The advent of television was the most amazing invention to the century-old, Parisian-born Malibu resident.
By Melonie Magruder / Special to The Malibu Times
One hundred years ago this month, in Paris, France, Malibu resident Suzanne Getz (nee Branzick) was born. After a century encompassing two world wars, the birth of aviation and space travel, women’s suffrage and women’s lib, and the advent of the great World Wide Web, Getz lives happily, if not always comfortably (there’s a little arthritis) surrounded by an extended family in her home on Broad Beach.
Nattily attired in a flowery summer dress and straw sun hat, her long white hair pulled back into a smooth ponytail, Getz welcomed a visitor last week to her living room overlooking crashing waves and azure skies. She’s lived there for more than 40 years, her “retirement” home with her husband after the children had grown and flown.
Though Getz’s memory is not entirely clear on every detail, she agrees that Malibu has changed a great deal in her tenure here.
“Back then, all the houses were small,” Getz emphasized. “People came here to get away from the city.”
Born Aug. 31, 1910, Getz was a young girl when her mother immigrated to New York in 1920, then to California in 1923. Getz’s father had died and her mother Simone would go on to marry at least four more times. (It’s a long-standing family mystery that no one knows exactly how many times Simone was married.)
In the early ‘20s, Los Angeles was, Getz said, “very provincial.
“We lived with my aunt and uncle in Alhambra, and that place was primitive then,” Getz said. “But we were all excited about living where oranges grew in your yard.”
Getz grew into a comely young woman and worked in sales for cosmetics company MAX Factor and for the Midwest Pipe and Supply Company. Early photos reveal a shapely ingenue, but Getz said she was never tempted to try her luck in the nascent filmmaking industry. Her mother worked as a seamstress and did costuming work, so Getz knew people who worked in the industry. “Gloria Swanson told me not to think about working in pictures,” Getz said. “Better to get married.”
Accordingly, Getz would frequent one of the three dance halls in Ocean Park near Venice.
“There were three dance halls,” Getz said. “And it was an unwritten rule that you knew where to go. One was for older people. One was for us Jewish kids and one was for everybody else. I would go dancing at Le Bons Temps. That’s where I met Ben.”
Ben Getz had emigrated from Poland and, along with his brothers, eventually established a successful auto supply dealership. The young couple married in 1933 and moved to Cheviot Hills where their four children were born. Getz still remembers the address. “It was 2847 Forrester Drive,” Getz said. “We raised the children there.”
They were married until his death in the late ’70s.
The Getzes stayed in Cheviot Hills through the Depression and watched West Los Angeles grow from a “provincial” suburb to the urban extension of today. Sometime in the 1940s, the two immigrants became American citizens. Politically, Getz said she has been a life-long liberal and always took voting as a serious civic responsibility.
Of all the inventions of the 20th century to come along, Getz said television was the most amazing to her. She has early memories of her grandchildren watching cartoons and thought that was a good way to keep them entertained on a Saturday morning.
Nowadays, Getz’s great-granddaughters, Natalie and Jacqueline Edell, and their mother, Elaine, visit her frequently. Another great-grandson is expected any day.
To Natalie Edell, a tennis player who will be attending Northwestern University this fall, who stopped by to catch some rays on the beach last week, Getz said, “You’ve got great legs, kiddo. Ever try the 100-yard dash?”
Getz herself used to run for sport, but never tried surfing (“Jamais!”). She attributes her longevity to eating a great deal of vegetables, never smoking and enjoying “a little wine” with her meals. Granddaughter Elaine Edell, a film producer, said Getz still lives independently.
“My grandmother has a woman come in part-time to help with light cleaning and other things she might need, but she still mostly takes care of herself,” Edell said. “She is remarkable.”
The centenarian also still likes to go out to dinner, frequently treating family members to a meal out at Geoffrey’s or Neptune’s Net or Spruzzo. She keeps up with the local gossip-like the activities of her neighbor (and local philanthropist) John Paul DeJoria.
While she used to play a great deal of bridge, Getz said she now devotes her interests to politics. She is watching the upcoming elections closely. When asked about the California gubernatorial race between Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown, she reflected briefly.
“Jerry Brown? He’s kind of old, isn’t he?” Getz said. “He’s passe.”