Alan Carter approached Mag.Pi on Wednesday, August 23 at 3pm in Studio City carrying a bouquet of white hydrangeas wrapped in brown paper and polka dot cellophane. At 62, Carter had never bought flowers for anyone he’d never met, but he was stunned this week to learn that the lifestyle boutique’s owner, Laura Ann Carleton, or known to friends as Lauri, on Friday during an argument with a man was shot dead over a Pride flag in front of their second Mag.Pi location near Lake Arrowhead.
“It shook me, and I heard on the news that Mrs. Carleton also owns a shop in Studio City,” Carter said. “I don’t know anyone in her family and have never been to the store, although I’ve probably driven past it a hundred times. I can’t get to Lake Arrowhead so I came here. I’m on a steady income and I don’t really have money for flowers or an Uber, but I said, ‘Fuck it.’ I’m going to go without Starbucks for a month.’ I wanted to be here to say thank you in a very small way. Thank you for the sacrifice you made for people like me.”
As a gay black man with a disability, Carter knows the importance of having someone by your side, and when one of those champions is suddenly absent, it can be devastating. I see the reports of Carleton – a fierce ally of the LGBTQ community and mother of nine in a blended family with her husband of 30 years of age – and the hateful posts that her killer, 27-year-old Travis Ikeguchi, made in the social media, hit hard and came to a head for Carter on Wednesday. The day would have been the 95th birthday of Carter’s first ally, his mother Cleo, who passed away 19 years ago.
“I cried at home this morning,” he explained. “And I remember watching people laying flowers at Buckingham Palace when Princess Diana died and thinking, ‘What the hell? You don’t even know them. Why should people leave flowers for someone they’ve never met? Then today it clicked. My mother was also a fierce ally and she didn’t care if you were gay, black, Asian or Jewish, it didn’t matter. We grew up loving people and she and my father taught us to love everyone individually. It’s so ingrained in me. I can’t live any other way, so I came here today not knowing if I would see a flower or two, a candle or nothing at all. It does not matter. I had to leave something [for Carleton] for the act of assisting us.”
Mag.Pi remained closed on Wednesday and when Carter arrived the main entrance was blocked by a makeshift memorial with a sea of bouquets, rainbow flags, maps, candles and notes. He placed the hydrangeas behind a freshly painted portrait of Carleton, whose long blond hair was crowned by a brown hat with a rainbow ribbon across the brim. At the front someone had left a whiteboard with neon writing “Stop Hate”. Annette Bening, an ally of the LGBTQ community and mother of a transgender son, left a colorful arrangement and a note signed “Love & Peace.” A woman named Lois explained Merriam-Webster’s definition of the word “magpie” as follows: “A person who babbles loudly for JUSTICE. One who collects indiscriminately.”
The track mirrored a scene outside of the Lake Arrowhead Mag.Pi location as well as online. Following Carleton’s death, friends, buyers, and industry insiders such as Paul Feig, Bridget Everett, and Jamie Lee Curtis expressed their condolences and feelings. “We have shared dinners and many social occasions with Lauri and her husband Bort, they have generously shared their lakeside dock with us during the long months of the pandemic, Lauri’s shop has been a frequent stop, they have been part of the fabric of our lives in Arrowhead ‘ wrote director and producer Jeremy Podeswa (station eleven). “The sudden loss of someone so kind and generous to their friends and their communities is so shocking and inexplicable.”
Carleton also had connections to Hollywood and the fashion community through Mag.Pi, and a resume that includes early stints with Fred Segal Feet and Joseph Magnin, leading to 15 years as an executive with Kenneth Cole. According to her official bio, she helped build the fashion empire by “working with factories and design teams in Italy and Spain, traveling more than 200 days a year.”
She and her husband Bort had made Studio City their home for 30 years and those who knew her said that Mag.Pi was a reflection of the life she had built and her eclectic tastes. Carleton has hand-curated and hand-picked the store’s offerings since its inception more than a decade ago and proudly presents everything from clothes and shoes to books, hats, jewelry and more. A lover of art, design and architecture, Carleton is also said to have been proud of Mag.Pi’s location in a building designed by renowned architect Rudolph Schindler, which houses the Lingenbrink Shops at 12634-12672 Ventura Blvd. condition.
“We are a family,” she posted last year. “We support local artisans, photographers, ceramists, painters, writers, jewelers and all kinds of creatives in the community.” For her, Mag.Pi meant “to face everyday life with grace and ease and to keep dreaming”. The store’s Instagram also reflected Carleton’s activism, with posts about animal welfare, supporting the environment, the Women’s March, Colin Kaepernick and Greta Thunberg peppered in the Mag.Pi feed, alongside shots of cozy sweaters and floral dresses .
Her taste enchanted locals and celebrities alike. “I’ve been shopping at Lauris Studio City Mag.Pi store for years,” says Allison Janney The Hollywood Reporter. “It was my one stop shop for all packaging gifts, Christmas gifts, birthdays and just to treat myself to something special. Her store was beautifully curated. I also like how she has supported local artists.” Janney, like so many others, struggled to process the news. “It’s such a senseless tragedy to take the life of a woman who only cared about strengthening her community and loving her family.”
As Carter placed his bouquet with the others, he encountered a woman named Maddie O’Hara standing near the Mag.Pi entrance. Carter put down the flowers and introduced himself to O’Hara, explaining why he wanted to deliver the arrangement personally. He choked and his eyes filled with tears again.
O’Hara investigated the scene on behalf of Carleton’s family to get some candles from the memorial. She grew up with Carleton’s youngest daughters, twins Arielle and Kelsey, and has known their mother for most of their life. “We went to kindergarten together until senior year and Lauri was our scout leader. She was like a second mother to a lot of us,” she said THR. “She was just always so present, loving and supportive, not just to her own children but to everyone. She was involved in the school, in the community, she just always wanted to be there.”
O’Hara added that Carleton easily balanced the demands of motherhood, even with nine children, and building a business and second home in Lake Arrowhead. She pointed past the Mag.Pi glass and said, “That’s her in a shop. It’s warmth, comfort, a bit of panache, and versatile items. It’s her charisma and that’s what fascinates people so much. Here you could find something for everyone – for yourself, your mother, your grandmother, a man, it didn’t matter.”
However, she had more than just warmth and fluffiness. “She was an absolute powerhouse,” O’Hara said. “She raised powerhouses and she was a powerhouse herself. She exuded a power and presence, as if she were saying, “I won’t let anyone harm me.” But she was also so heartfelt. It was a wonderful combination of power and warmth. You felt safe with her.”
That makes the murder all the more devastating, O’Hara added. “Lauri has always been waving flags here and at the Lake Arrowhead store, as was proper. Flags should be hung everywhere. What is the problem? It’s so sad.” The only comfort is witnessing love online and in person at Mag.Pi locations. “It puts a smile on my face,” O’Hara stated, considering the dozens of arrangements before the Load.
According to a Mag.Pi insider, no decisions have yet been made on what will happen to the Mag.Pi sites without Carleton, who by all appearances is irreplaceable. “She talked and walked the talk,” notes an insider. “There’s going to be so much space to fill because she’s gone.” In the meantime, the family has created the Lauri Carleton Memorial Fund, which benefits inclusive initiatives run in collaboration between the family, Mag.Pi Community, Mountain Provisions Cooperative and Lake Arrowhead LGBTQ.
The launch of the fund was welcome news for those looking to help in any way, while others — particularly those who frequently visit the line of businesses along the stretch of Ventura known as the Coldwater Curve — say they need more time to to process life without Carleton as part of the fabric of the Studio City community. “It’s too early. It’s too early,” said a woman named Grace, who happened to be shopping next door at the upscale lifestyle boutique Calleen Cordero, and happened to be wearing a dress she bought at Mag.Pi. “It really is terrifying because she’s supported so many great and timely causes. She’s been involved in so many issues. I don’t think anyone has been able to address that yet. It’s a shock. It’s an enclave here in Studio City and people all know each other.”
For those who don’t, like Carter, it’s a struggle too. Before he left the store and headed home, his tears turned to anger. “When will it stop? It’s 2023. When the hell will this kind of hate stop? It just doesn’t make sense to me why this woman’s flag would make someone hate her enough to shoot her,” he asked Ikeguchi, who was killed by police after a standoff following Carleton’s assassination. “Enough is enough. That’s why I’m here today. Lots of people silently stand by us. They write a check. They say they’re pro-gay, but they vote for Republicans, who hate us. You can’t love me And vote for people who hate me But [Lauri Carleton] have it. She got it and died for it.”