For twenty plus years I worked in marine construction. This included building and repairing seawalls, piers and docks, installing and replacing wood, steel and concrete pilings, and inspecting and overhauling on-shore and off-shore moorings in Newport Harbor.
The residential and commercial work allowed me to meet and work for John Wayne, (my younger brother also played with Ethan at their home), Joey Bishop, Don Koll, Henry Segerstrom, Bob Lewis (a yachtsman and owner of two Kentucky Derby winners), and Cleo Stater (Stater Bros. supermarket), to name a few.
All of these men were very successful and unique gentlemen, but today I’ll write about my association with Mr. Stater.
Around 1976, Cleo Stater called our company, which had built and installed his dock at the Stater home in Dover Shores. He mentioned he was thinking of purchasing a home on the west end of Linda Isle. The sole purpose of the move was so he could park his yacht out front. At that time, as with most boats over 50-feet, it could not fit under the Coast Highway bridge, which was much lower than the bridge we have now.
He asked me to meet him on his boat at the Balboa Bay Club and gave me the slip number. I started looking at the slip numbers in front of the apartments and continued east until I was in front of the old First Deck area. These slips could accommodate yachts 100-feet and larger. I was a little stunned.
At the slip was one of the most beautiful motor yachts I had ever seen. When I was young we would boat on my grandfather’s yacht built for Douglas Fairbanks which was 85 feet and kept in the same area. This yacht was larger–during the meeting I found out she was 96 feet long and appropriately name “Shangri-la.”
As I approached the boarding steps a small man I assumed was the captain, greeted me and politely welcomed me aboard. He showed me to the salon and we sat down among the most extravagant ancient Chinese antiques and furniture I’ve ever seen. I mentioned the nature of my visit and he smiled and nodded. As hospitable as possible he cleared up my assumption and informed me he was Cleo Stater.
This very nice, smiling, pleasant gentleman was not the captain. His calm demeanor and agreeable nature really surprised me.
He showed me a plot plan of #87 Linda Isle and asked if a new larger dock could be installed. We designed a new dock which conformed to all the government standards and started the permit process. Mr. Stater asked me to let him know when all the permits were obtained and he would close escrow on the Linda Isle estate. We did just that and initiated the construction phase.
Shortly thereafter, my Dad called and asked me to drop by his real estate brokerage for a visit. Earlier in the day he was at his escrow company and heard an amazing and humorous story he wanted to share because he knew I was working for Cleo Stater.
Earlier that day Mr. Stater closed his Linda Isle escrow and had caused quite a fuss. For fun he had the $1.2 million for the home delivered in cash. The escrow company had never had this happen before and wouldn’t let the armored car couriers leave until their banks armored car couriers took possession of the cash.
This home recently sold for more than $10 million, which is probably what $1.2 million is now worth.
Steve Barrett has more than 50 years boating in Newport and performs systems checks, repairs and pilots yachts. Email him at [email protected].