Sunday, April 26, 2009

"Saving the Boom" -- News Coverage

I wanted to share two incredible stories from Friday’s Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot with you. The first is by Ashley Breeding, who wrote a wonderful piece about the history of Laguna’s landmark Boom Boom Room and the new documentary “Saving the Boom.” “Saving the Boom” will screen this Tuesday, April 28th at 2:00 pm in Newport Beach at the Newport Beach Film Festival. For tickets and information go to:

The second story is by filmmaker extraordinaire, John Keitel. It’s a First Person essay about his coming out, his relationship with his mother and the historical significance of Laguna Beach and the Boom. Both of these are must reads.

The stories are below in their entirety, and I have also included the links. Please forward to your email list for your friends to enjoy
Thank you and we hope to see you at the screening on Tuesday!

Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot
Friday, April 24, 2009

Battle of the Boom Room

Filmmaker John Keitel sits in the Garden of Love and Peace below the Coast Inn and the former Boom Boom Room. Keitel's movie, "Saving the Boom," documents the campaign to save the legendary gay bar as well as the adjacent Coast Inn and garden.
New documentary on campaign to save iconic gay nightclub will be shown at the Newport Beach Film Festival

By Ashley Breeding

For filmmaker John Keitel, the Boom Boom Room was more than a gay hangout: It was a place of community, and the battle to save it is personal.

The second screening of Keitel’s “Saving the Boom,” a 2008 film documentary about efforts to keep the iconic gay bar — and the gay community in Laguna Beach — alive, will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Edwards Island 4 cinema during the 2009 Newport Beach Film Festival.

The film premiered last summer at Outfest, a popular gay and lesbian film festival in Los Angeles. Since that time, Keitel the film’s producer and a former Laguna resident, has updated the film with additional footage, which we will be viewed for the first time next week.

Although the Boom closed on Labor Day of 2007, despite immense efforts to keep it open, Keitel said the film still conveys an important message to this day.

“My objective was not just to save the Boom, but to make a film about a place that played a significant role in people’s lives, including my own, and to touch those people,” he said. “So little is known about gay history, so this gave me an opportunity to talk with people in the gay and lesbian community about their own stories, and to see what history is there and how we should honor it.”

The documentary follows Save the Boom leader Fred Karger and his volunteer group during their year-and-a-half effort to raise awareness and prevent the Boom from closing its doors after 60 years of service.

Interviews include those with former Laguna mayor Bob Gentry — one of the first openly gay elected officials in the U.S. — who’s served as a role model to so many who followed him, and current city council member and Boom supporter, Kelly Boyd, now the city’s mayor.

The establishment, originally named The South Seas, was purchased by business tycoon Steven Udvar-Hazy (ranked by Forbes in 2009 as the world’s 305th richest person), who planned to turn the corner building on South Coast Highway and Mountain Road into a boutique hotel and five-star restaurant.

Keitel and his crew document Save the Boom’s civil rights movement, through their march on Century City and upon Udvar-Hazy, collection of petitions to present to city council, and even to the movie premiere of “Ocean’s Thirteen,” where they protested to Brad Pitt and George Clooney, who had been rumored to be silent partners of Hazy’s and the Boom.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the documentary is the casting of “The Men of Laguna Beach” calendar, which showcased the city’s 20 hottest men and was used to raise funds for the cause. Celebrities and Boom-goers like Nicole and Heather Tom also partook.

Former Coastline Pilot reporter Josh Aden tried out and made the top 10.

Karger said he is thankful to Keitel, a longtime friend, for making his cause the focus of one of his projects.

“It brings attention to the cause, which is still going,” he said. “Through this documentary, you can see [our] passion behind it, as well as the need for a gay and lesbian place to socialize.

“It wasn’t just a bar to us, but a community center, where we could go and be accepted. We’re not giving up until we get it back.

”Keitel said the film was also a way for him to honor what Laguna meant to him, particularly the Garden of Peace and Love, where his own mother’s ashes were scattered, and where those of so many who were struck by the AIDS crisis were laid to rest.

His other documentary, “Prodigal Sons,” which tells the emotional and touching story of a transsexual named Kim, will also premiere at the festival on Monday.


Remembering Mom, honoring the Boom
By John Keitel

The first time I visited Laguna Beach was during spring break freshman year. It was 1983, and I had come west from Chicago for college. I was with my very straight, very “SoCal” roommate and best friend from Pasadena, and we were on our way to visit his high school girlfriend at her parents’ beach house.

The moment we swung off the 405 onto Laguna Canyon Road in his yellow pickup, I knew I was somewhere special. It was still a two-lane road back then that skirted strawberry fields and ponds close enough to touch, and the record winter rains of that January had given way to emerald hills that swayed in the late March breeze. As I looked out at the Pacific from their living room perched on the bluff above West Street beach, I had no idea just how important to me this place would become.

Four-hundred miles away in Palo Alto, the news that year of Robert Gentry’s election in Laguna Beach as one of the country’s first openly gay elected officials seeped into my fraternity boy consciousness and gave me a sense of hope and possibility that I hadn’t realized I lacked.

When I returned to pursue my master’s at USC film school in 1988, Laguna became my weekend destination of choice, and its gay heart — the Boom — the iconic bar of my youth.

Like so many others, I found love, friendship and acceptance among the sandy, tattered pool tables and rambling open-air rooms. I even met one of my first boyfriends there and with him made my first feature film. The name we chose for our production company was Boom Pictures.

My relationship with Laguna took an unexpected turn in 1991 when my mother followed me from Chicago to Leisure World in Laguna Hills. The youngest of seven children, I had come to California to chart my own course, so at first I was reluctant to embrace what I viewed as my mom’s encroachment. But nearing 70, she had been diagnosed with an emphysema-like disease, and she could no longer take the brutal winters or humid summers.

Over the next decade, my reluctance melted, and Laguna came to mean so much more to me than I could have ever imagined on that day I first encountered it.

Surrounded by the familiarity of my youth, it became my refuge from L.A., and a place I could still be my mom’s baby as her breath grew shorter. Heading out for a Saturday night, I can still hear her asking, “Where you going, honey, the Boom?” Even she was in on it.

When she passed six days before my 35th birthday, I took solace in being able to be with her, holding her hand as she took her final breath and we said goodbye. I remember sheepishly setting the pine box containing her ashes on the table next to me at the Zinc Cafe for one last meal together before heading north on PCH. I took the long way home that day.

It would be seven years until I saw Laguna again.

Fred Karger was a guy I’d met during my Laguna years. He had grown up in the suburb just next to mine back in Illinois, and we shared a hometown camaraderie.

So when I received his first e-mail blast about the Boom’s sale and imminent closing in June 2006, I gave it a dutiful read. It was slated for redevelopment as a boutique hotel and restaurant. Just what Laguna needed. It was another sad passing, but it had been so long since I’d been down there. And I was determined to keep the past in the past.

When I bumped into Fred at a party a few days later, I expressed my regrets and wished him luck. But Fred’s not just any guy. In my regrets he heard resignation, and anyone who knows Fred knows that’s not a good answer. Before I knew it, I was heading down the 405 again, camera in tow to document Fred’s efforts to save the Boom. It was Fourth of July weekend, and I was back in Laguna.

The strawberry fields were single-family homes, Laguna Canyon Road a four-lane highway with a towering toll road cutting through the San Joaquin Hills above it.

Quaint oceanfront trailer parks had given way to five-diamond resorts, and the youth-oriented surf culture had become just another set piece for reality TV.

The earthy charms that had made Laguna an oasis of inclusiveness on the Orange County coast had become its main draw, and many people, the gays included, had been priced out of the market.

Armed with an arsenal of strategies honed during a career in politics, Fred succeeded in extending the Boom’s life span by one year. Documentaries have a way of hijacking a filmmaker’s life, and this was no different.

Every time I found myself heading south for another petition drive, protest, or City Council meeting, I secretly cursed Fred and his moxie. His “Men of Laguna Beach Calendar” contest was hatched, I’m convinced, just to keep me hooked.

It worked. Over the weeks that turned into months I found myself rediscovering Laguna. People I had somehow missed my first time around were eager to share their own Boom histories with the audience my camera promised. And places I had been countless times before offered up new surprises.

Nestled on the bluff below the Boom, The Garden of Peace & Love had been there the whole time. I must have passed it a million times on my way to the beach at the foot of Mountain Avenue. But the vagaries of youth blinded me to a lot of things, and the garden was one of them.

Founded by Michele Martinay in the 1980s, it began as an impromptu AIDS memorial. With the ocean surf crashing just beneath it and under the watchful care of Michele, it evolved into a hallowed ground where all Lagunans could memorialize loved ones of any stripe. I realized that my film was no longer just about a bar but about a history and the community that history had launched and nurtured.

It was also inexplicably and inescapably about Mom. The pine box where she resided had become an interesting if macabre conversation piece back home in L.A.

Ironically, her only request had been that she not end up in my closet. For more than eight years, I had been looking for an answer to a question I had been unwilling to ask. In saving the Boom, I found my answer.

With the bar and dance floor already shuttered for months above us, my siblings and I gathered at the foot of Mountain with our mom one last time. We added her name to those that had come before, painted on rocks and etched in wood, and gave her the ocean view she had always wanted.

As the breeze carried her away, I caught a glimpse of the boy that I had been. I wondered if he had become the man she had intended. I wondered if Laguna was still the town it wanted to be.

Friday, April 24, 2009

SAVE the BOOM Documentary to Appear
in 2 Upcoming Film Festivals

LAGUNA BEACH – John Keitel’s well received documentary, “Saving the Boom,” will be shown in 2 premier Southern California Film Festivals.

The prestigious Newport Beach Film Festival is the first to host John’s documentary on Tuesday, April 28th at 2:00 pm at the Edwards Island 2 Theater. For tickets and information go to:
Newport Beach Film Festival The documentary is reviewed and rated 5 stars!

Then on Saturday, night May 8th Saving the Boom" will appear in the Long Beach Q Film Festival. tel. 562-434-4455 or email: for ticket information.

"Saving the Boom" premiered last summer at Outfest in Los Angeles, with special celebrity guests, George Clooney and Brad Pitt on the red carpet to kick off the festivities.

I you missed it last summer, come to either Newport Beach or Long Beach. You will love this movie! It is the full story off all of our efforts and activities over 1 ½ years to save our landmark bar. If you are not in the film, you will know plenty of people who are. It is a beautifully told story about Laguna and its gay and lesbian life and history.

For a sneak preview of Saving the Boom, click on this link:
Current TV

John Keitel’s second film in the Newport Festival has been in several other festivals around the world, and has received much critical acclaim, it’s called
Prodigal Sons. It will appear in Newport Monday, April 27th at 5:30 pm.

We hope that you can join us at for these wonderful films.

There’s a New Gay Restaurant in Laguna Beach --
Marks Reopens!!!

Mark dePalma, a renowned Laguna restaurateur, has just brought back his talent and style to his brand new Mark’s, located in Laguna Canyon. I was just there last night for dinner, and it was incredible and fun, and on a Monday night no less.

Excellent food, a full bar, great looking servers and bartenders, it’s the most upbeat place in town. After loosing Woody’s and the Boom, it’s so nice to see Laguna Beach coming back with such a wonderful new addition.

Thank you Mark for your tireless work and effort to bring your beautiful and exciting Mark’s Restaurant to Laguna!

Mark’s 1st Laguna eatery was a mainstay on PCH for years, and now his new Mark’s will be around for a long time to come.

Check it out: 853 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, CA 92651 (1/2 mile east of Coast Highway) tel: 949-715-4200 Free parking EVERYWHERE!

It’s outstanding!!! Here’s the web site:

The Boom is Still For Sale….

Yes, the 2 For Sale signs are prominently displayed in the windows of the Coast Inn, 1401 S. Coast Highway. Owner, Steven Udvar-Hazy is going on year 2 with his property on the market. The Coast Inn and Boom Boom Room closed their doors on September 4, 2007 after a 61 year run, making it the oldest gay bar in the Western United States. It has been vacant ever since, except for a couple of months last fall when it reopened as the Laguna Beach Democratic Headquarters. Several fund-raising parties were held there, and was it ever packed.

If you are interested in purchasing this landmark, ocean front property, call Mr. Udvar-Hazy’s realtor, Joe Smith at Monarch Beach Realty 949-489-1100. Make him an offer. We have heard that Mr. Udvar-Hazy is a motivated seller.

Thanks to one and all for all of your help and support as we work to SAVE the BOOM – Forever!!!

Best regards,

Fred Karger

Thursday, April 23, 2009


State Could Help SAVE the BOOM!!! And First Anniversary of AIG Demonstration

LAGUNA BEACH, CA – Please read Cindy Frazier’s excellent front page column (below) from this week’s Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot on what’s happening in our efforts to SAVE the BOOM!!! There is a state fund, California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank (I-Bank) whose “mission is to finance public infrastructure and private development that promote economic growth, revitalize communities and enhance quality of life for Californians.” Sounds like bringing back the gay and lesbian community to Laguna Beach might qualify us for some assistance.

We will keep you posted on our efforts.

FROM CANYON TO COVE:Dream of a new ‘Boom’ still alive
By Cindy Frazier
Friday, April 3, 2009

Laguna’s gay activist Fred Karger may be entitled to a little “schadenfreude” — translation, enjoyment of another’s misfortune — in the AIG mess.That’s because Karger’s nemesis, Steven Udvar-Hazy, is a major shareholder at AIG and his airplane leasing division — formerly the proverbial “cash cow” of the company — is now cash poor and may be going begging to stay in business.And Karger has a deal for him: make some quick bucks by selling the Coast Inn and Boom Boom Room.Karger has been fighting to save the iconic — now shuttered — gay bar where Rock Hudson hung out with other celebrities in the closeted ’50s and ’60s. The bar was around since the 1920s and is believed to have been the oldest continuously operating gay bar in the state, if not west of the Mississippi.Udvar-Hazy purchased the site and Coast Liquor, with its Gay Mart nearby, as well as a residential property, a couple of years ago when the real estate market was over-the-top.

The Boom Boom Room — already on its last legs — was closed a year later, and the last major piece of Laguna’s historic gay area went bye-bye. You can find most of it relocated to the desert at Palm Springs — where the famed Dinah Shore lesbian confab swings into high gear this weekend — but it’s just not the same as the ocean-breeze-filled Boom.Apparently, Udvar-Hazy has set his sights on purging Laguna of its gay identity: He closed the Boom, never opened anything else there, announced that his plans for the property will definitely NOT include a bar or restaurant — and to add insult to injury his son donated $1,000 to the campaign for Proposition 8, the same-sex marriage ban.At some point, Udvar-Hazy put the property back on the market after a meeting with city officials didn’t end with support for some ambitious redevelopment plan.

Karger says he brought Udvar-Hazy well-qualified — translation: well-heeled — suitors willing to fork over enough to buy the place outright. But the bazillionaire (or former bazillionaire) hemmed and hawed and eventually declined to sell to these parties — who promised to reopen the Boom as a gay establishment.One thing (fighting to save the Boom) led to another (fighting the same-sex marriage initiative), and Karger, a “retired” Republican political consultant, is now leading the charge against the Mormon Church’s support for Proposition 8. Somehow, Karger got hold of some secret high-level Mormon documents and is in the process of blowing the lid off what he sees as a possible conspiracy by the church to secretly buy the election in violation of Fair Political Practices Commission rules. “Mormongate,” as the affair is being called due to its “deep throat” characters, is a twisted tale of coverups and religious zealotry that will make a good read when it can be reported.

But I digress.Plans for a beautiful restoration of the historic Coast Inn are slowly wending their way through the city bureaucracy. They were sent back for revisions in October and there’s no telling when the plans will be approved.Enter Karger with a new, and improbable, funding source: the State of California.The resourceful Karger has discovered a pot of money dispensed under the jurisdiction of the secretary of Business, Transportation and Housing. The California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank has millions sitting around waiting for worthy projects, including historic restorations, to benefit communities.And why not use some of it to benefit Laguna’s gay community and restore the city’s preeminence as a gay resort?

He’s already made contact with the secretary, who indicated interest, and if he can get city officials on board, the Coast Inn and Boom Boom Room could be restored using the very plans now in the process of revision. Of course, there would be one caveat: a gay bar would be part of the project.The Boom could revitalize a neglected but lucrative segment of the visitor population to Laguna Beach, which was snubbed last summer by our own Conference and Visitors Bureau, which declined to promote the city as a same-sex wedding destination despite the obvious benefits.A gay and lesbian cultural center in Laguna Beach would provide a way station for visitors and keep the historic culture of the city intact, and there’s no better place for it than the Boom Boom Room.“Dinah” west, anyone?

One Year Since AIG Demonstration in Los Angeles

It seems like no one had heard of AIG just a year ago, as several dozen of us made our way up to Los Angeles for our noon-time demonstration to seek AIG’s help to SAVE the BOOM!!! We delivered a letter to then AIG Chairman of the Board, Martin Sullivan asking his help to get Steven Udvar-Hazy to donate or greatly reduce his asking price of the historic Coast Inn and the Boom Boom Room which was closed on September 3, 2007. Mr. Udvar-Hazy purchased the property in 2005 and heads the International Lease Finance division of AIG. We created a lot of excitement in Century City that day and received a lot of news coverage. We even got a nice letter from AIG that you can read below.

Los Angeles Times

Orange County Register

Laguna Beach Independent

KTLA Television

Reuters News Service