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Carmel Magazine Digital Edition SU16

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58 C A R M E L M A G A Z I N E • S U M M E R / F A L L 2 0 1 6 LOCALKNOWLEDGE Gar y Koeppel Galler y Owner, Author, Publisher and More I t's perhaps an accurate measure of the man that Gary Koeppel considers among his finest achievements the founding of the Big Sur Volunteer Fire Brigade, an organization devoted to the safety and well being of his beloved community. "That was perhaps the best thing I've ever done," he says. And he's done a lot. Koeppel has led several careers, any one of which alone would satisfy most men: novelist, impresario, teacher, artist, editor, art gallery owner, activist and publisher—and he has excelled at every one. An early flirtation with dentistry taught him that "I didn't want to spend my life looking into people's mouths." He redirected his energies to writing, penning his first novel, "Harehound, an Existential Fable" in 1962, upon receiving a masters in Creative Writing from Por tland State in his home state of Oregon. In Malibu, he developed a unique method of candle making that became a lucrative business and a successful book. His pur- chase of the Coast Gallery in Big Sur was the beginning of own- ing a string of six galleries in California and Hawaii. As a sideline, he produced Global Ar t Expos in Tokyo, Tel Aviv, Paris and Berlin, among other locations. This gregarious, even-tempered man has always been steeped in civic affairs—especially when it involves the preservation of his cherished Big Sur. In addition to the Fire Brigade, he founded the Big Sur Chamber of Commerce in 1974 and later the Coordinating Committee for Big Sur Area Planning and the Citizens Advisory Committee to the Local Coastal Plan. In the late 1970s, Koeppel began publishing the Big Sur Gazette, a paper that morphed into The Coast Gazette, then Coasting, then Coast Weekly. It's still with us today, as the Monterey County Weekly. And he continues to write. Working from the author's notes, he completed "The Road," the third volume of Big Sur writer Lillian Bos Ross' "Big Sur Trilogy." Koeppel immortalized his good friend, Quail Lodge founder Ed Haber in "The Legend of Quail Lodge," his well-crafted biography of the Carmel Valley businessman—a man who also organized a volunteer fire depar tment, incidentally. By 2012, Koeppel had divested himself of four of his six gal- leries and he recently sold the Coast Gallery. That leaves him with one, the Hana Coast Gallery, in Maui, as he's entered into "sor ta semi-retirement." Q: How did you end up in Big Sur? A: I developed some innovative techniques while teaching writing at Portland State. Gestalt psychiatrist Fritz Perls of the Esalen Institute invited me to teach writing there. I fell in love with Big Sur, but after a short time, I became disillusioned by the drug culture prevalent there in the late 1960s and moved to Malibu. There, I chanced upon a candle made from a sand mold and was inspired to create my own versions. As "K the Kandler," I met with some success, and among the places I sold them was Nepenthe. One day, I learned the Coast Gallery down the road was for sale, and thinking it would be a wonderful place to live, work and sell can- dles, I took the plunge. Less than a year later, a 100-year storm washed the place into the Pacific. My American Dream had become my American Airspace. But I rebuilt, using some redwood water tanks I found in San Leandro. They're still there. Q: What led you to publish a newspaper? A: There was a movement afoot to turn Big Sur into a National Park, and I discovered some rather shady dealings around that and wanted to bring them to light. I published the Big Sur Gazette for four years. After that I founded the Coast Gazette, but some personal issues intervened and I turned it over to two employ- ees, Sioux Scott and Rober ta Little. They kept it alive as Coasting, then sold it to Bradley Zeve, who still publishes it as the Monterey County Weekly. Q: What's next? A: For me, retiring feels like you're racing in a motor boat and you suddenly pull back the throttle…your following wake continues to sweep you forward. Right now, I'm enjoying a nice easy ride. I'm working on a television screenplay, "The Godson." Next up is a book about that epic National Park issue called "The Battle for Big Sur." I don't think I'll ever fully retire. — Michael Chatfield

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