Almost any day in L.A., you could find Brian Wilson pretty easily if you wanted to, sitting in a booth by the window at the Beverly Glen Deli, with a bowl of blueberries and a hamburger, or shuffling along the path of a tree-shaded park near his home in Beverly Hills. He does this circuit — deli, park, home — two or three times a day, what he calls “my daily regime,” to keep in shape and to quiet his mind. “I’m anxious, depressed, I get scared a lot,” says Wilson, who turned 73 on June 20th. “It’s been that way for about 42 years. The park helps keep me straight. I show up feeling bad, and I leave feeling good. It blows the bad stuff right out of my brains.”
On an 80-degree winter morning, Wilson walks the curving trail, his six-foot-three frame stooped and a little unsteady, but moving fast. “See that bench up there?” he says, breathing hard. “Just under that tree? We’re gonna sit down there. Get ready.”
We’ve walked about 60 yards since our last rest, in this lush oasis of palms and bougainvillea, surrounded by estates once owned by Walt Disney and Frank Sinatra, and the $18 million chateau where Michael Jackson died. “I don’t normally stop to rest,” he says, unconvincingly. “But I can tell that you want to stop a little bit, so I’m doing it for you.”
Wilson wipes perspiration from the back of his hands onto his red Hawaiian shirt and closes his eyes. With a breeze blowing through his swept-back silvery hair, and the sun shining on his pale but still-handsome face, he looks almost peaceful. “The people in Los Angeles are fucking cool,” he says brightly. “The Malibu crowd, my family, the people at the deli — low-key. That’s the way I like it. I don’t like surprises. I’m not as adventurous as I used to be. I don’t know what happened. I guess I got old. That’s just the way things go.”
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A petite older woman with frosted hair walks past, cooing at her two tiny dogs. “Hi, Brian,” she says, with a big, doll-like smile.
“Hey, man,” Brian responds.
“A regular, like me,” he says after she’s gone. “Think she’s foxy?”
Except for when he’s in the studio or on tour, this is Brian Wilson’s life as a senior-citizen Beach Boy: cruising Beverly Hills in his midnight-blue Mercedes, stopping for chili dogs and doctors’ appointments and maybe a little exercise, then back home to park himself in his big red chair in the family room, where he listens to the Fifties station on Sirius and watches Wheel of Fortune, while family life swirls around him. He has no hobbies. He doesn’t use e-mail or surf the Internet or read the newspaper. He lost his cellphone a few years ago and never replaced it. He rarely sees old friends. “I wouldn’t even know how to reach most of them,” he says, “or what I’d say.”