From Robert Downey Jr.'s Sleepover to Mel Gibson's Almost DUI, 9 of Malibu's Most Notorious Scandals
A short history of the town's tales include David Geffen's beach-access battles to Matthew McConaughey's paparazzi brawl — and then there's Bob Dylan's offensive portable toilet.
This story first appeared in the June 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
1966 ► THE CASE OF THE PAINTED NAKED LADY Legal secretary Lynne Westmore, moonlighting as a muralist, painted a 60-foot nude artwork, dubbed the Pink Lady, on the rocks above the Malibu Canyon tunnel. Days after she finished it on Oct. 28 -- she'd been scaling the cliff after dark -- road workers were dispatched to cover the painting with 14 cans of gray paint. Westmore sued Los Angeles County for $1 million; the county countersued for $26,000 to recoup its costs. Both lawsuits were thrown out.
1996 ► ROBERT DOWNEY JR.'S SLEEPOVER Before his Hollywood resurgence, Downey spent the mid-1990s in a stupor of drugs and alcohol, leading to a tabloid tidal wave in July 1996, when he wandered into his neighbor's Malibu home, stripped to his underwear and slept in their son's bed. It was the second time in three weeks the police had booked Downey for being under the influence.
2002 ► BEACH-ACCESS BATTLE David Geffen spent three years fighting an easement allowing access to a public beach pathway alongside his Carbon Beach property. In 2005, he finally stopped blocking access and agreed to pay $300,000 in legal costs. Now there's an app to help surfers and other nature lovers navigate hard-to-find beach-access points. Created by writer Jenny Price and public radio producer Ben Adair, Our Malibu Beaches reveals, says Price, "everything you need to know for every single access way and which ones you can ignore and why." It allows users to flag such scenarios as fake "no parking" signs.
2008 ► PAPARAZZI BRAWL In 2008, paparazzi swarmed Little Dume Beach to snap a pic of Matthew McConaughey surfing, which had drawn a pack of turf-protecting locals to stand watch. A brawl ensued. Two years later, two of L.A.'s top defense attorneys, Harland Braun and Stefan Sacks, squared off against Assistant District Attorney Bill Penzin to decide whether Philip John Hildebrand and Skylar Peak (now serving as Malibu's youngest mayor) were guilty of misdemeanor battery on the paparazzi or were responsibly removing trespassers. The charges were dismissed after a mistrial was declared. Peak tells THR today: "The incident I was in was blown out of proportion. There was definitely some shadiness going on."
2009 ► BOB DYLAN'S BAD SMELL Five years ago, there was something evil blowing in the wind near Dylan's Point Dume property. The culprit? The security staff's portable toilet, which caused some neighbors to become sick. A resident whose house was directly behind the toilet installed five industrial-sized fans in the yard to blast back the odor.
2011 ► U2 MANSION MELTDOWN After U2 guitarist The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, purchased a 156-acre property above a ridgeline in 2006, they proposed building five mansions there. The project received widespread opposition from conservation groups, and in 2011 the Coastal Commission rejected the plan. The agency's executive director deemed it "one of the three worst projects I've seen in terms of environmental devastation," citing the problems of extending a road through slide-prone areas and leveling more than 70,000 cubic yards of earth.
2012 ► THE SAND WARS Such residents of Broad Beach as Modern Family's Steven Levitan and Steven Spielberg proposed a $20 million plan to reshape the coast in a beach nourishment project, bringing in 600,000 cubic yards of sand from a yet-to-be-determined site. "You can't walk down the beach except when the tide is very low," Levitan told THR last year, about the beach's erosion. Opponents believe it's a nearsighted scheme that will benefit only owners and will have disastrous effects on the coastline.
2013 ► MEL GIBSON'S ALMOST DUI Not learning much of a lesson since his infamous drunken anti-Semitic ramblings in 2006 after a DUI, the actor was stopped at a checkpoint on PCH, where he previously was busted. Asked if he had been drinking, Gibson said, "No." He then shouted, "Why are you harassing me? I have had problems with you Lost Hills [Malibu] deputies in the past." The actor was let go without being charged.
2014 ► CRACKDOWN ON REHABS Ever since posh Passages opened in Malibu 13 years ago, the city has developed a notorious niche as Southern California's "Rehab Riviera," drawing the likes of Britney Spears, Ben Affleck, Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen. In fact, so many dedicated treatment centers have taken over mansions in private neighborhoods (there are at least 35 documented detox facilities, not including many unlicensed sober houses) along the coastline that the city has begun attempting to rein in the industry. "Residential neighborhoods are not designed for that kind of activity," says Councilman Lou La Monte, who has been at the forefront of these efforts. This year, the state's Department of Health Care Services has been joining in on the crackdown, putting an end to Passages' practice of cramming six beds into single-family residences.