So there I am – flaming west on Sunset Blvd in my convertible Ford. Going too fast, but that’s ok. It is 1927 and the country is being constricted by that huge Anaconda: Prohibition. It’s night, my throat is as dry as the Gobi, and here come those Santa Ana Winds again. You know those nights. Marlowe said it best : “It was one of those hot, dry Santa Ana’s that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair. make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that, every booze party ends up in a fight. And meek little housewives feel the edge of a carving knife and study their husband’s necks. Anything can happen when the Santa Ana blows in from the desert.” I need and want a drink.
I turn left on Rustic Canyon in the Pacific Palisades and head down to The Uplifters Ranch. I pass eighty year old Redwoods and one of the last natural creeks in Los Angeles that isn’t covered in concrete. I had remembered that big galoot Harry Haldeman tossed me a pass last time I saw him at Musso and Frank’s. Harry is a big, jovial Chicagoan who likes to light the Good Time lamp and is one of the founders of the Uplifters Ranch. Too bad his Grandson H.R. Haldeman turned out so creepy. He was one of the muscle lugs for Nixon’s regime. Got caught in the Watergate caper and did an eighteen month stretch in the Big House. Deserved more.
In 1922, Harry and his buddies bought 120 acres, built a clubhouse with tennis courts, a swimming pool, and amphitheater, most of which are still there. Many members began to build summer and weekend cottages and lodges on land leased from the club. The homes are situated in a lush, dreamy landscape close enough to the ocean to get the gentle breeze. Many contain huge ballrooms, fanciful card parlors , prohibition style basement bars, and log cabins hauled over from silent movie sets.
The Sign ” Uplifters” hangs over Latimer road. Their creed: ” To uplift art and promote good fellowship”. Please – it’s just a place where the wealthy and the powerful can throw back a dozen or so drinks and not get busted by the chief of Police because he is sitting next to them. Actors, politicians, sports heroes, they are all there. Over in the corner is L. Frank Baum, one of the founders of the Uplifters along with Haldeman, who of course wrote “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” After he throws down a few scotches he is known to babble on about forcing the extinction of the American Indian. ” Having wronged them for centuries we had better, to protect our civilization, follow it up by one more wrong and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the Earth.” I just wish he felt that way about those annoying Munchkins and made them disappear. Sitting on a bar stool like he is sitting on a flagpole, is that loud mouth lout Ernie Ball , who wrote ” When Irish Eyes are Smiling” although he never laid his bloodshot eyes on the Emerald Island. Of course there are good guys who are members: Will Rodgers, Harold Lloyd, Leo Carillo, Walt Disney, Edgar Rice Burroughs ( Tarzan’s guy) and many more. Over the years a lot of well knowns have lived close to the Uplifters Ranch: Johnny Weissmuller, Angela Lansbury, Aldous Huxley, Earl Warren, Randy Newman, Lee Marvin, , John Densmore, and at different times Meryl Streep and Wilt Chamberlain rented the same cottage though there is no way Meryl was one of Wilt’s 10,000.
So next time you are in the area swing on down to ” The Uplifters Ranch” and ask for a drink ( the clubs demise came in 1947 so really don’t do that) for the ghosts are there. You just have to shut your eyes and look for them.