Last Call at Heaven’s Hot Spot

“Attention, party people, Diedrich’s will be closing forever in 45 minutes!”

Mike the Barman’s last caffeine call is truly the last. The Diedrich’s coffee shop in Malibu Colony Plaza closes tonight for good at 10 o’ clock sharp, only to transmogrify to shades of green and reopen as a Starbucks. The entire chain has sold itself to Starbucks, apparently bending to the new California state decree that there must be a Starbucks every 200 yards along the coast. This is a shame, because Diedrich’s had become a pretty fun hangout over the past couple of months — a combination of Friends and Cheers and Entourage — a clean, well-lighted place to work, drink coffee, use almost-free Wi-Fi and write, entertained by a parade of tourists, Malibu characters, movie stars and, sigh, that endless procession of Pepperdine girls.

Half an hour to go. “All right, who wants free coffee?” Mike the Barman asks, and he means not a small latte but a whole plastic bucket of the stuff. A gorgeous Pepperdine co-ed in a hat — currently working on her bachelor’s at the Katie Holmes School of Cute — just floats up and accepts the whole thing, perhaps to fuel late-night Bible studies on the hill.

Rich the casting agent is here, playing a last game of chess. Malcolm is talking to Boston Red Sox Hat, who a few hours earlier got in a tussle with Mike, the unofficial mayor of this Diedrich’s. It’s unclear what the argument was about, but some people claim there’s a woman to blame. Passions are running high here in the final hours.

I have spent almost every waking hour here for the past couple of weeks, finishing a book on the history of the surfboard, feeling a little guilty for becoming one of the oddball crew who hangs out at Diedrich’s all day, listening to the decent soundtrack and buying something every two hours in exchange for a Wi-Fi card.

The password on my final Wi-Fi card is rosetisl. Rearrange the letters and they spell “loser sit.” Hmmm. Writing is a lonely business made a little less lonely by places like Diedrich’s, where you can not feel completely disconnected from the world and maybe get a little inspiration from music or people or girls. Pepperdine girls. Thank heaven for Pepperdine girls. I wish they all could be Pepperdine girls. Pepperdine must be the only university that requires students to submit 8-by-10-inch glossies with their SATs. How else to explain the steady stream of pretty, well-dressed, perfectly groomed, early-20-somethings from good families, who come off the hill radiating their love of Jesus? They come through Diedrich’s for a cuppa and a chat, to do homework and sometimes to hold hands and pray — and if you suspect there is something erotic about two beautiful Pepperdine girls holding hands with their eyes shut and praying... sigh. Six minutes, counting down. Diedrich’s has also been good for stargazing. Data from the new Star Trek came through several times, once with his son. Matthew Perry was in here — mocking the whole Friends aura — and Kelsey Grammer comes in all the time, maybe because everybody knows his name. Cate Blanchett swept by once, out the window, tall and blonde and six inches off the ground. But none of that compares to the regular visits of Malcolm McDowell, who comes in/out, in/out all the time, unrecognized, gets a coffee and walks out. Little Alex. Legend.

But that will all be over soon. Diedrich’s will close, casting the regular crew asunder to find new hangouts, new Wi-Fi signals. Hey, bro, where you gonna run to now? There is a Starbucks 200 yards away, but it doesn’t have a bathroom — an irony, pointed out by Craig Ferguson, for a place that sells a diuretic — and you have to pay T-Mobile $40 a month to use their Wi-Fi. My mom is a law-abiding woman who loves to poach cable TV, and I am the same with Wi-Fi.

I don’t want to pay and I don’t want to sit at Starbucks — there is a homeless guy there who sits in the corner and glares at me. Malibu Kitchen employs Kelsy and Whitney and a lot of pretty, wholesome, underprivileged Pepperdine girls, but there are no poachable Wi-Fi signals in there, and Malibu Kitchen is too busy to be scene-friendly.

So there might not be a good alternative to Diedrich’s, until this one enters the corporate cocoon and re-emerges as Starbucks No. 6,500+. It will charge for Wi-Fi, but hopefully it will take headshots with its résumés and employ a lot of pretty, wholesome, underprivileged Pepperdine girls. And at least it will have a bathroom.

And now the hour has come.

“Diedrich’s is officially closed!” Mike the Barman announces. “Thank you for your patronage. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here!”

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