Some of you may have heard (okay pretty much all of you) that I’m fighting the good fight with two brilliant minds to save Pickfair Studios from destruction by their current owner CIM. While I haven’t written much lately I felt compelled to put a little something here.
I vowed in 2008 that if they ever tried tearing down my dear studios I’d chain myself to the fence. I haven’t ruled that out! This current round started with a post from My Heritage LA that was shared on facebook. We jumped in and I immediately began creating a site…my outrage at the idea so deep I didn’t stop…for 5 hours.
I guess my training with other silent film endeavors took over because I knew exactly where to go. But I had no idea it would become this. Personally I hoped we could top the Griffith petition which 4 years later sits at 200 signatures. The lowest number the petition site would let me use was 1,000…I hoped we could make it…maybe in a month or three.
As the three of us watched the campaign slowly pick up speed we’d write each other, “200! Now 400!” Every time we’d email figures to a press or important contact it would change by 50 before we could hit send. I guess its true, when you go viral you won’t know it. We didn’t even dare to hope for it. This kind of response is what I would have killed for when I released Affairs Valentino. A Valentino love child is what I thought would deserve this kind of press. It didn’t (and I still believe it should have). BUT saving a historic film relic did.
When I talk to minor film people…wannabe directors and actors and film students…I’d always mention D.W. Griffith and Mary Pickford figuring if they were truly these types in training they should know the name. “Who?” One film student, attending the New York Film School down the street from where Mary is buried had no clue who she was. He thought he knew all about Griffith…after a half hour film class showing the most incendiary parts of Birth of a Nation. I never even tried Douglas Fairbanks…if they didn’t know those two they wouldn’t know that lovely man…
While I wasn’t big on The Artist I was touched how it seemed to worship at the altar of Douglas Fairbanks. And once it won an Oscar (go Uggie!) I was certain Doug would be known more. Maybe now when I said ‘silent film’ people wouldn’t go ‘like…when you mute the TV?’ (REAL RESPONSE!) I know I wasn’t the only film fan with that hope.
Hollywood these days seems to always be a day late and a dollar short. Debbie Reynolds tried for almost 20 years to get a home for massive, AMAZING film memorabilia collection (Doug and Mary’s costumes, Rudy’s suit of lights, Marilyn Monroe’s white dress, Judy Garland’s red slippers). I think she went bankrupt more than once trying to do it and finally caved in last year with a massive auction. No one stepped up to keep the collection together, while individual items went for millions of dollars. A few months later the Academy announced a Hollywood Museum where these types would fit well (it appears they bought Debbie’s ruby slippers). WHY? Mary Pickford wanted such a museum created in the 30s, later in the 60s. Now once we’ve sold off our treasures or thrown them in the trash…80 years after the idea of turning Pickfair the home into a museum….we get one?
And of course there’s Pickfair the house. When Mary and Doug divorced she had the idea of making it a museum. This was vetoed and she lived in the home with Buddy Rogers until her death in 1979. Before she died, she and Buddy had offered the home to the city of Beverly Hills again hoping to make it a museum. Beverly Hills said it would be too costly to upkeep. Pia Zadora (the 80s Paris Hilton) got her hands on it and tore it down claiming it had termites. People were outraged…but it was too late. The gates are essentially the only original Pickfair relics standing.
Mary’s costume collection (she had saved every costume she had worn in films) was auctioned with the rest of her estate. The estate sale was meager with the auctioneer begging people to take the items. The person who bought the costumes at a steal threw them in the WASHING MACHINE and ruined them…then called the auction house and wanted his money back.
What the hell?
Harold Lloyd and his estate tried desperately to make their Beverly Hills home into a museum and it was for a brief time. But it became too expensive and most of the land was sold off, the infamously beautiful children’s playhouse gone. The house does still stand and was luckily bought by a historic fan. But Falcon Lair, Rudolph Valentino’s home, wasn’t so lucky. Nor was his Whitley Heights home. The Whitley Heights one is now a foundation sitting on the freeway and Falcon Lair is some gates and the stables…now converted into a million dollar home.
Harold sold his studio land to Mormons, he thought they were trustworthy. The second biggest LDS church now sits where it was. Buster Keaton’s studios were knocked down long ago, nothing of them is left standing…not even the statue dedicated later to commemorate him. Charlie Chaplin got lucky (its my personal theory he was a witch, he seemed to always squeak by no matter what)…his studios were owned by him until there was some appreciation. RCA Records preserved the studios which became a bonafide landmark and now Kermit the Frog sits on the roof…dressed as the Tramp.
Charlie’s studio is still functioning, it even made an appearance in the 2011 Muppet movie.
CIM is like an evil villain to me, personally. Their only plan since 1993 has been to bulldoze the historic buildings at the Pickfair Studio and put up ugly glass cubes that looked just as stupid in 1993 as they look today. They’ve made no effort to preserve or restore to the point Mary’s office is in shambles. In 2007, through practices I personally find questionable, they got the West Hollywood City Council to allow them to knock down Mary’s office and Doug’s gym. They planned to do this by the end of April. A memo went out a few days ago saying it was moved up to immediately.
What is concerning and you can read all about it here, is that they have very little oversight and many developers like to go ‘oopsy daisy’ and knock down other things while at it. West Hollywood’s developer, Degrazia has refused to answer any of our emails and we have had no reply from CIM despite attempts. West Hollywood’s City Council set out a form letter listing a list of buildings they promised to not knock down, excluding Santa Monica West’s building block (dating from 1919 and full of historic offices) and Soundstage 7 where many famous people including Frank Sinatra recorded.
I have written about this so much this week, but essentially what we want is oversight, a protection for those two buildings (that were listed on the memo as first to go), oversight of the restoration so its real restoration not just stripping everything down and putting up cubes and a historic designation that is more meaningful then ‘oh this was historic or whatever’ as a cultural monument seems to mean in West Hollywood speak.
The Fairbanks family sent some lovely quotes. The authentic Pickfords (I consider myself an honorary one) expressed support for getting a real cultural designation.
We are just extremely touched by the out pour of support. I’ve literally shed a few tears over it. As of this writing (and in a few hours it will be inaccurately low) there is 1350 facebook members and 2550 petition signatures (which is great, for some reason in the beginning the petition lagged behind the facebook memberships.) We’ve gotten so much press I could go on and on about it. Today Variety published an article in support. We’ve gotten 3,000 pageviews on the website and judging by the tweets and page views this protest is going to be a big deal.
Yup. Sunday April 1st (yeah we get the irony) at 1pm at Formosa and Santa Monica we’re gonna raise some hell (politely of course, we must be respectful and intelligent at all times). Or as the City of West Hollywood is declaring it…Kardashian Day…When we came up with this idea I thought it might be 5 people…judging by the press for the protest alone its going to once again shock me.
I mourn a lot of the loss past (particularly the loss of the Ambassador, Pickfair the home and the Santa Monica ballroom) but to see Mary and Doug’s descendants, film workers from gaffer to director and just plain film fans and Angelenos all cry out and say they support this…just wow you guys…seriously.
One person wondered why no one tried this back in 2007. Well for starters I don’t think I was in LA when the hearings occurred. Even if we had been in the know social media was myspace and an ad riddled petition site. I had some of the funnest times of my life during those years which involved some heavy myspace promotion…but I’ll tell ya this kind of protest is really in its time and place now. I’ve long hated facebook…but after this I may have to take back everything I’ve ever said about it. And the petition sites are much more professional. Also there’s now youtube and twitter…they make all the difference.
As I wrote on the ‘About the Stars‘ page both Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford died thinking no one cared about them, their works or their films. This was obviously untrue in the 30s and 70s as much as it is today but hearing Doug’s gym and Mary’s office are already approved for demolition (this would cause a riot in 1925) would arguably further that point.
However I think Doug and Mary would be as equally touched as we are if they seen the outpouring of support. People do care. Developers and city councils don’t…they never will. But the people care. The film industry cares.
Mary’s birthday is April 8th. In addition to this whole Pickfair issue her Foundation, which provides film classes to under privileged youth and furthers her name, films and works…has been ‘orphaned’ by the main company, the Mary Pickford Foundation.
I do not speak officially for anyone but myself on this matter, but its bullshit. The Mary Pickford Foundation was founded in the 50s by Mary to do her charitable works. Now the descendants of her lawyer and accountant sit on the board. Its a 3 man board making $60,000 EACH a year for 12 hours of work. Someone on nitrateville complained that the Institute has released no new Mary movies in 7 years. The institute has basically had its hands and money tied, always having to beg to the foundation to do anything. Frankly I think the board members on the foundation don’t give two hoots about Mary and direct money at really ridiculously stupid and useless projects like the “Land of Dreams” the one woman act portraying Mary as Mae Marsh on a redbull binder.
Hugh Neely and Andi Hicks, the two main people at the Foundation, are very dear. They spoke up because the foundation gave itself raises, while telling the Institute it had no money. Women at the institute making almost 50% less then what the men make, which is a big no no for an Institution founded by a business WOMAN. Yes maybe there doesn’t need to be a woman on the foundation board, but all members should be paid equally for hard work done well. And being able to give themselves raises for 12 hours of work is ridiculous…its like Congress and their infinity for cutting everyone else off, squabbling, then giving themselves huge raises constantly.
The foundation now has $17 million dollars and basically wants to sit on it slowly draining it and doing nothing. They cut off the Institute with no warning and now they can’t pay their staff or even make this month’s rent. The Institute has been trying to further Mary and her ideals, including monthly screenings of her films for FREE.
According to the end of their press release: “If you would like more information about this topic, or to schedule an interview with Andrea, Hugh, Manon, or members of the MPI board of directors, please call Manon Banta at 323-459-2640 or email Manon at email@example.com. About the Mary Pickford Foundation The Mary Pickford Foundation was started in 1958 by Mary Pickford. No woman has served on the board since the death of its founder in 1979. The Foundation offices are at 40730 Calle Bandido, Ranch Adm Blvd, Murrieta, CA 92562. The phone number is 800-338-8128.”
Do that. And also help us save Mary and Doug’s studio by protesting, signing the petition and joining our facebook and twitter.
To each and every person who has made a call, sent an email, told a friend, attended the city council meeting or plans to attend the protest…THANK YOU. From the bottom of my heart.