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Come and listen to a story about a man named Jed.
He was a poor mountaineer who barely kept his family fed, but actor Buddy Ebsen‘s hillbilly character, which he portrayed on TV from 1962 to 1971, belied the actor’s life in Newport Beach.
Ebsen, who played unsophisticated Jed Clampett, the widowed patriarch of the family on the baby-boomer-beloved sitcom “The Beverly Hillbillies,” was a long-time resident of Balboa Island who left an impression on the area.
His waterfront house at 530 S. Bay Front sold in the past three months, and the new owners offered it for an event to benefit the Balboa Island Museum & Historical Society.
Guests arrived dressed in flannel shirts. Women tied their hair in pigtails and men wore suspenders in keeping with the fish-out-of-water theme of the comedy, which focused on a poor backwoods Ozark family transplanted to Beverly Hills after striking oil on their land.
People attending Saturday’s gathering shared personal stories about Ebsen, who was easily recognized on the Island since he often wore a bright red shirt, which accented his white hair, said Balboa Island Museum & Historical Society President Shirley Pepys.
A man from Riverside, whose last name is Clampett, talked about how as a boy, he’d sit in the frontyard of Ebsen’s house and eventually got his photo taken with the actor, Pepys said.
The man still carried that photograph in his wallet.
Others talked about how surprised they were when Ebsen would answer the door on Halloween night and deliver candy to children.
Another spoke about how as a child he and the Ebsen children would jump off the home’s second deck and land in the pool.
“Many people had stories on how nice he was,” Pepys said. “It was very fun and nice to hear.”
The late actor, who also found success as Barnaby Jones on the show of the same name, lived in the home — which was built in 1965 and offers expansive views of the Pacific Ocean, Newport Harbor and the Balboa Pavilion — for more than 20 years. Ebsen, who had been a Balboa Bay Club member, died in 2003 at the age of 95.
The planning for the event began when the home’s new owner became a member of the historical society and suggested that organizers take photos of the dwelling before it was rebuilt.
By the time Pepys met with the homeowner, she began thinking of hosting an event to honor the late actor and the property.
The benefit, which charged $50 per person, raised money for the Balboa Island Museum & Historical Society’s mission to preserve the island heritage and showcase the museum’s artifacts in its 1947 home on Marine Avenue.
“We certainly gained a lot of tourists,” Pepys said, noting that the event welcomed about 200 guests. “I had no idea people would be so excited. The response was phenomenal.”
The Balboa Island home, in its day, was filled with family and friends.
Though the home will be remodeled, Ebsen’s daughters touched on the importance of moving forward and thanking a place for the memories it helped create.
“A wise man once told his five children, ‘Kids, learn to enjoy today, enjoy the now. Because five, 10, 20 years from now it won’t be here,'” Bonnie Ebsen Jackson said, according to a news release. “That wooden house stood for more than 50 years and fulfilled its purpose. Now the property is moving forward with a new owner and purpose.”
“It was inevitable, the house had to go,” daughter Kiki Ebsen added. “But our father’s memory lives on — life is now.”