LA’s Camelot Beach

So I’m on Santa Monica Beach, “mansplaining” bits of LA trivia to myself.

For instance, someone would mention an interesting historical nugget: “This is where they came up with the idea for the Academy Awards, in the kitchen at this house,” And I’d turn to my date and say, “The Oscars were born here. At this house. In the kitchen.”

“I know,” Suzanne says. “He just said that.”

But that wasn’t enough for me. I find some things so interesting that I need to hear them twice, so it sinks into my brain, which is mostly toast crumbs. In essence, I’m mansplaining them to myself, in the tradition of men talking down to others, like barons to serfs…aka, mansplaining.

It is similar to the way I approached my midterms in college – rephrasing key points, so they would sink in.

“I mansplain a lot of things to myself,” I tell Suzanne. “That’s how I learn.”

And you could see a vellum of disappointment in Suzanne’s eyes, like the first stirring of a beautiful dusk. “Is this dude for real?” she thinks. Stuff of that nature.

Why are we on Santa Monica Beach? First of all, the place is a poem — I’ve written sonnets to it before.

And this evening, Dr. Arthur Verge is giving an informal talk about this interesting stretch, a spit curl of homes and history just north of Santa Monica Pier.

Arthur sometimes calls it Camelot Beach for its JFK connection. It’s where the president darted into the ocean for a swim without the Secret Service knowing, where George Barris took that last photo of Marilyn Monroe in that green towel, where the shorty surfboard was invented.

Bill Beebe took this photo of John F. Kennedy emerging from a swim on this stretch of Santa Monica Beach.

This is where Peter Lawford owned a beach home that became the Western White House. Studio moguls – Goldwyn, Mayer, Thalberg — bought up property after property; William Randolph Hearst’s girlfriend built herself a white clapboard castle the size of Singapore, right where the Annenberg is now.

Now, we are walking the beach at dusk, hearing from Arthur all the lore — the dalliances between sex symbols, the places where the Rat Pack played, where one studio chief installed bullet proof glass in a back window. And now we hear that this is where the Oscars were conceived.

“In the kitchen,” I tell Suzanne. “In what today remains a very fine house.”

“Hmmmm,” she says, “interesting.”

I’m pretty sure I have to leave LA soon – too hot, too sexy. In many ways, it is America’s most-trippy and popular brand. As such, it has become overpriced and overtly trendy. And those noisy motorcycles!

It’s certainly no place to raise a Siberian Husky. Already, she has the mindset of a middle-aged man, the pathos, the self-doubts. Lately, she’s been getting deep into the music of Antônio Carlos Jobim, the father of the bossa nova. You can see it in the sassy way she walks. So, yeah, a very exotic place to be raising a Husky. A weird place period.

Then there are days like this. The soft, 15-watt mornings. The afternoons —  warm, cool, warm, cool —  in a city built atop a cloud. Blossoms. Butterflies. Bosoms. Breakfast burritos.

Who could ask more of a place? On further thought, I’ll probably stay.

Let me gush a bit more about the breakfast burrito, perhaps the No. 1 reason I remain in Los Angeles, after coming here aboard the Mayflower in 1620.

People talk about the restorative powers of meditation, or a little weed, or expensive brandy, but I will stand by the nutritional and spiritual powers of a good breakfast burrito. It’s my antibiotic, my chicken soup, my ketamine.

I started this day with one of those insanely huge breakfast burritos where – halfway through — you need to stand up and take a lap around the table in celebration. Then you sit down again, roll up your sleeves, unbutton your belt and dig into the second half of the burrito. Really, it’s like eating a small town.

Of course, also keeping me here are my kids and the grandbaby, and the New Girl, who shows powers of patience and understanding that are nearly biblical. You don’t find that over every hill.

Finally, of course, there’s are dreamy days on this beach, perhaps LA’s greatest secret, where Monroe fell for a golden-boy lifeguard who might’ve meant more to her than any president, any star. It’s where Winston Churchill once strolled, as did F. Scott Fitzgerald, who as you’ll recall, came to LA to write movies and turned into the sad and wistful character who made him famous in the first place. That’s right, Fitzgerald came to LA and turned into Gatsby.

LA will do that to a guy. Humble him with irony. Enchanting, isn’t it?

No wonder no one leaves.

Email historian Arthur Verge at Meanwhile, we are putting the finishing touches on two events: a Happy Hour Hike and a Gin & Tonic Society backyard bash. Stay tuned for details. No RSVPs accepted yet. Meanwhile II: Mother’s Day beckons. Please go to for books and other gift ideas. Thank you.

12 thoughts on “LA’s Camelot Beach

  1. Thanks for all the great beach trivia. I never knew SM was the location of that famous Camelot photo. And the green towel. You can mansplain whatever you like, Chris. Always entertaining and educational. Please don’t ever leave.

  2. ‘…halfway through – you need to stand up and take a lap…’ Yep, that would be a breakfast burrito California style! LOVE IT, Chris!!

  3. I think this piece is perhaps perfect, and I am reluctant to ever use that word, as it describes what doesn’t seem to exist much these days; and L.A. does.. With Chris and Suzanne easing around in it arm and arm, Mano a Mano. Ever closer, in this city of yawning distances, butter light, and beauty. Doesn’t great beauty in a place make the people there also beautiful somehow? Perhaps it’s the reflected light; or it’s influence on you. All around you things, and people seem to glow—like this piece of writing, luminosity seems a virtue. Spring, L.A., Suzanne…it all seems about love. What a gift, to be allowed to see it all unfold like a breakfast burrito on a Santa Monica morning.

    1. That beach is pretty perfect, that’s for sure. Butter light and the ghosts of good and evil. Every lifeguard tower tells a story. Pure LA magic.

  4. That lifeguard was Tom Zahn. A legend in waterman circles – for far more than dating Marilyn. You can ask Arthur. He’ll tell you.
    And Randy Newman was right.

  5. Remember. Before he got to LA, F. Scott lived in NOLA. In the same house on Prytania as Elaine Jankonus (of John Waters movie fame) and David Bean, writer and editor extraordinaire.

    1. I remember some great parties on Prytania. Forgot or didn’t know of Elaine’s John Waters connection. I just remember Bean bellowing “ELAINE! ELAINE!” any time he got a little drunk.

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