Although stars and celebrities have lived in Malibu since the 1930s, the town’s remoteness has tended to insulate it from the commercial Hollywood tourism business. Until recently, that is.
When StarLine Tours opened a major tour/ticket hub at the Santa Monica Pier two years ago, they were finally close enough to offer a two-hour “Malibu Movie Stars’ Homes” tour. A few of their many competitors have followed suit.
Philip Ferentinos, a director with the StarLine Tours Co., said in a telephone interview, “There has always been a fascination with Malibu. Malibu represents the ultimate California beach celebrity lifestyle.”
The logo-emblazoned, 12-passenger, open-air vans filled with tourists probably had as many Malibu residents looking at them as viceversa when they first appeared in town. Locals on the route now appear resigned to their presence, but many are curious to know where they go and what they say.
A ride-along would answer these burning questions. On this tour there is one man from South Africa, three people from Philadelphia, another from Michigan and two couples from London. One of the Brits wears a glittery souvenir Hollywood sweatshirt. We roll out of Santa Monica and point the van westward.
“We saw Angelina Jolie at Malibu Country Mart yesterday,” gushes the tour guide.
The first stop on the journey is the “Malibu 27 miles of scenic beauty” sign at Tuna Canyon. The guide pulls up next to it in case anyone wants to take a picture, which a few people happily do.
Then we’re moving again, listening on our plug-in headphones as the guide talks about Malibu history. When we pass Moonshadows restaurant he recounts actor Mel Gibson’s 2006 DUI arrest after spending time at the restaurant. He points out the cow statues on the roof next to Moonshadows, then launches into the tale of Duke Kahanamoku—surfer and Duke’s Restaurant namesake.
Several tourists remark that they “couldn’t believe people built their houses right over the water like that” as they eye the beachfront houses along Big Rock.
Finally, the tour reaches its first Malibu celebrity stop—the beachfront homes of Ryan O’Neal, Ozzy Osbourne and David Spade. Although we are on the land side of PCH, the van slows to a crawl on the shoulder across from each house. We search in vain for a trace of movement inside.
Then, a short while later, the moment the tour guide lives for—the possibility of an actual A-list star sighting.
The front door to Charlize Theron’s home is wide open, with the silhouette of a tall woman inside putting something into a box. All of the tourists crane their necks and squint, peering from a difficult vantage point across the highway. But it’s a false alarm: a general consensus is reached that it isn’t her.
Now the group starts to ask questions. “Where’s ‘Two and a Half Men’ shot?” “Where’s the Joan Rivers show made?”
We continue along Carbon Beach, as the guide picks out homes owned by Janet Jackson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Demi Moore/Ashton Kutcher, Courteney Cox/David Arquette and Bruce Willis.
On the approach to Malibu Pier and Surfrider Beach, we learn the Adamson House is “the Taj Mahal of tile.” The waves are flat this day, so as we go by Third Point, there isn’t much surfing to talk about.
Next up: a coffee-themed detour! The van turns onto Cross Creek Road for a glide by Starbucks—apparently a fruitful place for celebrity sightings. Then it’s on to Malibu Colony Plaza and another Starbucks, as well as Coogie’s and the newsstand by Bank of America.
“I saw Cameron Diaz there at the newsstand last week,” the guide confides as we drive past the empty former Granita restaurant.
Having driven to the heart of central Malibu, we’re nearing the end of our journey, and the guide wants to know what the visitors think.
“So, does Malibu look like you thought it would?” the guide asks. “No” is the unanimous response, perhaps revealing a divide between perception and reality.
“I thought it would’ve looked more fancy,” says a man from South Africa. “I was expecting big mansions.”
On Malibu Road, the driver pulls over to show Sting’s and John McEnroe’s residences—that is, glimpses of the second stories that are visible over the Malibu Colony wall and behind a tree branch. The tour then continues down Malibu Road with a dozen more celebrity homes. When we reach Barry Manilow’s pad, a discovery is made: The group points to a Realtor sign in front that reads “Sold.”
“That wasn’t there yesterday,” the tour guide says, making a note to “take it off the list.”
We reach the end of Malibu Road, which on this tour means the end of Malibu. Everyone gets off the bus and walks down to the beach, where “Friends” aficionados can catch a glimpse of Matthew Perry’s house from the front.
Finally, we pile in the van to begin the journey back to Santa Monica, with a brief stop at the gate to Cher’s house across from Puerco Canyon Road.
A note to Malibu celebrities: If you live past Malibu Seafood, you’re safe!