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Women in Aviation
"Read Nick Spark's article about Pancho
from Women in Aviation magazine (.pdf)"

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To purchase tickets to upcoming screenings,click on "Screenings" and use the pull-down menu to select a venue.

Pasadena Screening Feb. 25th

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ANNOUNCINGPasadena

A SPECIAL BENEFIT SCREENING OF

The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club

to benefit Heritage Square, the Pasadena Museum of History and
the KOCE-TV Foundation

Tickets are now available for two special benefit screenings of the documentary The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club in support of the the Pasadena Museum of History, the KOCE-TV Foundation and Heritage Square.  Join director Amanda Pope, writer/producer Nick Spark and their special guests as they celebrate one of the 20th Century's most accomplished, and outspoken women pilots.

There are two screenings on February 25tth at the Pasadena Playhouse 7 movie theater, 673 East Colorado Blvd, Pasadena 91101.  First a matinee at 4:30 ($15 tickets) and second an evening screening at 7:30 ($20 tickets).  A reception with the filmmakers, special guests and representatives of Heritage Square and the Pasadena Museum of History will take place in the nearby Vroman’s Bookstore at 6 p.m.

ORDERING TICKETS THE DAY OF THE SHOW?  PLEASE CALL ARDIS WILWERTH AT: (818) 653-0579 OR COME TO THE LAEMMLE THEATER.  TICKETS ARE AVAILABLE AT THE DOOR.  (AS OF 11:30 AM ON 2/24, SEATS ARE STILL AVAILABLE FOR BOTH SHOWINGS.)

When: Thursday, February 25, 2010SpecialGuests

Time and Ticket Price:

4:30 p.m. Matinee Screening  $15

7:30 p.m. Evening Screening  $20

There will be a special joint reception beginning at 5 p.m. and an appearance by the filmmakers beginning at 6 p.m. in Vroman’s Bookstore, adjacent to the theater

Place:

Laemmle's Playhouse 7 Theater 673 East Colorado Blvd.  Pasadena, 91101  (see map below)

626-844-6500  (For directions only; please do not call the theater to purchase tickets, they will not be able to assist you)

The event is expected to sell out so please purchase tickets promptly.

To Purchase Tickets:

ORDERING TICKETS THE DAY OF THE SHOW?  PLEASE CALL ARDIS WILWERTH AT: (818) 653-0579 OR COME DIRECTLY TO THE THEATER AND PAY AT THE DOOR. (AS OF 11:30 AM ON 2/24, SEATS ARE STILL AVAILABLE FOR BOTH SHOWINGS.)

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For more information about this event contact:

Ardis Willwerth, Director of Exhibitions, Pasadena Museum of History  626 577-1660 ext. 15

Brian Sheridan, Director of Development and Communications, Heritage Square Museum  (323) 225-2700 ext. 221

 

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Upcoming Screenings

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ANNOUNCINGMissionViejo2

A SPECIAL SCREENING OF

The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club

to benefit the KOCE-TV Foundation


When: Saturday, January 9th

Time: 7 p.m.-9 p.m.

Place: Norman P. Murray Senior Center, 24932 Veterans Way, Mission Viejo, CA, 92692

Cost: $10   Parking: Free

Refreshments will be served at this event.

PURCHASE TICKETS AT THE DOOR

OR ON THE CITY OF MISSION VIEJO

WEBSITE CLICK HERE (then click on

"Activities" and use CODE 1846).

 

Tickets are now available for a special screening of The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club hosted by the City of Mission Viejo in support of the KOCE-TV Foundation.  Join director Amanda Pope, writer/producer Nick Spark and their special guests as they celebrate one of the 20th Century's most accomplished, and outspoken women pilots.

This event takes place at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 9 at the Norman P. Murray Community and Senior Center, 24932 Veterans Way, Mission Viejo,  92692.  A map is included below.

The event is expected to sell out so please show up early if you plan to buy at the door.

To Purchase Tickets:

You can purchase tickets at the door or from the City of Mission Viejo via their website: econnect.cityofmissionviejo.org (click on "Activities" and use code 1846)

IMPORTANT!  Please note: If you purchase tickets from the city of Mission Viejo, you will NOT be mailed tickets for this event.  Your name will appear on a list at "will call" at the event. You can confirm that we have received your reservation by contacting us (if you purchased via this site) or the City (if you purchased via their site).

For more information about this event contact Dru Maurer or Ashley Blair at  949 / 470-3062 or via email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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A Key Photo and a Mystery Solved

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One of the coolest photos in the collection of the Pancho Barnes Trust Estate is PanchoasPanchothe one that appears at right.  It shows Florence Lowe Barnes in her "Pancho" persona.  Boy does it ever!!  The lit cigarette, sombrero and serape give a good idea of how Pancho might have disguised herself in Mexico and passed herself off as an hombre during her travels in 1928.  This iconic photo, which appears in our film at a critical moment — it symbolizes her transformation from society girl to wild adventuress — has always been a bit of a mystery to me.  You'd think the photo would have been shot in Mexico, but a close study of the background reveals something unexpected.  The building in the background appears battle-scarred, with bullet holes and broken windows.  And there's a sign on the wall over Pancho's shoulder, and if you stare at it long enough you'll see it's in a foreign language, either German or French but definitely not Spanish.  The last word on that sign is clearly "Verdun".  As in, the famous city in Meuse, France that was the scene of a World War I battle.  So what in the heck would Pancho be doing in France and why did I never hear about that trip?

PanchoasPancho2Well, a clue appears in the lower right corner of the photo.  That's where a faint stamp appears, which I've blown up at left.  The stamp says "Elmer Dyer Hollywood."  Elmer Dyer, for those of you who have never heard of him, was the first cinematographer in "the business" to specialize in aerial photography.  He shot many of the key sequences in Howard Hughes' "Hell's Angels", Frank Capra's "Dirigible" and the movie "The Lost Squadron" starring Richard Dix.  "Lost Squadron" is a really interesting picture about Hollywood stunt pilots.  Made in 1932, it starred the acerbic film actor and movie director Erich Von Stroheim as, what else?, an acerbic movie director.

Those of you who have seen The Legend of Pancho Barnes know that Von Stroheim and Pancho Barnes were good friends and sometime enemies as well.  Now here's where our photographic story takes an interesting turn.  While trying to find some visual material for use in the film, I stumbled across a publicity photo from "The Lost Squadron" (below left).  In it, Von Stroheim is shown PanchoasPancho4in his role as director Von Furst on the set of a World War I movie.  What caught my eye about this photo was an area in the rear center of the frame. PanchoasPancho5 If you look at it closely in the detail shot below, you will notice the building on the right side has a peculiar type of architecture.  There's a sort of wall on the lower portion of the building.  Well guess what?  This same detail appears to be in our photo of Pancho as Pancho (take a look)!  It's not definitive proof, but given the evidence — Pancho was friends with Von Stroheim, Elmer Dyer was the director of photography on "Lost Squadron", and "Lost Squadron" was about the making of a World War I picture — it seems likely that our photo was shot in 1932 at the RKO lot in Culver City.  Come to think of it, that's only a couple of miles from my house.  Neat!

(Some) Answers to an Enigma

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Speaking of mysteries. . .  Back in January of 2007, I wrote a production journal entry about Ted Tate, the author of The Lady LadyWhoTamedPegasusWho Tamed Pegasus: The Story of Pancho Barnes.  This biography of Pancho came out a year after the  The Right Stuff movie made its debut and is considered controversial by many of her friends.  Some of them suggested the rather ribald "true story" told in Pegasus was something of a fabrication of, or at the very least a wild exaggeration of, Pancho's real story.  Filled with raunchy jokes, wild escapades and chock-full of racy language and expletives, the book does seem over-the-top at times.  In other areas however, it seems rather true-to-life and wholly authentic.  So how did The Lady Who Tamed Pegasus come into being?  The obvious place to go for an answer to that question would be to speak to Ted Tate, but unfortunately he passed away years ago.

In hopes of gaining some insight Lou D'Elia — one of the men who now manages Pancho Barnes' estate — introduced me to Ted Tate's daughter Tedi.  Turns out that by sheer co-incidence, Tedi practically lived in my same neighborhood in west Los Angeles.  She was happy to speak to me, and while Tedi did not know how the book came to be made, she did share some wonderful stories of her father's, and her own, friendship with Pancho.  She also made an interesting suggestion, that Lou and I were welcome to search through her father's papers and memorabilia, which were stored in her garage.  We both jumped at the chance, figuring that if we could find some of Ted Tate's original notes, or better yet tape recordings that he made while interviewing Pancho for the book, we'd have some real answers.  So Lou and I spent a long day at Tedi's, hauling boxes and boxes of material from her garage and poring over the contents.  While we found many wonderful photos of Ted from his days as a flight test engineer and manuscripts for various book projects, we didn't find anything of value related to The Lady Who Tamed Pegasus.  Well, almost anything!  We did find a photocopy of Tate's original manuscript which interestingly enough said the book was written by "Grover Ted Tate and Pancho Barnes".  That caught my eye because the published book (see cover at right) only credited Tate.  So, why would Ted have taken Pancho's name off of it? I wondered.

In the months after our fishing expedition, intriguing new leads surfaced about Ted and the book, but nothing ever seemed to pan out.  I met Tedi's sister Cindy over the phone and later in person, and she related an intriguing story.  According to Cindy, her father left a large box full of Pancho-related memorabilia at the now-defunct Desert Inn in Lancaster.  That seemed to jibe with another story we'd heard from our friend Barbara Rowland, that a box of Pancho "stuff" had surfaced at the Inn when it was being closed down, supposedly hidden in the hotel's false ceiling.  But neither Cindy or Barbara knew the whereabouts of the mystery box.  Possibly it had gone to the Antelope Valley Air Museum, now known as the Milestones of Aviation Museum, where several other tape-recorded interviews with Pancho were once known to reside.  But a visit revealed that neither those recordings, or anything from Ted Tate's collection, is in the Museum's possession today.

It's now been roughly two yearsTedTate3 since that expedition to Tedi's garage, and while I haven't clarified Ted Tate's authorship definitively, I can now draw some conclusions about the book.  The most important of these, is that Tate should have done what he apparently did initially: share author credit with Pancho Barnes.  I can say that with confidence, because a review of Tate's book reveals that roughly 70 out of 103 pages of his book are drawn directly from an unfinished biography dictated by Pancho.  The original acetate recordings of this biography, and a typed transcript of them, are now in the possession of Pancho's estate.  They were made available to us by Lou D'Elia for the documentary.  Once you compare the two documents, it's crystal clear that huge chunks of Tate's book are pulled directly from this manuscript.  Ted did not actually commit plagiarism — he was careful to put each one of Pancho's lifted comments in quotations — but he did commit a sin of omission in that he did not acknowledge that the words in the book were not spoken to him in an interview, but came directly from Pancho's unpublished / incomplete book.

While it would be easy to condemn Tate for not giving Pancho credit, it's also possible to speculate that there were logical reasons he did not.  He was after all a good friend of Pancho's and would not have wanted to hurt or slight her.  Plus, he would have realized that having Pancho as a co-author would have helped sales of his book.  So how do you explain his omission?  There's only one explanation I can think of that makes a sense, and here it is. . .  As I've detailed in previous entries, Pancho's fourth and final husband Mack McKendry inherited her estate after she died in 1975.  Mack was notoriously protective of his ex-wife's legacy, going so far as to sue anyone who threatened his control over her story.  It's entirely possible that once he learned of the book project McKendry threatened Ted Tate with legal action.  He definitely did that in several other instances, and although Mack apparently never did sue Tate, Tate might have decided that it would be wise from a legal perspective to drop any pretense of having Pancho as a co-author.  A piece of evidence that fits neatly into this scenario is that a typewritten version of Pancho's autobiography — the same one that Tate quoted liberally from — has surfaced with a cover page added onto it by McKendry.  The cover page makes it absolutely clear that the text is not to be reproduced in any way without his permission. 

So given McKendry's possible meddling, maybe Tate can be forgiven for not giving Pancho her due.  But there's another aspect of Pegasus that needs to be addressed.  While Tate quoted liberally from Pancho's autobiography in his book, he also made some critical changes to her dictation. As a result, she comes across as very coarse.  TedTate4Case in point?  In Pancho's autobiography she speaks of her friend and lover Bob Short noting that he "got a job flying ferrying airplanes" in war-torn China during WWII and that after he died a "violent death" the Chinese "erected a large monument to him and he was a national hero for many years.  It's a funny thing how some people who can be a complete so-and-so can be a good national hero."  In Tate's book this text appears virtually word-for-word, with the final line being altered to read "It's a funny thing how some people can be complete sons-of-bitches and wind up as some kind of f--king hero."  That's not a solitary alteration, and while one can understand Tate's choice to make Pancho seem crude in her choice of language, it's regrettable since it's not faithful to what she herself said or likely wanted to say in print.  The fragment of an autobiography that she left behind contains descriptions of many adult situations, but it basically has no adult language outside of a few "hells" and a "damn" or two.

Another thing about Tate's book ... When Amanda Pope and I initially got ahold of Pancho's unfinished autobiography, we were disappointed to learn just how incomplete it really was.  Pancho simply never had the time, energy or encouragement to really tell her story, and she only scratched the surface in the musings she left behind.  There's a reason that Tate's book is only 100 pages long — he simply did not have enough material to draw upon to make it longer, because Pancho didn't leave much behind.  It's a shame because as a result, Tate did not apparently exercise much judiciousness (some would say any) in his choice of material from the autobiography.  He pretty much used everything, including portions that really didn't deserve to be published.  A more careful or respectful editor would have seen the value in leaving some of the unimportant escapades by the wayside, and concentrate on what made Pancho truly great.

There remain continuing mysteries with Tate's manuscript.  Roughly 1/3rd of the book didn't come from Pancho's autobiography, and I haven't been able to source it.  Much of this material seems "real" and in Pancho's voice.  So it's entirely possible that Tate did do his own interviews for the book, and perhaps tape recordings of them do still exist.  If Tate did conduct interviews however, it is fairly likely that they were incomplete because many significant parts of Pancho's life story are not addressed in Pegasus.  This above all else is the main failure of the book.  It really covers her aviation career only in passing.  Her participation in the 1929 Powder Puff Derby, her breaking of Amelia Earhart's air speed record, or her work as a Hollywood stunt pilot were major milestones.  Yet they scarcely get a mention in The Lady Who Tamed Pegasus.

One final conclusion is inescapable.  While Pegasus is a readable, even entertaining book, and while a lot of it is in Pancho's own words, no one should forget that it's a hodge-podge that was mostly created from an unfinished, first-draft autobiography.  As such, it should not be viewed as Pancho's autobiography or even as a serious portrait of this amazing lady pilot.  Not by a long shot.  (Fortunately, both Barbara Schultz's Pancho and Lauren Kessler's The Happy Bottom Riding Club are excellent and complete portraits.)  

Had Ted Tate had more time, and been able to conduct in-depth, formal interviews with Pancho before she died, I suspect his book would have been markedly different.  By the same token, had Pancho exerted more effort to tell her own story, she probably could have written quite a good autobiography.  With the benefit of an editor who could have identified what stories were important to relate and which were not who knows?  It might have been a best seller.  In either case, the end result would probably have concentrated not so much on racy escapades, but on its subject's lifetime love affair with aviation. 

While many other people have condemned Ted Tate for The Lady Who Tamed Pegasus, I am not one of them.  In fact, I'm rather a fan of this weird little book.  It's a portrait that Tate wanted to sketch, and he did so in his own way.  I respect that.  So I encourage you to read it, but please read one of the "real" biographies first. Then you'll discover Pegasus is kind of a hoot to read actually.  It has some jokes in it that will make your hair turn white.  

Perhaps at some future point, some enterprising person will cobble together Pancho's unfinished autobiography, using quotes from the other existing interviews to fill in the gaps.  Then we'll have a "real" autobiography.  Meantime, I can take some solace in the fact that the film we've made tells Pancho's story in a way we believe she'd want it to be told and — whenever possible — in her own words. 

Want to buy a copy of The Lady Who Tamed Pegasus?  It's out of print but used copies are available on Amazon.com by clicking here.

You can read an on-line tribute to Ted Tate here.

History Surfaces One Image at a Time

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It's always a lot of fun to present the film at various venues, but especially in Southern California where sometimes we meet people who knew Pancho, or are somehow related to her story.  It's also interesting to see what surfaces at some of these screenings (and sometimes in our email in-box).  Case in point, aviation history enthusiast Philip Dockter attended a recent screening at Flabob Airport, and showed up with this marvelous photo of Pancho Barnes having a get-together at hePancho_at_Laguna1r house in Laguna Beach.  The scene is shot near her "infinity" swimming pool situated on a cliff facing the ocean (see left side of photo).  "I got this from Beverly Bittle, who was the niece of a racing pilot and test pilot for Douglas Aircraft back in the 1930's named Dave Elemendorf," Philip explained in a recent email.  "Dave's wife Helen (Long) was a movie actress and a very pretty young gal when she married Dave in 1932. She had a very interesting story, she must have known a lot of Hollywood types and went to many Hollywood parties as she was a good look'in gal. I was interested in what Helen had from her film career, so Beverly let me copy some neat photos, that is where the Pancho photo came from."  I'm not exactly sure which one Helen is in the photo -- possibly the woman on the right side?  Philip if you are reading this, please let me know!

LowesAnother neat photo surfaced at our Palm Springs screening, which was attended by a woman named Myrna Jeanne Reichert.  It turns out that she is the great, great granddaughter of Pembroke C.S. Lowe, the brother of Pancho's grandfather Thaddeus (who is shown sitting on the right side of the image).  "We believe the photo was taken about 1890-1900," she wrote to me recently.  "The notes on the back of the photo, which was passed down through our family, indicate the man standing in teh center is older brother Percival Green Lowe (1829-1908).  We think the gentleman seated on the left is younger brother Pembroke C.S. Lowe (1834-1907) but it could also be brother Oscar Lowe (who died in 1908)."  This is one we'll have to refer to resident Lowe expert Michael Patris, who doubtless will have an answer.  Michael?

Another great one comes to us from Mike Story, who sent us an email and a couple of attachments.  One of them is a wondeful photo of Pancho and her hostesses.  This photo is well known to us, and can be found in the collection of the Pancho Barnes Trust Estate, but Mike was able to add a little information on it since it turns out he knew two of the women in the photo, Vi Ryburn and Big Dottie.  His mother was a "mainstay" at Pancho's, and best friends with Vi.  "I lived at Oro Verde, the Happy Bottom for 1 1/2 years in the late forties when my Mom was one of the cocktail waitresses at the famous bar there,”staff_copy he wrote.  “She was known as ‘Big Red'.  I have great memories of that time.  Then-Major Chuck Yeager took me up for my first flight in a Navion (a Navy test plane).  I first learned to swim in Pancho's round pool. I also remember several wild parties as an 8-year-old. I went on to become a pilot in 1968. I knew Pancho & Mac very well. In fact Pancho let me think 'Happy' (her horse) was mine!  Pancho taught me how to ride bareback as well. I used to take Happy to the round pool for a drink of water.”

Neat Mike, thanks to you and everyone else for sharing their photos and their stories!

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