RIFFS 2007
Published October 27, 2007
Report From The Field: Bod Dewitt Memorial

Your Graces will no doubt dig the following missive from the keen hand and eye of historian and performer David Simerley as he reports on the memorial concert held for Lord Buckley's true buddy cat Bob Dewitt (the Rebellious Duke of Topanga Canyon) on in Mariposa, California on Sunday, September 30, 2007. He and his wife Juliet traveled from their home in Sonora, California to Mariposa to make the scene. David's lively narrative proves that the spirit, if not the frame of The Rebellious Duke stomps on. And be sure to lay your peepers on Abe Perlstein's great photos of the event. (See link to the left under photo)


2 October 2007
Sonora, CA

The drive down 49 to Mariposa was one I always liked, very curvy and very rural and very scenic. You pass Chinese Camp and the Kiwi Tavern, an old antique power plant at Moccasin, Bear Valley is a group of crumbling adobes and stone buildings, Mt. Bullion is the site of an old mine and finally into Mariposa.

We parked our car and walked along a promenade that meandered along side a creek. Ahead of us, walked 3 woman. The oldest, a tiny white haired lady walked along briskly supported arm and arm with the middle-aged woman walking beside her. I could hear their conversation well enough to hear the oldest addressed as Doi.

The path turned away from the creek to come upon a sloping lawn with a lincoln log stage at the bottom - a miniature amphitheater!

The three women in front of us stopped to get their bearings.

I went up to Doi. You do not realise how tiny she is until you're upon her.

"Doi?" I asked.

"Yes?" she said, giving me her attention and smiling.

I introduced myself and said that Michael Monteleone had asked me to offer his remembrances.

As soon as she heard your name, her eyes lit up and she took hold of my hand with both of hers and shook it vigorously.

"How nice of you," she said, her eyes tearing up.

"Now." she said, looking around with those little bright eyes of hers. "I think I have a reserved seat around here some place."

The guy selling tee-shirts was away from his post, so I grabbed his chair and offered it to her.

She beamed and sat down.

The stage was decorated with original pen and ink drawings. One was of Rose Maddox. She was a country singer my parents knew (My Dad, that guitar picking son-of-a-gun, toured with the Maddox Bros. in the 'fifties). My Mom always said she was a wild woman and the first to shake her booty on stage (women vocalists were generally pretty stiff in those days).

Folk music abounded. Bob DeWitt's son and his childhood buddy on Dobro played. They did one called "My Dad." A line from the song referring to his Dad still swimming in the creek naked got laughs and nods. Utah couldn't make it, but someone read some lines that he had written about Bob DeWitt. Doi got up and read a poem that I couldn't hear. It was something she found in a book that she thought was appropriate for the occassion.

The DeWitt's neighbor, a harmonica playing Grandma in blue jeans, said that "Bob was not exactly what you would call mainstream. When we went over there for a visit, we always greeted one another by standing on our heads."

The brand new Arts Park, which Bob DeWitt had a hand in creating, is beautiful. The weather was perfect. Dragonflies were swooping around. Many people were going barefoot, some I figured in Bob DeWitt's honor. The people sitting next to us offered us some of their pizza.

"Isn't this just heaven?" Juliet said, laying back in the grass.

About 100 people were in attendance, mostly locals. He's remembered by them as the man who started the Mariposa Arts Council.

The highlight of the memorial was Kim Angelis. Not only did everyone respond to her wonderful gypsy violin playing, she also had the wittest comments about Bob DeWitt.

She said that Bob DeWitt got her her first paid gig.

"He was the first person to hire me," she said.

"He met us at the door, barefooted with a tie and mismatched jacket," her guitar player added.

Kim played a song that she introduced as Bob and Doi's. Doi responded to the music by getting up and doing a performance art style dance thing for about half the song.

As a finale, the Friends of the Feedback Theater (something Bob also had a hand in) got up and performed Woody Guthrie standards. A circle dance formed below the stage. Doi again got up and danced.

Abe was running around taking photographs the whole time. He said he would send you a set. He had two amazing stereophonic viewers of the DeWitts. The one I liked was Doi and Bob greeting you at their gate, the house visible in the background. We went out for Chinese with Abe, and came home.

I snagged a poster advertising the event and got you a tee-shirt which features an original Bob DeWitt drawing. I'll send it.