The Greeter: 1950s Statue
Laguna Beach, California
Eiler Larsen was a free spirit, born in Denmark, who arrived in Laguna Beach in the 1930s and liked the place so much that he settled down. He had a colorful past, he said, which included stays in New York City and Washington, DC, where he would stand outside and spontaneously wave and greet people. In New York, said Larsen, he had been known as "The Flower of Wall Street." In Washington, President Hoover had once waved back at him from his limousine.
The Greeter, as he came to be known, would stand out by the Coast Highway year-round and greet visitors to Laguna Beach with a booming "Helloo-oo, delighted to see you!"
Some local snobs tried to shut him down in 1959, so the Laguna Beach newspaper took a poll. 88 percent of respondents wanted Larsen to keep greeting, and he did. In 1963 he was granted status as the official greeter of the town.
Larsen supported himself with occasional odd jobs at a business named the Pottery Shack. Its owners built a life-size, full-color Larsen statue in the mid-1950s and set it out by the sidewalk. It still stands, although it was modified slightly in the early 2000s to make Larsen appear less frightening to children.
When visiting, look for the occasional modern greeters carrying on the job!