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Celebrity authors in San Diego

Meltzer unmasks Cameron Crowe, Hunter Thompson plays self at SDSU, Susan Sontag not that nice, zoo not that nice to David Sedaris, Luis Urrea deals with fame, John Steinbeck IV's final days in SD

John Steinbeck, father of John Steinbeck IV.  "My brother and I, we talked with him a lot about things, languages and history and cultures and customs. We traveled around the world with him."
John Steinbeck, father of John Steinbeck IV. "My brother and I, we talked with him a lot about things, languages and history and cultures and customs. We traveled around the world with him."

John Steinbeck Was My Father

One of us, a doctor's son, mentioned that his father had urged him to follow in his footsteps. Was there pressure on John to become a writer? He shook his head, no. "I stated writing so close to the time he died that he was surprised by the fact I was even doing it. The fact that I did it tolerably well was nothing but a source of pleasure to him. He said, 'Oh, the kid can write.'”

By John Steinbeck IV, March 30, 1989 | Read full article

Near the intersection of El Cajon and Fifty-fourth Thompson spotted a pair of prostitutes. “I need some whiskey. Do you gals know of any open liquor stores?”

Bedtime for Gonzo

Thompson has a new job. He has been hired by the San Francisco Examiner for a weekly media column. The Examiner, in announcing Thompson’s debut, was wise enough to announce on the paper’s front page that the column “should” appear every Monday. The first installment, September 23, recounted the adventures of Thompson’s friend Skinner being “trapped and mauled” by a rogue buffalo in the Wyoming. Thompson did get around to media matters in his second column.

By Thomas K. Arnold, Oct. 17, 1985 | Read full article

John Steinbeck IV.

Destiny Manifest

Wallen led the memorial service at the Encinitas house. About 100 people crowded into the living and dining rooms. Johanna Demetrakas said, “Not many people there had known John for a long time. Most had known him for two years.” Nancy’s children and friends were there. John’s 20-year-old daughter Blake, her husband, and six-month-old baby were there. Recently, Blake and John, who never met, had begun talking on the telephone and had plans for getting together.

By Judith Moore, March 7, 1991 | Read full article

With Seuss on the loose, who would read Mother Goose?

All the World’s a Sneetch

People have told me how annoyed they were by the ending of Green Eggs and Ham. Sam-I-Am convinces the protagonist to try the dreaded dish, and he likes it. A clear cop-out. In my house, dinner-table arguments over plates of peas (well-salted with my tears) often referenced green eggs and ham. If a child had written the book, obnoxious Sam-I-Am and the other green-egg-and-ham likers would have left the poor guy alone.

By Mary Lang, Oct. 3, 1991 | Read full article

In Morgan's life of Dr. Seuss what mysteries remain/ That must have put their friendship under terrible strain.

Horton Hears a Jew

  • Yet Morgan’s loyalty to Ted survived this crucial test
  • The power lines and riches reconcile the rest.
  • For Ted, the multimillionaire, would leave his widow Audrey
  • A fortune that makes politics irrelevant and tawdry.
  • And still the truth eludes us as to how much Morgan knew
  • Of Ted’s Jerusalem award of “Honorary Jew.”
  • How did Morgan square all this? The Trickster? Ted’s Holy Land prize?
  • (To Nixon a judaized Democrat would hardly have been a surprise!)

By Abe Opincar, May 18, 1995 | Read full article

I was amazed that someone of her stature could be so ungenerous.

Heart of Darkness

“Is it true,” Susan asked, “that they have the words ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’ inscribed over the entrance to Disneyland?” They certainly were not inscribed over the entrance to the Los Angeles International Airport. I did, I remember, make a few jokes about Disneyland. Apparently remarks Susan did not like. Mid-stream down the escalator, she turned to me and with ferret-like intensity growled, “I’ve written a great deal about it, you know?”

By Abe Opincar, Dec. 17, 1992 | Read full article

The newsguys are also surprised at how courteous and friendly the trash-pickers at the Tijuana dump are.

A Living Cloud

The next morning, I am greeted by my media escort, Penny. This is a fascinating new feature of my life — escorts. They pick you up, drive you around, provide snacks, meals, and companionship. My favorite thing on tour is to grill them about who the biggest jerk is. Nobody wants to say, though one author — who will remain nameless — is smelliest, Stephen King is funniest, and Ursula K. Le Guin is everybody’s favorite.

By Luis Urrea, July 22, 1993 | Read full article

A full-scale replica of the Pilgrim l lies at Old Dana Point, at the west end of the Plaza.

Californians Are an Idle, Thriftless People

California, momentous in fact and metaphor, looms large in Two Years Before the Mast, a place where Dana landed after seven months at sea. He touched land at San Diego on Saturday, March 14, 1835. It was not only a strangely new place, California was a new word. In a decade, thanks to a gold strike, it would leap into prominence as a new El Dorado and infect the dreams of every restless, acquisitive American.

By Alexander Theroux, July 6, 1995 | Read full article

Francisco Muñoz and his Baja Airlines planes, c. 1950s. By 1962 Muñoz had become a main character in Gardner’s travel books.

I’ve got Perry Mason on Board

“There was the time when we took off from Tijuana in one of Muñoz’s most prized possessions, a twin-motored plane which held ten passengers." The passengers included [Gardner] and three close associates. When they took off from Tijuana it was raining, so Muñoz began climbing in the hope of breaking out above the storm. By the time they were 100 miles or so south of the border, the noise of the engines stopped, frozen by the cold.

By Jeannette De Wyze, Sept. 21, 1995 | Read full article

David Sedaris at the San Diego Zoo. "What exactly does he want to write about monkeys?" Jennifer was getting testy.

Comedian in the Mist

"I just got off the phone with Little, Brown, my publisher. On the cover of Primates on the Seine they want to use a picture of a chimp smoking a cigarette. The chimp is wearing clothes. I hate chimps wearing clothes. I reminded my publisher that my contract gives me cover approval. My publisher said, 'Everyone here loves the cover.' My thinking is, 'Well, then, let everyone at Little, Brown go on a book tour and sign it.'"

By Abe Opincar, Nov. 24, 1999 | Read full article

What’s troublesome is Fast Times' use of El Cajon's Lester Bangs.

Third Spud from the Sun

Jimmy Olsen incarnate, the youthsome Mr. Crowe accepted the R.S. style sheet implicitly, in all likelihood worked hard, but got and kept the gig when it was discovered that rock stars, such a sensitive lot, were less intimidated by him than by actual functional grownups, who had the disconcerting habit of asking grownup questions…. Cameron’s writeup of Led Zep demonstrated his ability to fill pages as glibly as the next bozo, and a tad more affably to boot.

By Richard Meltzer, Nov. 2, 2000 | Read full article

L. Frank Baum. Coronado became Baum’s favorite place. “He wrote a number of books there. You can see from the introductions; he signed them ‘Coronado,’ beginning with The Land of Oz through The Road to Oz.”

Coronado Spawns Woggle-Bug

Baum invented at least one character on the beach in Coronado. “The story goes that one day he and a little girl spotted a fiddler crab, and she asked him what it was, and he said the first thing that came into his mind: ‘Woggle-Bug.’ Later that night, he told his wife the story and decided he could evolve a character from that incident. It became the Woggle-Bug in The Marvelous Land of Oz.”

By Jeanne Schinto, May 15, 2003 | Read full article

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John Steinbeck, father of John Steinbeck IV.  "My brother and I, we talked with him a lot about things, languages and history and cultures and customs. We traveled around the world with him."
John Steinbeck, father of John Steinbeck IV. "My brother and I, we talked with him a lot about things, languages and history and cultures and customs. We traveled around the world with him."

John Steinbeck Was My Father

One of us, a doctor's son, mentioned that his father had urged him to follow in his footsteps. Was there pressure on John to become a writer? He shook his head, no. "I stated writing so close to the time he died that he was surprised by the fact I was even doing it. The fact that I did it tolerably well was nothing but a source of pleasure to him. He said, 'Oh, the kid can write.'”

By John Steinbeck IV, March 30, 1989 | Read full article

Near the intersection of El Cajon and Fifty-fourth Thompson spotted a pair of prostitutes. “I need some whiskey. Do you gals know of any open liquor stores?”

Bedtime for Gonzo

Thompson has a new job. He has been hired by the San Francisco Examiner for a weekly media column. The Examiner, in announcing Thompson’s debut, was wise enough to announce on the paper’s front page that the column “should” appear every Monday. The first installment, September 23, recounted the adventures of Thompson’s friend Skinner being “trapped and mauled” by a rogue buffalo in the Wyoming. Thompson did get around to media matters in his second column.

By Thomas K. Arnold, Oct. 17, 1985 | Read full article

John Steinbeck IV.

Destiny Manifest

Wallen led the memorial service at the Encinitas house. About 100 people crowded into the living and dining rooms. Johanna Demetrakas said, “Not many people there had known John for a long time. Most had known him for two years.” Nancy’s children and friends were there. John’s 20-year-old daughter Blake, her husband, and six-month-old baby were there. Recently, Blake and John, who never met, had begun talking on the telephone and had plans for getting together.

By Judith Moore, March 7, 1991 | Read full article

With Seuss on the loose, who would read Mother Goose?

All the World’s a Sneetch

People have told me how annoyed they were by the ending of Green Eggs and Ham. Sam-I-Am convinces the protagonist to try the dreaded dish, and he likes it. A clear cop-out. In my house, dinner-table arguments over plates of peas (well-salted with my tears) often referenced green eggs and ham. If a child had written the book, obnoxious Sam-I-Am and the other green-egg-and-ham likers would have left the poor guy alone.

By Mary Lang, Oct. 3, 1991 | Read full article

In Morgan's life of Dr. Seuss what mysteries remain/ That must have put their friendship under terrible strain.

Horton Hears a Jew

  • Yet Morgan’s loyalty to Ted survived this crucial test
  • The power lines and riches reconcile the rest.
  • For Ted, the multimillionaire, would leave his widow Audrey
  • A fortune that makes politics irrelevant and tawdry.
  • And still the truth eludes us as to how much Morgan knew
  • Of Ted’s Jerusalem award of “Honorary Jew.”
  • How did Morgan square all this? The Trickster? Ted’s Holy Land prize?
  • (To Nixon a judaized Democrat would hardly have been a surprise!)

By Abe Opincar, May 18, 1995 | Read full article

I was amazed that someone of her stature could be so ungenerous.

Heart of Darkness

“Is it true,” Susan asked, “that they have the words ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’ inscribed over the entrance to Disneyland?” They certainly were not inscribed over the entrance to the Los Angeles International Airport. I did, I remember, make a few jokes about Disneyland. Apparently remarks Susan did not like. Mid-stream down the escalator, she turned to me and with ferret-like intensity growled, “I’ve written a great deal about it, you know?”

By Abe Opincar, Dec. 17, 1992 | Read full article

The newsguys are also surprised at how courteous and friendly the trash-pickers at the Tijuana dump are.

A Living Cloud

The next morning, I am greeted by my media escort, Penny. This is a fascinating new feature of my life — escorts. They pick you up, drive you around, provide snacks, meals, and companionship. My favorite thing on tour is to grill them about who the biggest jerk is. Nobody wants to say, though one author — who will remain nameless — is smelliest, Stephen King is funniest, and Ursula K. Le Guin is everybody’s favorite.

By Luis Urrea, July 22, 1993 | Read full article

A full-scale replica of the Pilgrim l lies at Old Dana Point, at the west end of the Plaza.

Californians Are an Idle, Thriftless People

California, momentous in fact and metaphor, looms large in Two Years Before the Mast, a place where Dana landed after seven months at sea. He touched land at San Diego on Saturday, March 14, 1835. It was not only a strangely new place, California was a new word. In a decade, thanks to a gold strike, it would leap into prominence as a new El Dorado and infect the dreams of every restless, acquisitive American.

By Alexander Theroux, July 6, 1995 | Read full article

Francisco Muñoz and his Baja Airlines planes, c. 1950s. By 1962 Muñoz had become a main character in Gardner’s travel books.

I’ve got Perry Mason on Board

“There was the time when we took off from Tijuana in one of Muñoz’s most prized possessions, a twin-motored plane which held ten passengers." The passengers included [Gardner] and three close associates. When they took off from Tijuana it was raining, so Muñoz began climbing in the hope of breaking out above the storm. By the time they were 100 miles or so south of the border, the noise of the engines stopped, frozen by the cold.

By Jeannette De Wyze, Sept. 21, 1995 | Read full article

David Sedaris at the San Diego Zoo. "What exactly does he want to write about monkeys?" Jennifer was getting testy.

Comedian in the Mist

"I just got off the phone with Little, Brown, my publisher. On the cover of Primates on the Seine they want to use a picture of a chimp smoking a cigarette. The chimp is wearing clothes. I hate chimps wearing clothes. I reminded my publisher that my contract gives me cover approval. My publisher said, 'Everyone here loves the cover.' My thinking is, 'Well, then, let everyone at Little, Brown go on a book tour and sign it.'"

By Abe Opincar, Nov. 24, 1999 | Read full article

What’s troublesome is Fast Times' use of El Cajon's Lester Bangs.

Third Spud from the Sun

Jimmy Olsen incarnate, the youthsome Mr. Crowe accepted the R.S. style sheet implicitly, in all likelihood worked hard, but got and kept the gig when it was discovered that rock stars, such a sensitive lot, were less intimidated by him than by actual functional grownups, who had the disconcerting habit of asking grownup questions…. Cameron’s writeup of Led Zep demonstrated his ability to fill pages as glibly as the next bozo, and a tad more affably to boot.

By Richard Meltzer, Nov. 2, 2000 | Read full article

L. Frank Baum. Coronado became Baum’s favorite place. “He wrote a number of books there. You can see from the introductions; he signed them ‘Coronado,’ beginning with The Land of Oz through The Road to Oz.”

Coronado Spawns Woggle-Bug

Baum invented at least one character on the beach in Coronado. “The story goes that one day he and a little girl spotted a fiddler crab, and she asked him what it was, and he said the first thing that came into his mind: ‘Woggle-Bug.’ Later that night, he told his wife the story and decided he could evolve a character from that incident. It became the Woggle-Bug in The Marvelous Land of Oz.”

By Jeanne Schinto, May 15, 2003 | Read full article

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•May 14, 2017 • •From the archives •Reading • •Celebrity authors in San Diego

Meltzer unmasks Cameron Crowe, Hunter Thompson plays self at SDSU, Susan Sontag not that nice, zoo not that nice to David Sedaris, Luis Urrea deals with fame, John Steinbeck IV's final days in SD

By Various Authors, March 13, 2017

This is an important and priceless column and much appreciated. At age 79 +/- I am just beginning to re-read John Steinbeck and your article is extremely helpful and timely for me. I am very grateful.

Thank you.

March 14, 2017

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