Alan Carter approached Mag.Pi in Studio City at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, August 23, carrying a bouquet of white hydrangeas wrapped in brown paper and polka-dotted cellophane. At 62 years old, Carter had never purchased flowers for someone he’s never met but he was stunned this week to learn that the owner of the lifestyle boutique, Laura Ann Carleton, or Lauri to friends, was shot to death on Friday during a dispute with a man over a Pride flag outside her second Mag.Pi location near Lake Arrowhead.
“It gutted me, and I heard on the news that Mrs. Carleton also owned a store in Studio City,” said Carter. “I don’t know anyone in her family and I’ve never been in the store though I’ve driven past it probably a hundred times. I can’t get to Lake Arrowhead so I came here. I’m on a fixed income and really, I have no money for flowers or an Uber but I said, ‘Fuck it. I’ll go without Starbucks for a month.’ I wanted to be here to say, in a very small way, thank you. Thank you for the sacrifice you made for people like me.”
As a gay Black man who is disabled, Carter said he knows the value of having someone in your corner, and when one of those champions is suddenly absent, it can be devastating. Seeing the reports about Carleton — a fierce ally to the LGBTQ community and a mother of nine children in a blended family with her husband of 30-plus years — and the hateful posts her killer, 27-year-old Travis Ikeguchi, shared on social media, hit hard and came to a head Wednesday for Carter. The day would have been the 95th birthday of Carter’s first ally, his mother Cleo, who passed away 19 years ago.
“I cried this morning sitting at home,” he explained. “And I remembered watching people put flowers at Buckingham Palace when Princess Diana died, thinking what the hell? They don’t even know her. Why would people leave flowers for someone they’ve never met? Then something clicked today. My mother was a fierce ally, too, and she didn’t care if you were gay, Black, Asian, Jewish, it didn’t matter. We grew up loving people and she and my father taught us to love everyone on an individual basis. It’s so ingrained in me. I can’t live any other way so I came here today not knowing if I’d see a flower or two, a candle, nothing. It didn’t matter. I needed to leave something [for Carleton] for the act of standing by us.”
Mag.Pi remained closed on Wednesday and when Carter arrived, the front entrance was blocked by a makeshift memorial featuring a sea of bouquets, rainbow flags, cards, candles and notes. He placed the hydrangeas behind a freshly painted portrait of Carleton, her long blond hair topped by a tan hat with a rainbow swath above the brim. Near the front, someone left a whiteboard that read “Stop the Hate” in neon lettering. 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 detailed Merriam-Webster’s definition of the word magpie: “A person who chatters noisily for JUSTICE. One who collects INDISCRIMINATELY.”
The spread mirrored a scene outside the Lake Arrowhead Mag.Pi location as well as online. In wake of Carleton’s death, friends, shoppers and industry insiders like Paul Feig, Bridget Everett and Jamie Lee Curtis shared their condolences and sentiments. “We have shared dinners and many social occasions with Lauri and her husband Bort, they generously shared with us their dock at the lake through the long months of the pandemic, Lauri’s store was a frequent drop in place, they were part of the fabric of our life in Arrowhead,” posted director and producer Jeremy Podeswa (Station Eleven). “The sudden loss of someone so kind and generous to her friends and to her communities is so shocking and inexplicable.”
Carleton also had ties to Hollywood and the fashion community through Mag.Pi as well as a resume that includes stints at Fred Segal Feet and Joseph Magnin in her youth leading to a 15-year run at Kenneth Cole as an executive. According to her official bio, she helped build the fashion empire, “working with factories and design teams in Italy and Spain, and traveling 200 plus days a year.”
She and her husband, Bort, had made Studio City their home base for 30 years and those who knew her said that Mag.Pi was a reflection of the life she built and her eclectic tastes. Carleton curated and hand selected the store’s offerings since its inception more than a decade ago, proudly displaying everything from dresses and footwear to books, hats, jewelry and beyond. As a lover of art, design and architecture, Carleton is also said to have taken pride in Mag.Pi’s setting inside a building constructed by revered architect Rudolph Schindler, home to the Lingenbrink Shops from 12634 to 12672 Ventura Blvd.
“We are a family,” she posted last year. “We support local artisans, photographers, ceramists, painters, writers, jewelers and all sorts of creatives within the community.” For her, Mag.Pi represented “tackling everyday life with grace and ease and continuing to dream.” The store’s Instagram also reflected Carleton’s activism with posts about protecting animals, supporting the environment, the Women’s March, Colin Kaepernick and Greta Thunberg peppered throughout the Mag.Pi feed alongside shots of cozy sweaters and floral dresses.
Her tastes charmed locals and celebrities alike. “I have shopped in Lauri’s Studio City Mag.Pi shop for years now,” Allison Janney tells The Hollywood Reporter. “It was my one-stop shop for all wrap gifts, holiday gifts, birthdays and just to treat myself to something special. Her store was beautifully curated. I love how she supported local artists too.” Janney, like so many, was also struggling to process the news. “It’s such a senseless tragedy to take the life of woman who was all about lifting up her community and loving her family.”
As Carter placed his bouquet with the rest, he encountered a woman named Maddie O’Hara who was standing near the Mag.Pi entrance. Carter set the flowers down and introduced himself to O’Hara by explaining what compelled him to hand deliver the arrangement. He got choked up, his eyes filling with tears again.
O’Hara was surveying the scene on a mission from Carleton’s family to pick up some candles from the memorial. She grew up with Carleton’s youngest daughters, twins Arielle and Kelsey, and had known their mother most of her life. “We went to kindergarten through senior year together and Lauri was our Girl Scout leader. She was like a second mom to so many of us,” she told THR. “She was just always so present, loving and supportive of not only her own kids but for everyone. She was involved in school, in the community, she just always wanted to be there.”
O’Hara added that Carleton managed to juggle the demands of motherhood, even with nine children, and building a business and a second home in Lake Arrowhead with ease. Pointing past the Mag.Pi glass, she said, “This is her in a store. Its warmth, comfort, a little bit of pizazz and eclectic items. It’s her vibe and that’s what was so intriguing to people. You could find something in here for anyone — yourself, your mother, your grandmother, a guy, it didn’t matter.”
There was more to her than warm and fuzzy, however. “She was a total powerhouse,” said O’Hara. “She raised powerhouses and she herself was a powerhouse. She had a force and presence to her, like, ‘I’m not going to take shit from anyone.’ But she was so welcoming, too. It was a wonderful combination of power and warmth. You felt safe with her.”
That’s what makes the murder that much more devastating, O’Hara added. “Lauri always had flags waving here and at the store in Lake Arrowhead, as they should. Flags should be hung everywhere. What’s the problem? It’s so sad.” The only thing that brings comfort is witnessing the outpouring of love online and in person at the Mag.Pi locations. “It brings a smile to my face,” O’Hara explained, looking at the dozens of arrangements outside the store.
According to a Mag.Pi insider, no decisions have been made regarding what will happen to the Mag.Pi locations without Carleton who, by all accounts, is irreplaceable. “She talked the talk and walked the walk,” one insider notes. “There’s going to be such a big space to fill because she’s no longer there.” In the meantime, the family has launched the Lauri Carleton Memorial Fund that will benefit inclusive initiatives developed in partnership between the family, Mag.Pi community, Mountain Provisions Cooperative and Lake Arrowhead LGBTQ.
The launch of the fund came as welcome news to those hoping to help in some way while others —especially those who frequent the row of businesses that line the stretch of Ventura known as the Coldwater Curve — say they need more time to process life without Carleton as part of the fabric of the Studio City community. “It’s too soon. It’s too soon,” said a woman named Grace who happened to be shopping next door at upscale lifestyle boutique Calleen Cordero while coincidentally wearing a dress she purchased at Mag.Pi. “It’s terrifying, really, because she was a supporter of so many great and timely causes. She was vested in so many issues. I don’t think anyone has been able to wrap their heads around it 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 also a struggle. Before he left the store front and made his way back home, his tears turned to anger. “When does it stop? It’s 2023. When the fuck does this kind of hatred stop? It just doesn’t make any fucking sense to me why this woman’s flag triggered someone to hate her enough to shoot her,” he asked of Ikeguchi, who was killed by police after a standoff following Carleton’s murder. “Enough is enough. That’s why I’m here today. A lot of people stand by us quietly. They write a check. They say that 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] got it. She understood and she died for it.”