Sunday, September 6, 2020

What was the location of Roddy McDowall's Malibu beach house?

As always, we try to address the most pressing issues of our day: world hunger, global warming--and today, the location of Roddy McDowall's beach house.

To cut to the chase, 23560 Malibu Colony Road.

In 2011, several home movies shot by Roddy McDowall at his beach house in 1965 were uploaded to YouTube. They featured stars like Paul Newman, Natalie Wood, Rock Hudson, Judy Garland, and Julie Andrews.

But searching for the address of the beach house on Google always comes up empty.

So I viewed each of the videos to see if I could figure out where the house was.

First clue, of course, was Malibu. And it was directly on the sand.

Second clue was that several of the home movies included shots from the beach itself. Looking west, a continuation of houses along a curving sandy cove, eventually to a point of land jutting out to the south. No pier in sight, by the way. And no Point Dume in the background.

This narrowed the search to essentially two spots in Malibu where the land curves into a cove, and where there is no pier and no Point Dume.

Possibility #1 would've been on Malibu Road just east of Corral State Beach. However, (1) the video clearly shows houses stretching all the way around the cove, and there are few houses along Corral Beach; (2)  Roddy's house opens directly onto the beach at sand level, while the houses on Malibu Road tend to be up on stilts; (3) one of Roddy's videos shows the road in front of the house; it is flat on the land side, unlike the hillier Malibu Road.

Which leaves possibility #2: Malibu Colony, also known in the old days as Malibu Movie Star Colony. The houses in the distance extend all the way along the cove. The houses are close to the sand. And the land to the north is flat.

So Roddy's house was likely located somewhere along Malibu Colony Road. But where?

The big clue was from a video featuring Julie Andrews and her daughter.


Roddy followed them as they left his house--out onto the street. Looking into the distance, you can't see the end of the road--so it is a ways off.

Julie and her daughter get into their car, which is presumably facing east. She starts the car, then backs up, turns around, and heads west. 

That means the only exit was to the west. Which means they were to the east of the main road into the colony.

The best clue comes in the final seconds of the video--a car turning from the main road--the only intersection in the colony!

So Roddy's beach house was likely one of the first three houses east of that road--since replaced with larger houses.

Looking at the Google map, one can clearly see the brown house that Julie walked in front of on the north side of the street, the white picket fence next to it (which now appears to be brick), and the white garage and short driveway in which she turned around (which look exactly the same).

And now that we know we're close, note the two-story house with the dormer windows a couple houses to the east of the red circle. It looks like it has been there a long time.

Sure enough, now that we're looking for it, we can see it in the background of a few of the 1965 home movies.

In fact, it's the third house down from Roddy's. Which means Roddy's house was the one in the middle of the red circle--23560.

Here's a comparison of photos from Roddy's house in 1965 and from the Zillow listing for the current house:

Note that either rocks have been brought in to prevent beach erosion, or they were completely covered by sand in 1965. In any case, there's a lot less beach now, and a lot more steps to get to it. Which would make a nice transition to a blog post about global warming. But we digress.

Case closed. Now, on to less important topics.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

7 great things that happened today

1. When we went to pick up the rental car, the Hertz agent said, "Is a Mustang convertible okay?"

2. I talked the cop out of a ticket for entering a parking lot through the exit.

3. After I avoided the ticket, instead of being upset, Jo called me a rebel.

4. We went on the same 4-hour hike we went on three years ago for one of our first dates.

5. On the way home, Jo turned on Sirius radio, saw the Elvis station, and said, "Oh, how about this?"

6. On the West Side Highway, around the 95th Street exit, where it says "Bump Ahead," I accelerated and hit it full-speed, and instead of being upset, Jo said, "Weeee!"

7. BBQ takeout.

Thank you, Jo, for accepting me as I am and being a great wife.

Friday, July 3, 2020

All my book news in one post

Library Books Are Not for Eating is out. 

The timing isn't ideal. We're still smack in the middle of a pandemic, with most book stores still closed. (We held a "virtual launch party" via Zoom.) It's a weird year. You may have noticed.

But I'm very proud of it it. It's got a cute storyline, clever rhymes, and great illustrations. And real bite marks in the cover.
Frances Gilbert, the editor, is terrific (an under-appreciated role). And it has a major publisher--Doubleday, an imprint of Penguin Random House. 

I'm biased, but I think it should be a Best Seller. Never say never.
While I was checking its first-week sales on Amazon, I noticed two new books on my author page.

My Seuss books!

I wrote two "Step Into Reading" books featuring Dr. Seuss's Lorax. They're coming out in January 2021. I'm giddy about writing in the voice of the Lorax (which is obviously the voice of Dr. Seuss, my favorite author).


And while I was there I saw the cover of my NEXT Dr. Seuss book:

It's a rhyming nonfiction book for a series called "The Cat in the Hat's Learning Library." I had seen the series at the book store and did some research online, and decided to write a manuscript for them and submit it and see what happens. I picked volcanoes because it seemed like an obvious missing topic in the series.

Is there anything cooler than writing in the voice of the Lorax? Writing in the voice of the Cat in the Hat. It comes out in March 2021.

There. One post. Four books. Efficiency. 

Time to kiss my beautiful wife goodnight and go to bed.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

A few quotes

Each morning my company has a short team-building session during which we each answer a particular question, share a memory, or respond to some similar assignment.

Today's task was to share our favorite quotes. We had everything from the Bible to E.B. White to Winston Churchill to Dr. Seuss to Katy Perry to Jane Austen to Public Enemy.

My choices, on this particular day:

"But it does."
--Galileo, following his apology to the Court of Inquisition for claiming the Earth moves around the Sun

Why I chose it: You can believe anything you want. If you're particularly powerful, you can make others agree with you. But it still doesn't make you right. 

"There are 100 billion galaxies, each with, on average, 100 billion stars."
--Carl Sagan

Why I chose it: The universe is really, really big. We are really, really small. That is good to keep in mind.

"A baby is God's opinion that the world should go on."
--Carl Sandburg

Why I chose it: The universe may be big, and we may be small. But we are not insignificant. This is not a pitch for having more babies. It's just a pitch for deciding for yourself what is significant about your life, what you've brought to the world, and how the world will be better because of it. You may have a different answer than me. But I have mine.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Everything is okay

This is the first picture I ever took of Jo. It was our fifth date, in October 2017.

Our first date was a few weeks earlier, when we met for a drink at Capital Grille near Wall Street. I thought she was pretty and smart. She was very nicely dressed, but with hardly any makeup or jewelry. So I knew she wasn't a phony. 

Our second date was a walk in Greenwich Village, to the fountain at Washington Square Park.

Our third date was a walk in Central Park. She didn't want to go in the rowboats because she didn't know me well enough.

Our fourth "date" was a book reading at Lincoln Center. I casually mentioned that I was the headliner for the event, and she said, "Can I come?" 

"Oh, you want to come?" I said innocently.

Our fifth date was hiking above the Hudson. I held her hand to help her climb up the rocks. That's where this picture was taken. 

A year later, we were married.

I'm writing about this now because I post here less often than I used to. There's no good way to balance intimate thoughts and social media. But what's the value in non-intimate thoughts? 

So I want to share an intimate thought: I want to say that everything is okay. Life is so unpredictable. Not just this weird pandemic. The whole thing. Love. Growing up. Growing older. It's like a screenplay that went off the rails in Act 2 but just keeps going. I don't know if it will have a happy ending. Well, we sort of know how it will end, generally speaking, and from that point of view it's hard for me to be elated about that. But before then. Pick a time. At what point do you say you've had a happy life? Or is it even necessary to say, since you'll probably just jinx it?

I'm madly in love with Jo. I'm so happy I found her.

She took a big leap of faith with me. It was a bigger leap for her than for me, and I'm grateful that she did.

We are hunkered down for now, like everyone else across the country--aside from the angry, maskless people storming their state capitols brandishing firearms and demanding their constitutional right to infect others. I'm happy to be hunkered down with her. I'm happy to be with her and have our lives intertwined, for better and for worse.

So everything is okay. I hope everything is okay with you. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Manzanar orphans

Why were there orphans at an internment camp? It seems absurd, but like all Japanese-Americans living on the west coast during WWII, they were considered a threat to national security.

So 100 orphans, along with 10,000 other Japanese-Americans, were shipped off to the Manzanar internment camp in the middle of the California desert in 1942, where they stayed until the war ended in 1945.

Tonight was a non-writing night, so I spent it reading about the orphanage at Manzanar and looking at photos with tears streaming down my face while my poor wife kept coming over to tell me to stop looking at depressing photos.

There are multiple layers of tragedy here, but there's also love and joy and hope. There are always good humans who find ways to help one another when the world takes a dark turn. I think about how much those people surely meant to these kids who were dealt such a crappy hand--abandoned, unwanted, declared the enemy. Like tiny flowers that bloom in the desert sand, love always finds a way to push forward, bit by bit by bit.