ANGELO Di GIROLAMO
Tell us the story of his theater
“BRUCE ARISS WHARF THEATER”
By: Iride Aparicio
Photos By: Antonio Gadong
ANGELO Di GIROLAMO, Owner and Producer
MONTEREY, CA – The “BRUCE ARISS WHARF THEATER”, as it is officially known, is one of the wood-made buildings lining Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey California. It may be described as an “intimate Theater", because its interior is “cosy.” Its sitting consists of ll0 comfortable “Director’s Chairs” placed in tiered rows, allowing every patron a clear and unobstructed view of the stage in front of them.
ANGELO DI GIROLAMO its owner and Producer, had always wanted a theater, so with playwright BRUCE ARISS and other backers, they started one in Monterey’s Fisherman’s Wharf on May 18, l950. Their theatre expanded, changed hands, and on December 31st l959, it was destroyed by fire.
While the building was destroyed, the "idea" of building another WHARF THEATER remained in the mind of Di GIROLAMO. This time he built it on a site he owned, accross "Angelo" his restaurant, and on December 3, l976 the new WHARF THEATER Opened its doors to the public with the production of “Guys and Dolls. ”
During the years, there have been many articles written about the famous "BRUCE ARISS WHARF THEATRE". but sadly, many of them are inaccurate. So, on a sunny July's afternoon we drove to Monterey, California, to ask Mr. ANGELO DI GIROLAMO to tells us, in his own words, the history of the theter he started.
Tastefully attired in a plaid grey/red cotton shirt, grey V-neck sweater and matching trousers, he greeted us with a smile from his spacious office, an art gallery of oil, water color, acrylic and pastel, paintings, sitting on a chair facing a large window overlooking the Monterey Bay. He smiled again, and speaking slowly and clerly started telling his personal story to CULTURAL WORLD BILINGUAL
Pictured Left, BRUCE ARISS WHARF THEATER, Monterey, California
“My name is ANGELO DI GIROLAMO, and I am 92 years old”, he said. “I came to California when I was 16, and I have lived in Monterey for 76 years. A lot of people have asked me why I bought a theater, (to answer their question) I must to go back to my youth.”
“When I was ten years old, living in Boston, I ran away from home, for the third time, to go to Hollywood. I did not want to go to Hollywood to be on stage or anything like that, all I wanted was the opportunity to be connected to the theatre. On my third time, (running away from home) I made one big mistake: I took my five years old brother with me. (When they returned home) My mother was waiting for us at the door, at one o’clock in the morning, and all she told us was “Go to bed.” The next Monday, I was sent to a Catholic School for three years.” Laughing, he adds: “My mother did not mind my running away, but she did not like my taking my five years old brother with me.”
What prompted the ten years old boy to run away from home just to be close to the theater? “I love the theater,” he adds, . “from the time my mother used to take me to the Opera in Boston with her. I was one of thirteen children, I was the 5th, so, why she picked me (to go with her) I don’t know. But looking back, maybe listening to those operas made me love the theater.”
Mr. Di GIROLAMO tells us that knew nothing about theater, but that did not stop him for building one.
“I had a very famous restaurant in the Wharf (“Angelo”) for thirty eight years, and even today, I can’t boil water.” I have a theater since l979, that I think puts the best musicals in California, and I can’t sing a note. I just go by what I “see.” It all started in l944, during World War II, when I was on a train to New York to go to Erurope where I was stationed in Old Buckingham, an American Flying Station for two years working as a mechanic in the B-24s."
"When I was on that train, I picked up a copy of News Week Magazine, that had a story about HENRY KAISER, who people claimed was very instrumental in winning the war. In the story, KAISER was asked by his interviewer, to what did he attribute his success, and he said “My success was finding early in life that I had no talent. So I decided that what I was going to do, was to find people with talent and use them.”
“The second thing, happened to me in England, during Summer time, and it changed my whole life. I was walking out in the field, and I heard some music, in one of the barracks so I decided to see what it was and I discovered that it was a show that put by Madame Osina a woman who had a Children's troupe, a group of kids who performed for the soldiers in Army Camps. "I thought I was going to be bored, until I heard a voice, that you could not believe, that it could be the voice of a little girl. It was so beautiful that I thought that this little girl might be a midget. so, I went to sit at the front row. The girl was seven years old girl, but she was so petite that she looked as she was only three. Her name was PAMELA BEALES, and at that time, she was singing half of the songs of the whole play as if she owned the world. Her tone was pure, her timbre, beautiful and she had the stage presence of mature actress. I knew that she was singing for free because in the laws in England forbid children being paid for performing. So I decided then and there that PAMELA BEALES shoud come to America, and perform in Hollywood."
Young ANGELO went to visit the BEALES' home, some time later and discovered that after an air raid it had been destroyed, and talked to the parents, of the little girls who were very poor. After that day and for the next year, he followed the performances of the Troupe bringing gifts and candies to the children. He even was "adopted" by the troupe, and called "Our Yank" by them. In the meantime, he was also collecting signatures from the Soldiers and money to bring the BEALES and Madame Osina to California. He contines his story:
Photo courtesy: Angelo Di Girolamo
“When I returned to America, I was still broke, so I needed to raise money to bring PAM, now l0, to America. So to raise money I opened a restaurant. (only those who worked with him at the time, knew the ingenuity he expended to solve the superhuman problem he had set upon himself) But two years later, (after fighting lots of red tape from England) I went back to Europe and brought the girl and her parent here. Sadly by l947 Madame Osina had already passed away."
Once here, young ANGELO financed singing, elocution and dancing lessons for PAMELA, organized shows for her in Monterey, Church's benefits, Performances, and with her mother, he even took her several times to Hollywood and introduced her to ARTHUR FREED the head man of MGM musicals, who gave them an identification to see BOB HOPE. PAM appeared with HOPE, BOB CROSBY, EDGAR and BERGEN among others.
"PAMELA even had a chance to meet REESE, a young director from New York who was directing a movie called “Enchantment,” and he gave PAMELA the part of Theresa Wright as a little girl, "but as we were in the office with SAMUEL GOLDMAN’s nephew with a contract on the table," says Mr. Di GIROLAMO, a call came from the studio saying they had not approved Jane Meadows playing a sixteen years old girl in the first scene, even though the director had agreed with it, so now they had to get another girl to play her as an eight years old girl, which meant that PAMELA's part was now changed to play Theresa Wright as an eight years old girl, (which the studios refused to do) so they cut PAMELA and got another girl. That is the reason why PAMELA was not in the movie. But REESE loved this little talented girl so he was going to put her in another of his movies.. Sadly, the director got cancer and he died in one month ".
"PAMELA stayed in Hollywood, for some time. doing small parts in movies, then, a few years later, she returned to Monterey and got married. One day she and her husband rented a sail boat and went to the races, in Santa Cruz. The weather was bad but her husband insisted they should come back to Monterey on that day, in that bad weather. PAMELA fell overboard and she drowned.”
While she never became a big star herself, her short life, made possible for hundredths of other stars to shine, on the stage of Di GIROLAMO's theatre. because in one of those inexplicabe twists of "EL DESTINO (destiny) PAMELA, the "girl" that young ANGELO spent many years of his life trying to help, was, at the end, the person who helped him realize his life's dream. But lets listen to the end of his story told in his own words..
"When I opened my restaurant, to get the money I needed to bring PAMELA and her family to America, I also had bought a lot, across the street from it." he says, "On that lot, is where this theater stands now. My good friend BRUCE ARRIS, designed it along with the building This is the theater I knew all the time that I was going to build."
The Cast of the MIKADO
"I rented the theater for two years, but on the third year, they could not make a go of it, so they dropped out. I could have closed it then, and forget about it, but I did not want to give up my theater. So, when somebody suggested to me that I take this girl as Director and start to produce my own shows. I did, and she has been with me for thirty five years. I could not do anything without her. She put the theater together to make it work like a charm. Like KAISER, I hire only the best. That is the reason why my theater, is still here today."
"As per my wife's suggestion, I only produce one show per year now. “The MIKADO” will be my 122nd production. I had done it twice before, one time very poorly because I did not have the right actors, the second time very successfully This time I am presenting it because thirteen of the seventeen players who played “Pirates of Penzance” last year, that was a big success, came to me and told me that if I did The MIKADO, they would play in it. They were so good that I say yes. The rehearsals indicate to me that "THE MIKADOi" is even going to be greater than “The Pirates.”
THE MIKADO by W.S. Gilbert and music of Arthur Sullivan, will open on July 11 and will play until August 31. The performances will be on Fridays, and Saturdays at 8:30 PM and Sundays, at 3:30 PM.The tickets are sold at the Theater’s office window at #1 Fisherman’s Wharf or could be ordered online at BrownPaperTickets.com or by calling 831-649-2332.