By Pete Weitzner | Special to the NB Indy
Balboa Island Museum Newport Beach premiered its first film on September 17 at the Balboa Yacht Club (BYC). The 45-minute film covers that magical period here, especially in Newport Harbor, from the 1940s – 1960s. The “Golden Age” was recounted and hosted by longtime harbor resident, Tim Mang.
“These are just the highlights,” Mang said, to cap off a post-film panel. “We really go into depth on some really neat stories. It takes more than two boat rides, three-hours each. Maybe in the future.”
The premiere sold out BYC’s lower deck – 150 film fans, history buffs, BYC members and Museum patrons and old friends eager to cruise into nostalgia. BYC Commodore David Beek offered to host the premiere in August.
“Most optimal place to host an event, Beek said. “It’s a film about the harbor – we’re (BYC) on the harbor, and a very important part of its history.”
Beek’s grandfather Joe started BYC in 1922.
Commodore Beek took a chance hosting the Museum’s film premiere at BYC, easily the largest live-event gathering for both since March – a risk that fit according to Beek.
“We’ve always pushed the envelope, just a little bit,” Beek said. ”BYC is the only yacht club on the west coast that never closed. From day one started doing to-go, shipping orders. Only yacht club that had a junior summer sailing program this year. The film event? People said ‘You’re crazy.’ I said no, we’re not.’ We spaced the chairs at the tables. We spaced the tables. We could have done it inside. Wouldn’t have been the same.”
The film boasts twin stars: there’s the “world’s largest small harbor (Newport),” just being discovered at this time; and there are the people, among them so many Hollywood stars, “seeking safe harbor” as Bob Verini wrote in a New York Times story in 2019. They were seeking privacy from a gossip-mongering Hollywood.
“They wanted to be left alone, and to sail and party. I got that,” Mang said. “Plus the harbor wasn’t nearly as crowded then. The movie stars like Humphrey Bogary, Errol Flynn, Tyrone Power, Dick Powell, Ray Milland, they all loved to sail, and they were very good sailors.”
Mang was uniquely qualified to tell the story of the Golden Age. He’d lived here most of his life. At 13, he almost wedged himself into a small role in Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick’s
“Days of Wine and Roses,” partially shot on Lido Isle. “Second Jack Lemmon film I got cut out of, Mang said, another story for another time.”
His mom Ruth greased his entrée into Newport/Hollywood, she was a former actress and bestie of Dorothy Yardley, first social director at the Balboa Bay Club – the go-to resort in the 50s, 60s.
He moved easily among Newport-Hollywood and local industrialists. He dated Candy (actress Candice Bergen), who lived with her ventriloquist dad on Lido Ilse. And at a young age, he appreciated the unique place and time in which he was growing up.
The film runs 45 minutes. It takes viewers through much of Newport Harbor, with Mang weaving in stories at every site, many long gone and replaced.
There are tales of two infamous haunts, “The Castaways Club,” overlooking Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and “Christian’s Hut” on Balboa Peninsula. Both were lost to fire. Castaways, located atop the white cliffs of Dover, which were used in the classic love story, “White Cliffs of Dover,” was always a precarious watering hole for Bogie and pals.
“You can imagine, Mang said in the film, “it’s two in the morning and Bogart and all these guys had a few too many drinks (and they’re) going down that road to Dover and Coast Highway. It got a little hairy. Luckily, they knew the Chief of Police Johnny Upson. He was one of their drinking buddies.”
The premiere event officially began at sunset, with BYC honoring the tradition of evening colors, everyone standing in silence, hand over heart as the U.S. Ensign was lowered in respect of the United States of America and all who defend her.
The film stirred up memories.
David Beek’s dad, Seymour, recalled his old racing rival, Humphrey Bogart.
“Good sailor. Good guy, Seymour Beek said. And he was a lot of fun. I did race against him…beat him a few times…more than he beat me.”
Beek was joined on a post-film panel by Alan Rypinski. Rypinski created Armor All and the Worldwide Pog Federation. But prior to that, Rypinski engineered a family move to Newport. He’d end up appearing nearly 30 times on his new neighbors’ popular TV show, “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.”
“I had a Balboa dinghy with a 5hp Johnson motor,” Rypinski said. “I’ll bet I cruised every square inch of this harbor ten times with that little boat. I fell in love with Newport so much, I begged my parents to move here (from Pasadena). I started at Newport Harbor High School in ’53. What a time to be here. Easter week was crazy fun.”
“My family has been coming to Balboa Island…well since my father was a baby,” Realtor and Success Coach Stephanie Theard said. “And honestly, I thought I had read and heard it all. The film was so enjoyable that I realized I had a constant smile on my face all the way to the end.”
Newport resident Pete Weitzner co-produced the film along with one of his former Chapman students, Anthony Liechti, co-owner of Firecat Productions.
“Incredible evening,” Shirley Pepys said. Pepys was an executive producer of the film, which was shot in late spring and took several months to complete. “I loved the movie and was thrilled we could premier it here at BYC.”
You can purchase a DVD of Tim Mang’s “Golden Age of Newport Harbor” at the Balboa Island Museum Newport Beach or order online.
For more information on the Balboa Island Museum Newport Beach, please visit https://balboaislandmuseum.org.
For more information on Balboa Yacht Club, visit https://www.balboayachtclub.com.