California’s Bohemian Muse

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Rena and I were living in a tent in the back yard of my friends house who days earlier had asked me to give up my apartment for his best friend, his wife, and newborn baby. I was homeless when I met Rena Christensen, who was far away from home and homeless, too.

On the way to a restaurant on 35th. street in Oakland, Rena pulled up and was looking in the window of a store at a magazine on display. There was a girl wearing a bikini on the cover.

“My sister told me she was going to appear on the cover of a magazine. I wondered if this was her, but, it’s not.”

This was the July issue of LIFE. I suspect Rena’s sister may have been considered for the cover, but was bumped. She may be one of other California Beach Goddesses that were making California a Mecca for the Smart Sexy Life of the World.

A week later Rena and I are walking across the hot sand of Monte Rio Beach on the Russian River. We put down our towels, and the Greatest Show on Earth, begins. Some of the wealthiest men in the world were enthralled when Rena let her blue jean cut-offs fall down her thoroughbred legs. This is what they expected to see when they came to California from all parts of America. They were not disappointed when Rena Victoria took her slow methodical walk to the water. The Grovers gasped as she dove in. It was all we could do to not clap.

Rena was a 10 before that movie was made. For this reason she forbid me to be in the water with her. It was her movie. No extras – please! Only when the two hour exhibition was over, was it my turn to get wet.

I am not saying Rena was very vain. I’m saying she was a work of art. Other, more worthier men, tried to get in Rena’s limelight. Off came the Rolex watches, then they made their way to the water pretending not to see her, the water creature! Timing their projectory, they dove in expecting to surface within five feet of the Mermaid. But, Rena saw them coming and surfaced twenty feet away, the water cascading down her perfectly shaped head on to her bronze colored shoulders as she surfaced. It looked like she was covered in diamonds.

I credit Rena with the California Real-Estate Boom.

“When will I see you again? Sigh!”

Grovers are men who attend the annual hijinks at Bohemian Grover that was founded by George Sterling who also co-founded the Bohemian scene in Carmel. Sterling was a good friend of Jack London, and camped with famous writers at Lake Temescal in the Oakland Hills where my Stuttmeister kindred had picnics. The Stuttmiesters were kin to Carl Janke, a co-founder of Belmont who had a German Theme Park in the redwood groves in South San Francisco. Rosemary called these folks “Bohunks”

My grandfather, Royal Rosamond, wrote for magazines owned by J.L. Menken who began publishing Black Mask after his Smart Set did not do well. I believe we may be seeing a Black Mask author under the tree holding a gun, the same gun that might have been used for the illustration of the Tommy-gun toting toots.

Vicki and Mark Presco did not know about this history when they sold our families literary and artistic legacy to an outsider. This history is going to the Ventura Museum who I sent a copy of Rosemary’s home movie. They want Royal’s letters. I am a living MUSEum. My daughter’s boyfriend wants to destroy me.

Next to Rena, Bo Derek is a five.

Jon Presco

Copyright 2013

Not long after the Club’s establishment by newspaper journalists, it was commandeered by prominent San Francisco-based businessmen, who provided the financial resources necessary to acquire further land and facilities at the Grove. However, they still retained the “bohemians”—the artists and musicians—who continued to entertain international members and guests.[2]

Membership and operation[edit]

The Bohemian Club is a private club; only active members of the Club (known as “Bohos” or “Grovers”[11]) and their guests may visit the Grove. These guests have been known to include politicians and notable figures from countries outside the U.S.[2] Particularly during the midsummer encampment, the number of guests is strictly limited due to the small size of the facilities. Nevertheless, up to 2,900 members and guests have been reported as attending some of the annual encampments.[citation needed]

Bohemian Grove is a 2,700-acre (1,100 ha) campground located at 20601 Bohemian Avenue, in Monte Rio, California, belonging to a private San Francisco-based men’s art club known as the Bohemian Club. In mid-July each year, Bohemian Grove hosts a two-week, three-weekend encampment of some of the most powerful men in the world.

The tradition of a summer encampment was established six years after the Bohemian Club was formed in 1872.[2] Henry “Harry” Edwards, a stage actor and founding member, announced that he was relocating to New York City to further his career. On June 29, 1878, somewhat fewer than 100 Bohemians gathered in the Redwoods in Marin County near Taylorville (present-day Samuel P. Taylor State Park) for an evening sendoff party in Edwards’ honor.[8] Freely flowing liquor and some Japanese lanterns put a glow on the festivities, and club members retired at a late hour to the modest comfort of blankets laid on the dense mat of Redwood needles.

Black Mask was a pulp magazine launched in April 1920 by H. L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan to support the loss-making but prestigious literary magazine Smart Set. Mencken was a well-known literary journalist and sometime poet; Nathan a drama critic. They had been financially successful with another pulp money spinner of theirs called Parisienne, which itself had been followed by an erotic stablemate called Saucy Stories. Keeping Smart Set solvent was always their priority, and there had initially been plans to follow up Saucy Stories with an all-Negro pulp.
These plans were scrapped in favor of Black Mask. It was a purely commercial venture, in direct contrast to Smart Set, and its first issue was not even devoted exclusively to crime. In an open attempt to cater to as wide a readership as possible, Black Mask initially offered “Five magazines in one: the best stories available of adventure, the best mystery and detective stories, the best romances, the best love stories, and the best stories of the occult.” The few pages devoted to detective stories offered little that was special. It was all standard, English-influenced mystery.

Black Mask get together January 11, 1936
Back Row L-R:Raymond J. Moffatt*, Raymond Chandler, Herbert Stinson, Dwight Babcock, Eric Taylor, Dashiell Hammett
Front: Arthur Barnes, John K. Butler, W. T. Ballard, Horace McCoy, Norbert Davis

Arthur Kelvin Barnes (1911 – 1969) was an American science fiction author. Barnes wrote mostly for pulp magazines in the 1930s and 1940s. Barnes was most noted for his vivid and believable portrayals of alien life. As such, he is compared to Stanley G. Weinbaum. Before Barnes (and Weinbaum), SF writers usually portrayed aliens as earth-like monsters, with little originality.

George Sterling (December 1, 1869 – November 17, 1926) was an American poet and playwright based in California who, during his time, was celebrated in Northern California as one of the greatest American poets, although he never gained much fame in the rest of the United States.

Sterling became a significant figure in Bohemian literary circles in northern California in the first quarter of the 20th century, and in the development of the artists’ colony in Carmel. He was mentored by a much older Ambrose Bierce, and became close friends with Jack London, and Clark Ashton Smith, and later mentor to Robinson Jeffers. His association with Charles Rollo Peters may have led to his move to Carmel. The hamlet had been discovered by Charles Warren Stoddard and others, but Sterling made it world famous. His aunt Missus Havens purchased a home for him in Carmel Pines where he lived for six years.

Eventually George Sterling returned to San Francisco permanently, where the Bohemian Club became his only residence as the years wore on. He continued to publish his writings and the work of others, mostly without notice. By November 1926, when Sterling was to host a dinner at the club for noted author H.L. Mencken, the measured life of the businessman had long supplanted Sterling’s former bacchanalian ethos. In the process he had become marginalized, while more modern authors such as Mencken garnered the favorable reviews.
The Carmel Bohemians
by Stephen Lindsley
It was mid-November, and after a week of perfect weather in Carmel the fog had rolled in to stay. Cold and moisture hung in the air, turning midday into a protracted dusk. Nora May French sat alone on the front porch of George Sterling’s bungalow, listening to the ocean. All she could see through the pine trees between the house and the beach was a few pearly sparkles of water, but the sound of the waves rolling onto the shore, now soft, now booming, was strong and constant.
It had been a glorious summer in the little village of Carmel-by-the-Sea in the year of 1907. Yet, only the year before the great San Francisco earthquake had brought tragedy into the lives of thousands. George Sterling was the first poet laureate of San Francisco, a dominant literary figure whose close friend Jack London called him “the Greek.” Sterling was at the center of a small group of artists and writers who frequented the Bohemian Club and trendy cafés such as Coppa’s, exchanging ideas and planning periodic dramatic works and “High Jinks.”
When the earthquake struck many of their favorite haunts crumbled and burned. Sterling and his wife had built a cottage in Carmel the year before. Now they were trying to convince friends to abandon the city and forge a rustic community among the cypress trees and eucalyptus groves. Nora May had been among those who accepted. She came not as a wife or a lover, but as a literary peer to these Homeric poets and artists, the last of the classical romantics.
At night they gathered on the beach in small groups, roasting abalone and mussels over driftwood fires, drinking wine and singing songs. They could not help but be inspired by the pure spectacle of their surroundings – a place where the perfect commixture of elements reveals nature’s full dynamic grace. Grand romantic epic poems were dreamed in their entirety in those evenings on the beach, and other kinds of romance blossomed as well.
The romantic life had been a blessing and a curse for Nora French. She was young and lovely, with a strong nose, piercing blue eyes and wispy blonde hair that seemed to glitter with moonlight, even in the daytime. She loved horses, walking on the beach and strolling the needle-strewn paths that threaded Carmel’s old pine forest. Her poetry reflected her coastal life, but also betrayed a melancholy that few recognized as portentous. She had followed her star where it would take her, and by the time she arrived in Carmel by way of San Francisco, Los Angeles and originally Albany, New York, she had already loved and lost more than once, and seen much that the world could offer. And now she was deeply in love once more, but she knew the man she loved thought of her only as a friend and nothing more. At the age of just 27 years she had the sense that her life was already behind her.

The Smart Set was a literary magazine founded in America in March 1900 by Colonel William d’Alton Mann. During its heyday under the editorship of H.L. Mencken[1] and George Jean Nathan, The Smart Set offered many up-and-coming authors their start and gave them access to a relatively large audience.

About Royal Rosamond Press

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