Literary Locals September, 2009
My literary local for the month of September is Robert J. Carvounas. Robert is a local Huntington Beach resident and wrote a book on a famous landmark called the Golden Bear.
I have never had an author change my mind about a review, but I missed the mark with this book.
Here is what I wrote and what sparked a discussion with the author: This is a very BRIEF history of the Golden Bear. It leaves out many details about the local music scene and the influence the Gold Bear had on local musicians.
The Golden Bear started out as a restaurant and evolved into a music venue that showcased everyone from local bands like Honk to Janis Joplin and Bonnie Raitt. I spent a lot of time there from the late 1970's until it closed in 1986.
Taken from Robert's web site:
Just mention the name "Golden Bear" to a Huntington Beach local and the utterance is usually met with a knowing smile and regretful tilt of the head. Almost everybody— young and old— still remembers the once great landmark. This book is not intended to be— nor could any one text ever be— a recounting of all the great memories from countless individuals over three generations. Instead, it is meant to provide the historical context for those memories. It is the story of the people behind the Golden Bear. From Harry Bakre— whose talent and vision gave birth to the Golden Bear when Huntington Beach itself was still in it's infancy— to Del Kauffman, George Nikas, and the Babiracki Trio who presided over the Huntington Beach landmark when it was a legendary live music venue. It contains their personal stories and recounts some of their interactions with legendary performers— and also with their community. It is a story about Huntington Beach businessmen who created a legacy that still reverberates to this day. It is a story of success, a story of triumph, and ultimately a story of defeat and great loss. The world lost the Golden Bear when it was demolished in the summer of 1986.
Here is what Robert has to say about his book:
Wow. A book review... never thought I'd see that. Thanks Mary. In response: I PURPOSELY didn't concentrate on the music because that was secondary to me. The music lasted for 23 of the 57 year existance of the Golden Bear. Plus, if you know about the Golden Bear, you probably know something about the music. It's the earlier history and the people behind the Bear that most people don't know about. And, it's their contribution to our community that is the reason the Golden Bear existed at all! The bands would (and did) play a million other places. In addition: I was 15 years old when it closed. I didn't live in those times to see the local bands play there... they most probably didn't amount to much in the larger music scene so most people my age never heard of them before! Sorry. I wasn't going to try and recreate a history of music that I don't know and don't like. For instance: I LOVE the Dixie Dregs and could have written pages about their performances... but WHO ELSE would care about that? Music is subjective and for every person that remembers (or wants to read about) a certain band, there are 100 others who've never heard of, and don't care about, that band. To me: the Golden Bear owners gave Huntington Beach that entertainment, the bands would play anywhere somebody would allow them... big difference there, in my mind anyway. The focus of MY book is on the (pre-music) early history and the locals who presented the music to our community and gave us a place to see the bands we love... it's not about the bands (how boring and unoriginal would that be???) So, I hope that explains it. There is plenty of room for Golden Bear history. If somebody wants to write (or read) a book about music at the Golden Bear or the Orange County music scene, please sit down and write one. I was simply not interested in that. Thanks again and take care. Robert J. Carvounas
Before I did my research, I too thought of music when I thought of the Bear. But during my research, I started to feel a strong connection to those locals who presided over the landmark day in and day out, year after year... rather than bands that floated in and out a couple times (or less) per year. It's great to remember the music, for sure. And, I hope my book gives people the historical context into which they (myself included) can fit all of their special memories of that great place! Rather than having those memories exist in a vacuum of information about the past.
I think it is great when local authors actually do the research and write about local landmarks. If there is no one to write it down in an easy to read form, then a lot of information is lost for future generations.