Hey All,

Comedy-loving Boomers are saddened by the fact that Spinal Tap references don’t land like they used to—or don’t land at all—and, in fact, if you play the Tap card here in 2024 you run the risk of being, maybe not laughed at or pitied, but blank-stared, and fair enough, the movie is older than LeBron James. Generations have passed since we first set eyes on Nigel and the boys. Empires have fallen. I admit, in fact, that I have not watched Tap, in full, since the 1990s.

Yet here I am, thinking of the bit where the group, shorthanded, fortunes in steep decline, arrives for a midafternoon gig at an amusement park (“Puppet Show and Spinal Tap”) and prepares for the show by trying to pencil out a last-minute set list.

No luck.

“Tell you what we’re going to do,” bassist Derek Smalls says, puffing thoughtfully on a Sherlock Holmes calabash pipe. He lets the moment build. “Jazz odyssey.”

Which means you don’t have a plan, don’t really know what you’re doing, but time is up so just put something out there and hope for the best.

Folks, we have arrived at our Sunday Joint Jazz Odyssey. In no special order:

Encyclopedia of Surfing
Encyclopedia of Surfing

Jackie Dunn, the white-blond Prince of Pipeline during the early- and mid-’70s (Gerry Lopez was King, Rory Russell was Queen hahaha) was on one hand an absolute media monster, with cover shots and posters and full-page Lightning Bolt ads, plus screen time aplenty, including stunt-doubling Jan Michael Vincent’s endless and wildly melodramatic final wave in Big Wednesday. On the other hand, Dunn was very much absent—no interviews and no profiles, apart from this short Teen Beat-esque article in a 1970 issue of Petersen’s Surfing when Dunn was just 13. No idea why this is. Dunn is a mystery still, nothing on Facebook except a mention or two from his 30-something son. A few Google-search hits, mostly related to Bolt. Corky Carroll seems to think he overdosed and died, but I’m pretty sure he’s mixing Jackie Dunn up with Rusty Starr of Hawaii. didn’t help either, although it did get me to an ad for Jackie Dunn, the Red Hot Mama from Bourbon Street, traveling stripper and “X-rated grandmother,” whose 1973 run at the Tiger’s Den in Tampa Bay featured the tagline, “If I embarrass you, tell your friends!”

Encyclopedia of Surfing

Ernie Tomson’s EOS page is up. A mainstay on the Durban surf scene for nearly 30 years, starting in the early 1960s, and cofounder of what became the Gunston 500 contest, to my mind Ernie’s biggest achievement will always be the fact that he nearly lost his right arm to a shark at age 23 but was able to not only come back to the ocean but encourage his two sons to surf. Firstborn Shaun did pretty well, in fact! And to prove it, and because the arc of EOS invariably bends toward humor, here is Shaun on a 1985 episode of the Merv Griffin Show, and don’t get me wrong, he is charming and well-spoken and masterful, but, holy smokes, the crosshatched Sonny Crockett sharkskin suit and the shirt of many colors and don’t forget the argyle socks, wow! Cousin Michael would, I think, be gnashing a jealous tooth at Shaun’s televised good fortune—but also laughing up his much-better-fitted sleeve.

Encyclopedia of Surfing

I only ever thought of 1973 Australian champion Richard Harvey as a shortboarder (more specifically, as a claimant to being first to ride Padang in Bali), but somebody directed me to a clip of Harvey surfing his home break at Mona Vale in 1965, and wasn’t he just a flashy, fun surfer as a schoolboy! Watch his transformation from hotdogging longboarder to pintail-riding tube ace, and note that the big windy lefts he tackles in the middle of the clip were shot at the ’73 titles, held at Margaret River, and that Richard beat Michael Peterson and soon-to-be world champ Peter Townend in the finals.

Encyclopedia of Surfing
Encyclopedia of Surfing

The surf boom that hit Japan in the mid-’70s was, culture-wise, bigger and more far-reaching than anywhere else in the world, before or after. It was a genuine mania for a few years, with surfing fragrances, wavepools, surf-themed department stores, surf-fashion magazines aimed at teen girls, and on and on. This 1976 clip gives you a hint of what we’re talking about, and to augment I dug out a 1979 feature on the Japanese leg of the WCT, written by non other than Michael Tomson—which turns out to be an absolute layer cake of casually benighted surf-aristocrat bigotry, racist and sexist and elitist and above all else fantastically smug. I include the piece in part to shame myself; Tomson was my favorite surf writer at the time. But it does at least touch on the bonkers surf boom Japan was experiencing during that period:

I was in mild shock. It’s hard to believe that such enthusiasm for anything could reach these dizzying heights. The autograph-hunting business I can vaguely understand, as they’re big on celebrity consciousness in Japan. But when I look out towards the ocean and see all these people sitting on their surfboards—this mystifies me. The surf is flat. Not one foot or one-to-two feet, but flat. In fact, from where I am sitting it looks as though it’s almost concave, save for the very occasional six-inch shorebreaker that winds down the beach. And it’s crowded! Stretching down the coast, all you can see is surfers, hundreds and hundreds of surfers, sitting in large clumps, occasionally paddling for a wave that by some freak of nature looks like it has an outside chance of breaking.

Thanks to Michael Tomson, I’m going to feel better on Japan’s behalf when they win surfing Gold in the upcoming Olympics.

See you next week!


Encyclopedia of Surfing

PS: While we’re still in the vicinity of humor, I was going to say that surf comedy has always been hit or miss, but really it’s more like one hit per three-dozen misses—which now that I think about it is true for comedy in general. Anyway, this new Channel Islands ad is a Mike Tyson-grade hit, start to finish funny, cheers to everyone involved but especially Devon Howard, his opening line is deadpan perfection.

PPS: Folks, like I said last week, the Joint comes together on the fly, and I have just now learned that Spinal Tap II began filming in New Orleans earlier this month. I am conflicted. It feels like an answered prayer that I will regret having prayed for. How many times in movie history has a comedy sequel not disappointed, often radically—a shit sandwich, as Marty DiBergi would put it—compared to the original? The second Austin Powers was good. Almost as good as the first one, maybe. I will pin my hopes there.

[Photo grid, clockwise from top left: Crockett and Tubbs in Miami Vice; Jackie Dunn at Sunset, by Dan Merkel; Japanese surfer, 1976; Derek Small of Spinal Tap; South African Springbok Surf Team, Shaun and Michael Tomson on far right; Richard Harvey, 1965, by Bruce Usher. Jackie Dunn at Pipeline, by Merkel. Dunn on the beach, by John Jones. Shaun on the Merv Griffin Show. Lineup at Kamakura, Japan, 1976. Peter Townend, Shōnan, Japan, 1979. Screengrab from Channel Islands ad.]