Ralph Palumbo has photographed some of the most interesting people in OC. He searched his archives for some of his favorite shots of creative and eclectic people. We then asked members of this cool clique to let us in on what makes their life so cool. What cool rule do they live by, who do they admire, what are their favorite things about living in Orange County and what's the coolest thing ever in their lives.
Peter Blake The founder and owner of Peter Blake Gallery is an arbiter of not just contemporary art and culture, but all things aesthetic in Orange County. His Laguna Beach gallery is celebrating its 20th anniversary, and the Laguna Beach Art Walk he co-founded is turning 15. Plus, Arts Orange County is giving him a lifetime achievement award this month.
Cool Rule Enjoy life without thinking about how it will look on social media. No selfies.
Cool Club Greg Salmeri (owner of Rolling Greens) is the perfect hybrid of Orange County and LA, embodying everything right about both places. And Ashley Eckenweiler is the queen of indie music. I love everything she gets involved in.
Cool OC The weather in October when the air is cool, the Santa Ana winds are warm, the sunsets are spectacular and the tourists are gone; the Rooftop at La Casa Del Camino; and I love strolling down Avenida Del Mar in San Clemente for the small town beach vibe, and nearby is a liquor store that has Pliny the Elder beer.
Ultimate Cool My favorite place outside of OC is Palm Springs and its great mix of midcentury architecture, places to eat, drink and shop.
Photo Note Peter is laid-back and very easy to work with. The photo was taken at his home in Laguna Beach. The concept was simple – frame Peter in the kind of art that his gallery is known for.
Photo By RALPH PALUMBO
Dee Nguyen Being the chef and owner of Break of Dawn restaurant in Laguna Hills is pretty cool, but what puts Dee Nguyen on our cool list is his devotion as a dad. The restaurant only serves breakfast and lunch so Dee (who left The Ritz-Carlton to open it) can help care for Berlin, his son born with special needs exacerbated during a subsequent surgery.
Cool Rule Do what you love and put your family first. I live by this mantra because, without my family, everything else is just trivial.
Cool Club The coolest of cool is my son, Berlin. He has many disabilities, yet he has shown me no limits. His brain is permanently injured, yet he's smart in ways unquantifiable by conventional means. And Gloria Zigner. She takes the best of herself and uses it for, not personal gains, but for charity. She's heavily involved with CHOC, the hospital where Berlin was born and cared for in his early years of life.
Cool OC As a parent of a child with special needs, I've learned that OC has some of the best programs to cater to those special needs. That aspect alone gives OC the biggest cool factor. But I also like that it's only a six-hour drive to San Francisco.
Ultimate Cool I was reading this book of poems to Berlin. I came across this poem that was so simple but heavy with meaning. It's "Masks" by Shel Silverstein. It was depicted with a cartoon drawing of two kids walking past each other, wearing giant masks. "She had blue skin. And so did he. He kept it hid. And so did she. They searched for blue. Their whole life through. Then passed right by – and never knew."
Photo Note Dee is super cool so I wanted to use strong, dramatic lighting. His kitchen was in full use while shooting and one of his cooks did something that caused a bright flame. I loved it and asked if we could do it again. I think Dee's words were, "You want fire, we can give you fire." We did a number of shots and after we wrapped up Dee and I looked through the images on the back of my camera. There were several usable shots but one stood out with an amazing dragon flame. This photo was recognized with an International Photography Award.
Photo By RALPH PALUMBO
Wing Lam The co-founder of Wahoo’s Fish Taco is an ultimate man about Orange County, moving easily through the worlds of philanthropy, surfing, restaurants and media. Everyone knows Wing, and he seems to know everybody. Up next is an appearance on Secret Millionaire, for which Wing went undercover in Alabama to give money to someone deserving.
Cool Rule Surprise people and do the unexpected; invite people to have fun with you; help people get to where they want to go, don’t drop in on other people’s waves, be a giver and not a taker
Cool Club My partners Ed and Mingo, Augie Nieto, Jeff Immelt (GE CEO), Rudolph Schenker (Scorpions), and Sir Richard Branson
Cool OC A perfect south swell at 36th Street; Montage and Pelican Hill for a weekend getaway; taking the ferry boat and having dinner with my parents at the Pine Garden on Balboa Island; stand-up paddleboarding the harbor with my wife
Ultimate Cool Celebrating Kelly Slater’s 10th world title with Tony Hawk in Abu Dhabi; flying over Lithuania on a hot balloon with my wife and Sir Richard Branson; taking my nieces to meet Bethany Hamilton; getting married to Kelly at Fess Parker Winery; doing charity work; serving on the board of Surfrider Foundation; teaching MBA classes at Concordia, Chapman and Pepperdine Universities
Photo Note This photo was taken for a story about the opening of the new Wahoo's Huntington Beach location. I wanted to capture Wing's success and laid-back personality right in front of the restaurant. I think this one frame accomplished that.
Photo By RALPH PALUMBO
Elizabeth An When the elegant Asian fusion restaurant AnQi opened a few years back at South Coast Plaza, founder Elizabeth An immediately became a force in Orange County society by hosting charitable functions at AnQi, attending galas and donating generously of her time. Now, AnQi is one of the coolest restaurants around, and a shining example of the new OC aesthetic.
Cool Rule In whatever you do, always make a statement!
Cool Club My 96-year-old grandmother Diana An still drives her sports car and can whip up an amazing four-course dinner in 45 minutes that would challenge any Iron Chef. My friend Bill Lyon is philanthropic, has an amazing sense of community, is a great supporter of the arts, dresses impeccably, and is the only man I know who races a Bugatti! My husband, Gordon Clune, loves his shoes, his pocket squares, his vintage cars, and his Brioni, but can also live in the wilderness for six months at a time building a log cabin from scratch.
Cool OC I love the beauty and the community spirit of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts; they have a knack for making art easily accessible to all individuals.
Ultimate Cool The coolest thing I’ve ever done was skydiving with my daughter for her 18th birthday.
Photo Note I had the opportunity to photograph the entire An family a few months before working with Elizabeth solo. This was for a fashion story, so I knew that I wanted to shoot her on AnQi's famous glass runway like she was a supermodel. Elizabeth is very welcoming and likes to collaborate on getting the right shot.
Photo By RALPH PALUMBO
George Esquivel Shoemaker to the stars George Esquivel designs custom shoes that are manufactured in SoCal. Everyone from Taylor Swift to Bruno Mars wears the bespoke footwear, and Esquivel helps NBA stars with bespoke boots to fit their XXL-size feet.
Cool Rule No rubber-sole square-toe shoes for men. That is the biggest killer of cool.
Cool Club The three coolest people I know in Orange County are Tim Cadiente, a partner in Barton Perreira sunglasses, and sisters Dawn Klohs and Denise Schaefer, who own A'marees.
Cool OC Aliso Woods for mountain biking (that's my escape and detox from the daily grind); A'maree's for shopping and spending part of the day. The sisters have managed to turn a retail space into part showcase for beautiful products, part cool hang-out spot while always maintaining a super-luxe and sophisticated atmosphere. (Esquivel's shoes are carried there). Walking around Laguna visiting the galleries and shops and part of the day at Bowers Museum taking in a new exhibit.
Ultimate Cool I have two really cool experiences – the first when I was nominated for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, which has been life-changing both personally and professionally. Having the support of Vogue/Anna Wintour and the CFDA is still a bit hard to grasp for me. The second was when I was part of the Americans in Paris exhibit that was sponsored by CFDA and Tommy Hilfiger. The American ambassador to France hosted a party for the 10 designers that were part of the exhibit at the US embassy.
Photo Note When I arrived at George's studio I noticed two very large suitcases by the door. He mentioned that he travels a lot and has to bring his designs with him. I thought about what it must be like to travel with an army of shoes and how they get a ton of mileage without even being worn. This inspired the photograph – I wanted to do a casual portrait of George while his shoes zoomed by in a blur of movement behind him. We did this by pulling the cart with a rope, finding the right speed and later removing the rope in Photoshop.
Photo By RALPH PALUMBO
Jim Olarte As a designer, artist and stylist, Olarte was one of the founders of a particular SoCal beachcombing and thrift store aesthetic that has influenced fashion, retail, publishing, and art in Orange County. The local icon is currently on loan to downtown LA, where he’s an artist in residence creating large-scale macramé and sculptures from shells, drift wood and other cool beach detritus.
Cool Rule Just do it (like the Nike ad). It’s my favorite saying for every situation.
Cool Club Steve Jones, he’s the "kick-starter" of many careers and trends; artist, designer and book publisher Tom Adler – the man has the eye; Tex Haines, founder of Victoria Skimboards, because he really cares about our beaches; and photographer Bruce Weber, because he's been a pleasure to work with and is extremely gracious.
Cool OC Taking the Balboa Ferry and eating at the Crab Cooker and sending postcards to your friends for free (I’ve been doing that for over 40 years); hiking all five coves at Cameo Shores during low tide; and Thalia Street Surf Shop.
Ultimate Cool The book The Elegance of the Hedgehog; vintage Rayon Hawaiian shirts; Bladerunner; and my Prada watch.
Photo Note Jim and I were able to throw ideas around and come up with something fun. I love the composition and the texture of this photo. Jim was another person who wasn't afraid to be himself, and frame after frame he did something interesting and funny.
Photo By RALPH PALUMBO
Pierre-André Senizergues As the founder and CEO of Sole Technology, a skateboarding shoe and fashion company based in Lake Forest, Pierre is one of OC’s most influential people. His environmentally conscious business philosophy has made the company an early green leader, and with his French accent and sense of style, he’s brought a cosmopolitan sense of cool to the action sports industry.
Cool Rule Be different.
Cool Club Joaquin Phoenix is a true talent, and plus, he can skate; Garth Trinidad always mixes great, inspiring music; Esmail Mawjee, owner of Active Ride Shop, because I like the way he thinks about what is important in business; and Don Brown is truly the coolest person I've ever met. We skated pro together back in the '80s and we are still having a crazy time together.
Cool OC Pascal Epicerie in Newport Beach has authentic and delicious French food; La Cave to go underground for a drink and music; Alta Cafe for a great cup of coffee. I’ve been going there over 20 years. And the etnies Skatepark of Lake Forest, shameless plug, but I love skating there and it's the biggest free skatepark in America.
Ultimate Cool I'll always think that skating at the Trocadero in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris is extraordinaire! The rain forests in Costa Rica are perhaps the coolest thing I've ever experienced. And Shanghai – it's such a great place for fashion.
Photo Note We did this photo on the roof at Sole Technology several years ago. After climbing a 50-foot ladder with equipment, I set up as fast as possible. When Pierre arrived he did a lot of quick posing with his skateboard. At one point he balanced it on his head for a second before he had to catch it from falling. We got the shot.
Photo By RALPH PALUMBO
Evan Weinberg Rancho Santa Margarita might seem an unusual place for a craft beer brewery. But then Cismontane Brewing co-owner Evan Weinberg, a former oceanographer and Napa Valley heirloom tomato farmer, isn’t just another beer-loving hipster. Many things that go with good beer are cool, so it’s no surprise that he is, too.
Cool Rule “Be excellent to each other.” – Abraham Lincoln (via Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure)
Cool Club Dick Dale, because what’s cooler than being the king of surf guitar? And artist Ed Templeton is keeping it real. He was an inspiration to me when I was a kid. The Dalai Lama is the only one on this list I have been in the same room with. It was a really big room.
Cool OC The beer and food scene is exploding right now. I’d list the places to go but there are too many. Cismontane has been involved with the Pageant of the Masters. It is such an incredible experience. The Wedge in Newport is one of the most insane manmade waves on the planet. On a big day, it’s mind bending.
Ultimate Cool I was part of the team that created the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. At 140,000 square miles, it's larger than all the national parks combined. Traveling to Nome, Alaska, was pretty cool. It’s above the Arctic Circle, there is tundra there and polar bears rule the land. It snowed at the brewery last winter. Cool.
Photo Note When I got this assignment I instantly thought of putting Evan in a large brew kettle. I wasn't sure if he would go for it. I wanted to keep a good balance between the room light and the light on Evan in the kettle. I hid a diffused strobe in the kettle to make that happen. After the shoot I got to sample some of his beer, and thought it was outstanding.
Photo By RALPH PALUMBO
Noah Munck As a teen actor who has starred in top TV shows on the Disney networks, Nickelodean and other top spots (including the hit "iCarly"), Noah Munck is one of OC’s most recognizable faces – if you’re of a certain youthful demographic, of course. An Orange County native born in 1996, Munck has been memorable in movies like Bad Teacher and Four Christmases.
Cool Rule If you live in the OC, Uggs and Crocs are not acceptable footwear.
Cool Club Actor Zachary Levi and I are both nerds and we both have similar interests like comic books, video games and zombies. He is a great actor and a stand-up guy. Go Nerd Machine! I got to work with James Galdolfini on my last Nickelodeon movie Nicky Deuce. He was such a humble and talented person, and it was an honor to work with him and definitely one of the high points of my career.
Cool OC My favorites include Irvine Spectrum, Disneyland and California Adventure, Strands Beach, Balboa Island, and Howie’s Game Shack
Ultimate Cool The most amazing and fulfilling thing that I have ever done is visit Haiti. It was a total eye-opener for me, and has changed the way I view the world. I've been three times and I plan on going back. I've been producing my own music for about a year now, and it’s going really well. Hopefully I'll be playing some shows around the OC really soon.
Photo Note Noah is a great guy, an outstanding role model to his fans and has an amazing family. This was a "coming of age" photo. The image was shot at Big Corona in February and the water was 53 degrees! We were all afraid to get in the water – I remember the shoot didn't last long, but while shooting a man who appeared to be in his late 70s stripped down to his bathing suit, dove in a few yards away and swam off like it was nothing.