Tribute to Bill Hootkins

The King of the Grunion


Posted by Dr. Karen Martin, Pepperdine professor of biology

A character actor and a great character himself, Bill brought to life many diverse roles: Red Six in “Star Wars,” Murphy in “A River Runs Through It,” Winston Churchill in “Their Finest Hour” and a chilling Alfred Hitchcock in “Hitchcock Blonde,” not to mention his turn as Methuselah, the oldest living bristlecone pine tree in a NOVA documentary. But my favorite role was his alter ego, “The King of the Grunion!”

Bill discovered the grunion running in front of his beach house in Malibu years ago, and thus began a strange and wonderful fascination. He introduced himself and asked for all my publications, then astonished me by actually reading them. When he turned his photographic and observational talents to the grunion runs, he opened my eyes to a new way of seeing this natural phenomenon. His sensitive and beautiful photos of grunion have been reprinted in news stories, magazines, textbooks, and of course our Grunion.Org web site, including the home page. His intelligence, charm, and joie de vivre, even when splashing about cold and wet at midnight, made every moment memorable. He generously shared his incredible voice for public presentations, enthusiastically assisted with field work, and created special tokens for some of the most dedicated Grunion Greeter volunteers. Even this summer, in the midst of his battle with cancer, he blessed us with his regal presence at a couple of grunion runs.

Bill Hootkins, King of the Grunion, star of stage, screen and beach, may you find new wonders on the distant shore.

"Hootkins' Greatest Run Ever" (voice clip)

"Hootkins as Attenborough" (voice clip)

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