The Laguna Playhouse is celebrating its 90th anniversary and outstanding contributors to the theater's financial and artistic stature are being honored at special events throughout the year.
Saturday was Vern Spitaleri's turn.
Patriot, publisher, patron of the arts, parent — Vern Spitaleri has done it all and he's done a lot of it in Laguna Beach.
The former Laguna News Post publisher served as president of some of Laguna's most prestigious organizations, including the Laguna Moulton Playhouse.
"Anyone who has sat in the balcony should say thanks to Vern tonight," said theater General Manager Karen Wood.
However, Spitaleri's service to the Playhouse during the expansion to the Broadway location is but one reason he was honored.
Spitaleri served as president of the Laguna Beach Boys Club, Friends of the Library, the local group that morphed into Opera Pacific, the Afghan Amity Society, the Laguna Beach Historical Society and the Emerald Bay Assn., where he lives with his wife, Cherry, and raised their sons, Marc, Eric and Kris and daughter, Lynn — not to mention a menagerie of animals.
He also served on the boards of the Chamber of Commerce, Main Beach Committee, Main Beach Park Foundation, Citizen Advisory Committee, South Coast Medical Center when it was South Coast Hospital and the Festival of Arts.
Spitaleri was honored as the 1996 Patriot of the Year in recognition of his military service in World War II, in which he received three Purple Hearts and a Presidential Unit Citation.
His family was at the Playhouse to hear the tribute paid to him on Saturday: Cherry, their daughter, their sons, daughter-in-law Michelle and granddaughter Gabrielle.
Saturday was also the opening night for "Daddy Long Legs," a musical based on the novel by Jean Webster, but not the film version starring Leslie Caron and Fred Astaire.
"I loved the book," said Jane Hanauer, owner of Laguna Books in the Old Pottery Place. "I am going to get a new copy."
Also in the audience: former Mayor Cheryl Kinsman and son Nicholas, 90th anniversary honorary chairs Jim and Suzanne Mellor, Leslie and outgoing Laguna College of Art & Design President Dennis Power, Friends of the Laguna Beach Library President and a member of the anniversary committee Martha Lydick and her son Chip, Joe Hanauer, Festival of Arts Event Coordinator Susan Davis, Michael Tauber and Glori Fickling.
Woman's Club Holiday Kickoff
Tarnished Treasures is one of the events that polishes Laguna's image as a caring community.
As always, the business community and the members of the Laguna Beach Woman's Club made generous donations to the club's annual fundraiser.
Whatever doesn't sell is recycled into the club's annual Low Income Family Party, at which less fortunate folks get to choose clothes, housewares, linens, art and toys.
Donations this year to the silent auction included a landscape consultation with former Mayor Ann Christoph, handmade truffles from Sandy Thornton, a painted commode from Beverly Hine, a Dennis Junka bear print, an oil painting from Lizette Chel and her mother Elizabeth, a painting of a stream bought by City Councilwoman Verna Rollinger, 10 tickets to the Pageant of the Masters from Nancy Thompson and tickets to Laguna Beach Live!, "Lagunatics" and "Mame."
Also, gift certificates from Watermarc, Sundried Tomato, Café Zoolu, the Cottage, Gigi's Bistro, Eva's Caribbean Kitchen and the Cliff; a three month membership to the Total Woman Gym, Christmas ornaments and decorations, a set of Williams Sonoma book, jewelry and two computer monitors.
The money raised is used for club programs and upkeep.
Among those enjoying the luncheon catered by the White House restaurant were new club members Elizabeth Tomlin, Margaret Warder, Marian Rice, Joyce Koenig, Rae Bianco, Rose Hancock, Lynn Weiser, Karen Joyce and Jean Law.
Regulars included Planning Commissioner Anne Johnson, Laguna Beach County Water District General Manager Renae Hinchey, club President Gayle Waite, past club Presidents Marcia Bode and Veronica Nice, Louise Buckley, Stefany Skenderian, Penny King, Anita Mangels and Peggie Thomas.
The event was held Saturday, one of several that kicked off the holiday season.
Dine and dish
The Visitor's Bureau's annual dinner was a party — great food, great company, good conversations, only a couple of short speeches, and nothing to buy.
"It's all about being grateful for what we have done and what we will do," said Karyn Philippsen, bureau president.
Tivoli Too was decorated for the dinner in a holiday motif, with a Christmas tree, garlands, twinkling lights and a tall, tiered tree of potted poinsettias, which guest Pat Kollenda coveted until she thought about watering all those pots.
The George Gilliam Trio with singer Elena Gilliam entertained.
[seven degrees] provided the software created by Mark Orgil for folks to see an event on a large screen as it happens or to transmit photos to twitter or Yahoo.
Among the guests were council members Toni Iseman, Kelly Boyd and Rollinger, about-to-be City Manager John Pietig, Planning Commissioner Anne Johnson, Jan and newly elected Festival of Arts President Fred Sattler, Nancy and Gary Beverage, John and Lu Campbell, Laguna Art Museum Director Bolton Colburn, Festival of Arts Marketing and Public Relations Director Sharbie Higuchi and Rebecca Barber.
Party-goers were given tickets to submit in the lottery of items donated by the business community. Donors included Nirvana, Art Hotel, Las Brisas, Aliso Creek Inn, La Sirena, Casa Laguna Inn, Studio Arts Gallery, Sorrento Grille, Dana Wharf Sport Fishing and Whale Watching, Inn at Laguna, Fiori, Capt. Dave's Dolphin Safari, Thalia Street Surf Shop, Mozambique, Gina's Pizza, Pacific Marine Mammal Center, Lumberyard, Laguna Culinary Arts, Universal Studios, House of Big Fish and Ice Cold Beer, Blue Laguna, Medieval Times, Madison Square and Garden Café, Splashes, K'ya and the Rooftop.
The bureau will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year. Philippsen, who has been president of the board for 20 of those years, credited the success of the group to the contributions of the city, partnerships with the arts community and board members Rob Quest, Bobby Fader, Orgil, Blaise Bartell, Bonnie Wolin, Carol Leenerts and David Shepherd.
"Laguna has nurtured us, Ken Frank, in particular," Philippsen said. "He is leaving, but he is leaving us in good hands."
OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot. Contributions are welcomed. Write to Barbara Diamond, P.O. Box 248, Laguna Beach, 92652; call (949) 380-4321 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.