One Book, One City-It’s all about Malibu

The books, “My Fifty Years in Malibu,” by Dorothy Stotsenberg, and “Malibu: California’s Most Famous Seaside Community,” by Marian Hall, with photographs by Nick Rodionoff, are the featured reads for Malibu’s One Book, One City month-long event.

Malibu’s annual One Book, One City event, sponsored by the Malibu Public Library, looks to itself this year. On tap are two books written by Malibu authors about the city and its history.

“My Fifty Years in Malibu,” by Dorothy D. Stotsenberg, and “Malibu: California’s Most Famous Seaside Community,” by Marian Hall, are the featured reads from March 20-April 20, with a special program to take place on March 27 at Pepperdine University’s Payson Library presenting the authors, photographers, and city and library officials.

“Malibu had a long history before we incorporated in ‘91,” library Director Kathleen Sullivan said. “We’ll have a lot of the old stories at our event on the 27th.”

One of Malibu’s elder stateswomen, Stotsenberg first moved to Malibu in 1949 with her husband Ed, where they rented a house on the beach near Big Rock that had survived the 1938 fire that swept through the area.

“At that time, PCH was just two lanes and lights of the trucks coming down from San Francisco would shine into our bedroom window,” Stotsenberg said in an interview with The Malibu Times. “We were always drawn to the water so, in 1952, we bought a house on Carbon Beach. It cost $52,500.”

Stotsenberg recalls that, in the early ‘50s, Malibu people were just “regular folks” who liked the outdoor life and surfing was just getting popular, with heavy wooden surfboards dotting the sand. She said that the biggest difference between Malibu now and then is the population [more than quadrupled since 1950]. It was that incipient growth that led Ed, an accountant, to begin campaigning for the idea of city incorporation, back in 1962.

“The county zoning laws didn’t always fit with the Malibu feeling,” Stotsenberg said. “So Ed started pushing back then to incorporate. But there were too many people who thought that it would raise taxes, so it didn’t pass.”

To write her book, published in 2005 by Pepperdine Press, Stotsenberg researched Malibu’s earliest history and plumbed the boxes of files she had in storage that contained old photos, clippings and research notes from her years of reporting for a local paper. She remembers her friends and the community of the early ’50s as not being glamorous Hollywood millionaires, but “artists, policemen and cowboys-just regular people.”

The Stotsenbergs went on to become some of Pepperdine’s biggest philanthropists, endowing scholarships in track and journalism, and funding programs for the performing arts, including the world renown Parkening International Guitar Competition.

At age 95, Stotsenberg is working on her second book about a passion shared with her late husband-running, which she took up when she was 66 years old. The couple ran in meets all over the world, sponsored by the World Association of Veteran Athletes. Stotsenberg is not sure when it will be ready to go to press.

“I’m still trying to figure out how to get my new computer to print,” she said.

Promoting the beauty of Malibu

Originally from Pasadena, Marian Hall came to Malibu in 1973 to join “all the other beach bums.” Lovers of the beach, Hall and her husband would go hiking in Switzerland on vacations and gradually realized that they had mountainous terrain just as striking right behind their beach house.

“Our mountains are so beautiful, particularly at this time of the year with all the mustard and poppies blooming,” Hall said. “So I came at this book from a nature perspective, to show how beautiful and varied our city is, along with our history and the unique people who live here.”

Hall’s background was in fashion, dating back to her teen years, when she worked as a “tearoom model” for Bullocks Wilshire. Young models would select a full wardrobe from the store’s racks-dress, jewelry, pumps and gloves-to model for the ladies having lunch in the department store tearoom. Hall’s 2002 book, “California Fashion: From the Old West to New Hollywood” (Abrams), covers California sartorial history from 1852 to 2002-about the same era of Malibu’s history covered in her current book.

She had considered focusing “Malibu: California’s Most Famous Seaside Community” on how the film industry had shaped the city. She often watched when scenes from “The Rockford Files” were filmed down at Paradise Cove and remembers the night Blake Edwards premiered his film “S.O.B.” at the Malibu movie theater and tethered a big black bull in front of Malibu Country Mart.

“But I decided my book would really be about the beauty of our little community and the great people who have lived here who have done all sorts of things,” Hall said.

Using stock historical footage-much from the Malibu Historical Society-and enlisting the talents of award-winning Malibu photographer Nick Rodionoff, Hall’s book starts at the southeast end of Malibu and heads north. The photos feature a great deal of aerial shots so “people can see where they live from above” and vintage images of Malibu landmarks.

Many of the photos will be on display at the library from March 20-April 20 and the public is invited to the One Book, One City program taking place at the kickoff event this month, where Mayor Pro Tem Jefferson Wagner will preside.

All month long, Diesel, A Bookstore is calling for both youth and adult entries for a writing contest (fiction and nonfiction) on the Malibu experience. Entries are due at Diesel by April 15.

“We might have more people and more traffic now,” Hall said, “but Malibu is still Malibu.”

The One Book, One City-Malibu kick-off event takes place March 27 at the Payson Library on Pepperdine’s campus at 2 p.m. Entrance is free. More information about the reading event and the essay contest can be obtained by calling Diesel at 310.456.9961 or the Malibu Library at 310.456.6438, or online at