Spider Pool-Bonus

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This article is part of
"The Spider Pool history Project"
Click here for information on Special History Projects
by Rowan

After the flood of new info uncovered this past summer, scholarship has -- much to my disappointment -- slowed down to a crawl. After several weeks of letting the challenge get me down, I decided to take a stab at the archives one more time.

Bingo! I just found a 1949 Washington Post article that despite its brevity provides several new and fascinating peeks at Jack, his house, the Spider Pool, and their fates.

The article reports that Jack McDermott purchased "twelve lots of land" in 1921. This is the first printed mention we have of the year of initial purchase. We know he owned fifteen later.

We find repeated the fact/legend that Jack set up a big piano box to commence home construction, and that he used burros to haul movie sets to the site as part of the add-on process.

There are tales of tiles: "He also made patios, fountains, and entire rooms out of hand-painted French and Italian tiles"; the story is repeated that he obtained thousands of dollars worth free by posing as a tile dealer.

But is there any real NEW information? And since our focus is the Spider Pool itself, is there any mention of IT at all? Many articles about Jack completely ignore the Pool... but not this one: it specifically describes a "huge canopied swimming pool". Canopied? That’s a completely new touch, and can only make us wonder if there was any limit to Jack’s inventiveness (or how much of is has been exaggerated). Was the entire Pool supposedly canopied? The bench area? Jack’s love of the North African theme makes it easy to picture a bedouin tent-camp set up around the Pool’s edge.

But wait, as a latter-day huckster would tell us, there’s more: "By the pool is a weird monument of tile" – a statement that comes closer to specifically describing the spider mural proper than anything we have ever found.

But please remember we are talking about Jack McDermott, so there *has* to be even more: the "monument", the story tells us… was* "topped by a battery of searchlights".

You think I’m making this up by this point!

Now picture "searchlights" (or at least floodlights) atop the Pyramid, above the Spider, which we know was a water feature, the streams glistening down its face in the sharp light of stage arcs. And perched above it all, for it was not topped just by lights, was "a throne for McDermott".

I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried!

And what was Jack overseeing from his illuminated perch? Add this nugget: "Often he furnished female guests with swim suits that dissolved when they hit the water."

We draw two eras closer together with this statement: Even if the Spider Pool was not used for nude photography while Jack owned it, it seems obvious it was used for nude *something* or other. And careful research suggests that people commonly did the same things without clothes on in 1946 that they would be doing without clothes on ten -- or sixty --years later.

As for the house after Jack died, this new article helps with that, too:

"Last year a crank set fire to the $150,000 home." (Our previous info just cited "unspecified causes" for the blaze.) Written two years after the fire, the article tells us that "tourists still climb the steep slope of a secluded hill to gape at [the house’s] wonders".

What was left of the house after the fire "was bought for $7000 by a young electronic genius, Max Brainard. He plans to build a home for his family by the pool and remodel the shamble of movie sets into apartments for artists." Max seems to be the linchpin between the old and new Spider Pool eras. Max, you eccentric rogue… where art thou?!

By the way, as for our happy-go-lucky friend Jack McDermott, the host with the most, "the greatest jokester in Hollywood," you may recall that he died at age 54 in 1946. Well, according to the jaded vernacular of the article, Jack just "got tired of living, curled up on his huge Oriental bed and gulped 28 sleeping pills."

Hence no obits.

I'll keep digging. Jack deserves it.

Rowan

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