"Topanga Nostalgia Letter"

Dear Editor: 

Hi, my name is John Peacock, and I'm writing to you in regard to the Rodeo Grounds that was once situated at the foot of the Canyon next to PCH. 

I lived there for a few years in the early 80s in a converted gazebo that I'm sending you a couple of pictures of. The gazebo was on the property of Bob Smith, who was the photographer at the Santa Monica Outlook I think it was called. Bob had told me that if I made the gazebo livable I could have it rent free for a period of time. 

I recently came across an article by accident when I was looking up something to do with Topanga Canyon and discovered that Murphy had died ... Can you tell me when that was, it looks as though it might have been last summer, as the service was in June. I was probably one of many people who knew Murphy reasonably well as I used to surf the point there for about 5 or 6 years. I also worked in Brenda's Kitchen where most of the locals ate regularly, which was situated next to the bait and tackle shop where the Beach Boys Drummer was a frequent visitor before his death. I worked alongside Jack Lester and others at the kitchen, and because I'm an Englishman by birth, they all knew me as English John. Strangely enough I am now an Australian, and writing to you from Kirra Beach in Queensland, Australia. I emigrated to Australia in 1990 from California, basically because I wanted to surf the Australian points and beach breaks. I had been very happy in California, and have been back a few times over the years and always feel as though I never left, I love it there, but my life is here now as I approach 60. 

The water in Australia is much warmer and the waves more consistent, but I'll always remember Topanga for its vibrant mix of artistic personalities and how well accepted I became there. I was sorry to hear of its demise; but there were always rumours about when, not if, it would happen. 

I don't remember everyones names, but there were surfboard shapers like Robbie Dick, and surf movie makers, 3 of them I can remember, but unfortunately no names, (early onset Oldtimers disease I think). 

There was Dave Willis, who went back East after his girlfriend choked to death in a restaurant, there was Barretta, a very colorful character, there was Kim Lester, Jacks brother, both of whom, I believe were basically homeless, and there was Jeff who worked at Bob Dylans property as groundskeeper and had a guitar shop in Westwood, who I did some work with because my background was in the rock and roll industry before I took up surfing. 

I roadied for some major rock bands like Alice Cooper, Rod Stewart, Prince, Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, AC/DC, Air Supply; The Cars, Stevie Wonder, Heart, Foriegner and more. 

I had recently retired from the road when I took up surfing and was working in Electronics in South Pasadena whilst living in Hollywood, and driving to the beach at night sometimes and spending the night at the beach in my car, getting up at the crack of dawn for the dawn session, and then driving to work, and then making the return trip in the afternoon to finish the day. Needless to say, that got old quick, so I got rid of the job, and moved out to the beach where Bob Smith offered me this deal. I had got to know him through working at Brenda's Kitchen, which by the way had previously been known as Chris's Kitchen. 

Quite obviously, I have spent a bit of time out there and no doubt there are hundreds of stories like mine. 

Just thought I'd share some of that with you, and if you know anyone who remembers me, please say hi and pass on my email address if you like...

Hope this made some sense to you, if you were at all interested. 

I've attached a few pictures of me and my VW Bus in the Topanga Beach parking lot and a couple of my British flag surfboard, as any of the locals if they remember me or it. 

--love and stuff, 
Gold Coast 


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