Archive for June, 2011|Monthly archive page

Faculty Art Show at Idyllwild Arts

June 30, 2011

Jewelry case showcasing the work of Metals Week artists

By Marcia E. Gawecki

More than 25 artists from the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program showcased a variety of works at the Opening Reception at the Parks Exhibition Center on Monday night, June 27.

The featured artwork came from instructors who are teaching workshops during Metals Week, Hot Clay, and Native American Arts Week, as well as select faculty artists and staff members. The items included jewelry, pottery, paintings, sculptures, and Indian artifacts and toys. The show ends this week.

“Everyone helped out to make this show a success,” said Christy Scott, who works at the gallery this summer. “David Wells (guest curator) came and helped us out, and so did his assistant, Ian Erickson-Kery. Kristin Coffin helped us arrange all of the jewelry. It was a group effort.”

Christy said that about 120 people showed up on Opening Night and several items were sold. Among them two female figurative sculptures by Debra Fritts, a studio artists from Georgia. Her husband, Frank Chelton, a painter/poet/teacher, was there taking pictures of her artwork, while she was teaching her figure class.

Debra Fritts' husband, Frank Chelton, showcases her work

“By the Wings of the Raven,” a multiple fired stoneware of a nude woman inside a vessel. Debra’s price tag was $3,600 dollars, and it sold. “White Wing,” a larger nude female torso, sold for $3,200 dollars.

Although the facial images on Debra’s pieces looked similar, Frank said that it’s not anyone in particular.

“She’s just perfected the image over the years,” he said.

“Her work is incredible,” added Jessica Schiffman, an Idyllwild illustrator and painter, who teachers a summer class. She attended Opening Night and said that Debra’s work stood out.

Other items that sold were jewelry from Metals Week instructors, including Kristin Coffin, from Los Angeles. Last year, we featured a story on her jewelry making (see Idyllwild Me post entitled, “Metals Week at IA” on June 27, 2010). She had started to sell her jewelry on Etsy, a specialty web site for handcrafted gifts.

Since then, Kristin’s jewelry has become more specialized, making mostly wedding bands, said Jackie Ryan, her roommate in LA who is also a painting assistant in the Summer Program.

(from L) Christy Scott helps Alison Yates with a ring

Alison Yates, from Idyllwild Arts Academy, was there looking at Kristin’s rings a couple of days after the show.

“I just love her work, and her prices are reasonable,” Alison said.

She purchased a gold band of Kristin’s for $65 dollars.

Another popular jeweler is Emma McMenamin, from the Summer Program. Her stone and glass beaded jewelry already has a signature style. One of her necklace-and-earrings ensembles was called, “Rain Forest.” Its green and gold beads and jewels was a fitting tribute to that marvel of nature in South America.

Ian read from Emma’s tag:

Ian showcases Emma's "Rain Forest" necklace with non-identical earrings

“It has jasper, Czech glass beads, Czech and Japanese seed beads, and gold-filled earrings,” he said. “It costs $525 dollars.”

At closer inspection, we noticed that the “Rain Forest” earrings were not identical. In fact, the styles were very different.

“That’s edgy,” exclaimed Ian.

Did Emma do that on purpose, or did she simply run out of beads?

“I thought since the necklace was asymmetrical, then the earrings needed to follow suit,” Emma said.

Although there are hundreds of beads in the necklace, Emma said that it only took her about 20 hours to make.

“I started it while watching ‘The Sound of Music,’ and it just took shape quickly,” Emma said. “It was actually one of my first tries at freeform bead weaving – a form that does not have a set pattern, but rather it takes on a life of its own.”

When a woman tried it on, it was surprisingly lightweight, even with the multitude of beads woven into it.

Neil looks at some of the wooden Native American toys in the show

Emma said that she thinks her jewelry will remain in the case until the end of the summer.

Christy and Ian said that the Monday, July 4th show will focus on “Hot Clay” images.

The summer exhibition season at the Parks Exhibition Center runs from June 27 to August 20. Opening Receptions will be held on Mondays July 4, July 11, and July 18; and on Tuesdays July 26 and August 9.

For more information, call the gallery at the Parks Exhibition Center at (951) 659-2171, extension 2251, or visit and click on “Summer.”

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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Sculptor in the Forest

June 28, 2011

Idyllwild Sculptor Jan Jaspers-Fayer and his butterfly sphere

By Marcia E. Gawecki

When he arrived in California from Amsterdam after WWII, sculptor Jan Jaspers-Fayer took a job in a glass factory. At the time, it helped pay the bills for his growing family. Later, the thick glass that he worked with made its way into his steel sculptures that adorn his steep back yard in Idyllwild. In the spring and summer, garden clubs, schools and other groups enjoy touring his Idyllwild Sculpture Garden.

Many of the sculptures featured in the garden are his older works, such as the old man, that measures 12 feet high and is made from forged steel. It must be 15 years old now, but just as beautiful as the day it was cut from the same steel plate.

“There’s no title, just an old man,” said Jaspers-Fayer, 82.

In the back of his sculpture garden, a large steel-and-glass sculpture catches the sunlight and reflects a prism of colors onto the ground.

“That’s the glass that I used to work with,” Jaspers-Fayer explained. “Diachronic glass is hard to cut, so I end up breaking it in pieces, and then sanding the edges.”

Over the years, Jaspers-Fayer has created many stained-glass images with diachronic glass, including one at the Episcopal Church in Idyllwild.

Jan Jaspers-Fayer with another large sculpture in his garden

However, the new sculptural creation that he’s excited about doesn’t have any glass in it at all. It’s a large wire sphere made up of interconnecting images. His artist’s prototype hanging from a large oak tree in his backyard is comprised of 12 butterflies. The sphere has about a 15-inch radius.

“I can make these spheres any size,” Jaspers-Fayer said. “Some people like them larger for outside in the garden, or smaller, to hang on your porch.”

Other art sphere themes that he’s working on include: acrobats, flowers, and birds.  Since he lives among nature in Idyllwild, Jaspers-Fayer often draws from nature for many of his sculptures, paintings and prints that decorate his home and area galleries.

To make the spheres, Jaspers-Fayer first draws the image out by hand on cardstock. He then cuts them out and tapes them together. After close inspection, he’s ready to move from cardboard to making the metal spheres. The pieces are cut out of a sheet of metal with an electric saw and then powder-coated paint is applied for long-lasting durability. Jaspers-Fayer said that he previously painted them with acrylic paint, but found that powder coating (which chemically bonds paint to metal) had more vibrant colors that worked best for his images.

Close up of Jan's butterfly sphere

Jaspers-Fayer said that his art spheres are also easy to disassemble and transport.

“They arrive in pieces, but anyone can put them together with a screwdriver,” he said.

Sphere prices range from $1800 on up, depending upon the size. Already several are on back order, and more came after his May show at Honey Bunns and Joe Bakery in Idyllwild.

For more information on Jaspers-Fayer’s artwork or for a free group tour of his Idyllwild Sculpture Garden, call (951) 659-5240 or visit

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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Metals Week Instructor Networks to Succeed

June 26, 2011

Fred Zweig from Tucson has been teaching jewelry making for 30 years

By Marcia E. Gawecki

“Metals Week” at Idyllwild Arts Summer Program begins today, June 26, and lasts until Thursday, June 30th. Jewelry makers and metal smiths come from all over the country to teach their craft in Idyllwild. They bring with them a wealth of information about how to make jewelry.

Many who attend “Metals Week” are professionals and hobbyists alike. More importantly, they are loyal followers who come back to the same class and instructor year after year.

Fred Zweig, a self-taught metal smith and jeweler from Tucson, was proud that his class, “Hinges & Articulations,” filled up fast. (Idyllwild Arts limits its classes to 12 students so they can receive better one-on-one instruction.)

The first year, Fred said only six students signed up. The second year, he reached the limit, and this year, his class filled up the first day.

This is a sigh of relief for summer teachers during this economical downturn. When classes don’t fill up, sometimes they go away. That’s why Fred takes an active role all year in generating students for his workshops.

“I post my workshop notices on Facebook and other jewelry groups,” admits Fred. “Jewelers are a pretty close-knit community.”

Other times, when he’s completed one of his own pieces, he’ll post a photo of it on Facebook.

“Most artists hate to do it, but you have to continually market yourself,” Fred said.

Fred Zweig always wears his jewelry (see silver pin at lower right)

On his buttoned down shirt, Fred was wearing a medium-sized silver pin of own creation. He said that he doesn’t cast (melt down metal into molds) to make his creations, but forges them (melts the metal with soldering tools).

“My wife also wears my jewelry,” Fred admitted, although he doesn’t give her a commission if she sells one. “It’s all in the power of suggestion.”

In the description of his class, “Hinges & Articulations,” the summer brochure states that: “Hinges are essential to making other objects that conform to the body, or make a flexible connection between two or more parts.”

The “flexible connection” description is also the way Fred approaches his networking online.

He posts on Facebook, and on various jewelry groups, such as Jewelry and Metalware, The Arts & Crafts Society and The Arts & Crafts Movement, among others.

He also helps out friends in need. And, along the way, he said he learns a thing or two. That knowledge helps him to become a better teacher. He’s been actively working in metal and teaching others for more than 30 years.


A friend of his recently asked him to help a woman who wanted to sell a certain piece of jewelry. She wasn’t sure of its worth, and wanted his expertise.

She sent Fred some pictures, and he asked for one more, to see the artist’s signature or stamp. He called around to his colleagues in the industry, and found out that it was worth about $1,000. He even found her a buyer.

“A colleague of mine just bought a similar piece,” Fred said. “She answered my question about the materials. Her necklace had silver and copper balls, which the studio of the artist incorporated after his death.”

His colleague confirmed it, and even offered to buy the piece.

Fred didn’t charge anything for that legwork, but he could have. He said that he enjoys learning new things, and connecting people with each other. That luck has landed on his doorstep many times.

Metals Week Workshops at Idyllwild Arts, June 26-30


He once found a lovely bronze sculpture of an Asian girl at a flea market.

“It was in mint condition, except there was something missing from her hand,” Fred explained. “It must’ve been a bird or a ball.”

He paid $35 for it, knowing that he could sell it for more.

“I estimated that I could get about $1,000 dollars for it,” Fred said.

As it turns out “Antiques Road Show” was in Tucson, and he brought the Asian girl sculpture with him. Immediately, they pulled him aside, and asked how he obtained the piece and how much he paid for it.

“Do you have any idea of what it’s worth?” the appraiser asked him.

Since he knows the value of metals, Fred had a good idea it could be worth $1,000. Well, they asked him to be on the show, and put him in the “Green Room.”

“They didn’t tell me what they thought it was worth,” Fred said. “They really like the element of surprise.”

As it turned out, the appraiser estimated the Asian girl sculpture would garner $3,000 to $4,000 dollars at auction. Fred and his wife couldn’t be happier.

The week after the show, Fred called the appraiser and asked to put the item into auction.

“It took awhile because they had to find the right auction,” Fred said. “You know, ones that specialize in Asian art.”

As it turned out, the Asian girl sculpture sold for $1,400 dollars. The auction house got their cut, and Fred got $1,000 dollars.

“So when my wife sees “Antiques Road Show,” and they say that something is worth a lot, she laughs and says that’s not always the case,” Fred said.


But the entire experience was a good one, and makes for a good story to tell his students. He also buys and resells things on Craig’s List and eBay.

Recently, a friend of his called and told him to buy enamel and copper bookends on eBay. They were identical peacocks.

“But they were also $350 for the pair, which is a steep price for us,” Fred said.

However, he figured that he could resell them easily.

“My wife thought I wanted to buy bookshelves, so she said, ‘Go ahead,'” Fred said.

When the package arrived, however, Fred had a bad case of “buyer’s remorse.”

“We really didn’t have the money for extra things like that,” Fred said. “I’ve been out of work from my engineering job for more than six months.”

Summer Program Brochure is available online

He didn’t even open the package for an entire day.

Yet, when he finally opened it, the bookends were far better than he expected. (See the photo at

“The detail was incredible,” Fred said. “I knew that I had something special.”

The bookends came from the Arts & Crafts Movement, a period ranging from about 1870 to 1925.

However, he had his work cut out for him. The original black patina had been rubbed away, so Fred planned on restoring that. Yet, at close inspection, he saw that there was a faint signature on one of the bookends.

“During that time, there were maybe three artists signing their work,” Fred explained. “And Gertrude Twichell of Boston was one of them.”

Gertrude Twichell, from the Boston Society of Arts & Crafts, had signed both pieces, which added to its value. He figured they were worth about $1,000 for the pair.

So did Fred get to work to restore and resell these bookends?

“Oh, I probably won’t resell them for about 10 years,” he said. “I just want to enjoy them now.”

On his web site, Fred posted: “Gertrude Twichell was an extraordinary craftsman. I am ecstatic to own one of her works. The enamels are foil backed and not embossed. What looked like cell walls was gold enamel applied with a brush. The plaques are in perfect condition.”

Others posted, “These are stunning, Fred. Well done!”

Fred’s been collecting certain types of collectables for years now. You can find his web sites at For more information on Metals Week, June 26-30, and the other instructors, Harold O’Connor, Sandra Noble Goss, Charity Hall, Joanna Goldberg, and Pauline Warg, at the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program, visit, and click on “Summer,” or call (951) 659-2171.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Jun 26, 2011 @ 14:08

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Bestselling Writer Conceived Story in Idyllwild

June 20, 2011

Eduardo Santiago introduces Mary Otis, an award-winning short story writer

By Marcia E. Gawecki

“Pilgrim Girl,” earned Mary Otis a Pushcart Prize honorable mention (past winners include Raymond Carver and  John Irving), and today she admitted to writing it in Idyllwild.

Mary was the sixth California author to be featured in the “Idyllwild Author Series” held at B’s Mountain of Books. Like the others, Mary is a friend of Eduardo Santiago, an Idyllwild resident, who started the series in May.

To date, the series has covered the novel, the memoir, the non-fiction narrative, and the short story.

“‘Pilgrim Girl’ is the first story in the collection, and I wrote it in a week in Idyllwild many years ago,” said Mary Otis, about her collection, “Yes, Yes Cherries.” “I’d work on it all day, and one night, I remember going to watch a Gene Hackman film in someone’s garage while eating peanut M&Ms.”

Some locals in the audience tried to recall if they were there at the time.

“Pilgrim Girl” tells the story about a 14-year-old girl’s crush on a married guy next door, and her far-reaching attempts to get his attention. She puts on her mother’s frosted wig and tries to impersonate a traveling saleswoman; only that she has no products to sell.

The crowd on Father's Day was captivated by Mary Otis' humorous stories

It seemed like everyone in the audience could relate to Mary’s humorous collection, which included stories about a drunken therapist and a fistfight on a first date.

Mary said that all of the events in the stories didn’t actually happen to her, but were pieces of her life. Some of them happened to someone else and she changed the stories around a bit.

“The fist fight on the first date happened to my friend,” Mary said. “She was taken to a bar-b-que at his ex-wife’s house, and then a fight broke out.”

Eduardo mentioned that Mary Otis started out as an actress, and wondered if her characters may have come out of that experience.

She started out acting in a neighborhood playhouse in Boston that actress Diane Keaton had also attended.

“They’d make us do everything, including ballet, jazz and fencing,” Mary recalled. “But it was such an intense program, that if you weren’t cutting it, you’d get cut. It was almost like improv, and it helped me immensely.”

Mary said that her short stories focus on family, relationships and are set partially in Los Angeles.

She said that living in Los Angeles for the past 20 years, has been rewarding, and the longest she’s lived anywhere. She grew up in a small town outside of Boston.

“LA is a strange, intense town,” Mary said.

In her first novel, she treats LA as a character itself.

Mary read an excerpt from her new novel, "Flight"

“It’s tragic, desperate and gorgeous all in one,” she added.

She’s only written the first 50 pages of “Flight,” but read an excerpt anyway.

“My mother had two speeds,” Mary said. “Drunk or driven.”

She recounted a car ride in which her mother was playing “chicken” with another motorist in the passing lane on Route 3 in Cape Cod.

“Fucking hell!” her mother said in frustration, while she began hallucinating from fear. She remembered random answers to her junior high test questions and tried to breathe from her elbow.

Throughout the reading of “Flight,” the audience was laughing heartily.

“I know that I sound self-centered,” Eduardo said afterwards. “But I feel like you were talking to me. I’d like to buy that book.”

Mary said that she wasn’t sure if the manic driving excerpt would be at the beginning, middle or end of her book.

“It’s different from a short story,” Mary explained. “I don’t write in any particular order. Everything just comes in pieces.”

She admitted to writing the novel after being prompted by her agent to develop her writing beyond short stories. According to her web site, Mary Otis is an award-winning writer whose short story collection, “Yes, Yes, Cherries,” was published in 2007 by Tin House Books. She has had stories and essays published in Best New American Voices (Harcourt), the Los Angeles Times, Tin House, Berkeley Literary Journal, and the Santa Monica Review, among others.  Originally from the Boston area, Mary is a fiction professor in the UC Riverside Low-Residency MFA Program where she is part of the core faculty.

(from L) Jeffrey Taylor talks to Mary Otis afterwards. He asked if she had any interest in her stories from the film industry.

Some of the questions from the audience asked about when her novel is due out, what she’s reading now, and if she could recommend a good writing book. Yet, it was a guy in the back who asked the best question.

“Have any of your short stories been picked up by the film industry?” asked Jeffrey Taylor, Green Cafe, who has hosted a weekly film series in Idyllwild for the past 14 years.

“Not any so far,” Mary said. “But my agent said there was some interest in one, but it didn’t go anywhere.”

“I would think that ‘Next Door Girl’ about a seamstress and a Russian hair model would make a good screenplay,” Eduardo interjected.

“That’s the one they were interested in!” Mary exclaimed.

Jeffrey said later that most movies are based on short stories.

“The people in the film industry don’t have time to read novels, but a short story they can get through quickly,” he said.

His father wrote mystery novels and later worked as a PR man for Warner Bros.

(from R) Mary Otis and Eduardo Santiago pose with the owner of B's Mountain of Books, Lauren Devore

After the discussion, Mary signed copies of “Yes, Yes Cherries,” while others mingled, drank lemonade and ate Bing cherries.

Eduardo said that there wouldn’t be an Idyllwild Author Series event next Sunday because he’s graduating from UCLA. The next author, James Brown, will be featured on Thursday, June 30th, at a new venue, Cafe Aroma. He will read from his book, “This River.”

All Idyllwild Author Series events are free and open to the public. For more information, visit, or call B’s Mountain of Books at (951) 659-5018.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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Series Brings California Authors to Idyllwild

June 17, 2011

Books by Janet Fitch and Hope Edelman are discussed at the Idyllwild Author Series held on select Sundays from May to July

By Marcia E. Gawecki

The Idyllwild Author Series, featuring some of California’s most celebrated writers, is more than half over, yet it is quickly gaining momentum.

It began mid-May at B’s Mountain of Books, with eight authors. Since then, they’ve added two more, plus another Idyllwild location.

These authors are either friends or close acquaintances of originator Eduardo Santiago, author of “Tomorrow They Will Kiss,”  and a part-time Idyllwild resident. He invited these best-selling authors to come visit Idyllwild during select Sundays from mid-May to early July. He sets them up at a local inn, plans and then runs the interview/discussion sessions.

The best-selling authors include: David Francis (Stray Dog Winter); Hope Edelman (Motherless Daughters); Leslie Schwartz (Angels Crest); Janet Fitch (White Oleander); Gary Phillips (Bangers); Mary Otis (Yes, Yes Cherries); Noel Alumit (Talking to the Moon); Rachael Resnick (Love Junkie); James Brown (This River) and Andrew Foster Altschul (Deus Ex Machina).

Most of them live in the greater Los Angeles area, and they make the trip up to Idyllwild willingly.

“Still I’m shocked that they make the drive,” said Santiago, after the session featuring Hope Edelman, a New York Times bestselling author of “Motherless Daughters,” and four other bestsellers.

During the discussion/interview, Hope said that she was happy to see so many people in attendance. There was about 30 locals there, including authors, writers, editors and business owners. Oftentimes, at Barnes & Noble, she said, only 10 people show up.

(from L) Eduardo Santiago interviews Hope Edelman, author of "Motherless Daughters"

Eduardo, who has no vested interest in B’s Mountain of Books, said that he has always held a romantic notion of bookstores and wants to keep them alive.

“I’ve dreamt that two people would reach for the same book, their eyes would meet, and it would be their fate,” Eduardo said to laughter from the audience. “It could only happen in a bookstore.”

Yet, most would agree that authors and bookstores go hand-in-hand, and need to support the other.

Hubert Halkin, owner of Cafe Aroma, who has attended many of the sessions, said that Eduardo has taken a professional approach to the series.

“He makes it look very informal and casual,” Hubert said. “But he has done his research on these authors, and has good questions written on three-by-five index cards.”

Eduardo conducts the interview/discussion that generally lasts an hour.

“If someone asks a question, and the discussion goes off in another direction, Eduardo goes with it,” Hubert added.

The Idyllwild Author Series is good for the originator too.

The series is casual discussion with California's most celebrated authors right here in Idyllwild

“I love it because it gives me an opportunity to renew friendships and blatantly ask questions that I would be more reluctant to ask in a social setting,” Eduardo admitted.

He said the Janet Fitch event, held on June 5, was “awesome.” There were about 50 people there, with two tents set up and every chair filled.

“Actually, so far, all the authors have been quite charming and comfortable in front of crowds,” said Eduardo. “Last Sunday, I was quite taken by Gary Phillips (Bangers), a crime novelist, who just charmed the pants off of everybody.”

During the discussions, Eduardo asks pointed questions about the featured book. Then the author reads a few excerpts, and then he opens it up to questions from the audience.

Hope Edelman, who brought her two young daughters, along with homemade cookies, was very comfortable talking before an audience, not only about “Motherless Daughters,” but her other books as well.

“Motherless Daughters” is a compilation of experiences cited by women who have lost their mothers at an early age.

Hope talked about how she started out writing the book as an assignment at the University of Iowa Writing Program. She had no idea that “Motherless Daughters” would touch so many people. Up until that time, there had only been books published about daughters who lost their mothers later in life. Hope had lost her mother when she was only 17.

Then she talked about her new book, “The Possibility of Everything,” and writing about relatives.

Many in the Idyllwild audience are writers, editors, authors and business owners

“The Possibility of Everything” is about her young daughter’s experience  with an “imaginary friend.” When the “friend” began to alter her daughter’s personality, she took the advice of her housekeeper and visited a Mayan healer in Belitze. The book covers the entire emotional experience.

“Why did you write a book about me?” Hope said that her daughter asked.

Her 13-year-old didn’t like the book idea at all.

“I explained that it was really a book about me,” Hope told her Idyllwild audience. ”

During that experience, she was able to accept things beyond her imagination, she said.

Still, Hope suggests that writers continue to write about their relatives, if the story is compelling.

“In my experience, they never object to things you’ll think they’ll object to,” Hope said.

Many in the audience were big fans of Hope’s, having read many of her books.

“This series is a great way to meet your favorite authors in person, and ask them any question you want to about their books,” one woman said.

Eduardo said that many attendees ask private questions as the authors are signing their books afterwards.

“I’m very proud of the way the series is going,” Eduardo added. “We just added two more events – June 30th at Cafe Aroma for memoirist James Brown (This River) and July 3rd for Andrew Foster Altschul (Deus Ex Machina).”

The next session of the Idyllwild Author Series will be held this Sunday, June 19, at 2 p.m. featuring Mary Otis, an award-winning author, whose short story collection, “Yes, Yes Cherries,” was published in 2007. The event is free and open to the public. It will be held in the tent outside B’s Mountain of Books at 54385 North Circle Drive in Idyllwild. B’s carries all of the Idyllwild Author Series books. For more information, contact Eduardo Santiago at, or call the bookstore at (951) 659-5018.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved. All Hope Edelman photos courtesy of Mark Davis.

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Cary Grant Connection Shown in Idyllwild Friday

June 14, 2011

Svetlana, an Idyllwild artist, recently reunited with Cary Grant's daughter, Jennifer

By Marcia E. Gawecki

He was the perfect gentleman onscreen and off. Handsome, debonair, with that wonderful British accent. He could play a romantic comedy, and then switch to a compelling drama the next.

He played opposite all the leading ladies of the time, including Katherine Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Eva Marie Saint, and Deborah Kerr. He was “mad” for Sophia Loren, but it was Mae West who famously asked him onscreen, “Why don’t you come up and see me sometime?”

He was best known for “North by Northwest,” “His Girl Friday,” “An Affair to Remember,” and “The Philadelphia Story.” Everyone loved to watch Cary Grant.

However, only a few close friends knew that Svetlana, an Idyllwild artist, once worked for Cary Grant.

She never said anything about the movie star’s personal life, perhaps adhering to a nondisclosure agreement. More than likely, she just respected the guy and his privacy. Since she worked as his chef, Svetlana sometimes would let it slip that Cary Grant liked a certain kind of food. But that was it.

Now, Svetlana’s secret has come to light! In a Cafe Cinema Special Event, at 7 p.m. this Friday, June 17, there will be a short video capturing a 30-year reunion between Svetlana and Jennifer Grant, Cary Grant’s only daughter. After the short, Cafe Cinema will show a 15-minute CBS interview with Jennifer Grant, followed by the Cary Grant film, “Monkey Business.”

Cafe Cinema regulars (from L): Rosemary, Svetlana and Analia

According to Jeffrey Taylor, Cafe Cinema, the reunion between Svetlana and Jennifer Grant happened a few weeks ago at her book signing of “Good Stuff: A Reminiscence of My Father, Cary Grant.”

“The two hadn’t seen each other in 30 years,” Jeffrey said. “Svetlana helped raise Jennifer from age 14 to 18.”

Jeffrey captured the tearful and remarkable reunion on his personal camcorder. This short will be shown first on Friday.

According to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) web site, Jennifer Grant is Cary Grant’s only child. She resembles her mother, actress Dyan Cannon. Although he became Hollywood’s leading man, Cary Grant discouraged his daughter from becoming an actress. However, after graduating from Stanford University and working as a chef, Jennifer joined the TV cast of “Beverly Hills, 90210.”

Her book, “Good Stuff: A Reminiscence of My Father, Cary Grant.” is available on One reviewer called it, “A love letter to an amazing father.” It reveals many mementos of Jennifer’s early childhood.

Jeffrey Taylor, Cafe Cinema, captured the reunion on video

“I want people to know that the persona was real,” Jennifer said in a CBS interview. “It wasn’t a mask.”

The love that Cary Grant bestowed on his daughter was evident in the mementos in her book. However, Archibald Leach’s childhood in Bristol, England, wasn’t as joyful. His mother was sent to a mental institution when he was nine, and his father was neglectful. At age 14, he ran away and joined the circus. Yet, Cary Grant turned it into a positive. Later, his Hollywood films showed Grant performing cartwheels, backflips and slapstick.

At 7 p.m. this Friday, June 17, Cafe Cinema will show a video of Jennifer Grant and Svetlana’s reunion; the CBS interview with Jennifer; and finally, “Monkey Business,” a film starring Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers, Charles Colburn and Marilyn Monroe. Svetlana will be on hand to talk a little bit about the reunion.

All events at Cafe Cinema are free and open to the public. To get to Cafe Cinema, head towards Idyllwild Arts on Tollgate Road. Turn left on Meadow Glen, stay to the right until you hit Double View, and then make a left. Take a quick right on Deer Foot Lane, and look for the house on the right with the familiar purple sandwich board. For more information, visit or call (951) 659-6000.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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Poaching Manzanitas Near Idyllwild?

June 13, 2011

A gray truck with wooden sides had many full-sized trees inside

By Marcia E. Gawecki

On Monday, June 13, at 12:40 p.m., two men, one in full camelflage gear, were seen attempting to cross a busy section of Hwy. 74, about a mile from Mountain Center near Idyllwild. Parked to the left in a pullout was their gray work truck full of trees. The ones on top looked like manzanitas.

What were these two men in military gear doing in our national forest? Were they stealing trees?

They crossed the road and went up a rough embankment, but didn’t appear to have any shovels or trimming equipment with them.  Locals know that legitimate tree trimmers come in caravans and have lots of signs and equipment with them.

I doubled back around, and took a picture of the truck from the back and side. I couldn’t see where the men went, so I took a picture of the area where they entered. But, as soon as I snapped my picture, I saw one of them close up. He was in full green camelflage jacket and pants, and had a cap with a flap on the back (to shield the sun). The other guy was younger,  in a grey long sleeved polo shirt and jeans. Both men were wearing light colored canvas gloves. But nothing was in their hands.

The dispatch operator said it was illegal to take trees from a national forest

When I got to Mountain Center, I called the Riverside County Sheriff’s non-emergency line. Kerie, the dispatch operator, took my information and said she’d send out a sheriff’s deputy to investigate.

I gave her the nearest cross street (McGaugh Road near Mountain Center) and the mile marker, 74:58:00. She asked about the color and description of the truck. I was able to enlarge my photos to give her more detail. Alas, there was no license plate.

She also asked about the nationality of the two men (Mexican), their height and weight and what they were wearing. When I had taken the picture, I was so close that I could see that one had a moustache.

Kerie said that she thought it was illegal to take trees from the national forest.

One of the two in military gear was seen coming out of the rocky terrain about 1 mile from Mountain Center

“Even if you live on national forest property, I don’t think you can pull out any trees from your yard,” she said.

About 15 minutes later, she called back to verify the location.

It’s tough times for everyone, and manzanitas and other full-sized trees probably fetch a good price. My mother’s neighbor in Sun City sold two full-sized Queen Palms for $2,000 each. It had taken them 10 years to grow, but they needed the money and someone was willing to pay.

Were these two men digging up and selling our manzanitas? The ones that were protected for all of us to enjoy? If they’re gutsy enough to take them in broad daylight, how many more have they taken?

Although it’s not illegal to purchase live manzanitas, they’re difficult to find. Internet searches came up with only a few native plant nurseries in San Marcos, Las Pelitas, San Fernando Valley and San Juan Capistrano. However, dead manzanita branches are used mostly as decorative centerpieces, and cost plenty online.

Homeowners are selling Queen Palms for $2,000 each

Its hardness, rich color and unique shapes make manzanitas ideal for designers and store owners. Their branches are used for wedding centerpiece arrangements, floral arrangements, jewelry holders and even as bird perches by pet store owners.

Perhaps the sheriff’s deputy arrived too late, and the manzanita perpetrators were long gone. But we, as locals from Mountain Center and Idyllwild, can still protect our national forest from tree poachers. If you see anyone like these two men acting suspicious, report them to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department immediately. Write down the truck’s description and if you know the mile marker or nearest cross street, to help the sheriff find their location. The non-emergency phone number for the Idyllwild area is (800) 950-2444.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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Idyllwild Dog Park: Now Parched & Barren

June 12, 2011

LeRoy strolls by an open area in the dog park that once had many trees

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Two things you’ll notice immediately about the Idyllwild Dog Park this week. Many of the ornamental trees have been cut down, and there’s no water available.

The dog park is located inside a fence on the Idyllwild Pines Camp property. The camp donated the land to ICRC, which maintains the dog park for the Idyllwild community.

Manzanitas, oaks, and pines have been cut to stumps. The bushes camelflaging the front gate are gone. Only the tall cedars and pines remain, along with a smattering of trees. Now the sun beats down on the dirt, but dog owners say there hasn’t been any drinking water available for weeks.

The park is divided into two parts, separated by another fence. Each part had its own water spigot in the back with dog bowls underneath. But this week, the bowls remain dry.

When contacted this weekend, ICRC Chairperson John Simpson said, “Idyllwild Pines Camp maintains their property according to their needs.”

Idyllwild Pines Camp, which houses the dog park, is making some changes

He added that ICRC doesn’t pay the water bill; Idyllwild Pines Camp does. But Town Hall is in charge of maintaining the dog park.

“I hate to see anyone cut down live trees,” said Barb, an dog sitter from Idyllwild, who was at the park with her friend, Lori, and their four dogs. The dogs were panting under one shade tree.

Barb pointed to a barren area in the park where only a stump remained.

“There was a beautiful pine tree here just last week,” Barb said. “My dog used to dig underneath it, and now it’s gone.”

She said that perfectly good oak, manzanita and pine trees were cut down to stumps.

“Why would they cut down live trees in a dog park?” she asked. “We need them for shade and our dogs need them to pee on, right?”

"Why would you cut down live trees in a dog park?" asks Barb, a local dog sitter

When asked about the trees, Cindy, from the Idyllwild Pines Camp, said that they’re changing things and moving things around. They’ve cut trees and bushes and plan to add natural plants to the front of the camp.

“We’ve really been needing it for a long time,” Cindy said.

Cindy didn’t know why the water in the dog park had been turned off, but said she’d look into it.

“We wouldn’t shut off the water intentionally,” she said.

Barb said that she called a friend on the ICRC board to ask about the water shut-off.

“Another lady who was just here said that it’s been off for one month,” Barb said. “You’ve gotta have water in a dog park!”

Barb added that she didn’t think that ICRC knew about the cut trees.

No one seems to know why the water in the park has been shut off for weeks

“The camp donated the land, but you’d think they’d let ICRC know what was going on,” she said.

Then Barb smiled for the first time during the conversation.

“Maybe we can plant some more trees here,” she said. “I have a fast-growing pine tree that I just got from the Home Depot.”

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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Walks with LeRoy: Wildlife Along Strawberry Creek

June 11, 2011

Big, black and hairy, LeRoy the Newfoundland, is often mistaken for a bear

By Marcia E. Gawecki

When they see him along the hiking trail, they stop dead in their tracks. They think he’s a black bear.

LeRoy, the friendly Newfoundland, stands waist high to an average man and weighs 150 pounds. His muzzle looks like a St. Bernard, large and expressive. And with his long, black hair, well, he looks a little like a black bear.

“He’s really friendly!” I shout when coming upon a frozen hiker on the trail. “Look at his tail! It’s wagging!”

I scramble to put on his leash, and they usually look relieved.

“I thought he was a bear,” they often exclaim.

Locals know there’s no black bears in Idyllwild. They like certain berries, and there’s none up here for them. However, there used to be grizzlies in the San Jacinto Mountains many years ago, said David Roy, the chainsaw artist. You can find his impressive artwork along Hwy. 243 in Idyllwild or on If he’s around, he might tell you about the grizzlies.

Because of this, LeRoy and I walk along secluded trails along Strawberry Creek.

“Can I ride him?” one teenager asked, as we passed him. They can’t resist petting him.

What I learned quickly about Newfoundlands is that you can’t keep them out of the water.  Apparently, they were bred in Newfoundland to help bring in the fishing nets. LeRoy also loves to carry plastic bottles and sticks and especially his leash in his mouth.

“Technically, he’s on his leash,” chides Mary, who owns him.

But then LeRoy likes to drop that leash into Strawberry Creek as he’s taking a drink or wading waist high to cool off. I go tumbling into the icy water after the leash.

“Can’t afford to lose another one,” I scold him.

You can't keep LeRoy out of Strawberry Creek

Together we’ve lost three leashes and recovered only one.

Strawberry Creek is not only a great cooling spot for LeRoy, but it’s beautiful sight to photograph. The creek changes from gushing waterfalls along large boulders, to small trickles meandering between low lying bushes. All along its bed are rocks of all sizes. Many times, their seemingly steady surface has failed me and I’ve fallen in.

LeRoy likes to cross Strawberry Creek close to his home. In the beginning, I’d comply, grabbing a long stick to help maneuver my way.  Invaribly, I’d lose my footing, and stumble forward into the water, trying not to get wet. Most times, I’d recover with just a wet shoe and pants leg, but once, I fell forward, shrieking loudly as I soaked my jacket, jeans and cell phone. The water was so cold, it had an instant numbing effect.

And where was “man’s best friend” when all of this was happening? Calmly wading through the waters, showing no concern for my icy bath. Now, I walk across a bridge a little further down the creek.

For all of his girth, LeRoy is surprisingly agile. He often takes off after birds and squirrels, but never catches them.

“They had a head start,” he’d say with a turn of his head.

Yet, I cannot thank him enough for flushing out an unusual bird the other day.

It was a crane, and it took off seconds before LeRoy reached him. His long legs lagging behind him. I’ve never seen a crane close up, let alone one in mid-flight right before me. That one was the size of a dog, but he took off like a 747.

Even after he disappeared behind some trees, my heart was still racing. But LeRoy was already lumbering along the trail, looking for more birds.

What was a crane doing along Strawberry Creek?

The beauty of this meadow is never accurately captured on film

“They just stocked a bunch of trout,” explained a guy who was fishing along the creek close to the bridge.

He was talking about the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“I thought your dog was going to scare the fish away,” he said of LeRoy.

His pole was meager, but he looked earnest in his attempts.

“How big are the trout?” I asked.

“Six inches,” he said. “Big enough to eat.”

A little ways down the creek, we came across a beautiful mallard duck and his mate. They were swimming along a secluded part of the creek that was out of LeRoy’s reach. Like the crane and the fisherman, they were fishing for trout too. The didn’t try to fly away when they saw us. They seemed content just to cruise.

The trail took us away from Strawberry Creek and along a meadow that exposed a fantastic view of Tahquitz Peak. Many times, I’ve taken pictures of this scene, but its beauty never translates accurately onto film.

In the near distance, we could hear an ambulance siren. LeRoy’s long floppy ears perk up momentarily. The siren lasts for only a few seconds, but then I heard dogs howling. Several of them were howling and yipping in unison, so they had to be coyotes.

The ruckus was coming from the trees on the far side of the meadow. The coyotes were likely resting up for their night’s hunt, when that darn siren went off and woke them.

With its gushing water and rock formations, Strawberry Creek is beautiful to photograph

LeRoy seemed oblivious to the siren and coyotes in the distance. Yet, I had to stop and think for a moment.

What if they ever circled LeRoy? It wouldn’t be a fair fight. A happy-go-lucky Newfoundland and a middle-aged dog walker who believes in nonviolence. Without question, I’d fight for LeRoy like a mother bear protecting her cub.

A friend of mine had a coyote encounter a couple of years ago. It was at night and her boyfriend was walking her female dog who was taking medication for a bladder infection. He heard a tiny “snap” of a twig, and turned around. A coyote the same size as her dog was trying to bite her hind quarters and take her down.

“Anything is possible,” I said to myself, and kept looking behind us for any wayward coyotes.

So, in a single afternoon along Strawberry Creek, LeRoy and I had come across a crane, a pair of ducks, a fisherman and a pack of sleeping coyotes.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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Idyllwild Arts Grad Heads to S.C. Piano Competition

June 8, 2011

(from L) Pianists Keri and Timmy at the Winners Concert in Glendale

By Marcia E. Gawecki

When the ceremony was over, they said goodbye to their favorite teachers and friends, and celebrated over lunch. Then most of the Idyllwild Arts graduates headed home for the summer. They were glad to be done with recitals, finals and homework. But one classical music major still had work to do.

Yuet Ka “Keri” Hui, from Hong Kong, had one more week to prepare for a piano competition in South Carolina. So every day, while the guys from the Idyllwild Arts maintenance department cleared away the debris, and housekeeping cleaned the rooms, Keri went to the practice room for three hours each day. No other students were around.

The South Eastern Piano Festival is important to Keri because she had to learn and memorize two new pieces, including a concerto and solo piece. When she goes to a week-long summer school, the competition will be at the end.

She’s a little nervous about it.

“All the students in the competition are really good,” Keri said. “It’ll be hard to win.”

There’s master classes every day, and the students learn from each other.  For more information, visit

In the fall, Keri will be going to the University of Southern California (USC).

“It has a great program for pianists,” Keri said.

She said she was grateful to go to a school in Southern California. A few months ago, she went to several auditions in Boston, New York and Indiana. Snow was on the ground, and there was a nip in the air. Her hands were always cold, she said.

Cold weather is not only hard on the hands, but on instruments too, other Idyllwild Arts students say. Senior auditions are always held in the wintertime, and they worry that their instruments will warp and change because of the cooler temperatures.

But no worries for Keri. South Carolina and Southern California will be warm and sunny.

During her years at Idyllwild Arts, Keri entered many piano competitions.

“It’s great practice to play in front of a live audience,” she said.

On May 14, she attended the 26th Annual Glendale Piano Competition with her boyfriend, Tianpeng “Timmy” Yu. Weeks earlier, they both had performed in the competition. Keri won an Honorable Mention in the Senior Division and walked away with a $300 check. Timmy took first prize.

Earlier that year, Keri competed in the Steinway Society competition in Palm Springs, but wasn’t at her best, she said. Her wrist was hurting and she was sick with the flu. Yet, she forged on, and played like a champ.

Now that she’s graduated and been accepted to USC, why does she need to continue to compete?

Just like professional dancers and athletes, classical musicians need to continue to practice and perform to remain at the top of their game.

“I heard about the competition last year, but didn’t apply. It’s a good program and it’s only one week long,” Keri said. “I got a full scholarship this year, and the competition is at the end.”

But sometimes competition comes at a high price.  Injuries can incur that can make or break a career.

Starting piano at age 8, Keri was considered late in playing the piano. (Her boyfriend started at age 5). After a few years, she switched to violin. However, two years ago, she had such terrible pains that she could no longer play the violin.

“I had no strength left in my arms,” Keri said. “It was like they were hollow.”

Yet, after a year as an Interdisciplinary Arts major, Keri fell in love with the piano again. To make up for lost time, Keri feels she has to work harder to catch up with her peers.

“Keri is a good player,” said Benny, who plays classical and jazz piano at Idyllwild Arts. “She works hard and is just as good as the rest of them.”

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Jun 8, 2011 @ 15:41

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