The first Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade was a small but inspired affair.
Back in December 1963, slips within the fledgling marina housed only about 100 boats —20 of which were decked out in Christmas lights and paraded around the harbor for the inaugural parade, boating columnist Darien Murray wrote in a 1972 column for The Argonaut (the paper being only a year old at the time).
Vessels docked at the marina in those days were often jostled by stormy seas before the 1965 completion of a protective breakwater. The first boat parade, in part, was a statement of the marina community’s recovery from a devastating storm the previous winter. Its grand marshal was David D. Jennings, Marina del Rey’s first leaseholder, who at the time was building the original Mystic Cove Marina.
But by the time Murray wrote her column, Marina del Rey — and, by extension, its boat parade — had become an important destination. That year “Rat Pack” member Joey Bishop led the parade as its grand marshal, taking the helm from 1971 grand marshal Buddy Ebsen, who ushered in an era of celebrity participation (both as parade leaders and yacht club partygoers) that continues to this day.
In addition to Hollywood stars, top sports figures, local elected leaders and radio personalities have also reigned over the parade.
Los Angeles Lakers President Jeanie Buss and former “Zen Master” Coach Phil Jackson, lead the parade this year as co-grand marshals under the theme “Holiday Magic.”
In honor of 51 years of nautical holiday tradition, former boat parade organizer and Marina del Rey Historical Society co-founder Willie Hjorth dug through her extensive archives to help The Argonaut spotlight many of the famous faces that have celebrated the holidays on our shores.
You never know who may show up this year. Don’t miss it!
— Joe Piasecki and Ernesto Esquivel
2013: Los Angeles Lakers President Jeanie Buss and former “Zen Master” Coach Phil Jackson
2012: Olympic gold medalist
Kerri Walsh Jennings
2011: radio personality Mike Sakellarides
2010: radio personality Larry Morgan
2007: TV weatherman Garth Kemp
2006: actress Stephanie Powers
2003: Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe
1999: actress Connie Stevens
1996: actor Tony Danza
1994: folksinger Glenn Yarbrough
1993: Jean-Michel Cousteau,
environmentalist and ocean explorer
1992: sports anchor Fred Roggin
1991: actress Florence Henderson
1990: David Wolper, television and film producer
1989: actor and singer Howard Keel
1988: actress Cloris Leachman
1986: Ed McMahon, television
host and announcer
1984: actor Ernest Borgnine
1983: Olympic gold medalist Mark Spitz
1982: entertainer Dick Van Dyke
1979: Los Angeles County Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke
1978: singer Robert Goulet
1977: radio personality
“Sweet” Dick Whittington
1976: actor Stuart Whitman
1975: actor Tim O’Connor
1974: actress Barbara Rush
1973: actress Ann B. Davis
1972: entertainer and
“Rat Pack” member Joey Bishop
1971: actor and dancer Buddy Ebsen
1964: actor Leif Erickson
1963: David D. Jennings, developer of Mystic Cove Marina on Bali Way