Horror Soundtracks Come to Life at the Warner Grand

The Golden State Pops Orchestra will kick off their 11th season in spook-tacular fashion on Oct. 19, when the group’s Halloween-themed concert at the Warner Grand continues its yearlong tribute to noted film music record label Varese Sarabande.

Currently celebrating its 35th anniversary, Varese Sarabande has to date released thousands of film scores, soundtracks and original cast recordings, more than 1,100 of which have been produced by Robert Townson, the label’s vice president of soundtracks. Townson will serve as host of the Halloween Gala at the Warner Grand, which will see maestro Steven Allen Fox conduct the GSPO as it performs excerpts of scores from such films as Halloween, Alien and The Omen.

This is not the GSPO’s first collaboration with Townson and Varese Sarabande, as earlier this year, the Warner Grand hosted a sold-out performance commemorating the label’s anniversary that featured such prominent guests as Danny Elfman (The Simpsons, The Nightmare Before Christmas) and Hans Zimmer (Pirates of the Caribbean, The Dark Knight). That was just the tip of the iceberg, says Fox. “The largest hurdle that everyone immediately noticed was the enormous catalog of music Varese Sarabande has and that we would never be able to appropriately represent it with one concert,” he explains. “As we began development of our 2013-14 concert season, we realized the answer was to do more than one concert.” (A holiday-themed event will take place in December.)

As of mid-September, five guests beside Townson had been publicly announced for the Oct. 19 concert, including composers Christopher Young (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Hellraiser) and Nathan Barr (Hostel, True Blood). At least five more guests are in the works, Fox notes. “Many will be conducting music they’ve composed or arranged, while some are performers,” he says.

Fox believes that music is a critical part of setting the mood for Halloween, both on and off the screen. “Think about the two notes from Jaws, the shrieking strings from Psycho or the haunting melody from Halloween,” he says. “Do you feel that shiver down your spine?”

Fox calls working with Townson an honor and privilege, and believes the Halloween Gala will set “a great pace” for the GSPO’s 11th season. “People can expect more iconic special guests from the industry, superb music – some they know, and some they should know – and evenings they will never forget,” he says.

The Golden State Pops Orchestra’s Varese Sarabande 35th Anniversary Halloween Gala takes place at the Warner Grand Theatre (478 W. 6th St.) on Oct. 19 at 8 p.m. Tickets ($28-$60) are available at GSPO.com.

The Grand Annex kicks off a busy fourth quarter calendar of events on Oct. 5 with a performance by Calé, a group that describes its music as “a spicy blend of Gypsy flamenco and Spanish classical guitar mixed with South American rhythms.”

Anchored by Spanish-born guitarists Jose Priesto and Victor Torres, Calé has been together for nearly a decade, during which they’ve performed live in a wide variety of settings, from weddings and tapas bars to traditional venues like The Grove of Anaheim, where they opened for Kenny G this summer. The Grand Annex concert will mark the group’s first San Pedro performance, although Torres notes that Calé has played nearby shows in both Long Beach (Cafe Sevilla) and Rancho Palos Verdes (Terranea Resort Lounge).

“I really believe our music transcends and translates across all platforms,” he says. “That’s why we have performed in almost every possible scenario throughout the country, with good response.”

For the uninitiated, Torres explains that the flamenco and Spanish classical guitar styles are “very different, yet similarly beautiful. Flamenco is more sentimental and aggressive, so you have to really express your passion, fire and feelings through the guitar or vocals or even dancing. We like to take people to a musical experience where passion, energy and sentiment are mixed together, and they can feel that they are part of it.”

Calé plays the Grand Annex (434 W. 6th St.) on Oct. 5 at 8 p.m. $20 advance tickets are available at GrandVision.org. For more information on the group, visit CaleMusic.com. spt

The Comfortable Rut: The Worst Place to Be

I suppose in October, the month of ghouls, goblins and generally everything that scares us, it’s only fitting to talk about fear. For now, I’ll talk about mine. Be ready.

It was nearing the end of 2005 and I was a sophomore in college. Everything was panning out as any 19-year-old’s life would: hang out with friends, take a couple classes at a junior college, get average grades, and that’s about it. I was floating. It was also the year the thing I feared most as a kid happened.

Fear is an interesting emotion. It’s meant to warn of legitimate dangers to our well-being, like illness or accidents, and cause us to be alert, take action, and prepare.

More often than not though, it has a paralyzing effect. At a time when many of the dangers that once threatened our lives have been neutralized through technology and medical advances, we still live with fear. Only it isn’t fear of haunted houses or zombies that we’re afraid of.

It’s change.

Fear keeps us from making the changes that we know deep down we need to make. It keeps our broom in hand constantly sweeping our growing discontent under the rug.

Many people live in their comfort zone, a place that feels safe and familiar. It’s the shallow end of the pool. A place we can daydream about a better life without actually doing anything that calls for uncertainty.

Some of you may find yourself in this place. You go through the motions feeling stuck and stagnant. Things aren’t terrible but they just aren’t what you want. You’re not sure of how to get out of this funk, so you do nothing.

This is the place called “The Comfortable Rut.” The wasteland where you wish things were different but it’s just not bad enough to change. It was where I was when I was 19 and my father died. I was forced to reevaluate everything.

It was when he passed that I seriously looked at everything I was just tolerating. My health, my future, all of it, and I realized I was incredibly complacent. I woke up. I got my act together, took my education and my fitness seriously and dropped a lot of the low-value things I was doing. But it took a painful experience to do it.

How many times have you talked to someone who wants more of life? Every time you see them they tell you everything’s going to be different this time next year. They’re going to leave a dead-end job, finally get in shape, and yet they go on year after year never actually doing anything.

How are you doing on your goals? Are you making steady progress with consistent action everyday? Or are you no closer today than you were a year ago? Or maybe like many people you’re just going in circles but never really getting anywhere. Maybe you’ve given up trying all together.

Ask yourself, what am I tolerating? What did you imagine for yourself that you just gave up on by convincing yourself that you’re too busy, too old, or simply don’t have what it takes? What has you at the side of the pool dipping your toes in the water, afraid to jump in?

If that thing is getting in shape, here’s some advice:

Feel the fear. Do it anyway. The very fact that you’re afraid is a good indicator that it’s really important. Sometimes the most important thing to do is just start. Do this and the fear will disappear (eventually).

Quit swinging for the fences. Aim for singles. Everybody thinks they have to completely overhaul their lives to get fit. Start with small steps done consistently. Week after week, just show up.

Have someone who’s been there to push you. I recently started training for a triathlon. I never could have swum a mile in the ocean without a coach to guide and talk me through it. A little handholding is the fastest sure-fire way to conquer fear and reach your goals.

And remember, the pain of regret is more painful than the pain of changing for the better. spt

Gone From My Sight

My mother passed away more than two years at the age of 81. It was a challenging time for our family. She had in-home hospice in the house that she had lived for 50 years and where my father still lives. Between my work and children, I would make the hour drive to visit my parents often, to be with my mom and to be supportive to my father.

A visiting hospice nurse left a pamphlet at my parent’s house and I found a poem on one of the pages along with signs that the time was getting close. The poem, entitled “Gone From My Sight,” is about a ship that sails out of sight, that is not gone but at another port. I read that poem many times and felt the words were exactly what I needed at that moment.

After my mom passed, I left the cemetery and went straight to Joshua Tree with my family to spend time away from the schedules of work and life to pause for a few days. When we got back, life was waiting and thoughts of my mom’s passing went from heavy emotion to passing thoughts like clouds going by in the sky.

We took our time going through her belongings and a few months ago, my dad had me look at her purses when I was visiting. We had very different tastes and my brother had no use for her clothing, so most of her belongings were donated. When we were going through her purses we found one hidden in the back of her closet. I had never seen it before and my father did not remember it either. It was not her style at all. It was a tan, leather purse that looked like it had Aztec designs, possibly from Mexico. It was very unusual looking and I decided to keep it. Since it had begun to dry rot I took it to Tucker’s Express Shoe Repair. On the way to the repair shop, I used the purse as I ran errands and was surprised by the compliments I received about it.

When I came back to Tucker’s a week later after dropping it off, he said several people had seen the purse hanging in his shop and wanted to buy it. I took my purse home and put it at the bottom of my closet. It needed polishing but I did not have time. After a few months of traveling with my family and everything else that keeps me so busy I noticed the purse in my closet. No wonder my mom kept that purse in her closet for 50 years, life really does get away from us at times. While my mom is out of my sight, she is not out of my mind or heart. The purse was a gift at just the right time, from my mom in her own special way.

“Gone From My Sight” by Henry Van Dyke

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.
Then someone at my side says: “There, she is gone!”
“Gone where?”

Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and she is just as able to bear the load of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says: “There, she is gone!” There are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout: “Here she comes!”
And that is dying.

spt

Our Creative Corridor to a Stronger Economy

Last spring, on a local campaign stop, Mayor Eric Garcetti was asked for ideas on boosting San Pedro’s economy. He cited the usual harbor-related stuff you’d expect, but then he added another point that pleasantly surprised me; make San Pedro one of the creative corridors that exist in Los Angeles.

It shouldn’t have surprised me. According to the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Business Policy – “The creative industries are a major player in the regional economy, generating more than 640,000 jobs and over $200 billion in annual sales revenue.” Being creative is big business in L.A. and San Pedro has many of the necessary elements to be poised for making good on the mayor’s idea.

Much of the talent is already here. As a local filmmaker, I’ve personally collaborated on numerous projects with San Pedrans. As a matter of fact, I’m even developing a TV idea with San Pedro Today’s own Joshua Stecker (how many of you knew Joshua freelances for entertainment publications such as The Hollywood Reporter?) Our partner, Matt Misetich, manages Script Pipeline, a company that discovers and connects writers from all over the nation with Hollywood’s top producers and managers.

My greatest local collaboration to date was with San Pedran, Chris Burke, and his partner, Jared Cotton, on Bloody Thursday, a PBS documentary film that chronicles how West Coast longshoremen fought to win the ILWU. The film garnered us an Emmy, which has allowed us to go on and do numerous other projects.

It’s probably apropos that my first meeting with Chris was at San Pedro Brewing Co. because he and Jared just premiered a show called Brew Dogs for the new Esquire Network about a pair of hilarious Scottish brewers that travel America in search of great craft beer. And SPBC is at the center of numerous scenes in my documentary, A City Divided, about the USC vs. UCLA football rivalry, which premieres on Fox Sports in November. (And btw, Misetich has an office above SPBC, which seems to be fast becoming the center of the creative universe).

A great thrill in making Bloody Thursday was having a song in the film performed by Mike Watt. Ask almost any alt-rocker about San Pedro and they’ll tell you that it’s Watt’s hometown. Watt, the bassist in Iggy and the Stooges, was in the Minutemen, a seminal punk band at the forefront of a rock revolution that allowed musicians to control their own career fate with a do it yourself (DIY) ethos, which exists to this day. In fact, San Pedro’s Recess Records, headed by Todd Congelliere, has for over 15 years kept our town on the punk map with its DIY approach to promoting music.

However, punk isn’t the only form of music that’s emerged from San Pedro. For example, 2003 SPHS grads proudly watched the Grammys last February as one of their classmates took home a trophy. San Pedro’s Miguel Pimental won a Grammy for Best R&B Song, “Adorn,” and electrified the audience when he performed the song in a live duet with Wiz Khalifa.

In addition to all of the great talent that’s already here, I’m also heartened by the numerous opportunities that exist for local youth to help build our creative corridor. Marymount is constructing a state of the art production facility on 6th Street that will attract film students from all over the world. The Boys & Girls Club features an amazing studio that allows its members to record music, shoot short films, and create animation and 3D projects. San Pedro City Ballet nurtures the talents of young dancers and includes prima ballerina Misty Copeland as an alumna. And the Warner Grand Theatre is home to youth theatre company Scalawag Productions and Encore Entertainers.

We often discuss linkage between our downtown and the waterfront as a key factor in a sustainable economic future for San Pedro. I would propose that we also begin to include linkage between our local talent, youth and the creative industries of Los Angeles as a key strategy in developing San Pedro into one of the prosperous creative corridors that make L.A. the entertainment capital of the world. spt

Top of the Totem Pole

Cirque du Soliel Hoop Dancer Eric Hernandez (Photos: OSA Images, Costumes: Kym Barrett, ©2013 Cirque du Soleil Inc.)

Eric Hernandez spins and jumps effortlessly through five hoops that he swings around his body and forms into geometric shapes as he dances to the rhythm of a Native American drum. The hoops somehow keep from getting caught on his headdress.

The 23-year-old Native American hoop dancer is gearing up for a series of upcoming performances in Cirque du Soleil’s TOTEM at the Port of Los Angeles. In a few weeks, the world renowned touring company will raise its blue and yellow big top in San Pedro’s outer harbor for a run of more than 30 performances of the critically-acclaimed show from October 11 to November 10.

“I’m close to home. I’m definitely going to have a lot of friends and family come to the show,” says the Covina native, catching his breath. Hernandez began dancing at the age of 10, quickly excelling and winning competitions across the country before being tapped to join Cirque du Soleil in 2011. He found himself catapulted into touring life with TOTEM traveling North America, most recently wrapping up a run of shows in Columbus, Ohio.

“A lot of my friends and family know of Cirque du Soleil, but they don’t know much about it, and I’ve been in this world for the last two years, so to be able to finally show them what I’ve been doing is definitely exciting,” he says.

Hernandez and another hoop dancer are featured in the three-year-old show written and directed by Robert Lepage, which traces humankind’s evolution from amphibians, to their ultimate desire to fly.

“Compared to other Cirque du Soleil shows that are based in an imaginary world, I would say this show is really based in our own nature, and that it’s a very funny show as well,” says Cirque du Soleil publicist Francis Jalbert. “By the theme of evolution, we’re bringing to the stage different scenes and sequences from the past of humanity. It’s kind of like the audience is traveling around the world and back and forth in time from one act to the next.”

Under the intimate big top, acrobats fly overhead and perform on a 2,700-lb. turtle skeleton apparatus representing the earth. Stunning images from around the world are projected onto a marsh at the center of the tent and infrared technology creates effects that actually respond to performers’ live movements — a footprint in sand, or a ripple on water.

TOTEM features dozens of artists testing the limits of the human body on bars, rings, unicycles and trapezes, and performing gravity defying balancing acts while taking humanity from the earth to outer space — all in beautiful and intricately designed costumes against stunning visuals and live music.

It’s a world-class entertainment experience, and for San Pedro, a gem of an opportunity that the Port spent years trying to make a reality.

When Cirque’s trailers roll into town this month, the company will be hiring 150 local laborers to raise and tear down the tent, and an additional 150 staff to run concessions and the box office.

“We’re excited to be here, San Pedro is an up-and-coming area and it’s fun to be a part of that. Being able to provide a product like this to an area that may be reinventing itself is really exciting for us as well,” says company manager Jeff Lund. “And we love waterfronts.”

When the show came to the Philadelphia area earlier this year, it actually set up on the Camden waterfront in New Jersey, which is similarly going through redevelopment.

The Downtown Historic Waterfront District (PBID) has arranged discounts with eight restaurants in downtown San Pedro for Cirque du Soleil ticket holders.

Lund says he hopes the show will not only bring new visitors to San Pedro, but bring Cirque du Soleil to new audiences. The tent seats more than 2,600, which means days with two shows could see 5,000 visitors.

“I hope we can assist San Pedro in their community development, and that we might expose a community that’s never seen a Cirque show before to our product,” he says. “Usually most people walk away from seeing TOTEM thinking ‘How can they do that?’ People are just awe-inspired. They’re amazed at what the human body can do, and that inspires them.”

The cast of TOTEM consists of 47 artists from 15 countries and 73 crewmembers from nine countries. Eighteen children join their parents on tour.

Hernandez says Cirque du Soleil has brought hoop dance, which is rooted in Native American wedding ceremonies, to a broader audience. “I don’t think hoop dancing or even Native American traditional dances have ever been put on this scale of entertainment.”

While the shapes he creates are based in traditional hoop dance, he says the dance he performs in the show is a little more fast-paced and high energy. “The main image is the eagle, which you see with two, three and then five hoops,” he says. “The audience can kind of interpret the shapes the way they want to. I can say something is a crocodile and others say it’s a snake.”

Jalbert hopes audiences will be blown away and inspired by the show. “As soon as you step into the tent, you forget about reality and dream with us. For two hours you get to escape reality and see what the human body can do.”

“It’s super great when a community like San Pedro supports and welcomes us because we know we’ve got your support,” Lund says, “It’s a mutual win-win.” spt

Cirque du Soleil’s TOTEM will be at the Port of Los Angeles from October 11 through November 10. For tickets and more information, visit www.cirquedusoleil.com.

SPHS Totally 80’s Class Reunion

I still remember graduating from San Pedro High School back in 1983. It was a clear and warm day as we walked onto the original high school field. Back then the football field ran east to west as opposed to the current north to south setup. We were the Utopian’s as our painted sign proudly hung on the outfield fence. Our cap and gowns were a flashy gray with a burgundy tassel and the excitement of this milestone was in the air, not only on the field with the candidates, but in the bleachers filled with family and friends. As Student Body President, I had the honor of welcoming everyone to the ceremony, made a brief speech on the importance of this day, and enjoyed the rest of the ceremony. Thirty years ago seems like yesterday as time has truly flown by.

Having been involved in planning the SPHS Class of ‘83 20th and 25th year class reunions the time seemed right to combine class reunions for our 30th. I thought whom better to approach with this idea than my friend and SPHS teacher Kathy Carcamo (class of ’85)? Always the optimist, Kathy and I have stayed friends since high school and when approached with the idea she not only liked it, but thought the whole decade should be invited, and coined the phrase “Totally 80’s Reunion.” Although the phrase sounded like a valley girl expression from the 80s, it worked. I then proposed we engage the San Pedro Pirate Boosters to help with membership and scholarship fundraising efforts, so we did.

The San Pedro Pirate Boosters were incorporated as a nonprofit in 1958, but actually started supporting student athletes under the leadership of Matty Domancich and Bill Seixas in 1954 and is one of the oldest booster clubs in all of L.A. Unified School District. Next year, the boosters are preparing to celebrate their 60th anniversary. Currently lead by Pirate Boosters President, Leonard Miller, the club has seen memberships go from a 71-member organization two years ago to 376 today. This success is attributed to the commitment and hard work of the Pirate booster new leadership team like Guy Spinosa, Noe Lopez and Joe Domicoli, longtime members Jerry Lovarov, Larry Robertson, Leon Carr and Rick Trujillo. Other key contributors to this success are John Fiorenza, Kathy Carcamo, and Stacey Soto. This is the core of the “Pirate-for-Life” theme that continues to transform the traditional Pirate Booster club into a forward-looking group with a vision to bring home Pirate Alumni and build a Pirate network that is unparalleled by any other in the Harbor Area.

An example of this transformation is the boosters’ goal to break 500 members this year and surpass 1,000 by 2015. Most importantly is the focus and emphasis on building the Pirate Booster Scholarships annual fund. In the past, 2012 seniors received scholarships from a $1,000 budget, whereas 2013 seniors received scholarships from a $4,000 budget. The 2013 scholarships were presented at a dinner for the first time in front of family and friends at the San Pedro Fish Market. The goal now is to double the fund each year through membership and fundraising so more and more scholarships can be presented to students at the annual San Pedro Pirate Booster Scholarship dinner event. The proceeds from the Totally 80’s Reunion will not only support the scholarship fund but also provide reunion attendees an introductory membership to the San Pedro Pirate Boosters.

The Totally 80’s Reunion is scheduled for October 12 and will start at 6:30 p.m. at the San Pedro Elks Lodge. Music will be provided by DJ Scott Martin, an 80s favorite and Pirate alumni. Tickets are $40 each and can be purchased online at www.sanpedropirateboosters.com. Please purchase tickets ahead of time and spread the word. Our goal is to sellout the event before the Oct. 12. If the event has not sold out, tickets will be available at the door. I look forward to seeing all of you at this great event for a great cause to provide scholarship funding for our future Pirate Alumni. spt

Backlot San Pedro

The Street With No Name (1948) featured the old Ferry Building.

The city of San Pedro has a list of television and film credits that would make any A-list celebrity green with envy and warrant at least three lifetime achievement awards; credits that span the history of filmmaking in California.

In 1910, famed director, D.W. Griffith, is credited with filming the very first movie in Hollywood. That same year, Griffith directed Mary Pickford in the Unchanging Sea, a Biograph Short shot along the Southern California coastline that included San Pedro. This would be the first of a number of films that would bring America’s Sweetheart to the Port Town, the most notable of which was the Little American, the motion picture telling of the sinking of the Lusitania. Under the direction of Cecil B. DeMille, Mary Pickford jumps from the sinking ship into the frigid night waters of the San Pedro Bay.

Charlie Chaplin, co-founder of United Artists with Ms. Pickford, also spent some time filming in and around San Pedro and the Port of Los Angeles. A Day’s Pleasure (1919), a First National Films short, showed Chaplin’s famous Tramp character driving his family to the waterfront to enjoy a day out on a harbor cruise. The film gives us a rare glimpse of the Fifth Street landing pier next to the Southern Pacific Passenger Station. Chaplin’s character dances on the top deck of the pleasure boat as the San Pedro coastline bobs around in the background. For Modern Times (1936), one of Chaplin’s more popular feature-length films, an entire street scene was built somewhere along the waterfront and Paulette Goddard can be seen running across boats outside of the French Sardine Company.

Jean Harlow visits the SP Chamber of Commerce.

Because San Pedro was still in its youth during the silent era, most filming utilized the working waterfront, the natural coastline or the waters of the San Pedro Bay. Writer Jack London played a bit role in the 1913 film version of his novel, The Sea Wolf. The first feature length film, The Squaw Man (1914) included scenes along the San Pedro waterfront. Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle and Mabel Normand wake to have their coastal love nest taking on water in Fatty and Mabel Adrift (1916). Scenes of the couple standing on the house, roof deep in water, were filmed off the coast of what would now be considered the outer portion of Cabrillo Beach. The very first Tarzan movie, Tarzan of the Apes (1918), dressed the coastline like a jungle for Olympian Elmo Lincoln to swing around in. Silent era heartthrob, Rudolph Valentino, dives into action to save a floundering Gloria Swanson in Beyond the Rocks (1922), their only picture together.

The Golden Era

The studio system ruled Hollywood during the golden era of filmmaking from the 1930s thru the 1950s. The need for the studios to produce content to fill their movie theaters ramped up production and ultimately location shooting in San Pedro, not only along and on the waterfront, but now reaching into the city limits.

One of the most famous movies to film in San Pedro during this era was the original King Kong (1933). The first shots taken for the movie, the landing party’s arrival, took place on a stretch of beach in San Pedro. The live action portion of Kong getting gas bombed was also filmed during that time.

Chinatown (1974) featured Point Fermin.

The golden era also saw the rise in the popularity of the military themed movies, primarily the navy. This could have been due to the events leading to World War II and the close proximity of the Pacific Fleet to Hollywood while it was based here in San Pedro. Clara Bow played a dance hall hostess in The Fleet’s In (1928). Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler made a couple of movies together here, Flirtation Walk (1934) and Shipmates Forever (1935). Joan Blondell also filmed Miss Pacific Fleet in 1935 in San Pedro, possibly at the same time Dick Powell was in town. The following year, on September 19, 1936, Powell and Blondell married aboard a ship in San Pedro.

The military movies didn’t have a monopoly on San Pedro screen time; some big time Hollywood stars found themselves taking on some local flavor. San Pedrans must have thought the movie Riffraff (1936) hit a little too close to home when Spencer Tracy played a fisherman who marries a cannery worker played by Jean Harlow. Miss Harlow even appeared at a local function at the Jugoslav hall that year and presented the Chamber of Commerce with a cake to celebrate its 30th anniversary. Friedrich March and Carole Lombard fall in love after plunging into port waters in Nothing Sacred (1936). In another movie with a storyline familiar to San Pedrans, John Wayne played a Norwegian seaman who gets shanghaied and rescued by his shipmates in The Long Voyage Home (1940).

To Live and Die in LA (1985) featured the Vincent Thomas Bridge.

Hollywood didn’t stop making movies during the war years. San Pedro being home to an active Army base, Fort MacArthur, made it an even more sought after location. There were quite a few movies that capitalized on the close proximity of the army base, including Stage Door Canteen (1943) and Buck Privates Come Home (1947), starring the comedy team of Abbott & Costello. This is the Army (1943), was almost entirely filmed at the upper reservation of Fort MacArthur. The movie starred future president Ronald Reagan, future senator George Murphy and a host of entertainers who were all enlisted in the army at the time. When the film was released, a premiere was held at the theater on the grounds of Fort MacArthur.

Film noir made its way to San Pedro in 1948 with the film, The Street with No Name. A brief chase scene through the municipal ferry building is so important historically for San Pedrans because the ferry ceased operation in 1963 and the building now houses the Los Angeles Maritime Museum. This is a prime example of the unintentional benefits of filming in San Pedro, the town’s history being preserved on film.

The Small Screen

With forty years of film experience under its belt, the city of San Pedro transitioned to the small screen effortlessly. While the show Waterfront (1954) was one of the first shows to film in San Pedro, The Fugitive was one of the most famous television shows to first start filming in San Pedro during the 1960s. The 1970s and 80s brought about the advent of the cop series. Name a cop show or private investigator television series and it probably filmed in San Pedro. Mod Squad, The Rookies, Adam-12, Barnaby Jones, Cannon, Mannix, The Rockford Files, Baretta, Starsky & Hutch, Murder She Wrote, Kojak, Columbo, Knight Rider, TJ Hooker, MacGyver and The A-Team. The draw for these shows to come and film in San Pedro included the waterfront and port, but they were also the first to venture into the downtown area and some of the old neighborhoods. The aging brick buildings and what was left of Beacon Street lent credibility to the crime the cops and private eyes were battling. The classic look of the municipal building for a police headquarters didn’t hurt matters either.

1980s television series Highway to Heaven gets festive on 7th Street.

The Love Boat was another television hit that put San Pedro on the map. The Princess Cruise ship that was used in the show, left from the Los Angeles World Cruise Center south of the Vincent Thomas Bridge. Every week the guest stars would start and end the show in front of the cruise ship terminal.

Other notable television shows that have filmed in San Pedro include: Highway to Heaven, General Hospital, Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place, Power Rangers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alias, Angel, The X-Files, 24, Prison Break, Heroes and Charmed.

There are two current and widely popular shows that have filmed in San Pedro recently, Dexter and Mad Men. Dexter, a Showtime series now in its final season, has filmed here from the inception of the series, creatively shooting around the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to make it look like Dexter’s home of Miami. Mad Men, which will begin its final season in 2014, has shot a couple of episodes in the Point Fermin area of San Pedro, but instead of pretending to be another location, Don Draper calls San Pedro by name.

Blockbusters & Big Names

Any article on San Pedro filming locations would be incomplete if it didn’t include certain films. Chinatown (1974) is usually one of the first films to be associated with San Pedro filming locations. Not only was the movie partially filmed in town, in the Point Fermin and Sunken City areas, but also Robert Towne, a man who grew up in San Pedro and whose family ran a business on 6th St. in downtown, wrote the movie. The film’s star, Jack Nicholson, would also star in A Few Good Men (1992) that used both the Coast Guard Station on Reservation Point and the upper reservation of Fort MacArthur. Nicholson’s co-stars included Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, Keifer Sutherland, and Kevin Pollack.

The Rock (1996) explodes in downtown on 7th Street.

Pollack would return to San Pedro three years later as part of the cast of The Usual Suspects (1995) that also included Gabriel Byrne, Benicio del Toro, Chazz Palminteri, Stephen Baldwin and Kevin Spacey. It could be argued that Spacey won his first Academy Award for the performance he gave on Beacon Street in San Pedro during that film.

The following year, San Pedro got its first taste of the Michael Bay treatment with a huge fiery crash in the middle of downtown. Nicolas Cage, who holds the record for most features filmed in San Pedro, co-starred with Sean Connery in The Rock (1996), that chase scene making a lasting impression on the town. The last film that bears mentioning is the cult classic, The Big Lebowski (1998). The scene where John Goodman spreads the ashes and it blows into Jeff Bridges’ face was shot inside of the ruins of Sunken City.

There are so many more movies and television shows that could be mentioned, and every year more are filmed here (Clint Eastwood was just here a couple of weeks ago, directing the film adaptation of the hit Broadway musical, Jersey Boys). Most San Pedrans take it for granted, some love the bragging rights, but San Pedrans and Angelenos alike should be grateful to filmmakers for preserving their heritage on film for future generations to enjoy. spt

Biggest Change In Fast Food Isn’t What’s Served, It’s Who’s Serving

I was amused reading about fast food workers wanting to go on strike for higher wages. Not amused by the plight of a group of people who work hard for very little, but because it took me back to my days in the fast food industry, when it was still in its infancy.

Back then, if I had gone to my boss and asked to have my wages doubled, he would have said something like, “Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.” Not to get too political, but the fast food industry has always relied on an unskilled workforce willing to work part time for minimum wage. The difference is that when I was young, the workers were mostly teen-age kids in high school who weren’t depending on those jobs to make a living.

Like so many others, my start in the “business” world was as a News-Pilot paperboy. My first “real” job came at the McDonald’s in Lomita on Western and Pacific Coast Highway, which is still there, albeit in a newer, bigger version (they introduced the newfangled Big Mac while I was there, and with every order we had to say, “Would you like a hot apple turnover with that?”). It was my senior year in high school, October 1968, when I started at the then-minimum wage of $1.25 an hour (and the Big Mac was 49 cents). I worked 26.5 hours those first two weeks, after school and weekends, and brought home $27.29. I’d never had so much money. I was rich!

I didn’t have a car, however, so I jumped at the opportunity when San Pedro got a brand-new Jack in the Box on Western Ave., the one that’s still there, in January 1969. It also meant a huge raise to $1.40 an hour. I now had a car and had graduated so I could work longer hours. The cash was pouring in.

My fast food experience ended just a few months later, when I began my journalism career as a sports stringer for the News-Pilot (30 cents a column inch could add up real fast), but I’ll never forget flipping burgers during the lunch or dinner rush and cleaning the grill and mopping floors at cleanup.

My colleagues at that time were fellow teens. At McDonald’s, I worked alongside my friend John Hiigel, who was San Pedro High’s student body president. He went on to become a pastor and then a professor at a Midwest college.

I was the “old man” at Jack’s. Most of my co-workers were juniors or sophomores. One was friend Ted Petrich, now a retired teacher living in Hemet. Another was Chris Traughber, a champion swimmer at SPHS and today Dr. Chris Traughber of the Palos Verdes Family and Immediate Medical Care Center. In a recent conversation with Chris, we agreed that we learned a great deal about life during our fast food days, but what we learned most was that it wasn’t what we wanted to do for the rest of our lives. Even at $8 an hour.

Of course, as I write this, the Big Mac is $3.89, and California is planning to increase the minimum wage to $10 an hour. Maybe I should rethink this and start practicing: “Would you like to make that a combo?”

Let’s Go Surfing

There are a couple of entertaining videos on YouTube that should interest San Pedrans. Linda (Barnes) Krammes (San Pedro High Winter `62) alerted me to the first (http://youtu.be/paLt3HLS3YQ) called San Pedro Memories.

Posted by Van Barbre (Winter `64), Memories is a series of snapshots, many of which appear to have come right from his family album, mingled with postcards of San Pedro and Long Beach in the `50s and `60s. I particularly liked the shots of the Pike, the Fishermen’s Fiesta in the heyday of the fishing industry, hundreds of white-uniformed cannery workers, the old Gaffey Street Pool, Marineland and San Pedro High in the early `60s.

For an entirely different look at San Pedro High, check out “Pirate Pride” (http://youtu.be/P21OZ7X55CQ). Judy Kiesel sent me the link to this video, which has been out since last fall. The brainchild of Joanne Cherry Booth, the dance teacher at San Pedro High, it’s a “Gangnam Style” parody that takes you on a tour of both campuses, and by the time it’s over has shown hundreds of choreographed students and a good part of the faculty and staff. All in good fun, it’s well-done, and if you don’t know what “Gangnam Style” is, well, you’ll just have to look to find out.

Kudos to Booth, a Venice, Calif., native who’s been at Pedro for 30 years, and camerman Victor Prudeux, an SPHS grad. Prudeux was on the stage crew as a student and, according to Booth, comes back and assists with performing arts events and technical needs.

I can’t help but wonder, however, what the Pirates’ API score would have been had they shown the same enthusiasm in the classroom. Just sayin’. spt

A Film Festival For The Community

Ziggy Mrkich and Renee O'Connor, co-directorsof SPIFF (photo by John Mattera)

It was founded to celebrate the diverse culture and community of San Pedro, and after its successful inaugural event last October, the San Pedro International Film Festival is back for its second annual event.

San Pedro has always had a rich film history, in fact, several movies — the original King Kong, Chinatown, The Usual Suspects, Pearl Harbor, and (500) Days of Summer — and television shows — NCIS, Mad Men and Dexter — have been shot on the streets of the city.

It’s the films, and the community of San Pedro, that the San Pedro International Film Festival was founded to celebrate, and founder Ziggy Mrkich proved last year that she is up for the job.

Mrkich is no stranger to the film festival circuit, she has more than a decade of festival involvement on her resume, and after a successful inaugural event, she is “very excited,” for this year’s festivities.

“We had a very successful first year,” she says. “And I am dedicated to continuing this festival and continuing to showcase films, really good films, from the festival circuit.”

“San Pedro has a long and rich history in the cinematic arts. With dozens of feature films, television shows and commercials shot here every year, it’s fitting that we now are host to a festival that celebrates the city’s diverse culture and community, and its contributions to film,” says Los Angeles City Councilman, Joe Buscaino.

Last year’s event, which drew more than 700 people, was the Los Angeles premier of Silver Linings Playbook, starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. The film went on to win several major awards, including Lawrence’s Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role.

“I was very surprised, but extremely happy to acquire the film as part of our first year,” Mrkich says. “We were very proud to have had the opportunity to be the first in the area to screen it.”

This year’s festival will feature screenings of both documentaries and short films. Mrkich says they received more than 550 submissions. One of the hardest parts of the festival planning is securing feature films for the weekend, she says.

“I handpick the feature films based on the attention the films are getting at other festivals, namely the Toronto Film Festival,” she says. “In addition, I really try to include films that are already getting Oscar buzz.”

She says oftentimes it is difficult to secure the films, but it’s this that makes her job “exciting.”

“It’s actually really very hard to secure feature films,” she says. “I do get a lot of ‘No’s,’ but programming isn’t easy at any festival, but it all works out in the end, you just have to know going into it that you will not get to screen every film you want.”

The workload lightened a bit this year for Mrkich when she brought Renee O’Connor on board.

The duo says the goal of this year’s festival is to “provide a service to the community by attracting new visitors to San Pedro, and exposing them to films they may otherwise not see.”

O’Connor, a director, producer and actress best known for her role as Gabrielle in the television series Xena: Warrior Princess, is facilitating the filmmakers for various panels. She says the panels will include information on producing small and large budget independent films.

“I am passionate about helping fellow filmmakers,” she says. “These panels will allow for future filmmakers to be in the same room as current filmmakers — it’s oftentimes hard to get into the industry, and this will provide an opportunity for people to share their experience of how they did it.”

The San Pedro International Film Festival is featuring screenings at the historic Warner Grand Theatre, as well as new outdoor screenings, pop-up screenings and a special screening aboard the newest addition to San Pedro, the historic Navy battleship, the U.S.S. Iowa.

In addition, Mrkich and O’Connor will be paying tribute to legendary filmmaker Tony Scott, who died in San Pedro last August.

Scott, a renowned presence in Hollywood, spent over 40 years working in the business, carving out a career as both a director and producer. Top Gun, arguably his best-known film, starring Tom Cruise, grossed more than $350 worldwide.

Scott also directed Days of Thunder (also starring Tom Cruise), Beverly Hills Cop II, True Romance, Crimson Tide (starring Denzel Washington), and Spy Game (starring Robert Redford and Brad Pitt), among many others.

“The tribute will include a brief retrospective of Scott’s work and his contributions to the San Pedro community,” O’Connor says. “Tony Scott shot several films in San Pedro, and has a very strong tie to this community and we want to honor that, and thank him for his contributions to the city.”

Scott’s family, including widow, Donna Scott, is expected to be in attendance.

O’Connor and Mrkich say they are “overly excited” about this year’s festival. “This is the community’s festival,” Mrkich says. “We have an open door for people who want to volunteer or be involved — this is a festival for the community, and that is why we are including a local program.”

O’Connor says that anyone who has never been to a festival should experience it just once. “This is a great opportunity to come and experience what a film festival can create,” she says. “You can come in off the street and sit down and be right next to the person who wrote and directed the film you are about to see — it’s wonderful.”

Mrkich adds, “The San Pedro International Film Festival is a win-win for audiences and filmmakers. We support filmmakers by providing an audience and platform for films, and the audience can see films they otherwise might have missed.” spt

The San Pedro International Film Festival will take place the weekend of October 4-6 at various venues in downtown San Pedro. This special edition of San Pedro Today includes the complete program and schedule for the festival. For more news and info, visit www.spiffest.org.

Go Big Or Go Home: Gina & Sarah Di Leva – October 19, 2012 (Wedding)

photos by Jeff Loftin & John Mattera

Gino and Sarah (Brander) Di Leva never thought they would ever get married, especially to each other.

The couple met through mutual friends in 2003 and got to know each other well as they often enjoyed dinner and live music together with their close-knit group of friends.

“We started off with a quirky friendship,” describes Gino, son of Vince and Mary Di Leva. “We would tease each other and joke around about going out with each other until we eventually did.”

So the two headed to Rock Bottom in Long Beach for their first “date” without the rest of the gang. They said the experience was really nothing different from when they were with their friends, and they just enjoyed each other’s company.

But because of their independent spirits, Gino and Sarah were in no rush to commit.

“We saw our relationship as us doing our own thing while enjoying the other person’s company,” says Gino. “Neither one of us were in a real hurry, so we just took it one day at a time.”

Being very driven in his music career, those around him knew Gino for his infamous one-liner: “I’m opposed to commitment.” Sarah was very aware of this and even heard it from Gino himself that he never wanted to get married. Likewise, Sarah didn’t grow up ever wanting to get married, but knew that if she ever did, it would be to Gino.

“We were both very independent, but had huge admiration for each other,” explains Sarah, daughter of Elizabeth Meyer. “I knew that if I were to ever marry, it would be to him. But marriage was never on the forefront of my mind.”

Despite their views on marriage, the two finally committed to each other in 2010. Ironically, as soon as Gino committed, Sarah moved to Australia for a year.

“I love Australia, and learning and tending to animals, and had the opportunity to live in Australia and work on a farm and travel throughout the country,” says Sarah. “But I could only call home once a week – and that was tough for us.”

In December 2011, seven months into Sarah’s year in Australia, Gino visited for five weeks, a trip that would take their relationship to the next level.

“I knew I was going to marry Sarah when I committed to a relationship,” explains Gino. “So I thought what better place to propose than Australia? I knew I had to go big or go home.”

And go big he did. Gino and Sarah took a plane to Ayres Rock in the middle of the Outback, where they had the choice to climb up the rock or walk around it. The two chose to conquer the six-mile walk around the rock, encountering numerous waterholes along the way. About three-and-a-half miles into their walk, they came upon a beautiful waterhole lined with trees that formed a tunnel.

Gino didn’t want to propose with others around, so he waited for the area to clear out. Once it did, Sarah pulled out Santa hats and thought it would be a good idea to take their Christmas pictures while there. Gino obliged and then told her he had a little gift for her, which was a “cheesy” bracelet, as he would describe it. He then said, “I have one more gift.”

He pulled out the box with the ring in it and got down on one knee and proposed. Sarah said yes, and again Gino said, “I have one more gift!” He pulled out his iPod and put the earbuds in Sarah’s ears and held her close and danced with her as she listened to the song being played, which was titled “U,” written and performed by Gino.

As this was all going on, not one other person was in the same area. As soon as the song ended, however, a large group of people entered.

“It was just a beautiful moment,” explains Sarah. “Everything about the day was just beautiful, from our sunrise tour to our engagement, to the dinner at sunset. It was just perfect.”

Less than a year later, the two married on October 19, 2012. Their ceremony was a traditional Catholic one at All Hallows Catholic Church in La Jolla in front of 100 guests. During the ceremony, Sarah’s friend Christina, who owns a bed and breakfast in Australia with her husband John, did a scripture reading. The church’s children’s choir performed various hymns and psalms, while Gino’s brother-in-law John Morreale and nephew Matthew Morreale played and sang “The Prayer” by Andrea Bocelli. Additionally, Monsignor Pilato, a longtime family friend and distant relative of Gino’s, presided over the ceremony.

Standing next to Gino and Sarah were their wedding party: Matron of Honor Kasie Regnier; bridesmaids Tarren Austad and Jenny Carlson; flower girl Ava Austad; Best Man Domenico Pilato; and groomsmen John Mattera, Tony “Mo” Di Leva, Anthony Di Leva, and John Morreale.

The reception followed at Green Gables Estate in San Marcos. Gino and Sarah danced to the same song Sarah listened to during the proposal. Gino also mixed a variety of songs together for the cake cutting, garter toss, bouquet toss, and more. For a surprise, Sarah strapped toys to her garter for Gino to find when it was time to remove it.

Gino and Sarah kicked off their honeymoon with a two-night stay in San Diego with Christina and John from Australia, followed by a week in Palm Desert. The couple currently lives in San Pedro, Sarah works at a physical therapy office in Redondo Beach, and Gino works as a disc jockey for Michael Angelo Music; operates M3 Workshops, Inc., a non-profit organization; and plays for various bands including Dr. Iven, Identity Theft, and Rodeo Drive. spt