During our most recent vacation to southern California, I took my family to Domenico’s Pizza Parlor in Belmont Shore. I was born and raised in southern California, and have been going to Domenico’s since high school. Over the years I have introduced my children and grandchildren to the restaurant and its delicious salad and pizza. I’d never given much thought to that fact until this most recent visit.
As we sat in my favorite booth,I had two thoughts come to me almost simultaneously. The first one was that there were three generations of Rogers sitting in our booth, my grandson Roger Harrison (Harry), my son Roger Jr. (Rog) and me Roger Sr. (Roger). ” That’s 51 years of Rogers eating pizza at Domenico’s. How cool,” I thought to myself. So cool in fact, I mentioned it to everyone sitting in the booth.
With a touch of subtle humor in his voice, Rog then said, “Yeah, and if Harry ( 20 months old) brings his son and grandson to Domenico’s, and their names are Roger, that will make 150 years of Rogers who will have sat in this booth eating pizza.” We all broke out in laughter.
The second random thought that came to my mind was about a German play I was in some 48 years ago. “Hey guys, Domenico’s was an occasional hang out for part of the 1963 cast of the local Long Beach stage production of the German play La Ronde. I was one of the actors in the play. We would sit in the booth that we’re in right now.”
With no reaction I nevertheless continued on, ” After rehearsals, part of the cast would sit in this same booth, eating pizza and drinking beer.”
That got a reaction from my daughter in law, “So you were an actor too? Were you any good and did you drink beer? ”
The questions got some laughter, which encouraged me to continue.
“No, I didn’t drink beer, I was under age. But, I wanted to. (Laughter.) And yes there were some great actors. Two of the older cast members, David Emmes and Martin Benson, went on to form the nationally famous South Coast Repertory Theatre.”
“According to Emmes and Benson”, I continued, ” it was the success of La Ronde that made them decide to form their famous theatre group. So I must have been a good enough actor to have been a part of a play that was the forerunner of the creation of this great acting group.”
Rog then chuckled and added wryly, ” A lot of history has taken place in this booth, Dad. What was the play La Ronde about? What character did you play?”
“I played a young soldier,” I said. I then stopped to figure out how to describe the play. As I did Rog googled “La Ronde” on his cell phone.
An Important, but Controversial Play
Rog found La Ronde on Wikipedia and started reading the entry out loud. In part, it said that it was a play that treated the problem of socially transmitted diseases in Viennese society at the turn of the nineteenth century.
As a result of writing the play, its author and playwright Arthur Schnitzler became the target of virulent attacks.
Rog continued reading.
The article suggested that Germans used the play as an excuse to commit violent “anti-Semitic” attacks on Schnitzler during the early 1920’s. Even though a Berlin court of law found nothing wrong with the play, and scientists lauded the play for communicating valuable medical information to an uninformed public, Schnitzler still had to withdraw the play from German society for fear of being physically harmed.
The tone at our booth had taken a decidedly more serious tone. After I heard what Rog had read, I was happy that I had acted in a play with so much social consequence tied to it. And, I took pride that the play would be the forerunner of a great acting company that has received national acclaim for the production of break through original plays. But, most importantly, I was happy as I could be that three generations of Rogers were together with other family members enjoying each other.
Reflecting on All These Memories
I had no idea that going to Domenico’s that day, we would end up talking about such heavy topics. However, as the salad and pizza were served, a more relaxed atmosphere returned to the booth, at least as relaxed as you can get with grandchildren hopping all over the place.
As I ate, I thought to myself how wonderful yet tough history can be, and how our experience at Domenico’s was an example of that. How surrealistic it was to remember 51 enjoyable years of Rogers eating pizza at Domenico’s, and to remember back 48 years at the remarkable cast of La Ronde eating pizza at the same booth, and what wonderful accomplishments like the South Coast Repertory Theatre were hatched from that experience.
Harry And His Memories
As Harry grows up, I wondered if he would carry on the tradition of bringing his children and grandchildren to Domenico’s. If he does, will he talk about the three Rogers? Will he talk about La Ronde and South Coast Repertory?
Personally, I hope he does. Little did I know that when I first came to Domenico’s Restaurant when I was in tenth grade that so many important experiences were going to transpire.