1979 Interview with Pete Douglas/Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society

I always enjoyed interviewing Miramar Beach’s impresario, Pete Douglas, because he’s a one-of-a-kind, accessible, and always more than honest. You WOULD NOT believe the big names that have played at Douglas’s Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society.

Some of you will read Pete’s words and “hear” exactly what he sounded like, talking with the ubiquitious pipe in his mouth, then pausing to laugh at what he said, then perhaps musing on some other internal revelation causing him to laugh again and conclude, “so that’s what that was all about”. Maybe he was solving the puzzles of his life while he talked. And Pete, who came from southern to northern California, loves to talk.

We were upstairs in Pete’s office at the Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Miramar. His office, a desk and chair, was located in the big, spacious upstairs next door to the room where the jazz and classical concerts take place.

Here’s the beginning of the 1979 interview.

Pete: I was a bohemian of the 1950s, in college and after, anti-establishment, yetthere was the other straight side of me. I had a family and I had to get a job and I took a job in this county as an adult probation officer….It’s not like a regular job but it’s an official police sort of job which me very suspect with the hardcore beats that used to come through here.

June: What did being beatnik mean in the 50s?

Pete: A lot of good stuff out on that. The beatniks were a real extension of the American bohemia right on from the turn of the century, the 20s, the 30s, 40s and 50s. It was just another twist or continuation –however, the style it took was anti-establishment, anti-materialistic America. They had intellectual leaders like Sarte, the French writer, and the San Francisco poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

We are interrupted as the phone rings.

Pete: Douglas speaking. Yeah. Every Sunday. This Sunday is the guitarist Charlie Byrd. And then following that is Coke Escovido 13-piece Latin Jazz Orchestra. Yeah, we’re hardcore jazz, although we do a greater variety of it, like traditional, swing, bop, mainstream, progressive, spacey, funk, Latin. Yeah, I’ll mail you something right now, and if you want ot remain on the mailing list it’s $3.00 a year. What’s your name? Carder? Oakland? Tremendous this fall. We’ve got a blues thing, Sunnyland Slim and Eddie Clean Head Vincent on the 9th, David Fathead Newman on the 16th, Zoots Sims….We’ve been doing this for 14 years. Every Sunday. That’s the only time we do it. Right on the beach. Beautiful small roomm for jazz. Bring your own juice. Okay.

Pete hangs up the phone and he’s back into the interview with me.

June: Would you say the Bach has some of the finest jazz music in the world?

Pete: Now I could say yes. We have the best instrumentalists in non-classical music, which tends to be jazz oriented but not all of it is hardcore jazz.

June: Is it the only jazz house of its kind in northern California?

Pete: Kummbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz –they incorporated as a non-profit music organization and they do primarily jazz once or twice a week. And they followed our pattern. That’s the only other non-profit I know of.

June: And you’ve always had a fascination with the beach ever since you were down at Hermosa and the Lighthouse? Where does that fascination come from?

Pete: Some people like the beach, the whole space. Beach communities are liberal, live and let live, more tolerant, and, of course in Southern California there’s a lot of action on the beach whether it be jazz or other things. Going back to the 20s and 30s big dance halls were all on the beach, amusement parks, that kind of thing. That’s the only place I felt a sense of freedom, on the beach as opposed to the conventional residental setting.

June: You say you lived like a beatnik. What does that mean?

Pete: Well, the beatnik style of dress was merely any odd collection of clothing that you pick up for very little money. …In other words to exist without the conventional jobs, to exist without the 9-5 jobs–the freedom to deal with your interest in arts and crafts….Jazz has always been associated with and still is the minority music, a protest music, an unconventional music as opposed to our European musical traditions.

June: I’ve noticed that you’ve changed your attire from what you used to wear.

Pete: The only thing that’s changed is that I used to wear sneakers, ratty old sneakers….I’ve been wearing Levis since I was 11-years-old. And in Los Angeles on the beach it was Levis and Levis have only changed to the extent that they’re slightly flared with a belt. Prior to the Mod scene of the 60s, it was not cool to wear a belt. In my case I’ve had these old captain’s hats and I also wear a turtleneck because they’re comfortable when it’s cool.

June: Didn’t you want to run your own espresso house?

Pete: Oh, yeah. Even in Santa Barbara, before I got out of college. Oh, by the way, being a graduate of college was not exactly in the beat tradition. They were drop-outs. But I was a dual person coming from–and this was not unlike the freaks of the 60’s–a lot of ’em were upper middle class kids who revolted against everything, and a lot of the beats were upper middle class kids. Some of em were just bums. Took on the appearances because it was fashionable. The beats had to survive with some kind of economic ‘mom and pop’ store. If they could figure out how to do it, live off the crumbs of society….

June: This little building downstairs–was it originally built in the 1940s?

Pete: I think it was built around 1947.

June: So before that there was nothing here?

Pete: No.

June: (Regarding the ‘little building’ downstairs) I remember you looked through the Police ‘blue sheets’. What did you find?

Pete: Felonious assault, burglary. See, it was run by Gladys Klingenberger and her husband, Carroll.

June: Do you think they’re still alive?

Pete: I think Carroll died and I just don’t think Gladys is around. I last saw her over ten years ago at the Miramar Hotel, (burned in the 1960s) at the bar, juiced, bad mouthing everybody as usual.

….To Be Continued

Montara Murder: Babes in the Woods Case 1946: Part V

Murder in Montara: The Babes in the Woods Case 1946; Part V

There was a lot of back-and-forth over where Vorhes Newton’s arraignment would take place in the summer of 1946. Who knows how they finally worked it out but those officials who pushed the Redwood City County Courthouse venue, lost, and it was decided the 24-year-old Newton would be arraigned on the Coastside where his horrific crime had been committed.

Half Moon Bay was a rural country village, and Judge Manuel Bettencourt, who presided over the court there, was the kind of man you either liked or hated, He was called “The Judgeâ€? and depending on who was saying it, “The Judgeâ€? sounded warm and friendly or tainted with a smoldering ire.

One thing nobody could deny, “The Judgeâ€? had broken social barriers by marrying the pert, outgoing Irene Debenedetti, the daughter of one of the most prominent families in town. She was Italian; he was Portuguese; theirs may have been the first such important marital union in Spanishtown, as the “realâ€? locals called Half Moon Bay.

It was only an arraignment, a legal procedure measured in minutes, but no matter how small his role “the Judgeâ€? would be a presence.

Judge Bettencourt’s office/courtroom stood on Main Street, across the way from today’s “Original Johnny’sâ€? coffee shop. Bettencourt’s courtroom was a space big enough to hold a maximum of 25 spectators.

Dubbed the “Babes in the Woodsâ€? case by the press, Vorhes Newton had attracted national attention putting Redwood City, where the heavy legal business was conducted, on the map. This case could make reputations.

Due to all the attention, Judge Bettencourt’s Half Moon Bay courtroom couldn’t comfortably accommodate all the photographers, reporters, the curious, the locals and the participants. Sheriff’s deputies, with their prisoner, had to push through the crowd before a decision was made to move the whole show to the nearby high school’s gymnasium, accommodating 150 spectators. When the bleachers were full, chairs were quickly brought in and a courtroom improvised with tables from the classrooms.

Sheriff Walter Moore, member of a prominent Pescadero family, acted as bailiff. County District Attorney Gilbert Ferrell arrived with Fred Wyckoff, Ferrell’s second-in-command who had done most of the early case work.

The noise of onlookers didn’t drown out official voices in the makeshift courtroom in the school gym– rather there was a stunned quiet– and, besides the normal curiosity associated with people wanting to see the kind of man who would murder his own children–there was pity for young Vorhes Newton.

Wearing a checkered sports jacket and brown tie, Vorhes had a scrubby brown beard, his face was bruised, his black eye colored a purplish hue now. His own personal trial had caused his shoulders to droop. When his eyes searched the school gym, he recognized half a dozen members of his family but Vorhes didn’t smile or nod at them. He still couldn’t believe he committed the murders.

Judge Bettencourt asked the defendant if Vorhes Newton was his name and he softly answered, “Yesâ€?.

Then followed a series of damning witnesses First was Fred Simmons, Half Moon Bay’s deputy sheriff. He spoke of bringing a bloodied Lorraine Newton to the Community Hospital. He told of finding the bodies of the two little ones.

John Kyne testified to finding the bodies of the two babies at the Montara flower ranch which was also confirmed by Kyne’s employees James Fiedler and Steve Torre,.

Mrs. Dodd, the Newton’s Alameda neighbor, told the court that she accompanied the Newton family on the first part of the murder ride. She was dropped off at the Alameda navy base. Later that day she saw Vorhes return home alone.

Of interest to defense attorney Leo Friedman was Mrs. Dodd’s statement that she often heard Vorhes call his wife, “Bossâ€?. In her opinion Lorraine Newton was the quarrelsome type, not her husband.

Witness Anthelmo Quaves said he saw an auto containing a man and woman drive slowly into the lonely canyon and heard yelling and the sounds of someone being beaten. He said he saw the auto come back speeding out of the canyon.

Lorraine’s mother, Mrs.Tuttle, said her daughter was improving and identified her engagement and wedding rings

Defense attorney Leo Friedman revealed that Mrs. Newton knew she was pregnant, wanted to confirm it with a doctor and left open an abortion.

Newton sat solemnly at a student’s desk in the makeshift courtroom, obviously relieved when Deputy Sheriff Jack O’Brien escorted from out of the courtroom and back to the car that would return him to the Redwood City County Jail.

Outside the courtroom in Half Moon Bay, defense attorney Leo Friedman joked with reporters and photographers. They knew him from for his role in two sensational trials, that of Mrs. Frances Andrews and David Lamson.

Lorraine Newton did not make an appearance. So far she had remained in the background.

To be continued….

Leon Kunke: Artist & Landscaper

Leon Kunke, artist and landscaper, sits on a rock wall near my veggie garden. Note “the desert” in the background–everybody says it’s amazing that cacti and succulents grow to such amazing size in El Granada!

Center: More Garden, rock walkway near the tropical part of the garden (there’s an unseen pond to the left)

Bottom: Leon created these textiles for me

If you like Leon’s work, call him at 650.599.9978

all photos by June

Do You Love Henri Matisse?

I do. And this new book is delicious, illustrated with lots of (in color) fabrics and textiles that inspired the great painter Matisse–and how he worked the fabrics into his art, the lusciously detailed paintings that cause you to linger and enjoy his visions. If you love Matisse, this book will make you swoon.

There isn’t just one author listed on the spine or the front of the book–in fact, there’s none. But inside it becomes clear that this was a collaborative effort by Kathleen Brunner and Ann Dumas, independent art historians, Jack Flam, Art History Professor at the Graduate School of NYU, Remi Labrusse, Contemporary Art History Professor, Universite de Picardie, Amiens, Hilary Spurling, Author of “The Unknown Matisse” and Dominique Szmusiak, Chief Curator of the Musee Matisse, Le Cateau-Cambresis.

I’m not one who favors collaborations, because they usually turn out to be an ugly mess. Many art experts worked on this new book about Matisse, his art and his textiles, and I must congratulate all of the authors because they have created a thing of beauty and I am grateful.

Please Tell Us What You Know About This One-Of-A-Kind El Granada House

Deb Kessler writes “When we moved into the house, a neighbor told us a rumor she had heard that the house was built as a beach cottage for a silent film actress who lived in SF. I do not have any information to prove or disprove this rumor. The house is 1200 sq ft with 2 bedrooms and 1 bath. It is clearly boat-like in appearance and the upstairs room is very evocative of a room on a boat. Knotty pine walls and ceiling, a low ceiling–very warm and cozy.”

You can’t miss this unique house, built in 1929, on Carmel Avenue in El Granada.

Miss Kessler did a search of tax records at the County Government Center “and was able to work backward only to 1937 then got stymied.” She spent hours searching through “microfiche and huge leather-bound title records books”

She purchased the house from the Lelia Gilly family in 2001. “There were 9 or 10 kids in the family who grew up here, “Deb Kessler emailed me. ” I occassionally see Penny Gilly, one of the kids who grew up here, but she does not have old photos or historical information.”

Please email [email protected] if you have historical information about this unusual home.

Murder in Montara (1946): Babes in the Woods Case: Part IV

Whether the San Mateo County District Attorney would press for the death penalty in the Vorhes Newton case was not yet known. Newton’s was a heinous crime, the killer of his two little children who were left to die on a lonely road in Montara—and the attempted murder of his young pregnant wife.

Luckily, 21-year-old=year Lorraine Newton had survied and was slowly recovering from severe head injuries in a Half Moon Bay hospital in the summer of 1946.

Lorraine hadn’t been told that the babies were dead, and although she hadn’t talked to her husband, the pair both agreed about one thing: neither remembered what happened at the end of that horrible day. They’d had an argument about abortion, they remembered that, but then both Lorraine and Vorhes maintained they blanked out and couldn’t recall anything else.

The prosecutors had no trouble mapping out what had happened. They had an open and shut case, with testimony, evidence and the murder weapon in their possession, enough to convict and ask for the death penalty. The prosecution was anxious to go to trial, which they predicted would be short and sweet.

The prosecution team also bragged that they had damning testimony even if Newton’s wife couldn’t testify—but they believed she would be well enough to do so. They had the murder weapons, a sharp-edged shovel and a baby’s milk bottle.

Vorhes Newton was not a loner, not without the love and support of his wealthy family, his father an affluent farmer from nearby Lodi, and one of his brothers a successful “coin phonographâ€? operator. His parents and siblings rushed to his side at the county jail, strategizing with Leo Friedman, the nationally known and colorful attorney who replaced former superior judge Alden Ames, said to have had second thoughts about representing the controversial defendant.

Fresh from winning several tough cases for his clients, Leo Friedman huddled with Vorhes Newton’s family, discussing strategy. He walked away forty five minutes later telling the press Vorhes impressed him “as a lovely boy with a good record. I don’t even know that he did it. If anybody did do anything like this—he must be crazy.â€?

After the legal conference with Friedman, Newton followed his new lawyer’s advice and refused to give up any information during future grilling by detectives—even though he had already allegedly confessed bludgeoning the babies to death.

Friedman wanted that confession repudiated because it had been elicited under the duress of grilling. He mentioned the possibility of a plea of “not guilty by reason of insanityâ€?.

County District Attorney Gilbert Ferrell said that Mrs. Newton was pregnant but, when asked if she would keep the baby, he said no one had that answer– but that the pregnancy was certainly the cause of the argument between the couple and the violent events that followed. Vorhes and Lorraine Newton, Ferrell said, were arguing about the abortion, an illegal medical procedure in 1946. Ferrell did not reveal whether husband or wife was for or against it.

Medical experts believed the beating Lorraine received could lead to a miscarriage.

Her parents, residents of southern California, came to their daughter’s bedside. Lorraine’s father, Frank Tuttle, was the port auditor at Los Angeles. She had still not been told of her children’s deaths but was conscious and conversing with nurses at the Coastside hospital.

But would she appear as a witness at her husband’s trial?

To be continued….

Cherie Dailey Shares Her Love for the Birds of El Granada

Special to Half Moon Bay Memories & El Granada Observer

December Birds in El Granada
by Cherie Dailey

Three years ago my novice interest in birds was over indulged. My Christmas gifts included bird books, feeders, nesting materials, and a beautiful bird bath. I am still a novice, but I can identify all the birds in my yard by sight and most of them by sound. I’ve collected a treasure of special bird stories to share with anyone that even hints at an interest in birds. In a nutshell, I’ve gone to the birds.

One of the aspects of birding that I’m well aware of now is the fact that if you pay attention, they pronounce the seasons as clearly as the weather. So as we march into wintertime, I can confirm the season as I watch and listen to the birds.

Fall is heralded by the Golden Crown Sparrow. Their song is a child hood memory for me…â€?Oh Dear Meâ€? – they stay until springtime. The Golden Crown and the White Crowns are a winter staple in the backyard. They join the year round residents: Hummingbirds, American Goldfinch, Towhees, House Finch, Pygmy Nuthatch, Bushtit, Chickadee, Common Sparrow, Mourning Dove, Black Phoebe, Robin, the occasional Stellar Jay, and, my least favorites, the Brewer’s Blackbird and the English Starlings.

Photo at left: The Bushtit is Cherie’s longtime companion, Peter Logan’s favorite fuzzy bird in the garden.

The Fox Sparrows are a current favorite of mine that also hang out during the winter. There are only a few of them in the yard. They are distinct against the dozens of other types that visit our feeders with their speckled breast and bold behavior (Sparrows like to feed off the ground under the feeders – they don’t actually get onto the feeders often). One of our current residents is a Townsend Warbler. He is a colorful contribution to the duller colors the birds sport in the winter. He’s not a seed eater, so he’s especially welcome to eat the insects that collect around the yard.

There is one aspect of attracting the songbirds to our yard that we had not counted on. We have our annual winter visits from a Sharp Shinned Hawk. “Sharpiesâ€? are Accipiter hawks…that means they eat birds. We’ve had some wild events in our backyard since the hawk has put us on his winter menu. It’s pretty easy to determine when he’s on the prowl – there are no birds to be seen anywhere in our yard, or worse, we see the pile of feathers he/she leaves behind. Nature is known for her drama. Fortunately, they move on early in the springtime so we can enjoy the nesting season.

Our most unique winter sighting was a Red Poll. This is an arctic bird that somehow got off track. It was by pure luck that we identified him correctly, but it was a sure sighting. A “featherâ€? in our birding cap.

All in all, birding may sound dull if you haven’t stopped to really listen. What a wonderful world we have right here in our backyards. You can hear a hummingbird quite easily, chickadees and sparrows…the list goes on. And, like I said, if you show even a hint of interest, I have some really colorful tales to tell of the birds in my yard in El Granada

The delicately beautiful Nuthatch rests on a branch in Cherie and Peter’s meditative garden in sunny El Granada.

Bird photos by Cherie Dailey
Photo of Cherie Dailey by June