By Tessa St. Marie
Bixby Knolls is a special place. The neighborhood seems to have everything, including a diverse community, a variety of small businesses, and block after block of beautiful, old homes. Another thing that makes Bixby Knolls unique is the fact that it is home to royalty.
The Duke and Duchess of Bixby Knolls, also known as Gillian and Philip Klinkert, love their community. “My favorite part about Bixby Knolls is the fact that it’s always been one step further,” says Philip. “There’s never a plateau.”
Gillian adds: “We are very active because we believe that Bixby Knolls offers everything right here. I’ve never been anywhere like it.”
Gillian and Philip, who have lived in Bixby Knolls for 13 and about 40 years, respectively, are committed to ameliorating their community. “I met Gillian and Phil at one of our events and we talked about how they loved the area so much,” says Blair Cohn, executive director of the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association (BKBIA). “They have a ton of enthusiasm for seeing the area succeed and be revitalized.”
Noticing that the Klinkerts were at “every event without fail,” Cohn and the BKBIA’s Board of Directors decided to give them the titles of Duke and Duchess. “We are very honored to have such honor bestowed upon us,” says Gillian. “It’s really a privilege to be ambassadors to Bixby Knolls.”
Coincidentally, the Klinkerts have actual royal ties. Philip is a descendent of the Grand Duke Paul of Russia, brother of the last Tsar of Russia. Also, Gillian has a strong English background.
As duke and duchess, the Klinkerts promote and represent Bixby Knolls by participating in local events. Their calendar is filled with art walks, photography contests and happy hours, as well as social functions and meetings of various groups. “[The duke and duchess] act as the eyes and ears of the BKBIA,” says Cohn. “They provide us valuable feedback from the community and help to spread the word about our programs back into the community.”
Active community members such as the Klinkerts are vital to the success of local small businesses. “They are great examples for the rest of the residents to get involved, do their shopping and dining in Bixby Knolls and do their parts to make the area thrive,” says Cohn. For example, members (including the duke and duchess) of the Bixby Knolls Supper Club routinely sell out the monthly featured restaurant.
Bixby Knolls is the only neighborhood in Long Beach to have any local royalty, let alone a duke and duchess. “It’s really quite unique,” says Gillian. “We’ll be out of our area and people will recognize us.”
What does the future look like for the Duke and Duchess of Bixby Knolls? Busy. “We are getting inquiries from other parts of Long Beach as well as publications,” says Gillian, “[and we] will be keeping up our involvement.”
Royalty is scarce in the United States. As a federal constitutional republic, America has been home to only a handful of royal exceptions, including the Artist Formerly Known as Prince, Elvis (AKA the king of rock ‘n’ roll), Queen Latifah, and, of course, the Burger King. The Klinkerts can be added to that list. Everything, from their beautiful home (with a crowned Homer Simpson doll guarding the foyer) to their “Duke” and “Duchess” nametags, resonates a regal air. Bixby Knolls is lucky to have them.