I finally watched the original 2012 Magic Mike, which has a too-soft ending but is otherwise a 90-minute sticky-fingered joyride of a film. The banter is excellent, loose and southern-dipped, but my favorite bit is an acting-within-acting scene where Channing Tatum, in cop mode, walks into a sorority party with flashlight at high port and brusquely tells a roomful of coeds who don’t yet know he’s in costume to “sit down, we’re gonna be here awhile.” Shit is about to go very badly south, as you Magic Mike stans already know, but not quite yet, and the lusty squeals that issue forth when Tatum whips off his stripper pants to present the double-alabaster wonder of his ass—the backside that launched a thousand bills, all 1s and 5s—rings in my ears still. It is a perfect Manhattan of a movie scene, two-thirds funny, one-third sexy, and a dash of dumbshit.
A couple of added pleasures, for me, about Magic Mike.
First, and sentimentally, the movie brings to mind my school pal Doug Donatelli, Mira Costa High football and party stud, who went on to play linebacker at UCLA before turning pro—at the original Chippendales in LA. (Click here, scroll to 2:10, and hey now Doug, is it hot in here or what?)
Second, the hands-down best Magic Mike character is Dallas, club owner and ringleader, played with drawling four-way swagger and a half-acre of shaved chest by Matthew McConaughey, whose abiding state of shirtlessness reminds me of Sydney boardmaker and gadabout Shane Stedman, another hardcore entrepreneur who, like Dallas, never met a shirt he couldn’t immediately toss in the corner.
There is of course much, much more to Stedman. He founded Shane Surfboards and for a decade or so in the 1960s and early ’70s was sponsor or employer to roughly half the A-list surfers and boardmakers in Australia. He advertised heavily, and with a great sense of humor. He created a wildly popular candy-colored line of styrofoam boards—a slightly revved-up version of the drugstore coolite that aspiring young surfers had been riding and destroying on Aussie beaches for years. The Ugg Boot was not a Stedman invention, contrary to some reports, but he is responsible for walking that style-free fashion albatross into the public eye, and people, I’m sorry, it will never leave.
Stedman was also, literally, the voice of surfing in and around Sydney. As Mick Mock later wrote:
Shane’s nose for publicity and extroverted approach to life found its ultimate expression in the medium of radio, when 2SM hired him to replace the late Bob Evans as the station’s official surf reporter. Grommets of the day will remember the blistering voice, the over-defined syllables of surf-speak roaring from the car radio and into their ears and minds as pro surfing began to take off. For many of those summers, when the word “surfer” came up, Shane Stedman—not Nat, not Midget, not MP or Fitzy—was the name that sprang to a Sydneysider’s mind.
Mock goes on to quote Stedman who, not surprisingly, turns up the volume.
“The psychedelic era hit, mate, and wow, didn’t all hell break loose!” Shane shouts, with much laughter. Russell Hughes designed a surfboard model called the Crystal Vessel, and with that cosmic name ringing in his head, Shane created a new ad. Russell was photographed leaning against a tree in a bright yellow satin shirt with an embroidered polo-neck collar, looking dreamily skyward. The copy read: “Look up through a Crystal Vessel and get nailed to the wall.” Shane says: “Everyone rang up, wanting to send us twenty bucks for a Crystal Vessel—because they all thought it was the shirt we were advertising!”
Which brings us back to Stedman and shirts, and blessings on the old fella, who is now a hearty and grinning and still-loud 82, and because it is summer on his side of the world I hope Shane is as proudly unclothed today as he was in his blond-helmeted youth.
Central California surfing pioneer Harry Mayo, the beloved and ever-present “Mayor of West Cliff,” has died at age 99, all but two years of which were spent living in Santa Cruz. Mayo grew up in near-poverty, built his first board at 13, in middle school woodshop class, and learned to surf at Cowell’s—or Paradise Point, as referred to in Doc Ball’s California Surfriders book. As a high schooler, Mayo co-founded the Santa Cruz Surfing Club, and decades later co-founded the Santa Cruz Surf Museum; between those two points he served in the Coast Guard and worked in a cannery before entering what turned out to be a 30-year career with the Santa Cruz Fire Department, where he ended up as Captain. Retirement suited Mayo, as it offered more time to yarn and tell jokes. He was the best kind of storyteller. “Harry was friendly and inclusive,” one long-time friend said. “If he was at a barbecue, everyone would go over to him because he was so entertaining.”
Mayo was the first person—as far as I know the only person—to photograph the pre-war Santa Cruz surf scene, and it is our great good fortune that this poor kid saw fit to spend what little extra money he had on film, because he eventually donated over 1,300 historical surf images to UC Santa Cruz. Settle into that Glenn Miller playlist, click here, and welcome to Surf City, 1940. I’m less than halfway through Mayo’s collection, and as a portal to another age it is every bit equal to Doc Ball’s work—better, in fact, for being so beautifully preserved and presented. The details in Harry’s photos, the boards and clothes, etc., are so old as to appear runic. But the feeling of being young and buzzed, surfed-out, salty and flirty on the beach during the Roosevelt Age has a live charge, a beating pulse. I can’t wait to scroll the rest of these photos because they hit stereophonically, plugged in as they are both to Mayo’s 1940s and my own 1970s, and if you were lucky enough to grow up on the beach surfing, anywhere, look at the shots yourself and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about, I promise.
Thanks for reading, everybody, and see you next week!
[Photo grid, clockwise from top left: vintage UCLA Bruins football logo; detail from early ’70s Shane Surfboards ad; artist rendition of Channing Tatum’s ass; Santa Cruz surfer at Cowell’s, 1940; vintage 2SM logo; Chippendale’s dancers from around 1980. UCLA football, 1982. Matthew McConaughey as Dallas in Magic Mike. 1971 Shane Surfboards ad. Surf shot of Peter Cornish, Shane teamrider and shaper, 1969. Black-and-white Shane Stedman pics from his Shane Gang autobiography. Photos from the Harry Mayo Collection at UC Santa Cruz. Thanks to Matt Micuda for helping with Harry Mayo’s bio information.]