A couple retire to Carmel after spending their careers promoting exotic cars and Hollywood stars.
The last few years for Joe Molina have been a bit like a Hollywood script.
And he knew it, because the 67-year-old has spent most of his life in Los Angeles, where he founded a public relations agency specializing in promoting high-end and exotic automobiles, particularly through blockbuster movies.
So when it came time to retire, it felt like a bit of a twist when he decided to ditch the Los Angeles traffic and threat of earthquakes and fires and move to Carmel, a place where he had almost no connection. His wife, Beth, is from Hoosier, and he had visited the town on trips to Indiana to visit family.
Between the Palladium, the Christkindlmarkt and the neighborhoods ready for the holidays, it was like he had never seen before.
“They call it a set in LA, but it’s real here,” Joe said.
The Molinas moved across the country in November 2021, filling their new home in the Jackson’s Grant neighborhood with their collection of modern art and surrounding it with unique cars.
It didn’t take long for Hoosier State to feel like home to Joe, but maybe that’s because he already held a special place in his heart.
In an earlier act, he played a key role in launching her career in Hollywood in the first place.
Nearly 50 years ago, Joe arrived at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis to study journalism while serving in the United States Army. At the same time, Beth was attending Lawrence Central High School, but their paths would not cross until decades later in Los Angeles.
Joe began covering rock ‘n roll beats for the military, interviewing legends such as John Lennon, Elton John, David Bowie and Rod Stewart. In 1975, while traveling with the group KISS, he decided that he would rather get involved directly with the artists and organize their events than cover them. He decided his next career move would be public relations.
“My career started here in Indiana,” Joe said.
Around the same time, he began making connections with collectors and dealers of exotic and luxury cars and realized he could make a living promoting them to the public. So in 1977 he founded JMPR Public Relations in Los Angeles.
Joe spent more than 40 years running JMPR, working with celebrities such as Jay Leno, Tim Allen and Rod Stewart and helping promote automotive-themed films such as “Days of Thunder” starring Tom Cruise. He loved living in LA and knew it was one of the few places in the world where he could successfully run his niche agency.
In 2013, Joe’s first wife Carol died of breast cancer. Beth, a Herron School of Art graduate who worked in Los Angeles producing graphics and logos for major award shows and other events, ran in the same social circles as the Molinas and was devastated when she lost her good friend.
Eventually, Joe and Beth started dating and later found out that Carol had told her siblings that Beth might be a good match for Joe after he passed away.
“It made us feel like we had his blessing,” Beth said.
Joe and Beth married in 2016 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in downtown Indianapolis, another key turning point – which happened in Indiana – in the storyline.
“An Unknown Gem”
Joe thought he would miss certain aspects of life in Los Angeles, but so far, that hasn’t been the case. He’s survived his first winter in Indiana — one of his biggest worries — and is preparing for a wet Hoosier summer.
Kristi Lee, best known from the nationally broadcast The Bob & Tom Show, has known Beth since before she moved to California, and she met Joe while visiting her friend in LA. She didn’t expect the couple to move to Indiana, but was instrumental in planting the idea in their minds and taking them to unique sites in central Indiana during their visit.
A lifelong Hoosier, Lee said she expects others to follow in Molina’s footsteps.
“We’ve always been an overflow city, so people in Los Angeles and New York never gave us a chance,” said Zionsville resident Lee. “I think once they come here it’s like, ‘Oh my God, there’s a lot to do, it’s great value, it’s great quality of life.’ ‘
The Molinas enjoyed making new friends through the art community and connecting with other car collectors. Beth enjoyed traveling through Carmel and beyond with Joe, watching him experience aspects of the Midwest for the first time.
“It’s kind of like when you have a kid and you relive aspects of your childhood, that’s how it is with Joe here,” Beth said. “Because he never knew the seasons or the state fair, (it’s fun) to look at him through his eyes.”
Joe said he and Beth expected to return to Los Angeles regularly to visit friends and their old stomping grounds, but it’s no longer home. Carmel is where they plan to perform their final acts.
“Carmel is almost an unknown gem for people outside of Indiana, and they’re going to hear about it,” Joe said. “We are here for the duration. This is not a stopover for us.
Modern art collection
Joe and Beth Molina enjoy collecting modern art. Some of their favorite pieces are: