ForeverMissed
  • Karl Metzenberg was born in Chicago on March 3, 1933, to John and Francelle Metzenberg. Karl’s father was a wonderful sailor and navigator who taught him to sail when he was 9. In 1950 Karl moved to Portland, Oregon, to attend Reed College; the people he met there changed his life.  After college, he started Caffe Espresso, the first coffee house in the Pacific Northwest which became a hangout for artists, poets and writers.  In 1960, Karl sold Caffe Espresso. He moved to Los Angeles where he opened Book Bargain Center in Westwood Village; this too became a cultural hotspot in the sixties.Karl was also a professional photographer.  He liked to develop his own black and white prints, often ironic comments on social situations.  He did photographs for Kate Wolf, Ned Doheny and Jackson Browne. His most renown photo is probably the album cover of  Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty.”  Karl produced an historical series of photographs of the Watts Towers that were recently used in their restoration.  (He served on their Board of Directors).  

    He worked on a few Roger Corman films with director Bruce Clark, but his photographic career was cut short by a car accident in 1977.  He luckily survived but without most of his left leg.  But he didn’t let wearing a prothesis stop him from sailing, camping, or traveling to Europe, India and Asia.  With his wry sense of humor, he got his prosthetists to make him an oak peg leg which he wore every Halloween, even winning a contest at the Isthmus for “Best all around pirate.”In the 1960’s, he, Anthony Rosenwald, and David Ming Li Lowe, friend and architect, bought 3 acres in Laurel Canyon, and over the next 10 years, built what they referred to as “the compound.”  Karl’s friend got him into the Story Analyst’s Guild and he worked 20 years for all the Motion Picture Industry, including 5 years on Star Trek.In the early 80’s, Karl met Janet Z. Giler.  They recognized their kindred souls and were together for the next 38 years, marrying in 1984 in  Avalon, on Catalona Island.  In 1985, their son Conrad was born. Conrad inherited his father’s love of the sea. The Metzenberg family moved to Santa Barbara from Los Angeles in 1993 where they have resided since. Karl is survived by his wife Janet, his son Conrad (Katie) Metzenberg and their daughter Madison.  .He often said, “I am a lucky man” and he will be remembered fondly and missed sorely by the many friends whose lives would not have been the same had they not met him.  Most say they still have his beautifully scripted postcards.“And when I die please bury me, in any part of any sea. For in the earth this part is small, but in one sea, you are in them all.” Karl will get his wish. His ashes will be spread at sea among the Santa Barbara Channel Islands where he loved to sail.
Posted by Carol Lieber on September 18, 2021
Karl & Janet were one of the first couples who I met when I first started dating Matt. I remember wonderful parties at their Laurel Canyon home in the Hollywood Hills. Karl always greeted us with a beautiful smile and twinkling eyes. His mode of personalizing each encounter was such that he made me feel so welcome.  He always gave such warm focus to each individual person to whom he was speaking. So when Matt mentioned that we could have Karl officiate at our own wedding, I was delighted. My first overnight sail and anchorage was with Matt skippering to Santa Cruz Island with Karl & Janet aboard, too. There was great conversation when Karl was present. Quite often after such a conversation with Karl, I would receive a note in the mail with an article attached, which he thought would interest me, always accompanied by that gorgeous calligraphy and unusual stamps. Karl will be sorely missed, but never forgotten. I feel blessed to have had his friendship in my life. As Matt would say, "Fair winds," our dear friend.
Posted by bruce clark on September 17, 2021

MEMORIES OF AN OLD FRIEND.

As I write this I am “burning one” in honor of Dr Metzenberg. We shared many such “burnings” in the past and I sorely miss that we are unable to do so anymore. The pipe I am using, once Karl’s, a bequest from Janet, is a very Metburgian device. Likely designed by a happily stoned engineering nerd, impeccably machined out of stainless steel and black, fifties bakelite, and with a built in, windproof lighter, it is, like Karl, humorous and witty. That wit, the word play, many of his expressions have found their way into my daily lexicon, and way too many bad puns, I am sure live on through many of us.

There was a lot happening in Los Angeles in the sixties and seventies among which was a small group of interesting people who cycled in and out of the friendly atmosphere at Karl’s west hollywood apartment and later his house in Appian Way. Always a generous man, it was his generosity of spirit which always managed to see the best side of people, which was maybe the core of those many informal gatherings. And of course his generosity with marijuana, illegal at the time, and which none of us, ever, in our wildest dreams, thought we would live to see legalized. From connections made there, many ripples spread out to the wider world. It was through Karl that I met many of the people who have come to have a significant place in my life. For that I am very grateful.

Marriage to Janet, and a family, and eventually a move to Santa Barbara brought many positive changes to Karl’s life, but throughout he always valued, remained interested in, and so maintained long standing friendships. And in later years all the postcards, what a wonderful reminder of the elegance of a fading world it was to find one in your mailbox. The medium was the message and when you saw one you always felt warmly about Karl, and knew he remembered and cared about you.
Posted by Freddie McKenna on September 15, 2021
I met Karl in 1980, when I was at MGM Television. He was working as a reader, and I was story editor. I always looked forward to him stopping by with a new summary of a script or novel–mostly because I knew the delivery would be accompanied by some good conversation. Janet and I both had babies in 1985 and Conrad and Alix were playmates until we moved from LA in '89. Karl nicknamed my husband Mike, a deadpan man of few words, "the great stone face," a monicker so fitting I still occasionally use it!

Over the years, Karl made a point of staying in touch, sending his legendary calligraphed letters which invariably started out with "Worthies:" Mike and I always enjoyed sailing with Karl and Janet, first on their tiny sail boat and later on the mighty Currendera. Karl was a true man of the sea. I will never forget toddler Conrad, not yet speaking in complete sentences, but accurately identifying every craft in San Pedro Harbor, thanks to his Poppa's tutelage.

We loved Karl for his warmth and charm, his intellectual curiosity, his kindness, and his stories. He was a mensch and a true humanist and will be missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him.
Posted by Phyllis Driver on September 11, 2021
48 years ago, on a hot dusty road in the middle of a New Mexico desert, kindness and courage so typical of Karl led him to pick up a travel-worn German hitchhiker. Later he said it was the Leicas around the neck that convinced him it would be OK, and on his way to his parents in Sante Fe, Karl immediately included Heinz, a fellow photographer, in the family plans. Thus began a very special and enduring friendship, and the following five decades saw many, but never enough, 'Wiedersehen" in Laurel Canyon, in Munich, in Santa Barbara, in Prague, in Vienna ...

Heinz married Phyllis, Karl married Janet, and Kim and Konrad were born the same year 1985. Years later both of these globetrotting off-spring would also glean welcome and support on two continents. What a gift for our families - the laughter, the good times - always firmly cemented in Karl's amazing faithful correspondence. We, too, became collectors of those incredible cards and letters, that were literature, art and so much love! Thank you, dear Karl.
Heinz and Phyllis with Kim and Corin
Posted by Matt Lieber on September 9, 2021
44 years ago while a Registered Nurse at UCLA's 6 West orthopedic floor, I met and cared for a new admission of a not just a fractured, but a shattered leg. He was of course Karl. His ortho and I tried hard to save that leg, which was hung in suspension traction with a Hoffman Set providing dozens of pins holding all the individual, separated pieces of fractured leg fragments in position. While the leg was lost, a friendship was formed. Karl had the best cookies of any patient on 6 West and always was so generous in letting me know I could feel free to share, although I couldn't help a sense of the sneak thief as I silently tiptoed into his room at 2:45 a.m. to get one. He would inevitably awaken and welcome me, wanting to talk. Karl and I had sailing in common, as well as reading and counter-culture, and much else, and we sailed a bunch together, with him as skipper or with me as skipper, depending upon whose boat we were aboard. From the Laurel Canyon house to his wedding to Janet, to Santa Barbara and Hope Street, he regaled us with stories sometimes ribald and always interesting. Karl (the 'most reverend Karl Metzenberg, non-specific pastor') married my wife and I in 1985; it was wonderful. HE -- was wonderful. My kids know his gorgeous calligraphy from the many letters and postcards. "Hey Dad, that letter's gotta be from Karl! No one else in the world can write like that..." Through my friendship with Karl I was introduced to many wonderful people who have contributed greatly to my life, much as he and Janet have. There's no one like Karl, and I regret to say that there likely will never be, at least in my life.

I'd like to share this poem by Merrit Malloy, called "Epitaph."

"When I die give what's left of me away
to children and old men who wait to die.
And if you need to cry, cry for your brother walking the street beside you.
And when you need me, put your arms around anyone and give them what you need to give me.

I want to leave you something, something better than words or sounds.
Look for me in the people I've known or loved,
and if you cannot give me away,
at least let me live in your eyes and not in your mind.

You can love me best by letting hands touch hands,
and by letting go of children who need to be free.
Love doesn't die, people do.
So when all that's left of me is love,
give me away."

Posted by Jackie Schwartz on August 10, 2021
My husband Charlie and I met Karl over 50 years ago through his extraordinary sister Vanna. We were struck by his open mind, the way he was primed to listen, learn and discover things in the world in which we live. His attention, charm, talents and contributions to all that knew him were outstanding. He celebrated life with class, integrity, humor and passion. Charlie and I have always believed that he should be celebrated, appreciated and imitated. Karl will be missed but always remembered.

Jackie Schwartz, one of his lucky pen pals!

Posted by Meg Fawcett on July 6, 2021
Karl has been, and will always be, one of my most favorite people. Having known him since his Reed College days when he and friends would come to dinner at our house on Sundays (I was 9 years younger) he was a kind of brother for me in those years. He taught me how to drive -- his friend Lee Mahoney tried to teach me music theory -- and we always had amusing times because of his wit and genuine love of all people. Karl, you will always be in my heart.
Posted by Michael Kerr on July 5, 2021
Karl is-- I emphasize IS-- one of those rare people you meet who then transforms your life as you get to know him. I've gotten to know him for 45 yrs. You are transformed into partly Karl for the rest of your life; your life constantly uplifted by his spirit and memories of the times you've spent together. I am partly Karl within forever.
Posted by Fernando Pages on July 2, 2021
Karl was fun to hang out with, always a good joke, always in good spirits, and when the conversation became serious, always inciteful. A lovely man.

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Recent Tributes
Posted by Carol Lieber on September 18, 2021
Karl & Janet were one of the first couples who I met when I first started dating Matt. I remember wonderful parties at their Laurel Canyon home in the Hollywood Hills. Karl always greeted us with a beautiful smile and twinkling eyes. His mode of personalizing each encounter was such that he made me feel so welcome.  He always gave such warm focus to each individual person to whom he was speaking. So when Matt mentioned that we could have Karl officiate at our own wedding, I was delighted. My first overnight sail and anchorage was with Matt skippering to Santa Cruz Island with Karl & Janet aboard, too. There was great conversation when Karl was present. Quite often after such a conversation with Karl, I would receive a note in the mail with an article attached, which he thought would interest me, always accompanied by that gorgeous calligraphy and unusual stamps. Karl will be sorely missed, but never forgotten. I feel blessed to have had his friendship in my life. As Matt would say, "Fair winds," our dear friend.
Posted by bruce clark on September 17, 2021

MEMORIES OF AN OLD FRIEND.

As I write this I am “burning one” in honor of Dr Metzenberg. We shared many such “burnings” in the past and I sorely miss that we are unable to do so anymore. The pipe I am using, once Karl’s, a bequest from Janet, is a very Metburgian device. Likely designed by a happily stoned engineering nerd, impeccably machined out of stainless steel and black, fifties bakelite, and with a built in, windproof lighter, it is, like Karl, humorous and witty. That wit, the word play, many of his expressions have found their way into my daily lexicon, and way too many bad puns, I am sure live on through many of us.

There was a lot happening in Los Angeles in the sixties and seventies among which was a small group of interesting people who cycled in and out of the friendly atmosphere at Karl’s west hollywood apartment and later his house in Appian Way. Always a generous man, it was his generosity of spirit which always managed to see the best side of people, which was maybe the core of those many informal gatherings. And of course his generosity with marijuana, illegal at the time, and which none of us, ever, in our wildest dreams, thought we would live to see legalized. From connections made there, many ripples spread out to the wider world. It was through Karl that I met many of the people who have come to have a significant place in my life. For that I am very grateful.

Marriage to Janet, and a family, and eventually a move to Santa Barbara brought many positive changes to Karl’s life, but throughout he always valued, remained interested in, and so maintained long standing friendships. And in later years all the postcards, what a wonderful reminder of the elegance of a fading world it was to find one in your mailbox. The medium was the message and when you saw one you always felt warmly about Karl, and knew he remembered and cared about you.
Posted by Freddie McKenna on September 15, 2021
I met Karl in 1980, when I was at MGM Television. He was working as a reader, and I was story editor. I always looked forward to him stopping by with a new summary of a script or novel–mostly because I knew the delivery would be accompanied by some good conversation. Janet and I both had babies in 1985 and Conrad and Alix were playmates until we moved from LA in '89. Karl nicknamed my husband Mike, a deadpan man of few words, "the great stone face," a monicker so fitting I still occasionally use it!

Over the years, Karl made a point of staying in touch, sending his legendary calligraphed letters which invariably started out with "Worthies:" Mike and I always enjoyed sailing with Karl and Janet, first on their tiny sail boat and later on the mighty Currendera. Karl was a true man of the sea. I will never forget toddler Conrad, not yet speaking in complete sentences, but accurately identifying every craft in San Pedro Harbor, thanks to his Poppa's tutelage.

We loved Karl for his warmth and charm, his intellectual curiosity, his kindness, and his stories. He was a mensch and a true humanist and will be missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him.
Recent stories

The ultimate penpal

Shared by Mary Krempa on July 14, 2021
Even when I was a teen, I was immediately impressed with Karl's wit and intelligence. 15 years ago when I moved to North Carolina for my second degree, Karl started sending me well thought out, clever, beautiful cards. I know he had many penpals but he still seemed to use his penmanship and excellent writing skills to perfection in each one. They have brightened my life and have helped me through dark and stressful times. I feel so grateful to be able to look through them and feel a little closer to him.  He was someone who no one will ever forget. I miss him and feel so grateful to have had him in my life. 

Figgy Pudding...

Shared by Victoria Lautman on July 4, 2021
...that's what Uncle Karl used to call me or, simply "Figgy". When I was growing up in LA during the 1960's, "Big Karl" would meet us - my dad Dan, brother "little Karl", and sister Erika - up the coast in Manzanita, Oregon where Karl owned small cabin near the beach. We'd hang out there doing absolutely nothing for a week, three kids and these two fellows, sailors at heart, who were linked through our mom. They made all the meals and let us wander the driftwood-strewn beach. A big outing might be visiting the vast local garbage dump or a nearby logging factory.

One year (1964) we were about to enjoy a blow-out dinner of fried chicken, corn on the cob, and fudge, when an air-raid signal in the village began blaring: an earthquake in Alaska had generated a tsunami that was heading to our beach. Everyone in the then-teeny town was quickly evacuated to nearby Neahkahnie Mountain  where we all waited breathlessly, Big Karl with his camera, to observe the giant, devastating wave.

After maybe an hour shivering in our nightgowns and robes, a puny swell was all that materialized. It was pathetic and we were very disappointed. Our fried chicken was cold by then, Karl never got the shot he hoped for. But the Great Manzanita Tidal Wave of '64 entered family lore.

Mellow yellow

Shared by Michele Harris-Padron on July 4, 2021
I met Karl at the Book Bargain Center when I was probably 14. After school I would wander Westwood village. Karl would always listen to my stories perched on high behind the counter. When the banana peel craziness happened my friends and I had to try it. Karl wanted to know every detail. I never did know what was going on in the back room.