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  • Susan Welsh

Best Beach Party Ever!


Tonight is television gold for me with the reboot of ABC's Battle of the Network Stars --a bygone, biannual event, filmed on the stunning campus of my alma mater, Pepperdine University. Our campus, or as we referred to it, "God's Country Club", is located in Malibu, sandwiched between the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.

BOTNS ran from 1976-1985, with one final competition in December of 1988. Cheesy and campy as it was, the show was based on the then-- popular Wide World of Sports and featured all my favorite TV stars competing in events that included Tug of War, Archery, Kayak Relays, and an Obstacle Course.

So what's the big appeal for me now? Well, NOSTALGIA, of course. . In my day the celebrities included some of my favorites: Joan Van Arc, Vicki Lawrence, Richard Dean Anderson, Michael J. Fox, and Melissa Gilbert.

Tonight's reboot consists of twenty teams, two colors (red and blue) and spans multiple eras, generations, and networks. According to producer Andrew Glassman, "There is no format which is a better time machine than 'Battle of the Network Stars', plus the name itself fills you with nostalgia and a sense of positive energy--like the beach party you really want to be invited to with your favorite people from tv."

As I'm watching the network stars of yesterday tonight, I'll be thinking of the chaparral in the background, the Pacific Ocean unfurling in the foreground and the Santa Ana winds that blew across campus in my youth. I'll reminisce about salads at Moonshadow's and nachos and margaritas at the now defunct Carlo's and Pepe's, and an unforgettable lunch at The Inn of the Seventh Ray with my friend Lydia-- talking books for hours. I'll remember the small earthquake and the big wild fire that hit when I was there. I'll recall the field trip to the breathtaking Getty Villa filled with Greek and Roman statues and antiquities. I'll recount all the friends and professors I had and the many lessons I learned during my slice of life at Pepperdine, and my Malibu days and nights.

I'll go back through photos of me with Dario and Angela, cruising up and down the aisles in a cart at Ralph's Supermarket where seeing celebrities was common. In those days it was either Margot Kidder, Pierce Brosnan, Dick Clark, or Flip Wilson. I once saw Liberace in the Malibu Country Mart and Mark Hamill looking at magazines at the pharmacy. Shirley MacClaine once said hello to me when I was buying yogurt--covered almonds in the Colony Market and spotting my favorite soap opera stars from General Hospital was a weekly occurrence.

Malibu memories will stay with me forever. Tonight on ABC I can watch the scenery behind the stars and summon back the days of climbing to the top of Phillips Tower and weekly convocations and the mellifluous and enchanting sound of Dr. Lydia Wilburn reading Chaucer--a lullaby to my young, literary-minded ears. Once upon a time, when I was young. . .


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