Back in Malibu

Without flinching, or asking permission, Smartacus has ordered this $35 bowl of seafood stew.

We are up in Malibu, repository of oversexed superstars, land of high-end rehab centers and buttery seafood harvested from other seas – scallops from Canada, crab from Alaska, shrimp from Mexico, lobster from Honduras.

You look out on the ocean, a pile of risotto and mussels on your spoon, and think: “This is soooooo fresh. Bet it was swimming three weeks ago.”

If nothing else, Malibu is a triumph of industrial refrigeration.

We’re up here to visit the Cher statue, a local landmark, at once an inspiration and cautionary tale to aspiring celebrities: “Give me your tired, your hopeful, your sweet pie-eyed children with delusions of development deals,” reads the plaque. “And we will crush them.”

Think of the masses of people inspired by that passive-aggressive Cher statue. It is a lovely thing, reminiscent of its sister landmark in New York Harbor.

Carved almost entirely of green cheese, the Cher statue features the fangy teeth that were the singer’s trademark back when she was on the cover of Time, and just about every magazine ever.

Looking back, I’m pretty sure Cher was the loveliest vampire I’ve ever seen. She wore crazy collars. She had those marvelous canine teeth.

Just the way she moved set her apart. When she dipped her bony shoulder, and swept the cape of velvet hair behind her ear, you couldn’t help but be a little smitten, even as you knew she might nibble you dry.

The Cher statue in Malibu, an American treasure.

That’s how celebrity vampires work. First they go for our hearts, then our sense of dignity. Pretty certain many celebrities are now vampires. Nicole Kidman for sure. And, for a while, Jamie Lee Curtis.

No judgment. Let he who is without sin…

I once had a notion for a novel called “Celebrity Blood,” about an exclusive blood bank run by vampires. The blood bank features celebrity blood, which has super healing powers and is an aphrodisiac as well.

Naturally, Celebrity Blood becomes all the rage, and wealthy vampires from around the world begin to visit the tasting room, in a rustic farmhouse in east Malibu, up where the horses live.

“We’re big into reds this season,” is the running joke.

The main detective on the case is Johnny Trombone — a mythical man in a mythical place: Los Angeles.

A recovering vampire, Johnny Trombone wrestles with his own demons, while fending off the vampire mafia, which is attempting to corner the market on Celebrity Blood. Big Pharma also wants a piece. As does Amazon.

The book would touch on the notion that good literature, like vampirehood, is one of the only stabs we have at immortality.

Not that this will be good literature. That’ll be the cheeky part. It’ll be lousy literature dressed up like good literature (think Dan Brown).

“Celebrity Blood” will be about family, really, and the lengths we go to hold it together in strange and difficult times.

I know all about that. I have my son Smartacus with me this day. Without flinching, or asking permission, he has ordered a $35 bowl of seafood stew at this Malibu eatery.

But he is happy here. And his happiness is my happiness. It’s so good to get out again.

Afterward, we walk the beach and get tar on our shoes, a Malibu tradition.

Malibu’s famed Point Dume is like a geometry problem. It is all oblique angles, and the land seems to be rusting away before your very eyes.

Barbra Streisand lives over there, and Bob Dylan lives over here (in a house once owned by the great Jim Murray, by the way).

The winds are constant, with a raspy cowboy growl. The misty beaches have a touch of regret about them. On gloomy days, I still half expect to see Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor wander out of the fog in heavy sweaters, both of them half pissed (in the British sense).

To visit Malibu is to cast a vote for the concept of California as a last-gasp American hideaway, overripe and mostly mythic. But still. Malibu is hard evidence that the California dream lives on, even as it crumbles like cornflakes down the sandstone bluffs.

Usually when I come to Malibu, I dine very well at Neptune’s Net, the people’s restaurant, where rich and poor share picnic benches and fried calamari in a motorcycle setting.

For special occasions, I like Geoffrey’s, a roadhouse for the wealthy on the lip of the world, where everything is 50 bucks. Nice joint, Geoffrey’s. The other diners seem ethereal, made of gauze; the air is filled with butterflies.

“Waiter?”

“Yes, sir?

“What’s that butterfly doing in my soup?”

“Surfing, sir.”

For now, we’re at this restaurant called Sunset – not as fancy as Nobu or Geoffrey’s, yet pricey enough for me. Directions: Take a left, then another left, and you’re there. So easy.

Wanna get high? I’d recommend the risotto, thick and rich (though it should really come with a fistful of crusty bread).

The fish tacos are the best I’ve ever had, and you can snag an Amstel Light for $6.50, which is not a bad price. In Malibu, you can barely buy a gallon of gas for that.

Here at Sunset, where there is no actual wall between the indoors and the out — or fantasy and the real world — you can stare dreamily out to sea, or at the Chardonnay Moms noshing chopped salads at the next table, and think to yourself:

“Wow, this is all an hour away…an agonizing drive, sure, but an hour away? This is so invigorating.”

Such a place, Malibu. The houses are all mansions. But the butterflies are free.

Got a favorite So Cal eatery? Doesn’t need to be fancy. Let me know, and I might buy you lunch or dinner there, while recommending it to others. Unless the place is really, really amazing, in which case we’re not telling nobody. Meanwhile, Boomer U tee-shirts are still available, though going fast. Order at https://chriserskine.orderpromos.com/.  Also, please consider purchasing  “Lavender in Your Lemonade,” a COVID diary and a way to bookmark these antic times. Thank you for your friendship, patience and support.

9 thoughts on “Back in Malibu

  1. Point Dume as a geometry lesson ! I always thought it was algebraic, as hulking as it is-(i.e.) Doom equals gloom. And then “The cowboy growl of the wind”…I thought I was the only one that heard James Dean still in the wind there, putting his boots up on a table, or bench at a posh eatery (like Sunset ?) and ordering a double shot of their best West Texas lubricant. And all those allusive similes and metaphores, surfing the place, consuming its culture, and carving around it’s wonders with stilleto prose, undressing it’s tanned pretentious and sunset illusions with such knowing and loving hands, deft yet lived-in fingers. Chris, that’s writing. You humble the pen Thanks.

  2. Maybe it’s not too late for Smartacus to attend Pepperdine, my alma mater. Tough place to find time to study. My Malibu back in the late 70’s, early 80’s was a different paradise. We rented a place on the Point Dume bluffs, $300 a month each, down the street from Sean Penn. Paradise Cove (Rockford Files set) was undiscovered. Linda Ronstadt invited us in for coffee after helping sandbag her Colony home form destructive waves. A very quiet small town back then.

  3. Thought I was the only one who didn’t care for Dan Brown and his ridiculous books that people thought were true. He did , once in an interview, say, “It says ‘a novel ‘ on the cover” meaning it was woven out of his imagination, but I have found that people would rather believe a lie than the truth. Anyway, loved you taking us all to Malibu for a few minutes, one of my favorite places is Gladstone’s Malibu, right where Sunset t-bones PCH. Always such a great place to dine on the beach and see old pictures of Malibu , the California Incline, surfers and bathing beauties from a hundred years ago! You and your words take us to such wonderful places!

  4. As a 5 generation Californian I have always avoided the Bu
    Neptune’s net started out as a soft serve ice place and still has great food
    The Bu ?
    Not worth the hassle
    Enjoy Dan Browns novels

  5. A reminder. I always thought Cher’s cute “fangs” were one of the best parts of her look. Kind of disappointed when she had all the ins and outs leveled.

  6. Jongewaard’s, in Long Beach. It’s like time travel to the early 60s, and the desserts and breakfasts are out of this world! (But don’t tell anyone. There’s beginning to be a line,)

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