“Will Bohemia arise in Oakland,” was the question asked in an article in the Oakland Tribune on April 22, 1917. The reporter told of the formation of an artist’s club of the East Bay with a membership of more than 30 painters, sculptors and art students including Selden Gile, William H. Clapp and William A. Gaw (1891-1973).”
There is a chance the Victorian Mary Ann Tharaldsen and I lived in on Miles Avenue was brought around the Cape, and may be one of the portable houses my kindred brought to California in 1848. Two of these homes are the oldest in San Francisco and look very similar to the one that may have been moved to Miles, raised up, and a first floor apartment built beneath. Several of these homes were built in Belmont that the Jankes co-founded, one of them becoming the home of William Ralston ‘The Man who built San Francisco’ after it was remodeled by Count Leonetto.
Mary Ann majored in architecture at Cornell. She took an interest in me when she saw my drawings of Atlantis. My friend, Michael Harkins, was very supportive of our marriage because he was very friendly with the Stackpole family. Ralph Stackpole befriended Diego and Freda Rivera. These men have murals in the Coit Tower. My kindred, Garth and Thomas Benton were famous muralist. Add the sculptures at Joaquin Miller’s Woodminster Theatre and the Pre-Raphaelites, one has a Bohemian Renaissance.
I hung Mary Ann’s painting of her friend, Mimi Farina on the side to our Miles home where years earlier, on the lower level, lived a filmmaker I shared my ideas with. Richard and Mimi lived in Carmel near Joan Baez. My late sister had two art galleries in Carmel. Here was the beginning of the New Age Renaissance that had much trouble surviving the tragic death of Richard.
Down the street from the Miles home was a house that was torn down to widen 51 Street. I lived here with Bill’s infant son and Bill’s lover after my dear friend committed suicide when he was nineteen. Bill was a very charismatic artist, poet, and playwrite. Christine came to visit me there. She wanted to see Bill’s baby. She had a crush on my best friend and dealt with his death in a painting she did titled ‘The Crossing’.
What I am going to forth in my next posts is how and why there should be a New Beginning funded by Liberal Artists and Musicians. CNN is going to air a program on the 60s that will concentrate on the British Invasion.
We need to make a model for our future. We can rebuild.
William August Janke, the son of Carl August Janke of Belmont, lived in a Victorian house at 320 Haight St. a a block and a half from Fillmore St. Carl founded what may be the oldest theme park in America that catered to members of the Odd Fellows who lived in San Francisco. Carl Janke hired a special train to bring people to his theme park modeled after a German folk town and beergarten. Carl owned the Belmont soda works and sold a drink that may have contained cocaine. Carl made a jail for his town because folks got out of hand. Consider the Haight-Ashbury that was the haven for the Hippie Movement, that got out of hand. It became a theme-park that attracted folks from all over the world, and was the focal point of the war on drugs.
Consider the rise of the Republican religious-right that has become very powerful by opposing and demonizing the fun time my kindred were having – before California became a state! You could say my good buds and I made them what they are to day, fake political Puritans that destroyed our economy, and spent a trillion dollar on the Bush holy war. Too bad there is no longer a land of the free to go to out west, that is not under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government of the United States, so we can do what we want – and have more fun! Making fun is a huge industry, verses making blue laws.
Google 320 Haight to see my great grandfather’s home (grey-blue) and 2795 Pine St. to see the second story apartment I lived in with Nancy Hamren, Keith Purvis, and Carrol Schurter. Two members of the Jefferson Airplane partied with us, and hung out the bay window while on acid trying to cause an accident – which they did!
Keith, Tim O’Connor, Peter Shapiro, and myself, lived in a large Victorian house in Oakland. That is us on a bridge in Venice California. Peter played with The Marbles that played at the longshoremen’s Hall, and later with the Loading Zone at the Fillmore. Zone members also lived with us in Oakland.
Bryan McLean of Love sang at my wedding, and was good friends of the folks that began the Renaissance Fair, another theme park. Disney studied Fairyland in Oakland for his theme park. Add to this my conection to Elmer ‘Big Bones’ Remmer, gambling, and Tanforan horse racing, then you can say my kindred started the greatest party of all time!
Here is the obituary of William in the San Francisco Call.
JANKE – in this city, Nov. 22, 1902 at his residence 320 Haight St. William August Janke, beloved husband of Cornelia L. Janke, and beloved father of Mrs. W.O. Stuttmeister and Carl and W.E. Janke, a native of Hamburg Germany aged 59 years. Internment, Laurel Hill
“According to Belmont Historical Society records, Dorothea and Carl August Janke sailed around Cape Horn from Hamburg, Germany, in 1848. After landing in San Francisco, they settled in Belmont in 1860″
After the Oakland Hills Fire, my friend Michael took me up to Taurus street and 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. He and his wife helped me investigate Christine Rosamond’s drowning, and helped with my father’s Trust. I was good friend with Michael’s mother and his two brothers since 1965.
Lake Temescal in Oakland became a Mecca for Poets and Plein Air Artists. The poet, George Sterling met Ambrose Bierce at a campsite on the lake where the Presco children used to go swimming. These two men would found the Bohemian Club where some of the richest men in the world would come to camp out. There is something to be said for living a frugal existence, a Bohemian life around a campfire, in the good company of creative men and women. These early Bohemian campers would prepare the way for the Hippies that were born in San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley. The ideal was to live in a little shack, pay next to no rent so one could concentrate on what truly matters.
One could say my grandfather was a Plein Air Poet. He must have taken the photo above of his wife camping on Santa Cruz Island that was also made into a post card. Did Royal try to become a photographer in order to earn monies to support his craft and family? I did three Plein Air paintings in the course of my life, and have plans to make it a big part of my life. This is why I purchased my classic Ford truck.
Ina Coolbrith was the first poet laureate of California. She gave Joaquin Miller ‘The Poet of the Sierras’ his Bohemian look. She encouraged Miller to tour England where he fell in with the Pre-Raphaelites who are cited as the progenitors of Boho Fashion. But Ina is Queen Mother of the Oakland Bohemians who had a hand in the Founding of the Bohemian Club. Ina was good friends with Jack London and George Sterling, members of the Bohemian Club. She took the writer Bret Harte under he wing as did Jessie Benton who held a salon in San Francisco. Bret was the editor of the Overland that became ‘Out West’ magazine that my grandfather, Royal Rosamond, contributed to.
Royal was a poet, a writer, and a true Bohemian. His wife, Mary Magdalene Rosamond designed and made her own clothes. She sold her hats for a living, her creations help raising her four beautiful daughters.
Rosemary Rosamond gave birth to the world famous artist, Christine Rosamond Benton, who married the muralist, Garth Benton, a cousin of the famous artist, Thomas Hart Benton, who rendered what can be discribed as ‘Western Boho’.
Christine took up art in 1972 at the age of 25 after seeing my painting of my Muse, Rena Christiansen, a beautiful young woman from Nebraska whose three sisters were professional models.
In 1969 I discovered the Pre-Raphaelites at the Oakland Library the Coolbrith founded. I let my hair grow long because the Pre-Raphaelite were influenced by the Nazarene-Nazarite Artists of Germany. It was my dream to restart the Pre-Raphaelite movement in the city I was born because our famous artists had taken up the gauntlet. The work of Arthur Frank Matthews is found at the Oakland Museum. Matthews work premeditated the Hippie Movement, his women coming alive in the 60s. Arthur was one of my influences in the painting I did of Rena which I plan to redo.
My first girlfriend, Marilyn Godfrey Reed, made her own clothes and sewed with my famous sister and our mother who also made her own clothes. Marilyn emulated the Bohemian lifestyle, he older sister living in Paris. Marilyn dressed the part when I first met her at fifteen. We were Bohemian Lovers, we founding a Bohemian hot spot in West Los Angeles. Marilyn Reed is an excellent seamstrees and pattern maker, I have encouraged Marilyn to begin her Boho Chic line, or work for my line ‘Royal Rosamond Wear’ that I am founding.
In 1892, Sterling met the dominant literary figure on the west coast, Ambrose Bierce, at Lake Temescal and immediately fell under his spell. Bierce — to whom Sterling referred as “the Master” — guided the young poet in his writing as well as in his reading, pointing to the classics as model and inspiration. Bierce also published Sterling’s first poems in his “Prattle” column in the San Francisco Examiner.
Sterling also met adventure and science fiction writer Jack London, and his first wife Bess at their rented villa on Lake Merritt, and in time they became best of friends. In 1902 Sterling helped the Londons find a home closer to his own in Piedmont, near Oakland. In his letters London addressed Sterling as “Greek” owing to his aquiline nose and classical profile, and signed them as “Wolf.” London was later to depict Sterling as Russ Brissenden in his autobiographical novel Martin Eden (1908) and as Mark Hall in The Valley of the Moon (1913).
The Society of Six was intensely devoted to a self-imposed set of rough-and-tumble attitudes that they found necessary for the maintenance of the visual purity in their works. They sensed that they were not making new art merely for the sake of newness, but with an exhilaration that was born from an overthrowing of subservient visual posturing over various sanctified art modes. Although they were a part of the San Francisco Bay Area modernist art scene in the 1920s, they had an allegiance primarily to themselves, and they were forced to be their own best audience. Influences upon them ranged from nineteenth century Impressionism to European Abstractionism. Although it is fairly easy to trace the more obvious influences, “The Six nonetheless, managed individually to fashion their own painting styles into fresh and ingenuous outdoor paintings which appear generally American and specifically Californian. They were regional painters in the best sense of the word.
“Will Bohemia arise in Oakland,” was the question asked in an article in the Oakland Tribune on April 22, 1917. The reporter told of the formation of an artist’s club of the East Bay with a membership of more than 30 painters, sculptors and art students including Selden Gile, William H. Clapp and William A. Gaw (1891-1973). Many of the things that made the area seem so desirable to “The Six” were mentioned in that review, such as the picturesque waterfront and the sunny rolling hills above the Bay. Oakland was depicted as “…a Bohemia where kindred spirits meet with art and the great adventures that stimulate art to color its atmosphere.”
Ralph Ward Stackpole (May 1, 1885 – December 13, 1973) was an American sculptor, painter, muralist, etcher and art educator, San Francisco’s leading artist during the 1920s and 1930s. Stackpole was involved in the art and causes of social realism, especially during the Great Depression, when he was part of the Federal Art Project for the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Stackpole was responsible for recommending that architect Timothy L. Pflueger bring Mexican muralist Diego Rivera to San Francisco to work on the San Francisco Stock Exchange and its attached office tower in 1930–31. His son Peter Stackpole became a well-known photojournalist.
May your heart always be joyful and may your song always be sung. May you stay forever young. –Bob Dylan
In the early 1960s, Carmel, California, was sanctuary to a Bohemian assortment of singers and artists that would soon leave an indelible mark on American culture. The protest singer Joan Baez had taken up residence on a rocky outcropping overlooking the Pacific, in the Carmel Highlands. There, she was joined by her lover, a precocious young singer by the name of Bob Dylan. Nearby, her sister Mimi, enchantingly beautiful at just 17, had rented a cabin with her new husband: singer, novelist and poet Richard Fariña.
It was a time of remarkable potential, the folk music scene just then unfolding like a chrysalis, taking an entire generation on its wings.
It’s not hard to imagine Dylan, the Baez sisters, and Fariña plying the roads of Carmel and the Big Sur coast, prior to the current tourist inundation, while laying the groundwork for 50 years of folk music in America (an epoch chronicled in David Hajdu’s book, “Positively 4th Street”). In the spring of 1966, it seemed almost anything was possible.
They could have no way of knowing what the next few months would bring.
Aura of Invincibility
In recent years Fariña had played music with Pete Seeger and Dylan. He had toured and lived in Europe, and played and recited poetry in the creative cauldron of Greenwich Village, New York. He had married (after 18 days), and quickly divorced famed folk singer Carolyn Hester. Now, married to the lovely Mimi Baez, and armed with a penchant for self promotion, he found himself nestled among the cultural iconoclasts of the day.
But while he had been cavorting with the famous, as of late, Fariña had also been facing demons. Deep down, he was bitterly envious of Dylan’s soaring success on a world stage, and the ease with which he wrote songs—a great font of creativity that continues to this day. Moreover, Fariña had struggled for years to publish his novel, “Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me,” a fantastical fiction that stylistically resembled the work of his college friend Thomas Pynchon, author of “Gravity’s Rainbow.”
After years of rewrites and petty squabbles with publishers, Fariña’s great project finally came to fruition in 1965, when Random House agreed to publish the work. With this news, and the undying support of his young wife, Fariña was positively flying. A book signing was organized to celebrate the great event, at the now-defunct Thunderbird Bookstore in the Barnyard Shopping Center, at the mouth of Carmel Valley. The date: April 30, 1966—his young wife’s 21st birthday.
It’s easy to envision Fariña, then in his 20s, heady with the publication of his new book, and intimate with some of the world’s most famous and influential artists, conducting himself with the certain aura of invincibility that accompanies youth and accomplishment.
The event started in the afternoon. There is a haunting image of Richard and Mimi Fariña, taken on a sunny deck outside the Thunderbird. She seems proud, yet strangely skeptical, as if his new trajectory in life couldn’t quite be possible, or if she was witnessing some implausible hubris.
For his part, Fariña is looking skyward, slightly askance, as if he knew some strange visitation was in the offing. It was.
After the intoxicating experience of the book signing, and with another one planned in San Francisco the next day, Fariña was primed for adventure. According to Hajdu, each book he signed at the Thunderbird had been accompanied by this simple inscription: Zoom.
After the signing, he and Mimi both attended a party, in honor of the book and his wife’s birthday, a few miles up the valley. A friend, Willie Hinds, then studying at Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove, had arrived on a new, red Harley-Davidson Sporster. Fariña imagined that a fast ride on that beautiful road would be the perfect capstone to his day—a fitting harbinger of the great future that lay before him.
One can only imagine the mental state of the driver of the new Harley-Davidson, Hinds, infected with the enthusiasm of his famous passenger and the power of what was then one of the fastest motorcycles on the road (if a bit ill-handling), on one of the best motorcycle roads in America.
Did Fariña—in his unbridled enthusiasm—urge him on, the pair conspiring toward speeds that made the big bike weave and groan in complaint? Or was it all Hinds, the driver?
It’s impossible to know, but within half an hour, according to Hajdu, sirens could be heard in the distance. They had taken a corner too fast. Or, Fariña was fighting Hinds in the corner, leaning the opposite way, a common urge of self preservation that actually has the opposite effect, making the bike nearly unmanageable for the driver, like an unwieldy snake.
Whatever the cause, the bike tumbled off into a vineyard, at an estimated 90 mph. Hinds was badly hurt, but survived. Fariña, the passenger, was not so lucky. Unhelmeted, he died instantly of massive head and internal injuries. He was just 26.
When Mimi Fariña returned to the home on Mount Devon Road in the Carmel Highlands days later, she discovered that Fariña had set out a gift and card for his young wife, trying to make amends for the fact that he had forgotten her birthday.
Life at the Apex
I find myself fascinated by these events, perhaps because of the small ways in which my own life intersects with that of the man I never knew and have only read about. Like Fariña, I also know the Carmel Valley—I would even say intimately—from the seat of a motorcycle. Like Fariña, I have also written books—though not nearly as grand in scope—and I know the elation that comes with taking the first copy in hand, and the likelihood that one might feel just a little invincible, and prone to excess—vulnerable to the certain opiates of speed and two wheels.
Like Fariña, I have reveled in the sinuous curves of that road, and have even stiffened with the anticipation of a fall which—fortunately for me—never came. It seems every California motorcyclist knows that road, and has scraped hard parts trying to execute a perfect line among its hundreds of turns. From the ocean, it gently courses through the open valley, then tightens to a thin rope past Carmel Valley Village. In spring, the pastures reveal dizzying expanses of wildflowers. It then passes the tortuous road to the famed Tassajara Zen Center, established by the groundbreaking monk Shunryu Suzuki, author of the seminal book of Zen in America, “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.” Eventually the road snakes its way to Cahoon Summit, before plunging down through a delectable series of decreasing-radius turns to Arroyo Seco, a ride of almost 50 miles. I have done it dozens of times, and never tire of it. I am so fond of the ride that I even wrote an article about it, published in “Rider” magazine.
There are those who have done analyses of the location of Fariña’s accident, calculating the exact patch of road just outside the village, a series of left/right decreasing-radius turns, bordered by a low stone wall. It’s a place that has nearly caught me out on occasion, during my own riding. Was that the spot? Another more commonly accepted account puts the accident site a few miles from the ocean, at a point called Steinbeck’s Pool. This section, with its long, sweeping curves in an open valley, looks to be nothing either spectacular or particularly challenging for a motorcyclist. However, when traveling at an estimated 90 mph, with a passenger fighting to keep the big bike upright, any curve is dangerous.
Is it an obsession? A desire to avoid the same fate? Or a little of both? It is in any case an investigation borne of necessity—a compulsion, even. It lingers in the mind, like a recurring dream.
All motorcyclists know these thoughts. We ride these roads, we know the quality of the pavement, the turns, the braking points, and the gear required to accelerate cleanly out of each apex. When done right, it’s a thing of beauty, poetry. When done incorrectly, or in haste, it’s a mess, an abomination, a source of embarrassment. And maybe death.
Richard Fariña is buried in the Monterey City Cemetery, which I view every morning over my right shoulder, while riding to work. His small, flat stone is emblazoned with a peace sign. Judy Collins sang at his funeral. Mimi Fariña died of cancer in 2001. Her sister, Joan Baez, built a home on Miramonte Road, not far from the spot where her brother-in-law died.
Richard and Mimi Fariña’s house on Mount Devon Road is still there (and is shown on this page): a low, flat structure that’s unspectacular in comparison to the multi-million dollar estates that now surround it. It nonetheless still commands a striking view of the rocky coast, and it’s easy to see how it would impel the writing of any book, as it did for Fariña.
Dylan, the genius of his generation, seemed to have learned nothing from the tragic incident, if he was aware of it at all. In an ironic twist, just months later, he crashed his Triumph on a country road near Woodstock, New York. Afterward, he dropped from public view for years, though it has always been said that the accident merely served as an excuse to remove himself from the public eye, and that his injuries were not serious.
Such things happen, sometimes at the absolute apex of your life. Or the moment becomes the apex of your life, simply because of what follows. Either way, you are remembered for it. And hopefully, for many other things. Richard will be.