Gidget Turns Fifty

The popular Gidget TV series (starring Sally Field) was a sequel to a movie (Gidget Goes to Rome) that was a sequel to two or three other movies, all the way back to the first Gidget, a wacky movie starring Sandra Dee.

The first film was itself an adaptation of a novel, Gidget, The Little Girl With the Big Ideas. Written by Frederick Kohner fifty years ago, it was based on the real surf adventures of Kohner’s teenage daughter in Malibu the summer of 1956.

Okay, if you followed that you might know that Gidget is a nickname that combines girl and midget.Writing in the first person and invoking surf slang still used on the beach today, Kohner wrote of the summer that Gidget turned sixteen and learned to surf. “I’m writing it down,” the book begins, “because I once heard that when you’re getting older you’re liable to forget things and I’d sure be the most miserable woman in this world if I ever forgot what happened this summer.”

This often-told tale has lured countless wanderers to the shores of Southern California, at the same time angering hard-core surfers who blame Gidget for exposing the private subculture to the American mainstream.

The original surfer girl is Kathy Kohner Zuckerman. Now a 65 year old grandmother still living in California, the surfing icon was a reluctant hero for many years. Riding a wave of nostalgia, Zuckerman has recently embraced her place in history, and gained repect as a surfing pioneer who helped break surfing’s gender barrier.

If you haven’t already read the book or seen the early films, grab a bucket of popcorn and meet “Gidget.”

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