Seeing Stars: Where the Stars Live

along Pacific Coast Highway, north of Santa Monica.
(310) 706-1310 or (310) 456-9025

If there is one spot in Southern California that might surpass Beverly Hills in the number of movie stars' homes, it is Malibu.

Robert Redford, Mel Gibson, Barbra Streisand, Richard Gere, Sally Field and Whoopi Goldberg (to name just a few) all own homes along the exclusive Malibu shore.


This star-studded coastline also has an interesting history.

From the late 1800's to 1938, Malibu was the exclusive property of a single wealthy family, that of Frederick & May Rindge, Massachusetts millionaires who had founded Union Oil and Southern California Edison. They owned the entire 27-mile-long Malibu coastline, and they kept the rest of the world at bay with chained gates and with armed guards patrolling on horseback through the hills.

The Malibu Colony became a favorite of movie stars when the then-remote area was finally opened up to the public for the first time in 1929. The widowed May Rindge encountered money problems, and was forced to invite a few wealthy celebrities in to build vacation homes on her private Malibu beach. She expected this to be a temporary arrangement, of course - the stars were allowed to rent the land, but not to own it.

The small cloister of Hollywood celebrities took root in the early 1930's with stars such as Barbara Stanwyck, Clara Bow, Ronald Coleman and Gloria Swanson putting up "shacks" at their new "colony" at the shore.

In the late 1930's, Mrs. Rindge finally decided to allow Malibu residents to buy their properties, and the Malibu Colony grew at an even faster rate.

Like Mrs. Rindge, Hollywood celebrities prize their privacy, and the Colony offered not only protection from the prying stares of the curious public, but also a beautiful ocean view and a sandy beach as a front yard. With the back of their homes forming an invincible wall along Pacific Coast Highway, and the front of their homes mere yards from the vast Pacific Ocean, the Malibu Colony is about as private as you can get. There's a guarded gate at the entrance to keep out sightseers, and there's even a police station at the Colony's west end.

A host of stars now make Malibu their home. "Colonyites" (as they call themselves) have included Tom Hanks (who used to live at 23414 Malibu Colony Dr.), Linda Ronstadt (38 Malibu Colony Rd.), Larry Hagman (23730 Malibu Colony Rd.), Jeff Bridges (2882 Hume Rd), Howie Mandell (23456 Malibu Colony Rd.), Cicely Tyson, Bruce Dern (23430 Malibu Colony Rd), Mel Brooks (23868 Malibu Rd),Tatum O'Neal, Rob Reiner, Sting, Bill Murray, Roma Downey & Rachel Ward, to name just a few who live either in the Colony or along adjacent Malibu Road. Charles Bronson (3210 Retreat Court), Rod Steiger and George C. Scott (3211 Retreat Ct.) live nearby.

Property in Malibu doesn't come cheap. When Johnny Carson bought his beach home at Point Dume back in 1983 for $10 million, it was the most expensive house ever sold in L.A. It included 24 karat gold fixtures in the bath, a waterfall, and 11,000 square feet of living space.   Johnny also owned the adjacent island-like parcel surrounded by Wildlife Road & Whitesands Place, which served as his private tennis club.  That property alone sold for $9.4 million in 2007.  And prices have only gone up since then.

In 2013, billionaire money manager Howard Marks sold his oceanside Malibu home (seen here) for a staggering $75 million.

If you want an idea of just how expensive it is to even rent in Malibu, the rent alone on Sting's house on Malibu Colony Drive was $25,000 a month. And quite a few stars, such as "Titanic" heartthrob Leonardo DiCaprio, do rent here.

Expensive as they are, most of the stars' homes in the Malibu area are actually second homes - part-time, vacation beach houses. When raging hillside fires broke out in early November of 1993, less than one quarter of the Colony residents were at home at the time.

In January of 2007, a smaller fire hit near the Colony area, this time burning down the oceanfront home of "Three's Company" star Suzanne Somers, along with four other houses on Malibu Road.

Although a drive up the Malibu coast is always a delightful experience (with dramatic ocean views, rocky cliffs, and wildflowers in the springtime), when it comes to the Colony itself, there's not much for a visitor to see while driving along Pacific Coast Highway. The back of the Colony houses create a virtual wall, blocking the view of the Colony and of the ocean.

Residents of the Colony naturally value their privacy, and don't want visitors on "their" beach. The fact is, however, that it's a public beach (at least below the high-tide line), so it's our beach too, and coastal access laws require that the public be allowed access to that public portion of it. The trick is getting to the public part of the beach.

You can't trespass over the stars' private property to get there without risking arrest, and access to this stretch of beach is difficult. But fortunately, there are a few (almost hidden) legal public access routes to the Colony's front beach, most notably the "Zonker Harris Accessway" - named after the suntan-crazy "Doonesbury" cartoon character. The pathway is located between the former Windsail restaurant (at 22706 Pacific Coast Highway) and a private residence next door (at 22664 P.C.H.). It's about 70 yards east of (and across the street from) the McDonald's restaurant at 22725 P.C.H.

Stairways are also located in the 20300 and 19900 blocks (to the east), and there are five access-ways between the 24300 and 25100 blocks of PCH (near Jane Seymour's house). You can get exact maps of public access ways from the websites of the California Coastal Commission and the Los Angeles Urban Rangers.

You have the legal right to walk on the beach (below the mean high tide line), once you reach it via these public access-ways. So as long as you stay near the surf's edge and stick to the wet sand, you're perfectly within your rights to stroll there (except except during exceptionally high tides.) On the other hand, the people living there have a reasonable right to their privacy, so don't abuse the privilege. Treat people the way you'd like to be treated if the situation were reversed...

Here's another route. According to the equally well-tanned
George Hamilton: "The best way is to go to [the Malibu Pier], and then walk down [the beach] to Carbon Beach. Carbon has every major movie star's home there. They even have a rock called 'Deal Maker's Rock', where all the heads of studios meet and walk and exercise in the morning and make their deals."

But life in Malibu is not without its own hazards.

The terrible fires of November 1993 totally destroyed the $4 million Carbon Mesa Road home of actor Sean Penn (at 22271 Carbon Mesa Rd, east of the Colony, where he previously lived with Madonna). Actress Ali MacGraw's Rambla Pacifico home (even farther east) also burned to the ground.

Fires came close to destroying the houses of Mel Gibson (23333 Palm Canyon Lane), Richard Gere & Mark Hamill. Neighbors and firemen helped save the Serra Retreat home of Charles Bronson. Gary Busey (18424 Coastline Dr) and Rod Steiger also managed to save their homes. Bruce Willis & Demi Moore's Pacific Coast Highway home (at 22470 PCH) survived, but the fire came very close.. Dick Van Dyke fled his $2 million Serra Retreat home, and spent the night at Anthony Hopkins' vacant apartment in Westwood. (Fortunately, Dick's home was still standing when he returned the next morning). Barbra Streisand's Malibu home (at 5750 Ramirez Canyon Road) survived, but she donated it to charity shortly after the fires. (The estate was open to the public for tours after that donation, but those have apparently been put on hold.)  One might assume that she preferred the relative safety of her other home in Beverly Hills, but she sold that home and bought another home in Malibu!

It should be mentioned that not all of the stars living in Malibu reside on the beach in The Colony.

Some celebrities live just to the east of the Malibu Pier, including Janet Jackson and Diana Ross. Johnny Carson lived in that area for years, at 22240 Pacific Coast Highway. Sally Field lives even farther down the coast, (3412 Cloudcroft Drive). But recently many stars have been migrating to the Point Dume area, seven miles up the coast. Johnny moved there, to 6962 Wildlife Road, in the hills above Point Dume. This was right next door to the house where Madonna was married to Sean Penn (at 6970 Wildlife Road). Johnny's new neighbors there included Robert Duvall, Cher, Dick Clark, Rob Lowe, Nick Nolte (6153/6173 Bonsall Dr.), Julie Andrews (27944 PCH), Bob Dylan (29400 Bluewater Rd), Malibu's honorary mayor, Martin Sheen (6916 Dume Dr.)

Even farther to the west, beyond Point Dume, is Broad Beach, which is home to such superstars as Dustin Hoffman (31054 Broadbeach Rd.), Goldie Hawn & Kurt Russell (30804 Broadbeach Rd), and until his death, Frank Sinatra (30966 Broad Beach Rd.), Walter Matthau (30936 Broadbeach Rd.), Pierce Brosnan (31663 Broadbeach Rd), Eddie Van HalenValerie Bertinelli (31736 Broadbeach Rd.), and Carroll O'Connor (30822/26 Broadbeach Rd.), plus Robert De Niro, Jack Lemmon, Sly Stallone, Mel Gibson, Steven Spielberg and Robert Redford. Like those at the Colony, the homes along Broadbeach Road face the ocean, so all you can see from Pacific Coast Highway is a wall.

But like the Colony, you are allowed to walk along the public beach in front of the stars' homes (within high-tide limits). You can reach the beach here via an access path near 31346 Broadbeach Road, and another access is located near the 32000 block (but both are difficult to spot).

Even if you don't bother to actually walk along the beach, I still strongly recommend a trip to Malibu, preferably on a bright sunny weekday. It is one of the most beautiful natural areas in the Los Angeles region, and cruising along Pacific Coast Highway, right next to the crashing surf of the blue Pacific, has to rank as one of the quintessential Southern California experiences.

There are a number of fine restaurants right on the coast in Malibu offering great ocean views, there are a number of cozy shopping centers (such as the Malibu Country Mart and the new Malibu Plaza), and just south of Malibu is the astounding Getty Villa.

Dean Cain (Superman in "Lois & Clark"), who grew up in Malibu (and now lives at 3224 Malibu Canyon Rd.), reports that he enjoys breakfast and brunch at The Marmalade Cafe in the Malibu Country Mart. And actor John Stamos ("Full House") likes to play the conga and dance on Fridays at the nearby Taverna Tony (23410 Civic Center Way) - where Mel Gibson has also been spotted.

Come and see what attracted so many of the Hollywood elite to Malibu.

 Getting there: The southern border of Malibu is located about four miles north of Santa Monica, via Pacific Coast Highway. Malibu continues northwest for over 20 miles of coastline. Take the Santa Monica (10) Freeway west to its end at the ocean, where it merges with Pacific Coast Highway, and follow PCH north, then west (about 12 miles) to the Malibu Pier.

The Malibu Colony is located on the Malibu coast, a half mile west of the Malibu Pier, and just west of Cross Creek Road. The stars' homes are located between Pacific Coast Highway & the ocean.

(To reach the Colony's main, guarded gate, from Pacific Coast Highway turn south on Malibu Colony Drive. But be warned that the Colony is a private, gated community, and you won't be admitted unless you are a property owner or an invited guest. There are, though, public accessways to the beach that runs in front of the Colony homes.)

Point Dume is located about seven miles west of the Colony.

Broadbeach is located about two miles west of Point Dume.

Getty Museum: The original Getty Villa is located at 17985 Pacific Coast Highway (at Coastline Drive), in Malibu. Parking reservations are required. Call: (310) 458-2003.

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