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Created: Thursday, 29 May 2014

Love is a 'Battlefield.'

Oh my gosh, did I just name a post after a Pat Benatar song? Yikes.

Here's a little story about Southern California most people don't know.  When Walt Disney was thinking up his grand idea known as Disneyland it came time to build the hotel next to the park.  He went to his creditors and asked for a loan and they said "Walt, we love you but your money is kinda funny."  So he does what we all do when our money is kinda funny, he went to his friends.  He first called up actor Art Linkletter.   Art was a great visionary, he heard the plan and said "This isn't going to work."  Then years later he would walk in front of the Disneyland Hotel and with each step he would think "Theres another million I missed out on."  

Wedding Photography Image from Lifetime Images

Walt eventually calls a Texas oil millionaire known as Jack Wrather. The guy was a film producer and owned hotels with his partner Maria Helen Alverez.  They said "Sure Walt, anything you say." Wrather build the hotel and then when it was wildly successful they kept pumping money into it.  He bought out Maria in 1958 and got sole owner of the hotel.  The original hotel stood where ESPN Zone, the Rainforest Cafe and the AMC movie theater stand in Downtown Disney.   When Walt Disney got back on his feet financially he said to Jack "Okay Jack, thanks for doing me a solid, now can I buy the hotel?"  And Jack said "Hold on a moment, let me think about it.  Okay my thinking is done.  No!"    But for the rest of Jack's life the Disney Corporation persisted. 

Neat story so far?  By the way, what does this have to do with the Queen Mary?   Funny you should ask.  Jack Wrater had the Midas touch.  He was just on a buying spree.  He bought things Muzak (elevator music company), the rights to Lassie and the Lone Ranger, the Balboa Bay Club the Spruce Goose and the RMS Queen Mary.  Disney died in the mid 60's and Wrather died in the mid-80s.  Michael Eisner, chairman and CEO of Walt Disney Productions at the time knew that after Wrather's death that Disney could finally get what it wanted, the Disneyland Hotel.   Money was no object.  But in order to get the hotel they had to buy all of Wrather's investments which included the RMS Queen Mary.  The Queen Mary to Disney was an afterthought.   But, they did try to make the most it.  The tourist attraction was struggling and Disney came up with this large, wild idea.  It was called "Port Disney."   They were planning to build another theme park next to the Queen Mary called "DisneySea."  The theme would be the world's oceans.   It was a large ambitious plan that they kept alive from the late 80's until 1992.  There was a lot of infighting on the Long Beach city council about the project and Disney finally gave up.  Disney went into Plan B mode.  They took the plans for DisneySea and open it in Tokyo.  Then they tore out the parking lot at Disneyland and made Disney's California Adventure

When Disney pulled the plug on their lease of the Queen Mary it closed right away.  The Spruce Goose, that huge plane that Howard Hughes flew for a few seconds and then let rot in a warehouse for decades was put barges and moved to Oregon.  That giant white dome next to the Queen Mary sits empty. There have been a number of investment companies that have owned the Queen Mary on and off for the past decade.   But looking at the Queen Mary's history it's been losing money for the past 50 years, even when it was a Trans-Atlantic cruise ship between France and New York toward the end of it's service life in the 1960s.

Today when guests come in from out of town and want to visit the tourist destinations we love running around with them.  But when it comes time to visit the Queen Mary do you go?  It's  $15 or more to park and $25 a person to get on the ship.   There is a foundation to 'Save the Queen.'  Which leads me to my point.  In the words of Yoda "Do or do not. There is no try."  Recently President Obama was talking about tourism in the United States.  It's a money maker for us, and helps our local economy.  I was on the Queen Mary as a kid when it first showed up to Long Beach.  Then I went back on it around 2006.  It was starting to show signs of age.   There are new owners and new pledges to fix her up.  The problem with the RMS Queen Mary was that the decay of the ship started before retirement.  It had some modifications made while it was still a passenger ship.     It's been a very long time since it's original glory.

My take on the Queen Mary is very simple.  Forty years ago someone had it hauled into the port of Long Beach.  Since that time it's been associated with Long Beach.  Long Beach has enough going for it as a city that it really doesn't need the ship anymore.  If it's time to turn her into scrap then it's time.   But then again it could be a world class tourist destination.  I think a lot of people would love to see that happen. It would be nice to be a tourist destination that you want to go back to over and over again.

About the photo.   Okay, I took few liberties in Photoshop.  The large guns were actually on the ship.   I thought they made a fun picture but with all the stuff off to the side of them it just looked silly.  The symbolism in the image in my mind is about the Queen Mary fighting off the effects of time, and apathy and the effects of the sea by the use of tourists, wedding and special events.  The bride and groom were a lot of fun for this image.  But they really aren't about shooting down planes.  They actually have a strange infatuation with keeping planes in the air.  That's because they are both pilots.  Congrats on your wedding Terra and Michael! 

 One other funny little story about this topic.  Sometime back in the 1950s Jack Wrather signed a European distribution rights agreement for the TV Show Lassie.  The deal went down and they notified the press.  Beverly Hills had it's own newspaper at the time which was pretty small.  They notified "The Press" about the deal and they sent out their head photographer.  He was a high school student, tall with dark hair.  Pulling out his 4x5 Speed Graphics press camera he shot a couple of pics and went back to print it.  Never being certain which one was Jack. The geeky kid press photographer was my dad!