Malibu, Pt. Dume 1942

BBQ California Lobster
(Click to jump to recipe)

The monster lobster in the photograph was about 25 pounds and so all

proportions and times for the simple broiled California lobster recipe are

bigger and longer. The technique is the same.

El Niņo brought warm water up the Pacific Coast and many lobsters came along

for the ride. This one could have easily been more than 40 years old! I grabbed

him right off the coast here. The whole act of a Clam Bake brought back rich


When I was a young lad, my Dad would head off with his buddies, sometimes swim

fins, a tire iron and his swimming trunks. We'd wait the day in anticipation of

his victorious return with the mythical abalone for dinner.

Dad was an Olympic springboard diver in the '32 games here in Los Angeles. He

lettered every year at UCLA in diving. He did stunts falling off of pirate

ships in early Hollywood movies. His freshman roommate was Lloyd (Bud) Bridges

of "Sea Hunt" fame and the father of Jeff and Bo.

The ocean was my "baby sitter" growing up and body surfing was "bonding" with

Dad. Actually, anything that had to do with the water was our "quality time"

back then.

From my perspective, tagging along with Dad, every pool on the Palos Verdes

Peninsula had some mysterious human (adult) connected to it that Dad would

call. "How would you like us to come over and clean the leaves from the bottom

of your pool?" or "Do you think there's anyone around who wants a diving

lesson?" (for the Chadwick school pool where I met Jann Wenner who went on to

start Rolling Stone Magazine). If there was an "OK" on the other end of the

line, we'd grab our suits and towels, jump in the Chevrolet Bel-Air and be off.

In contexts like these, we kids, the three of us, knew every pool on the hill.

When I became a little older I could tag along for the skin diving expeditions

and swim along with the big guys....Dad's buddies, as they harvested nature's,

and California's, rich bounty.

There was a place out at Portuguese Bend called the Sea Wall. I saw Nick, a

life guard friend of ours, bring in 30-40 abalone at a time. He had an

automobile innertube (also good for riding inside, surfing) with a gunny sack

tied open in the middle that he'd fill up with the creepy snails... pinks,

greens and occasional lower quality blacks. These babies were not small by any

means. I think 12 inches across was a minimum. Some were huge. They felt weird

when you poked them and they retracted. Lying on their backs at home they'd try

to get out of their shells to attach to something hard and flip over. Stick

your tongue out as far as you can for a few minutes. That's sort of what it

looked like. Occasionally there'd be an extra prize--- a "bug"--- a lobster

that just happened to be a little too slow and too close to the men diving for


Scuba diving was just beginning, but few people had the gear. And the number of

deaths associated with aqua lungs was scary. I watched them haul up a blue

body, covered in an olive green army blanket, from Bluff Cove once, it was

pretty spooky to see that dead leg and foot sticking out.

Anyway, Sea Wall was a prime abalone spot. Nick said that he'd gotten 5 once,

pilled on top of each other. You never came home without a dinner in the trunk

of your car.

When you did get home, Dad did the hard work of prying out the meat, trimming

it and cutting the 1/3 inch thick slices off the foot. And then pounding those

slices for what seemed like forever! We had a wooden abalone mallet with lots

of little points on one side for the initial pounding. A gentler, cross-hatched

side finished the job of tenderizing without mutilating the steak. If you had

too much meat for one meal, it would go into clean cottage cheese cartons and

into the refrigerator freezer for later meals.

The pounded steaks were dipped in egg and rolled in a flour seasoned with salt

and fresh ground black pepper, then tossed into a buttered frying pan. Brown

that puppy and flop it onto a hungry child's waiting plate. Squeeze some lemon

juice, add a dollop of Dad's special home made tarter sauce, and away you go to

the table.

My job was sitting on the counter next to the stove with a spatula, watching

and listening to the crackling frying pan. Dad would lift me into position or

I'd pull out three drawers and climb up by myself. I learned to cook before I

was tall enough to see the top of the stove. I was the flipper. Bacon, pancakes

and waffle's were my specialty. Grampa had an orange orchard up at Lake

Elsinore and there was always a lug of fresh oranges to be squeezed on weekend


In those days lobsters, like the one in my picture, were not that uncommon. I

remember seeing a "bug" that covered the entire hood of a Volkswagen! It was

probably 4 feet wide by 6 feet long. The California coast had not yet been

plundered and polluted by over population. Your manhood was easily reaffirmed

by bringing home dinner from the sea.

In the middle 50's Mel Fisher opened the first dive shop in the world and

taught aqua lung lessons in the Hermosa Biltmore Hotel's indoor pool. We were

just beginning to play with my surf band, The Bel Airs, when gold mining

devices started to show up in Mel's window, next to Catalina Music, where we'd

buy our 78 rpm singles.

Not long afterwards, our band would be throwing dances upstairs from the pool

with another local group, The Beach Boys, and charging $1 admission. The fan

clubs would sell drinks. Afterwards we'd divide up the one dollar bills equally

and feel really rich. Can you imagine what a few hundred one's felt like

filling your pants and shirt pockets when you are 15? The Beach Boys were a lot

like us but better singers. We were better instrumentalists. None of us had any

idea of the world wide success that was soon to follow.

You might remember Mel Fisher ( He went on

to find the Nuestra Senora de Atocha treasure off of Florida. Thousands of

artifacts were recovered, silver coins, gold coins (many in near mint

condition), amazing objects and wares from the earlier Spanish period,

exquisite jewelry set with precious stones, gold chains, precious metal disks,

a variety of armaments and even seeds (which later sprouted!). This discovery

by Mel Fisher and his "Golden Crew" reflected the richest treasure find since

the opening of King Tut's tomb in the 1930's.. I've heard estimates of more

than $400 million worth.

Life is full of adventures. There have been a few times that I've wondered

whether I should have spent more time in the dive shop with Mel next door to

Catalina Music?


But I've wandered far from my task here... now here's that simple recipe for

BBQ California Lobster that I promised.

You've probably heard that the small lobsters are better--tender and tastier. I

think that is a story that the commercial fish people made up because the

monsters are rarely available anymore. My catch provided me with mouth-watering

meals for a week plus food for my 9 guests at our end-of-summer clambake. He

was delicious, tender and succulent... I think better than any lobster, Maine

or California, that I've ever tasted. There's nothing like a nice big chunk of

lobster meat, dripping with herbally seasoned butter, plopped into your mouth

for a lengthy chew and savor.


Other items that we cooked for the clambake were:


10 pounds of local clams

5 pounds of colossal shrimp with heads on

8 large Dungeness crabs

10 more 3+ lb. lobsters

5 pounds of New Zealand green lip mussels

5 pounds of local salmon

5 pounds of fresh linguini pasta with a friends cold pressed extra, extra

virgin olive oil, garlic, finely chopped parsley and fresh grated parmesan



May I suggest the delicious Chinois Vinaigrette for the cold left overs? Its

excellent over a salad, but so good you can drink it by itself.


BBQ California Lobster

serves 2... your mileage may vary.

2 lb. live lobster

2 Tbs. butter

2 large shallots, minced (1 heaping Tbs.)

Dash salt

Dash freshly ground white pepper

1 tsp. paprika

crushed garlic

1/2 cup melted butter

1 lemon.


1/2 cup melted butter


Plunge live lobster into vigorously boiling water for 4 minutes. (Ocean water

is the best for this type of cooking. It has just the right amount of salt and

flavors.) Remove, allow to cool sufficiently to handle, split through the

middle, rinse out entrails (save "lobster butter"... its the yellowish soft

stuff found inside the bug... not the melted dairy product. It is highly prized

by some lobster lovers and makes for delicious eating).

Make a mixture of dairy butter, shallots, salt, pepper, paprika and garlic.

Brush some of this butter mixture on the meat side of lobster. Place over

charcoal broiler, meat side down, shell side up, for 6 minutes. Turn lobster

over, pour on the remainder of the butter mixture, and finish broiling (approx.

10 minutes). Garnish with lemon and watercress. Serve at once with more melted


I wouldn't turn down an invitation should you come across a few too many to


The photo was taken by Charlie Heflin, Art Director of Monaco Records, and one

of the guests at the Clam Bake.