Early Hollywood: Will Rogers Park. By Tony Piazza

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WILL ROGERS was an extremely popular celebrity of the 1920s and 30s. He was a film actor, cowboy trick roper, vaudeville performer, humorist, and social commentator. His political wit was widely read through the syndicated columns he wrote for national newspapers.

“I never met a man that I didn’t like.”
 Will Rogers.

Will Rodgers 2 Early Will Rogers photograph

I  recently visited his home and grounds, which included a polo field in Pacific Palisades as part of my research for my upcoming book- a new detective mystery starring once again that hard-as-nails,  Hollwood(land) P.I., Tom Logan.

“Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save.” 
―Will Rogers

Tracy & Disney 1938

 Spencer Tracy & Walt Disney at Polo Fields 1938

1931 Pacific Palisades:

Logan will be making an appearance to question a suspect at a charity polo match hosted by Will Rogers. Even though my story is fiction, Rogers did open his field to the public and was supportive of fundraisers. Celebrities were not uncommon at his polo matches, and one wouldn’t be surprised to see such figures as WALT DISNEY, HAL ROACH, or GARY COOPER. Perhaps one will even be around when Logan stops by!

“You know horses are smarter than people. You never heard of a horse going broke betting on people.” 
―Will Rogers.

 Walt-Disney-

Walt Disney

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Gary Cooper

The State runs the park now- a gift from the Will Rogers Family. It was well maintained when we visited it, although I’ve heard that during the State’s financial problems there was a period when it wasn’t in such fine shape and the family was considering stepping in and taking over.

 “There are two theories to arguing with a woman. Neither works.” 
― Will Rogers.

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The Rogers Home- Piazza photo

One humorous incident occurred when we’d visited. There was no state employee on duty at the entrance, and the parking fee was on the honor system- a slot and envelope where you could record your car’s license and drop in the fee. I was standing at the entrance dressed in dark green slacks and an a olive colored military shirt filling out my envelope when I felt a presence from behind. I turned to see a car full of young people, the driver reaching from his window trying to hand me twelve dollars in bills! No, I didn’t take it, but explained to them how the system works.

“Everything is funny as long as it is happening to somebody else.” 
― Will Rogers.

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Road alongside Polo Field- Piazza photo.

The polo field has been in movies. One that comes to my mind is “Star Trek: The Voyage Home” (1986). In this forth entry in the original film series it doubled as the Polo Fields in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Remember Kirk’s line, “Everyone… remember where we’d parked.”

 “The income tax has made more liars out of the American people than golf has.”
― Will Rogers.

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Polo Field…”Remember where we parked”- Piazza Photo.

Will Rogers home is a must. We had a wonderful docent that spent the better part of an hour going through the property which looked as if the family was still living there. The docent had been on the property since she was a girl, and her love and enthusiasm really shined forth in our tour. I’ve visited many famous person’s sites, but none had ever drawn me so much into the life of its’ famous owner as this one did.

“Buy land. They ain’t making any more of the stuff.”
― Will Rogers.

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Will Rogers original ranch house- Piazza photo.

As an example; chills went up my spine as I saw a globe standing next to his desk with the route drawn out in black ink of his ill fated 1935 flight with Wiley Post. They both crashed and died in Alaska during that flight. He drew that just before he left. I also felt a thrill when I saw the typewriter in which he wrote all his wonderful columns.

 “All I know is just what I read in the papers, and that’s an alibi for my ignorance.” 
― Will Rogers.

Post and Rogers

Will Rogers and Wiley Post

The home was very modern for its’ day, with kitchen appliances not yet common in the average home. Electric stove, freezer that makes ice cubes…he loved gadgets!

“Too many people spend money they earned..to buy things they don’t want..to impress people that they don’t like.”
― Will Rogers.

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Another angle of ranch house- Piazza photo.

He was a very generous man, and gave of himself and his finances to help the less fortunate. Recently I talked with my lovely niece, Jennifer who happened to take polo lessons at the State Park. Her instructor was Will Rogers’ grandson. The charges for lessons were adjusted such that all children could afford to take them. The family’s aim was not to make money, but bring the sport to as many young people as possible; an admirable policy and one that fits perfectly with his grandfather’s philosophy.

 “Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip.” 
― Will Rogers.

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I highly recommend this tour. If you enjoy history (both film and Americana), and interested in western artifacts…Indian baskets and rugs, original western paintings, furniture, and sculptures- then this is for you. FLO ZIEGFELD- of Ziegfeld Follies fame (of which Rogers was once a performer) paid for (as a gift) the installation of a bay window on the property- perhaps the first of its’ kind in California. These are some of the surprises you’ll find on this tour.

“The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it in your back pocket.” 
― Will Rogers.

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The historic stable

Until you get a chance to visit this place in person, I hope you’ll consider seeing it through Logan’s eyes in his next upcoming thriller due out this year and published through Amazon!

“If you want to be successful, it’s just this simple. Know what you are doing. Love what you are doing. And believe in what you are doing.” 
― Will Rogers.

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Tony Piazza is author of the 1930s Hollywood murder mystery novel, “Anything Short of Murder,” which had its roots on the TCM fan website. His next novel, “The Curse of the Crimson Dragon” was released early 2012 and is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites. He was an actor/extra during the 1970s and worked with such legends as Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and Karl Malden.  His non-fiction e-book “Bullitt Points” is an in depth look at the making of “Bullitt” from a person who was there. Look for it where fine books are sold, or at the link posted below. All profits go to the Boys Republic charity: www.bullittpoints.com.

Also: Watch for the new Tom Logan mystery thriller published soon by Amazon!

Due out mid-2013!

 

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10 Responses to “Early Hollywood: Will Rogers Park. By Tony Piazza”

  1. Jane Risdon says:

    So fascinating Tony, loved reading this and seeing the photos and loved all the memories it evokes.

    Good luck with your wonderful books and I shall pop in again soon and see what is what.

    Perry mason – husband met Raymond Burr several times – seemed a nice man, into English antiques.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Lynn Lambert says:

    I have always loved Hollywood and its glamorous stars. Will Rodgers was a favorite with his wit and humor. After reading your article, I feel he would have certainly made his own place in today’s social, political, economic and media outlets. He would have made a wonderful host on a talk show. Can’t even begin to imagine what he would say to some of today’s media makers.

    • tonypiazza says:

      Thanks for your comment, Lynn. He was perfect for a nation going through the depression. His humor was a great crutch to an economy limping along.

  3. Melanie says:

    Loved reading this piece, most of all the pithy quotes. Can’t help thinking that Rogers would have torn through today’s corporate media! Thank you for posting.

    • tonypiazza says:

      Thank you, Melanie. I agree. I think he would provide some great humor today. In fact, reading through some of his other quotes, they seem almost timeless. I really appreciate you reading and taking the time to comment.

  4. Fun story. I believe they would sometimes call for donations in movie theaters in Will Rogers name.

    That field does indeed look familiar in the context of Star Trek IV.

    • tonypiazza says:

      Thank you again Greg for commenting. They usually ran a short film talking about the Will Rogers Institute…actors talking about its virtues, and then a can was passed around to the audience to make donations. This was one of many charities. And yes, the field with its white fence is unmistakable in the Star Trek IV film.

  5. Great pictures, Tony. Look forward to reading about Tom Logan.
    Will Rogers was killed before I was born, but my brother told me that when my mother heard about it, she cried. My mother rarely cried openly, so it impressed him.
    Incidently, there is a real-life Tom Logan who lives here locally.

    • tonypiazza says:

      Thank you, Gloria for your comment. My niece speaks highly of his grandson. It seems to run in the family. Appreciate you taking the time to read my blog.

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