Michael Minutoli posing with a local landmark, a statue of Eiler Larson
The Turn of a Bad Week
It’s been one of those weeks – you know, one of those crappy weeks, where nothing goes right, where effort and hearts are maligned, and time seems to stand still. Money is short, time is long, and even pizza tastes bad – you know it’s bad when that happens.
And then I saw it, a gloved hand across the floor – a smile, a wave, a handshake, and embrace. Comrades from the same side of the tracks. The Laguna Beach “Greeter” pulled me over, shook my hand, asked me how my week was and smiled his smile, waved his wave. But he had a question… His image and his persona, potentially his livelihood, were being taken advantage of. He is a giver, always waving – always smiling. He is Michael Minutoli and for the last three plus years, he has devoted his life to making smiles happen in Laguna Beach. His bright, outlandish wear draws just the right attention to his antics – his waves and dancing. He is in the business of greeting, of creating smiles and making an impression on those who live here and visit Laguna Beach.
But there is a problem…
Businesses like Hotel.com are taking advantage of his image and his good will and posting pictures of him greeting and waving, in order to draw attention to their Laguna Beach hotel vendors, even Laguna-local businesses have jumped on this. Why? Because he is a phenomenon – he stands out and he makes a difference to those who live here and those who drive through. So, why not? Does it seem right that Michael’s image is used to promote and make money for several businesses when he gets nothing? He isn’t independently wealthy – he doesn’t have a trust fund like so many others in this town. He lives from week to week, month to month – like the others of us, like me. Scraping by and doing what he can. But he brings smiles and he brings joy along the way.
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It is right?
Is it right? That he should live so close to poverty, while others benefit?
Yes, he never went into the “greeter” business to make money…, but he never went into it to make other people money, either. He wanted to make a difference and he wanted to continue the legacy of Eiler Larson, the original Laguna Beach Greeter. He has kept Eiler’s purpose and vision alive. So, I ask again, it is right that a company like Hotels.com benefit from his image, his passion, while Michael doesn’t?
Michael and I just joined KX at One Laguna, our local online radio station – he has a show, as do I and we connected across the room, his red-gloved hand ushering me over for a smile and a hug. Fairness doesn’t seem to be a part of this life. Not so much – but this is a cause I can get behind – because I have been there. I have given everything for joy and received nothing in return — until I fought tooth and nail. I will be teaching Michael the Art of War, as I know it. He will get it and he will triumph.
I wouldn’t have it any other way…
Crowdsource: What do YOU think? Do you think that Michael is being taken advantage of? If a business is benefiting from using his image over and over again, should he benefit, as well?
Michael Minutoli greets with purpose, every single day. I don’t think he deserves a reward, but I do think there should be justice.
by Rayanne Thorn