The public is invited to turn the tables and greet Laguna Beach greeter Michael Minutoli at the second annual International Greeter’s Day at 10 a.m. Sunday, June 25, on Main Beach.
Minutoli continues a 127-year tradition of greeting in Laguna Beach and plays a central role in a 2015 documentary film about Laguna’s greeters. The film’s producers, Martin and Tabitha Yewchuk, moved here from Alberta, Canada in 2013, and planned the event.
For Minutoli, the greeter’s day event comes six days short of his sixth anniversary as the town’s self-appointed welcoming committee.
With sartorial flare, Minutoli doffs a white military style cap and white gloves to wave, spin and dance at the corner of Brooks Street and Coast Highway beneath a sculpture of an earlier greeter, Eiler Larsen.
While some longtime residents still fondly remember Larsen, who died in 1975, Minutoli has established a persona distinctly his own. “I’ve seen a lot of wannabes, and that guy was grumpy,” former police chief Neil Purcell told Minutoli last month during a chance encounter, a conversation confirmed by his daughter, Danielle Purcell. By contrast, the elder Purcell said, “you’re full of happiness.”
“That’s the best comment I’ve had in six years,” said Minutoli, who sleeps on the beach or at his son’s home in Corona and regularly endures passersby offering unsolicited, judgmental advice, such as “get a life.” He’s also proved wrong skeptics, such as a mailman who predicted he wouldn’t last beyond lunchtime when he started greeting downtown on July 1, 2011.
Greeting has cut into Minutoli’s secondary passion, crashing red-carpet awards ceremonies and getting his photo taken with celebrities like Lady Gaga. At a Billy Joel concert in May at Dodger Stadium, though, it was Minutoli who caught the paparazzis attention. His image was captured by an Orange County Register news photographer.
Minutoli says he gave up party crashing three years ago and now feels the weight of responsibility to carry on a community tradition. “The more I look at it, this is what I was meant to do,” he said. “I’m a big celebrity in a two-mile radius with no money.”