My dad died 17 years ago today. I wonder what he’d think of 2020?
Here’s a picture of the two of us from about 1986.
My dad died 17 years ago today. I wonder what he’d think of 2020?
Here’s a picture of the two of us from about 1986.
I do not have a terribly high opinion of nationalism. German nationalism did not work out very well for the Germans or for their neighbors. Ukrainian nationalism doesn’t look very appealing to me. Jewish nationalism doesn’t seem to be very good for the Jews these days.
Here’s a nice family photograph from about 1904. These three are Scottish siblings; their names are Janet, Lovie and Juke Allan. Lovie is my paternal grandmother. History fails to record the name of the dog. These three likely would have supported Better Together, the ‘No’ campaign. They were proud to be British. George Galloway, the Respect MP from Bradford West, one of the few British politicians I admire, strongly opposes Scottish independence.
I spent some time in England with Lovie, Janet and other family members when I was a boy, and I was raised in the British expat community of southern California, a dual-citizen of the USA and UK. I also studied law in England in 1982. Many friends tell me I’m more Brit than American, and maybe it’s so, yet I can’t say I ever bought into the myths of Great Britain. For one thing, my dad the natural-born Englishman never had a kind word to say about the British Empire. For another, I actually took the time to read quite a few of Winston Churchill’s books and a number of Churchill biographies – and was properly horrified.
Since the Thatcher years, both Labour and Conservative UK governments have sold out Britain to corporate interests. The British people and British democracy have paid a high price over the last 35 years. The UK has offered unwavering support to the United States and to Israel, no matter how egregious their criminality and no matter how many innocent lives are claimed. It is hopeless. Democracy is broken in the UK. The policies of London are so wrong, so obviously illegal, that the most imaginative thing the Scots could do is break up the United Kingdom from within.
Disunion – the end of the United Kingdom – should be the real legacy of Thatcher, Major, Blair and Cameron. These hopelessly amoral, wretched governments in London have wrecked the country, and on the 18th, the people of Scotland have a chance to pull the plug. Mr. Major argues Scottish independence would be have the “disastrous” consequences of ending the British nuclear deterrent and costing Britain her permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. Really? Thanks John, those are two more good reasons to vote Yes!
Europe Fears Scottish Independence Contagion. If by “Europe” we mean the authority figures within the EU and their corporate backers, one can certainly understand why. Independence movements threaten to disrupt neoliberal control over Europe.
Throughout my life I have thought of myself as an internationalist as opposed to a provincial “my-country-right-or-wrong” type. If we’re going to have a prayer of doing anything about global climate change it’s going to be necessary to cooperate internationally. And yet, today it is apparent that the western world is dominated by corporate interests that rule by force and fiat for their own benefit. Anything that challenges their power is worth trying.
Postscript: The No vote prevailed. Fair enough. Careful readers will notice I did not list Gordon Brown with Thatcher, Major, Blair and Cameron as those who deserve blame for the breakup of the UK. As the vote neared, Mr. Brown gave a magnificent speech. It’s possible that this speech saved the country – literally. It’s a pity old Gordon couldn’t make some speeches like this one when he was Prime Minister. Well done, sir. Let’s have a look at an important, literate, idealistic speech.
Today is the 84th anniversary of my mother’s birth. Here’s a picture of her along with a couple of cats, taken a little more than a year before I was born. She is 27 years old in this snapshot.
To go with it, here is the text of a letter my dad wrote about the time the picture was taken, a few days before his 29th birthday. I unearthed the letter in one of the last boxes of old family papers. Readers who remember my dad will recognize a familiar voice in the following few paragraphs:
August 28, 1957
A telegraphic rundown of developments on the Hollywood scene would run something like this:
We had our own family added to seventeen days ago: Sindi, with the connivance of a sleek Siamese tom who lives up Laurel Canyon, presented us with four kittens, pale fawn with gray ears, much neck, coltish legs, and an occasional carmel stripe. The ears were never stubby semi-circles and have grown so fast the kittens looks more like bats. What they’re going to look like when they’re grown Allah alone knows but being Siamese and Manx 75-25 they should be Unusual Cats.
I’m nine-to-fiving at NBC and Jo’s still working at the store in Beverly Hills, but today she picked up what should prove to be an interesting (if unpaid) job as assistant to the stage manager on the Players’ Ring production of “Witness for the Prosecution,” which opens on the tenth of next month. It has a virtually all-English cast and is being directed by actor Paul Stewart. A biased source tells me it is shaping up into a pretty good show. I’ll know a bit more about that when Red gets home from her first rehearsal.
And who can talk theatre withtout bringing up “Blood Wedding?” Tru, Red and I saw a real doozy of a production a few months ago, done in a house that must seat all of fifty and has a stage that’s barely larger than a king-size bed. No curtain. Few lights. Brand new translation. It sounded like an anti-poetic re-write of the script we used up north, with all the really good lines blunted and clouded up. Miraculously, they had a lengthy and quite impressive original guitar score, and the Servant was not only a good actress but had a wonderful aquiline expressive face – perfect for the Bridegroom’s Mother, who was actually played by a lady burgher from 18th century Amsterdam who pureed her lips judiciously at every comma and was more out of place than a boozy laugh at a temperance meeting. An effectively violent Leonardo was played by a guy named James Marton whom you may have seen in an occasional movie of tv bit, but the poor guy was at something of a disadvantage having to play to a bride who, though quite a dish, spoke with a thick Swedish accent and topped him by a number of clear inches. In the big lech scene in the forest she dropped to her knees, threw her arms around his legs and laid her head against his collar bone. Mr.Marton’s fire tended to degenerate into a thwarted twitch now and then quite understandably, and the Moon either measured nine odd more inches around the waist than around his bared chest or couldn’t think of any other way to keep his black tights up.
All in all – a bomb.
Well, after nearly two years, Gerald has finally made his L.A. stage debut. Script in hand, on three and a half hours’ notice, doing the Professor in “All The King’s Men” in UCLA’s cavernous Royce Hall auditorium…under the baleful eye of H.W. Robinson. All thanks to a strep throat or something that knocked out the original Professor after two of the scheduled four performances.
Well, I suppose a stop-gap Professor’s eye view doesn’t give the clearest picture, but I was pretty much disappointed in the production as a whole. There were some damn good actors, make no mistake. Stark’s wife, for example. Adam Stanton, though a little out of control and occasionally resembling the hero of a corn show. The fellow who did Jack Burden was the best of the lot…faithfully mirroring every agonized reappraisal in his haunted eyeballs; trouble was he did most of his agonizing between his cue end the ensuing speech, and even then it was lovely camera stuff that never got beyond the fourth row. Drag? My God. I talked to Horace about it later and he said that nothing he could do could implant his picture of the show in their minds. Apparently they thought that philosophy was dry and heavy so they had to play it dry and heavy, and they steadfastly refused to believe him when he assured them that such-and-such a line was a laugh line. When a concerted attack is made on comedy and pace the result is likely to justify the idea that philosophy is dry and heavy, and this bunch, or a good portion of them, decided that Mr. Warren didn’t know a goddamn thing about playwriting. Well, it may not be the best play by an American author since 1929, but God knows it’ll play!
And of course they hate Horace with a passion. He not only insisted that he knew what the show was about better than they did, but he made them work their tailbones off and didn’t
pat them on the back and tell them what a swell job they were doing. I never got the whole story, but apparently Horace had quite a run-in with the guy playing Willie, a jerk of negligible talent and brain-power to match who was, just the same, a good type, and who would probably have given an okay performance if he had listened to the Great Brown Dragon.
Which brings me up to speech #42-A, On The State of Acting in the Entertainment Capitol of the World, a lengthy tirade I won’t bore you with. It has two sub-topics: the lost-soul amateurs lousing up most professional theatre in Greater Los Angeles, and The Method as drawn through the Actors’ Studio sieve, simplified, diluted, narcissized (if there is such a word), and thoroughly deprived of discipline and divorced from any over-all concept of the show being produced. It’s anarchy. You get the impression that most of the actors aren’t actors at all but mental patients undergoing drama therapy.
And yet, of course, if they marched all the phonies, the hangers-on, the no-talent bums and all their ilk out at dawn and drowned ‘em, there still wouldn’t be enough jobs to go around the remaining reasonably talented, reasonably sane professionally-minded performers flooding the local market…
The first big pile of old reels from the Pearce Family Archive has resulted in a bit more than five hours of video, including a fair amount of stuff from the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in 1971 and 1972. Here is the first item from that archive.
This movie was shot by my dad Gerry on Super-8 movie film back in May, 1971. Diane Webber is shown here on the main stage, late in the afternoon. This is the only movie film I’ve recovered so far from the big stage in ’71, but it represents only a fraction of the good footage of Diane. I’ve got fairly elaborate coverage of her performing on the small stage in 1971, some of it shot from two different angles at the same time.
The real treasure trove of Perfumes of Araby material is from 1972. I expect to be able to piece together a surprisingly complete show from the spring of 1972. I think you’ll agree that the images from this 1971 Super-8 movie are surprisingly good. Those who knew my dad will appreciate that I ended up publishing this movie on Christmas Day – no doubt it would help him get into the true holiday spirit!
And so I wish everybody all the best tidings of the season. Happy Christmas.
Now then, can we please have some different music? Yes, belly dancing music would be just fine, thanks.
Elana and Emily are singing at their mom’s surprise birthday party. Emily looks good in green, I think. This was the happiest night of 2013 (so far).
Are you intimidated by birthdays that can be divided by 10? They’ve never been that big a deal to me. I rather enjoyed turning 30, 40 and 50…but turning 35 and 45 caught my attention a bit more. Today I turn 55. You can see I have chosen to embrace my mother’s traditional approach to handling life’s larger issues, enabled by my beloved spouse. So far it is working beautifully!
I’m surprised how fun and pleasant the day has been, filled with sensual pleasures and delightful human contact. Every practical detail worked out smoothly from start to finish, and the day’s events seemed framed to make me feel lucky and well cared for.
Swimming has been one of my favorite things to do all my life. Here’s a fun shot my mom took at West Hollywood Park back in the summer of 1963, a few months more than 50 years ago. Back then, I only had access to a pool during the summer months. These days I get to swim year-round in a swimming pool I can walk to from my front door. Sure, there’s a lot wrong with suburbia, morally and aesthetically, but I have to admit that swimming in a nice pool today makes me just as happy as it did when I was five years old. Here is the proof, along with a shot of today’s magnificent sunset in Del Mar and a picture of a splendid ice cream cake!
I am happy (and a little surprised) to be celebrating yet another birthday, and I am acutely aware of how lucky I am to enjoy so many excellent times. Family and friends have been in touch to wish me well. Their wishes are coming true, and so are mine.
Here is a fine picture of Lana May and me right after we wrapped up an hour on a jet ski. Look how happy she is! We are celebrating her 15th birthday. It was the first time she ever really got to drive a powerful vehicle. Lana got skillful quickly and loves going fast. The good news is that she didn’t go too fast for me. I’ve always enjoyed speed. Carlsbad Lagoon is a great place to have fun on the water. We also enjoyed perfect weather.
Remember the first time you got to drive something that would go a lot faster than a bicycle? I was less than two months past my 11th birthday when I started hanging out with my uncle’s motorcycle racing crew. Now I have reached the age where I’d just as soon have somebody else do the driving. It’s good to know that Lana is capable. It’s also nice that she enjoys going fast, although it means I am going to recommend that she drive a 1977 AMC Gremlin with a slightly damaged engine when she turns 16 in a year.
Alexis took us out for coffee afterwards. We got to sip beneath the protective presence of the Surfing Madonna!
My sister in-law Debbie lost a fight with cancer a couple of days ago. She is the Girl Scout in the second row; I am a couple of rows behind her and slightly to the left. This was the only group photo from my grade school years that was in color. Maybe that’s why it still looks modern to me…yet the picture will be 45 years old in a few months.
Here is a picture of Debbie from a few years ago, posing with the Guardian of Forever. I’d like to have a picture taken on this set! My mom worked on every iteration of Star Trek, from the first season of the original series through to the last TV series about nine years ago. I’ve written about what it was like being ten and going to the Star Trek set for the cast and crew Christmas party in December 1968. Nobody dreamed the show would become a titanic money-making franchise back then.
City on the Edge of Forever is one of the best episodes from Star Trek’s original series. It also offers a splendid glimpse behind the curtain of the “creative” process of network TV in the 60’s. In a nutshell, Harlan Ellison’s script was rewritten in ways that made the finished product more respectful to authority than Ellison’s. City on the Edge of Forever still is a classic episode, one in which everybody in the cast is good – in part because for once they are working with some really good material.
If you’re curious, follow this link and watch the whole episode right now. Maybe somebody can explain to me how it is that the show is available on CBS, since it was on NBC originally. It still is a little novel to see the original Star Trek series in color; we didn’t get our first color set until 1972. What’s up with this apparent preoccupation with color vs. black & white pictures? Maybe I should get into some black and white photography during the second half of 2013!
Reverend Gary Davis wrote a number of great songs. Here is my favorite performance of one of these songs, from one of the Grateful Dead’s finest live shows.
It is a little startling to notice that today is the 10th anniversary of my father’s death. This is an ideal occasion to present gerrypearce.com. This website contains a few thousand pages of original written material, with much more to come. In time it will contain the best photographs from the thousands he left behind and some of the home movies he shot at the Renaissance Faire and at various science fiction conventions over the years.
The few years my dad really prospered as a writer were when he had a salaried job at Walt Disney Studios, turning out TV scripts for The Wonderful World of Disney. He also wrote hundreds of syndicated TV shows for Bill Burrud Productions. Throughout his professional life, from the 1950’s until a couple of months before his final illness, Gerry wrote stories for science fiction and mystery magazines.
My dad spent several decades working on a book about the plight of the Palestinian people, entitled Generations of Betrayal. Two different versions of this book are available at gerrypearce.com.
The 2003 version of Generations of Betrayal is the last project Gerry completed. He wrapped up the final edit of this book days before his final illness took him away from the word processor for good. 46 chapters are available for you to peruse right now, in HTML format.
The 1981 version of Generations of Betrayal is 26 chapters long, presented here in PDF format. This one came very close to being published.
On this new website, one thing you’re not going to encounter is any commentary from me. I’m trying to give my dad a chance to speak to everybody without any interference. If you have any reaction to the material, I’d be curious to know about it.
My dad was an enthusiastic letter writer. I’ve collected quite a few of his letters with an eye toward publishing an edited edition someday. If anybody reading this has more, I’d be curious to have a look.
Thinking about the day, ruminating on reality, I’m reminded of one of my favorite Fred Allen lines:
“Live each day as if it’s going to be your last — and one day you’ll be right.”
Raising kids is a delight. As regular readers know, I take seriously my responsibilities as a parent. That’s why, back in the summer of 2010, I exercised extreme caution when I dangled Lana and her camera over the tiger cage barrier at the zoo so she could look death in the eye and get a really cool photograph.
Here is a picture of me with Lana, Alexis and Emily. Ms. Em recently turned 21. To help her celebrate, Alexis thought it would be fun and memorable to go out on an early morning wine country vineyard horseback riding tour. She and I have been riding horses together since we were teenagers. The ride was great fun.
After we finished with the tour, we got into our car and went to several of the local vineyards, armed with tickets and hand stamps. As usual under social drinking circumstances, I was the designated driver. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that all wine tasting events are set up to emphasize moderation and “responsible drinking.” That’s why they only give you a little serving of each of the multiple wines you get to sample at each stop.
Join me now for a rousing prayer meeting, all about Sin and Mr. Booze.
The San Diego Zoo is one of the great attractions in southern California. I still remember touching the Galapagos Tortoises at the SD Zoo during my first visit more than 50 years ago. When I was a kid, I spent most of my summers in various swimming pools, libraries and science fiction conventions. Not once did I attend a summer camp. Who needs camp in Hollywood if you’ve got good student discount movie passes and daily chances to swim? No, I never did go to summer camp and I can’t say I ever felt especially deprived.
The San Diego Zoo Art Camp actually is set up for all ages. I didn’t require any special dispensation to be able to attend. There’s a lot to be said for the experience; certainly it was a highlight of the summer for me. It is much different to go to the zoo for a day and spend an hour at a single exhibit compared to a typical visit where you’re trying to see as much as possible. It’s also cool to go to the zoo for several hours a day, five days in a row.
There is a lot to be said for hanging out with children, too. The kids ranged in age from 8 to 14. All of them were charming and most of them were accomplished young artists. It was a pleasure to spend the week with Elana, getting behind the scenes glimpses into the working of the zoo. We both enjoyed studying and practicing the art of drawing, too. The teacher was generous with her knowledge and patient with her students. Here is my elephant and Lana’s giraffes, to show you what we were up to.
When we were at Art Camp back in 2010, Elana got a great photograph of an outraged and hungry tiger. Maybe it was a little risky for me to dangle her over the protective barrier just to get a really good picture, but I figured it was a good way for us to bond, plus it’s invaluable for young people to face death and live to tell the tale.
This year it was my turn to get a spectacular picture of a deadly predator without the presence of bars or glass barriers in the way to mess up the shot. Here’s the picture – a furious and ravenous crocodile!
These animals are impressive killing machines, but they have a tender side too – they care for their babies with far more attention to detail than most reptiles. They have eyes as acute as owls and also superb hearing. Crocs can swim and run very fast, too. They tend to be ambush hunters, lying in wait for unsuspecting prey. This was my big advantage. Surprise was on my side. Most captive crocodiles are not used to guys with cameras making a hurried run-through in order to get a quick photograph!
As you can see, the picture was well worth any short-term danger. Sure, I know a lot of idiots get killed at zoos every year. They drop their camera into the tiger cage and try to retrieve it, or they want to pet the nice panda or polar bear. Those folks are Darwin Award candidates for sure. What the High Cabal doesn’t want you to know about are all the people who take less outrageous, more calculated risks for the sake of art.
OK, I understand that it is against the rules and generally accepted notions of common sense for an ordinary middle-aged clown to risk life and limb for a photograph. Still, nobody got hurt. It is true that the croc did go after me a split-second after I took the picture, but the fact that I’m writing this is proof that he didn’t get me. It’s also true that some of the zoo attendees were quite frightened by the sudden action in the crocodile enclosure. I admit that I didn’t expect to have quite such a close call, and it’s also true that I didn’t know that the croc would end up slamming into the glass so forcefully. I imagine a few of the folks were a little flustered by the experience. Well, I say that the picture was worth it. You be the judge.
It’s odd to live in a world in which a 45 year-old photograph shows up suddenly, yet thanks to the modern miracle (or curse) of technology this picture arrives unexpectedly, and I get snatched up for a quick trip back in time. Time travel seems to be an increasingly common preoccupation on these pages. You might as well come along, so return with me to the fall of 1965.
My second grade classmates and I are in what is now called the Michael Jackson Auditorium at Gardner Street Elementary school. I am standing to the extreme right of the next-to-back row, an uncharacteristic position. My sister-in-law Debbie is in the center of the same row.
Just a couple of years ago, I stood in roughly the same place in that old auditorium. It looked exactly the same, except smaller.
Here is another vote in favor of Traditional Family Values on a greetings card schedule!