Director's Statement

In 1960, I left my home in Cheyenne, Wyoming and came to San Francisco, hanging out in North Beach to hear jazz. One evening I walked into the Jazz Cellar and met my future husband, artist Les Kerr. Meeting him and other artists opened a new world of possibilities of how one could live. After the untimely death of my husband in the early 90s, my memories of the past were persistent. Influenced by the aesthetics of these artists that I had known, I decided to document this time and place that had changed the direction of my life. 

Marsha Slomovitz, Charles Modecke, Mary Kerr, in Vesuvio, while shooting  The Beach

Marsha Slomovitz, Charles Modecke, Mary Kerr, in Vesuvio, while shooting The Beach

I was extremely fortunate to get first-hand accounts from the actual “players.”  It would be more difficult now. Only a few are still around to interview. Since production started on the project; sadly, several of these participants have died. I feel it’s important that this period in California culture is shown in a direct, intimate way. Hearing it described by those who were actually on the scene makes that past come alive. The participants in this project are distinctive personalities. Each has an individual way of expressing themselves. They bring their own personal take on it all, giving the viewer a clear understanding of what transpired and how it changed their lives. 

What has kept me dedicated to doing the documentary, against all odds, is a realization that this Beat Era cultural group was correct in resisting and rebelling against mainstream culture. They knew the commercial aspect of it would destroy the creative spirit that is an integral part of free expression. As artist Wally Hedrick summed it up in the vernacular of the day, “Anybody can sell out.”  This statement has the same profound meaning today as it did so many years past.  Mary Kerr  

It was better when art wasn’t popular. The big bucks attracted the wrong element—just encouraged them.
— Les Kerr
Mary and Les Kerr 1962 

Mary and Les Kerr 1962