By Rachael Rifkin
The zingers were flying on Thursday, Sept. 30 at the Rae-Ray Roast at the Law Offices of Keesal, Young and Logan in downtown Long Beach, as community leaders paid homage to special guests of honor: former 7th District Councilmember Ray Grabinski and current 8th District Councilmember Rae Gabelich. Proceeds from the fundraising event benefited the Pythian Youth Foundation of California, a nonprofit organization established in 1946 to develop and operate a camp for underprivileged boys and girls. Every summer the foundation sends 300 local at-risk youth between the ages of 9 and 11 to the 19-acre Pythian Youth Camp in the Sequoia National Forest.
Before the dinner-roast began, Mel Pinkham, chancellor of the Lakewood/Long Beach chapter of Knights of Pythias, spoke about the camp.
“These children who have never been to the corner of the block get to see the opportunities out there,” Pinkham said. “It’s a beautiful camp. They learn how to share, fish, swim, dance, and look at stars. A scholarship of $400 sends one child to camp. Our honorees Rae and Ray are longtime supporters. They have been big allies for us.”
The roast began after dinner. Roasters included Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, County of Los Angeles Supervisor Don Knabe, Signal Tribune Publisher Neena Strichart, George Rendell and Dr. Rachel Surls from the UC Coop Extension, businessman John Morris, and former 7th District Councilmember Tonia Reyes-Uranga. Gloria Cordero of the ABC Advocacy Group was the roastmaster. Also in attendance were State Senator Alan Lowenthal and his wife Debbie, former Long Beach Mayor Beverly O’Neill, former Long Beach Vice Mayor Val Lerch, Lillian Kawasaki from the Water Replenishment District, Roberto Uranga from the college board, and former Long Beach Councilmembers Evan Braude, Doug Drummond and Jeff Kellogg.
Back in the 1970s, Gabelich, who would be elected to the Long Beach City Council in 2004 and re-elected without opposition in 2008, was a flight attendant. This became the fodder for many a joke. Assemblywoman Lowenthal remarked, “Rae was a flight attendant but never made a fed-up announcement. She never would have been able to make it through the last six years with that attitude.” Whereas former Councilmember Reyes-Uranga informed Gabelich that, “United called. They want their uniform back.” The other Ray, who served as 7th District Councilman from 1986 to 1994, was described by several roasters as an enthusiastic talker who “liked to hear the sound of his own voice” and went by the nickname “Gab”inski.
Then it was the roastees’ turn to speak. After some brief comments on their roasts, they turned the attention back to the Pythian Youth Foundation. “My goal is to provide these kind of opportunities to those who often don’t have them,” said Gabelich. Grabinski closed his speech by saying, “I want to remind people that the really important gifts are the gifts we give kids.”