Stuart Muller—Iconoclast, Citizen of the Year and Disney Imagineer—Swaps the Palisades for Mexico
By JOHN HARLOW | Editor-in-Chief
On Monday, July 31, Stuart Muller, a former school counselor and Pacific Palisades Community Council member who, over the years, woke the town up to many environmental and cultural threats, packed his bags and retired to Mexico.
He told the PPCC on Thursday, July 27, that house prices have become too rich for his blood in the town where he was born 73 years ago.
At the meeting, he received many plaudits and some teasing about his fiery campaigns about quake zones and green spaces.
This is an extract from the speech he stopped himself making at the PPCC meeting.
Muller opened with “Ode to Pacpalcalusa,” a poem about the town with hand gestures that he hopes might one day be taught in the schools he attended.
“‘Down high mountains
Through the canyons to the sea
May all that do pass through here
Find True Tranquility’
I have found both tranquility and sorrow in my 73 years here, and leave with a rich range of emotions.
My great-grandfather moved to the Palisades in 1926 and built a house at 1135 Galloway.
We first lived at 1160 Fiske. The once-peaceful neighborhood was alive with the sound of hammers and saws. I asked my mom: “When are they going to finish making all this noise?” She replied, “Never!” which has turned out to be very true.
The 1950s were a bucolic time of great prosperity. The motto most kids grew up with was “You can achieve anything you want to if you put your mind to it and stick with it.” We came with a guarantee, [but] later we learned that guarantee had expired.
My parents were founding members of The Parish of St. Matthew and I was in the first class to go all the way through the ‘Day School’ [and] all the way through the new junior high school, Paul Revere [Charter Middle School].
I went to USC (1965-67) where I majored in cinema with classmates George Lucas and John Milias.
Upon graduation, I bought a one-way ticket to Europe and ended up living in a small Spanish village with no running water as a photographer’s assistant, creating pictures for Time-Life books on wines and spirits and Spanish cooking.
I married a wonderful Palisadian, Melantha Tatum, and we lived in Spain together. We returned to the Palisades to have two wonderful children, Payson and Daniela, on Via De La Paz.
I worked at the Walt Disney Studios as a wildlife photographer and writer, and then at Disney Imagineering as a concept designer for the EPCOT Center and Tokyo Disneyland.
When gay people were liberated, Melantha and I parted ways, and I began a joyful, 20-year relationship with a fellow Imagineer, Tom Fitzgerald.
I attended Antioch for a master’s degree in clinical psychology and volunteered at Pali High for eight years, conducting individual and group psychotherapy.
I enjoyed my service on PPCC very much and used my Imagineering skills to conceive projects to improve our streetscapes. (Many of the maps used by PPCC today were created by Muller).
I will truly miss my hometown and all the wonderful people who live here. The greatest change is the high cost of housing, which is the primary reason why I am moving to Mexico.
I’ve always enjoyed the Hispanic culture and will be able to live within my means in a small-town full of light, music and friendly people.
I will always remember the wonderful life I’ve had in ‘Pacpalcalusa’ … the tranquility, the ocean breeze, body surfing, roller-skating, hiking, and my friends and family.
Please take care of this wonderful place.”
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