My wife and I came to Malibu in 1991 and I quickly established my morning routine: gaze at the ocean, go to County Liquor for the newspapers and schmooze with Pete McKellar. The only problem was that, more often than not, you had to wait your turn to schmooze with Pete. He loved sharing his thoughts with his regulars, which seemed to include everyone in Malibu. We talked politics, theater and movies. And he shared his fabulous back-story. He joined the Army during the Vietnam War and was, amazingly, stationed at a Nike missile base at the top of Las Flores Canyon. During his time keeping watch over the beach and blue Pacific, he fell in love with the place and decided to stay.
During the fires, Pete was a stalwart and, if you needed a hand with anything, you could always count on him. During the last couple of years, I would also run into Pete at the Landmark on the Westside. One afternoon, I was in a large, virtually empty theater when I saw a man in short shorts, circa 1957, with a portable oxygen machine, struggling to make it up to the top row. When the movie was over, I asked Pete why he didn’t take one of the hundreds of available seats along the way and he said, “It’s the best place to see a film.” That to me was the essence of the man: he was determined to do things the way he wanted. It’s a great loss for the community.