Interview with Pete Douglas, Part II (1979)

juneatbeach.jpgLeft: Me, on the beach, at the time of the interview. Right: Pete DouglasDSCN0792.jpg

(Pete & I talked about the Miramar Beach Inn and how one owner closed the old bar and turned the building into an unsuccessful grocery store before it was again reincarnated as a bar/restaurant in the 1960s. From a tape transcribed by Linda Goetz, Coastside Secretarial).

Pete: Anyway, I’m drifting afar.

June: I just want to hear about it all. Feel free. No one seems to really know the chronological order of what happened on this street, Mirada Road. Where did you come from?

Pete: Los Angeles.

June: And what were you doing down there, before you came here?

Pete: I was brought to L.A. when I was 9-years-old, from Arizona, by my mother and stepfather. I went to part of elementary school and high school in California. As soon as I was old enough to get on a bike, I really called Hermosa Beach my “second home”. And, incidentally, that is where when I was old enough to sneak into a bar, at age 17, I went to hear jazz.

We ended the big band era in the late 1940s and started a movement of jazz again with small groups often taking over the back end of bars playing for nothing, if necessaqry, just to have a place to play…small groups, modern jazz in the back of bars–and there were always several Hermosa Beach bars, mainly the Lighthouse…

After the army, I went back to college, El Camino Junior College, in or near L.A., southwest L.A., near Inglewood.

When I finished college, I knew I had to get out of L.A. The smog and everything. This was the early 1950s. So I looked for any way to transfer to college up north. I made the first step to Santa Barbara. I transferred as junior to Santa Barbara in 1953 and graduated two years later in ’55.

June: And your major?

Pete: Sociology.

June: That’s my major, too.

Pete; What do sociology majors do?

June: They get lost.

Pete: That’s a crazy breed. Well, of course I didn’t find work in Santa Barbara. But then I had Linda (his first daughter) on the way. I had to get a job and on the bulletin board there was a job as an Assistant Field Director for the American Red Cross up in northern California. They ended up putting me at Travis Air Force Base, Vacaville. That’s how I moved down here.

Well, anyway, in the simmer of 1955 I graduated, went directly to Vacaville, lived there for a year-and-a-half, I think, and thought I was going to get a job in Marin. I had my eye on Marin County. I didn’t give a s— about the job; I was just trying to find the area I cared to live in.

And, you know, in Sausalito, you could have had a store front for a song. In the 1950s people were looking for interesting places. There was the Bridgeway and the vacant storefronts and I didn’t know what I was going to do with one of them.

I figured if I could get a job in Marin County then I would start working in Sausalito. Drum up something, i didn’t know what. But it didn’t pan out. The job didn’t materialize and I had moved to San Rafael.

Then I got a letter, word must have gotten out in the industry, and as usual the government was expanding and I got a letter from an administrator: ‘come and help us, saying he wanted to talk to me about a job.

I badly needed a job. The Red Cross was going to send me to Alaska, or quit. So that’s how I came to San Mateo County in early ’57. Came to this county, took the job as a probation officer.

Interview with Pete Douglas: Part I (1979)


Here’s the first installment of an interview I did with Pete Douglas (Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society at Miramar Beach) in June 1979. The Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society is a world class jazz house founded by Pete Douglas. The interview was taped and transcribed by Linda Goetz of Coastside Secretarial.

Pete: I called it the Ebb Tide Coffee Shop, the little building downstairs. But prior to that it was the Ebb Tide Cafe built about 1947 by Grandma Treadwell.

June: People just came here–like the Miramar used to be before it was remodeled?

Pete: No, the Miramar was built way back before Prohibition. Grandma Treadwell had her two sons built the Ebb Tide, back in 1946, ’47…they were going to build two stories and they built a foundation big enough for ten stories. There’s probably more beer and wine bottles in the concrete than concrete.

Anyway they got it built and they leased it. Far as I remember, that’s what I’m told. Not long after that Buster Westfalt’s mother–the Westfalt familys been out here a long time (ed. True. One of early Westfalts was a “diver” at Princeton Harbor). Buster’s mother opened up a taco place or something and, that was about in the 1940s. And then somewhere in the early 1950s the most colorful, successful owners of the place, was Gladys Klingenberger and her husband Gerald.

When they ran it, it was packed. But all they had was beer and (prohibition-style, even though it had ended long ago) Gerald kept whiskey under the counter. There was an old coke box sitting behind the bar where the beer was–and many times Gladys was passed out behind the bar. And people would come in to pick beer out of the coke box…and in the back room there was the gambling room….

And Gerald worked part-time as a cement worker so at the Ebb Tide you’d find cement workers, ex-cons–and you’d had to be prepared to fight your way out. It was a rough place to hang out. It was really a dive.

Later on when I was a probation officer, I checked the files, the sheriff’s files on this place–and there were dozens of “blue sheets”, calls for fights, burglary, assault with a deadly weapon.

When I bought the building, I inherited some hard oak clubs….and if you got tapped with one of those you were out cold–they were like getting hit with a piece of sttell. Oh man, the Klingenbergers had quite a reputation. And back then the Coastside was pretty wide open–you know what I mean, prostitution, gambling, whatever, so that’s why Gladys sold booze and beer.

Why I Like MCTV

Many years ago I produced/wrote a 60-minute documentary called “The Mystery of Half Moon Bayâ€?.

The way I pitched the project and sold it made me feel like a waitress at Schwabs discovered by a famous Hollywood producer.

Okay, maybe that’s way too romantic.

I was passionate about my idea of putting the colorful Coastside** on the small screen—and I appeared at the offices of KCSM-TV in San Mateo, landed an appointment with Stewart Cheifet, the general manager—and I can still visualize myself seated on the opposite side of Cheifet’s desk, a very serious look on his face as he took an egg timer and turned it upside down.

SC.jpg (Photo: Stewart Cheifet)

“You’ve got three minutes,â€? he told me, sternly. I noted he had one of those fine broadcast voices, honey-coated.

Maybe it was really one minute and maybe it wasn’t an egg timer but one of those little glass “thingiesâ€? with sand inside that tells how much time has passed by dripping grains of sand.

I’d never produced or written a script for a documentary—I was just a novice—but I had a brave, bold soul and I was in love with Half Moon Bay. Apparently that feeling got across to Stewart Cheifet because, to my total surprise, I got the “goâ€? signal. *

To make the hour show, I was paid a tiny sum but I happily spent nearly a year of my life absorbed with it. I was assigned to work with longtime director Rick Zanardi, and cameraman Jim Threlkeld– and we went out in the field to shoot this doc. They were experienced and great to work with.

What I most regret now is that I didn’t have the financial means to keep the raw footage—there were some oldtimers, now gone, interviewed on those precious tapes, gone forever.

Before “Mystery of Half Moon Bayâ€? aired on KCSM, there was a premiere at the Pete Douglas Beach House in Miramar Beach. I was so nervous I didn’t go into the concert room where “Mysteryâ€? was being shown on a huge tv screen, donated via the contacts of Coastsider John Essa.

I loved the show and its theme– that Half Moon Bay’s historical failures were actually the reason for its success. KCSM’s publicist took ads out in TV Guide and there were newspaper interviews. Before vanishing from the screen, “The Mystery of Half Moon Bayâ€? was aired several times.

For a long time my copy of “Mysteryâ€? sat with my books on a dusty shelf.

One day I was invited to a meeting organized by the folks who founded MCTV, the local access station. To me the words “local accessâ€? seem painfully bureaucratic words that don’t convey anything meaningful—certainly not what the founders intended: a tv station where local talent could produce shows and have the creative result seen by Coastsiders.

The small group met at the Half Moon Bay library. That’s where I encountered Connie Malach and her husband Mike. They’d recently moved from San Francisco to El Granada.

MCTV was just being born and Connie and Mike didn’t own a vast video library; they didn’t have a lot of shows to air. When I told them I had a tape of “The Mystery of Half Moon Bayâ€?, they were excited. Yes, they wanted to air it. Almost immediately “Mysteryâ€? (with permission from KCSM) hit the local airwaves.

And Coastsiders loved it.

When MCTV hosted their first “Seals of Approvalâ€? award ceremonies at the glamorous golf course south of Half Moon Bay, “The Mystery of Half Moon Bayâ€? won a “sealâ€? for the most popular show!

A most thrilling moment in my life.

My MCTV trophy sits proudly on my bookcase, a symbol of the mutual affection between the Coastside and me.

The “Seal of Approval” for most popular show. The photo doesn’t do justice to the beautiful slick mammal.:

*Stewart Cheifet injected a tremendous dose of optimism and much-needed change into KCSM-TV.Whoever hired him should receive an award. As the new GM, Cheifet had the staff going out into the real world for the first time. They were following politicians running for office and suggesting ideas that would have been nixed before. Stewart Cheifet was innovator and everyone at the station came to life–I know because I was a witness to it.

**I had written a book about HMB, had lots of photos, developed an outline for the show, submitted letters of recommendation & etc.)

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

Pete Douglas Talks About Wrinkles On Women: Part I

About the time of this interview with Pete Douglas, he celebrated his 50th with musician Benny Barth. Here is the invite.
This is Pete, I apologize for the poor condition of the photo I took.

June: What do you think about wrinkles on women?

Pete: Wrinkles on women? If they’re not excessive for their age, I don’t find them unattractive. If they’re in good physical shape overall, that more than compensates for a few wrinkles. I find most women with a few smile lines, eye wrinkles in the corner, minimal, hardly distracting.

June: Should women stay out of the sun?

Pete: No question about it. Excessive sun wreaks havoc on the face.

June: Here at the Bach (Dancing & Dynamite Society), you see women of all ages. What have you heard?

Pete: From women in their 30s, I hear references to getting older. They might mention a few wrinkles and gray in their hair. They don’t belabor the point, just small references. In the face in the 40s, wrinkles become much more pronounced, but has more to do with personality shining through–and keeping themselves in good shape. Not letting themselves get overweight. I’ve seen dynamite looking women in their 50s–(laughter)they’re all going out with younger guys.

June: And the very young women?

Pete: The young, fresh thing is like a picture postcard but it kind of idealizes things–you got to be the best for your age. At 22 it’s a pure fantasy thing for a lot of men–but if you’re looking for a real person who has developed a real personality, women who are older are more interesting.

June: What about men and wrinkles?

Pete: Men just worry about getting bald–they don’t worry about a few wrinkles over 30. You see a cigarette ad and it’s fine to see a macho western man with a craggy face–you never see a woman that way. The only time a man gets bothered by is just by getting older. That, and other signs, his getting older and his powers and abilities and general demeanor at being effective might be diminished. Obviously a lot of middle-aged executives go to a lot of trouble looking younger, getting face lifts.

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.

Behold the Sea: Many Historic Events

At left: Pete Douglas (in the back) and his brother, Jack, pose at the Ebb Tide Cafe, the hip coffee/jazz house, surrounded by artichokes and overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Miramar. This was the beginning of the Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society, today a world-class jazz house. (Actually, recently Pete brought back the flavor of the Ebb Tide Cafe, located in the same little building you see here).

Come to think of it, Miramar Beach (which means to behold the sea) has been the scene of many historic events, paralleling the growth of the Coastside.

(Photo: The first working wharf on the Coastside (built by Judge Josiah P. Ames in 1868) was located at present day Miramar. More than 50 years later, during the latter part of the doomed Ocean Shore Railroad era, the owners of the fabulous Palace Miramar Hotel repaired the rundown pier.)

Tiny Miramar Beach has been witness to the rancheros and the rounding of cattle near Medio Creek, site of the Coastside’s first working wharf & seafaring community which gave way to construction of the Ocean Shore Railroad and construction of the beautiful Palace Miramar Hotel and restaurant.

Then when Prohibition rolled in, Miramar became a home to the colorful rumrunners, bootleggers and the red-haired madam with her upstairs bordello at the Miramar Beach Inn (not to be confused with the Palace Miramar which was located at the other end of the street where the wharf once was).

(At right: Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the Palace Miramar Hotel burned in the 1960s. Special parties organized by the Ocean Shore Railroad stopped here and, later, the hotel became famous for crab cioppino dinners, sometimes these fundraisers for famous politicians such as with famous politicians Richard Nixon.)

The land surrounding the hotels and roadhouses was planted with artichokes by farmers. The chokes were served in novel ways at restaurants in Half Moon Bay and the Coastside was shipping the artichokes all over, even to the East Coast, earning the title of “artichoke capitalâ€?.

And when the Ocean Shore Railroad filed bankruptcy, pulling up the rails, the Miramar Beach Inn and the Palace Miramar served customers delicious clam chowder and fond memories of other times. (The Palace Miramar burned in the 1960s but the Miramar Beach Inn still stands).

Representing the beat era spiritually, former county probation officer Pete Douglas inventeed the Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society–which metamorphised from the Ebb Tide Cafe, an intimate, hip coffee house with spontaneous acting-out, but more importantly the beginning of jazz music scene at the beach-this was in the late 1950s–to a bigger world- class jazz house featuring first-rate musicians playing the full spectrum of jazz. Pete’s kept the “Bachâ€?, as we locals call it, pure. We’re so lucky to have a jazz house on the Coastside–I can even walk there from my house.

(Photo: When photographer Michael Powers’ dome appeared in Miramar in the 1970s, the structure became a curiosity piece in Miramar).

In the 70s greeting card photographer Michael Powers built a geodesic dome near the site of the then-gone Palace Miramar– and behind Power’s dome is where the future young, intrepid surfer Jeff Clark grew up, the Jeff Clark who, on his Coastside surfing journeys, was to discover and name world famous Mavericks–whose immense winter waves bring world-class surfers to Half Moon Bay.

(Photo: The cover of “Maverick’s by Matt Warshaw, published by Chronicle Books)

Now we’re up to date.

In Miramar, every historic era of the Coastside is represented, if not still seen, then it must be imagined.