The Destruction of Pacifica

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After the Oakland Firestorm of 1991, Michael Harkins and I went to look at the burned out ruins of the Stackpole home. I met Michael when he was fifteen. Nancy Hamren, Keith Purvis, and myself, were invited by James Harkins to his father’s home on Skyline Blvd in 1965. Jeffery Harkins was about twelve. I became friends of these brothers who were my second family. Wanda Harkins always had a place at her table on the Holidays. James would soon drop acid with his father, Jim, a succesful pediatrician who formed a Jazz band with his peers, and smoked dope. The Stackpoles were Michael’s second family.

On Taurus street, Michael showed me the ruins of Peter Stackpole’s home wherein valuable works of art and photography was destroyed. This was a monumental loss to the art world, and to the creative culture that made the Bay Area a Mecca to Bohemian Souls from all over the world.

Ralph Stackpole was a friend of George Sterling and stayed with him and the artists and poets that gathered at Lake Temescal in Oakland. Ralph befriended Diego and Freda Rivera the famous muralist and artist. Ralph helped design the Paramount theatre and a giant statue for Golden Gate Exposition, a goddess named Pacifica.

Peter Stackpole was a staff photographer for LIFE magazine and spent much time in Hollywood shooting the stars, among them, Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor. Peter stayed on Errol Flynn’s boat and was privy to his exploits. My grandmother, Mary Magdalene Rosamond, chased Errol from her home at dawn when he and a friend came serenading.

Michael was a good friend of Jim Morrison and the poet, Michael McClure, who he met at the Californian College of Arts and Crafts. Michael wanted to be a sculptor.

When the powers that be got rid of the Mudflat sculptures, and put an end to artists rendering more of them, Fascism took root in the Bay Area – and America. The END WAR message had to go. It was anti-Christian. because Everyone knows Jesus loved war, especially the war in Vietnam.

On Halloween night 1990 I was flipping channels and came upon Pat Robertson who was angry at the Statue of Liberty which he claimed was goddess worship in disguise. Pat said she was in costume, and was not bringing American citizens Freedom, but Satanic worship. Pat bid his followers to write their Senators and Congressman and demand Lady Liberty be torn down. On 911, Osama Bin Ladin brought down the Trade Towers because he claimed sexy goddess worship was born here, and spread through all of Islam in order to tempt and corrupt pubescent teenagers. It has been suggested Lady Liberty was a target of these religious terrorists who claim they are normal believers, bringing back a normal way of living.

For twenty four years I have been at war with the Christian-right. Many of my liberal friends think I am just expressing my radical atheistic beliefs – because I was a hippie! When I tell them I am a devout Nazarite and a orthodox Jew, then, they wonder if I am mentally ill. This is because they choose not to “know thy enemy” as well as they should. They believe they know what is norma,l and where the point of that compass is put. For most of their lives they have skirted organized religion, and taken their place upon the agnostic pedestals where they think they are safe. After telling them they are deluded and stupid, they began to skirt me, avoid me, because they like feeling normal, like feeling they are on neutral ground. This is just how the radical Christian-right wants them to feel, so they will turn on the real radical liberal element, and wipe them out.

I keep telling my Jewish friend, Mark Gall, that what the Nazi propaganda machine did to the Jews, the Christian-right has done to the Hippie Movement. His comeback is, Christianity is good for society in that it tends to those bearded men who live under bridges and drink alcohol. I inform Mark these folks are not hippies, but homeless people who can not afford haircuts, many of them veterans suffering from PTSD.

When you take away the unfunded and free mudflat sculptures, two structure stand out, the Bay, and Golden Gate bridges. Peter Stackpole photographed the building of the Bay Bridge. His father sculpted the goddess Pacifica for the San Francisco World Fair. Ralph helped erect Coit Tower, and got his friend, Diego Rivera, to do murals for this famous landmark. Ralph’s decorated the Paramount theatre in Oakland. After the fair was over, naval ships used Pacific for target practice. Rockefeller destroyed murals.

Here is what I suggest. I bid every creative soul in America to walk out of those ticky-tacky art groups, and join the Artistic Socialist Party – and extend creative hands across the water – to Socialist France. Let the French socialist leaders know, we are ready for a new Statue of Liberty that will be placed on Treasure Island. I want to see her standing there, just beyond the Golden Gate, she thumbing her nose ad the Pat Robertson and his ilk! And every hour on the hour, she lets out a loud raspberry, then, her arms is raised by clever mechanics, then, her middle finger is extended. If we poets and artists do not do this, then we will soon conclude that it is feasible folks will be raptured before the End Days, and thank god for the Mormons and their baptizing of the dead. Mormons and Evangelicals are not normal, and are not Christians. They have successfully given the illusion they are – with the help of billionaires and capitalist bankers who see socialist bohemian artists – and hippies – as their bitter enemy. Why is that? Because we creative souls always find a way to be way more visible, then they, at next to no cost.

Religious fanatics will do anytbing to get attention! History has proven this. The VOTES of the Christian-right have been bought by billionaires and are being used to protect their castles from where they launch a legion of highly visible television commercials aimed at destroying their political enemies by shaming the shit out of them! This spells the end of our Democracy.

However, there is hope if you step back and take in the big picture. Thirty five million evangelical Republican voters, and their billionaire buddies, are all pointing AT ME, the last hippie, and saying;


I might be the most demonized being in human hsitory – and I know my Bible more then the lot of them! I know why Jesus cursed the fig tree, and what he wrote in the dust. Do they?

In 1986 while visting Nancy at the Springfiled Creamery, she suggested I author the history of hippies because I could recall so much. I began my story ‘The Gideon Computer’ a year later. It is about the last hippie of the future who battles a shame-based American society that is ruled by shaming others, and finding them guilty of just about any old thing.

“Don’t lay your guilt-trip on me, man!”

Jon Presco

Copyright 2012

Pacifica was a statue created by Ralph Stackpole for the 1939–1940 Golden Gate International Exposition held on Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay. Stackpole’s largest sculpture, it towered 81 feet (25 m) over the entrance to the Cavalcade of the Golden West in the Court of Pacifica. The Court of Pacifica was dedicated to the heroic explorers of Pacific Ocean territories. Pacifica was the theme statue for the exposition, representing world peace, neighborliness, and the power of a unified Pacific coast.[1][2][3]

It took Stackpole two years to complete the statue, it starting out as a three inch figure.[4] Stackpole went through 50 renditions before settling upon the final model which was 10 feet (3.0 m) tall. The model was then divided into cross sections.[4] Each cross section was enlarged eight-fold though a process using a pantograph. Scaffolding was set up and prepared for the precise assembly of the enlarged sections. Iron was used for supports, bent and shaped around the proper contours of the statue.[4] Next, mesh wire was layered over the entire iron frame, and then covered in a final blanket of plaster. Such a construction was always meant for temporary placement.[4]

By November 1938, when Life photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt was capturing images to promote the event, Pacifica was ready for his camera.

Peter Stackpole was an American photographer. Along with Alfred Eisenstaedt, Margaret Bourke-White, and Thomas McAvoy, he was one of Life Magazine’s first staff photographers. He won a George Polk Award in 1954 and taught photography at the Academy of Art University. He also wrote a column in U.S. Camera for fifteen years. He was the son of sculptor Ralph Stackpole.

[edit] Pacifica at the Golden Gate International Exposition
Pacifica was physically the biggest and most conspicuous statue at the exposition.[6] She was placed in front of a 100-foot (30 m) metal prayer curtain that had a backdrop of stars made of metal and small tubes that would make sound when met with a breeze.[7] In front of the statue, in the center of the court, was a circular fountain surrounded by the works of eight different sculptors of figures representing people living on shores of the Pacific.[8]

Ralph Stackpole with a model of Pacifica
[edit] Presentation
[edit] Lighting
The statue was lit by two 1500 watt underwater floodlights.[9] The giant spotlights gave Pacifica a look of “regal splendor.” [10] The backdrop, or Great Window, was lit by 75 amber, 150 red, and 300 blue floodlights, each 200 watts, all controlled by a thyratron.[9] This gave the entire court a very colorful and mystical appearance after dark. “The contrast brought the great figure to life, as if it were about to walk down the esplanade into the Court of the Seven Seas.”[11]
[edit] Flowers
Orange calendulas were in full bloom around the statue, as well as red, yellow, and purple ranunculus and anemones which were said at the time to be very fragrant and added a romantic edge to the court.[12]
[edit] Destruction and proposal
From 1939 to 1940, some 16 million visitors came to the exposition.[13] The United States Navy purchased the island as a naval base in 1941, and Pacifica was demolished along with most other exposition structures.[14]
After the exposition, Stackpole proposed that the sculpture be recast in a more permanent form—steel, stone or concrete—and positioned prominently on an island in the San Francisco Bay, perhaps Alcatraz or Angel Island, in a manner similar to the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor.[15] The plan was not seriously considered by civic leaders whose attention was on the events that soon brought the U.S. into direct involvement with World War II.[15]

The Oakland firestorm of 1991 was a large urban conflagration that occurred on the hillsides of northern Oakland, California, and southeastern Berkeley on Sunday October 20, 1991, two years after the Loma Prieta earthquake. The fire has also been called the Oakland hills firestorm, the East Bay Hills Fire, and the Tunnel Fire (because of its origin above the west portal of the Caldecott Tunnel) in Oakland. The fire ultimately killed 25 people and injured 150 others. The 1,520 acres (6.2 km²) destroyed included 3,354 single-family dwellings and 437 apartment and condominium units. The economic loss has been estimated at $1.5 billion.[1]

Man at the Crossroads was a mural by Diego Rivera.
The Rockefellers wanted to have a mural put on the ground-floor wall of Rockefeller Center. Nelson Rockefeller wanted Henri Matisse or Pablo Picasso to do it because he favored their modern style, but neither was available. Diego Rivera was one of Nelson Rockefeller’s mother’s favorite artists and therefore was commissioned to create the huge mural. He was given a theme: “Man at the Crossroads Looking with Hope and High Vision to the Choosing of a New and Better Future.”[1] Rockefeller wanted the painting to make people pause and think.[2]
The huge mural had many parts including: society women drinking alcohol, pictures of cells, Leon Trotsky and finally the famous Lenin portion (depicting communism) which upset Rockefeller.[2] The patron asked Rivera to change the face of Lenin to that of an unknown laborer’s face as was originally intended[citation needed] but the painter left it as it was. The work was paid for on May 22, 1933,[citation needed] and immediately draped. People protested but it remained covered until the early weeks of 1934, when it was smashed by workers and hauled away in wheelbarrows.[citation needed] Rivera responded by saying that it was “cultural vandalism.”[citation needed]

Man, Controller of the Universe
An assistant, Lucienne Bloch, had taken photographs of the mural before it was destroyed. Using them as a reference, Rivera repainted the mural, though at a smaller scale, at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City where it was renamed Man, Controller of the Universe.[2] At Rockefeller Center in its place is a mural by Jose Maria Sert mural with Abraham Lincoln as its focal point. The Rockefeller-Rivera dispute appears in the fiction films Cradle Will Rock, Anbe Sivam and Frida.

The Coit Tower murals were done under the auspices of the Public Works of Art Project, the first of the New Deal federal employment programs for artists. Ralph Stackpole and Bernard Zakheim successfully sought the commission in 1933, and supervised the muralists, who were mainly faculty and students of the California School of Fine Arts (CSFA), including Maxine Albro, Victor Arnautoff, Ray Bertrand, Rinaldo Cuneo, Mallette Harold Dean, Clifford Wight, Edith Hamlin, George Harris, Otis Oldfield, Suzanne Scheuer, Hebe Daum and Frede Vidar.[6]
After Diego Rivera’s Man at the Crossroads mural was destroyed by its Rockefeller Center patrons for the inclusion of an image of Lenin, the Coit Tower muralists protested, picketing the tower. Sympathy for Rivera led some artists to incorporate leftist ideas and composition elements in their works. Bernard Zakheim’s “Library” depicts fellow artist John Langley Howard crumpling a newspaper in his left hand as he reaches for a shelved copy of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital with his right, and Stackpole is painted reading a newspaper headline announcing the destruction of Rivera’s mural; Victor Arnautoff’s “City Life” includes The New Masses and The Daily Worker periodicals in the scene’s news stand rack; John Langley Howard’s mural depicts an ethnically diverse Labor March as well as showing a destitute family panning for gold while a rich family observes; and Stackpole’s Industries of California was composed along the same lines as an early study of the destroyed Man at the Crossroads.[7]

[edit] Pacifica II
Currently, a non-profit organization called The Pacifica II Statue Project is working to recreate and resurrect Pacifica on Treasure Island.[2] There is currently an 8-foot (2.4 m) replica of Pacifica at City College of San Francisco Ocean Campus, 50 Phelan Avenue in the garden next to the Diego Rivera Theater.[3]

“I believe in order to make an American art, a real American art, this will be necessary, this blending of the art of the Indian, the Mexican, the Eskimo, with the kind of urge which makes the machine, the invention in the material side of life, which is also an artistic urge, the same urge primarily but in a different form of expression.”

FRANKLIN ROSEMONT, a historian, poet, artist and lifelong revolutionary, died suddenly April 12 at the age of, 65. He was a part of movements for justice that spanned half a century, and as a writer and artist, he helped keep alive the traditions and history of the struggle for a better world.

About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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