Sex in cars, Margot Kidder topless, Sean Penn and Madonna on bikes: The early days, when real estate was cheap, were Hollywood's playground frontier.
In 1930s Malibu, writes Robert Wagner in You Must Remember This, "You could lease a lot with 130 feet of ocean frontage for $30 a month." Soon, surfers Gary Cooper and Ronald Colman moved in, as did Barbara Stanwyck and Frank Capra (whose house Tom Hanks later lived in).
Recalls Lee Majors, who moved to Malibu after his split with Farrah Fawcett in 1980: "I bought a place on the widest part of the beach, sight unseen. Larry Hagman and Burgess Meredith were neighbors and best friends until Larry blocked Burgess' view, so they quit speaking."
Chance encounters were frequent: Robert Redford cast Mary Tyler Moore in Ordinary People after she walked by on the beach, and Mike Nichols hired Buck Henry to write The Graduate after meeting him at Jane Fonda's 1965 all-night beach party, where, "in a car, a very well-known writer [had sex] with a very well-known actress," says Henry.
Topless sunbathers included Margot Kidder (eyed by Steven Spielberg and Brian De Palma) and Sue Mengers. "You'd see somebody on their deck drinking wine and go up and join them," says Majors. "Carry your own glass down the beach, and get it filled up at every other house. Sting, Barbra Streisand and Shirley MacLaine were there. You'd see Sean Penn and Madonna bicycling by."
When the area got too crowded, Majors left, renting out his house for $175,000 a month. He says, "Malibu was wonderful."
The actress in 1956.
Lou Ferrigno and Billy Crystal
Lou Ferrigno hoisted Billy Crystal in 1978's Battle of the Network Stars V.
Joan Didion and familiy
The late Quintana Roo Dunne (left), about whom mother Joan Didion wrote in her 2011 memoir Blue Nights, relaxed with her father, John Gregory Dunne, and Didion on their Malibu deck in 1976. That same year, Cat Stevens nearly drowned while visiting Didion's neighbor, A&M Records' Jerry Moss, and converted to Islam when God spared him.
Bette Davis and Jacqueline Susann
Author Jacqueline Susann (right) splashed in the surf with Bette Davis. The actress wanted the part Susan Hayward got in the movie version of Susann's best-selling 1966 novel Valley of the Dolls.
Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Joan Crawford
In 1932, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. hung out with his wife, Joan Crawford. "Her temper is alarming," wrote Fairbanks, "but actually it is harmless."
Sylvester Stallone grabbed the paper in front of his Malibu home in 1979.
Kevin O'Neal and Anjelica Huston
Actor Kevin O'Neal and Anjelica Huston jogged in the surf in 1978.
Jacqueline Bisset did a 1968 photo shoot.
Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner
Natalie Wood and then-husband Robert Wagner at home.
Lee Majors and Heather Thomas
Actor Lee Majors and co-star Heather Thomas of The Fall Guy during rehearsal at the Paramount Studios Ranch in Malibu in 1981.
Bruce Dern ran sand through his fingers in 1976.
Sherman Hemsley outside his home in 1975.
Malibu resident Robert Altman (left) filmed 1970's M*A*S*H movie with Elliott Gould (center) and Donald Sutherland at Malibu Creek State Park. The TV series also shot there.
The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones took in Malibu during the mid-'60s. "The boys had some hamburgers and were happy to be by the sea," says a photographer. Soon after that, The Who's Keith Moon bought a beach house next door to Steve McQueen, whose dog bit him. Moon bit the dog back, and McQueen shot out Moon's bathroom light.
Marilyn Monroe stretched in Malibu in 1952.
Jane Fonda around the time of her epic July 4 party attended by Jack Nicholson, Dennis Hopper, George Cukor, Andy Warhol and Gene Kelly, who, with Sidney Poitier's help, taught Roger Vadim's daughter how to tap dance that night.
Ginger Rogers, on her tennis court, could "dish up as wicked a serve as she [could] a dance step," claimed the RKO studio in a 1930s press bio.
Steve McQueen and Lee Majors
Lee Majors (right) with Steve McQueen around 1980 at nearby Santa Paula Airport. "We'd hop in his truck, go antiquing and try to outbid each other," says Majors.
Sally Field waved in 1965 while starring on the ABC sitcom Gidget, based on Malibu's most famous teen surfer. In 2011, she sold her Malibu house for $5.65 million.