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Karl L. Metzenberg ’54

December 5, 2020, in Santa Barbara, California.

Born in Chicago, Karl learned to sail when he was 9 years old. He came to Reed, where he met people who changed his life. After leaving Reed, he started Caffé Espresso, the first “Italian” coffee house in Portland, in 1958. Looking at its patrons, the Oregonian commented, “They are this generation’s intellectual youths. They favor Sartre and Hemingway and admire Pogo. They accept Ferlinghetti but think it ostentatious to pack a copy of Howl.”

Two years later, Karl sold Caffé Espresso and moved to Los Angeles, where he opened Book Bargain Center in Westwood Village, which became a ’60s cultural hot spot. He purchased three acres in Laurel Canyon with two friends and  built what they called “the compound.” Karl worked as a story analyst in the motion picture industry at both Paramount Pictures and MGM, including five years on Star Trek.

As a professional photographer, Karl photographed musicians such as Kate Wolf, Ned Doheny, and Jackson Browne, including the album cover for Browne’s “Running on Empty.”  He served on the board of directors for L.A.’s Watts Towers, and his historical photographs of them were used in their restoration. He worked on several Roger Corman films with director Bruce Clark.

A car accident in 1977 cut short Karl’s photographic career. He survived the accident, but without most of his left leg. His prosthesis didn’t stop him from sailing, camping, or traveling abroad. He got his prosthetists to make him an oak peg leg, which he wore every Halloween, even winning a contest for best all-around pirate.

He married Janet Z. Giler in 1984, and a year later their son Conrad was born. The family moved to Santa Barbara from Los Angeles in the ’90s. Karl is survived by Janet, Conrad, and his daughter, Madison.

Appeared in Reed magazine: June 2021

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