Karl Leopold Metzenberg

Date of Birth

March 5, 1933

Date of Death

December 5, 2020

City of Death

Santa Barbara

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, and recognizing their kindred souls, they were together for the next 38 years, and married in Avalon in 1984. 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.


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