KPIX Features El Granada

KPIX’s “Eye on the Bay” program is doing a series on teeny tiny California towns, and when they got to “E,” the producers found El Granada, the jewel in the crown of the Ocean Shore Railroad’s Coastside. I was interviewed and had a great time, the best time I’ve ever had doing something like this.
This show features the DEF of the alphabet, so you’ll learn about Dublin before getting to El Granada. “F” stands for Felton, a nostalgic summer resort surrounded by giant redwoods.

To see the KPIX show, click here

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That’s me–sipping coffee in the magician and his wife’s comfy waterbed….in the Moss Beach house…photo by Sunset magazine to show off the beautiful wood cabinetry and “pull-out” bed tray. Cool. Late 1970s.

When I Worked At Time Magazine,

one of my pleasant tasks was to hire photographers–One of them was the incomparable San Francisco photographer Ed Kashi. Here is a pix of Andy Warhol that he gave me:


Ed Kashi also photographed an old friend, Olivia Stewart, the personality-plus woman I temporarily replaced at Time when she was pregnant in the mid 1980s.

Photo: at right:Olivia.jpg

What I’m Doing

When I started blogging for the “Half Moon Bay Memories” & El Granada Observer”, I wanted to put all of the writing and research I had done on the Coastside out there. My work goes back to the 1970s, when I arrived.

I feel really good being able to do this, to share the stories.

Some of my readers were here in the 1970s, and much earlier, and they understand, because they were here, what a unique place the Coastside was then–some may say it was more “bohemian”, others may describe the Coastside as having been “wide open”. The Coastside was certainly an isolated rural landscape filled with fiction book-size characters who just wanted to be themselves–without restraint.

What I’m saying is that the Coastside today, unique in its own way, should not be confused with the writing I do about the 1970s and 80s.

Video Professor: June’s Media Observation of the Day

Dear Mr. Video Professor,

I know you’re from the “old schoolâ€? and your tv sales pitch is directed to computer illiterates—but I am sick and tired of you, the lady and the three- year- old daughter who knows more about computers than all of you.

BTW: If the kid exists at all, she’s probably in juvenile hall by now awaiting sentencing.

Isn’t it time for a new commercial with real computer geeks and nerds? I’ll probably learn to hate that one as much but at least it’ll be a change.

I’m worried about Tony….

Soprano, that is.

Star of the HBO hit, The Sopranos.

For almost two weeks now, Tony has been lying in a hospital bed hooked up to a gaggle of life-saving equipment. With a huge ugly hole in his stomach from the bullet wound inflicted by his senile Uncle Junior.

Tony’s in an induced coma. Last week all I saw from my side of the hi def screen was his big chest rising and falling as some medical machine helps him to breathe. Emotionally drained wife Carmella, and son, Anthony, and daughter, Med, visit; together or separately they sleep in the room with “Tone”– they talk to the unconscious body in the hospital bed and they play his favorite rock ‘n roll tunes.

But Tony’s dreaming. He’s dreaming a weird story about some guy who’s accidentally taken his identiy– when, through a mix-up at a bar, far from home, this guy picked up Tony’s briefcase (identical to his own), the briefcase filled with Tony’s credit cards, driver’s license, etc. How’s he going to get on the plane without showing his driver’s license, he asks Carmella during a frustrating phone call. That’s what he’s dreaming about…

From the beginning, from the very first show, I became a Sopranos fan. And the family became very real to me.

A couple of Soprano seasons ago, Tony was cheating on Carmella with a beautiful, young Russian lover, and his wife found out and her price for peace was a summer vacation in Rome. With her girlfriends. Where was she going to stay? She told us tv viewers that she was going to stay at the elegant Hassler Hotel.

The Hassler is not a made-up hotel for tv–it’s a real hotel, set high on a hill.

A few months later we (Burt & I) were traveling to Europe, to Italy, and where did I want to stay? The Hassler Hotel–that’s where Carmella stayed, I remembered.

And when we arrived at the Hassler and were enjoying a drink in the intimate patio, I summoned the courage to ask our waiter: “Did Carmella Soprano stay here?”

He looked at me cockeyed. I couldn’t believe it. “You know,” I said gently, but with a bit of a push, “The Sopranos, the HBO show…Tony’s wife, Carmella, said she staying here for the summer.”

He had no idea what I was talking about. Not even the great HBO rang a bell.

Later an American friend who lives in Europe emailed me asking about the Sopranos. At that time it wasn’t on tv over there, he said, and he knew it was a hot cable series. When he was in New York he’d seen a few of the early episodes. He was anxious to talk about the characters and the plots. Could I tell him what the current episodes were about?

Which brings me back to Tony lying in a coma in that hospital bed. I hope he’s okay, I hope he’s doing fine. I hope he’s going to live.

Update: Did I hear right? In the last or next-to-the-last episode of the Soprano’s 2006 season, did I hear Carmella say to Tony that she never got to Rome? Never got to Rome that summer several episodes earlier? No wonder nobody knew who Carmella Soprano was when I was staying at the Hassler Hotel. Mystery solved.

Remembering Bill Doerner

At left: Me, Bill Doerner and Reporter Dick Thompson.
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Bill Doerner was a writer for Time magazine in New York before he was sent out West to take over as head of the San Francisco news bureau—just as AIDS began to decimate the gay community and when angioplasty was becoming a popular option for clogged arteries and the two Steves, Jobs and Wozniak, had built the clunky looking Apple II.

I worked for Bill. I was the news bureau’s office manager,a temporary position, until the “regularâ€? office manager returned from maternity leave.

Bill wasn’t the warmest of people or the most fun. He could make you feel very uncomfortable because I think he felt uncomfortable. He seemed a tad snotty—but beneath all that I discovered a deeply kind man.

When he made the move to the City—which proved to be as temporary as my stint as the office manager– Bill Doerner left behind the excitement of Manhattan, an apartment on West 70th Street and a weekend place in East Hampton.

He’d been born in Missouri in 1941 and spent his entire life in the news business, beginning his career in St. Louis.

Being a writer and a bureau chief require a different set of skills– like morphing from an introvert to an extrovert. To me, the former describes Bill’s personality. More inside than outside. (Some of Time’s bureau chiefs are the stuff of legend and Bill Doerner did not fit into that category—I’m thinking in particular of the bureau chief Bill was replacing, a beloved but wild fellow everybody soley missed).

But San Francisco began to work its magic and I could tell Bill was falling in love with his new home. One day he asked me what it means if a guy wears one earring….and he wanted to know, what does it mean if he wears it on the left versus the right ear….You know, I knew the answer but I just couldn’t remember so we had a good laugh, me terribly flustered the whole time, wishing I could give him the definitive cultural explanation—but he got the idea.

Another time it was Bill’s day off when he called me at the office. His voice sounded shaky; he told me he had just been through a terrifying experience. Bill had gone to purchase some items at a discount store when a robber with a gun ordered all of the patrons to lie down on the floor, and he was one of them—thoughts racing through his mind as he heard "and don’t move or I’ll shootâ€?.

Hard as I tried, I couldn't imagine Bill in that situation.

After I went on a whale watching trip, sailing out of Pillar Point Harbor, here on the Coastside, I wrote a story called, “Watching Whale Partsâ€?. Why did I give it that title? Because that’s all I saw from the boat, parts of whales, never the entire mammal. I asked Bill to read it and he liked the story, calling it “surrealâ€?, and encouraging me to submit it to a publication.

Bill Doerner was a terrific writer, admired in the news bureau as one of the first to write about the AIDS epidemic in the City.

His stay in San Francisco was brief and one day he returned to the Time-Life Building in New York City. I can’t say that I kept in regular contact with Bill, but every couple of years, or so, I’d send a Christmas card with an update. I was both pleased and surprised that he always answered my notes, usually with a one-page typed letter—and he always showed interest in my writing.

In the spring of 1994, a decade after I worked for him, Bill completely rearrange his life. “…I am currently a person of leisure,â€? he wrote, “with more reading on my hands….The late nights and deadlines, as well as a changing corporate atmosphere since the merger, finally began taking their toll.â€?

After 27 years with Time he had taken an early retirement.

And of the future: “I’m planning to pretty much take the summer off in East Hampton, where I have a weekend place, and then decide where to try to go from here—a part-time job, perhaps, or free-lancing?? I just don’t know at this point.â€?

The next Christmas he wrote, “ I’m still thoroughly enjoying post-TIME life,â€? adding that , “Mostly I’m doing things I never had time to do over the years, like gardening at my weekend place out on Long Island. I’ve also done a bit of free-lance writing. But nothing major.â€?

I didn’t send another card until after 9/11. When I received his response, the first thing I noticed was a different return address. Not New York, but Missouri. Also this short note wasn’t typed but handwritten.

He said that my letter caught up with him "in St. Louis (or a suburb of) where I grew up and to which I have retired to live. I left N.Y. just three days before the WTC tragedy…..â€?

A year or so passed, and I remembered that I had taken photographs of Bill at a San Francisco restaurant where the news bureau staff was celebrating his birthday. I now owned a scanner. I could blow up the old prints, I thought, and he might get a kick out of seeing them. Maybe he never even saw them before. I mailed the best of the pictures to Bill's Missouri address but this time there was no response.

It didn't go unnoticed.

In March a letter arrived from Bill Doerner’s sister. She wrote: “…My brother had been in declining health for the past six or seven years. His heart just gave out. I thought you would want to be aware of his death.â€? She had no idea who I was but she referred to the photos I had sent, adding that she didn’t know if her brother had seen the pictures.

I hope he did.

William (“Billâ€?) R. Doerner
Date of Birth: January 31, 1941
Date of Death: March 15, 2003