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Commodores' Breakfast: Salata on stage

May 24, 2001

Richard Dunn

NEWPORT BEACH - Paul Salata, who has lived a classic rags-to-riches

story, is simply happy to be around to tell it these days.

The embodiment of the American dream, Salata went from hawking

newspapers at a busy corner in Los Angeles during the Great Depression of

the 1930s to the portrait of Balboa Bay beachcomber wealth, having made

his home on exclusive Linda Isle since 1968.

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Salata, 74, survived cancer surgery in February and is recovering

well. In fact, Salata is "thriving," and this morning at 7:30 he'll serve

as keynote speaker at the Radisson Hotel at the annual Commodores' Club

Athletic Awards Breakfast, a Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce event

honoring the top 30 athletes at Newport Harbor and Corona del Mar high

schools.

"I still get treatments, but all my pipes have been reset, so my

body's performing normally," he said Tuesday. "I just need to gain back a

little strength and I'll be rolling."

The honorary mayor of Newport Beach and king of Irrelevant Week,

Salata is known around town as much for his gags and zany Irrelevant Week

antics as his philanthropic deeds and charitable ambitions.

Through Irrelevant Week, Salata discovered a way to put the underdog

on the map, celebrating the absolute dead last draft pick in the NFL each

year. The hokey, tongue-in-cheek affair might raise a few eyebrows for

newcomers -- especially during the roasting and toasting of Mr.

Irrelevant at the All-Star Sports Banquet -- but it has long been a

symbol of doing something nice for somebody for no reason.

A recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the NFL Alumni,

Salata has helped bring significant recognition to Newport Beach through

the week-long revelry. The NFL grants him the privilege of announcing the

last pick each year.

Last summer, Sports Illustrated covered the 25th anniversary

Irrelevant Week, which was attended by numerous former Mr. Irrelevant

honorees, including NFL players Matt Elliott and Marty Moore.

When glancing at the football backgrounds of Elliott, a former

Michigan center who has played for the Washington Redskins and Carolina

Panthers, and Moore, who played in Super Bowl XXXI for the New England

Patriots, it begins to make Irrelevant Week sound (gasp!) not so

irrelevant.

But what a beautiful thing that is, considering its founder, a former

Hollywood actor and professional football player who later made a bundle

as a sewer contractor, came from such a tough road.

At age 12, Salata's father, Chetko, a Yugoslavian immigrant, died

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