First Person


    The Club

    By Paul Mantee/Special to The Malibu Times

    My first seriously unavailable girlfriend was Jean Porter, the movie star. I was 10. She was heaven. She tap-danced her way into my little heart and huddled in the corner for lo these many years. Till we reunited in real time at Guido’s Malibu.

    Improbable? Well, that’s Guido’s for you.

    The place has been variously described as the Cheers Bar, Base Camp, or Playoff Paradise-depending on your proclivities. My peculiar associates tend to refer to it as The Club.

    Picture a group of unique people with not a great deal in common who eat and drink together every Friday night. The big round table under the television in the bar. It’s understood. Under the T.V. A sub-venue that inspires conversation. How the group came to be is a little murky. Picture the cast: the architect, the producer, the therapist, the jewelry counselor, one fundraiser, two marathon runners, an interior designer and a food snob (because I can’t help myself). Add a dash of bluntness, coyness, shallowness, depth, imagination, naivet, big talk, small talk, simmering sexuality and high-minded curiosity. Hardly your optimists. Visitors welcome. The mean age is 47.3.

    I have often depended on the wisdom of youth.

    The first thing I noticed about Jean Porter was that she remains all bangs and saucy mouth. I also discovered a pair of eyes like warm fudge. In black and white, who knew? Other than the revelations of color, she looks very much as she did in “Betty Co-ed” and “Little Miss Broadway.”

    So generally, what is the Guido’s lure?

    I think it’s the palette of local color that melts my mozzarella. An intriguing mix of artist and attorney. And that’s only the A list. William Saroyan would have kept a cot in the corner.

    The staff is no less picturesque. Guido’s employs one waiter who routinely falls off his roof onto his head twice a year-during spring-cleaning and Christmas decorating. He grows shorter, yet remains supremely pleasant. The back-up bartender got married this summer and the subsequent bash became the event of the social season. I don’t see this happening at The Dume Room. One of the waiters caught me scribbling over my pasta fagiole and asked me: “Are you going to mention me?”

    “No,” I answered.

    “If you do, change my name.”

    So I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Dirk and the remainder of the crew for a job well done. And a steak now and then, medium rare.

    I also depend on the observations of Townies. They get around.

    My friend Roger from Mar Vista noticed that the women in the dining room were, two-to-one, blonde and that their significants were on average 20 years their senior. Roger’s very bright and threatens to work out a cell phone quotient. Something about dividing the number of contraptions into the square root of the real estate population.

    The most enthusiastic insight came from my friend Winthrop, an old college chum, who hails from a small town back east. He blew into the place, scootched up to the bar and dropped 40 years. Hoarsely, he whispered into my ear, “Nipples! A plethora of nipples is what I immediately notice about Malibu that we don’t have back in Andover, Vermont!”

    I hustled him into a good Pinot Grigio and assured him, “My guess is you have just as many per capita in Andover as we do here in Paradise, it’s just that here they are an accessory to the event.”

    I directed Winthrop to Duke’s on Taco Tuesday.

    Jean Porter was beyond gracious. She seemed to get the same kick out of The Club that I did. And she certainly relished her scampi, side of pasta and unassuming California Merlot. What ultimately struck me about Little Miss Broadway was that today I am bigger than her.