Jon Stebbins, author

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Jon & Ed's Excellant Adventure

The following is a semi hazy account of my recent trek to San Francisco to spread the word of Denny.

Monday September 11th, I arrive in Los Angeles for a last minute film editing session. We have 24 hours to get our footage ready for the Big Beach Boys show at the Roxie in San Francisco. We are scheduled toappear on television in S.F. on early Wednesday morning. I drive straight to Venice to pick up my accomplice Ed Roach, also known as Dennis Wilson's best friend. Ed rustles through boxes of tapes and pulls out the ones we need to work on that night.

"The" Hollywood sign

We speed off to Hollywood and Vine where we meet whiz-kid Director Alan Boyd(Endless Harmony)at an impressive editing facility. The raw images of Dennis and his brothers, and friends are slowly shaped into a hopefully coherent statement. From 5 p.m. until the next morning we pull our hair out, laugh, cry, eat pizza, and cut a really cool little movie from Ed and Denny's original footage.

Ed and I drive back to Venice where we sleep for a couple of hours and then start throwing stuff into my car for the trip to S.F. Ed has a last minute urge to do laundry. Finally we are driving to S.F. at midnight. Did we remember the tape??? Yes!

I drive through the night down lonely Highway 5 as my passenger sleeps comfortably but not silently. I listen to a combination of Roach snoaring and Beach Boys music for the next 6 hours. We cross the Bay Bridge at around 6:15 a.m. Ed opens one eye, rolls over, and goes back to sleep. Fortunately, Bay Area traffic has been kind to us, which is a true rarity. San Francisco, waiting ahead, looks stunningly beautiful.

The Palace Hotel, San Francisco
We screech up to the Palace Hotel on Market Street. It's a typically classy old San Francisco structure. We have been ivited to appear on KTVU television that morning to promote my book and our appearance at the Roxie. The program is called "Mornings on 2" and will be filmed LIVE!!! Wake up Ed!!The segment is to be filmed in the hotel's dining room, an impressively ostentatious setting.

The doorman allows us to park right in front, and shows us a room where we can change our wrinkled clothes. We quicky throw on shirts, brush our hair, and I toss down a 22oz. Budweiser just to wake me up. I'm not a regular drinker but there are times when I like a cold one and this was one of those.

We hustle onto the set and meet Stephanie the producer. They have a big table of breakfast food, cofee, and juices laid out for us. Ed takes immediate advantage. I follow the producer around to try and get a grasp of what the segment will be like. She tells me to go away because I'm intimidating her. We meet the show's host Mark Pitta. He looks like a morning show host. Very nice, white teeth, very smiley, he tells me he loved the book.

Soon enough we are plugged into wireless sets, placed in our seats, and the camraman starts framing the shot. Before you can say "Surfer's Rule" we are on live T.V. all over the Bay Area. I flash on the fact that my mom in Livermore is watching. Mark fires the first couple of questions at me, I do fine, then he shifts to Ed. Throughout the segment they show some wonderful footage of Dennis swimming and fishing that Ed provided. A few more questions and then the inevitable focus on Charles Manson. Several nice closeups of the book cover are shown. There's a quick mention of the show at the Roxie, and it's over. The producer tells me it went great. The station manager(a huge BB's fan)is there to congratulate us. Whew! We pulled it off.

We jump in our car and drive to the house we'll be staying at. It's a wonderful, beautifully decorated, two story Victorian over-looking Golden Gate Park. We have complete use of it for the next two days thanks to the Roxie's Elliot Levine. Ed can't wait to start touring the city. I just want to sleep. "Come on Stebbins it's San Francisco!" says Ed. I grew up in the Bay Area, I'm not a tourist. Where's my bed?

Hours later Ed comes back with trinkets, and stories of his tour. He loves the city, he has the energy of Dennis Wilson. Remember he used to have to keep up with him. I want to sleep more. That night (Wednesaday) Ed and I go to the Roxie to check it out. It's a great old 1930's deco structure, nicely decaying on the outside. The neighborhood it's in is....lets say interesting. The inside of the theater is very comfortable, a perfect facility for our film.

We stay and watch the movie that's playing that night, we meet Mark the projectionist, then go out for some Thai food, one quick drink at a bar and home. First we had to peel a sleeping drunk off the back of my car. I'm still tired. Ed is bouncing off the walls. I watch a Lenny Bruce documentary and go back to sleep. Tomorrow is the big day.

The Golden Gate Bridge

Next morning Ed wants to tour some more. I want to sleep in. He hits the Haight, goes to Coit tower, North Beach, Sausalito, Golden Gate Bridge.... Elliot say to Ed "What are you Johnny Appleseed?" That evening Ed is kind enough to bring me a sixer of Corona. Especially kind because he is 90 days sober (and quit smoking cigarettes too). Go Ed!

In the meantime we are getting great reaction about our television appearance. Everyone seems to think it came off great. My sister calls to tell me I shouldn't have been chewing gum on camera. We also start to notice that every paper we lay our hands on has written something about our fast approaching appearance at the Roxie. The Bay Guardian, S.F. Weekly, The Chronicle, etc... we're everywhere!

That night a 6:45 we arrive at the Roxie ready to shine. To our amazement there is a long line outside the theater. People are waiting in line to see our film and hear us talk. Ed, like he's back on tour with the Beach Boys, shifts comfortably into celebrity mode. I'm glad I got all that sleep because I feel really enrgized. Get me a beer.

At 7:15 the Bouncedowns, including Mark the projectionist on organ, are playing "Surf's Up" to a nearly full house. The theater gently darkens and here it comes. Roachclips Productions. It's obvious the crowd loves what they see. They cheer for Dennis, Carl, and Brian. They laugh. Their faces are like kids on Christmas morning. The house lights go back up. I run down to the stage and introduce myself and Ed. We take a few questions. We bring out super-fan Les Chan to show his "Tour Of Hawathorne" film. The crowd eats it up. We watch some great home movie footage of Dennis doing his outdoors thing as Mark plays "Busy Doin' Nothin'" on the house organ. Great vibe.

Then Ed and I really get rolling. Okay I've had a few beers. But for some reason the more I drink, the drunker Ed gets. It's the strangest thing, but he gets a contact high from me. We take a bunch of questions from the audience. They are a well informed group. Ed and I briefly slip into our Archie and Edith routine. We like to bicker with each other a little, and the crowd seems to dig the energy. We get a big hand.

The second segment has even rarer footage. People are literally gasping at what they're seeing. One shot of Dennis' naked butt has some of the females shrieking. The show ends to big applause. We are besieged by fans in the lobby. I sign books like mad. One person tells me they've read my book 14 times. That's gotta be the record! Ed holds court, telling tales of the Wilson boys. We pose for pictures with Japanese fans. I meet fans from Germany, and Sweden. Everybody seemed to genuinely love what we showed them.

That was just the first show. We had to do it again. The second show went just as well. The projectionist (not Mark) butchered a couple of the trasitions but the audience didn't really care. During the second Question and Answer segment Ed really hit his stride. I kept drinking so he was really getting buzzed by now. He told about the boys doing some fun but illegal things, he gave his candid opinion of cousin Mike, he talked about the loss of his best friend, and the pain of watching him deteriorate. He told us about the unreleased songs and footage that is still in his archives. The audience ate Ed up. They made me feel at home too.

At the end of the night I invited a bunch of friends back to the house for a nightcap. I was still feeling great. I wanted to keep talking, laughing, drinking, and eating. I was really enjoying my trip to San Francisco and now Ed just wanted to sleep. Jon Stebbins © 2000