Actor Ed Harris’ love affair with Malibu, California, started with a washing machine. Before The Hours, Pollock, Apollo 13, and a score of other films made him a star, and before his four Academy Award nominations, Harris bought a washing machine, which signaled the biggest move of his life: making Malibu his home. “I knew I was committed to living in a place when I did that,” says Harris. It was the early ’80s and he had just met his future wife, actress Amy Madigan. A native of Tenafly, New Jersey, Harris had been sharing a house in Santa Monica, but when he visited friends in Malibu, he knew he had found home. The legendary hamlet 27 Pacific Coast Highway miles north of Los Angeles was so “magic and special” that he quickly settled in. “I can’t really describe the feeling. It felt like Malibu had an aura to it that was very exciting, but it was also very calming.” Not so calm is his shooting schedule. Before the year is out, Harris will appear in four films: Radio, co-starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Debra Winger; The Human Stain, with Anthony Hopkins, Nicole Kidman, and Gary Sinise; Buffalo Soldiers, opposite Joaquin Phoenix and Scott Glenn; and a cameo appearance in Bob Dylan’s Masked and Anonymous. Here’s where you’ll find him kicking back in Malibu when the credits roll.
What are your favorite hotels?
“The top of the line, and hopefully it remains that way, is the Malibu Beach Inn. They have double doors that open out onto a patio that’s right on the beach. The second story is kind of nice to be on so you’re not right down on the water. You listen to the ocean all night. There’s also a funky little place called the Malibu Riviera Motel. The rooms are simple, but it’s kind of cool. It’s a lot less expensive, too, just a single-story row of little rooms. It’s a real motel, motel. There really is no big place. The biggest is probably Malibu Beach Inn, and I bet they don’t have more than 40 units.”
Where’s the first place you go when you get home?
“In my drinking days, I used to go to the Pierview, which is a restaurant/bar right on the water. Now I guess one of my favorite places is this burger stand [Country Kitchen] that’s right next to the Country Liquor store, down on PCH right by Rambla Pacifico. The guys have been there for years and make a great burger.”
Malibu is, of course, known for its coastline. What’s your favorite beach?
“Zuma is really great. I mean it’s huge. It’s at least a couple of miles long. Then up past Zuma, there are beaches off on the left as you’re driving up PCH. There’s El Matador and La Piedra. You park kind of up on the cliff and they have stairwells that go down. It’s pretty rustic and usually less populated and more secluded. And you have a tendency to see a little bit more marine life there, whether it’s seals or whatever. Definitely you see dolphins swimming up and down the coast wherever you are. I used to do a lot of surf fishing, but I haven’t done that for some time.”
Where would you do that?
“Under the cul-de-sac on Sycamore Road, which is up between Malibu Canyon and Kanan. I used to live up that way. Wylie’s bait shop is a great place to get any kind of fishing gear or bait you need. Since they reopened the pier, people still fish off there.”
What if you just wanted to sit back and enjoy a nice ocean view?
“Malibu Bluffs Park is nice. Especially for older people. There’s a really nice pathway around it. It’s a level kind of walk. There’s also, if you want to get a little more rugged, a path that goes down to the ocean from there. You can sit out on the grass. There are some picnic tables, a couple of those binocular viewing stands, and a little bench. You can look for whales or dolphins. There’s usually a nice breeze blowing in through there. Malibu Creek itself is pretty interesting. You have to go across the creek off Cross Creek and go down to this heavily eucalyptused lane and you make a left. There’s an entrance, although I don’t remember exactly what the park is called, but there’s a trail that goes back up along the creek. If you walk back up in there pretty far, there are some really ideal spots with little pools of water.”
What can you tell us about the people of Chicago?
They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Where do you go to start your day off right?
“Pierview has pretty good breakfasts. So does Marmalade. It’s in this little shopping center with the Malibu Theater, which gets first-run films pretty quick, ’cause it’s Malibu and there are a lot of movie people around.”
What are some good places for lunch?
“Across from the Malibu Theater is the Malibu Country Mart, where you have Howdy’s, which serves nice Mexican food. It’s an order-it-at-the-counter kind of deal. You can also go to Johnnie’s Pizzeria, which is excellent. Just like New York pizza. Malibu Mutt is a basic burger and hot dog joint. John’s is a health food kind of place where you can get wonderful sandwiches and salads and sit at outdoor tables. There’s a big playground there with swings and stuff, so it’s great for kids. There are some wonderful shops around there for clothing and doodads.”
Since you mentioned it, where do you like to shop?
“Tops Gallery has a very eclectic mix of things. There’s jewelry and totally bizarre little odds and ends and things of interest. Malibu Lifestyles is a nice, casual clothing place. Theodore has women’s stuff. There is a kid’s store called 98% Angel that has a lot of fun stuff. I know a lot of the local merchants. I know Pete down at the liquor store. I know Howard, who runs the Mailboxes Etc. I know Bob, who runs Tops, and his wife. There’s the Colony House liquor store, where George the French guy works. Next door is a cigar shop [Mr. Bones]. I’m not really a cigar smoker, but they have a good selection. Even though it’s not like a little town, I’ve been here long enough that it’s my community and I care about it. I know the people who keep it going.”
What should every visitor know about Malibu?
“Well, if they come in the summertime on a weekend, they should be prepared to get into a traffic jam. They should know that the nicest time to come is probably fall, because there’s fewer people and the weather’s good. They should also know that in June, there’s often a marine fog layer that sits here most mornings. That actually started early May this year and lasted through June. If you came to the beach and wanted sunshine, it could be a little frustrating if you came that time of year. The Malibu Chili Cookoff is really a neat thing that happens on Labor Day weekend. They have all kinds of rides, live music, and a chili tasting for which they give out awards. You can also go horseback riding. There’s a gal named Talley Hutcherson who runs a place called the Connemara Ranch. I don’t think it’s listed, but I can give you the phone number: (310) 457-5838. You do a little canter up the hillside and go back up in the canyons, and that’s pretty neat.”
What clothing essentials should visitors bring?
“A bathing suit and sunblock, along with a hat for the sun. I’d also bring a good pair of walking or hiking shoes if you want to take a hike back up in the hills. And whatever else you feel comfortable in. There is no real fancy place. I mean, you can go to [places like] Granita and be dressed to the nines, or you can just be in jeans. People can pretty much get away with anything they want to here.”
What sights should no visitor miss?
“The Adamson House. It’s a historical museum of the area prior to a lot of civilization. It’s pretty interesting. There are old photographs. It was essentially the Adamsons’ home. The J. Paul Getty
Museum, the original one up on the hillside, is closed right now, but I think it’s supposed to be open in another year or two.”
What are some of your favorite restaurants?
“A real family place is Coogie’s. The ambience is really casual and comfortable. You can be with your kids. It’s kind of on the inland side of the colony. Geoffrey’s, which is up a couple miles past Pepperdine University, is really nice. They have an outdoor patio overlooking the ocean and there’s usually a nice breeze blowing. They’ve got pretty good fare up there, too. All of these places have good steak if you want it. They also have nice fish, shellfish, and clams. Malibu Seafood is an outdoors place, right before you get to Geoffrey’s on the right. They have very, very fresh fish. The Reel Inn is another great place for fish. It’s also got a family atmosphere. You order your food and pick it up. Up on the county line, Neptune’s Net is another takeout place where you get great clams and lobster.”
What about something fancier?
“Tra di Noi is really wonderful. My favorite thing there is the Caesar salad and a thing called saporiti, which is a spicy spaghetti with garlic, chiles, parsley, and olive oil. Tutto Bene has been there for a while and they have excellent Italian food. The Sage Room has what they call California Mediterranean cuisine. Comfortable. Nice. It’s relaxed. Taverna Tony is a Greek restaurant with good food and a nice bar. You can sit outside if you want, so if you’re a smoker, you can smoke. Taverna Tony is one of the few places that actually stay open late, which is nice if you need a late-night drink or something.”
Any bar recommendations?
“If you want a funky bar, there’s the Dume Room. They’ve got some pool tables in the back. They might have a [regular] table or two, but it’s mostly just a bar, bar. You get a lot of working guys in there. Pierview is not a bad bar. They’ve got pool tables, too. It’s kind of a younger crowd, which is nice. The Malibu Inn, not the Malibu Beach Inn, started having live music recently on the weekends. They get some pretty good rock-and-roll bands. A lot of Pepperdine kids go there. They had a big article in The New York Times about some of these bands.”
If you only had a day to spend in Malibu, how would you spend it?
“I’d get up in the morning fairly early and see the sunrise, because it’s pretty and it’s quiet then. I’d probably go up to Zuma Beach, because it’s so big and incredible when there’s nobody on it. Then maybe I’d go to the Starbucks there. I might give Talley a call and take a ride, but maybe I’d save that for the late afternoon when it’s cooler. During the day, I don’t know, I’d take a hike on one of
the mountain trails or sit on the beach. There are a lot of bicyclers up and down the highway. There are great hills to go up and down that are pretty challenging. If I was a motorcycle rider, I’d go riding up in the hills, up Malibu Canyon Road or Kanan and turn off on Mulholland or Encinal. I might have lunch at Geoffrey’s because it’s outside, or go to Malibu Seafood and have some lunch there.”
What’s the most interesting thing that’s happened to you in Malibu? v
“One day I went down to get the mail. I’m not sure if I had the dogs with me or not. And a snake dropped out of the sky, right at my feet. I guess a hawk must have had it or something and dropped it. It was kind of amazing.”
What does that tell you about Malibu when a snake can fall from the sky?
“It tells me that nature is still here, thank God. I get coyotes coming up to the back door. We get deer out here, hawks, owls, gopher snakes, garter snakes, and a lot of different kinds of birds. It’s not a bad bird-watching place if you get up in some of these parks and know what you’re looking for. Bobcats are rare, but occasionally you see them. A guy who lives up at the top of my road has hiked back up in the hills and has actually seen a mountain lion.”
You won’t see any mountain lions in L.A. Do you go there a lot?
“No, not unless I have to. The weeks where I don’t have to get in the truck and go somewhere, those are the most enjoyable.”
here’s where ed harris hangs out when he’s at home in malibu.
malibu beach inn
malibu riviera motel
coogie’s beach café
burgers and more, inexpensive
johnnie’s new york pizzeria & café
john’s garden café
health food market/deli, inexpensive
malibu seafood fresh fish market patio café
pierview café & cantina
the reel inn malibu
california mediterranean, expensive
coffee shop, inexpensive
tra di noi ristorante
tutto bene ristorante
italian, expensive, (310) 317-6769
malibu inn bar & restaurant
colony house liquor
mr. bones cigars
tops gallery malibu
wylie’s bait & tackle, (310) 456-2321
adamson house and malibu lagoon museum
j. paul getty museum at the villa
currently closed but scheduled to reopen fall 2005.
malibu bluffs community park
malibu kiwanis chili cookoff
ed covered a lot of ground, but we have a few of our own favorite places in malibu.
casa malibu inn on the beach
moderate, (800) 831-0858
both the beachfront and garden-view rooms boast private decks and fireplaces. plus, you get a free continental breakfast with fresh-baked pastries from wolfgang puck’s granita restaurant.
renaissance agoura hills
moderate, (818) 707-1220
this full-size marriott is a little farther out, but has room service, meeting rooms, and some of the other amenities malibu proper’s smaller hotels/motels don’t.
moderate, (310) 317-0777
befitting its oceanside locale, the view is one of the best around, and the menu is heavy on seafood. the well-dressed decor features old surfing memorabilia.
moderate, (310) 457-2602. we like the generous portions of cobb salad, chicken tacos, and other standards we get here. we also like to eat them poolside. yes, poolside!
frederick r. weisman museum of art
this gallery on the pepperdine university campus features historic and contemporary works by u.s. artists. ramirez canyon park, (310) 589-2850. barbra streisand donated this 22-acre malibu home to the state of california in 1993 as an environmental research center. today, the 90-minute estate/garden tours include tea and scones on the patio.