Neptune Avenue in Encinitas has been home to many celebrities over the years as mentioned in Part I of our two-part series about this famous area in Encinitas. It has also been a draw for various sports stars ranging from an NFL general manager to an Olympic snowboarder/skateboarder.
But before such sports figures are mentioned it’s worth noting another famous person also called this avenue home. Hugh Martin once lived adjacent to Neptune Avenue until he died in March 2011, at age 96. While his name may not be instantly recognizable, his music might.
Martin was an American musical theater and film composer, arranger, vocal coach and playwright. He was best known for his score for the 1944 MGM musical “Meet Me in St. Louis,” in which Judy Garland sang three Martin songs, “The Boy Next Door,” “The Trolley Song,” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
According to unofficial neighborhood historian, Charles Marvin: “I saw him walking with his walker on Neptune on numerous occasions. He was quite the character. At a local Rotary meeting someone invited him to speak and this little old guy came in and people were helping him. He had a walker and could barely move; he was probably in his early 90s. They took him over to an old piano at the Elks Club where we were meeting and when he sits down there was this amazing transformation. He did a medley of his songs and it was incredible it was if he was in his 20s again.”
As for sports figures, Neptune Avenue has been home to Olympian Shaun White who was dubbed by Italian sportswriters, the “Flying Tomato,” because of his huge head of red hair and the way he would fly with hair streaming on his snowboard when competing in the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy.
The three-time Olympic Gold Medalist and skateboarder/snowboarder extraordinaire once had a beachfront home for about five to eight years on Neptune Avenue. He also holds the record for the most X-Games Gold Medals and most Olympic Gold Medals by a snowboarder, and he has won 10 ESPY Awards.
White came under the tutelage of Tony Hawk when he was only 9 years old and Hawk could see his potential. Hawk was also instrumental in helping White turn pro at age 17. Some residents recall him driving around the city in his Lamborghini when he lived in the area.
Another sports star who lived on Neptune Avenue was Bobby Beathard, a former general manager of two NFL teams. Over 38 years in the NFL in various roles, he competed in seven Super Bowls, winning four. He also once appeared on the cover of “Sports Illustrated” with the caption: “The Smartest Man in Football.” He resided in the area for more than a dozen years and had a duplex at the north of Beacon’s Beach until moving to a larger home on the bluff at the north end of Neptune Avenue.
“I loved living on Neptune, we had a home that was right there on the beach,” Beathard, now a resident of Tennessee, said. “I loved being able to walk down those steps right onto the beach to go surfing. The waves were great, and it was a fun place to live for years.”
Also taking up residence on Neptune Avenue is a sports star who has lived on the avenue since 1972, Jack “Woody” Ekstrom, one of the pioneers of surfing in San Diego County.
“I bought the lot in 1955 and moved in around 1972,” said the 91-year-old. “I came here in the 1960s and got to know it and I really liked it; it’s a lovely area.”
He said he has heard all the stories about other famous people residing on his street including the writer Zane Grey who “used to entertain writer Pearl S. Buck,” and “Charlie Chapin who built a home for his mother, but she didn’t want anything to do with it. Chaplin and his buddies used the house to party!”
Finally, tennis player Bobby Riggs lived on the north end of Neptune Street for a while. He lived in the condos that were built on the former tomato fields once dubbed “Tomato Patches” by the surfers in the 1970s.
When the developer decided to erect the Sea Bluff condos, a 40-acre tract on top of the bluff at the north end of Neptune Avenue, they were trying to advertise it and needed a hook to at least get people to look at the development which had three tennis courts.
Riggs, who became their front man, in 1939 was ranked the top amateur tennis player in the world and then in 1946-47, the top male tennis player in world. The same Riggs, who as one of the early pioneers of male chauvinism and political incorrectness, was demolished in the famous televised “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match, by the indomitable Billie Jean King.
Many have said what makes Neptune Avenue such a magnate is its diversity. Apparently: “you don’t know who you might be talking to as it could be a local surf bum on the street or a guy who’s worth a few hundred million.”