Monday, December 10, 2007

Holiday Update

well, all is not quiet on the Laguna Beach front this holiday season. There is an excellent story by Richard Andreoli in the current issue of IN Los Angeles Magazine. IN and its sister publication Frontiers have done an incredible job of covering our efforts to SAVE the BOOM!!! over the past 22 months. In fact it was IN columnist Dana Miller who broke the story back in February of 2006. I have attached Richard’s story below as well as the link which is:

There is movement on a buyer for the Coast Inn and the Boom Boom Room and we may have some encouraging news soon. Note the comments in the IN story from Mr. Udvar-Hazy’s real estate agent, Joe Smith.

Our documentarian, John Keitel has almost finished editing an absolutely award winning “mini-doc” of our SAVE the BOOM!!! campaign. John has shot over 30 hours (!) of footage of literally everything that we have done. He is producing the first documentary for Current TV (Al Gore’s television company). This mini-doc will be 10 minutes long in anticipation of a much longer documentary to be out next year. And it looks like the mini-documentary will be shown at Slamdance film festival in conjunction with the Sundance Film Festival in late January!!! Many of you were interviewed for this documentary, and it should be available for viewing soon. I have seen the rough cut and it is so beautifully done. You will very moved when you see it.

And the Men of Laguna Beach Calendar has been a big success. There are still several hundred available for purchase, but they are going fast. Go to our web site to order yours for only $14.95 each. Order plenty as they make a great gift for the holidays.

IN Los Angels is doing a COVER STORY on the Men of Laguna Beach Calendar featuring 3 of our Calendar Models: Caleb King, Ryan Kollock and Russell Mason. They shot the photos for the cover on Tuesday in LA. Caleb, Ryan and Russell should be featured plus interviews with each guy in the December 29th issue. And the ultra exclusive Riviera Magazine is doing a feature on our Cover Model Caleb King for its January 2008 issue, which comes out in a few weeks.

So that is the latest as we are all hard at work to SAVE the BOOM – Forever!!!

Happy Holidays to all.

December 1, 2007

The Boom Boom Room sits dark and empty, and the once thriving gay resort town continues to hemorrhage gay and lesbian residents. Are Laguna Beach’s gay days over?

By Richard Andreoli

Laguna Beach has long been considered a vacation destination for LGBT travelers, but through the years, interest has waned. Even Southern California queers, who live within an hour’s drive, rarely speak of the area’s sexy sunbathers and festive parties, opting instead for more popular haunts across the globe. Then came the recent closure of Laguna’s popular gay nightclub, the Boom Boom Room, and the death of this gay resort town seemed imminent.

“It was a very symbolic closing,” observes Bob Gentry, who served as mayor of Laguna from 1982-1994 and was the first openly gay mayor in the United States . “The Boom’s closing was symbolic of a change in the dynamic of the community.”

To understand that change, one must look at Laguna Beach ’s progressive roots, which began in the early 1900s. Painters from San Francisco journeyed south to form the city’s first artist colony, and their sensibility shaped Laguna’s formation. In the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, Hollywood stars escaped the public’s prying eyes by vacationing here, and while the surrounding cities turned more conservative, Laguna remained socially liberal and a haven for homosexuals.

“It’s always been this great, tolerant, understanding place,” says Fred Karger, founder of the Save the Boom ( campaign. Karger first visited Laguna in 1973 then moved here in 1995, but in the last 10 years he says the demographics have changed. “As property values have gone through the roof, a lot of older gay couples cashed out and moved. The other thing that’s changed is younger men and women don’t have to live in Laguna anymore. If they want to buy a home, they go to Aliso Viejo or Mission Viejo . They come to Laguna to go to parties or bars or restaurants, but that necessity of a gay couple having to live in Laguna is [gone].”

Gentry agrees, adding that the AIDS epidemic also killed many residents and gay leaders who would have generated a strong gay presence in town. Likewise, he says that local governments need to communicate that their community is welcoming of and safe for gay people. This happens through sponsoring events, spending money on advertising and outreach and through pro-gay legislation, such as when Gentry instituted domestic partner registration, an AIDS task force and non-discrimination policies toward people with AIDS during his tenure.

“Those are the kinds of things that have not occurred in Laguna over the last number of years,” he says. “And in the meantime, other destination resorts like Fort Lauderdale and Palm Springs have done a lot of proactive outreach to [LGBT travelers], and it’s worked.”

This isn’t to say that Laguna is devoid of queer life. The gay beach is still located two miles south of downtown near Aliso Beach . Club Bounce has taken over the night scene, though most young denizens prefer driving to Long Beach or West Hollywood during winter months, and various businesses now host gay happy hour, karaoke and drag nights; the website was even launched to provide local news and event information, though as of press time it hadn’t been updated since September. But for long-time residents like Karger, the Boom is still Laguna’s gay focal point.

“The Boom was the epicenter for 60 years and that’s where everybody would go, young or old, to dance or just chat,” he says. “We don’t have a lot of landmarks in our civil rights movement and I think it’s important that we fight for our history, particularly in preserving it for the future.”

The man who purchased the Coast Inn, which houses the Boom Boom Room, as well as the liquor store and Gay Mart locations across the street, is Steven Udvar-Hazy. According to a May 2007 article in the New York Times, Hazy is a billionaire three-times over who owns and leases commercial airplanes to companies like Cathay Pacific, Air France and American. The intensely private businessman originally intended to build a high-end retail space a la Rodeo Drive , but that may be changing.

“He’s developing it, but [the properties are] also for sale,” says Joe Smith, Hazy’s realtor from Monarch Beach Realty. “ Laguna Beach is not like a normal place to build because they have so many restrictions. It’s a very challenging piece of property. I would think the chances of selling it are 90 percent, because we have several interested parties that we’re entertaining offers from right now.”

Due to those restrictions from both city government and the California Coastal Commission, the scenario most locals envision is that new owners will refurbish and reopen the property rather than tearing down the structures and building something new. This doesn’t mean that the space will necessarily become an LGBT establishment—and Karger openly admits he’ll fight any attempts to do otherwise—but it is clear from the support he has gotten that Laguna Beach isn’t ready to forget its gay roots.