Hollywood Flashback: August, 1957

Jo "Red" Pearce and Cats

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…

Gerry Pearce

Justice: Winning at Trial

The road to justice isn’t always easy. We all know that. We also know that the road to our office each morning can be treacherous. Late last summer I was cited by the California Highway Patrol for an alleged violation of Section 23123 of the California Vehicle Code. The officer claimed that I used my cell phone while driving without a hands-free device, consciously disregarding the safety of my fellow travelers on Interstate Five.

San Diego Superior Court

You can tell a lot about a place by the way the courthouse looks. In southern California there are magnificent old court buildings in Riverside and Orange County. They are architectural artifacts of a time when folks were proud of their public buildings and designed them to be part of comfortable plazas for everybody to enjoy. The local courthouse for my traffic trial is about as elegant as a trailer with a foundation. This bare-bones operation suggests that the locals don’t take much pride in their justice system, however it does seem to function reasonably well under the circumstances.

San Diego Traffic Court

Now let’s all have a look inside Department A of the San Diego Superior Court. There’s nothing fancy about it, but it is a decent enough location for defendants to confront their accusers. One of the great things about being a licensed attorney is that I get to go in front of the bar and hand my business card to the bailiff. That means my case gets priority along with the other private counsel cases.

I’m sure you have heard the phrase, “A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client.” This saying has interesting origins that go back more than a couple hundred years. Whatever. I’ve been a lawyer for almost thirty years and I’ve spent plenty of time cross-examining police officers and other witnesses. I know what I’m doing. I know how to argue cases with seemingly difficult facts. I showed up at court ready for action.

OK, so it is true that the CHP officer did see me driving southbound on Interstate 5 in my Chrysler Sebring. It is true that he saw me holding my cell phone in my right hand. It’s also true that he saw me speaking at the same time I was holding my cell phone and at the same time I was driving. All of this is true. I admit it. But it isn’t the whole story. I deny that I violated Section 23123 of the California Vehicle Code. I insist on my day in court. Fair enough.

What is my defense? These are pretty tough facts I’m admitting to at the start, aren’t they? Maybe so. Let’s look at the key language of the law. Section 23123 prohibits “using” a wireless telephone while driving unless it is hands-free. I brought a physical object with me to court to serve as a defense exhibit at trial: the hands-free device in my car at the time I received the citation. What happened was that I got a call while driving. I pushed the answer button and the hands-free device broke, pushing the phone into my hand and also disconnecting the call. I looked up to see the CHP officer gesturing for me to pull over and accept a nice yellow traffic citation.

You be the judge. Do these facts constitute “using” a cell phone while driving? Should I be convicted?

The judge called my case. I indicated I was ready for trial. The judge called the CHP officer’s name. Silence.

“This case is dismissed for want of timely prosecution,” announced the judge.

I walked out of court with my head held high, a winner at trial. Did I achieve justice? Who cares – I won!

Blood Moon Eclipse

Blood Moon Eclipse

As seen from Carmel Valley, California, here is the Blood Moon Eclipse. What is a blood moon? Here is the answer. According to the Experts Who Know, all lunar eclipses are red, so this is nothing special. According to some successful religious book authors, this is part of a lunar tetrad and symbolic of End Times. Astrologers observe that imbalances explode when there’s a blood moon in Libra.

October 7-8 will offer the next chance to see a blood moon, unless End Times come before then. Either way, you ought to live each day as if it’s your last…and one day you’ll be right!

Yosemite Field Trip ’73

Forty years is quite a long time…at least I used to think so.

Joseph LeConte was an early conservationist and a professor at UC Berkeley in the 1800’s. My friends and I went to a junior high school in Hollywood that carries his name. A group of us was given a chance to take a week-long field trip to Yosemite Valley. The school bought a super-8 movie camera and let me use it for the week. I shot five or six rolls of film during the trip, which I edited at home. The camera was able to shoot in slow motion, fade in and out and do cross-fades internally.

Although I spent most of my time shooting film, I make a couple of cameo appearances in this movie. Some of us decided to go swimming in a very cold, wide stream. I’m the one who does a flip into the water. Some kids don’t have a lot of sense.

It was great fun making this movie and showing it to various groups of students and parents. Back in the early 70’s it was quite uncommon for teenagers to make movies. These days we’re all accustomed to shooting HD movies with sound with our phones. Today’s kids are growing up with a vast personal archive of their personal experiences and moments. Older folks are not used to seeing moving pictures of themselves as kids.

So friends, here is your chance to take a trip back in time to May, 1973. Our group even pays a visit to Yosemite Valley’s monument to Joseph LeConte, the Sierra Club’s LeConte Memorial Lodge, the first permanent visitor center in Yosemite Valley. Maybe you’ll see yourself or perhaps look in on one of your parents when they were 14.

Worth Waiting For

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.

Another Birthday Celebration

Scott and Alexis on Scott's 55th birthday

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.

Scott Pearce swimming

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!

Scott is 55

Del Mar SunsetScott's Birthday 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.

Skimming the Surface

Surface Close

Here is a brand new Surface 2, the result of diligent shopping and careful research. Microsoft might have taken a billion dollar write-down on the first-edition Surface, but maybe this time around they will do a little better. So far I think this is a beautiful new product. Too bad they make it so hard to buy one!Surface Out of the Bag

The new line of Surface tablet-laptop gadgets went on sale a month ago. They are beautifully packaged and the machines have a high-end, premium feel. I ended up buying mine at the San Diego Microsoft store, which is located in a wretched citidel of greed and materialism known as the Fashion Valley Mall. Although I don’t like malls I did like this store. They had plenty of display models of the various Surface products and several tables devoted to new Windows laptops and tablets made by other companies.

The first time I went to look at the new Surface line, I ended up going to several different Staples stores and a few Office Depots, throwing in a side of Fry’s for good measure. Not only did these places not have what I wanted, the workers at the various stores appeared to have advanced-level training in “studied indifference” to people shopping for these devices!

When I went to Microsoft store, even they didn’t have the new Type 2 keyboard in blue, which these days goes by the name of “cyan,” but they did take my email address and promise to be in touch when the accessory was in hand. Yesterday somebody from the store sent me an email telling me that I had 24 hours to come buy the item. When I showed up a few hours later the staff was friendly and helpful. I said I wanted to get a new Surface 2, and they took care to explain that this device is “a tablet not a computer.” I said I knew it ran Windows RT rather than full Windows. I’d thought about buying the Surface 2 Pro, but for $1,500 I could get a tricked-out new ThinkPad or Fujitsu desktop replacement. For my purposes, the Surface 2 will be more of a fancy netbook replacement.

I bought the 64GB Surface 2 and the Type 2 keyboard. They threw in a free version one Touch keyboard, a nice move I appreciated. Setup was a breeze. From opening the box to being on-line and editing a Word document on Sky Drive took about five minutes. The screen is beautiful and responsive. The keyboard is a feat of engineering. Although the device is fairly large it feels lighter than you’d expect.

Probably Microsoft expects Fashionable People to attract envy at cool coffee shops when they flash their new Surface 2 units. Instead they get customers like me. I’m sure the other folks at Denny’s ordering off of the Senior Menu will be most impressed with what a cool gadget I have!

1976 Hollywood High Flashback

Here is a picture of the Hollywood High School Still Photography Club. This shot was taken on February 20, 1976.

Hollywood High Photography Club 1976

Here I am, front and center, the consequence of a discrete transaction with the photographer. Although I can identify most of the other people in this picture,  I’ll leave it to everybody to tag themselves if they care to. Isn’t it strange to see an old picture of yourself come from out of nowhere after 37 years? Surprise!

These days I know at least a couple of us have maintained a close relationship with still images over the decades. I wonder if any of the other people in this picture have photographed as many reptiles as I have …

It Won’t Be Long Now

Super 8 Movies

How many of you have ever watched super-8 movies? These items are to video as cylinder recordings are to audio. During the 1970’s I spent many hours shooting, editing and watching creations made with this art form.

Here is a large pile of ephemera – 80 little reels of 40-year-old movies, half a dozen larger reels, and a couple of boxed 16mm movies from 50 years ago. This is the first lot that I am taking to be digitized. None of these movies have been projected in decades.

Diane Webber - May 1972

What is going to be on this film? I imagine there will be plenty of swimming and diving on these reels, though I think most of the swimming footage is on different reels that have yet to see the light of day. The key movies in this lot likely will be from the Renaissance Faire from 1971 and 1972. Both my dad and I shot quite a few minutes of movie film of Perfumes of Araby, featuring Diane Webber.

One little movie I hope to discover here is one I made with a couple of friends back in the early 70’s. Back then it was possible to hike right up to the Hollywood Sign on Mt. Lee. My friends were of Canadian heritage, and one of them had a nice maple leaf shirt on, so we decided that the movie would be a Canadian exploration of the Hollywood Hills in which the intrepid young explorers would claim the Hollywood Sign for Canada.

How many of you would like to watch movies of yourself at age 14? After all, that’s the time of life when everybody is at their most attractive! At least a few will get the chance fairly soon, because one of the movies in this pile of reels is one I made at Yosemite back in the spring of 1973, on a school field trip with a lot of bright kids. The school bought a Yashica LD6 which I got to use on that trip.

“Nostalgia is a longing for something you couldn’t stand anymore.” Soon I will offer more proof!


Views from Venice Pier

Venice Beach

Here’s a shot from the end of the Venice Pier. I spent the better part of 20 years living in this neighborhood. It’s been nine years since I moved away from Venice Beach.

My quick impression is that little has changed since I left, except for the addition of some medical marijuana dispensaries. Who says nothing ever changes for the better?

Old Home

Zooming in from a good perch on the pier, I was able to snap a shot of my former front door, indicated by the little yellow arrow.

I still remember my first night there. It had taken me until well after midnight to finish moving in, and I had some corporate obligations that required I get up at a quarter to six. When I woke up, instantly I noticed the roar of the pounding surf a hundred yards away. That sound, and the immediately refreshing ocean air, are the two things I miss most about Venice Beach.

These days my place at Ocean Beach is quite reminiscent of my old haunts at Venice. I’m not quite so close to the water but still close enough to hear it and to enjoy the taste of the air.

Venice Beach Sunset

It isn’t possible to witness too many sunsets at the beach. Here is the latest addition to our collection!


Serpent of Patrick’s Point

Nice snake!Patrick’s Point State Park is one of the most glorious places in Humboldt County, even though most of the trees are not giant redwoods. It is widely known for its stunning ocean views and spectacular essence. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more at home anywhere else; I wrote about it once before, in August, 2007, and included more conventional pictures.

This afternoon, Alexis and I hiked the rim trail of Patrick’s Point, which was cut by the Yurok Tribe hundreds of years ago. According to their tradition, the Dolphin Spirit took up residence here when humanity took over the surface of Earth. Personally, I suspect they’re on to something. Go there someday and see for yourself.

It was fairly late afternoon, and stretches of the path were brightly lit up by sunshine. Here is one of two snakes we saw during the hike. This one was about 18 inches long. Maybe somehow he knew the law protects him from human aggression, because he didn’t seem intimidated by a couple of people. No doubt plenty of other creatures are eager to have him for their next meal.

It’s hard not to notice that this is the second fairly recent serpent-related entry. Is there a symbolic meaning in this? Given my many lizard sightings over the years, (see this, and this, also this, maybe this, and this, and especially this), it’s hard not to see these snake visitations as some sort of escalation of the primal forces. Somehow it feels like a positive and somehow appropriate development.

Shinrin-yoku is the Japanese practice of forest bathing. Count me among the “early adopeters” of this therapy! Like many lawyers, I have a keen sense of what constitutes good medical practice — and I am 100% sure that hanging out in a forest has tangible medical benefits. If you’re into experimenting a little with shinrin-yoku, I recommend going to Avenue of the Giants.

Avenue of the Redwoods

A Birthday Celebration

Lana and ScottHere 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.

Surfing MadonnaAlexis took us out for coffee afterwards. We got to sip beneath the protective presence of the Surfing Madonna!