BAREFOOT ON THE BEACH NOVEMBER 5, 2012
While sitting here trying to get into the mood for this tale I will relate today, I am quaffing a nice cold one with a squeeze of lime — also to commemorate the entire experience and give myself a warm feeling for that whole era which will be unfolded here for you, my readers (?) That is a great place for a question mark. So go grab a beer and get into the spirit of it all. This venue is located inLaguna Beach,CA and may end up with me having several more weeks of stories to tell without having to wrack my brains for a subject.
The Main Beach in Laguna Beach was quite a sight in the old days, and if you were driving on Coast Hwy through there, you did not get a glimpse of the ocean because there were store buildings one block long from Broadway to the corner of the Hotel Laguna, and on the ocean side there were some residential homes, also bars, restaurants, a board walk, and then the beach down to the surf. On the ocean side starting at the Hotel, going north, across a narrow little street was the Las Ondas, and I was there with that establishment, a bar and restaurant, from 1954 to 1960. From there, along the boardwalk sat 4 or 5 beach cottages from the 1920’s and 30’s. D.W. Griffith, the very famous movie mogul had started this small enclave whenLaguna Beachhad been “discovered” by a group of “famous-to-become” artists and the movie colony people. Yes, this was happening in the 20’ and 30’s, and I was there in the 30’s meeting those artist types. (A treasure trove of more tales to be told.) When the 50’s rolled along, this area had certainly seen better days, but one (I guess that is me) had to admit it was quite quaint.
After the cottages, there was a large building, single story, that had been a restaurant in an earlier time, and this is the focal point of this story. It is The Barefoot, a rockin’ beer bar. The entry was at the north corner of the building, and there was a walkway from the boardwalk out to the Coast Hwy. Then about 15 yards from that walkway and the boardwalk out onto the beach sat a 2-story structure all white and red. It was the lifeguard station giving all the beachgoers a sense of safety. It was always so stark with its white walls and red trim because those lifeguards were out there a lot with the paint can and brushes when they weren’t saving any swimmers. From that walkway, the other half of that block stretched to Broadway and consisted of commercial buildings, even an old hotel that had seen better days.
All that paint activity gave me a fabulous idea. I went down the street and bought some red paint, along with a couple of brushes, and then had my bartenders go outside and paint the trim around all those windows with that fire-engine red. I felt it would give the public the picture that somehow we belonged, and that we took care of people also.
Now The Barefoot was quite a place — the décor was nothing to write home about — it was big so all the more people fitting in made a lot more $$$ fitting in the cash registers, from there more into my hot little pockets. Those windows, now trimmed in red, were along the boardwalk side, there was a bench seat running that whole length with tables and chairs — lots of them. The lengthy bar ran along the back wall, opposite the windows, and the middle of this big room was left bare since a lot of dancing took place with music blaring from MY juke box during the week, and a live jazz ensemble with Eydie singing her big heart out on the weekends. We served beer: draft was a buck a glass, and a bottle a buck and a-quarter.
There were always a few characters around Laguna Beach and to name one would be “The Greeter” who would stand on the corner of Coast Hwy. at the Hotel Laguna, and yell “H- e – l- l o-o-o-o- o- a” in a thunderous voice to all the passersby in their autos — some looking at him askance since he may have been scaring the wits out of the kids in the back seat, and his appearance only made him scarier with his wide-eyed look, long straggly hair, unkempt clothing. Quite a sight!
Then there was Vera N., a retired opera singer from a Scandinavian Country, and she would stop in The Barefoot occasionally, sit there a bit, maybe have a few words with Bruce or Jimmie, the bartenders, or maybe not, then leave as quietly and inconspicuously as she had entered. She was never with another soul. She lived up on the north end of town, and I know she loved to walk along the beach from her place down to theMainBeach and beyond. I never saw her with another person. She seemed a bit strange, and it always gave my heart a little tug to see her alone.
One evening, as the sun was setting and leaving the orange and red sky to turn into darker shadows, with only a glint of light on the waves, most of us were taking in the sunset because it was above average. There suddenly appeared an object, barely visible because darkness was almost there, coming out through the small waves onto the beach and heading right for the bar. It was eerie because it did not appear to be a human being — just a big blob. And then we heard a most beautiful voice singing an aria that only a true operatic voice could perform, and there she was entering the bar, still singing the aria at the top of her lungs — it was Vera, unrecognizable, except for that voice, covered from the top of her head to the tip of her toes with tons of seaweed. I will never in this life… see an entrance to top that. A sight that whoever was there, would never, ever forget.
I would venture to say that this performance was Vera’s one and only appearance inLaguna Beach.
What a colorful memory from my past — with a little opera thrown in.
MELITAS FORSTER MONDAYS WITH MELITAS November 5, 2012