Last weekend I made the mistake of taking Tatyana to dinner at Moonshadows Mailbu. I hadn’t been there in decades, but it’s a famous Malibu mainstay as well as the place Mel Gibson got drunk in before being arrested for DUI in July ’06. It will always appeal to gawking tourists and Lookie Lous because of the surfside location.

I took an instant dislike to the place, and when I got home I made a list of the reasons why. There were five of them. (1) Too many loud people congregated in a tight setting and generating so much conversational racket that I had a headache almost immediately; (2) Too many unattractive people who were either over-dressed or lacked that certain je ne sais quoi X-factor coolness that everyone needs to project when they’re out on the town; (3) Seriously ugly decor (baby blue seating booths with small and kitschy amber-toned lamps); (4) Decent but far from phenomenal food; and (5) A bizarre table-seating policy that may or may not have involved some kind of unsavory arrangement.

All I know is that the hostess declined to seat us next to an oceanview window, and when Tatyana asked why the hostess explained that a certain table in question was being held for a party of four that hadn’t yet arrived. In the politest terms I could muster I asked, “Well, are they royalty? What’s the special dispensation? We’re here in good faith and money in our pocket, and we’d like to sit at that open table so why can’t we exactly?” The hostess said that the party in question has paid a thousand bucks to Moonshadows so they’d always get a windowside table when they ate there.

Me (slightly agog): “Really?” Hostess: “Yeah. A thousand sounds like a lot, I agree, but…”

For the rest of the dinner I couldn’t think of anything else except this alleged thousand-dollar payoff. I was wondering how it worked exactly. Was it a thousand a year or twice annually or…? We asked our friendly waiter but he didn’t know of any such arrangement. I called the next day and spoke to a manager, a guy who said he’s worked at Moonshadows for many years, and he also said he was unaware of any such system.

All I can tell you is that the hostess said what she said, and that I didn’t imagine it.

I will never, ever go to Moonshadows again. I would rather eat a hot dog while sitting on the beach. I would rather go to Jack in the Box. On top of which Pacific Coast Highway is such an aggressive, high-speed thoroughfare. They say that the ocean is calming and restorative but not out there. I’ve been to beachside communities all over the globe, and Malibu is easily the worst of them. It has no sense of peace or tranquility.