On Flagpoles: The Bach’s Pete Douglas Tells Me What’s Waving Over the Jazz House

More than 20 years ago I sought out the very opinionated Pete Douglas, the man behind the world class jazz house Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society in Miramar. The BD&DS overlooks the Pacific Ocean and it’s a wonderful place to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Pete, I said, tell me about flagpoles. He had one in front of the BD&DS; he liked to display the flag that most represented the musical artist he was showcasing at the jazz house on Sunday afternoons.

Classic Pete Douglas, in attire and pose, his usual laid-back self, talking to me about flags (and in an upcoming post, about wrinkles on women).

June: What do you think about flagpoles?

Pete: I think peopole should really get into flagpoles. Mine is a simple, common flagpole but I intend to buy one with cross bows so I can fly one flag up and two flags across.

June: When do you raise the flag? Is there a ritual involved?

Pete: No ritual. But sometime before a Sunday afternoon jazza concert or a Friday evening classical concert, I raise the appropriate flag. For instance, when the Woody Shaw Quintet played, the Kenya flag waved in the breeze and when the Israel Piano trio appeared, the musicians were happy to see the Israeli flag.

Once, he told me, when he was feuding with a lady friend, he raised the Uganda flag, although he claims he didn’t do so “consciouslyâ€?.

The history of the BD&DS flagpiole goes back to 1962. Douglas was sitting in front of his place in Miramar Beach when he saw ‘Bob the Woodcutter’ drive by with a long eucalyptus tree trunk in his pick-up truck. There were lots of aptly named characters living on the Coastside then. Pete saw the tree and in his mind he saw the perfect flagpole.

Pete called to Bob. Pointing at the ecucalyptus, he said, “What are doing with that?â€? Before Bob could answer, Pete said, â€? I’ll buy it.â€?

Douglas was so anxious to put something on the flagpole thaqt he raised a red curtain. For a moment he had forgotten that he’d been a “curiosityâ€? in Half Moon Bay since arriving in the late 1950’s, as that man with a reputation for being “a liberal beatnikâ€?.

When certain neighbors saw the red curtain hanging on the new flagpole Pete said, “I was reported to the American Legion for suspicion of flying a Communist flag,â€?

The red curtain was the beginning of the Douglas Flag Collection which grew to include flags from 32 countries as well as the Revolutionary flag and some state flags.

Pete: My flag collection stems from my attitude of a cooperative world and mutual respect for each other’s culture. Politics and national attitudes asisde I pick a flag on the basis of interest and beauty.

June: What’s your favorite flag?

Pete: Arizona. It’s one of the most symbolic looking flags. Sandy yellow with a sunburst–and Indian sunburst design. Another favorite is the Turkish flag. It’s solid red with a half moon and a star, and the Kenya flag, a shield with spears.

June: Are you going to get more flags?

Pete: I can’t wait to get more flags. I want to get thaat pole so I can fly three plags. Then we really can get things going.

The Transcriber: John & Yoko, the Last Interview

The Transcriber, Linda Goetz in 1981. Photo by Maria Demarest

In 1981 Linda Goetz, a friend and the owner of Coastside Secretarial, had completed an exciting project: transcribing the tapes of an August 1980 interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. It was to be the last interview with the superstar couple. (Lennon was murdered in December 1980).

David Sheff, a free lance writer then living in the Coastside’s artist community of Montara, was a mutual acquaintance of both Linda and me. It was David who had interviewed John and Yoko for a 1980 Playboy magazine article and a book, “Last Interview: John Lennon and Yoko Onoâ€?.

At the time of this interview, Linda’s office was located in the historic R. Guy Smith Building, Highway 1 in Moss Beach. She now works out of a cute office at the southern end of Main Street in Half Moon Bay.

June: Tell me, what was it like listening to the tapes?

Linda: When you do these tapes, you get the real feeling that the printed word cannot convey. With the John Lennon tapes, we paused to get every ‘ooh and ahh’ and any nuance going on in the background.

June: How did David Sheff get the interview?

Linda: Before the interview was granted to David, Yoko had to meet him, do his astrology chart and see if it was right.

June: I guess his planets were in alignment! How many tapes were there?

Linda: 20. It took me two weeks to transcribe, having people work around the clock. Each tape took about five hours to transcribe.

June: How much time did David Sheff spend with John and Yoko?

Linda: About three weeks of intenesely being with the Lennons at the studio–but mostly at their New York City apartment.

June: The tapes present a very personal glimpse of the Lennons at home.

Linda: There’s a time in the apartment when John goes over to the refrigeraqtor and he’s looking for somethhing to drink while Yoko’s on the couch. He pulls open the refrigerator and says, ‘Oh, this is what’s been smelling! This cat food–how long has this been in here?’ And you just get this womanly aspect of Yoko when she says, ‘That’s all right. I’ll deal with it tomorrow.’

June: How did their voices sound?:

Linda: John was very aware of being taped and he had a beautiful voice, crisp, clear and melodic. Yoko mumbled. John would turn the tape recorder around when she talked and said, ‘Here, she mumbles a lot’.

June: You worked on these tapes after Lennon had been tragically shot. How did that make you feel?

Linda: Everything he said, I was thinking of in relationship to, well, now he’s dead. At one point Lennon commentedthat he was only 43-years-old, and he said, ‘I’ve got a good 20 more years to go, God willing.’ He was making plans to write children’s books, to get back into his music and go on tour again.

June: Any other insights?

Linda: I get the feeling that anything Yoko has to say in the next couple of years will be whatever John Lennon would have said to the public. They were so close to each other.