Jimmy Darren as Moondoggie in Gidget.

Malibu surf icon whose legend was dramatised in seminal teen movie “Gidget” reported missing somewhere in Venice area! “It is possible he is suffering from some age-related mental frailty and is wandering the streets of west Los Angeles”

Help bring a cultural icon home.

Surfer, motorcycle racer, artist, hep-cat, and co-founder of The Royal Hawaiian crowd-clearing technique at Malibu, Billy al Bengston was one of the members of the Malibu pit crew in the 1950s who had all those lovely green walls to himself and friends, which included Miki “Da Cat” Dora, Terry “Tubesteak” Tracy, Kemp and Denny Aaberg and a Happy Few digging the secret thrill of surfing in the 1950s.

More importantly, Bengston was a serious player in the art world – one of the most influential California artists to move out of the 1950s into the 1960s – and is called by some “The West Coast Andy Warhol.”

On the night of November 28, surfer/ceramicist = surferamicist Cory Bluemling sent an alarming AT RISK/MISSING PERSON bulletin (by way of the California Highway Patrol and Malibu local Carla Rowland) alerting the public that an 87-year-old man named Billy Bengston was missing in the Venice area.

Cory wondered if this was the same artist/surfer whose art was so influential in the middle of the 20th Century, and whose nickname inspired the James Darren character in the 1959 movie Gidget.

Quick emails went around and there were responses from Kathy “Gidget” Kohner-Zuckerman,

“He lived on Mildred in Venice. Yes this could be a pix of Billy Al and I have not seen him in a long while. Age would be correct about… is this for real?”

And Phyllis “The Concrete Heiress” Tracy, wife of Tubesteak Tracy (RIP 1935 – 2018).

“Yes. I thought he lived in Venice.I hope he’s ok.”

So Venice and the age match up, so this missing person probably is the surfing world’s Billy Al Bengston, and that’s a worry.

“So what?” you sneer. “Who is this guy? What’s it to me? How does this affect my trip?”

Bengston worked from a studio in Honolulu for many years, and his work from that time and place uses ancient tikis and modern passenger jets as recurring icons/motifs. This is Ka’ao Watercolor, 1983 Works on paper, Aquarell Collage
107 x 74 cm. (42.1 x 29.1 in.)

According to Wikipedia,

“Billy Al Bengston (born June 7, 1934 in Dodge City, Kansas) is an American artist and sculptor who lives and works in Venice, California and Honolulu, Hawaii. Bengston is a contemporary artist probably best known for his work that he created that uses the radical Californian “Kustom Kar” and motorcycle culture. He used colors that were psychedelic and shapes that were mandala like.”

It’s all true, and the (2021 – 1934 = 87) matches up to the age of the missing Billy Bengston.

Fleshing out the Wikipedia, there is this from the Getty.edu webpage:

“Billy Al Bengston (born 1934) is a flamboyant character who, beginning in the late 1950s, combined art with professional motorcycle racing and quickly became a key player in the Ferus Gallery circle. He had five solo shows at Ferus from 1958 to 1963, as well as a major exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1968. The motorcycle imagery in several early works associated Bengston with West Coast Pop, as did his use of techniques and materials drawn from custom-car and motorcycle culture, while the polished surfaces he achieved with spray lacquer also connected him to early conceptions of Finish Fetish.”

Finish Fetish. Out of the 1950s and into the 1960s, Bengston was a sharp-looking, clean-cut dude with a moustache who – like Bruce Brown and John Severson and other surfer artists of that era – dabbled in surfing and motorcycles and brought inspiration from those pursuits to their art.

So what is the connection between this real Moondoggie and the fictitious character in the 1959 movie Gidget? 

From Warshaw’s Encyclopedia of Surfing:

The Moondoggie character was loosely based on Kansas-born Malibu surfer Billy Al Bengston, who later became an internationally recognized pop artist. Bengston is said to have taken his nickname from blind American avant-garde composer Louis “Moondog” Hardin.

In the book, Moondoggie invents the name “Gidget” (a fusion of “girl midget”), and eventually gives the chirpy teenager his class pin. Asked by Longboard Magazine in 1997 if there was in fact any romantic relationship between himself and Kathy Kohner—the real-life Gidget and daughter of author Kohner— Bengston dismissed the thought. “She brought sandwiches to the beach. We ate them.”

Cliff Robertson’s Great Kahuna was inspired by Terry “Tubesteak” Tracy
Sandra Dee’s Gidget was inspired by Kathy Kohner.
James Darren’s Moondoggie borrowed the nickname of Billy Al Bengston, if not the identity. The fictional Moondoggie was a sorority guy and a square. The real Moondoggie was a beatnik and a legit artist.

Billy Al Bengston is 87 years old and while surfers like to think our kind are not prone to mental disabilities because surfers spend their lives bathing their brains in adrenaline and endorphins and other such sweet liquors (See: Dick Metz, Mickey Munoz, Gidget) it is possible Bengston is suffering from some age-related mental frailty, and is wandering the streets of west Los Angeles.

Billy Al Bengston (left) and Frank Gehry (right) on the rooftop of Gehry’s office in Santa Monica, ca. 1970. Photographer unknown. Image courtesy of and © Billy Al Bengston. Image from a good interview with Bengston at eastofborneo.org

Please be on the lookout and let’s get Moondoggie home.

World’s most famous Great White Shark doppelgänger captured lurking near Southern California, likely practicing choreography for gory “Hollywood moment!”

Jaws part Deux.

I’ll tell you what. There is nothing more difficult than ballet choreography. Why and how I know such is a longer story, becoming a book, but my goodness and wow. The moves are all in French, impossible to do, rapid fire and must be exact. Exact. Not one toe out of place. Not one finger wrong. Toss in dizzying spins, inhuman flexibility, a brain able to sort the specifics then add grace and flow.

Hollywood acting, I’d imagine, much easier but maybe not for Great White Sharks as their brains are only 60 centimeters long and, thus, a Great White was practicing her simple choreography very near Southern California in a possible indication that the world’s most famous Great White Shark role, Jaws, is being recast.

Per news reports, Nikki Brant Sevy and Euan Rannachan of the Be A Shark diving operation were off Guadalupe Island snapping headshots when they saw “Nicole” working her routine.

“When sharks are serious about getting a hang bait they often make a fast vertical approach from the depths.” Sevy told The New York Post. “I saw Nicole approaching from below and was able to visually track her as she instigated her approach. She rose up directly in front of me and I knew I had the chance at a Jaws movie poster shot. There were a lot of mackerel around that day, and I was worried they ruined the photo by getting between me and Nicole, or that they pulled focus from her. Checking your photos underwater is difficult, though, so I crossed my fingers and went back to photographing Nicole for another hour. It wasn’t until the trip was over that I downloaded my images and realized I got the shot.”


Would you like to audition for “surfer getting eaten” in the re-deux?

Easier than ballet, I’ll tell you that right now.

Open Thread: Comment Live day two of the Michelob Ultra PURE GOLD Haleiwa Challenger!

Crack a green one.

Well, the jig is up at least for now. The World Surf League has made all its contests un-embed-able. Because the audience is so huge, I’d imagine, and turning folks away is the only sensible option.

Fuck them.

The Haleiwa boys, and girls, are in the water anyhow. Watch here, or don’t.

Comment below.

"Howzit, I'm from Albuquerque and have been here for two-weeks. Local kine."
"Howzit, I'm from Albuquerque and have been here for two-weeks. Local kine."

Honolulu responds to livid North Shore residents’ pleas, introduces bill to severely restrict short-term housing thereby threatening the migrant surfer’s way of life!


North Shore residents are mad as heck and not going to take it anymore. Inundated with folks buying homes then flipping them into short term rentals has choked streets with traffic and turned one-time friendly neighborhoods into zombie zones where two-week vacationers from Albuquerque greet one-week vacationers from Cincinnati with shakas and “how-zits.”

So mad as heck, in fact, that a bill is being introduced to the Honolulu City Council that would seek to kill the short term rental situation with taxes.

According to Honolulu Civil Beat:

Under Bill 41, which has already passed a first reading at the Honolulu City Council, short-term rentals would be taxed at higher rates than residential homes, among numerous other changes to the city’s land use law.

Properties where the owner lives on site would be taxed at the bed-and-breakfast rate.

Transient vacation rentals, investment properties for owners who live off-site, would be taxed at the same rate as hotels and resorts – almost four times the lowest residential rate.

Seemingly wonderful except caught in the net would be longterm, and legendary, residents like Mark Foo’s widow SharLyn who has run Backpackers for decades, a hostel that allows migrant surfers to follow seasonal swells and sleep cheap.

“They keep saying they’re going to leave the existing, legal NUCs (or non-conforming use) alone,” Foo told Civil Beat, “But what they’re really trying to do is put everybody out.”

Her taxes would soar from $27,000 a year to over $90,000 coupled with many fees.

The residents and long-time hostel/bed and breakfast owner-operators are trying to find a solution wherein they are not hit with a sledgehammer while, also, ridding the fabled 7-plus mile miracle of illegal rentals.

Any ideas?

Will the mainland-dwelling North Shore income property owners fight back?

More as the story develops.

Flynn (pictured) blowing the left.
Flynn (pictured) blowing the left.

Former National Security Advisor and mid-length enthusiast Michael Flynn repurposes most popular surf term to describe QAnon subscribers: “I have always believed it was a disinformation campaign to make people look like a bunch of kooks!”

A disinformation campaign.

As an applied linguist (masters degree ’01), I am perpetually aware of words, how they’re being used, how meaning shifts and so when former National Security Advisor of the United States of America, and known mid-length enthusiast, Michael Flynn described subscribers of the popular QAnon theory as “kooks,” I was all ears.

You, as a grump local, are certainly aware of the “kook.” The uninformed male, female, non-gendered surfer that does not appropriately roll with our complex, but not difficult to understand, code of conduct.

I was out today, for example, with a heap of surf hatted folk on surf tractioned soft tops trying to go right on lefts.


The etymology is less clear.

Some scholars believe it was derived from the word “cuckoo” or “strange bird.” Others, smarter including surf historian Matt Warshaw, trust the root is “kūkae” from the Hawaiian language meaning “feces.”

In either case, Flynn recently dropped it in a recorded telephone conversation with popular former president Donald J. Trump lawyer Lin Wood, saying, “I always believe that QAnon was a disinformation campaign to make people look like a bunch of kooks.”

The whole business is worth reading but, more importantly, the rise of the kook.

They are everywhere these days.

The CIA’s fault?

From what I witnessed today it would make too very much sense.

Many surf hats.

Tin foil adjacent.

More as the story develops.