1415 L St. is a tall building, towering above downtown Sacramento. George Mull walks into a large conference room on the 10th floor, at home in the world of power lunches and consultation meetings. The lawyer sits in a chair ergonomically fitted to ensure good posture, across from floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto rows of palm trees and the white dome of the Capitol building.
True to his surroundings, the 49-year-old is wearing a suit and tie, quite a contrast to the starched gray uniform he wore at West Point's military academy, the Polos he threw on as an undergrad at the University of California, Los Angeles, or the regulation tie he donned each afternoon as a security guard for Playboy.
The Sacramento native is not your typical attorney-at-law, though he says he began his career in an acutely traditional way — at an internship with Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher in Century City, one of the biggest law firms in California at the time. But the types of cases he's handled since have been anything but orthodox.
Well-known in the area for representing Timothy Kruppe, the previous owner of a Lodi sex store and proprietor of a Lockeford bikini bar, Mull's latest client — a pot dispensary in Galt — is still a far cry from your average divorce filing.
Mull pulls out his medicinal marijuana card and holds it at half an arm's length. It was prescribed to him for back pain and sleeplessness. His name is misspelled, "Goerge Mull." He chuckles, finding the error funny.
"(Mull) has a very good sense of humor, but at the same time he's very much onpoint and very well-versed in what he's talking about," says Amir Daliri, co-founder of California Cannabis Association, an organization dedicated to developing a regulatory framework for the medical marijuana industry.
That sense of humor is uncharacteristic in law. Mull said there are no funny lawyers, only funny people who have made serious career mistakes, and then laughs — loudly.
But his venture into the profession was no error.
"Drilled into me from a very early age was a sense of justice and a desire to help those that society overlooked," Mull says.
Law runs deep in the veins of the Mull clan. With three generations practicing before him, Mull was raised within the discipline, forced to submit facts and state his case in family arguments. Mull officially joined the trade after graduating from McGeorge School of Law in 1987. And though getting a degree helped train him for the rigors of the legal world, what he learned outside the lecture hall was just as valuable an education.
West Point: 'If it can be seen, it can be hit'
Back when his salt-andpepper hair — a recent development, he says — was all one color, his driver's license pegged him at 17, and his idea of a career didn't include the hefty volumes of law, Mull moved to New York to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
West Point demanded dedication and fostered a sense of discipline that didn't adhere to a 9-to-5 schedule. The military academy was a way of life.
"There's very little privacy, and it's amazing that people check (how) you fold your underwear," he says.
The repercussions of an improperly folded pair of briefs were demerits. Get enough of those, and face the consequences, the most common of which was an "area tour." These tours forced troublemakers to walk back and forth in a central location with their rifles — for hours
"I happened to walk more than almost anybody," Mull says.
Mull left West Point after only a year, but it wasn't the dedication or discipline that drove him away. Mull says he saw the whole framework of the program as inherently callous.
"(The system was) based on a lot of people being very mean to other people," he says.
Yet the military academy gave him an adage he still remembers, and uses, to this day: "If it can be seen, it can be hit. If it can be hit, it can be killed," he says. "Sometimes that's useful in litigation, figuring something out and understanding it, you can succeed."
Playboy: Actually reading the articles
Still not old enough to drink legally, Mull returned to California and enrolled at UCLA. That was 1981, a year of Hollywood mourning. In 1980 Playboy Bunny Dorothy Stratten was murdered by her ex-husband, and Hugh Hefner's house was still in shock.
At the same time, another calamity struck — Mull's tuition was due, and his bank account was empty. So he managed to finagle one of the most sought-after jobs in Hollywood, working security at the Playboy Mansion.
"It was the dream job," he said. "It paid for school, insurance."
And it didn't hurt that he got to hang out with gorgeous girls, either.
Day to day duties included manning the guard station at the entrance of the headquarters at 8560 Sunset Boulevard, accompanying Playmates to lunch or dinner and surveillance during mansion parties.
Though Mull only knew Hefner from a distance, he says he befriended quite a few of the Playmates, briefly dating Barbara Edwards, who was the 1984 Playmate of the Year.
And even now, Mull still reads Playboy — for the articles, of course.
"Sometimes I get tips for First Amendment law that talks about legal issues," he says.
After failing to get into UCLA's prestigious film program, Mull left the area to finish his undergraduate education at Layola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Yet despite having to say goodbye to Playboy, Mull's Hollywood schooling wasn't over.
The 'Happy Days': 'Ayyyy!'
Mull credits his roles in the Hollywood scene with his ability to work a courtroom and sway a judge and jury.
"I wouldn't want to be on the other side of him," Daliri says. "He is very logical, very wellspoken, extremely versed in what it is he's talking about."
On the "Happy Days" set Mull was producer Jim Dunne's right-hand man, doing everything from reviewing scripts to reading lines with Ron Howard, who played Richie Cunningham. At the same time he took acting classes and performed stand up comedy.
Experience in stagecraft was perfect training for a career in law.
"Most of improv is just learning to listen and have courage and be willing to speak out and speak your truth," he says. " ... Pay attention to the other person and react off of what the other person is doing."
George Mull exits the office building that houses his practice and strolls through the adjacent grounds. The path meanders, but Mull walks with a purpose.
He points out different landmarks, most significant only to him: the intricate molding on a building, a cornerstone, a coffee shop. Each has a story almost as varied as his own, and he relates their tales in detail, laughing over past escapades. Because Mull has no end of stories, and the vast majority are, for a lawyer, uncharacteristically funny.
Contact reporter Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato at firstname.lastname@example.org.