News & Features
Hitting All the Right Notes: Luciana and Daniel Forge Endow Fall Musical, Theatre Scholarship
By Nate Ethell ('08)
It's a story straight out of an old Hollywood movie —and the final act finishes with a happy ending for students at Pepperdine.
Daniel Forge first came to the United States exactly 60 years ago, arriving in New York at Christmastime in 1952 with nothing but a briefcase and a couple hundred dollars. At age 26, the French native had already lived a life well beyond his years, living under the oppression of the interim occupation authority established by the Third Reich during World War II.
When Daniel was only 14, he was recruited to help build the Atlantikwall coastal fortification along the coast of northern France. Instead, however, he escaped the German regime to serve in the French free forces until the end of the war. "By the time I was a teenager, I was already on my way," said Daniel. "Although I craved an education, I didn't get to go to college. But those years in the war were not easy to forget. Those were years when the world was on fire."
By 1952 Daniel was working at a restaurant in Paris, where he was presented with the opportunity for a fresh start in the United States. "I met a couple from Beverly Hills at the restaurant who decided that they would sponsor me. They were very close friends of Hernando Courtright, who owned the Beverly Hills Hotel." Having learned English from an aunt who lived in San Francisco, Daniel had long desired to go to the United States and took a leap of faith across the Atlantic to work in Beverly Hills.
Soon after settling into a job at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Daniel followed his passion as an aspiring restaurateur to Perino's, the famed eatery from Hollywood's Golden Age that was a favorite for the city's elite and demimonde alike. Daniel continued to learn how to manage a restaurant under the tutelage of Alexander Perino for nearly a decade.
After four years in the United States, Daniel's work at Perino's led him to an introduction with 33-year-old Luciana Sodani, a professional vocalist from Rome who was returning from a tour in South America. "Luciana's brother-in-law was my partner at the restaurant," said Daniel. "On a day off, he invited me to his house, about the time that Luciana came back from South America. The rest, you might say, is history."
Luciana started a professional vocal career when she was only 18 years old, studying music, dance, and voice in Europe. As a coloratura soprano, Luciana's voice was distinguished as being among the highest operatic sopranos. At the end of her career, she sang her final concert in Los Angeles with renowned Italian tenor Tito Schipa.
Two years after their introduction, Luciana and Daniel were married in 1958. Following Daniel's departure from Perino's, the two began their careers as successful entrepreneurs and business owners in fine dining, opening several new restaurants in the Hollywood area. In 1962 the two opened their first restaurant, L'Auberge on Sunset Boulevard, introducing Los Angeles to classic French cuisine experienced most commonly in other cosmopolitan cities like New York and San Francisco.
By the early 1980s, Luciana and Daniel were ready to move away from the Hollywood hustle, curiously exploring what they could do with a five-acre piece of property in Malibu. "It was an abandoned piece of property—nothing back then," Daniel remembered. "But I loved building and thought I could do something with it, so we ended up building an entire restaurant from an old abandoned shack."
Beau Rivage opened to critical acclaim in June 1982, widely regarded as one of the most beautiful restaurants along the Pacific coast. Translating literally to "beautiful seashore," the new Malibu restaurant served up original dishes of French and Italian fare, Mediterranean ambiance, and—true to its name—striking ocean views. For many in the community, the hospitality and unexpected personal touches by Daniel and Luciana turned Beau Rivage into a second home.
It wasn't long after the restaurant had opened its doors that leaders from Pepperdine befriended the Forges. "Shortly after the restaurant opened, members of the Pepperdine community became frequent guests," Daniel commented. "One day, after getting to know David Davenport, he said I should get involved with the Crest Advisory Board, so I joined and continue to serve on the board today."
Pepperdine, Daniel says, is all about people. "Every experience we've had with the University has been wonderful. From serving on the Crest board to working with them in the community, each encounter has been so rewarding."
After nearly seven decades working in the restaurant business, Luciana and Daniel donated a portion of Beau Rivage, the jewel of their combined career, to Pepperdine, establishing a $2.9 million charitable remainder annuity trust with the University. "Our decision to give was simple," said Daniel. "With Pepperdine you can count on knowing your gift will be used the right way today for the education of tomorrow's leaders. I can't think of a better way to give back to this community than by supporting the university that is so much a part of it."
Honoring Luciana's distinguished career in fine arts, half of their gift will be used to endow Pepperdine's annual fall musical performance, permanently named the Luciana and Daniel Forge Fall Musical. The other half will establish the Luciana and Daniel Forge Endowed Scholarship for students pursuing a bachelor's degree in musical or dramatic arts at Seaver College.
"With their gift, Mr. and Mrs. Forge are supporting the immediate and future development of our young artists at Pepperdine," said Cathy Thomas-Grant, associate professor of theatre. "They have ensured that musical theatre will ring in our hearts for decades to come and—through their scholarships—that our students can afford to spend more time strengthening their skills, minds, and spirits."
Luciana and Daniel have spent more than 25 years getting involved with Pepperdine and its vibrant student community, including those studying fine arts. "We've seen some of the most beautiful, amazing shows of a lifetime at Pepperdine," Daniel said. "The students who have performed are so wonderful, and we want to help cultivate those talents as much as possible."
"As patrons of the arts, Daniel and Luciana Forge will push our students to the highest levels of their craft," Cathy enthused. "Their legacy will leave a lasting impact on students who are beginning their journeys as artists and the people who have the privilege of watching their talent on stage."