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Yesterday I walked on the Imperial Beach set of HBO’s newest pilot, “John from Cincinnati,” and observed as former Beverly Hills 90210 star Luke Perry launched filming along with Luis Guzmán and Willie Garson (“Sex in the City”). The pilot is the product of the minds and pens of creative genius producer-writer-director David Milch and Kem Nunn, one of California’s top novelists.

Steve Hawk, a former Surfer Magazine editor also helped ink the script that is based on several different story concepts one of which comes from Dibi Fletcher, matriarch of the legendary Fletcher surfing clan from San Clemente. The Fletchers includes family patriarch and surfer icon Herbie and aerialist surfer sons Nathan and Christian.

Janine Zuniga in this morning’s San Diego Union-Tribune captured the essence of why Imperial Beach provides such an ideal location for the show and why my hometown, thank god, does not in anyway or shape resemble Solana Beach.

This small but scrappy seaside town has been chosen as the location for David Milch’s latest HBO creation – a quirky new surf drama titled “John From Cincinnati.”

The city has been the site for several film productions, most recently “Lords of Dogtown,” shot during summer 2004. A few years ago, a couple of episodes of “JAG” were filmed in Imperial Beach, city officials said.

Some said Imperial Beach was ideal for “Dogtown,” a gritty drama about skateboarders in the 1970s, because Imperial Beach once resembled the setting of the film – a dilapidated Venice Beach pier circa-1970.

Imperial Beach, with its small-town feel and location at the most southwesterly point in the United States, still has an edge about it. Honey, you can cut the edge in IB with a knife. Whether it is the specter of the ultra-skinny, pony tailed Walking Dude who patrols the streets in his black cowboy boots, skintight peg-leg Levis, black tank top and black cowboy hat, or the ex-bow hunters turned pole fishermen who dream of the days they shot their crossbows from the local pier (with surfers sometimes in their lines of sight),or Crabby Man, the elderly gentlemen with a cigarette dangling from his mouth who doesn’t hide his disgust with me as I cheerfully greet him each morning with my sons after our daily dawn patrol – IB has plenty of attitude.

And just watch as the edge and attitude in Imperial Beach, with this upcoming mayoral and council election, come roaring back as Brian Bilbray the biker turned lifeguard turned surfer turned radical community activist turned Hobie Cat sailor turned mayor turned North County Gingrinchian Republican, orchestrates from behind the scenes so he can send us hurling back to the future to embrace our 70s biker Dogtown past.

(Disclosure: I swear do not have a “vendetta” against Brian as he believes I do. Why would I still hold a grudge against an elected official who in 1980 used a bulldozer to dump rocks and sewage on me and my high school friends Tim Hannan and Jack Burns, and his own lifelong friend and childhood playmate Benny Holt? How could I stay angry as I remember how Brian stood by and watched as thugs assaulted me before he dumped the rocks or tried to have me and other activists arrested for cleaning up the Tijuana Estuary. I’ve actually forgotten how Brian attempted to destroy the entire Imperial Beach coastline during his tenure as mayor in IB. That was just life in Deadwood, I mean Dogtown back in the good old days).

So, Viva HBO. I can’t wait to watch IB on TV. It will be less painful than reality. Where are Ghost Rider or Luke Cage when you need them?


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