“Party On, Dudes!”
by Kim Devore
In loving memory of Kim, we are republishing the column she wrote, celebrating her 10th anniversary as a staff writer for The Malibu Times on Nov. 16, 2006. Kim looked back at the wild Malibu of the ’60s and ’70s. Which was an an era of “anything goes,” from beach blanket bingo to love beads to bongs.
In the 60 years that The Malibu Times has been the city’s newspaper of record, locals of every stripe have had something to celebrate; the end of WW II, the Elvis era, the Woodstock nation, the AMC Pacer, the Reagan revolution, the baby boom presidency of Bill Clinton.
But many long times say the beachside community was at its mind-blowing best during the ’60s and ’70s. You can just ask local realtor Jim Rapf, or you can at least try. “I was there,” he says of Malibu’s decadent, free-wheeling days, “but I’m not sure I remember it.”
Actually, Rapf is a fountain of knowledge on local lore. His family has been in Malibu since the 1920s. He spent weekends at the family beach house and move here on a permanent basis in 1956. “When I was a kid I’d spend a lot of time in Serra Retreat or Surfrider or fishing on the pier,” he recalls. “It was different, all open fields back then.”
When it was time to refuel, Rapf and his pals headed out to the Malibu Inn for ice cream or Neenie’s Famous Weenies (now Gladstone’s) for a famous Neenie weenie.
Suddenly the ’60s were in full swing. Rapf found himself living with a bunch of guys on Topanga Beach, and from that moment on life became a full-on 24-hour fiesta.
“It was wild,” he recalls. “Everybody was living on the beach in these rentals. I had 11 other guys living with me and everyone had converted garages.”
His groovy gang and nearby neighbors shared common goals, hopes and dreams; most having to do with getting babes and getting buzzed.
“We had a party for every occasion,” he says. “Daylight Savings Day, Arbor Day, Memorial Day, any reason we could think of to party.” And they had no problem persuading other to join in the festivities. “On Sunday we’d sit on the roof with a keg of beer, play Credence Clearwater and the girls would just pull over. Then the hippies would come down from the canyon and smoke pot and drop LSD.”
Lloyd Ahern was of Rapf’s party pals. “You had the surf culture and the music culture and the drug culture and it all merged at the beach,” Ahern recalls. “Everybody had at least two dogs and we all just walked in and out of each other’s houses.”
Ahern says some of their trippy-hippy happenings were legendary. “one time we had this band on the roof. Everyone was in the water. We must have had 400 people on the beach and half of them were naked.”
After a hard day of merry making with buddies like Steve Spina and Beer Can Larry, Rapf would pop across the street to unwind at The Raft (now the Reel Inn). From time to time, he’d venture to Chez Jay in Santa Monica. And when he did, he took the party on the road.
“No one thought twice about driving around with a beer in their hand,” Rapf says. “The back seat of my VW was full of cans.”
There were plenty of other Malibu party places like Ted’s Rancho, Don the Beachcomber and Tonga Lei. Moonshadows was called the Big Rock Beach Restaurant, there was a gay establishment called La Mer. And Alice’s was known as The Sportsman’s Club. The Sea Lion (now Duke’s) was famous for seals in the parking lot. The Albatross next door was infamous for offering not-on-the-menu items in the upstairs bedrooms.
For Pete McKellar, there was nothing like The Cottage. “That was the place,” he says, “sawdust on the floors, pot-belly, pool table in the back, all the people of the day. You’re talking a lot of miscreants when you’re talking old Malibu. It was more fun than you could ever imagine.”
But nothing and no one managed to keep up with life on Topanga Beach. Like all good things, the high times had to come to an end. In 1979, the State seized control of the beach, knocked down the homes and put up a parking lot.
No one’s exactly sure what happened to Beer Can Larry, but Rapf, Ahern, Spina and others went on to successful careers and put their wild days behind them.
Today, Rapf can’t drive by the old neighborhood without recalling some kind of outrageous adventure. But more than nostalgia, he feels a sense of relief. “We all thought we were immortal back then,” he says, reflecting on his far out follies. “I feel lucky I survived.”
Ahern remembers the Purple Haze daze a bit more fondly: “Everything was new back then. Everyone was so free. It was Camelot, just a magic moment in time.”
The article was originally published on Nov. 16, 2006.