Whatever happened to the legendary Southern California trend of beach bonfires? You know, the pivotal scene in countless beach movies, from Annette and Frankie to Gidget. As the Los Angeles Times' Gale Holland writes, years of regulation have dramatically decreased where and when you can hold a beach bonfire -- including a current battle in Newport Beach:
The real reason for the proposed ban is that some Newport residents want the beaches to themselves. It's the same crowd that is trying to stamp out the beach town's historic honky-tonk flavor: witness the squeeze city fathers and mothers have put on Balboa Fun Zone, the raucous playground of my youth.Holland notes that there's a reason why fires are still allowed at Dockweiler: "Straddled by a refinery and a sewage plant, and crisscrossed by jets screaming out of LAX, it's the least pristine beach in the L.A. Basin. There are no homeowners around to complain that outsiders, with their clanking coolers and folding chairs, are invading their turf. Nearly 800 houses on the cliffs above Dockweiler were removed decades ago because of the airport racket."
No one seems to know exactly how or why it came to this. As a child, I remember my father digging a hole in the sand and setting driftwood on fire. In my teens, I flirted with boys beside roaring bonfires. But by 1990, beach fires had been banned along L.A.'s shoreline outside of designated rings at Dockweiler and Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro, supposedly because of an "explosion" in coastal visitors.
The ensuing years have seen sporadic fights over beach fires up and down the state, with the exception of Santa Cruz and San Diego counties, where, despite some skirmishes, they have kept their place as civic treasures.