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Commentary: Community lost a gem

January 10, 2013|By Billy Fried
  • Dennis Morin died Dec. 31. He was 66.
Dennis Morin died Dec. 31. He was 66. (Coastline Pilot )

Laguna has lost a treasure. After a vigorous battle with cancer, Dennis Morin passed on Dec. 31. He was only 66, way too young for a man with such an appetite and energy for life.

Dennis was a bon vivant, a raconteur, a connoisseur and other French words. He founded and took public one of Orange County's largest software companies, Wonderware, helping many achieve financial and career success. He was famous for throwing lavish company parties, like renting the New Orleans Superdome for 80,000 customers, and booking groups like The Pointers Sisters and Neville Brothers.

He went on to build Laguna's famous Rock House, the partially submerged home near Aliso Beach that is one part eco-friendly, one part Catalan and all parts pleasure. This is the ultimate bachelor pad with sexy curves, sunken living room, home theater and hot tub that would make Hugh Hefner blush. Dennis spent four years designing and engineering every detail of the house, and it shows. It is a masterpiece.

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Dennis spent most of his time on the Rock in his immensely dense kitchen, not in size, but in the accouterments of a working chef: books, cutlery and the latest in technology, like a sous-vide slow cooker. I am a somewhat obsessed foodie who has lived in Italy, and I have never known a cook with as vast a repertoire as Dennis. From the finest French to every continent in Asia, to down home barbecue, clam bakes and pizza, Dennis always raised the bar on panache, presentation and pairings (he was an inspired mixologist as well). And he lavished all of this on his friends in the most delicious settings, eschewing the dining room for the coziness of the floor in front of the fire.

But it wasn't his entertaining that drew innumerable women — and men — to Dennis. Nor was it the seductive Rock House. What always won the day was Dennis' searing intellect, charm and humor. He was, quite simply, always the smartest guy in the room. His B.S. meter was somewhere on a par with Bill Maher and Jon Stewart, and he spent the better part of his battle with cancer equally battling with his Republican friends on Facebook. With logic, not name calling.

He worked tirelessly (and hilariously) to point out hypocrisy within the party, and equally hard to support Barack Obama. He believed if he changed one mind, it was worth it. I believe he left us feeling the world was in a better place with Obama.

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