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Celebrate! : Orange County's First 100 Years : Forging An Identity : A Galaxy Of Stars, Past And Present

May 22, 1988|Herman Wong

With its proximity to Hollywood and its wealth of sea vistas, remote canyons and resort inns, Orange County always has been a popular with celebrities, whether as vacationers or transplanted residents.

Although home-grown stars have been rare, they do exist: Diane Keaton attended Santa Ana and Orange Coast colleges; Steve Martin lived in Garden Grove and worked at Disneyland, and John Raitt was born in Santa Ana (where Raitt Street is named after his grandfather, a pioneer dairyman). Although born in Kansas, Roscoe (Fatty) Arbuckle, the ill-fated silent-screen comic, spent half his childhood in Santa Ana.

Adopted homesteaders, like Newport Beach's John Wayne, have been far more common. Bette Davis maintained an ocean-view residence in Laguna Beach throughout the 1940s and early '50s, often commuting to the Warner Bros. studios in Burbank. She was an active volunteer for the Laguna Beach Festival of the Arts and in 1952 posed in a Joshua Reynolds portrait in a Pageant of the Masters "living tableau." Other residents have included Ruby Keeler, Claire Trevor, Ray Milland, Andy Devine, Leon Ames and Buddy Ebsen in Newport Beach and William (Hopalong Cassidy) Boyd in San Clemente. Harriet Nelson still lives in the Laguna Beach seaside home that for years was the Nelsons' weekend retreat.

Although James Cagney's permanent home was at Martha's Vineyard, he was a frequent visitor to Newport Beach, where his sister Jeanne and producer-brother William maintained residences for years.

The real starry influx has been composed of seasonal or other casual visits. In the late 1920s, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks made the grand trek from Pickfair to summer at Irvine Cove. In the 1930s, such luminaries as Gary Cooper and Cary Grant stayed at the Balboa Inn, while others--including John Barrymore, Joan Fontaine and Rosalind Russell--frequented the Hotel Laguna.

Stars who kept boats moored in Newport Beach included Tom Mix, Errol Flynn, Dick Powell and Humphrey Bogart. It is said that in the late '40s, Bogie and Lauren Bacall often would leave their boat at Newport Harbor and drive down the coast to the Hotel Laguna.

Disneyland probably has attracted the starriest who's who, having run the gamut from such highly publicized visitors as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton to such camera-avoiding recluses as Marlon Brando.

Orange County also has its star-studded legends: In the 1920s, Santa Ana was regarded as an ideal getaway for stars wanting a quick marriage and a convenient honeymoon. Couples could get married immediately after receiving their license, so stars could wed at the County Courthouse, then go right across the street to their honeymoon suite at St. Ann's Inn.

It is rumored that John Gilbert and Greta Garbo, the silent era's most torrid pair--on and off the screen--arrived one day in the late 1920s to take part in a quickie wedding. But legend says that Garbo got cold feet before entering the courthouse. The rest is history. Garbo never married and was never again known to be in Orange County.

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