Party Like It’s 1988

Happy 125th Birthday, San Pedro! There’s no way to predict what the next 125 years will bring, but I strongly believe that in the next 25 years we will do much more than in the previous quarter century. And, contrary to some local critics, we’ve come a long way in that time.

Consider this: In 1988, when we celebrated San Pedro’s Centennial, anyone venturing into downtown at night would have found a virtual ghost town, which was considered too dangerous to visit after dark. The only place of note to eat and/or drink at night around this time was Papadakis Taverna.

Everything changed almost immediately after 1988 when Alan Johnson opened John T’s, which was later taken over and changed to the San Pedro Brewing Company by James Brown. Suddenly, young San Pedrans had a downtown place for drinks at night. The crowd soon invaded Tommy’s next door (now Crimsin) and the spark was lit for a downtown scene where one can now eat and drink at numerous locations.

The fact that downtown is a much better nighttime place to visit than it was 25 years ago flies into the face of the nostalgia you often hear from old-timers. True, retail isn’t nearly as strong as it was in the years prior to the opening of malls like Del Amo, but that’s the case in downtowns all across America. And the next 25 years will get better – much better.

Everything starts with the port. There are currently two major developments – AltaSea and Ports O’ Call – that will not only change the face of the waterfront, but all of San Pedro, especially downtown.

AltaSea will greatly expand the current Marine Research Institute by relocating at City Dock 1. The research center, which is a collaborative effort of eleven major universities, including USC and UCLA, will feature seawater labs, classrooms, lecture halls, an interpretive center, and an opportunity to develop the world’s largest seawater wave tank.

A world class research center will drive to San Pedro a large wave of academicians, vendors, businessmen, and professionals that will either work at AltaSea, service its operational requirements, or create business partnerships that leverage the research being done there. The most natural place for these newcomers to locate their offices will be in downtown. And more people in more offices will establish the environment for a better variety of places to eat and drink in downtown… and at Ports O’ Call.

Ports O’ Call will create a waterfront dining and shopping experience that will spark tourism, as has happened in other port towns such as Seattle, Sydney, and Barcelona. However, the key to making our area a regional attraction will be our ability to integrate for visitors a seamless experience where they can traverse between a great waterfront and a vibrant downtown scene.

The reason I was so inspired by the choice of the L.A. Waterfront Alliance as the Ports O’ Call developer is that the team includes Eric and Alan Johnson. The Johnsons own property throughout San Pedro and understand the importance of an integrated plan linking the waterfront and downtown. What other outside waterfront developer would have been such a strong advocate for downtown? Alan has a vision for downtown that includes one-way streets with better parking, enhanced public performance space, wider sidewalks that allow for sidewalk dining, and transforming alleys into pedestrian walkways – much like in Old Town Pasadena (I’d add bringing the Red Car up 6th Street to Centre).

In addition, Alan is on the board of Marymount University and is very active in helping the college establish a film school at the Klaus Center on 6th Street, which could assist in Mayor Garcetti’s idea for making San Pedro one of the city’s entertainment corridors.

It all adds up to a downtown on the upswing… it should be a great quarter century for our town!

Jack Baric can be reached at jackbaric@hotmail.com.

Golden State Pops Bring ‘Star Wars’ to the Warner Grand

On the heels of its sold-out May celebration of noted film music label Varese Sarabande Records, the Golden State Pops Orchestra – which focuses on live concert performances of film music – will return to the Warner Grand on June 15 to perform the music of Star Wars, the same iconic canon the city’s only year-round pops orchestra tackled during its inaugural performance 11 years ago.

With founding conductor Steven Allen Fox at the helm, the 50-plus member GSPO will focus not just on the famous themes of the original Star Wars trilogy, but also its prequels and spinoffs such as video games and cartoons.

“The idea of developing a concert that represents Star Wars beyond the films was intriguing to us,” Fox says. “We knew that to make this concert truly represent the universe of Star Wars, we needed to hit everything we could.”

Still, the program’s highlights are sure to include the John Williams-scored “Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme)” and main title theme, which are instantly recognizable to even casual fans of the Star Wars franchise. Accordingly, Allen – who has been a disciple of Williams since he heard the score to Steven Spielberg‘s 1991 fantasy Hook as a teenager – is excited about the GSPO’s return to its intergalactic roots.

“John Williams is arguably the best film composer ever, and Star Wars is one of the best scores ever,” Fox says.

During the fifth annual Cars and Stripes Forever! event on June 28, booming fireworks won’t be the only noises heard along the L.A. Waterfront. That night, Southern California-based Rumble King, who describes their sound as “New Orleans rockabilly,” will be among the acts providing the evening’s soundtrack – the non-explosive portion, at least.

This won’t be Rumble King’s first time playing the Port of Los Angeles, as two years ago, the group – which has shared the stage with such notables as B.B. King, Chuck Berry and James Brown over its 17-year history – performed as part of the Summer Concerts on the Waterfront outdoor concert series.

Vocalist and tenor saxophonist Shannon Scott Ramirez says the band is looking forward to making its Pedro return, especially considering the classic car-theme of Cars and Stripes Forever! “I think in every generation, you have certain kinds of people with old souls, and when growing up, you find people that have the same interests who seem drawn to one another,” he says. “That’s how Rumble King basically formed – old cars, old music and old souls.”

Ramirez is one of five members of Rumble King; the other members play baritone saxophone, piano, upright bass and drums, creating a “juke joint” sound – or, as Ramirez calls it, “rock n’ roll with no guitar” – that recalls the likes of Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Last year, Rumble King – which will also perform at this month’s Ink-N-Iron Festival in Long Beach, another of the 50-100 gigs Ramirez says the group will play this year – filmed an impressive music video/short film for their song “I Still Adore You” (tinyurl.com/RumbleKingVideo), which Ramirez says has earned recognition at independent film festivals. Expect to hear that track performed live at Cars and Stripes Forever!, an event that seems tailor-made for a band like Rumble King.

“We all own rides and bikes and love the old soul vibe,” Ramirez says. “They don’t make ’em like they used to.” spt

 

The Golden State Pops Orchestra’s “Music From The Star Wars Universe” takes place at the Warner Grand (478 W 6th St) at 8 p.m. on June 15. Tickets, which range from $22.50 to $60, can be purchased at tinyurl.com/StarWarsGSPO.

“Cars and Stripes Forever!” takes place from 5-10 p.m. on June 28 at Harbor Blvd. and the Vincent Thomas Bridge. Admission is free. (Rumble King’s set time was undetermined at press time.)

Shooting For A Cause

James Brown and Jack Baric in UCLA Bruin gear.

Yeah, yeah, I know. I’ve got a Bruin jersey on. Blah, blah, blah…

It’s bad enough that UCLA broke USC’s streak of five wins in a row and twelve out of thirteen in the annual football game, but here I am in my hometown magazine being forced to wear the uniform of the enemy of my alma mater. But the reason I’m wearing the jersey shows that we’re really not enemies, just friendly rivals that share a city together.

For the past two years, I have worked on A City Divided, a documentary film about the history of the USC vs. UCLA football rivalry. The film has served as the catalyst for Rivals United for a Kure, a philanthropic campaign by the non-profit, Kure It to raise funds for innovative cancer research projects at the UCLA and USC medical centers.

The culmination of the campaign was a spectacular red carpet premiere of the film at Club Nokia at L.A. Live where Rivals United hosted a charity dinner and screening of A City Divided. Scores of my San Pedro friends and family attended the event, which made it so much more special for me. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to James Brown of the San Pedro Brewing Company for organizing a party bus with dozens of San Pedrans sipping on Bruin Blonde and Trojan Red beers for the ride to L.A. Live.

Maybe part of that debt is paid back in James getting to see me wear the Bruin blue of his alma mater in the magazine. James and I made a friendly wager where the loser in a Rivals United fundraising competition between the two of us would have to take a picture in the other team’s jersey.

A cool side note is that I’m wearing the UCLA jersey of San Pedro High grad, Robbie Franco. Robbie was the L.A. City defensive player of the year while a Pirate and a Bruins walk-on before injuries ended his career. (Okay, not that cool a side note. It’s still a Bruins jersey.)

I’m incredibly proud of the film and the campaign, which to date has raised over $250,000 for cancer research. Rivals United will conclude the campaign in December and you can still go to www.rivalsunitedforakure.org to contribute. Next football season, we will again run the charity campaign, with the culmination being the film’s television broadcast and the DVD release.

The same week that A City Divided had its premiere, another amazing moment occurred that was connected to a film of mine.

Searching for a Storm is a documentary I made in 2009 that detailed the 1991-95 war in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina and the war crimes case of Croatian general, Ante Gotovina. Gotovina is a hero to Croatians for leading the military operation that liberated their nation at the end of the war. However, Gotovina was later indicted as a war criminal for crimes that were alleged during that same operation.

I set out to make a film that chronicled the war and the story of General Gotovina because I felt his indictment was a grave injustice, motivated by political considerations. In 2011, I, as well as many Croatians around the world, was heartbroken when the international war crimes tribunal found General Gotovina guilty and sentenced him to 24 years in prison.

However, on the very same week that A City Divided premiered in Los Angeles, across the globe at The Hague in the Netherlands, a war crimes tribunal overturned General Gotovina’s verdict on appeal, declaring Gotovina was not guilty, and set him free the very same day. The local party here at the Croatian Club in San Pedro was as emotionally an uplifting celebration as I have ever experienced. Everyone felt such great joy that a man who had sacrificed so much in the defense of his nation was able to finally go home.

It was an amazing ending to a great and proud week for me. I am so thankful that I’m able to make films for causes that I believe in. On that note, the next project I am shooting will honor all the various workers on our waterfront, from longshoremen to fishermen, to marine research divers, and more. American Waterfront, made in partnership with PBS SoCal, will showcase the importance of the port to the nation’s economy and how vital it is for our community to keep the great middle-class jobs that are available on the waterfront. Look for the film on PBS around Labor Day 2013. spt

Jack can be reached at jackbaric@hotmail.com

Bruins & Trojans Unite for a Cure

Jack Baric and James Brown showing their respective college pride. (photo by John Mattera)

Although there are multitudes of great places in San Pedro to meet friends, it can be easily argued that the social center of our town is the San Pedro Brewing Company. The conversation at the bar leans pretty heavily toward sports and especially the debate between Bruin and Trojan fans over their teams – this is especially true because Brew Co. owner, James Brown is as proud a UCLA alum as you’ll ever want to meet. It’s why I took such great joy in getting him photographed in this magazine a few years ago wearing the shirt of my alma mater, USC. We made a bet over the annual rivalry football game – the alum whose team lost would have to be photographed in the rival’s shirt. I can’t recall what year JB had to do it, but let’s do some football math – the original version of the publication launched in 2002 and the Trojans won that year and in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 so we know it wasn’t in 2006 because that’s the only year UCLA has won since 1998.

This year the bet returns, but with a twist. First, I must give kudos to UCLA because it’s the first year in a long time that they’re playing exciting football and it’s shaping up to be one of the best rivalry games in ages. However, our bet will be a little different this year. We are competing to see who can raise the most money for cancer research, the San Pedro Bruins vs. the San Pedro Trojans. JB is generously supporting a film and philanthropic project that I’m a part of. I’m making a documentary film called A City Divided about the history of the USC vs. UCLA football rivalry and the film will serve as a catalyst for a campaign called Rivals United for a Kure with proceeds going to Kure It, a non-profit dedicated to cancer research. Kure It will equally donate all its profits from the project to the UCLA and USC cancer research centers.

The campaign’s co-chairmen are former USC All-American quarterback Paul McDonald and former UCLA star quarterback Matt Stevens. Paul and Matt are the radio announcers for USC and UCLA football and have been speaking about the campaign on the air. The message is especially poignant from Matt because he survived a very tough battle with cancer and is an eloquent spokesman. The red carpet premiere for the film will be a Rivals United fundraiser on November 12 at Club Nokia at L.A. Live and JB has agreed to coordinate buses from Brew Co. for the premiere. Tickets for $60 will include a ride on the chartered bus, admission to the screening, and admittance to the after-party, featuring a number of former USC and UCLA players. I’m hoping that all our friends, Bruins and Trojans, are going to show the entire city of L.A. the Pedro spirit that we are so proud of by rocking the balcony that night with loud competing chants of “We are SC” and the UCLA eight clap – and, more importantly, leading the way in stepping up to fight a terrible disease that has touched us all.

Locals that attend the film will see a lot of faces they recognize. Being a born and raised Pedro Boy, I found a way to sneak a lot of locals into the film, including interviews with John Papadakis and JB (he took the role of UCLA pop-off!), cameos from the Bebich brothers, Fong sisters, Michael Varela, Ron Galosic, and a host of kids from some of the following families; Baric (that’s me), Setlich, Pirozzi, Desai, Lusic, Sestich, LaPine, Basich, and Danelo. I’d especially like to thank the Danelo family for allowing me to include the moving story of Mario Danelo, their son/brother – and San Pedro’s friend/star. The tribute to Mario in the film illustrates how we put aside the rivalry and united together as a community to honor a young man when his life tragically ended short. Mario’s brother, Joey (a very devoted Bruin!) is fantastic in the film talking about his brother.

I’ll leave you with our slogan…a city divided becomes a city united as Bruins and Trojans join together to fight cancer. We will unite, we will fight, and we will win. spt

For more info about the non-profit, please visit www.rivalsunitedforakure.org. For more info about the San Pedro Rivals United Challenge and tickets to the premiere, please visit www.sanpedrobrewing.com.

Jack Baric can be contacted at jackbaric@hotmail.com.