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Adventures in Paradise


by Sharon Daley Barovsky, Associated Press

Reprinted from an article originally published in 1991

Less than 20 miles from Los Angeles, where the mountains push their way to the sea, Malibu offers surfers, hikers and sun worshippers a place to escape the smoggy city.  Most, however, are never enlisted in the wars nature regularly wage on this tiny beach community.  Instead, they pack up their picnic lunches, surf boards, beach towels, and leave what they probably consider the dreamy symbol of easy living.

jc cadena photography
jc cadena photography

Critic Rex Reed once described Malibu as a “state of mind.”  In fact, until now, Malibu was only a one-mile wide and 27 mile long zip code with a reputation based mostly on titillating movie magazine-style gossip.  But Malibu is not just a playground for the rich and famous.   It is a strange mixture of “old-timers” who came here before the real setae gold rush, and wealthy newcomers who paid a fortune to live on what has been called the world’s most expensive fault.

In the late 1800s, most of what is now Malibu was known as the Rindge Ranch.  May Rindge, the ranch’s matriarch, fought a never-ending battle against outside encroachment on her land.  She built barricades and stationed armed guards to signal the end of  the line between Santa Monica and what was then the only coastal trail to Santa  Barbara.  But neither yesterday’s gun-toting-cowboys nor today’s fires, slides or tides have kept a special breed from settling and embarking the quixotic land.

The “old timers” reminisce about the more rugged, romantic days when Malibu’s legendary watering holes, The Cottage and The Raft, were in full swing and the likes of Norton Simon, Jerry Brown and Merle Oberon got the same treatment as construction workers, fishermen and teachers.

A former bartender at the Raft remembers when neville Brand, Lee Marvin and Keenan Wynn used to drive their motorcycles through the front door of the Raft and right up to the bar.  And stories about the Malibu judge who dispensed Western – style justice that would be the envy of Roy Bean – ordering a drunken stuntman who threatened his neighbors to ‘be out of Malibu by sundown.”  He was.

But like most places, Malibu has changed.  The Raft’s septic tank overflowed once too often and the state condemned the property.  The old Colony Coffee Shop, where movie stars and mailmen swapped stories over their morning coffee was torn down to make way for a new shopping center.  And today, after a long fight that old May Rindge might have waged, Malibu is no longer a zip code, it’s a city.

One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the small town atmosphere in Malibu.  The National Enquirer would never bother to report that of the 3,000 milkmen left in America, at least two still deliver in malibu” that the Malibu cinema still uses real butter on fresh popcorn, and that there is still barber who charges $10 for a haircut.

Perhaps Malibu Road best symbolizes the Malibu mentality.  In 1938 it was the Roosevelt Highway and the only access throughout Malibu.  In 1941 the highway was rerouted and renamed Pacific Coast Highway and the title abandoned road became just “The Old Road.”  Now, known as West Malibu road, it has been described by one resident as looking “like an overcooked piece of lasagna,”  because in some parts it is sloping over and inch  year, a breathtaking speed in geological terms.  And like much of Malibu, the old road slides, slips, burns, cracks, and washes out with seasonal regularity.


article courtesy of Malibu Coastal Vision & the City of Malibu






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