Opinion: Finding Meaning

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Remembering Laguna’s Stories

Every life is a story, worthy of remembrance. Consider John Weld, author and past publisher of The Laguna News Post, who for 20 years wrote the column “Our Town.” In his salad days, Weld lived on Paris’ Left Bank, writing for the famed International Herald Tribune, hanging with Lost Generation luminaries like F Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce and Gertrude Stein. Then he discovered Laguna Beach and made it his home. There’s a life worth remembering.

Weld’s father died when he was two; his mother encouraged his writing, even getting a piece in the local paper. Seeing his name in print shaped his future. His mother remarried and at the tender age of 11 Weld was shunted off to a Colorado Ranch, military schools, and college at today’s Auburn University. His freshman year he received a letter from home with $100 and the abrupt notice, “You’re on your own.”

Weld made his first trip to Europe crewing on a freighter. He then drove a Model T to Hollywood where he made friends with unknown actor Clark Gable (Weld advised Gable he didn’t have the looks to be a star) and supported himself as a stuntman, doubling for stars like John Barrymore. He dived from a 137-foot cliff, parachuted from his first airplane flight, and raced a car over an open drawbridge. Weld made friends with influential Hollywood columnist Louella Parsons and asked her help finding a newspaper job. Parsons was tight with William Randolph Hearst and Weld was soon a cub reporter in Manhattan. Here Weld, often in love, married fellow reporter Carol Greene.

The newlyweds were soon off to Paris where John found work with The Herald Tribune, interviewing notables like future president Franklin D. Roosevelt, Henry Ford, and Charlie Chaplin. The marriage didn’t survive those halcyon days but Carol did well, scooping the romance of the Prince of Wales with American divorcee Wallis Simpson, and later the divorce of sometime Lagunans Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford.

Weld wrote a book featuring a Hollywood stuntman and Columbia Pictures brought him back to Hollywood to work on a possible film. The film didn’t happen but Weld fell in love with budding actress Kathryn “Gigi” Parrish—in his love-struck eyes the most beautiful woman ever. They married and left Hollywood, settling into a south Laguna beach cottage. After World War II, the Welds bought into the weekly “Laguna News Post” which featured his “Our Town” column on the front page. Mrs. Weld appeared in his column as TLW (“the lovely wife,” I presume) and he closed with, “Laguna, I love you.” After his wandering years, Weld had found a home.

Stop the presses. This guy marries a beautiful woman, falls in love with Laguna, writes columns for the weekly paper, invokes his beautiful wife with an acronym, and always closes with the same line? Genius. Weld later collected his best columns into a book, “Laguna, I Love You.” Hmmm. Remembering Laguna’s stories—there’s meaning in that.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach. Email: [email protected]

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