Transitions: A Conversation with La Salsa Man

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La Salsa Man is shown as his former persona, Frostie Freeze Soda Jerk, on top of what was then Frostie Freeze on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu. Contributed Photo

By Benjamin Marcus 

With thanks to RoadsideAmerica.com, Zuma Jay, and Scott Tallal

Standing 22-feet tall overlooking Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu since 1960, the Fiberglass Statue Formerly Known as Frostie Freeze Soda Jerk is still standing as La Salsa Man — sombrero, serape, huarache sandals, dressed for service with a plate of Mexican cuisine. Fly on the wall? La Salsa Man has seen and heard it all over the last 60-plus years. He has a lot on his mind and would love to take a load off his feet. Relief may be coming.

Que onda, vato?

Mucho trabajo, poco dinero, como siempre.

Si, la misma. Habla Ingles?

Yeah, I speak English. You kidding? I’m not Mexican, I’m just dressed this way.

Tough gig, standing here watching Malibu change over the years. The traffic …

Yeah, all I see now are electric cars with Soft Top WaveStorm surfboards. What’s up with that?

Change is a constant. Time flies.

You have no idea.

I have questions. Athena wonders if your feet hurt. 

Athena! She’s likable. What’s she up to?

Selling real estate in Las Vegas and here.

Good for Athena, but she’s right about the feet. I would give anything to get off this perch and walk the beach. Dig my toes in the sand. 

La Salsa closed way back in 2015, and you’re still here. To quote the Talking Heads: “Well, how did you get here? And why are you still here?”

This used to be a Frostie Freeze. That was the original gig. I was a soda jerk.

When did you transition — if I can use that now-politically-dangerous word — from soda jerk into bandido server?

Well the years pass by and numbers escape me, but I think it was around 1988, when Frostie Freeze became La Salsa.

A hipster artist guy named Bob “Daddy O” Wade transitioned me. I used to be holding a hamburger, and now that hamburger is on my head for my sombrero and the rest of it for this damned tray I’m holding onto. They took some of my skull and turned it into the bowl of chips.

Like Spicoli: Dude! That’s my skull!!! Ouch.

Oh yeah, this gig has as many flavors of ouch as La Salsa had salsas. My feet. My back. My soul!

So they used part of your skull for the bowl of chips. Swell. What else?

Well Daddy O was clever. He used real used tires to make my huaraches. 

Huarache sandals, too! They should transition you into a surfer.

I’d like that. A surfer facing away from all the exhaust and into the fresh breeze. Looking up toward First Point. I would love to have watched that Hurricane Marie swell. I could hear it and even feel the concussions from waves breaking, and the air was thick with salt. That’s how I know the surf is good.

It’s a shame La Salsa closed in 2015. That place was perfect apres surf.

Forget it, Jake. It’s Malibu.

Well change is a constant here in Malibu.

You have no idea.

Well change is in the wind. There’s a debate about what to do with this space.

Makes sense. Every inch of Malibu is worth its weight in unobtanium. This half-acre is valuable and it’s just been sitting here under my feet accomplishing nothing and earning nothing. 

The word “iconic” bugs me, but that’s what you are. Let’s say they raze this building and put in another luxury hotel or pot dispensary or Mega Mansion. Where would you like to go?

Wow, there’s a question I’ve only been chewing on for a couple of decades. Anywhere? 

Well, Malibu, for starters.

I’d go on top of the new Howdy’s Nuevo. He’s a good dude.

They’ve got new bathrooms at First Point. Maybe up there?

Yeah sure. Give me a nice view from First up to Third. Watch dudes connect. Watch Sarlo shred and Laird shoot the pier and whatshisname burn kids. Put surf cameras in my eyes. Turn me into a solar water heater and storage tank. I don’t care, long as I’m facing the ocean. 

Skylar is head of the Planning Commission now, so you have allies. He said: “It’s got the right zoning, they are looking into making it a motel. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow night (Monday, July 17). That’s pretty much it. The town is changing a little bit with how people are monetizing their commercial properties. People have a right to develop their property within the zoning — we just have to apply the city codes fairly to each project fairly. That’s the crux of this stuff. I worked for the management company about a year ago so I might have to recuse myself from the decision.”

Well one thing that hasn’t changed much in Malibu over 60 years is the number of hotel and motel rooms. 

Another transition?

I worry. Will they dress me up as a bellboy or a room maid or something? The horror, the horror.

Anything to say about the Hollywood strikes? On or off the record? Or got another story tip or feedback? Email Benjamin at thebenmalibu@gmail.com.