, which takes part of the hotel tax, spends nothing advertising in national gay and lesbian magazines such as Instinct, the Advocate and the Lesbian News, and yet gay travelers are known as good spenders.

Mr. Hazy who bought the Coast Inn - Boom Boom Room said he didn’t close it - yes it was closed by men who had a lease with Hazy, but only after they ran and ruined the cafe and bar business.

The Boom Boom Room was the big, gay bar that could accommodate 200 + people and it was a magnet for visitors and locals. Its closure along with Woody’s (the Little Shrimp) is two major reasons Laguna is in the worst economic slump in history. It’s ironic that Aliso Creek Inn and golf course and the luxury hotel at Treasure Island, both of which are struggling financially, don’t have some $$$$ to spend attracting visitors to West St Beach - within walking distance of both properties. If what the mayor says is true, what are these two hotels afraid of?

“They kicked the gays out of town,” a visitor told me this week. Not quite, but they built Main Beach Park, many believe, to shut down and close two big gay bars - but then there was the Boom and our new, beautiful gay, lesbian and other folks’ own beach - West St., and maybe a smart business person will realize a new Boom could make a lot of $$ - for the owners and the city, if it was managed as Councilperson Kelly Boyd said, by someone like Syd Mead.

Roger Carter

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Prohibit skateboarding on steep and twisting hillside streets

A Parking, Traffic, and Circulation (PTC) committee meeting held on May 27th included a discussion of the skateboarder issue, and a subcommittee was formed to advise the PTC on this matter.  Two members of the subcommittee had already spoken; one regarding his fond memories of skateboarding as a youth, and the other explaining how she avoided skateboarders by “stepping up on the sidewalk”.

One can imagine what the report of the subcommittee will recommend to the PTC (and ultimately to the City Council).  The reality is that many hillside streets in Laguna have no sidewalks.  Children walking to the school bus stop, adults, joggers, and moms with strollers, etc. must share these roads with legitimate vehicles.  Skateboards, speedboards, and waveboards, which have neither brakes nor proper steering means, endanger everyone - not just their operator.  Skateboarders speeding down twisting hillside streets at 30-50 mph, especially around ‘blind’ curves, are in danger of colliding with vehicles backing out of driveways, pedestrian traffic, and even city busses.

Only recently we witnessed an out of control Morningside Drive downhill skateboarder coming within inches of going under the front wheels of an oncoming city bus.

Laguna Beach residents should be aware that a Huntington Beach teen, injured in falling off a waveboard in an alley, received a $30,000 settlement from the city because it was ‘cheaper to settle than litigate’ according to their City Attorney.  Laguna residents and their insurers can look forward to rising insurance rates if the situation is not controlled.

Malibu, with twisting canyon roads similar to ours, voted to prohibit skateboarding on 10 public streets in February 2009.  Laguna Beach needs to follow Malibu’s example by prohibiting skateboarding on steep and twisting hillside streets, and by mandating that they abide by the ‘rules of the road’ on all other streets.

Manfred E. Wolff

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