THE VIBRATIONS WERE WAY BEYOND GOOD WHEN BEACH Boys founding genius Brian Wilson, 52, married California girl Melinda Ledbetter, 47, on Feb. 6. The twilight ceremony took place—where else?—at a surf-side chapel in Palos Verdes Peninsula, Calif. The 146 guests included Wilson’s first wife, Marilyn; his formerly estranged daughters Carnie, 26, and Wendy, 25 (two-thirds of the singing group Wilson Phillips); and the groom’s cousin Beach Boy Mike Love, who two months ago won a $5 million judgment against Wilson in a lawsuit over song rights.
The night seemed suffused with sunny Beach Boy harmony. At the moment that Wilson and Ledbetter exchanged rings, Carnie and Wendy Wilson stood up and launched into a surprise rendition—a revised one—of their dad’s 1966 hit God Only Knows. “I know I’ll always love you,” they sang, “as long as there are stars above you….”
“When I heard those voices,” Wilson said later, “I thought, ‘Can that be human beings singing like that? They sounded like angels.’ ” But then every day for Wilson is a kind of afterlife experience. The composer of In My Room is almost as famous for the nearly two decades he spent stuffing himself with food and drugs as he is for his music. About nine years ago, Wilson emerged thinner and somewhat more lucid—but in the thrall, some said, of L.A. therapist Eugene Landy. In 1992, Wilson’s mother, Audree, and other family members won a two-year lawsuit barring Landy from Wilson’s life. “Brian has put that behind him now,” says Ledbetter.
Ahead, now, is his new life as a married man. Wilson met Ledbetter, a former model turned car saleswoman, when she sold him a new gold Cadillac Seville in 1986. After a few dates that were “very choreographed” by Landy, she says, they fell out of touch. Six years later he and Ledbetter met again while he was crossing Pico Boulevard in west L.A. “I almost ran over him,” she said. From then on, it was smooth surfin’, culminating in Wilson’s proposal in mid-January. “He asked, ‘Shall we have a wedding?’ ” she recalled. “And then he said, ‘Yeah! Let’s have one.’ ” Wilson, who still follows his own muse, picked the date because it was his first wife’s birthday, “I’m touched,” said Marilyn, his high school sweetheart to whom he was married until 1979. “But I can’t lie. I’m sad too.”
Perhaps exhausted by his work on two new albums, due out later this year, Wilson retired from the reception at the Hotel Bel-Air early, leaving his bride to cut the cake alone. The couple have no immediate honeymoon plans, and for the time being they will just savor their day in the sun. As Wilson said at the reception: “Ho! Man! The vibrations in that chapel were so wonderful!”