Once Upon A Beach
I spent many days in 1976 tanning and swimming on the sun-drenched beaches of Malibu, California. I was 20. It seemed that I lived along the miles and miles of sand and water lining the winding Pacific Coast Highway - my PCH I called it.
I hung out with my friends, Lisa, Cindy, Jana, "Horse", Mike, Billy, and the Smiths, a family well known for being champion volleyball players. Jackson Browne, Tom Selleck and Donny (Johnson) would join us occasionally. We'd meet at beaches along the PCH, starting in Santa Monica, then driving up to Temescal Canyon, Sunset, Topanga, Zuma and Point Zero at county line, a great surf spot. We drove north, windows down, our radios blasting with the summer sounds of The Beach Boys and others. The music was mixed in with the smell of Coppertone, Hawaiian Tropic and fresh ocean air. Unmistakable.
Some of us surfed, some played volleyball, while others lay nestled in the warm sand perfecting our iconic California tans. I liked to body surf, catching cresting mid-sized waves that carried me all the way to the shore. It was as if I flew through water. I remember running back to my beach towel and radio while the sun dried me off.
By 6 pm, we'd pack up and head home to change for the evening. We got together at well-known hangouts such as Father's Office, The Crazy Horse Saloon, Chez Jay's, The Oar House, Gladstone's. Then it was on to Zucky's or Patrick's Road House for breakfast.
Many evenings started at "The Office" or Chez Jay's, one of Dennis Wilson's favorite hangouts. From there, we'd move on to someone's home in Santa Monica Canyon or Malibu Colony. We'd gather on the beach on warm nights with bonfires, music, beer and food. These were my favorites. Snuggling by the fire with your special date, kissing under the moonlight, listening to songs like Don't Worry Baby, God Only Knows, and The Warmth of the Sun.
The Crazy Horse Saloon, once known as the Malibu Inn, was the place to listen to live music and dance. It was rumored to have been run by Neil Young. But I never saw him there. Maybe he was an investor.
One weekend, we were invited to Ricci Martin's house in Malibu. Little did I know that five years later I would be sitting in a limo with his sister Gina and soon to be brother-in-law, Carl Wilson.
My friend Jana, whom he was dating, introduced me to him several months earlier. Ricci was Dean Martin's youngest son, a good singer and musician. He was one of the sweetest, most generous, funny guys you'd ever meet. He was a superb host, always making sure everyone was enjoying themselves. He would often sit at his baby grand piano and entertain us. One of our other friends was Billy Hinsche, of Dino Desi and Billy fame from the mid 60s. Billy also toured with the Beach Boys. We were quite the motley crew, many of us the offspring of Hollywood celebs. Desi Arnaz Jr, a close friend of Ricci and Billy's, also visited from time to time.
We partied through the night. At day break, a few of us girls hit the beach for a long walk and a dip. We paused to rest on the sand. As I was dozing off I heard someone say: "Morning Ladies." It was Rod Stewart taking his morning jog. We had no idea that the house about 50 yards behind us was his. We took so much for granted back then as kids of Hollywood royalty.
During those years, there were no barriers to homes in the Malibu Colony. Once you were in, you had unlimited access to the beach.
It wasn't uncommon to run into the likes of Kevin Kline, Shirley MacLaine, Ron Wood, Linda Ronstadt, Robert Redford, Dyan Cannon and others. Entree to the Colony is far stricter today.
We took it easy on Saturday afternoons, recovering from the night before. We sometimes sunbathed, swam or shopped and planned the upcoming evening. I often wonder where I found the energy to do all this. We were weekend warriors. We worked hard during the week and played hard all weekend. We were young.
Over time, that lifestyle proved unsustainable for many of us. We carried on for several years until enough was enough. Some us married. Some were called away by careers while others continued the harried pace. Sadly, many of those who did were taken down by this hectic and exhausting lifestyle, while others found a more viable and sustainable existence.
My memories of those days and nights came flooding back to me in August of 2016 when I learned that Ricci Martin had suddenly and unexpectedly passed away.
His death was yet another reminder of how short and precious life is. In the end, all we really have are reminiscences of a magical time, that only exist within our memories.