Our Laguna: Who would you invite to Christmas dinner?

The holidays are a time to extend hospitality — to show there is room at the inn. Here is a sampling of with whom Laguna folks would most like to invite share their Christmas or Hanukkah dinner, given the choices of anyone living or dead, fact or fiction, but not a relative.

Laguna Beach Visitors Bureau President Karyn Philippsen chose Walt Disney, but not because he created the "happiest place(s) on earth," pioneering family entertainment.

"He demonstrated entrepreneurial style, protection of branding and hospitality training for staff before it was trendy," Philippsen said. "He was much smarter than any of us realized."

Businessman Mark Christie would share his Christmas dinner with Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain. Ditto insurance broker John Campbell.

Thomas Jefferson was the choice of Mayor Toni Iseman, outgoing Mayor Elizabeth Pearson — those do see eye-to-eye on a lot of things and even when they don't good things happen when they collaborate — and Stephany Skenderian.

Golfer Freddy Couples wouldn't be a bad choice for a dinner companion, according to Councilman Kelly Boyd, but on second thought he would rather double his pleasure by inviting Nancy and Ronald Reagan.

"Now why didn't I think of that," said Martha Lydick, staunch Republican and president of the Laguna Taxpayers' Assn.

However, she had already dumped Sean Connery for Dean Martin. Anyone for castoffs?

The big surprise was that Lydick didn't pick one of those Argentine polo players, whose talents she so admires.

Artist Scott Moore would invite Joaquin Surolla for dinner.

"He is the Spanish John Singer Sargent, who is my favorite American artist," Moore said.

Former Councilwoman Cheryl Kinsman also reconsidered her first choice: race driver A. J. Foyt. Her second choice: Jesus.

"That is so obvious," Kinsman said. "I want to ask him if he really did all those things."

Pacific Symphony Maestro Carl St. Claire would dine with Leonard Bernstein. Anyone who wants to spend an evening with Bernstein should consider buying tickets to Hershey Felder's one-man show coming in January to the Laguna Playhouse.

Felder's has previously appeared at the Playhouse as George Gershwin and Chopin. He has also appeared as Beethoven.

Kris Thalman would share her Christmas repast with Elvis Presley.

Architect Lance Polster would invite the late Chris Abel. He could fill Abel in on all the changes the Design Review Task Force has made in the process that sometime irked the man who designed the Laguna College of Art & Design and the Lumberyard Mall, as well as other notable buildings in town.

The recently deceased Elizabeth Edwards was the choice of Village Laguna founder Arnold Hano. "She touched me," Hano said.

Arts Commission Chair and Pacfic Marine Mammal Center board member Mary Ferguson's favored guest would be John Cunningham. "He is my hero," Ferguson said. "He started the center."

Former Councilman Paul Freeman was torn between Shakespeare and economist John Kenneth Galbraith, to jumpstart his left and right brains.

Arts Commissioner Pat Kollenda chose Mel Brooks.

"I want to be entertained," she said.

Well, turnabout is fair play.

City Cultural Arts Manager Sian Poeschl picked John Lennon.

Michelle Boyd expanded on that to include all four Beatles, but only as they were when they first came to the United States.

Boyd really would have liked to invite Marie Thurston, for whom Thurston Middle School is named. However, the late Mrs. Thurston is a member of the Boyd family, Kelly's grandmother.

Deputy City Clerk Lizette Chel would invite her "uncle," Hal Forrester, not a blood relative.

"He met my late father who arrived in the United States from Holland when he was 17, right after World War II.

Of course, her first choice would be her dad, who died Oct. 5.

Former Councilwoman Kathleen Blackburn chose the late owner of the Washington Post Katherine Graham, although her first thought was of her children, the late David and Camron, for whom a Laguna Beach High School scholarship is named.

Design Review Task Force Chair Matt Lawson would opt for Andy Grove.

Attorney Larry Nokes thinks Roy Orbison would make a noteworthy guest. Sally's Fund Executive Director Sally Rapuano, whose first name is coincidental — the senior's transportation service was named for founder Walt Von Gremp's mother — would like to invite Albert Einstein to dinner.

Gene Gratz, who does not celebrate Christmas, would enjoy a dinner conversation with Friedrich Nietzsche, the 19th century philosopher and philogist, who challenged the foundations of Christianity.

Charlotte Masarik's memories conjured up Edward Abbey.

"He was an environmentalist when I was young," Masarik said. "They say he is buried in the desert, but no one really knows."

Arts Commissioner Lisa Mansour would dine with Vincent Van Gogh.

"I have been fascinated by Van Gogh ever since I wrote a paper on him in school," Mansour said.

Some fascinating women were named as interesting guests by some of Laguna's most active women.

City Clerk Martha Anderson thinks Katherine Hepburn would make an interesting guest.

Laguna Beach County Water District Executive Director Renae Hinchey chose former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Laguna Beach Community Concert Band founder Carol Reynolds would like to spend some time with Cleopatra.

"She wasn't beautiful like a lot of people think, but a brilliant statewoman," said Reynolds, who will be visiting the female Pharoah's homeland next year.

Planning Commission Chair Anne Johnson wavered between philsopher Simone de Beauvoir, who's book "The Second Sex," forever changed Johnson's thinking about equality; and George Sand.

Sand, born Amantine (sometimes Amandine) Aurore Lucille Dupin stomped around Paris in men's clothing, making a statement for women's equality. Unable to legally obtain a divorce in France, she separated from her husband and formed liaisons with some of the glitterati, most notably Polish composer Fredric Chopin.

Coastline Pilot City Editor Cindy Frazier would invite Emily Dickinson to dine with her and spouse Sharon.

City Treasurer Laura Parisi admires Eleanor Roosevelt.

"I would love to get to know her over dinner," Parisi said.

As for me, I am torn between Abraham Lincoln and Mary Magdalene. Lincoln had a talent I have never been able to develop, writing words that will last as long as the United States without being wordy.

As for Magdalene, archeological finds cast doubt on her biblical image. No, I am not referring to "The Da Vinci Code" but to ancient scrolls that indicate her position at the right hand of Jesus and perhaps her rightful place as the first pope. Boy, would I love to explore those possibilities.

Merry Christmas to all and to their guests.

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 coastlinepilot@latimes.com.

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