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Laguna Festival Elects 3 Who Want to Keep Pageant Local

November 14, 2003|Stanley Allison | Times Staff Writer

The membership of the Laguna Beach Festival of Arts has elected a slate of board members who have promised to keep the signature Pageant of the Masters a local affair.

Embattled board President Bruce Rasner, who supported a proposal to license the pageant so it could be replicated in other cities and countries -- and generate revenue for the arts festival -- was soundly defeated in his reelection bid, receiving 293 votes of the 1,377 cast.

Two incumbents and six other candidates competed for three seats. Longtime board member David Young was reelected with 1,115 votes. Anita Mangels and Carolyn Reynolds were each elected with 984 votes. Board member Scott Moore had not sought reelection.

Directors of the nine-member board serve three-year terms.

"This election speaks to the importance of keeping the Laguna Beach Pageant of the Masters" an event exclusive to the arts-driven community, said Mayor Toni Iseman.

"It's part of our history and our future, and it's exclusively ours," she said.

The 70-year-old festival has been caught in several tugs at the reins over the last several years, starting in 1996, when the city, which owns the festival grounds, began negotiating a new lease with the board.

The board balked at the city's rent demands, and the directors threatened to move the festival to San Clemente. The festival membership revolted, however, and recalled those board members in a bitter election in 2000.

The city and the new board agreed to new lease terms in 2002, which reduced the festival's rent to the city from $600,000 a year to $200,000.

The honeymoon was cut short, however, when the board hired Steve Brezzo as executive director at $175,000 a year. He alienated many artists and festival members when he began discussions with an international talent agency interested in marketing the famed tableaux vivant, re-creations of art masterpieces, to other groups that would take the show on the road.

Brezzo insisted he was merely following a mandate to find other sources of revenue for the festival to help pay for improvements to the festival grounds.

After weathering a barrage of criticism from artists and board members, Brezzo resigned in August.

Reynolds said the festival is sound financially but noted that the previous board spent money unnecessarily, including by hiring Brezzo.

Iseman agreed, saying the previous board was responsible for whatever financial difficulties the festival experienced.

After the election tabulations were announced Wednesday night, the board elected Bob Henry president, Mangels vice president, Young treasurer and Reynolds secretary.

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