Life Cycles: Artist Steve Shriver took a tumble, and it’s an arduous climb back up

Steve Shriver with his work shown at Zask Gallery in 2009, part of a series in honor of the death of his best friend in a surfing accident. Photo courtesy of Peggy Zask
Steve Shriver with his work shown at Zask Gallery in 2009, part of a series in honor of the death of his best friend in a surfing accident. Photo courtesy of Peggy Zask

Steve Shriver with his work shown at Zask Gallery in 2009, part of a series in honor of the death of his best friend in a surfing accident. Photo courtesy of Peggy Zask

We all know what happened to Humpty Dumpty: All the king’s horses and all the king’s men/ couldn’t put Humpty together again. But wait. If he’d been airlifted to the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center maybe we’d have a different rhyme and a different outcome.

Steve Shriver may not forgive me for comparing him to Humpty Dumpty, but around 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 21, Shriver had his own great fall. While bicycling on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu he was struck and run over by a car. And, boy, was he a mess:

“Trauma and bleeding in his head, a bruised heart, a punctured lung, fractured ribs (nine total), left wrist fracture, right hip fracture, pelvis fracture, left femur fracture, scapula fracture, lower broken back, extensive wounds on his body and face from road rash.”

That’s a laundry list of injuries we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemies.

Shriver, however, has something else that Humpty Dumpty didn’t have: over 2,600 Facebook friends and maybe all of them true admirers as well. Proof of that is in the good start and progress of his GoFundMe page, initiated right after the accident by Edie Pratt. It doesn’t cost anyone a red cent to be severely injured, but it sure costs a pretty penny to recover.


Outdoors and indoors

Steve Shriver is a remarkable man. “Although surfing, biking, and skateboarding are his passions,” Judith Herman wrote in a 2011 Peninsula People story, “he spends much of his time indoors painting Rococo murals worthy of a European palace on the ceilings of a historic Los Angeles mansion.”

She’s referring to the Heinsbergen house in Pacific Palisades, one of many mural projects undertaken by Shriver over the years. In addition to other private commissions, he also created work for Caesar’s Palace and Harrah’s Las Vegas Hotel and Casino. In February, 2014 his mural depicting a century of bathing beauties was unveiled on the west side of 500 Pier Avenue in Hermosa Beach, the fourth of to-date five murals in a projected goal of ten, each of them a nod and a tribute to Hermosa Beach history.

In addition to having exhibited at the Torrance Art Museum and the Palos Verdes Art Center, Shriver (a long-time resident of Portuguese Bend) is on the board of South Bay Contemporary and is a member of the Institute for Classical Architecture and Art, the Professional Decorative Painters Association, and the International Decorative Artisans League.

Oh, and he’s an accomplished musician with his own group. Did I say that Shriver is a remarkable man? Perhaps I meant Renaissance man.

At the public unveiling of Steve Shriver’s mural for the City of Hermosa Beach, Feb. 21, 2014. Shriver is the one with the goatee. Photo Marc Spivey

At the public unveiling of Steve Shriver’s mural for the City of Hermosa Beach, Feb. 21, 2014. Shriver is the one with the goatee. Photo Marc Spivey

The patching-up begins

The medical situation was at first touch-and-go. Right off the bat, Shriver underwent six hours of surgery, and that was just the warm-up toss, so to speak. He’s been sedated and medicated in an effort to ensure he’s as comfortable as possible. His wife, Marianne, has been giving us progress reports, and so far they’re all pointing in the right direction.

On Saturday morning she shared this one: “Steve’s surgery to repair his hip on Thursday went well. Friday morning they irradiated his hip, one dose of radiation to prevent the growth of bone spurs as he heals. They are starting to wean him off the ventilator as of Friday, yesterday, and he is tolerating it. The tube monitoring brain pressure was removed. They remove stuff the second he might not need it to prevent infection. He has struggled with a fever and is being given antibiotics. Steve has been trying to wake up, opening his eyes. He still needs to be very medicated for pain. They have a torso brace waiting in the room for his lumbar fracture for when he moves more.”

Later on Saturday the news was even better: Steve is awake and smiling. Wiped out and medicated for pain but sitting up in bed. Can’t talk much, has said a few things, but he’s definitely back.” And, she added, “It feels miraculous to me.”

Steve Shriver, 2015. Photo by Heidi Zilmer

Steve Shriver, 2015. Photo by Heidi Zilmer

Shriver’s parents had visited him at the hospital for the first time just the day before. Her son was groggy, Jean Shriver said on Saturday afternoon, and she couldn’t be positive that he’d recognized her and her husband, Charlie. But she’d learned only a short while before we spoke that, when asked the next day, “Did you know your parents were here yesterday?” Steve had said yes.

Conveying that bit of important information, Jean Shriver had really brightened up. After all, and excuse the colorful analogy, if someone dear to you had been tackled on the football field by King Kong you’d be worried about full cognitive recovery among everything else. Jean Shriver, a published author, mentioned that Steve first began reading when he was three. You don’t want a brain like that to go haywire, and so, knock on wood, Steve is and will be “all there” when he finally comes home.

Sunday brought more news. “Steve’s out of ICU and in an almost regular room,” Marianne wrote in an email. “Rough, arduous day. Got a lot done with many hurdles ahead.”

Earlier, she’d praised the facility at UCLA. “Everyone who has cared for him along the way has been extraordinary. I’d like that known.”

Marshall Perkins, a longtime friend of Steve Shriver’s and a fellow cyclist, said there were three people at the scene of the accident who should be acknowledged: Bob Spalding, Craig Leeuwenburgh, and Renée Fenstermacher.


Patience on the pavement

Precisely what led to the accident that morning on Pacific Coast Highway is still open to debate. Apparently the motorist who collided with Shriver feels that he or she wasn’t at fault. But let’s put the finger-pointing aside for the moment. Anyone who has traveled on PCH north of Santa Monica knows that it is a busy stretch of highway with lots of curves. It’s potentially dangerous for everyone, and at the time the seven cyclists were apparently peddling through a construction zone.

Which really means that extra attention needs to be paid by anyone behind a steering wheel or behind handlebars.

In an email and by phone, Marshall Perkins noted that the cards are always stacked against the rider on two wheels: “Cyclists are fragile, we are like crystal, inches and milliseconds determine if we are shattered all over a roadway or get back home happy that we had a great ride. A 4,000 lb. vehicle traveling at 45 m.p.h is a massive amount of destructive force. We would have a much better chance of survival getting shot point blank with a 9mm pistol.

“We are not militants,” he makes clear; “we are just regular folks who found our people, our community, our true friends on our bikes. I met Steve and most of my dearest friends on the bike. The road is paid for by us all and it is meant to be shared equally; cyclists have cars, jobs, families and pay taxes. We all have the same desire to live and live freely, to share our lives with those we care about. All we ask is that you look at us as human beings and not an extension of the metal, carbon and rubber we are riding on.”

With Shriver’s accident, Perkins has now told his family that he will no longer ride his bicycle on that stretch of road. “I have made my last ride on PCH; I owe that to my wife, my family and my friends.”

Hospital and rehabilitation costs will be high. “I have not been a Facebook person like Steve,” Marianne says, “but from the bits that people have read to me, I perceive an amazing response of support.” Looking over the GoFundMe page, she admits that she has been tearfully overwhelmed. “People are so generous and caring. It’s true that we will need money. If we do have a surplus, I’d like to have a fund for injured cyclists.”

Steve Shriver in front of his Hermosa Beach mural, 2014

Steve Shriver in front of his Hermosa Beach mural, 2014. Photo by Marc Spivey

To cycle another day

Peggy Zask, and her husband, Ben, have been neighbors with Steve and Marianne for over 20 years. “We carpooled our kids to school, had parties and events together, shared family troubles and successes.”

Peggy has had a somewhat nomadic art gallery for years, initially as Zask Gallery and now South Bay Contemporary. She mentions life-drawing workshops that she and Steve attended together at Angel’s Gate, and that both of them served on the same board for the San Pedro Waterfront Arts District. Furthermore, Peggy adds, “Steve helped build and decorate our gallery in Golden Cove, and participated in a number of shows for Zask Gallery and SBC.”

In fact, South Bay Contemporary held a fundraising gala at the Shriver home last Saturday, a large event planned well in advance of Steve’s accident. Suddenly there was a great deal of concern, whether to cancel it or move it elsewhere, but Jean Shriver, when asked about this, insisted that the event be held as planned. She acknowledged Peggy’s hard work and devotion to the arts, as many others do (or should do) throughout the South Bay. Peggy is also donating a portion of the gala proceeds towards Steve’s recovery.

This is admittedly an incomplete story, with an outcome still uncertain for so many people. Not only is it a reminder that life can turn on a dime, but that we have a widely-admired artist, athlete, and family man hospitalized with severe injuries, who may not be able to hold a paintbrush for quite some time. However, people are pulling for him. “I feel that everyone’s prayers and healing intentions are snowballing,” Marianne wrote the other day. “I need every bit of that support.”

As Marshall Perkins aptly phrased it, “We hope Steve’s tragic accident helps a few people view us differently. I really miss my best friend and want him back.”

Edie Pratt set up a GoFundMe page for Steve Shriver so that Marianne could focus on Steve’s recovery and not the mounting bills. “The success of GoFundMe is based on the sense of community, compassion, and how many eyes see it,” she says. There’s a long road ahead.

The link to Steve Shriver’s GoFundMe page is as follows:


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