Lifestyle: The Surf is up with Tommy Bernstein

Lifestyle: The Master of all , Tom Bernstein continues to narrate the exceptional lifestyle of a man of many talents through his over 85 years of life.

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When I got out of the Army in 1957 and started surfing Malibu regularly, the scene there was very family oriented. Prominent among them was English, professional wrestler, Lord Blears who’s son, Jimmy, became a world champion surfer in the 1970’s. Lord “tally ho” Blears had a great sense of humor and was always a lot of fun to be around. I never saw him wrestle tho. Another was the Wilson family, founders of the very popular Wilson’s House of Leather and Suede in Beverly Hills. The three sons later took over the store and expanded it regionally by being one of the first retail clothiers to go on TV. They were very photogenic and put them selves in the commercials and became minor celebrates Another was Fay Lawrence who ran a Karate school, whose picture of him chopping through a brick I used in a sales promotion piece for CBS Radio. Other regulars included an airline pilot whose guest house rental I took over when he got transferred, a semi famous movie actor who’s name I can’t remember, or find, and of course Gidget, who’s father wrote the novel which became the screen play for the movie that launched the TV series and several follow up movies. Gidget, Kathy Kohner, was still in high school then, and I didn’t really pay much attention to her. Occasionally Jim Arness, then the star of TV’s “Gunsmoke” would show up and mingle casually with the beach crowd. 

The real icon’s of Malibu were Miki (Chapin at the time) Dora, Johnny Fain, Miki’s surfing rival, who’s parents were in involved in the “Lassie” movies and lived in the famed Malibu Colony, and Terry “Tubesteak” Tracy, who lived briefly in a hut on the beach until he was forced to take it down. His diet was mainly hot dogs, hence the name, Tubesteak.

shore under cloudy sky
Photo by Ave Calvar Martinez on Pexels.com

Miki and Johnny Fain were actually good friends, but occasionally they would get in each others way on a wave, on purpose, especially if there were cameras filming, and mess with each other. Miki didn’t like to be upstaged tho. While I was still working the night shift at CBS Miki got an offer to do a commercial for a travel service and brought me along. It was shot at Leo Carillo State Beach, a few miles north of Malibu, where all the surf/beach movies were filmed. Leo Carillo is very scenic, remote and public access can be easily be cut off. But the day of the shoot, there was just the two of us and a cameraman. The surf wasn’t very good, until late in the morning when the wave of the day came in. I was in position, took off, did some nice maneuvers, went to the nose of the board, hung ten, and dove off as the wave petered out. The cameraman worked out of a big, professional camera rental store in the middle of Hollywood that had a screening room. Miki and I went there to view the footage. Wave after wave of Miki on small, unspectacular surf until suddenly, the wave of the day, with me doing my thing. The cameraman said, that’s the shot they used, because the client liked the dive off the end of the board. Miki got paid. I didn’t, but he was pissed because I upstaged him. Wish I could find the footage.

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