Barbara’s Column

It’s music to my ears 


Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Arts Commissioner Pat Kollenda and Festival of Arts Special Events Coordinator Susan Davis had the best seats in town for the 2019 Fete de Musique on Saturday. 

They are the Decibel Divas – riding around downtown on a golf cart, checking out every musical group to make sure none are drowning out others and that none are violating the city’s noise ordinance. Davis drives. Kollenda hops in and out of the cart, brandishing her noise meter, keeping tabs on the entertainers and occasionally joining them – as she did with the Montones, harmonizing with Pat Quilter

The Fete is hosted and organized by the Laguna Beach Sister Cities Association. The group borrowed the idea 12 year ago from is its first sister city, Menton, France. 

It just gets better every year, with thanks to Entertainment Scout Ken Aubuchon.

“This same event is going on all over the world today, celebrating the beginning of summer,” said Karyn Philippsen, founding president of the association. 

It's music group

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Bill, Karyn, Maggie, Betsy, Sergio and Bob

The Fete began at 11:30 a.m. on the Cobblestones at Main Beach. The Swing Set of the Community Concert Band warmed up the crowd that gathered for the opening ceremonies. French mime Stacy Dumas, Elvis impersonator David Gorgie and Laguna Greeter Michael Minutoli entertained. 

Painted and costumed youngsters paraded up and down the Main Beach Boardwalk to announce the official start of the event. Phillippsen welcomed the crowd and dignitaries, including Supervisor Lisa Bartlett’s Community Relation’s Advisor Sergio Prince. Bartlett’s staff aide, Rosemary Contreras, and a representative from the local office of Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris also attended.    

 In honor of the alliance between Menton and Laguna, the national anthems of America and France were sung – Malin Glade sang the “Star Spangled Banner,” followed by Lisa Maurice singing “La Marseillaises.” 

“Thanks for two rousing renditions,” said Mayor Bob Whalen

Whalen was among those who said the 2019 event was the best ever Fete.

The Cobblestone area served as a stage all afternoon, with performances by the opening band, Corazones Alegres, folkloric dancers and JJ and the Habibis –Laguna Beach belly dancers, led by Jheri James.

It's music anthem

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Malin Glade sang the “Star Spangled Banner”

By 1 p.m., musicians were are tucked into doorways, storefronts, malls, the Presbyterian Church, the Laguna Beach County Water District garden, and Wells Fargo Bank.

Groups that have participated before in the Fete and have acquired a local following included the Budrows, playing their unique cigar-box guitar music in the Kush Gallery alcove; Laguna’s own April Walsh, singing on the steps of 2bella Boutique; the Agave Brothers at Skyloft; student performances in the church garden; and the always popular bluegrass country band that has made the Tuvulu corner their own. 

Among newcomers this year, the Black Tongued Bells drew a large crowd to the Water District garden, applauding their “Swamp Music.” Sugar Sugar, around the corner from the church, also was well received. Sir Henry on sax with the six-piece Winelight lit up the crowd at the Forest and Ocean Gallery. 

Entertainers were also located in the HIP District and at the Hive in Laguna Canyon.

It's music bluegrass

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Bluegrass unplugged 

Closing ceremonies included the newcomer Cover-Ups.

Sponsors of the event included Supervisor Bartlett, the City of Laguna Beach, Visit Laguna Beach, Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce, Orange County Visitors Association (OCVA), Cox Communications, Mozambique, Skyloft, Sparkle Films, Bill Atkins Design & Illustration, Surf & Sand Resort, OC Register, the Ranch at Laguna Beach, C’est La Vie, The Hive, KX 93.5 FM, The UPS Store, Shot Hunters and Saddleback Golf Cars.

Laguna Beach Sister Cities, established in 2008, has been focused on cultural, educational and social exchanges. It is a broad-based, Laguna Beach City Council approved, all-volunteer nonprofit organization. (Federal Tax ID # 80-0188779)

New members are welcomed. For more information, call (949) 492-0883 or visit

Woman of the Year

Councilwoman Toni Iseman joined an elite group on Friday when she was honored at the Woman’s Club of Laguna Beach as the 2019 Woman of the Year. 

Friends and associates took advantage of the occasion to roast and toast Iseman. Arnold Hano, who was seated at the head table, with Iseman, was the first speaker called to the microphone.

“They told me I have three minutes,” he said. “It will take me three minutes to walk to the rostrum. I go so far back,” the nonagenarian said, “there were people in town who liked Village Laguna.” 

Jokes aside, Hano said the City is lucky to have Iseman.

The Mayor was next and unprepared to speak. 

“I called Toni and said I’d love to come to the luncheon,” Whalen confided. 

“She said you can sit at my table. She didn’t say I’d have to speak.” 

 But he did – in glowing terms. 

“We all know what is important about Toni: her integrity and passion,” said Whalen. “She knows what she believes in and lives by it.” 

It's music Hano and Whalen

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Arnold Hano (on left) and Mayor Bob Whalen

Planning Commissioner Anne Johnson first became acquainted with Iseman as a member of Laguna Greenbelt Inc board. 

“We think of Toni as a hardworking councilmember and a good friend – the one [making] a thoughtful visit or phone call or the soup when we are ill,” said Johnson. 

But over the years, Johnson continued, tongue-in-cheek, she discovered that Iseman has a truly dark side and a troubling past.

Iseman was the infamous Phantom, the perpetrator of equally infamous Burma-Shave-type ads posted in Laguna Canyon, without permits! Furthermore, Johnson discovered that Iseman is a jailbird – arrested for chaining herself to a bulldozer poised to take out a giant sycamore, charged with trespassing and resisting arrest. Steve Miller bailed her out.

Susan Velasquez compared Iseman to the keeper of a lighthouse.

“You are always vigilant and alert under dire conditions,” Velasquez said. 

Audrey Prosser described Iseman as a strong leader, one who stands by her convictions, even on the short end of a 4-1 vote. 

Prosser credited Iseman for promoting city trolleys and naming June as Gay Pride Month.

It's music Bree

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Bree Burgess Rosen

Bree Burgess Rosen used her formidable talents to write lyrics set to Nat King Cole’s syncopated “L-O-V-E” and sing it – despite a glitch in the electronic accompaniment. 

But the audience picked up the beat, clapping, and she just kept on singing. What a treat. 

“T – is for the Trolleys here for us

O – the Only way we’d take a bus

N – cuz Nothing throws her even riding a bulldozer

I – for Instigating both blue and greenbelt creating”

But the lines that got the most laughs:

“Toni – we all know the job’s bitch”

Tho it’s what you make it. 

Peter Blake? Girl you can take it!

Pull it off without a hitch.”

Luncheon Chair Gayle Waite presented Iseman with the Club’s crystal Woman of the Year plaque. 

Iseman spoke emotionally about her involvement with the City, concerns for its future and ways to improve it. 

“Everyone in this room” – and it was packed – “can be part of putting the town back together again,” said Iseman.

“I have been on the council for 21 years. I get asked if it is worth it. Oh, yes.

“There is no more beautiful town, priceless coastline, rich history, open space, historic homes and the most interesting, gifted population,” said Iseman, holding back tears.

It's music Toni award

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Toni Iseman accepts her award as Woman of the Year

She was given a standing ovation.

Club President Kitty Malcolm served as mistress of ceremonies for the luncheon. She introduced Waite, event Co-chairs Anne McGraw and Velaquez and former recipients of the Woman of the Year Award at the luncheon: Ann Christoph, Rosen, Carol Reynolds, Johnson and Betsy Jenkins. Malcolm also introduced the representative from the office Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris. 

In conclusion, Malcolm thanked all the volunteers and table sponsors, including the Laguna Playhouse, Sister Cities, LGBTTQ Alliance, the Water District, Laguna Beach Seniors, former city clerk and council member Verna Rollinger, Meredith Dowling and Women for American Values and Ethics (WAVE). 

But wait – there’s more. You will find advance notice of all the fun and interesting stuff for visitors or residents to do in Laguna by reading Contributions are welcomed.