At 3 p.m. on Sunday, the Annenberg Beach House team say it’s time to bring out the champagne and raise a glass for a virtual celebration of original Beach House resident Marion Davies.

The Happy Birthday Marion celebration is in its ninth year and though the Zoom event will look a little different, it’s set to be jam packed with music, photos, art, and stories commemorating Davies’ legacy and the Gold Coast era of the 1920s.

“We feel so strongly about our Happy Birthday Marion program and we really didn’t want to let it go this year,” said Beach House Manager Nan Friedman. “We hope that people come and enjoy it, that it lifts their spirits and brings a bit of the Beach House to life.”

The event will commemorate Davies’ life with performances by Janet Klein & Her Parlor Boys and pianist Frederick Hodges, tales about her adventures from Santa Monica Conservancy docents, a Sunset at the Beach mocktail making, and more.

“Marion Davies was many things: a very special performer, a philanthropist, a famed party hostess. She was described as like the bubbles in a glass of champagne,” said Friedman.

Both the Beach House and Davies have glamorous and intriguing histories well worth spending time exploring.

Newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst first bought the five acre oceanfront site to develop a mansion for Davies in the 1920s.

Davies came from humble beginnings and ran away from her Catholic family in Brooklyn to become a showgirl in the Follies. Davies met Hearst while performing and became his lifelong companion, muse, and mistress — a role that both elevated her and came with many difficulties.

“Hearst never divorced his wife and I think it was very challenging to be such a high profile celebrity and also a woman in that situation,” said Friedman. “One of the reasons why she celebrated so much at home and hosted so many incredible parties is that it was easier for her to have people at her home than to be at others’ homes.”

With the support of Hearst’s film company, Davies became a famous movie star known for hosting lavish soirees for the Hollywood elite. She remained by Hearst’s side until his death in 1951 and dedicated her later life to charitable work.

In 1947 Joseph Drown bought the Beach House from Davies and converted it into the Ocean House Hotel and Sand & Sea private beach club. The property was sold to the State of California in 1959 and later managed by the City of Santa Monica.

The house was severely damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake, but thanks to a $27.5 million grant from Wallis Annenberg of The Annenberg Foundation, the City was able to rehabilitate the building and create a year-round public beach facility.

“The fact that the historical site was first developed as private property and over time became public and available to everyone is a piece of history in itself,” said Friedman.

In 2009 the Annenberg Community Beach House opened, providing cultural programming celebrating the site’s unique history alongside public recreation and event spaces.

While many of the Beach House’s amenities are currently closed due to Covid-19, the public can still access the parking lot, playground, beach restrooms, and Back on the Beach Cafe.

Friedman said community members of all ages are welcome to attend Sunday’s virtual celebration and should register at: http://happybirthdaymarion2021.eventbrite.com

Clara@smdp.com