IT WAS down to that astounding home he’s fashioned, down in old Santa Monica canyon that I went to meet Carrillo. His ancestors used to own the whole southern end of California. Time and fate took it away from them. But now Leo has bought back ten acres of it, and he’s built a house that’s three years old and looks and feels a hundred! Into it, he’s crammed the sight and feel of life as it was lived here a century ago. That’s one spot where his sentimentalism runs riot. The tradition of old Spanish California is his fetish. “Might as well dynamite Plymouth Rock,” he mutters, “as forget California’s traditions!”
He exults in that house. His own hands pushed the plaster around, laid the home-made bricks. “Built it myself,” he glories, “and tried to give it the savour of the things my forefathers had.” Architects call it a crazy house. “Can’t put it in blueprints a-tall!” they complain; “all y’c’n do with a house like that is build it!” And love it, Leo adds. There’s a fence all around his ten acres, but the gates are never closed. There’s no door-bell to his house; they didn’t have ’em in old California. When I drove in, Carrillo’s voice was booming laughter from an upstairs room with a veranda that climbed down to the patio. I mounted and found myself walking into his bedroom. He was deep in a big chair, with not a thing on but a grimy beret, an ancient pair of trunks and a pair of canvas sneakers. His body was nut brown, because he roams like that, all over his domain when he’s not working. Three neighbours were there with him, sprawled on his bed, his chairs. Folks drop in What Life Has Taught Leo Carrillo on him all the time, unannounced. Friends, neighbours, utter strangers. You’re as likely to see a banker from New York or a tourist from Iowa wandering about the place. Leo doesn’t mind; he likes it. Hospitality —old California tradition. Except when they steal souvenirs from his house and run up long-distance bills on his phone. There was the time at a party when a stranger, but a guest, asked if he might use the phone. “Sure,” said Leo, and showed him a private booth. There was a ninety-seven dollar charge on Leo’s next phone bill for the New York call that the man had put in. “A lousy trick,” commented a Hollywoodian who heard the tale, “No—I don’t think a man can be a louse. When he seems to be, it’s only that he’s sick inside, sort of.” But, the next party Leo gave, he had the phone company disconnect his number until the party was over! “Y^TELL, anyway, as I was saying, * * there were these three friends there when I walked in, and Leo as telling a story about a souse. It seems the souse went on the wagon and was pouring away all his liquor. But in farewell, he took a goodbye drink from ch bottle. Well, Leo was acting it all out, and by the time the yarn was over, all of us were laughing like idiots, because Leo’s as good an actor off the screen as he is on. Though he can portray a drunkard perfectly, the most he, himself, drinks is a glass or two of wine with his meals. He doesn’t smoke either, and yet there’s always cigars, cigarettes, even pipe tobacco for his guests. “I’m glad you came,” Leo yelled to me when the story was over. “Come and see the place.” He waved adios to his friends, and off we went. Down into the patio, we went. Huge hand-shaped bricks created a towering fireplace. Walls were of aged plaster,—time-worn beams. “How old do you think it is?” he crowed.”Looks a hundred,” I admitted. “Three years!” he grinned. “Look at the crooked bricks. Had some Swedish bricklayers, with square minds. They wanted to lay ’em mathematically straight. ‘You bane make das house all screwy,’ they told me when I pushed the bricks around. The plasterers called me names when I’d come along to their nice straight edges and push the plaster around with the heels of my hand till it’s like that!” He showed the doorways, the arches, irregular, rough, lumpy, mad—and beautiful. “That’s the way my fathers’ fathers had it. That’s the way I wanted it. My house is my personality, and the only way I could
TJE GRINNED at a brown-streaked, A * artificial, dirt-caked doorway. “Looks like a li’l Mexican kid had rubbed himself all over that trying to learn to walk, huh?” he grinned. “I had ’em dirty it up so it’d look that way.” And Leo laughed. A calf’s tail served as a door-pull. “They didn’t have door-knobs in those days,” he said. We stepped into a living room that sprawled like a lazy wench. And the room was mad with color. Great divans ; chairs of unborn calves’ skin ; huge hand-hewn tables; rawhide thongs, instead of nails, holding in place overhead beams of eucalyptus, cut whole from the trunk of the tree. Logs smoldered in a gigantic fireplace. Things, things, things everywhere—and all redolent of old California. I noticed names over the windows, doors — “Octavio,” “Eulogio,” “Atala”—there was a small red cross after that last one. “Adela,” “Elisa,” “Carlos” —these too had crosses. “My brothers and sisters,” said Leo, and his face showed pride and worship. “Eulogio—he’s in New York; chief engineer for the Rockefellers; started here with a shovel; I called him Jack. The crosses?—those are the ones who have gone on. It’s an old family custom to have their names over each portal—it helps keep them with us, living with us, even after they’ve gone.” Leo spoke sadly. There were other scores of things that breathed of days long since gone. And yet, by some miracle of arrangement, no air of a museum. It was a home, that was lived in and loved. That was all. And enough! He talked of love. “When a man ceases to think of love, he ceases to be interesting.” Love means, to Carrillo, love for mankind. He’s famous for his free gift of himself and his talents and his time to any and every worthy benefit that asks. “I feel it my duty and my privilege,” he stated, “to give of what talent or unique ability God has endowed me to those less fortunate.” He talked of his home, his philosophy —”There’s only one aristocracy —that’s not the aristocracy of birth I don’t lean on dead kin.” Bees hummed; water trickled plangent; the sun caressed. “People who count aren’t measured in wealth or family but in what they are and have done — their station doesn’t matter—the only aristocracy is the aristocracy of brains” A little later, I returned to Hollywood and telephones and street-cars and typewriters and 1935. Leo went fishing:
Leo Carrillo State Park has 1.5 miles of beach for swimming, surfing, windsurfing, surf fishing and beachcombing. The beach also has tide pools, coastal caves and reefs for exploring. Giant sycamores shade the main campgrounds. The park also features back-country hiking.
Nature walks and campfire programs are offered and a small Visitor Centre has interpretive displays. During the summer, children’s programs are available.
The park was named after Leo Carrillo (1880-1961), actor, preservationist and conservationist. Leo Carrillo served on the California Beach and Parks commission for eighteen years, and was instrumental in the state’s acquisition of the Hearst property at San Simeon. He was related by blood and marriage to a long line of distinguished original Californians. Leo’s greatest fame came from his portrayal of Pancho, the sidekick to Duncan Renaldo’s Cisco Kid, an early 1950s TV series.