Walter Mencken 11 a.m., May 24
Will Brian Wilson Film Depict 1978 Balboa Park Vagrancy Bust?
An upcoming big-screen dramatization of the life of Beach Boys mastermind Brian Wilson is in the works from producer Bill Pohlad (The Tree of Life) and TV writer John Wells (West Wing, ER). Wilson sold the rights to his life story to the production crew, which includes Oscar-nominated screenwriter Oren Moverman (who worked on the Bob Dylan stream-of-consciousness bio I'm Not There).
I'm wondering if the flick will include the incident from 33 years ago this month, June 1978, when Wilson was picked up as a vagrant crashing in Balboa Park.
Flashback to late 1976: Mercurial Beach Boy Brian Wilson was complaining about round-the-clock “treatment” administered by Beverly Hills shrink Dr. Eugene E. Landy, a controversial mental-health guru who, with his staff, essentially dictated and controlled his subject’s every move. Landy was later fired by band management, after it was discovered the doctor’s $90 hourly/$10,000 monthly salary had doubled.
However, Wilson's new therapist Steve Schwartz was soon killed in a rock-climbing accident and before long the songwriter’s delicate mental and emotional equilibrium was, as Landy might say, “disharmonious.”
In June 1978, Wilson, without telling his wife or fellow bandmembers, decided (inexplicably) to escape his life entirely and hitchhike to Mexico. He wound up in San Diego a few days later, according to Steven Gaines’s biography Heroes And Villains, which describes a mentally fogged pop-star millionaire wandering around the city for days, “barefoot and unwashed.”
“He was on a binge," according to Stephen Love, brother of Beach Boy Mike Love and sometime-band manager (he kept getting fired and rehired). Wilson’s wife since 1965, Marilyn Rovell, referred to the incident in later divorce papers as the beginning of their marriage dissolution, saying, “He told me he wanted to know what it feels like to be a bum…[he was] playing for drinks in San Diego bars.”
Someone from a local recording studio recognized Wilson and attempted to get him to record a track, apparently unaware that Wilson was at the time basically living under a tree near the entrance of the Laurel Street Bridge in Balboa Park. That’s where he was discovered one afternoon, passed out and nearly comatose.
"The cops found him in Balboa Park under a tree with no shoes on, his white pants filthy, obviously a vagrant, with no wallet, no money," according to another Love brother, Stanley. Wilson was taken by ambulance to nearby Alvarado Hospital and a doctor called Mrs. Wilson to inform that her husband was being treated for alcohol poisoning.
Wilson's wife had already approved sending a private detective to San Diego to search for her missing husband. She'd done so after a phone call from someone at the local recording studio who called CBS, the Beach Boys’ one-time label, with news of Wilson’s vagrancy.
Marilyn, with Stephen and Stanley Love, came to San Diego to take Wilson home but decided to leave him at the hospital a few extra days for treatment. Wilson’s mental and physical health was precarious and the Beach Boys were scheduled to begin sessions for a new album in Florida soon.
Wilson flew to meet rest of the band straight from treatment, to record the group’s debut for Caribou Records at Florida's Criteria Studios. He was quickly supplanted as producer by Bruce Johnston when it became evident that Wilson was incapable (or unwilling) to do the job.
Brian Wilson and his wife filed for legal separation in L.A. Superior Court on July 15, 1978.
Wilson's recent backing band the Wondermints includes members of '60s San Diego pop group Sandi and the Accents, best known for their 1964 single “I’ve Got Better Things To Do.”
(Thanx to Bart Mendoza for the tip and info that led to researching and writing above)
"Field Of Screens" -- Cover story 7-6-06: Complete theater-by-theater history of San Diego drive-ins thru the years, including interviews with operators and attendees, dozens of rare and unpublished photos, vintage local theater ads, and more. http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...
"Before It Was The Gaslamp: Balboa's Last Stand" -- Cover story 6-21-07: In the late 70s/early 80s, I worked at downtown San Diego's grindhouse all-night movie theaters. This detailed feature recalls those dayz, the death of the Balboa Theatre, etc., including interviews with operators, vintage local movie ads, and more. http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...
"Pussycat Theaters: When 'Cathouses Ruled California" -- for the first time, the inside story of the west coast Pussycat Theater chain of adult moviehouses, which peaked in the '70s but later died out. Company head Vince Miranda owned and lived part time at the Hotel San Diego, operating several other local theaters downtown and in Oceanside, Escondido, etc. Told by those who actually ran the theaters, with a complete theater-by-theater encyclopedia covering every Pussycat that ever screened in CA -- http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...
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