The company said it created its Malibu tour because of high demand.
By Michael Aushenker / Special to The Malibu Times
Starline Tours, the company known for touring landmarks and celebrity homes throughout Hollywood and Beverly Hills, has added Malibu to its itinerary. Starline has been running a thrice-daily route through Malibu since July 1 as part of its 75th anniversary celebration this year. The tours have alerted safety concerns of some city officials, because of potential traffic issues that could be caused by the buses stopping on the highway.
The “Malibu Stars’ Homes Tour” is being touted in its press materials as “a new way to see more than 40 celebrity homes, movie locations and Pacific Coast Highway’s stunning views. Malibu Beach, where the stars live, stroll, dine and swim.” Starline boasts to be “the oldest and largest sightseeing tour company in Los Angeles … having pioneered the famous Movie Stars’ Homes Tour in 1935.”
Starline’s guided, two-hour tour, departing three times daily from the Santa Monica Pier, travels along Pacific Coast Highway. Guides point out movie locations used in such films as “Planet of the Apes” and “Iron Man,” and the beachfront residences of Leonard DiCaprio, Bruce Willis and Bill Murray.
“When I saw it,” Public Safety Commissioner Susan Tellem told The Malibu Times, “I immediately sent [the information] to Lt. [Tracy] DeMello at Lost Hills [Sheriff’s Station] asking that the deputies keep an eye out and make sure that the buses do not disrupt traffic, slowing or stopping on PCH to show passengers some homes. This is a major state highway, not some quiet side street in Beverly Hills. The good thing is that many celebrity homes in Malibu are not directly on the highway, but buses will probably still slow even if they can only see bushes or gates.”
Although Malibu has been deluged with paparazzi, Tellem does not see this tour as much of a threat to the privacy of celebrities.
“The paps know where the celebrities live and, half the time, the buses probably get the addresses wrong anyway,” she said.
Rather, it’s the average resident she’s concerned about. She wonders if the tour could become “a major aggravation to homeowners.”
Philip Ferentinos, director of marketing and public relations for Starline, told the Times that his company offers a calm, organized tour that is respectful to resident and celebrity alike, and offers the antidote to people getting “bad maps and wandering the streets, [and] driving badly.” He stressed that Starline “strikes that balance between tourism and not wanting to be a public nuisance.” Alluding to the David Geffen public-beach access issue from years back, he said, chuckling, “Even though we had the right [to visit the beach], we did resist that temptation.”
Furthermore, the tour keeps a healthy distance from stars’ homes and small streets.
“We don’t stop at the shops,” Ferentinos said. “We’re not trying to intrude on [celebrities’] privacy. We’re using public roads and pointing out to the back end of their houses.”
Ferentinos said that riders do not leave the bus except for two points: an observation point where passengers can “dip their toe into the Pacific Ocean,” and a public park near Pepperdine University.
Ultimately, he added, “What they love about the tour are the lovely views from our open-top van.”
Tellem wondered whether such tours would add to the congestion and pollution.
“Unless they are green powered, I expect increased pollution, especially when they stop and let the motor run,” she said. “I guarantee you that buses on narrow canyons and roads in Malibu will cause congestion.”
Starline created its Malibu tour because of high demand.
“People have a vague idea of this great, iconic place and the Malibu lifestyle, but they don’t know what it means,” Ferentinos said.
That said, he insisted Malibu’s popularity pales compared to Starline’s other routes: “It will never be like the Beverly Hills tour.”
As for noise and pollution, Ferentinos said that the Malibu tour is conducted via headsets, so as not to project across blaring loudspeakers, and it eschews double-decker buses for small 13-seaters.
Thus far, Ferentinos’ claim that the tour has not raised any eyebrows appears to be accurate.
“I have not received any complaints of any kind,” said City Manager Jim Thorsen.
City Attorney Christi Hogin wasn’t even aware of the tour.
“Whatever it is, they must be doing it quietly,” she said. “I haven’t heard any stir yet.”
Tellem does offer one solution should Starline’s buses invade Malibu’s residential streets.
“Several of us have our water balloons and turtle-poop slingshots ready,” she said with a smile.