The Malibu Times 2008 Dolphins celebrated by peers

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By Nora Fleming / Special to The Malibu Times

A gathering of roughly 150 Dolphin honorees past and present, with friends and family, joined together at Malibu West Beach Club on Saturday to honor the newest Dolphins, recognizing their community service within and beyond the City of Malibu.

Hosted by Karen and Arnold York, publishers of The Malibu Times newspaper and Malibu Times Magazine, the annual Dolphin Awards was the brainchild of the Yorks and Harvey Baskin, former owner of Geoffrey’s Restaurant, 19 years ago to recognize Malibu residents and organizations (within and outside Malibu) who contribute to the community, either through service, leadership or civic duty. Local residents nominate their peers each year and, after a review, a small group of winners is selected and honored at the annual event. “Every year we have a really hard time going through nominations,” Karen York said. “The bottom line is that we live in one of the most generous communities on the face of the earth. When people need help, people [in Malibu] reach out.”

This year’s eight awardees-Alexis Deutsch-Adler, Debrah Caraway, Chris Cortazzo, Fran Drescher, Jonathan Friedman, David Kagon, Rebecca Gray, and Maria Newman and Scott Hosfeld -were introduced and applauded for their accomplishments and given the opportunity to speak about their experiences.

Guests included all five members of the Malibu City Council, Planning Commission members, many past Dolphin Award recipients and special guests Susan Nissman of County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky’s office, Jesse Switzer, representing Assemblymember Julia Brownley, and Stephanie Molen, representing Sen. Fran Pavley.

Jane Kagon received her father David Kagon’s award in his honor. The late Kagon was honored with a Dolphin for his tireless community involvement such as his civic participation on the Malibu General Plan Task Force and Civic Center Specific Plan, as well as working to reopen Rambla Pacifico so that residents in that area could have a safe exit during emergencies. Kagon, a lawyer who had also created a mediation group of local attorneys to help residents settle their disputes before they became too costly and/or bitter, had been working on the emergency access road issue up until his death in December.

“There was hardly anything that he wasn’t there to help spirit through,” said Gretchen Hays, who introduced Kagon’s award. “He realized you would have a better outcome if you didn’t have a personal agenda and always set a different tone, one of civility.”

Some of the acceptances were lively, such as Newman’s and Hosfeld’s, who were honored for their free community music concerts and events hosted at their Malibu home through the Malibu Friends of Music. They performed a lively duet of their own composition after receiving their award. Caraway, who has worked in Malibu for 33 years at local grocery stores and was honored for her customer service skills, her always-friendly attitude and her participation in local charities, sang Peggy Lee’s “Fever.” Both performances were met with standing ovations. “The interactions in this community are so generous,” Caraway said. “Thank you for accepting me in all the real ways and giving me just as much joy as I have given you.”

In his acceptance speech regarding his and Newman’s work with Malibu Friends of Music, Hosfeld said, “Maria and I are very humbled and honored to have received this outstanding recognition in the company of such an esteemed group of exceptional Malibu citizens. Maria and I hope that this extraordinary recognition will elevate our visibility here in Malibu, so that more and more of our neighbors and friends will be inspired to join us in our efforts to be a powerful and meaningful institution that meets the artistic needs of everyone in our fine community.”

Actress and honoree Drescher was out of town Saturday, but sent a video acceptance speech, which was shared with the audience. Drescher survived uterine cancer and has gone on to become a voice for early cancer detection for women both domestically and internationally, including on the floor of Congress for various bills to help raise awareness.

“I love being a resident of Malibu and I love all my fellow residents. It’s the most magical place to live and I feel so blessed and privileged to be a part of this community,” Drescher said in the video. “So thank you for recognizing my accomplishments. I want to make the 21st century the century for the woman so somehow we can shift the negative paradigm. As a U.S. diplomat, I hope to unite us all and make for a better tomorrow.”

Cortazzo, a Malibu Realtor and longtime resident, was recognized for his work with many local charities, such as Ride a Wave and at the Boys and Girls Club of Malibu, to help raise awareness and support for a variety of causes. “It’s an honor to receive a Dolphin Award and to be associated with other top people in the community who have given so much,” he said in accepting his Dolphin Award.

Although Dolphin winner Gray, a Malibu High School senior, maintains a high GPA and is involved in many school and extracurricular activities, such as playing the oboe with the school’s orchestra and with the Los Angeles Junior Philharmonic, she still finds time to work with causes such as the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance and with its California Youth Council.

“I am beyond honored to be receiving this award,” Gray said in her acceptance speech. “I mean, for heaven’s sake, look at the other honorees and past honorees and future honorees in this room. It is amazing to be placed among you.”

Alexis Deutsch-Adler was recognized for her work in founding and promoting One Book, One City-Malibu, the month-long community reading program. “Benjamin Franklin, my favorite forefather, created the original loan library, making books available at no cost to everyone. Brilliantly, he understood that when a society reads it will be a society that can think and question,” Deutsch-Adler said.

Former assistant editor at The Malibu Times Jonathan Friedman was honored with a Dolphin for his thorough and balanced stories in this paper, and informing the citizens of Malibu of various important government and community issues. He was also responsible for helping to create the paper’s News Flash service, which gave immediate information to readers about emergencies, such as fires, and other timely and important events.

Talking about his first experiences in covering his first city council meeting in 2002 for The Malibu Times, which was on amending the Malibu Local Coastal Program written by the California Coastal Commission, Friedman said: “I didn’t know until earlier that day that Malibu was a city. And I certainly had no idea what a Local Coastal Program was or what the California Coastal Commission was. So, after the meeting, which might as well have been conducted in Japanese, I went up to then-Mayor Jeff Jennings and asked him to explain a multiyear battle in about five minutes. Needless to say, my article was horrible. But a couple weeks later, editor Laura Tate called me about covering another meeting, probably because she couldn’t find anybody else to do it.”

Friedman added, “I might be gone, but I have many memories that I will cherish forever.”