When Dr. Timothy Gogan opened his dental practice 40 years ago, mom-and-pop shops lined Larchmont Boulevard and neighbors greeted each other in passing. And there was a small-town family fair.
Compared to today’s extravaganza — with its Halloween children’s costume contest, talent show, haunted house and camel rides — the Larchmont Family Fair started as a quiet affair on the Friday night before Labor Day.
In those days, the sidewalks rolled up at nights and on Sundays, recalls Gogan, who has chaired the Larchmont Family Fair — which has grown to 10,000 visitors — about five times; he’s lost count. In the early days, when he would dress as “Mighty Molar,” he had a booth at the fair, where, if you knocked three “teeth,” you got a goldfish. He also brought in the fair’s first ponies for rides and a petting zoo from his great uncle’s Shetland pony farm.
There were two restaurants but nowhere to sit on the street, so Gogan and his wife helped raise funds to buy 17 benches. Eight benches are still there today, he says proudly, flashing a pearly white smile. (He was, after all, the official dentist for the 1984 Summer Olympic Games.)
This year, Gogan once again, will co-chair the fair, set for Sun., Oct. 30 on Larchmont Blvd. from Beverly Blvd. to First Street.
The budget has grown to $45,000, paid for by generous local business sponsors and ticket sales. Much of the cost pays for the rides that have gotten more elaborate over the years, says Gogan.
He is a board member of the Larchmont Boulevard Association, having served as president three times. When the Boulevard was barraged with proposals to open more banks and real estate offices in the 1980s, he was instrumental in passage of the street’s Q Condition, which established zoning designed to assure a healthy mix of stores, banks, real estate offices and restaurants.
Not one to rest on his laurels, he’s busy promoting the second annual Small Business Saturday Nov. 26. Combined with the Holiday Open House, shoppers can ride a trolley and jump off at “reindeer stops.”
“I’m really looking forward to it. It’s going to be fun,” he says enthusiastically from his upper-floor “Larchmont Smile” office with a “cool view” in the Larchmont Medical Building.
Giving back comes second nature to the child of a Latino mother who had been a foster child herself.
He volunteers for Alexandria House, a transitional home for women and children, serves food at St. Frances Homeless Kitchen and visits the Sylmar Juvenile Prison through the Jesuit Restorative Justice Program.
Gogan began his lifelong work with disadvantaged kids through USC Troy Camp, and he provides free dental care through USC’s mobile clinic.
He talks to students at his alma mater, Loyola High, reminding them that today’s USC graduate takes home a $475,000 loan along with his diploma. UCLA sends its dental students off to the world $275,000 in debt.
“I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into,” says Gogan, the first college graduate in his family. He has an undergraduate degree in psychology, which, he says, has proved invaluable in working with patients.
From a fifth-generation San Francisco family who moved to Los Angeles when he was two. he grew up roaming the hills of Laurel Canyon and was blessed with a tenor voice. “I grew up thinking every family sang together on Sundays.” An aunt performed with the Ray Anthony Band, and his dad had a radio show.
He wanted to be a landscape architect. But his grandfather had lost everything in the Depression, and he was encouraged to learn an even more practical profession.
When set to enlist in the Air Force Academy, he was diagnosed with nearsightedness ending his dreams of becoming a pilot. The Vietnam War was in full swing, and the scholarship to USC just might have saved his life.
There he met his mentor Dr. Charles Pincus, a professor at the school and a pioneer in veneers. “The things we do now [in cosmetic dentistry] didn’t even exist” then, he says. “The technology is amazing.”
Proud of the smiles he’s improved with tooth bonding, porcelain crown and bridge work over the years, he especially holds dear those who couldn’t quite pay the bill. His love for landscape found an outlet in floral arranging.
His works become more elaborate over the years, even adorning homes of celebrities.
Creating fresh-flower bouquets for Larchmont year round, he joined a volunteer corps to decorate the Boulevard during the holidays, complete with red velvet bows, poinsettias and a Santa Claus Lane.
Cantor and board member at St. Brendan’s Church, he is also on the board of the Windsor Square / Hancock Park Historical Society.
With his wife Margot, he raised three children in their Craftsman home on Wilton Pl. She cooks Louisiana cuisine from her hometown, while Gogan is the baker in the family.
He’s at the gym early six mornings a week, but credits his eight grandchildren and one great grandchild with keeping him young.
“Little kids are the fountain of youth. It’s hard to take yourself seriously when there’s food all over your pants,” he smiles.
“I was the young one,” he reflects back on when he came to Larchmont all those years ago. And while he still has movie star good looks, he’s not the new kid on the block anymore.
But he’s doing his part to keep the Larchmont he loves a small-town. After all, he says, “In this world of high tech we’re missing a lot of high touch, where everybody knows everybody,”