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.