Retired City Manager Ken Frank thought he and his wife, Nancy, were stopping by the Marine Room Tavern for a quick drink before going out to quiet dinner with Kathleen and Bill Blackburn.
He was wrong. His wife knew it, and so did a couple of hundred movers and shakers in town, as well as artist Scott Moore.
The Marine Room was packed with Frank well-wishers, gathered to surprise him with the gift of a commissioned painting by the internationally recognized Surrealist.
"I was absolutely clueless," Frank said.
Keeping the present a secret was no easy task — with more than a few folks in town including Frank's wife and some of his closest friends aware that Moore had spent the previous three months working solely on "Greetings from Laguna Beach."
"It was really hard," said Nancy Frank.
It was even harder for Moore, who had to forego his normal practice of posting daily reports on a work in progress, while painting "Greetings from Laguna Beach."
"I couldn't show it, so everybody thought I hadn't done any painting in three months," Moore said at the unveiling. "I have never lied to so many people for so long."
Meantime, he had been sneaking into Frank's home to get a feel for the painting's ultimate dwelling place and consulting with former City Councilwoman Kathleen Blackburn, who organized the fund-raising for the commission.
Blackburn knew, as Moore knew, that Frank had over the years expressed a desire to own one of the painter's works.
"I have been running into Ken for 30 years," Moore said at the unveiling. "He would mention that he would like a piece of my work."
The painting expresses Moore appreciation of Frank's service to the community.
"I want to thank him for being the inspiration for the painting and making the town look like this so people come here and support artists like me," Moore said.
Moore's paintings, familiar to anyone who goes to the Festival of Arts, incorporates two scales in the same canvas.
"I like to tell a story," Moore said.
"Greetings from Laguna Beach" depicts Main Beach, but with the grass that used to be in front of the iconic Lifeguard Tower. Behind the tower, a row of colorful beach umbrellas symbolize the folks enjoying a cloudless day at the beach. The sky is dotted with snapshots of well-loved Laguna sites.
"When the painting was hiding in my studio, a couple saw it and asked about the media," Moore said.
He said it was oil. The woman asked if it shouldn't be described as mixed media because the photos were pinned to the canvas.
Those realistic-looking thumbtacks are painted.
Two figures stand on the grass, in scale with the tower. Moore's daughter and her husband were the models.
On the street, a convertible brings tourists to town, with more riding on a trolley — what Moore described as a nod to Mayor Toni Iseman, godmother to the free summer service.
The lower left foreground features an outsized camera, coke bottle and the front pages of two of the city's three weekly newspapers.
Funding for the commissioned painting included members of the arts and business communities, community, environmentalists, Realtors, architects, Frank's bridge and poker playing buddies, City Hall department heads, city managers from other communities, former and sitting council members, friends and admirers, Blackburn said.
"[Planning Commissioner] Linda Dietrich did a tree with leaves on it with the donor names," Blackburn said. "The range of people who contributed are a testament to Ken.
"It was an expression of their affection and appreciation."
For a look at "Greetings from Laguna Beach" and other examples of Moore's paintings, scootmooreart.com