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Hollywood Escapes: The Moviegoer's Guide to Exploring Southern California's Great Outdoors

Hollywood Escapes: The Moviegoer's Guide to Exploring Southern California's Great Outdoors

by Harry Medved, Bruce Akiyama

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* Behold the KILL BILL Chapel!
* Enter THE DOORS Indian Caves!
* Swim at BEACH BLANKET BINGO's Malibu!
* Escape to SOME LIKE IT HOT's Resort!
* Raft the STAGECOACH River!
* Explore HIGH PLAIN DRIFTER's Ghostly Lake!
* Trek to the LOST HORIZON Waterfall!



* Behold the KILL BILL Chapel!
* Enter THE DOORS Indian Caves!
* Swim at BEACH BLANKET BINGO's Malibu!
* Escape to SOME LIKE IT HOT's Resort!
* Raft the STAGECOACH River!
* Explore HIGH PLAIN DRIFTER's Ghostly Lake!
* Trek to the LOST HORIZON Waterfall!
* Discover the STAR WARS Sand Dunes!

Here is the first comprehensive guide to Southern California's outdoor filming locations taking you to more than 50 of the Golden State's most cinematic beaches, mountains, deserts, lakes, hot springs and waterfalls. Illustrated with over 100 scenic photos and 20 easy-to-read maps, Hollywood Escapes: The Moviegoer's Guide to Exploring Southern California's Great Outdours not only takes you to movie history's most memorable destinations, but also recommends places to dine and lodge along the way, from mountain hideaways to beach side resorts.

Written by inveterate movie buffs and outdoors enthusiasts Harry Medved and Bruce Akiyama, these two native Southern Californians have interviewed dozens of actors, filmmakers, location scouts and rangers to help you explore Hollywood's most spectacular scenery.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In the early days of filmmaking, Hollywood used locations all over the Southern California countryside to create representations of other countries and continents, a practice that continues to this day. Medved (The Golden Turkey Awards; The Hollywood Hall of Shame) and Akiyama (an award-winning television writer) have compiled a movie buff's guide to film locations that range from Baja California to California's highest mountain, with beach and desert scenes in between. Classics like the 1923 version of Ben Hur show up buried under the Guadalupe Dunes on California's coast. Contemporary blockbusters, like Sideways and Seabiscuit, wander through the Santa Inez Valley. Each listed film location follows a format that includes the major movies shot in the area, a brief history of the region, places to eat and stay, driving directions, and a DVD itinerary. Unfortunately, the book's garish cover may discourage some readers; it gives the appearance of a pulp fiction effort. In fact, this solidly packed guide presents a different way to vacation in Southern California, turning Tinseltown and its environs into pure gold. Recommended for libraries with large travel and/or film history collections. Janet Ross, formerly with Sparks Branch Lib., NV Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
"What a neat book! Ever since my wife and I moved to Los Angeles, we’ve been fascinated with the movie connections all around us. Harry Medved has produced a guidebook to Southern California that’s equal parts history, roadmap, restaurant guide, and pop culture catalogue. If you want to know which movies were made on each particular beach and cove in Santa Monica and Malibu, the history of Venice Beach and Catalina Island, a capsule guide to Bronson Canyon (including the famous Bronson Cave), seen in everything from Gene Autry’s Phantom Empire serial to John Ford’s The Searchers, this is the book for you. Quotes from producers, directors, local historians, and location scouts are sprinkled throughout the lively text, along with photos and useful maps. Most of all, Hollywood Escapes is fun to browse, whether you’re planning day trips or just want to experience the Southern California’s multitudinous movie locations vicariously from your armchair." —Leonard Maltin, author of Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide and The Great American Broadcast

“A perfect blend of show biz lore and wanderlust…as an ultra-engaging mix of film and the great outdoors, Hollywood Escapes allows us to re-experience, in the flesh, the great escapism that movies provide.”

- Brad Schreiber, Entertainment Today

“Immensely readable… Hollywood Escapes encourages us to leave the couch or the theater or even the city behind in search of parks and piers, lakes and reservoirs, islands and canyons, cafes and hotels we've previously only encountered on film.”

-Anthony Miller, City Beat ("Real. Best. L.A." issue)

“A travel guide built around visits to the locations for dozens of classic films… the book serves as an interactive movie history of the area.”

- Gregg Kilday, The Hollywood Reporter

"We are all over the new book Hollywood Escapes ... an awesomely comprehensive movie lover's guide to famous (and mostly hitherto unknown) outdoor filming locations in Southern California "

- Los Angeles Magazine

"A movie buff's guide to film locations that range from Baja California to California's highest mountain, with beach and desert scenes in between... this solidly packed guide presents a different way to vacation in Southern California, turning Tinseltown and its environs into pure gold."

- Library Journal

“One has to wonder why a comprehensive guide to recognizable movie locations in Southern California hasn't been published before… Medved and Akiyama hit gold with the thoroughly researched, well-constructed Hollywood Escapes… as useful on the road as it is for thumbing through while watching a DVD at home.”

- Janet Fullwood, Sacramento Bee

Hollywood Escapes is jam-packed with tidbits, trivia and insider information about literally thousands of movies, old and new. Highly recommended, the perfect paperback ... to always have in your car glove compartment.”

- Boyd Magers, Western Clippings

“Discover the ultimate guide to your favorite movie picture or television program locations. Easily accessible for all types of travelers, recreate the scene starring ... you!”

- Mary Ellen Bowman, DAILY PILOT

"(A) must-have book...Harry Medved interviewed dozens of production designers, location managers, and actors to pinpoint filming sites from Malibu to Mammoth, Lone Pine to La Jolla, for his book. Where was the Kill Bill desert chapel? Or Dr. Evil's compound? Or the Star Wars sand dunes? Find out."

- Los Angeles Magazine's "Movie Lover's Guide"

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Hollywood Escapes

The Moviegoer's Guide To Exploring Southern California's Great Outdoors

By Harry Medved, Bruce Akiyama

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2006 Harry Medved
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-0717-0



Drive the Wild Surf

The freeway is faster, but it lacks a certain majesty ...

— Peter Fonda, on the Pacific Coast Highway, in The

Limey (1999)

MAJOR ROLES:How to Stuff a Wild Bikini
True Romance
The Notebook


The origins of Malibu's world-famous Pacific Coast Highway (also known as PCH) date back to the late nineteenth century. Frederick Rindge, a wealthy landowner from Massachusetts, and his wife May purchased the sprawling Rancho Malibu in 1891. For several decades, the Rindge clan held on to twenty-four miles of spectacular coastline from Las Flores Canyon to the Ventura County line, claiming "only heaven is more beautiful."

After Rindge died in 1905, his wife followed his wish to protect their vast wilderness from intruders. Dubbed "Queen of the Malibu" by the local press, May Rindge fought against construction of a coastal highway through her property. But California won the battle for coastal access in 1925 and completed the entire road four years later.

To help pay her legal bills, May Rindge leased and eventually sold plots of her Malibu real estate to movie folk like Clara Bow, Ronald Colman, studio chief Jack Warner, and silent screen star Anna Q. Nilsson, who helped form the Malibu Beach Motion Picture Colony in 1926. To this day The Colony still thrives as an exclusive parcel of Hollywood history near Pacific Coast Highway. It has been home to such diverse personalities as Pamela Anderson, Sting, and former Malibu mayor Larry Hagman. One-time Malibu resident Robert Altman even poked fun at The Colony's security gates and armed patrols in his adaptation of Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye: in several funny scenes Elliott Gould (as Philip Marlowe) deals with a movie-mad Colony gate guard who can't resist imitating Walter Brennan and Barbara Stanwyck.


The Malibu Coast is memorably captured on film in the lovably inane Frankie Avalon/Annette Funicello Beach Party series produced by American International Pictures (AIP), the most successful independent film company of its time. Although the films are remembered today for their camp value, they also provide a remarkable cinematic record of the Malibu landscape of the early sixties.

In a chase scene in Pajama Party, you can see how the Malibu Colony Plaza looked more than forty years ago and how little the area has changed since 1964.

Other films in the series include Muscle Beach Party, Bikini Beach, Beach Blanket Bingo, How to Stuff a Wild Bikini, and The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini. Similar AIP fun-in-the-sun spin-offs include Ski Party, and Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine.

"Tourists still arrive in Malibu expecting to see Frankie and Annette dancing around in the sand," notes beach party film historian Michael Marshall. "The musically romanticized imagery of girls, surfers and cars in these movies defined the coastline, and that 'endless summer' aura remains to this day."


The following Malibu driving tour actually begins on the Santa Monica stretch of Pacific Coast Highway and affords plenty of stopovers where you can soak in the view, stretch your legs, or throw your own beach party (see also MALIBU PIER, PARADISE COVE, ZUMA, and LEO CARRILLO chapters). Set your odometer at zero as you start your trip at the Santa Monica Pier. All mileage counts are approximate distances from the pier or the McClure Tunnel at the western end of the 10 Freeway.

BACK ON THE BEACH (1.3 miles north of the pier)

This unique kid-friendly café in the sand is based in an old Santa Monica beach location that appears in Ski Party, starring Frankie Avalon, Dwayne Hickman, Yvonne Craig, and Dick Miller. To the immediate north is the former 1929 estate built by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst for his mistress (and favorite actress) Marion Davies, hostess of legendary Hollywood beach parties. All that remains of the expansive 100-room complex is the guesthouse, site of a proposed public beach facility. A block south of the café is the former home of Peter Lawford, where the Kennedys allegedly rendezvoused with Marilyn Monroe. 445 Pacific Coast Highway; 310-393-8282.


This eccentric and cozy local favorite is known for its pancakes, waffles, and banana cream pie. Full of nautical memorabilia, Patrick's was a house of ill repute in the 1920s. Today it attracts celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, Bruce Willis, and Sean Penn. 106 Entrada Drive; 310-459-4544.

A short block north of Patrick's is the Santa Monica Canyon intersection of Chautauqua Blvd., W. Channel Road, and Pacific Coast Highway, glimpsed in two different crime dramas shot in 1950: In a Lonely Place with Humphrey Bogart and Quicksand with Mickey Rooney.


Cowboy, social commentator, and actor Will Rogers once owned this long stretch of sand that was purchased by the state in 1941. In the 1950s, according to sci-fi historian Tom Weaver, the beach was the setting of the eerie clawprints-in-the-sand prologue for The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Today it's best remembered as the lifeguard headquarters for TV's Baywatch. For the finale of the infamous Ben Affleck/Jennifer Lopez comedy Gigli, the original Baywatch set was re-created at Will Rogers, with hundreds of hard-bodied extras added for effect. To find the lifeguard station, enter the parking lot at Temescal Canyon Drive and drive .7 miles south to the lot's end.

MALIBU PIER (11 miles)

See Chapter 2.

MALIBU SEAFOOD (14.5 miles)

A coast highway tradition since the sixties, the outdoor café at Malibu Seafood (25653 Pacific Coast Highway; 310-456-3430) is a great spot for a quick, affordable lunch. From the parking lot here check out the Corral Canyon Trailhead, a gateway to a steep three-mile loop trail that affords great views of Point Dume, Paradise Cove, Puerco Canyon, and Corral Beach (aka Dan Blocker Beach) across the highway.

In Beach Party's opening number, Frankie and Annette drive their yellow convertible roadster onto the sand at Corral Beach while crooning the title song. Corral can also be seen in Beach Ball, Bikini Beach, How to Stuff a Wild Bikini, and Don't Make Waves (a 1960s sex farce starring Tony Curtis and Sharon Tate as a surf bunny named Malibu).

From your Corral Canyon Trail vantage point, you can also see the stretch of highway where William Holden picks up sun-worshipping hitchhikers Rosanna Arquette and Jennifer Edwards in S.O.B. (directed by former Malibu resident Blake Edwards).


Pinups of bikini-clad California girls were popular way before the Baywatch era. During World War II, one of the most sought- after poster girls (after Betty Grable) was Noel Neill in her classic shot reclining against the coastal rocks. Later to play Lois Lane in the original Superman TV series, Neill remembers Will Rogers Beach as a volleyball mecca and 1940s hangout for up-and-coming actors waiting for their big break. "All of our agents would contact us at the beach's pay phone in front of the old bath house," recalls Neill. "When that phone would ring, we all waited with bated breath and burst into applause when someone got a part." Still a beach local after all these years, Neill calls nearby Santa Monica Canyon her home and holds court at Patrick's Roadhouse.

If you look northwest to Latigo Beach you'll see the former site of the Rindge Home that appears as Zachary Scott's beach house in Mildred Pierce. In the same area, Spencer Tracy is pursued by Mickey Rooney, Buddy Hackett, and others in the finale of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. The Union 76 gas station at Corral Canyon Road, clearly visible in this 1963 comedy, is still there.

GEOFFREY'S (16.7 miles)

This is the upscale Malibu restaurant seen in The Player, where ambitious studio exec Tim Robbins glad-hands star Burt Reynolds, and in Hollywood Homicide, where Harrison Ford meets with Martin Landau, Frank Sinatra Jr., and Master P. In real life, you can savor the sunset over a romantic dinner at Geoffrey's. If you want to hit the beach before or after your meal, you'll find a long staircase to Escondido Beach just past the restaurant (look for the COASTAL ACCESS sign). 27400 Pacific Coast Highway; 310-457-1519.

PARADISE COVE (17.7 miles)

See Chapter 3.


See Chapter 4.


The corner of Trancas Canyon Road, Broad Beach Road, and Pacific Coast Highway is where Vin Diesel and Paul Walker drag race a Ferrari on their way to Neptune's Net cafe in The Fast and the Furious (2001). Don't follow their lead, as the Malibu police are very efficient at handing out speeding tickets here. Broad Beach is a popular and very private celebrity enclave, as seen in Blake Edwards' 10, with Dudley Moore.

Top Billing: EL MATADOR STATE BEACH (23.4 miles)

Its picturesque, rocky sea stacks protruding from the water make El Matador one of the most photogenic beaches in Los Angeles County. You have to hike down a short but steep and winding dirt trail to get to the beach, but it's worth the trek. El Matador doubles for an exotic Mexican beach in the coda of Tony Scott's True Romance, as Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, and their movie son start their new life free of bullets and blood.

El Matador also appears in the Ashton Kutcher/Amanda Peet romantic comedy A Lot Like Love, the Mel Gibson–produced Paparazzi, and Nick Cassavetes' The Notebook, with Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling.


For his wartime comedy-spectacular 1941, Steven Spielberg picked Nicholas Beach for the seaside residence of the film's panicky civilians Ned Beatty and Lorraine Gary.

According to local lore, Spielberg knew the beach well, as he and 1941 executive producer John Milius, plus other young filmmakers of the 1970s, had hung out at the Nicholas Beach party home shared by actresses Margot Kidder and Jennifer Salt.


"I love El Matador," says director Paul Mazursky. "It looks like no other beach. And when we shot there, it was relatively inaccessible to most tourists."

Mazursky utilized El Matador for the surreal counterculture epic Alex in Wonderland. Donald Sutherland plays a movie director who, in an outrageous dream sequence, imagines hundreds of naked African dancers undulating toward the beaches of Malibu. You can see the African American extras curling around the switchbacks of the Matador Trail, which Mazursky remembers as being a "helluva hike" for the camera crew lugging equipment down to the shore.

As if that weren't enough of a production hurdle, the extras supposedly refused to get naked unless the white crew undressed too. "It was a touchy situation," Mazursky recalls. "Most of the crew members stripped down to their underwear and wouldn't go any further. So in the spirit of fairness, I got completely naked. There's a great photograph in some Swedish newspaper showing me sitting on a camera crane in El Matador, where all I'm wearing is a big ol' hat." The film's El Matador escapade was so infamous that it merited a spread in Playboy magazine.

Forty-nine of these homes — including the Kidder-Salt beach house — were eventually torn down to make way for public beach facilities, allowing Spielberg to return to the spot to build his 1941 house. The two-story structure, which slides off a cliff in the film's finale, was constructed on the knoll where the Nicholas Beach lifeguard station now stands.

Today surfers call this beach "Zeroes" and flock to its point break waves. It makes an appropriate location for Dennis Franz's and angel Nicolas Cage's bodysurfing scenes in the Wings of Desire remake, City of Angels. Dozens of beatific extras in long black coats play angels, who every day watch over the sunrise and sunset.


See Chapter 5.


The beachside headquarters for Point Mugu State Park has a peaceful, shady picnic area near the shore. A twisted rock formation on the far side of the cove marks the location for the climax of Charlie's Angels, in which Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu hang from a helicopter. The trio later enjoys cocktails on the beach with Bill Murray. Sycamore Cove is also a good spot for a family outing, as seen in Junior, in which Arnold Schwarzenegger, Danny DeVito, Emma Thompson, and Pamela Reed celebrate their offsprings' birthdays. On the other side of PCH, a restored 1929 Spanish Colonial home is now the Sycamore Canyon Nature Center(open weekends, 10 a.m.–2 p.m.) adjacent to the 55- site Sycamore Canyon Campground(reservations: 800-444-PARK; hiking info: 818-880-0350).

THE GREAT SAND DUNE (32.3 miles)

This distinctive Point Mugu landmark can be glimpsed as a romantic backdrop for Vincente Minnelli's Goodbye Charlie, with Debbie Reynolds and Pat Boone, and Move Over, Darling, with James Garner and Polly Bergen. In Spartacus, John Ireland leads an army of slaves-turned-soldiers down the dune to Thornhill Broome Beach, crossing the cleverly concealed Pacific Coast Highway. In 1972, the dune was the site of the climatic confrontation between Yaphet Kotto, Joyce Van Patten, and Andrew Duggan in Larry Cohen's controversial black comedy, Bone.

MUGU ROCK (36.8 miles)

The massive Mugu Rock is briefly glimpsed in Windtalkers and the Chinatown sequel, The Two Jakes. It's from a nearby phone booth that Jack Nicholson makes a call to informant Tracey Walter. If you circle around Mugu Rock you'll find remains of the old Pacific Coast Highway before it was destroyed by storms. According to an April 16, 1940 Warner Bros. production report, the Point Mugu area plays a Panama jungle inlet in the classic swashbuckler The Sea Hawk, starring Errol Flynn. The American Film Institute Catalog cites Mugu as appearing in Citizen Kane for a quick shot of an automobile caravan heading up the coast to Xanadu.


Travelers heading from Malibu to Santa Barbara may want to schedule a stopover at the Oxnard Dunes along the way. According to Ventura County historian Richard Senate, the dunes area was a filming site for Rudolph Valentino's The Sheik. Claiming ownership of The Sheik location is common in movie production lore. Oxnard is one of five areas contending for that honor; the other four are Guadalupe Sand Dunes, Imperial Sand Dunes, El Segundo, and Palm Springs. Senate, however, maintains that this beach was the only one used for the film, as the ice plant in the dunes is a clear giveaway.

Real estate speculators took advantage of the legend and dubbed the sands Hollywood-by-the-Sea, promoting the film industry's connection with the land. Big screen stars bought lots here, with the most exclusive properties named Hollywood Beach and Silver Strand.

Several noted filmmakers have used these beaches since. King Vidor shot the dunes in his Southern soap opera, Ruby Gentry, with Charlton Heston and Jennifer Jones. And the D-Day landing in the Paddy Chayefsky–scripted The Americanization of Emily took place here, with James Garner and James Coburn landing at Omaha Beach. Director Arthur Hiller admits he almost backed out of his location.

"When I saw this beach, I thought it looked great. But when I heard the name of this location, I balked. I thought, 'I can't shoot D-Day at Hollywood-by-the Sea!' But it worked fine, despite its corny name," recalls Hiller.

Today these sands are mostly a residential strand. But tourists may enjoy checking out the clumpy dunes in the accessible area near the Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Resort. Call for directions; 805-984-2500; or www.embassymandalay.com.


Excerpted from Hollywood Escapes by Harry Medved, Bruce Akiyama. Copyright © 2006 Harry Medved. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

A Southern California native, Medved has served as an entertainment publicist for Yahoo!, Warner Bros. Online and the Screen Actors Guild. Prior to creating the "Lost and Found" travel column for the Pasadena Star-News, he co-authored the popular movie books The Fifty Worst Films of All Time, The Golden Turkey Awards and The Hollywood Hall of Shame. He lives in Santa Monica with his wife Michele and family.

A Southern California native, Medved has served as an entertainment publicist for Yahoo!, Warner Bros. Online and the Screen Actors Guild. Prior to creating the “Lost and Found” travel column for the Pasadena Star-News, he co-authored the popular movie books The Fifty Worst Films of All Time, The Golden Turkey Awards and The Hollywood Hall of Shame. He lives in Santa Monica with his wife Michele and family.
Bruce Akiyama contributed to Harry Medved's Hollywood Escapes.

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