Santa Cruz Good Times

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Sep 02nd
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coverwebUSETHISIconic editor Buz Bezore, who died last month at the age of 68, left a huge mark on Santa Cruz journalism  

Eventually, it’s all a blur. You live long enough, and maybe a little too hard at times, so that when you hit the rewind button of faded memory, it moves so fast that you can hardly sort and gather the details. One scene skips to the next, and to the next, without proper editing or sequencing. Chronologies get distorted. Which came first: stealing the chickens or coloring the eggs?

I honestly can’t quite remember the first details of meeting Buz Bezore, the legendary editor and bon vivant who died last month of congestive heart failure at the age of 68, following an iconic career in alternative journalism—one in which he both delighted and eventually exasperated nearly everyone with whom he crossed paths. And those paths were many and varied—some lit brightly, while others were shrouded in shadows leading into the darkest depths of the human condition.

There was always laughter and frolic around Buz, and also murder and mayhem, too. Literally. Metaphorically. Figuratively. There was an old Boardwalk ride called the “Wild Mouse” about which he and I once reminisced—it was furiously fast and frighteningly scary—and his life was like that, full of violent twists and turns, with momentary smooth stretches, in which you caught your breath, but they never lasted long. Not for Buz at least. Not until the end.

I’m still trying to piece it all together, at least in my own mind, but certain parts of the ride have become vague, others fragmented, even lost. The memory is an erratic beast at best. I’ve confirmed that in the weeks since his death, talking to dozens of his friends and associates as we reminisced about his life and, really, our lives together as part of an amazingly rich and exciting creative community centered around weekly journalism. At best, the cumulative narrative is all patchwork, with worn edges and frayed threads. 

Buz always contended that we first met over a letter I wrote to the old Santa Cruz Independent more than 35 years ago, and that may well have been the formal entrée into our friendship. But I seem to remember him earlier than that, when I wrote my first piece for another intrepid weekly called Sundaz!, for which he wrote briefly, too. Or maybe it was at the People’s Press, where we both wrote as well.

cov buz0All of this was in the mid-1970s, an absolutely magnificent moment in Santa Cruz history, and an ominous time, too, when every day was a party on the long-gone Pacific Garden Mall, as it was then known, but also when Santa Cruz was tagged with the rubric—in Time magazine, no less—of “Murder Capital of the World” following a string of grisly killings in and around our little burgh. It was a time of yin and yang. Illumination and darkness. Dualities multiplied. Oppositions embraced. Good and evil. Life and death.

Buz was seemingly ubiquitous during that era. He was always in the center of nearly every creative journalistic enterprise, and he always provided its aesthetic soul. He loved music and art and words and food and movies and sports, and all of these passions came together in the emerging zeitgeist of alternative journalism, a career which he pursued both brilliantly and erratically for the next quarter century. He was our leader, our court jester and our Puck (“that merry wanderer of the night”) on a perpetual mission from Buddha. But he also did his dance with the dark underbelly of the cosmos.

In 1976, right about the time I first was aware of his dynamic presence, Buz’s wife, Vicki Bezore, was brutally killed in a double-slaying by one of Santa Cruz County’s notorious mass-murderers, Richard “Blue” Sommerhalder. When the investigation stalled under the local gendarmes, it took Buz’s gumshoe determination to help solve the case, which he did, putting Sommerhalder behind bars, at least for a while.

His life, as others have noted, was like a novel—though not by Dostoyevsky, as one local scribe has suggested, but by Mailer or Kerouac or Roth or Vonnegut or Didion or Carver or Pynchon or Hunter S. Thompson. His was a truly American idiom—only no one would have ever bought into the plotline, as the twists were that strange. Mind-blowingly strange.

Buz might have been crushed by it all, and maybe—and I say maybe because I’m not sure or haven’t fully sorted it all out yet—in the end he was crushed by it all, but at the time he always seemed to bounce back from whatever ravages beset him, amazingly, remarkably, as ebullient and buoyant as ever, always looking ahead to the next deal, fueled by an unyielding optimism that was countered by a hard-honed misanthropy.

Born in the spring of 1945 as World War II was winding to a close, Leonard Dale “Buz” Bezore was raised in the Santa Clara Valley, when orchards defined the terrain and it was still known as the Valley of the Heart’s Delight. Conservativism dominated both the local and national political landscape, but the revolutionary rhythms of rock ’n’ roll rumbled in the distance.

His father, a conservative Santa Clara businessman active in civic life, died when Buz was in grade school, the first of many tragedies that Buz would encounter on his own Job-like odyssey. That death left a permanent mark on his psyche.

cov BezoreHighSchoolBuz graduated from Santa Clara High School in 1963. His senior picture shows him with handsome chiseled features, a serious demeanor framed in closely cropped hair, a dark bowtie and his eyes gazing off somewhere far away. On Valentine’s Day 1965, when he was still 19, he got married to his sweetheart Vicky Bizarro (she was pregnant), and they eventually had two sons, Christian (born in Oregon later that year) and Demian (born in Santa Clara in 1969).

It was in the mid-1960s that Buz started hanging out in Santa Cruz, first to surf (he loved a break called Little Wind & Sea, near 26th Avenue) and, after moving to Aptos with his family, as a student at both Cabrillo College (where he was awarded the Martha J. Kendall Memorial Scholarship) and UC Santa Cruz (where he shifted his studies toward his bourgeoning interest in the creative arts, particularly film).

Once he graduated from UCSC, Buz began his career in journalism. He was involved in fledgling efforts at establishing community television programming in the county, but print became his medium of choice, ink his ambrosia, and he began writing about the emerging music scene on the West Coast and, specifically, in Santa Cruz.

Buz once made a list of all the papers he had written for (I found it last week on my hard drive), but I know for a fact it wasn’t entirely accurate and that the chronology was skewed. As best as I can piece together, he began writing record and concert reviews (circa 1974) for Sundaz!, then shifted to the Santa Cruz Times-cum-Good Times, where Buz was a decidedly unhappy camper working under the paper’s then-publisher.

In August of 1976, Buz’s wife (then 29) and a girlfriend of hers, Mary Gorman  (21), were sexually assaulted and murdered, their bodies dumped on a remote hillside off Highway 9. Buz was relentless in his pursuit of the killer. Impatient with the official investigation, he posted fliers everywhere looking for leads. After committing two more rapes at knife-point, “Blue” Sommerhalder, who Buz had known, was finally pinned for the murder. More darkness. It followed him like bad weather.

Ican tell you that it is with rare exception that people around Buz had either forgotten or didn’t know that he began writing for the Santa Cruz Sentinel on a regular basis shortly after the killings. He had been hired by then arts editor Dale Pollock, who had previously written film reviews at Sundaz!, where he remembers first meeting Buz.

Buz was 30 by then, and amidst the madness of the murder investigation and subsequent trial (in which he testified and presented critical evidence), he wrote a remarkable series of music reviews and profiles for the Sentinel. One of my favorites was a delightful portrait of country singer-songwriter Larry Hosford, from Salinas. In another Buz panned a performance by Jesse Colin Young at the Cocoanut Grove. “Jesse was tired, trite and totally unable to produce new, exciting music,” he wrote, asserting that Young had taken “a lowest common denominator approach to both his music and his audience.”

Buz quit after a while. Of course. “I think ultimately he hated working for a right-wing paper like the Sentinel,” Pollock assessed. “My former editor ‘Scotchy’ Sinclair complained to me every time Buz showed up in the newsroom.”

The Sentinel at the time was so conservative, so utterly reactionary, that it was completely out of touch with the emergent counter-culture of the era; indeed, it was so bad that everyone felt compelled to have a publication of their own: Free Spaghetti Dinner, Sundaz!, the Town Crier, Zeitgeist, the Buy & Sell Press, Matrix, ad infinitum. Walking down Pacific Avenue on Fridays was like a treasure hunt, picking up these little jewels from the sidewalk and business fronts. In the days before the Internet—before Facebook and Instagram and Twitter—words mattered, and words had power, and words had magic. These little newspapers sparkled in your hands.

It was at the Santa Cruz Independent, a feisty and popular weekly, produced on the second floor of the old Rittenhouse Building, that Buz began to hit his journalistic stride as a writer and, in his case, more significantly as an editor. With the likes of Bob Johnson and Michael S. Gant writing sterling investigative pieces about the conservative cabal that still ran Santa Cruz during that era, and headed up by Richard Cole, the Independent, I would argue, was the first of the alternative weeklies to capture the pulse of the community at large.

But like many of its predecessors (and more than a few of its successors), it was a journalistic moment that didn’t last long. This is oversimplifying a complicated scenario, but when an offer came to buy the newspaper from an out-of-town businessman, Buz and a handful of others voted to take the money and run (Cole took most of it and headed for Brazil). Buz misplayed his hand—not the first time that was to happen, nor the last—but he got lucky on the draw.

One contingent from the Independent, including Buz, went to the Santa Cruz Weekly; another, led by Johnson, Neal Smythe, Maria Castro and John Keith (who had opposed the selling of the Indy), formed the Phoenix collective.

cov buz1Meanwhile, Buz had journalistic visions of his own. He steered clear of lefties and progressives (he called himself a “maverick libertarian”) and he despised political correctness. He formed the Express with some local literati and business types that included his grand amour, Christina Waters, popular Good Times columnist Bruce Bratton, art director John Patterson, and a handful of others, and Buz was off on the very best run of his life. It lasted five years.

And, oh, what a glorious run. To me, Buz and Christina seemed as though they were straight out of Hollywood, like a modern-day Bogey & Bacall, or, more accurately, Belushi & Bacall. By 1983, Buz had lured me over to the Express, where he encouraged me to find my voice, to experiment and stretch, and he gently guided me through my first mature efforts as a writer.

“Buz’s generosity as an editor was legendary,” recalls my friend Roz Spafford, who, like me came to the Express via the Phoenix. “In his rare critiques, he teased rather than scolded. Instead of assigning stories, he invited us to discover them.” Buz loved the act of discovery. It made everything we wrote for him seem fresh and new, a revelation—orgasmic journalism at its finest.

Buz was much more than a brilliant editor—he was an exuberant devourer of life. He attended movies at the Nickelodeon on a weekly basis, was out and about several nights a week (always with his eyes open and, most often, with Christina), and as new Good Times owner Dan Pulcrano (who knew Buz back to their days together at the Independent) reminded me, “Buz was a foodie before there were foodies” (with Christina’s guidance, I presumed), and was also a great chef. He loved it when I brought him fish collars for his cioppino during my days as a fish butcher on the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf. The common denominator for Buz was joy—abundant and unadulterated joy.

But there was always a flip side. I am crunching chronologies here, but following the gruesome murders, one of his sons was in a horrific car crash in which he suffered severe brain damage. His other son was in a constant battle with internal demons, dying young from substance abuse. Then there was the period in which Sommerhalder was paroled from prison after only serving eight years. At first Sommerhalder was going to be released here in Santa Cruz County—in Aptos of all places—but he wound up in Texas, where he died in the 1994 from cancer. More headlines. More ghosts. More nightmares.

Buz sought constant movement and frolic as a means of escape. He was always on the move. A fine athlete in his youth, he thrived on physical competition. In the early 1980s he helped form the Media Softball League with our mutual buddy Greg Beebe from the Sentinel. Once I joined the Express, he required me to play on virtually whatever team he managed, which irked me to no end. I had much better things to do with my Sunday mornings, thank you. But he absolutely delighted in the camaraderie of the games, not only with his teammates, but with everyone who played in the league. He beamed merrily and bantered playfully throughout each game.

He also loved sports pools and fantasy leagues, long before they became fashionable. Again, he required that I be his teammate (often silently), which meant that I put up the money, and if we won he took the winnings. He got kicked out of a variety of such enterprises (there were always charges of improprieties and twisting the rules to his favor) and then he always started up new ones. “Half of the rules in both our fantasy baseball and media softball leagues were enacted in response to some sketchy stunt pulled by Buz,” recalls Beebe. “He understood the concept of fair play and wanted to be a good sport, especially if it helped him win.”

As long as I can remember, Buz had issues with money. He just did. Buz lost the Express in 1986 when the publication failed to pay state payroll taxes. A deal was cut in which (so he claimed) he would give up all control of the paper’s finances (his grasp on them had been tenuous at best), but remain editor. That was the critical caveat.

There was an ugly meeting upstairs at the Express office one day in which an angry mob jumped on its high horse and pointed a collective finger at Buz. Buz was fired as editor. As I got up to leave, he grabbed me joyfully by the arm and said with a big smile on his face, “You’re playing on the Taste softball team.” What a great line.

cov buz2Taste was the publication he and Christina started up within a few weeks of the imbroglio. As I said, he always bounced back. And not only did I write for Taste, I also played on the softball team. I simply could not say “no” to the guy.

By late decade I was done with the Media League and journalistic schmoozing, but sure enough, after a one-year hiatus, Buz scrambled to put another team together (by then he was editing a slick magazine in Monterey called Pacific Monthly) and he wanted me to play third base for him. He assembled a great team (with great guys) and we won the championship trophy, which, many years later, Buz gave to me for safekeeping. It sits on a bookshelf in my living room to this day.

I don’t care what anyone says (or thinks, for that matter), Buz never got over the loss of the Express. He just didn’t. He brought it up to me repeatedly over the next quarter century. The Express had been the journalistic reflection of his creative being—his raison d’être —and everything after that was, well, somewhat on the downhill slope for him.

After Pacific Monthly, he and I started Inside Santa Cruz, with Christina doing most of the work and Bill Tysseling, now executive director of the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce, trying to control Buz’s spending [poor soul). But Buz simply never had a fiscal governor. The paper was a work of creative genius, but it soon got ugly. Neither Bill nor I could stop him. He burned up that publication in a matter of four months.

That project indirectly led to the founding of Metro Santa Cruz (later to become the Santa Cruz Weekly), for which Buz served as founding editor (Christina and I were contributing editors), but he bristled at the slightest hint of restraint or oversight. We had a momentary falling out (which, as I said, I regret), and Buz grew edgy in a way he had never been before. The ever-present joy had turned into an existential cynicism. He started to drink and become a recluse.

It went from bad to worse. In the summer of 1998, I think it was, I received a call that Buz had grown frighteningly ill at his home on Beach Hill, and that he had pushed everyone close to him away. He was in my hands. I got him to Dominican Hospital, where he was diagnosed with a rare and vicious spine infection. Several of his vertebrae had turned to mush. I had a tough time comprehending the diagnosis. The whole thing was mind-boggling.

He was hospitalized for several months, and he went from Dominican (where he developed morphine delirium), to Stanford (where he had some sort of platinum rod inserted in his spine), to a rest home in Live Oak (where he was forced to recover from the medical onslaught to his body). He reconciled with his family, but became horribly despondent, and the once-irrepressible jubilation slowly seeped from his life.

His close friends did what they could to reignite the old vigor, but to no avail. The medical crisis he went through had taken its toll, both physically and psychologically. I hired him briefly at Community Television, and, within a matter of days, he had driven my staff crazy, to the point of mutiny. I had asked him to develop a single show for production; I found out that he was manically working on nearly two dozen. I gently nudged him out the door.

Partly out of guilt, in 2002 I helped him get a job at the San Luis Obispo weekly New Times (I promised to write the first cover story for him), but he was fired in a matter of weeks. The publisher chewed me out for not warning him. There were short-lived gigs in Half Moon Bay and at Coast Weekly in Monterey. It was all apocalyptic. A few years ago, he said to our close mutual friend Bill Lovejoy that he had been fired from every paper between San Mateo and San Luis Obispo counties. He said it with an unbridled pride.

Over the last decade, he lived out in the Soquel Hills on property owned by his friend (and former Metro colleague) Kelly Luker, but his health got worse and his spirits seemed in perpetual decline. People saw very little of him, but his wicked sense of humor was still intact. “No one ever made me laugh like he did,” Kelly said to me a few weeks ago. I understood immediately.

cov buztessIn 2010, Kelly drove Buz out to the old Alfred Hitchcock compound in Scotts Valley, where photographer Dina Scoppettone was taking portraits of various community people for a special edition of Metro Santa Cruz. We scheduled the shoot so that my daughter, the musician Tess Dunn, and I would be there to meet Buz and Kelly.

Buz was not his usual effervescent self, but he was having loads of fun with Dina, Kelly and Tess. He was thin and frail. His once robust physicality had vanished. We took a photo together—a serious father-and-son pose—and then I explained to Tess that I wanted a portrait of her taken with Buz because he was “her artistic grandfather.” Buz started slinging digs at me, and Tess delighted in the assault. Scoppettone captured the moment perfectly: Tess cracking up, Buz with a devilish smile on his face.

Last summer, as I was picking up office supplies at Staples in Live Oak, I ran into Buz there, making some copies. We chatted, he asked about my kids and he told me that he was no longer living at Kelly’s. He didn’t go into any details and I didn’t push the issue, but I sensed another of his crack-ups. He volunteered that he was back living “on Beach Hill,” but he said it in a way that was evasive, unconvincing.

He seemed horribly frail, and was using a cane. His irrepressible joy was still present, but muted. We joked about this being the first time in world history that I weighed more than he did. He pondered that observation for a while. “Funny, huh?” he mused, in a manner that captured the deep cosmic irony of it all.

I invited him to lunch. He demurred. We hugged—more an arm-hug than a full embrace. It was the last time I would ever see him.

As I watched him walk out to his faded-gold Toyota Camry—a fractured, Chaplinesque figure in his twilight—I recalled a time many years ago, not far from there, when we had met at the oceanside of 17th Avenue for a late afternoon of body surfing.

It was in the mid-1980s, when Buz was still editor of the Express, and he had been promising to meet me at Sunny Cove for months, maybe years. Christina was busy with something that day, so he finally carved out a few hours.

He was in his late thirties then, I in my late twenties. I recall the time of year being an Indian summer, a small crowd on the beach and medium-sized swells. Buz was a fine waterman, a strong swimmer and absolutely intrepid in the breakers. We each caught a few nice waves, smiles on our faces, Buz clowning, always sending digs my way in a joyous rapport.

Afterward, I stretched out in the warm sand, and Buz sat down on a towel. He put his glasses back on and looked out across the bay toward the mountains rising on the horizon, taking it all in. He popped open a Beck’s.

“Jeffie, it doesn’t get much better than this,” he said in that ebullient high-pitched voice of his, his curls glistening in the sun.

He said it like he meant it, and knew what he was saying. For Buz Bezore, words mattered. He composed his life around them. GEOFFREY DUNN


Runaway Train

cov2 buzBuz Bezore and the dawn of the Santa Cruz Express

Armed with heart and humor, Buz Bezore would have made a great Viking. Nothing made him happier than raiding the surrounding media enclaves, plucking a writer here, an illustrator there, taking the best from enemy camps and unsuspecting comrades. Bezore always managed to make people deals they couldn’t refuse. Even when they weren’t quite sure how it was all going to work.

Frankly he made it up as he went, feeling the mood, the psychic temperature of the situation and convincing his new recruits that they didn’t actually need much of a salary—that it was more authentic to work for the sheer love of journalism. Buzzy firmly believed in his boho-existential persona. Money was for those who had sold out to The Man. Real artists lived on camaraderie, beer, and their wits.

And so we did.

Building a Better Bullpen

Like any great coach, Buz gathered his team, laid the ground rules, and kept us close. Convincing us that we were crucial to victory, he praised us, groomed us, exhorted us, encouraged us, and fed us such a steady fix of his own maverick passion that we quickly became addicted. To the work, and to him. Once hooked, we never looked back. Well, rarely. We were his, and he made us shine.

It’s hard now to imagine the way the world unfolded for us at the exact moment Buz captured us.  It was a time before the Internet. Before the earthquake. Before Starbucks. No laptops, no cell phones. AIDS was still just a rumor. We had survived the psychedelic force fields of the Hippie Era and begun to slouch toward recreational drugs, cafe society, and economic boom. California was a paradise of plenty and we were insanely optimistic about our abilities to make an impact. After all, we were the Baby Boomers, busy forging our brand upon the world. Or, at least, Santa Cruz.

Like many locals, Bezore had acquired a UCSC degree—in American film studies, specializing in Ben Hecht and the screwball comedies of the ‘30s. The small college town ambience suited the former “valley” who had fallen in love with Santa Cruz on pre-dawn surfing forays during high school. First as a music critic, then as a pinch-hitting editor, Bezore showed that he had all the instincts of a coastal Hunter S. Thompson and armed with a few promises from old media friends, he began collecting counter-culture raconteurs, wits, and smart-asses all hungry for some intellectual rock’n’roll.  A jokester genius convincing us that we could outstrip our wildest dreams, he was irresistible.

The Golden Eighties

In the early 1980s, downtown Santa Cruz was a playground for emerging adults, those of us in our late 20s and 30s able to live on little more than free-flowing wit and India Joze’ cooking. And the occasional “day job.” Ethnic restaurants were popping up on a weekly basis. Nouvelle cuisine had just arrived. Friday Happy Hour at the Catalyst was the town-gown salon. UCSC faculty, media mavens (there were three newspapers and a half dozen underground rags in town), photographers, musicians, and good-looking hanger-oners without any visible means of support gathered on Friday to drink, argue, score whatever was available, and enjoy each other’s energy.  I mean it. The place shimmered and levitated with amphetamine smarts, improbable theories, and non-stop flirtation.

After the Santa Cruz Weekly—the first one, which introduced me to the hands-on practice of journalism—Buz was already hatching plans for his next venture. For that, he needed to raid the perimeter of Good Times, nabbing columnist Bruce Bratton, whose chatty historical gossip was catnip to locals. Entertainment columnist Paul Hersh, an LA transplant, bristling with excitable boy attitude was on board. Ditto poet/essayist Stephen Kessler. Fresh from the East Coast, and loaded with equal parts rough edge and chutzpah, Barry Green all leather jacket and brief case barged into our lives as a take-no-prisoners ad sales exec and general manager type. Upstairs in what was then Lou Caviglia’s Santa Cruz Bar & Grill, now Red, we plotted. The brainstorming snagged on the problem of a name for the new publication, something with snap and distinctive.  The Times? The Star? Santa Cruz Chronicle? Nothing was right. Suddenly Bratton nailed it. “The Express. Roaring into town. The Santa Cruz Express.” Buz nodded. We ordered another round of drinks, and the race was on. Robbing Peter to pay Paul—a time-honored media practice—we scrounged office space we could almost afford, a Xerox machine, desks from Goodwill, and suddenly it was time. The first issue with a cover story on UCSC’s founding matriarch Mary Holmes hit the streets on March 4. Buz loved the prescient pun—“marching forth.”

Staff Inflections

The initial staff box was small, but Buz made us play all the bases. Together we were the alternative’s alternative, a weekly push-back against what Buz called “fluff.” He demanded humor and intelligence. But above all there was to be sparkle plenty! As generalist specialists, we did it all. Gant could do comedy, film reviews, theater critique, local politics. Hersh did music, the club scene. Having grown up in Europe and the East Coast I could handle music, art, food. And when a persistent redhead named June Smith knocked on our door insisting that Santa Cruz wineries deserved respect, I added wine writing to my side of the editorial chores. Mostly I flipped my university studies in anthropology into a sensitive ear. I listened to the inner dreams of the artists and performers I interviewed, turning their nuanced creativity into accessible tales.

Buz wanted lots of stories about locals, the growing population of savvy, vibrant, inquisitive residents who were increasingly stimulated by the energy of the new university and the expanding Cabrillo College scene. Even with the spotlight on local action, the Express was no backwater rag. Buz made maverick choices and he made them work. One week, modernist maestro John Cage was on the cover—complete with an interview by our own Paul Hersh. A few months later, the new chief of police John Bassett was the cover feature. The very first cast of Shakespeare Santa Cruz’s debut King Lear was on the cover. From avant-garde to upstanding and back again, Buz’s paper was the original social networking engine. The paper began small, but fully two pages of letters to the editor adorned its early issues. And it grew. People read the Express, they argued with the Express, they couldn’t get enough of the Express. Ultimately, because the utterly fearless editor set the tone. Bezore was an equal opportunity offender. He loathed pretension and he busted it where he found it. Actors and teamsters, lesbians and Republicans, poets and politicians, were skewered with equal relish, wit, and affection.

A Typical Week

Preserving each writer’s voice with an uncanny sensitivity, Buz pushed himself as well as his writers. He wanted clever. He wanted controversial. And he wanted it by 5 p.m. on Tuesday. Then the pages, physically laid out after arduous typesetting and paste-up, were driven over the hill to the printers. Those with day jobs forgot about the paper for a day or two, but editorial planning began again by Thursday. Buz would meet with his writers, map out the next few issues, make assignments and then head to the Friday Nickelodeon press screenings, which led directly to Catalyst Happy Hour. Those of us covering events went out to receptions, exhibits, performances, while writers assigned to feature stories made endless phone calls, notes, and appointments. Notes were taken in long-hand and stories were constructed on typewriters! Mondays and Tuesdays the Express office—upstairs on Union & Center above today’s Caffe Bene—pulsed.

Sales people stomped, screamed and cajoled advertisers from desks and phones in the back room, while Gant, Hersh, and I pounded keyboards, exchanged synonyms, read our best lines out loud, laughed ourselves senseless, and finally gave our stories to Buz to edit. The ads that paid for those pages came from other boomers who owned emerging shops like Lily Wong’s, China Szechuan, Cedar Street Cafe, Gayle’s Bakery, Bookshop Santa Cruz, and KUSP.

Channeling his inner Freud, Buz got the best out of us by playing favorites. Very selectively. One week he would praise Bratton to the skies, while Hersh and I groaned. But we worked harder that week. Then Michael Gant was chosen to be the golden boy. Or freelancer Geoffrey Dunn. Or Dave Barber. Or Rob Breszny. Everybody was Buz’s favorite, sooner or later.

We thought it would never end. We lived with our hair on fire. And best of all, it was renewable each and every week! This moment was the one we wanted to live eternally, a hedge against growing up and growing cynical.

Two things that Buz Bezore never did. CHRISTINA WATERS

Comments (8)Add Comment
School buddies…
written by Michael Gibson, May 07, 2014
Buzzy's behavior makes perfect sense in the context of all of the losses he faced…father, brother, son, wife and his connection with his mom and step-dad. I remember him telling us how his dad passed away after contracting a rare tropical disease doing WWII. We never questioned him about it but I find it interesting that he needed to rewrite his dads legacy at such a young age.

Buzzy loved to laugh at his jokes and benign pranks, frequently at the expense of others. We all would roll our eyes, consider the source and move on. We knew him. Others were not so forgiving and wanted to rearrange his nose on many occasions.

He and I searched everywhere for Vickie. We spent hours and hours, combing the Santa Cruz "outback", quiet, saddened, dreading what we knew, hoping we were wrong. I saw him again shortly after the funeral and a couple of moments thereafter. He literally took himself away from the valley, and from what I've read, became an indelible part of the Santa Cruz scene.

I am not sure if anyone really knew Buzzy. He was certainly unpredictable and threw caution to the wind. It seems he spent most of his adult life chasing his demons, avoiding intimacy and being the consummate "kidder", rebel rouser and "jokester genius."

Goodbye my friend…




I'll miss you Buz
written by Barry Green, April 18, 2014
There will never be another like him. Nor should there be. Buz- you were a mad genius and I enjoyed (almost) all the time we spent together over the years at the Weekly and then founding the Express.
Buz had the most iconic smile - part devilish, part angelic and this special twinkle in his eyes.
I cried last night when I found out about your passing then pulled out the bound copies of the first year editions of the Express and read them once again.
Those were special times, with special people on a mission to create something great. I think we did that, but only with Buz with his editorial vision, drive and skill plus lots of beers and other items could that have occurred. You were the beacon and captain of the ship but the demons always surrounded you.
Have some peace my friend -and thank you for being you.
Still Wondering
written by Jim Jones, April 16, 2014
I enjoyed both fine articles on Buz Bezore. But I'm still not sure who the guy is. A fearless and gifted editor, yet unable to pace himself. A man of great vision and achievement who undermined himself, and could not play well with others unless he was on top.

A hustler? A dreamer? A crusader? A teacher? Not entirely rational? Maybe the guy's too big to sum up?
I hated playing softball in the Sunday morning media league
written by Carter Young, April 11, 2014
Geoff, Christina:

Beautiful pieces! Those really were the days of wine and whatever, and Buz was our Prince Hal and Falstaff combined.
...
written by Eric Bloom, April 11, 2014
Geoff & Christina,
Great stories about Buz. Belushi reference reminds me of the end of Animal House. Just plug Buz in, dressed as a pirate, grabbing the girl, stealing the convertible and riding off into the sunset.
Hair on fire
written by Tai Moses, April 10, 2014
Thank you, Christina and Geoff, these are two great pieces of writing that capture the irrepressible essence of Buz and the unruly spirit of a Santa Cruz that exists now only in our most cherished memories. Speaking for all of us post-Express Santa Cruz writers—we all crawled out from under Buz Bezore's baseball cap. (h/t Dostoevsky)
writer
written by risa d., April 10, 2014
Geoffrey, beautiful article, beautiful writing. Filled with heart and soul of Buz, the times and everyone in his life. Thank you for giving us this memory. Life is precious. Everyone's. Love, Risa
I was lucky to have worked for Buzz at the Indepdent
written by Bradley Kava, April 09, 2014
Buzz was my first editor and I'll always treasure what he taught. He was as tough and demanding a wordsmith as I ever had in a 30-year career and I carried his teachings through all of it.

He wrote me a hand-written note when he liked a story I wrote for the Mercury News and it was as valuable to me as a diploma.

I always remember one thing he said: Trying to get at the truth was like tap dancing on the moon.

Miss ya Buzz

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Mercury Enters Libra

It’s the week of Burning Man, the temporary, intentional, alternative, art-filled community on the playas of Nevada. Mercury, messenger of the Sun, enters Libra this week. Libra is the equalizer, a sign of balance and right human relations. Sometimes with Libra, we can be indecisive and confused while learning how to make balanced and right choices. Sometimes to keep the peace we communicate only what others want to hear. Eventually, we learn how to speak from the heart.

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Banter and Spark

Engaging actors, wry script distinguish lightweight rom-com ‘What If’

 

Back to Silicon Beach

With a new wave of startups, the future of Santa Cruz tech looks more promising than ever
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Himalayan Kitchen

Chef Purna Regmi on the secrets of Nepalese cooking

 

What’s the nicest thing you’ve done for someone this week?

Germany  |  Beekeeper

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

A Cab To Be Coveted

I first tasted Villa del Monte’s 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon at a Fourth of July party, where the hosts had bought a case of it because they love it and didn’t want to run out. It’s one of those wines that will grab you—in the best way—with its full body and rich fruit characteristics.