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Sounding Off: The Boom Boom Room was not only for gay crowd

July 23, 2010|By Lynn Mitchell Haines
  • Ruthe Baker Mitchell, left, and a friend pose on the beach at Mountain Street.
Ruthe Baker Mitchell, left, and a friend pose on the beach… (Coastline Pilot )

Fred Karger makes my blood boil. The Coast Inn is a lot more than just a gay Mecca, and his exaggerations about the history of the place make me crazy.

So, thank you Cindy Frazier for your column about the Coast Inn ("Canyon to Cove: Finding history in a bar," July 9). It was such fun to read the recollections from people other than the gay community.

The Coast Inn and I have quite a history together. I could write reams, but I'll try to be brief and add my family story the history. I'll call it Ode to Ruthe.

In the 1950s, Laguna was the playground of the Marines. El Toro was an active base with a steady flow of soldiers on leave or coming back from Korea. The base did not have enough housing, and many Marines were given a subsidy to help cover rent. Many of them moved to Laguna, and my dad was among them.

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My mom came on the scene in the early 1950s with a carload of girlfriends, all from Kansas and looking for fun. They quickly found an apartment and secretarial jobs. They all hung out at Mountain Road Beach. The Coast Inn and the South Seas was the preferred night spot.

One night my mother did a favor for a friend and took her shift as cocktail waitress at the South Seas. She made so much in tips that she quickly left the office job and became a cocktail waitress. Working nights, days spent at the beach, my mom was officially a beach bum. A tradition that continues to this day with many people in town.

So my mom worked at the South Seas all through the early '50s. It was a popular spot with Marines and the town's young people. I can't be the only one in town who remembers Phil Interlandi's great comics based on Easter Week and the beach/party scene at the time. I have some great glamour girl type photos of my mother and her friends at the beach and draped over the bumpers of their cars parked in front of the Coast Inn. Pictures taken to send to troops who were far away.

And yes, Rock Hudson did go into the South Seas in the '50s. My mother carded him! Her friends said, "Ruthe, don't you know who that is?" My mother replied that she didn't care who he was, that she needed to see some ID! But at the time Hudson was so deep in the closet and it was so dark, I wonder if he even knew where he was.

If a closeted gay man goes into a bar, does that bar now become a gay bar? I think not.

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