Larry Clinton:  The Man Who Knows Sausalito’s Secrets

Larry in his signature orange chapeau  |  photo by Ben Davison  |  post by Christina Leimer

When you’ve been organizing the floating homes tour for 33 years, been President of the Floating Homes Association and the Sausalito Historical Society, and a long-time Editor of the Floating Times, you’re plugged in. That’s Larry Clinton. He’s got the lowdown on the people and goings-on around town, some of it secret. But don’t worry, the secrets he’s telling make up Sausalito’s Secret History.

I didn’t know Sausalito had a radio station. It does, Radio Sausalito (1610 am) . It’s located in the basement of an old mansion in the Sausalito hills. From there, Larry records Sausalito’s Secret History. In segments designed to accommodate our modern attention span—about a minute each—you can learn about underwater streets, gangsters, madams, Carol Channing, a CA Supreme Court decision, and the Indian occupation of Alcatraz. There’s Waldo Grade and Waldo Point Park, but who’s Waldo? What’s a Ramos Fizz? For me, listening to the spots was like adding another dot in a pointillist painting, filling in the picture of where we live.

Larry and his wife, Jane, live at 29 Gate 6 1/2 dock in the Lady Jane, named after her of course. They bought the house in 1998 and married the next year. Before that, he lived on East Pier for 18 years. “It was a great bachelor pad,” he tells me. Jane was living in San Francisco and working as a credit union financial planner. That’s how they met.

When Larry decided to leave the marketing field, he thought he’d try his hand at financial planning. But first, he had to learn how financial planning worked. So what did he do? He attended one of Jane’s sessions and told her he was going to compete with her. She didn’t throw him out. “We met for lunch later, and laughed a lot and lingered over our tea,” Larry said, grinning. “I realized I was a lot more interested in her than in financial planning.” The rest is history.

In addition to his radio spots, Larry writes a historical column for Sausalito’s Marinscope newspaper and gives tours of The Marine Mammal Center at Rodeo Beach. “I’m 79 now, so I don’t scuba dive anymore. Or kayak or bicycle,” he says. “But I still go to the gym 5 to 6 times a week.” He and Jane play bocce and they enjoy travel. They’re taking a Roads Scholar trip to South America later this year.

Larry’s the ringleader for the biennial floating homes tour. With a committee of a couple dozen residents, 200 volunteers on tour day, and resident artists, writers and musicians, it’s a herculean project to organize. This year’s tour just wrapped up, but it’s been in the planning since January. The first tour was in 1985. It was one of the ways residents worked to legitimize the floating homes community. That goal’s been accomplished. No more Houseboat Wars. “I think the tour’s contributed to our gentrification,” he says. “It’s encouraged more upscale buyers, remodeling and beautification.” But the tour’s a fundraiser too. It helps keep Floating Home Association dues low and benefits Sausalito Village and Friends of Marin City Library.

Given his long history on the docks, Larry’s got plenty of stories to tell. Many of them reflect the lifestyle, creativity and character of the floating homes community. “There’s a closeness and comfort here,” he says, relaxing as he reminisces. “In the 1989 earthquake, at low tide, pile collars pulled out of some boats that weren’t on concrete hulls. People just showed up with lines and helped them tie off.” In another instance, after a resident left his house, it caught on fire. People on the dock put it out before the fire department showed up. “We respect each other’s privacy, but when something happens, people come out and help. Nobody orients you or tells you to do this. It’s just the sensitivity of the people who live here. It’s pure volunteerism.”

As Floating Times Editor, Larry likes showcasing our community and residents. If you’ve got events coming up, or something you’d like to let everyone know about, drop him a note. You can use the Submit a Story link to the right of this profile, or email him directly. He’s also looking for volunteers to write posts and perhaps learn to edit the publication. Eventually, he sees his stint as editor going the way of his scuba diving. Anyone interested in working with Larry to take over as editor?  You might dig up some secrets of your own.