When you’re driving into Laguna Beach on Pacific Coast Highway, you’ll notice a statue of a man where Park Ave. and Forest Ave. intersect Pacific Coast Highway. This is the statue of “The Greeter” as locals call him. Eiler Larsen was born March 27, 1890 in Denmark. His father worked as manager of the city’s poorhouse, which isn’t without irony as you’re about to read. He moved to Laguna Beach in the mid-thirties.
The shaggy-haired and heavily bearded Larsen, usually dressed in a red shirt, slacks and sandals, could be found wasting his day away on Pacific Coast Highway waving to, and loudly greeting everyone who passed in front of him, like the slightly crazy and highly eccentric person he was. He supported himself with the occasional gardening job and sometimes helping at a pottery business. While Laguna Beach tourists found him amusing, some locals viewed him as a penniless crazy person roaming their streets. They wrote letters to the city to have him stopped. Larsen said, “They may think I’m crazy, but when a motorist comes to town, tired and weary of the traffic, and smiles when he leaves, does it matter what they think?” While the complaints were well-publicized, the city said they would not do anything unless he started interfering with traffic.
On February 14, 1964, after more than twenty years of Larsen welcoming visitors, the mayor William D. Martin proclaimed Larsen as Laguna Beach’s Official Greeter in a sidewalk ceremony. Two statues remain in his memory. One is a painted cement casting created by sculptor Charles Beauvais in the 1960s. It stands outside the Pottery Place along Pacific Coast Highway. The other, created in 1986, is a life-sized redwood carving by Guy Angelo Wilson that stands at a downtown corner outside Greeter’s Corner restaurant, named in Larsen’s honor. Maybe he was just a crazy old man, but we love him. When you’re here on your next Laguna Beach Vacation, let me know if you can look at one of these statues without smiling. That was his gift, and that gift lives on.