It sounds like a scene from an action movie: A yacht owner and his friends rescue people stranded by the fires raging in Malibu, Calif., as flames approach and the wind kicks up, causing big ocean swells. As night falls, the owner and friends use a small boat and inflatable paddle boards to ferry people to and from the shore, working until well past midnight.
Jeff Jampol, president of Jam Inc., a music management company that handles the legacies of the Doors, Janis Joplin, the Ramones, Otis Redding and more — and a featured speaker at Variety’s Music for Screens conference earlier this month (pictured above) — led that mission Sunday night with the help of close friends Kaj Larsen (former host of the Vice HBO series) and Mace Camhe. Here, in his words as told to Steve Baltin, is how the rescue mission idea formed and how it was executed.
We were spending the weekend with some friends in Catalina Island on my boat. I was talking to my friend Steve McKeever, who owns Hidden Beach Records and lives in Paradise Cove near [Malibu]. He was blocked from his house due to the fires, so I said, “We’ll run you up there, I can come back early Sunday from Catalina and take you up on the boat.” He said that would be great, because “I don’t even know if my house is still there.”
I was talking with Mace and Kaj and I said, “I’m sure other people are in the same predicament as Steve, why don’t we put a post out and see if anybody else needs help, since we’re going up there anyway?” So we put it on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and I got an onslaught of responses from people who wanted to get to their houses, and other people who were stranded on the beach or the evacuation zone who couldn’t get out, either because their homes were destroyed, their cars were destroyed or they didn’t have access to transportation. or there was fire between them and their houses.
So we got all these people that wanted either to go up there, or people who were there and wanted to be rescued. We checked with emergency services — we didn’t want to get in the way of anybody or cause any more harm. When I came back from Catalina to get fuel for the trip, I pulled into my slip and there were 12 or 14 people waiting.
We got all these people onboard and inflated some paddle boards and made a plan on how we were going to do it, because I can’t bring a big boat through the surf line. We added to the post: “’You might get a little wet, so bring limited luggage, if anything.” We took about 12 people up there, then we picked up another 10 people on the beach. It ended up being a much longer operation than we thought — I didn’t get back in the slip until well after midnight.
Then the winds came, which had been predicted but hadn’t happened all day: winds of 40 knots plus, which kicked up the ocean and made huge swells. So we idled the big boat just offshore and put people in the tender — which is the small boat in back — and dragged a couple of inflatable paddle boards behind the tender. We’d get the tender close, just past the surf line, then carry people in on the paddle boards and land them right on the sand. It was difficult to do, we had to do it one person at a time, but we did it: 12 in, 10 out.
And I didn’t know any of these people! Although it turned out that one of them had a friend come with them, and that person I’ve known 30 years but hadn’t seen in probably 20 years. There was a doctor and his assistant and a retired sheriff’s deputy that were going in to help — those guys were all first responders that had no way in, and the rest were just anxious homeowners and family members. You could see the worry, the pain and frustration on their faces.
The only reason I’m even talking about this is because hopefully if we can set an example for others. We are all a community. Especially in these polarizing times, we have to get past these boundaries of religion and politics and friends or not friends, and put principles before personalities. I’m not going to help you because you’re my friend or you’re going to do something for me — I’m going to help you because that’s what we should do for others. I happen to have a boat and the means to put fuel in it, and I made the time to help others the way I hope others would help me. And sure, it feels good to be of service, but I try and practice that in all areas of my life.