I’ve been racing around this past week on trains, planes, and automobiles, swept away in an end-of-summer crescendo before my son returns to school, and by the weekend I was left completely Jointless. The Joint below, in a slightly different version, originally posted at the end of 2019.
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I can go years without thinking about Roddy Doyle, then here comes something like The Curfew, Doyle’s latest, and suddenly I’m giddy remembering what an absolute treasure of a writer he is. I am partial to Doyle’s early stuff: The Commitments, The Snapper, and especially The Van (collectively known as The Barrytown Trilogy), which are now 30 years old, give or take, but just as sharp and funny and heartwarming as ever.
I bring this up because Jimmy Rabbitte Sr., patriarch of the Barrytown books and Doyle’s greatest creation, is every inch the spiritual father of wave-stomping 1990s Aussie pro Matt Hoy. Both are loyal, pub-loving, foul-mouthed, congenitally cheerful members of the working class. Both are, on a professional level, underachievers. On a less tangible but maybe more important level, however, having to do with family and friends and laughs per minute, Jimmy Sr. and Matt are, as Doyle himself would put it, feckin’ brilliant. The two even look alike: that’s Matt on the left (below), and Colm Meaney, who played Jimmy Sr. in the movie versions of the Barrytown Trilogy, on the right. No idea what Matt is up to these days, but if you tell me he’s playing Rabbitte in his community theater’s version of The Van I will be both unsurprised and delighted. (By the way: the Barrytown movies aren’t crap, exactly, but they’re a weak sauce compared to Doyle’s books. Godfather and Gone with the Wind excepted, books are always better.
Anyway—Matt Hoy. Here is a just-made video, and here’s an interview where Matt talks unashamedly about his man-boobs and hairing out at Pipeline (much to the disgust of Pipe charger Shawn Briley), and here’s a full-length profile of Matt by Derek Rielly that includes Hoy’s immortal quote about what it’s like to be away from his beloved hometown of Newcastle. “I miss everyone. Even people I don’t really like.”
Eager to keep the good times rolling, I went straight from Matt Hoy to Hawaiian surfer and funnyman Mark Liddell, seen below in 1981 with former Surfing mag writer and X-Files creator Chris Carter, and, of course, the late great Buttons Kaluhiokalani. Look closely, between Carter’s right bicep and the half-empty pitcher of beer, and you’ll see a prehistoric tape recorder.
Over dinner, Carter taped a “Conversations” article (read here), and it is a bittersweet read. A couple of slappy-funny bits in there, but the boys are wired as hell (Carter says as much, Buttons admits he was partying the night before till 5:30, and they can’t stop talking about how much fun they’d just had in Peru), and knowing that Buttons is about to jump into a drug hole that will take decades to climb out of, the machine-gunning banter does not hold up well. This video is much better: Liddell is front and center but feeds off Buttons’ energy (and vice-versa) all the way through. There were bright spots in surfing throughout the late ’70s and early ’80s—but few brighter than Liddell and Buttons during their prime.
Last but not least, here’s a long-overdue EOS page on pioneering New Jersey surfer-boardmaker Dan Heritage. Special thanks to Brian Heritage, Dan’s son and a powerhouse shaper himself (Dan and Brian are both in the New Jersey Surfing Hall of Fame), for helping with the pix and filling in a lot of blanks on Dan’s life. Here’s my favorite shot of Dan (middle, in the striped tank-top), along with with his Heritage Surfboards factory crew, probably in 1971. The first brand-new board I ever got was a twin-fin that looked just like the stubby little hot-rod on the far right. How great is the hand-drawn Heritage logo?
Thanks for reading, everybody, and see you next week!
PS: We’ve jumped out of 2019 and this is me here today, Sunday, Sept 4, 2022. The part with Buttons and Liddell high-revving for their interview with Chris Carter reminded me of a piece I’ve got on deck about surfers who, for various newspapers and magazines, actually did the reportage on a contest in which he or she had just competed—one of those insane all-hands-on-deck “Hey gang, let’s put on a show!” aspects of surfing’s past that I treasure, even as I shake my head. Anyway, the article I was reminded of was written by Peter Townend, for his coverage—incredibly, you can’t script this—of the 1976 Coke Surfabout in Sydney. Recalling the awards ceremony in Manly Vale, Townend writes, “At the pub, the coke flowed in more ways than one, and dollar bills were given to those who had all the tricks in ’76.” Folks that is two double-entendre drug references in a single nudge-wink-nudge sentence, and if PT had just a little more heat on the ball he would have slipped in a reference to “Sydney snow-flurries,” but alas. Photo below taken from that very evening. Table-top dancing in stormtrooper boots and a Fonzie T-shirt. Your move, Italo.
[Photo grid, clockwise from top left: the Fonze; Matt Hoy by Bosko; Buttons and Liddell by Steve Wilkings; Roddy Doyle; 1970 twin-fin; Al Pacino in Scarface. Matt Hoy and Colm Meaney. Buttons, Chris Carter, Mark Liddell. The Heritage Surfboards crew, 1971. Peter Townend at the Coke party.]