Remember that thing you did in high school where you’d siphon a half-inch from every bottle in your parents’ liquor cabinet, add orange juice, mix, and look out, world, here comes the party posse? Did you have a name for that drink?
In mid-’70s Manhattan Beach it was a Suicide. Here in Seattle, during the ’80s, according to my wife, it was called a Graveyard—and for day drinking during the school year, Jodi would pour the blend into a repurposed hairspray bottle, nod like a Russian spy in the halls when asked, “did you bring any hairspray today?” and between classes there’d be a hurried meet-up in the girls’ bathroom with mouth-spraying and shushing and swearing, then Wild Cherry Bubble Yum for everybody.
Today’s Sunday Joint is a Graveyard poured mostly from the EOS Video cabinet, and let’s begin with a new banger starring Hakman, Burridge, Carroll, Duke, Menczer, Drouyn and others. No surfing. All dancing.
Some backstory before we click forth. The dancing-surfers edit has been on the back burner for years, to fill out a video set that began with “Claiming: a Retrospective,” and carried on with “Surfing and Smoking in the Sixties” and “Stoked: the Very Short Movie” and “Unleashed: When Surfboards Roamed Free.” But the song had to be perfect and nothing quite clicked—until I learned that Stax mainstay Steve Cropper, who on most days of the week is my all-time favorite guitar player, produced Tower of Power’s “Down to the Nightclub,” and I bumped my way down McGraw Street, funky as can be, because I’d found my dancing-surfer track at last. A few days later I uploaded the clip—but as you’ll see I went in a different direction. People, I am an AARP-qualified man who hasn’t set foot in a dance club since Tone Loc sent me to the gravelly bottom of my vocal range and looking for any opening to say “I get paid to do the wild thing,” but if the right piece of re-mixed British synthpop finds its way into my earbuds at the right moment all bets are off, and in this case I will tell you that the Senior Center called and wants its Tower of Power LP back, because Charli XCX has lit me up like a glow stick. I give you “Rhythm Method: Surfers on the Dance Floor.”
This 1974 shot of lifelong surfer-photographer Tim Vanderlaan has been on the amazing Cronulla Surf Museum site for years and is another item I’ve been meaning to post on EOS since forever. During and just after the shortboard revolution, a lot of us took a shot at boardbuilding. And for every 100 who tried, 99 were one-and-done. I sure was, and the shame I felt at walking my never-used still-sticky plastic mess of DIY surfboard to a nearby dumpster haunts me to this day. No real need to even try this kind of thing anymore. No badge of honor. Plus off-the-rack equipment is so much better now. Our formative surfing stories, though, are in decline and have been for decades because we no longer put on the rubber gloves and get after it ourselves. Here’s the story on the board you see above, told by Vanderlaan, who at that moment owned the worst new surfboard in Australia and was nonetheless hitting 10 of 10 on the pride-meter.
This is taken in front of the family home at Wanda, Cronulla, and I’m displaying my first homemade board. The blank and materials cost me $33, that was a lot of money considering the milko [milk delivery] I helped do mornings paid me $1.25 for three hours work. The board was 5'10" and 13" wide. My brother read somewhere that the width of a board should be the measurement between your nipples plus 2 inches. We had seen magazine shots of Terry Fitz riding something similar at Sunset Beach in Hawaii and we thought the spear shape would work at a Wanda beach break. I persisted in trying to ride it for ages but couldn’t turn the thing. I later sold to to Max Garlings’ Surf Shop in Cronulla. He had the board on display amongst all the bikinis.
Not much info out there on The Champion Annual for Boys, except that it was published in the UK from 1924 to 1956. I’ll leave it to you to decide if this 1950 cover is more or less unnerving than Frank Zappa’s Weasels Ripped My Flesh LP cover. Either way, it is yet another reminder of just how obvious tow surfing was to everybody, surfers and the surfing-curious, decades before tow surfing became a real thing. Read: “Misfire! Why Didn’t Motorized Big-Wave Surfing Happen 30 Years Earlier?”
Lastly, I just posted the full version of a 1966 TV special called The Professionals, which focuses on Fred Hemmings and Paul Strauch as leading exemplars of the new “top breed” surfer. The surf footage is okay, not great. The film and audio quality is worse. But I think you’ll like it anyway. What caught my attention, throughout the 23-minute program, is the on-camera surfer interviews, as everybody reaches for longer-than-necessary words in an effort to prove that surfing has left its rowdy past behind and should now be looked at as a respectable pastime.
Strauch, handsome but grim-faced in a striped polo shirt, tackles the subject head-on, telling us that surfing had been populated with “a lot of bums” and earned a reputation as a “delinquent-type sport”—but it’s now practiced by “doctors and lawyers” who have added “a sophisticated air” to the proceedings. Hemmings, with his over-enunciated helium-tinged voice and a button-down short-sleeve shirt tucked into his trunks, is Hemmings: forever deeply confident and satisfied with his own style-free jockstrapping middle-of-the-road remarks. Greg Noll is also a jock, but at least has the decency to leave his shirt untucked, and in his own special redneck way has style to burn. Joyce Hoffman looks straight into the camera and, like a determined middle-schooler onstage reciting the preamble to the Constitution, delivers a pre-written speech on the virtues of “girls surfing.” Butch Van Artsdalen, on crutches after taking a fin to the ankle, smiles and slurs and looks like he’s had just the right number of hits from Jodi’s hairspray bottle, and proves that surfing, never mind what Strauch said a few minutes earlier, is not yet finished being a delinquent-type sport.
Thanks for reading, and see you next week.
PS: Looking deeper into the above-mentioned TV special. Stanley Jaffe, Executive Producer, son of mailroom-to-CEO Hollywood mogul Leo Jaffe, was just 26 when he made The Professionals. Thirteen years later he won an Oscar for Kramer vs. Kramer (as did Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep) and in 1992 he became President of Paramount Pictures. Professionals director Andy Sidaris, meanwhile, leveled up to direct Wide World of Sports then pivoted, I guess you could say, to his “Triple B” period—Bullets, Bombs, and Boobs; swimsuited Playboy Playmates were always first on Sidaris’ call-list—directing such titles as Malibu Express and Hard Ticket to Hawaii. The surf media tent is nothing if not commodious.
[Photo grid, clockwise from top left: Bubble Yum; Joyce Hoffman, Sunset, 1966; detail from the Champion Annual for Boys contents page; Peter Drouyn on the dance floor, around 1979; dance step diagram; Steve Cropper. Tim Vanderlaan and his new DIY stick. The 1950 Champion Annual for Boys cover. Grabs from The Professionals: Paul Strauch, Fred Hemmings, Joyce Hoffman, Butch Van Artsdalen. Kramer vs. Kramer promo. Shower scene from Andy Sidaris’ Malibu Express.]