Article from the 9/9/2016 Catalina Islander

Since becoming "Catalina's Official Greeter", March 10, 2014, when the Chamber Of Commerce assigned me to greet the cruise ships and cross channel carriers, I have answered 55,424 questions.
If you would like for me to share some recent interesting/unusual questions/comments I have received, or to communicate with me directly, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.m
If you missed any of my "ONLY ON CATALINA" past submissions, www.catalinaislandman.com
The 3-hour PBS documentary, "WEST OF THE WEST", covering the history of the eight channel islands, with a very good segment on Catalina (including yours truly), is only available in Avalon at the "Steamer Trunk" and "DC-3" (Airport).  If you don't live on Catalina, send me a check for $23, P. O. Box 1533, Avalon, CA 90704, and I will send you a DVD.
The "DC-3" is presenting its now famous end of the year and ONLY public BBQ, Saturday, September 10.  If you want to attend this wonderful activity, please contact me, 310-753-1854, and we can drive up together at 4:30.
A gentleman came up to me on Tuesday and asked me who the Chef was at the "Inn On Mt. Ada".  I admitted I didn't know, but would find out.  He told me I didn't have to as "he" was the chef and his name was "Johnny".  Honored to meet you Johnny and I hope I get to sample your cuisine someday soon!
On September 6 we started rationing 40% of the fresh water we used in May, 2013!  If you have any suggestions on how we can comply with this edict, let me know so I can share them.  In the meantime, buy stock in deodorants IMMEDIATELY! 
By cutting out carbohydrates and sugar, I have lost over 22# in a little over 2 months!
Going against the best judgment of others, I loaned $40 to a young man, I hardly knew, as he HAD to catch the next boat home to the mainland.  He promised to get me back the money, which was generally assumed to be a loss on my part.  Going through the "Islander", his grandfather was able to track me down and sent me a check for $50 and plans to send me a unused "Reyn Spooner" shirt.  I am so glad I let my heart once again override my head.  A "WIN-WIN" for all of us!
Said "good-bye" for now to my great friend of 55 years, Mitch Hammond (met him in Avalon when I was 14 and he 13).  Came all the way from Elgin, Illinois (he says "Chicago"). 
 
 
CASINO'S 50TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION, May 29, 1979
 
With the "Casino's 50 Anniversary", May 29, 1979, looming ever closer, it was quite obvious to me that there wasn't going to be much of a celebration.  In those days, we were generally involved in whatever the "Santa Catalina Island Company" planned and no notice of this event had been shared.
Just as a bit of trivia.  Think for a moment, before reading beyond this sentence, WHY the Casino HAD to be built and celebrated in 1929?  Give up!?!  This event was tauted as the "Decade Of Progress" celebration for the Wrigley's involvement in Catalina and the date they took over was...............(I'm waiting).........1919, so the decade had to be celebrated in 1929 and during the first "major" seasonal holiday, "Memorial Weekend"!!!
By the time of this event, I had established my company, "Catalina Island Odyssey", 215 Catalina.  One of the main functions for this business was to create special events.  Even before I opened our doors, in 1976, I had orchestrated Catalina's unique celebration of our nation's "Bi-Centennial" (see "Islander", August 19, 2016, www.catalinaislandman.com).  Once I had started business, in 1977, we had established ourselves by conducting the 50th Anniversary of the January, 1927, "First Cross Channel Swim".  I had always LOVED the Casino, as my father was Mr. P. K. (Phillip Knight) Wrigley's "Chief Engineer", placing him in charge of the maintenance of the building from 1945-60.  I had gained "employment" at the age of four by handing out handbills on the hot sandy beaches letting the bathers know the movie lineup for the week (in those day, we had a different movie generally every night).  For this, Theatre Manager, Tommy Clements, gave me "free admission" to any showings in the Theatre that I wanted.  I recall that was worth around 15 cents.  I was "bound and determined" to give this Island Icon the birthday celebration to end all celebrations, as she deserved (I have ALWAYS referred to the Casino as a "her" as she is DEFINITELY a dignified lady and is SO BEAUTIFUL when gussied up and sharing herself with others)!
I contacted Ada Blanche Wrigley Schreiner, "Blanny", the first of William and Ada Wrigley's grandchildren, to get her permission to do the project complimentary.  In turn, I asked if I could possibly put on the first film festival, "Catalina Island Film Festival", June 16-24 (not to be mistaken for the fabulous "Catalina Film Festival" by Ron Truppa, September 28-October 2), with 45 "Island" themed movies, with half of them made on Catalina. Once given her blessing, I then worked directly with the Island Company who gave me all of the assistance that I needed.
 
I decided to produce a line of commemorative items, all limited editions:  coffee cups, drinking mugs, key chains, stick pins, silver, gold, and platinum commemorate coins, and especially the "Trade Dollar Doubloons" (they were aluminum with gold painting).  These doubloons depicted on one side the Casino and on the other the Film Festival.  These doubloons were purchased for 90 cents, but then used at a value of $1.00 to buy local items.  This idea had been attempted before, but with paper money, and a long time before.  I then commissioned a good friend, and EXTREMELY GIFTED local artist, Frank Loudin, to come up with a very special poster, which he did exceeding well (these original 1979 posters are only available for sale at "Leo's Drug Store).
 
O, K, NOW WHAT TO DO FOR THIS VERY SPECIAL 50TH ANNIVERSARY!?!  It didn't take much thought.  I simply decided to "re-inact" this monumental event as closely as I could.  I did my best (BEFORE PERSONALIZED COMPUTERS) to locate those directly involved.  I found the "designer", who was now working for "Six Flags Magic Mountain".  I interviewed him on a tape recorder as he was unable to attend the event.  The ONE major realization that came out of this meeting was to find that he had to determine the shape of the building on the boundaries set up for William and Ada Wrigley.  On the land side, it could not affect her rose garden, and on the sea side, it could not touch his small "Sugar Loaf".  Had to fit in between the two (both of which are now LONG GONE.  Poor guy!).  Most of the primary participants had since passed away and there was one that I didn't even look for, John Gabriel Beckman, the man responsible for all of the beautiful murals and paintings in the Casino Theatre and Ballroom.  I figured her HAD TO BE DEAD AS no one had heard a word from him since 1929 and he did such a remarkable job, he simply COULDN'T be alive! (I told the story of my locating him, PERFECTLY ALIVE, but unable to make the event  "Islander", February 6, 2016, "I Want The Mermaid", www.catalinaislandman.com).  When possible, I asked the children/grandchildren of these original "stars" who brought the "Casino" to life to act in their stead:  David Malcolm (D. M.) Renton, the Vice-President under William Wrigley, Jr., the genius who was responsible for putting Mr. Wrigley's dreams into fruition, was played by his son, Malcolm Renton.  There was a young girl who "jumped" out of the "Pleasure Chest" (the "Casino" was referred to a "Pleasure Palace", so the term was used also for this "Chest") to signify the official opening of the building.  I miraculously located this "young girl" and invited she and her father to return a half a century later, with her granddaughter to take her place in the box.  There had been a beauty pageant on stage and one of the models was Lucile Pinneo Sook, who turned out to be the mother of our own cherished, Jeanne Hill, who immediately and graciously agreed to line up the models, design the costumes, and narrate the pageant!
 
On thing I had learned to my surprise was that there was supposed to have been a showing of one of he first "silent/talking" movies, "The Man In The Iron Mask",  starring Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.  Its performance was sort of a "gimmick" to show off the wonderful acoustics of  this first theatre ever built specifically the advent of "talkies".  The movie started off, as usual, of movies of this period, with silent acting, dialogue printed on the screen, and full musical accompaniment.  Suddenly, to EVERYONE'S amazement, Mr. Fairbanks was "supposed" to start talking, using his actual voice!  I said "supposed" as the film was never shown, as the projectionist was not familiar with "sound strips" on the film and so the projector proceeded to literally shred the film!
 
MY BIG SURPISE was to show this film, 50 years too late, but show it none the less.  Douglas Fairbanks' son, Doug Fairbanks, Jr., an accomplished actor in his own right (he had previously been married to Joan Crawford), was now retired and living in Florida.  I contacted him and explained my plan for his father's film.  His answer was an immediate, 'NO!"  I WAS SHOCKED TO SAY THE LEAST!!!!!  I hesitantly asked "why" and he explained that  the copy of the film that was still in existence had been deteriorating over the years and his father's voice did not sound like the original and he didn't want any audience to hear this bad quality.  He could obviously tell by my pregnant silence that I was terribly disappointed (BOY, WAS I EVER!).   He said that he would settle for a compromise.  He would allow me to show the film if he could make a print of it ad superimpose his own voice over the poor quality of his father's.  I am not sure of the name of the "shortest time designation", but that is how long it took for me to say, "BY ALL MEANS!"
 
"The Pleasure Girls" a bit scantily dressed, as they were in 1929, lead the procession.  One of them, my sister, Carolyn Ward, only 16 years old, received so many "Cat Calls" that I was tempted to stop the parade and do some major whopping!!!  "The Pasadena Marching Band" had taken the "Pleasure Chest' from the "S. S. Catalina' and lead the parade through town to the Casino.  I had the present group again become an intrigal part of the ceremonies.  With a little bit of "slight of hand", Bill Bushing, my V. P. of "Catalina Island Odyssey" and my indispensable "right hand man", as well as myself, took the chest off the "Catalina Cruise Ship", "Catalina King" (UNFORTUNATELY, the "S. S. Catalina had been taken out of service in 1975!), carried it to the Casino, and snuck the young girl into the box, making it look as if she had traveled across the channel in it and we had carried her ALL THE WAY from the Mole to the Casino.  NO WAY!  Bill and I would have broken our backs and the little girl would have suffocated! 
 
This was a FREE event, which was the agreement that I had made with the Island Company.  In return, I was able to "tie up" the Casino Theatre for the entire day.  The doors officially opened at Noon, on May 29, 1929.  At Noon, May 29, 1979, Malcolm Renton opened up the chest, the little girl jumped out, handing him the key to the building.  The door officially opened up for the first time to this remarkable and breathtaking "Pleasure Palace"!  If I recall correctly, this was pretty much a full house of all 1184 seats.  In the front row, I had some of the Wrigley descendants (for the record, based on my research and confirmed by Blanny Wrigley Shreiner many years later, there were NO WRIGLEYS at the original ceremony on May 29, 1929!  Although Blanny wanted to attend, her father, P. K. Wrigley, refused to let her.  No real explanation has been given, although the letters sent between Mr. Wrigley and Mr. Renton, that Patricia Moore is editing for D. M.'s Grandson, David Renton, should eventually shine a light on facts.  I feel that Mr. Wrigley, to his credit, realized that Mr. Renton, and not himself, had done the "Lion's Share" of the work and so didn't want to take any credit away by showing up for the event!), followed by those who were part of the program, celebrities (I had contacted EVERY actor/actress who had ever appeared in a film made on Catalina as well as EVERY band leader who had ever played in the Ballroom!), then over 400 people who had been there for the Grand Opening 50 years before (you can tell that Bill and I did a MONUMENTAL JOB of advertising this even all of the country, and the world).  Then the general public and finally the marching band.
 
For the MAJOR position of M. C., out of respect, I had asked John Wayne to take this roll.  Through communications with me, he told about coming to Catalina as a young boy,  when the "Sugar Loaf" stood at the location of the present Casino.  Remarkably, he shared the amazing fact that he and Howard Hughes were at the opening ceremonies!! He had just celebrated his 22 birthday on May 26.  I knew that he was dying of stomach cancer (would eventually die on June 11, two weeks later!), but knew that he would appreciate the gesture.  Not only did he thank me, and graciously turn me down, but even though he was probably receiving hundreds, no thousands, of messages of concern and love from around the world daily, he took the time to make sure that I received a congratulatory telegram that evening.  NOW, THAT IS CALLED "CLASS"!!!  I then had contacted the actor/singer, John Davidson, who was Avalon's "honorary Mayor", but he was performing in Las Vegas at the time.  Then the OBVIOUS M. C. came to mind!  Carl Bailey, "Mr. Big", because he was 6'11", was the radio D. J. for our local radio station, KBIG, beginning in the 1940's, and also, for a short time, was our steamer "greeter".  Although he was retired and, I later found out was very ill, he agreed immediately and was so happy to know that we still remembered him!  OF COURSE WE REMEMBERED HIM!  Who could forget him, as he promoted our Island over the radio for so many years!  I WAS DELIGHTED!
 
The first thing on the agenda was to welcome everyone and read the MANY telegrams and letters that were received by all of those celebrities that I had contacted, but couldn't attend:  i. e., Gloria Swanson, Mikey Rooney, Joan Crawford, Jack Lemmon, Kay Kyser, Ginny Sims, Doris Day, etc.  After a while people were heard to say "Didn't ANYONE accept the invitation to come!?!"  Yes, two did.  Our own native born, Gregory Harrison, who was appearing in his first television series, "Logan's Run", and "Doodles" Weaver, frequent visitor to Catalina, who played minor rolls in a number of major motion picture.  He most recently was featured with "The Spike Jones Band.  I proudly introduced the Wrigleys, Gregory, and "Doodles".  We then had the fashion show.  Gaylord Carter, the world famous silent screen organist, who was supposed to have been the first organist at the Casino, but had to bow out, as he had other commitments on the mainland, played a medley of songs written about Catalina/Avalon (there had been almost 100) and then "The Avalon Community Chorus", including myself, went on stage and sang some of he more popular one, including the premier of "Catalina, My Magical Island", written by Renee LaPlante, one of our singers.  Theatre Manager, Tommy Clements, dusted off, or added dust to, his original clown costume, when he  worked for the "Barnum And Bailey Circus" and resurrected some of his most memorable pantomimes. 
 
NOW FOR A VERY SORE SUBJECT!!!!!  I had interviewed Art LaShalle, one of the major players on the Island, especially at the "Isthmus", now called "Two Harbors", going back the 1920's.  He told me that in 1929, he was hired by "Fox Movietone" newsreels, to set up a camera and through "time lapse photography", show the Casino actually "blooming to life"!  He said that the Island Company had this film.  I WAS ECSTATIC!!!  I contacted the Wrigley's in Chicago and they told me that the movie was on the Island, probably in one of the vaults in their offices on Metropole.  I went there, saw what they had, although interesting, was not THAT film.  I was then told that the last time anyone knew about this particular film was when it was placed in one of the vaults in the Theatre, under the custody of Malcolm Renton.  As I knew Mr. Renton, as my father had worked directly under him, during my father's stint working for Mr. Wrigley, 1945-60, I contacted Mr. Renton to inquire about the movie.  THIS IS THE PART THAT STILL GIVES ME NIGHTMARES!!!!!
 
Malcolm verified that he "had" been in charge of this film, including the one that he took of the launching of the "S. S. Catalina" in 1924, but because both films were on 35MM "nitrate film" (the film used at the time), and he had been warned that over the years, the films decomposing had caused fires, and even explosions, he decided he had to get "rid of them"!  So, a short period before the 50th Anniversary Celebration, he went out in a rowboat, powered by our own Doug Bombard (Doug later verified this) and DUMPED them in approximately 200 feet of ocean off of Casino Point!!  I JUST ABOUT STANGLED MR. RENTON!!!  I asked him if he had EVER contacted any of the movie transfer companies to investigate the chances of having the two films transferred to "Safety Film".  He said that he had NEVER thought about it!  I then had to simply make slides of all of the pictures of the Casino being built at different stages and show the Casino "blooming" in this manner.  It was O. K., but NOT NEARLY as dramatic as it would have been with the "time lapse" filming!
 
DEFINITELY, one of my proudest moments, came when I asked the over 400 guests who were at the Grand Opening, May 29, 1929, to stand up and be recognized.  They received quite an applause!  Then I told them that I had a major surprise specifically for them!  They had attended this event in '29 expecting to see "The Man In The Iron Mask", but never did!  I said, "After waiting for 50 years, Mr. Ford Harrison (the present projectionist), START THE FILM!"  Boy, was that ever an EXCITING and MOVING experience; an historic moment; the end of one of my favorite projects; dedicated to my favorite building and Island; my home!!!