Does the Wet Suit You

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The Dirty Bird’s Golden Egg

By J.J. Gasparotti

Early one morning, a couple of tourists were walking along South Coast Highway. As they passed by the open door of the Sandpiper Lounge, a distinct odor wafted out to greet them. “What is that smell?” one asked. “Dive bar,” replied the other.

The Sandpiper, long known and loved by locals as the Dirty Bird, is more than a dive bar. It is a cultural icon that has served Laguna’s recreational needs for generations. It has also provided a living for lots of families of barkeeps and musicians, and there’s the handful of low-cost apartments that some fortunate locals live in.

Chip and Chuck Harrell have managed this family business for the past few decades. Chip died recently, leaving Chuck the scion of the family. You couldn’t meet a nicer person than Chuck. He’s the kind of person who never has something bad to say about anybody. When others are discussing the worst miscreant in town, Chuck might offer, “Well, they are working on cleaning up their act.”

After Chip passed away, the family donated $10,000 to the Boys and Girls Club of Laguna Beach. This is the very best type of donation the club can get. There are no expenses for a grand gala or other type of fundraiser. Some would say it is fitting for the club to receive this donation. After all, many of the past and present members of the club might be the result of a night frolicking at the Dirty Bird.

This isn’t a wealthy family. The brothers lost their father at an early age. Chuck once commented that being a bar owner wouldn’t make him rich, but he’d always have some cash in his pocket.

The Boys and Girls Club’s programs and activities made a big difference in the quality the brother’s lives growing up. They helped with the challenges of being raised on the earnings of a widowed mother. The club has built the characters of lots of fine people like Chip and Chuck.

The Harrell family’s generous gift to the Boys and Girls Club is a good example for us all. The club does a world of good for the children of Laguna Beach. Every time a boy or girl passes through its doors costs about $35. Your check for $105 would pay for three visits. $10,000 will fund a whole lot more.

Just a reminder, next Saturday, May 4, is the all class reunion at Myrtle Street in Heisler Park. All Laguna Beach High School alumni, both Artists and Breakers, are encouraged to attend.


J.J. Gasparotti moved to Laguna Beach with his family when he was 11 years old. He has loved it ever since.

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