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Our Laguna: Local authors featured at Friends of the Library event

Writers are not always the most articulate speakers, but the two featured authors at the Friends of the Library annual dinner at Aliso Creek Inn on Oct. 27 are graced with both talents.

Ed Kaufman, author of “From Monks to Mountain Gorillas,” and Phil Doran, who wrote “The Reluctant Tuscan,” are local treasures.

Kaufman’s book covers parents’ and kids’ rites of passage, both literally and figuratively, gleaned from almost 10 years of traveling with his wife, Karen, and their son Adam, the youngest of Kaufman’s three sons.

“Adam was 7 when we took him to Africa, so I thought I might write a book to show people they could travel with a child and have a good time,” Kaufman said. “Our second trip was a raft down Grand Canyon.


“The following year we returned to Africa.”

In 2009, the family visited Botswana and the next year Indonesia.

The family has been to Costa Rica and the Himalayas, and has participated in ancient rituals in Ethiopia.

Adam, a Laguna Beach High School student, is writing his essay for college applications on how the trips impacted his life.


Kaufman’s talk was punctuated by photographs taken by his wife on their trips.

Although Kaufman has a master’s degree in creative writing and hosts “Dime Stories,” a series of three-minute readings by local writers, he moved to Laguna to work in the UC Irvine Department of Psychiatry. He eventually became director of the Genesis Program at South Coast Hospital (now Mission Hospital) and served on the board of ACTION, an AIDS support group in town.

Kaufman is on Friendship Shelter’s clinical advisory board.

Other community activities included coaching AYSO and co-chairing the Community Learning Center, an alternative program for children in the first through fourth grades.

Doran and his wife, Nancy, split their time between Laguna Beach and Tuscany, where they renovated a centuries-old home — the inspiration for his book.

“The Reluctant Tuscan” has been published in seven languages, although not in Italian — an attempt to maintain amicable relations with the couple’s volatile Italian neighbors.

“Tuscany is beautiful, heaven on earth — until you have to get something done,” Doran said. “Good morning is a two-hour conversation.”

He was dragged kicking and whimpering to Italy by his wife, a sculptor, who has 12 pieces in UC Irvine’s sculpture garden.


“She discovered she could get more money for (sculpting in) marble, so she got to go to Italy,” Doran said. “She morphed into an Italian and decided we would retire there for our golden years.”

Nancy Doran found a house and called her husband to come immediately to see it.

“When I saw the house, I realized where the gold in golden years would go,” Doran said. “She said the house is over 300 years old — as if that was a good thing.”

In addition to being small and previously occupied by goats, the house had no access road. Getting permits to build the road was a treat. But once the road was installed, troubles really began.

It became apparent that the previous owners, a large family with connections to officials, were on a campaign to wear out the Dorans’ patience and restore the property to themselves.

But the dazzling countryside, the charm of the Italian people and sheer doggedness prevailed.

“Doran’s brutally funny accounts … are enough to keep readers hooked until the last page,” according to a Publishers Weekly review.

The man did not just suddenly develop the ability to write funny when he and his wife bought the house. He worked for many years in Hollywood as a writer-producer on such shows as “Too Close for Comfort” “Who’s the Boss?” and “Sanford and Son”.


He was a writer for “The Wonder Years” and for “The Bob Newhart Show” episodes. He received an Emmy nomination, the Humanitas Prize and a Population Institute award for his work on “All in the Family.”

Doran also wrote for variety show stars such as Tim Conway, the Smothers Brothers and Tony Orlando, and for the Los Angeles Times.

The Friends of the Library’s annual dinner has previously hosted such authors as Elizabeth George, Carol Higgins Clark, weatherman Fritz Coleman, former Lagunan Jeff Parker and the late Ross Thomas and Ted Taylor. All for a good cause.

Laguna’s library would be in sore financial straits and more than a little run-down without the money raised by the dinner, membership dues and, primarily, the bookstore that is run and staffed by the Friends.

The group raises funds for refurbishing the library inside and out, book purchases and other necessities. Currently it needs new furniture.

“Everyone should be a Friend of the Library” is the mantra of perennial President Martha Lydick.

She and her fellow board members were reelected at the dinner.

“The board does a great job, and we work so well together, the nominating committee got up to re-up,” Lydick said.

Elected to serve with her: Sandy Hovanesian, vice president; Angela Irish, secretary; Howard Pink, treasurer; and directors Diane Connell, Dee Koski, bookstore liaison Magda Herlickska, Karyn Philippsen, Nancy Pink and Randy Ray. Terry Smith retired from the board, but he will continue to work in the bookstore on Tuesdays.

The evening also included a video filmed by Children’s Librarian Rebecca Porter.

Among the diners: librarian Jenny Gasset, City Treasurer Laura Parisi, Chamber of Commerce President Michael Kinsman and former mayors Cheryl Kinsman and Wayne Peterson, past Laguna Beach Seniors Inc. President Louise Buckley, arts supporter Bobbi Cox, Nancy Perlman, Ann MacDonald and Glenna Matthew.

For more information about the bookstore or Friends membership or volunteering for the store, call (949) 497-7115.

OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot. Contributions are welcomed. Call (949) 302-1469 or email with Attn. Barbara Diamond in the subject line.