Monday, June 25, 2007

Waves of Warning 21

Continuing the serialization of Glenn Hening's WAVES OF WARNING...

Chapter Twenty-one – An Open Window

[ 21-AnOpenWindow.pdf ]

Three lights were blinking on the phone console. Two more were steady and bright. A new e-mail was appearing every minute on one of her computer displays. And Dolly Artensa was humming “Get Down Tonight”, her favorite battle hymn when things started to get hectic. She was in her element, busy as busy could be, loving every minute of it, in rhythm and in control. Her boss was on her game, and it felt like old times.

“No, but I’ll be happy to take a message,” she said into the tiny mic on the transparent stem of her headset. She listened another few seconds and then rolled her eyes before interrupting the growing tirade in her ear.

“Excuse me, but she can’t take your call, and that’s that. I will give her the message. Thank you.” Artensa wondered if Roberto Mercante would ever re member that her instructions were to never let him through on days like this.

She pushed the blinking light of a call that was much more pleasant.

“Sorry to keep you waiting, Aleja. Miss Corlund is looking forward to seeing you and,” Artensa glanced out the window at the 405, “I’m sure she can see it’s backed up, so don’t worry about being late. Just take your time. Oh, and I rode my bike today, so you can park in my spot. See you when you get here. Bye!”

Artensa pushed another blinker.

“Sorry to keep you waiting,” she lied with a straight face, “She’ll have to call you back later today, Mr. Clark.”

Aleja Gracellen found Artensa’s spot between a white Escalade and a black Mercedes convertible. Her Jeep Wagoneer was a bit rusted and the back was cluttered with towels, surf wax and bags of donated clothes for the shelter. She felt a bit self-conscious and thought about parking somewhere out in the lot. But she straightened her shoulders with self-assurance and confidence, set the brake, turned off the engine, and opened her door.

It banged into the Mercedes, leaving a small rusty scratch on the shiny black paint. She frowned for a second and felt a little guilty until she saw the name on the sign ‘Reserved for Mr. Mercante’. She felt a lot better.

Long strides took her across the lot and into the lobby past the walls with blow-ups of print ads showing happy, smiling people in Wavelife’s latest lines. She knew they were all models who had been paid bottom dollar but were grateful for the exposure, and she thought of the real joy she saw at the shelter when a load of Wavelife seconds and close-outs had arrived a few weeks ago.

“Wonder what the surf industry would say if they saw THOSE smiling faces in the magazine ads!” she laughed to herself.

“Go right on in, she’s waiting for you.”

“Now don’t go losing too much weight there, girl. We don’t want the stick chick waif look, now do we?”

“No chance of that! But it sure feels good to not be fighting the pounds anymore. You’ve changed a lot of things for Miss Corlund and me, Aleja.”

Gracellen grinned and her eyes were bright.

“Just doing my job!”

“And I better get back to mine.” Artensa swiveled back to her computers and phones as Aleja Gracellen walked into the CEO’s office.

“Well, I’m glad I made a good impression, but are you sure about that, Cheryl?”

“Ben Jeffries doesn’t do anything unless he’s sure. I’m going to make the presentation to the board next Tuesday, Aleja, and although you won’t be there personally, you will be there in spirit.”

“Well, I’ll be glad to show up if you need me.”

“Thanks for the offer, but you’ll be in Hawai’i.”

“What! Why?! I hate that North Shore scene!”

“We don’t like it either, so you won’t be on the North Shore. You’ll be training with Heath on Maui. We’ve got a whole new world for us just around the corner, and we want you to be ready for it.”

Training with Larson could only mean one thing to Aleja Gracellen: she was going to be surfing the waves she’d seen in the conference room last October. Ever since that day she’d thought about what it would be like to ride them, and every time she drove through the tunnel from PCH to the Santa Monica Freeway she thought about surfing through it. She took a deep breath and didn’t flinch.

“Ok, I’m game, but what about Sonny-boy?”

“Ben’s grandson Pierce really liked him, and Ben trusts the young man’s heart. We got a green light to fully develop our new business plan, and he’s a part of it, too. As is, I might add, expanding your shelter.”

Now Aleja Gracellen looked very surprised.

“Expanding the shelter? You guys are really throwing a lot at me here.”

“It will be one of the first things we do after we roll out a new Wavelife,” said June Wilson, “Now don’t forget, all this is confidential, and that’s really important, Aleja . The last thing we want is for someone to get wind of our plan, especially the press.”

“Ben and two other investors are helping us buy the company from the shareholders. If we can do it without having to fend off any unsolicited offers,” said Bill Massara, “there will be more money left over afterwards, which translates directly into things like expanding the shelter.”

“I got the part about buying the company, and I’ll take your word for the rest of it. But what does this all have to do with me, other than surfing the reef and expanding the shelter?” she asked with skepticism in her voice.

Cheryl Corlund laid some cards on the table.

“We’ve been thinking about changing Wavelife’s image for a long time, Aleja, almost since the first day I saw you surf Malibu. Opening the shelter was part of that, but now we want to go much further. When we met with Clark, it was part of our strategy, and I wanted you there, though at the time we didn’t know exactly how it would all work. But now we do.”

“We think there’s a new and bigger market out there waiting to be developed that is not dependent on the fourteen to twenty-four male segment,” said June Wilson, “Remember what we talked about on his yacht that night? And the questions I asked you about women and surfing?”

“Yeah, but I didn’t think you were doing market research. Stupid me.”

“Well, Aleja, I’m sorry if you feel misled in any way, but my business is to understand trends long before the trendsetters even know they are setting them, and then translate that information into multi-million dollar investments,” said Wilson.

“Ben and his associates needed to know if transforming Wavelife is going to make money for them, plain and simple,” said Massara, “All the market research told us good things, but we needed to put a face on it - - -“

“And that face is mine, right?” said Gracellen, thinking about the photos in the lobby and turning to look straight at Cheryl Corlund without saying a word. They locked eyes for several seconds, long enough for “You are using me” to be rebuffed by “Get with the progra m.”

“Aleja, you are exactly the right person to be a role model for our female customers. You are going to be at the center of the plan, as is Heath for his segment and Sonny-boy for his . This is how it works. I can’t shelter you from our business anymore. Your time has come.”

“Until my time’s over, and you go on to the next big thing.”

“Aleja, business is nothing more than riding waves of what sells,” said June Wilson, “We ride them all the time on Wall Street. In fact, I think I’m just as much a surfer as you are, only I wear silk suits instead of wetsuits. The important thing here may not be a career, but it is a window of opportunity to gain some independence for yourself and the shelter.”

“If we ride this wave with courage and style, we’ll have a lot to show for it when we kick out,” said Massara, “You saw what successful financial surfers have to show for their rides, Aleja. Imagine a mega-yacht transformed into a program for the homeless, with you as captain.”

Gracellen paused for a second. She didn’t know if the problems of the homeless could be solved by piles of money. What worked more than anything was simple human kindness, and nothing about a mega-yacht said that to her.

But Ben Jeffries had made an impression on her, too.

“And Ben Jeffries is making all this happen?”

“Yes, he is,” said Cheryl Corlund.

Gracellen should have been ecstatic but wasn’t. Even after she’d flown to Florida to meet Ben Jeffries, she never imagined herself becoming Wavelife’s next big surf star. Now Cheryl Corlund was depending on her to do just that. She knew it was no time to lose her nerve, and she didn’t when, an instant later, she remembered the lefts in Clark’s video. They were picture perfect and they were going her way.

“Then shouldn’t I have started training in January? March is pretty much the end of the big wave season in Hawai’i.”

“We didn’t know then what we know now,” said Corlund.

“You still haven’t told me how long I’ll be gone.”

“As long as it takes for Heath to get in some serious training with you. At least two weeks, maybe three.”

“Well, in that case next time you come to the shelter, you have to park your car right out in front and meet and greet every single person, ok?”

Corlund was taken aback at Gracellen’s alacrity. Wilson and Massara exchanged astonis hed looks.

“Including the ones that really smell?” said Corlund, trying to be cute with a shy look.

“Especially the ones that really smell!”

Well, I, I, sure, okay, that’s no problem.”

“Good, ‘cause there’s more. I’ll be gone the full three weeks. I want all the training I can get before Easter. While I’m gone you’ll have to take my place for two days a week at the shelter. Same for June and Bill. That covers my usual six days, right? And you three will be the organizing committee for the Easter Sunday event. And May Day, too. After all, if the shelter is part of the business plan, you all need training and first hand familiarity with how it runs. Or as Ben might say, what part of ‘due diligence’ don’t you understand?”

The C.E.O. knew when she was outfoxed. She tried not to let it show, but when she looked at June Wilson and Bill Massara, her resolve melted.

“Yeah,! Due diligence! Why didn’t the two of you think of that?”

The smile on Aleja Gracellen’s face was so sweet they all had to laugh.

“So when am I leaving?”

“Day after tomorrow, but you won’t be flying to Maui right away. First you’re going out to the reef.”

Ian Clark’s eyes kept darting back and forth between two monitors displaying market data and tracking his investments. He was ready to pull the trigger on some trades, and if his timing was right, he’d be up five grand.

Then Dolly Artensa came on the line.

“Call from Cheryl Corlund. Go ahead please.”

“Ian, stop what you are doing and pay attention,” she said. She knew exactly what Clark was doing: watching the markets and not listening.

“Uh, yeah, just a minute, I’ve just got to do this one thing, and can I put you on hold for a second?”

“No, Ian, you can’t put me on hold. Your quick trigger deals can wait, goddamn it!”

Clark knew he couldn’t stop what he was doing without missing a chance to make some money. He stalled for time.

“Hello Cheryl! How are you? Everything ok?”

“No, everything is not ok. I wrote you a check for one and a half million dollars. I own you and you’ve got work to do.”

There was no mistaking the tone in Corlund’s voice. Clark reluctantly turned away from his monitors to concentrate on the voice in his headset.

“Yes Cheryl, good to talk to you. Things are going just fine. I’ve been in contact with the seaplane people, and - - -“

“Don’t tell me what you’ve been doing. I’ll tell YOU what you’re going to do, understood?”

“Well, I’ve been pretty busy lately,” said Clark, glancing at the monitor,

“and right at the moment I don’t have much time for - - -“

Corlund cut him off.

“You signed a contract. If you haven’t read it by now, I’ll read it to you. Do I make myself clear?”

Clark remembered a sheaf of documents approved by his lawyer that he’d signed without a second glance last October. The lawyer hadn’t given them much of a look either. They both knew he needed the money, and neither was going to upset the apple cart by probing for details. It wasn’t until a few weeks later that he’d actually read the contract, only to find out he was now just another apple on Corlund’s cart.

“Uh, yes, clear as an azure blue sky, Cheryl,” he said, trapped and knowing it all too well.

“I want you, Roberto and Aleja Gracellen, plus Heath and Sonny-boy, in Tahiti by Friday. I want you all at the reef on Saturday, and everybody back in Hawai’i by Sunday night. I need on-site documentation of the place. Roberto will tape it all then catch a red eye and be in my office Monday morning.”

“You’re kidding me,” said Clark, “There is no way - - -“

“There better be for your sake, Ian. You’re a travel agent: figure it out and make it happen.”

“I don’t know about the Skyhook - - -“

“And I don’t want to hear about your problems . Is that understood, Ian?” Clark saw a quote he needed running along the bottom of his screen.

“Clark, I told you to pay attention. Don’t you understand English?”

For a second, he didn’t. The only thing he understood was what the numbers on his screen were telling him: he’d just missed his chance to make a short term killing.

“All right,” his sigh was easily heard over the phone, “Anything you s ay.”

“That’s right Ian, anything I say. Get busy and call Dolly with the flight information within the hour.”

* * *

There wasn’t much small talk on the flight to Tahiti. It had been a hectic forty-eight hours getting things squared away at the shelter on a moment’s notice along with everything else Aleja Gracellen needed to think about before going on a trip for three weeks.

Clark had gone through hell making all the arrangements for the trip, including tracking down the Skyhook and negotiating with Tina Sanchez. On the plane he simply stayed stressed, glued to his laptop, with his investments and Geosurf running full bore around the world.

Roberto Mercante was somewhere in between. He was happy to be in charge, heading to the reef, and looking forward to another flight in the Skyhook . At the same time he was dreading seeing Heath and Sonny-boy and delivering some news that would shock the two surfers. They were waiting at the airport, and Mercante figured he’d better get it over with right away.

“There’s no way that can happen. No way. It takes years to get it wired! And you’re giving us three weeks?”

“Listen Heath, this goes all the way to Ben Jeffries and the entire business plan. And we’ve got until this summer to pull this off, and you can’t tell me she isn’t in great shape.”

“You no understand da deal wit da drivah and da surfah, yeah?” said Noaloa, suddenly an expert on something he was barely qualified for, “I been work out fo’ months, know da skis from a inside and out, and - - -“

“That’s good, Sonny-boy. We’re still going to need you, I’m sure,” said Ian Clark, knowing his next paycheck depended entirely on Heath Larson getting his first wave.

“Ok, Roberto, we’ll talk about all that later,” said Larson, “Let’s talk about what we’re going to do when we get there. It will probably be flat, so I think it will be a good time to dive the reef and check the bottom.”

“Ok, yeah Heath, that’s a good idea, but don’t forget my wife needs shots of the three of you and the Skyhook .”

Larson groaned, but Noaloa perked right up.

“Ok, brah, no problem! Do one photo shoot, no big deal. So Aleja, how come you no bail outta dis like you jump da tour? I tot you hate da pro surfer stuffs,” he said with a smirk.

Aleja Gracellen chose her words carefully.

“Listen, Sonny-boy, the future of my shelter is riding on this, so don’t give me any shit. And that goes for all of you. I’m ready for the training, Heath, and Roberto, you make sure your employees here are with the program. You guys got that?”

The men didn’t say a word.

“Uh, yeah, ok. When do we get into Tahiti, Ian?” said Heath Larson, changing the subject as fast as he could.

* * *

The Skyhook circled into the wind, and once again made an indelible impression on those who had never seen her before.

“Wow, this is going to be fun!” exclaimed Aleja, trying to be a good egg now that the men were showing her some respect, “You guys ever seen anything like it?”

Larson didn’t know what to say. For a moment he was drawn out of his existential shell and was a bit awestruck by the sight of the Skyhook circling into the wind. Sonny-boy Noaloa was staring at the seaplane coming in, but he had nothing to say to Aleja Gracellen. When she had turned up in Florida for the weekend on the mega-yacht, Noaloa was not thinking about anything other than more glory and fame for himself. Now, however, they were actually going to the place where it was all going to happen, and here she was. It was a situation for which Sonny-boy Noaloa was not in the least bit prepared.

“An’ how’s mah good buddy, Roberto?” asked Owens as he helped Mercante up through the cargo hatch.

“Just great, Mac, just great. Say, Clem hasn’t sold his Cat yet, has he?”

“Don’ think so. I thought ya’all might have kep’ in touch on that.”

“Well, yeah, but when I’m around the missus - - -” said Mercante.

Owens just laughed. He had hearty greetings for Larson, Noaloa, and Gracellen. But when he pulled Clark in last, his face turned into a scowl.

“Ya know y’all cain’t just order us around, Clark, an’ I don’t care how much money ya throw at Tina an’ the Foundation. I had ta work a double shift ta git us air-ready. What in hell made ya think ya could git us on that kinda short notice?”

“Tina and the Foundation,” retorted Ian Clark, holding up his hands, “See! No cash boarding pass this time, buster!”

Owens laughed, and for a moment a smile came to Clark’s face.

“Yeah, I know. Jes kiddin’, okay Ian? We’re gonna have a good time ! Roberto, why doncha take Sonny-boy an’ the lady back ta the ‘sunroom’ an’ get ‘em ready fer takeoff. Ian, Heath, let’s git up front. Roberto, once we’re airborne cum on forward. We gotta talk sum ‘bout yer big plans.”

Victor Sanchez put the Skyhook on autopilot but remained in his seat while listening to the conversation through the hatch. His wife, Clark, Owens, Mercante, and Larson were hashing out details and making real progress.

Basically, Larson told everyone what he needed, Mercante nodded his head, Owens took notes, Tina Sanchez wrote down ballpark costs, and Clark scowled because he was no longer in control.

“That’s good news you’ve already been testing the hoists,” said Larson, “I was wondering about that. Those SUVs are pretty heavy.”

“She’s built ta carry two tons a’ torpedoes, but ma’ problem was gettin’ ‘em out of the water quick-like. But with the ‘lectric hoists, she’ll work out jes fine,” he said, glancing at Clark and knowing when to throw him a bone, “Goin’ ta Florida ta git some ‘special parts made turned the trick. Thanks fer gettin’ me there, Ian.”

Clark nodded.

“Yeah, thanks Ian,” said Tina Sanchez, “Mac’s been his old self since he’s been back. He really needed a vacation.”

So do I, thought Clark, glancing out a porthole only to see a solitary, submerged reef with not another thing in sight as far as the eye could see. “No problem,” he said, remembering the next check for one-point-five mill depended on the people sitting around him, “Now, where were we?”

“Wait a sec, are you going to hang two jetskis under each wing?” asked Roberto, “That’s a lot of drag compared to torpedoes.”

“Well, Roberto, y’all jes gonna hafta wait an’ see how I solved that problem, too!”

“So we got Heath and Bruddah on one ski, Sonny and Aleja on another, one more for safety, and one for backup, right?” said Clark.

“Uh, I don’t know about that yet,” said Heath Larson, knowing the two surfers back in the ‘sunroom’ were probably not saying a word to each other. He’d already sensed a brewing problem between them because adding Gracellen to the team had marketing written all over it. Sonny was probably worried he’d be lucky to be the board caddie, And Larson knew Gracellen was not about to try and make nice to a pouting surf star.

“Ok, Heath. We’ll figure that out later. Mac, you’ve got a draft cargo list. Tina, you’re set for fuel, food and medical?”

“Yes, and we’ll be ready for a shakedown run last week in April, first week in May.”

“Gotta question fer ya, Heath,” said Mac Owens, “Y’all shure yer jetskis kin run aviation fuel?”

“Guys are doing it all the time going after speed records. I won’t crate ‘em up for shipment until I KNOW they are ready. We don’t want any problems when we get there.”

Clark glanced at the GPS numbers on his watch and then looked out the porthole. He saw the first reef come up over the horizon, this time surrounded by a thin ring of white water.

“Speaking of getting there,” he smiled around the table, “And let me tell you, its not flat this time!” Larson and Mercante looked at each other. “Go back in the sunroom and strap in. You’ll get a perfect view of the place.”

“Shit! Where’s my camera?” exclaimed Mercante.

The two surfers scrambled out of their seats and went aft like kids running down stairs for Christmas. Tina Sanchez went up to the cockpit to co-pilot the descent and Mac Owens went up in the engineer’s tower to give the engines a visual check.

Ian Clark fished a scrap of paper out of his backpack with new latitude and longitude numbers determined by the programmers. He’d spent another five grand to pinpoint the exact location of the reef in L.J. Merrill’s footage. He pushed the GPS display button on his watch as they did a lazy circle over the elliptical reef. The waves were good, but he closed his eyes as his heart turned cold. The numbers didn’t match.

The minute the Skyhook came to a rest at the northern end of the reef, Mac Owens deployed an inflatable with an outboard attached. He took Ian Clark with him to check him out on the rig while delivering Aleja Gracellen to the most perfect lefts she’d ever seen. Clark drove Owens back to the PBY, dropped him off and picked up Mercante and Noaloa. They went over to the rights with Mercante taping everything. It was a long distance swell, and during the extended lulls Clark motored to the other side of the reef where Mercante shot Gracellen’s beautiful surfing. The two men now knew for sure that the place was in a class by itself, and with the Skyhook as a backdrop, they knew they were going to deliver exactly what Cheryl Corlund needed.

An hour later, Larson came up from his deepest dive and confirmed the quality of the reef where Noaloa had just ridden the best wave of the day.

Gracellen, a goofyfoot, was surfing the lefts all alone, taking full advantage of waves going her way. Everyone couldn’t have been more stoked. Mercante had been shooting every ride he could from every possible angle with Clark driving him around. He would have kept going but Clark had an idea. Say Roberto, why don’t you go ride a few yourself? And Heath, get out there, too! I’ll shoot you guys from the wing of the plane.”

The two men jumped at the chance. Heath went to share the lefts with Aleja, and Roberto went to the rights with a sense of release he hadn’t felt in a long time. Things were coming around, and Mercante couldn’t have been happier. Up on the wing, Clark shared Mercante’s emotions. The quality of the waves was superb, as was the surfing of Gracellen, Larson and Noaloa.

Everything was in synch. During a lull in the action, Clark stood up, stretched, and took a relaxed look around. He noticed something on the horizon that hadn’t been there an hour ago. He looked through the zoom of the camera and saw a bank of clouds to the east.

“Hey, Mac, what’s that on the horizon?”

In less than a minute he heard Owens call to Victor Sanchez to come up into the cockpit. In less than ten seconds, he heard the Captain’s booming voice.

“Tina! Prepare for takeoff! Ian! Get down here, now!”

Sitting out on either side of the peak off the southern tip of the reef, the four surfers were startled to hear the sounds of the big Pratt and Whitney engines cough into life. They were even more surprised to see the Skyhook moving towards them, and fast. In less than a minute they saw Clark and Owens in the cargo door yelling at them. The engines drowned out their words, but the frantic motioning of their arms got the message across. The surfers and their boards were pulled into the plane through the cargo bay instead of the rear tail-gunner’s hatch just as the wind kicked up to twenty knots in less than five seconds.

“Get in the back, strap in an’ hold on!” said Mac Owens to the surfers.

The Skyhook swung around so fast they bumped into each other trying to get to their seats in the ‘sunroom’. “Two to a side, and one on the fold-down seat on the rear bulkhead. Here we go!”

The Skyhook went to full throttle and fishtailed around into the wind. She gained speed, shuddered, and accelerated off the surface of the sea with a sudden motion that churned the stomachs of the passengers. Victor Sanchez put the Catalina into a steep climb, and the PBY was bumping and bucking through the turbulence of the gusting winds and sheets of rain.

But in less than a minute, the Skyhook had lifted them up into a clear blue sky and leveled out. Mac Owens poked his head into the compartment. It smelled of puke thanks to the five wide-eyed, people looking at him.

“That’s ok, y’all kin clean up later,” he said with just the hint of a grin on his face, “So, how were them waves? Sorry we had ta get out of there so fast, but yer lil’ paradise jes turned into a churnin’ toilet a’ chop an’ confusion.”

“Does that happen all the time?” asked Aleja Gracellen.

“Well, ma’am, yes an’ no. Ya never know what’s gonna happen in tha open ocean ‘less ya monitor yer weather radar alla time, which I was sorta doin’ while takin’ care of sum maintenance in the cockpit. Captain an’ the missus was eatin’ sum lunch, so, well, it all turned out ok ‘cause Ian saw ‘er comin’ for I did, so thanks ta him, it was no big deal,” said Owens with a nod to Clark that erased some more of the past between the two men, “’sides, Capt’n figured it was a good time ta do a drill. Y’all had an open window there. Then she closed, plain an’ simple. But y’all got whatcha needed, right Roberto? So no big deal!”

Roberto smiled, but Heath Larson’s mind was way ahead of Mercante’s and he wasn’t smiling.

“Yeah, but if the surf’s big and the wind comes up that fast, we’ll have all kinds of problems in the water. This is a big place, and riding huge waves is hard enough without random variables that can happen without warning.”

“Well, now y’all know why I been working on the winches, Heath. Say, Ian, why don’ you an’ Roberto jes open up the canopies a bit, get some fresh air in here? I’ll be back in a minute. We got some stuff up front that’ll help y’all feel better.”

Owens closed the hatch and Larson looked at across the compartment.

“Ian, what’s the deal on the weather out here?”

A composed Ian Clark was getting used to doing some fast thinking in the ‘sunroom’ of the Skyhook .

“Those squalls usually taper off in July, August. And even if one blows through, I bet the wind turns around offshore in its wake. We’ll just ride it out, and get even better waves after it goes by.”

Larson thought for a second. Clark’s explanation couldn’t be challenged, at least not yet.

The flight back to Tahiti was smooth. After they each got a stomach full of the airsickness concoction there was time to think about what they’d just experienced.

“Heath, you say the bottom seemed perfectly formed?”

“Yeah, but only what I saw of it.”

“One thing for sure,” said Roberto Mercante, “The surf was perfect. It’s exactly what we want. The waves, the water, and - - -“

“And no one has ever surfed the place before! And wait till it gets big!” said an excited Ian Clark now that he could feel some genuine satisfaction for the first time in months, “This is going to work out great!”

“Yeah, lemme see da one kine tube ride I got,” said Sonny-boy Noaloa as Mercante turned on the video camera and Clark moved over to watch it with them.

But neither Heath Larson nor Aleja Gracellen was interested in watching handheld surfing on a tiny camcorder screen, so they got up and went forward. She spend the rest of the flight up in the cockpit with Tina Sanchez learning about the Skyrider Foundation while Larson discussed mounting the jetskis, fuel consumption rates, and weather issues with Victor Sanchez and Mac Owens.

The sun was on the horizon when the Skyhook dropped off her passengers at the buoy where the outrigger canoes were tied up. Happy goodbyes were exchanged and everyone was in good spirits. Clark had pulled off the trip, Mercante had the footage his wife needed, the surfers were stoked, and Victor and Tina Sanchez had just made twenty-five thousand dollars they would split with Mac and the Skyrider Foundation. They’d had an open window and come through successfully. The reason it closed was soon all but forgotten.


Friday, June 08, 2007

Lords of Acid

Tangentally part of surfing's history. Nick Schou's "LORDS OF ACID, How the Brotherhood of Eternal Love Became OC’s Hippie Mafia," originally published in the  Orange County Weekly, July 7, 2005, and long out of print, is excerpted below:

Thumper knew it was time to run away from home when he saw his dad’s car in the driveway. He was walking home from Laguna Beach’s Thurston Middle School, heading up the hill to his house, reflecting on the fact that, months after the Summer of Love, his mom and dad weren’t quite finished beating the hell out of each other. His dad was vice president of a major perfume manufacturer, rich, and angry. His parents had separated four years earlier and now were beginning the second round of a bruising reconciliation. Dad had come home with a 5-year-old kid from a relationship with another woman. Thumper’s stepbrother was there, during all the arguments that would follow, “tucked into a corner,” he says.

Later that day, Thumper’s older sister, home on break from UCLA, called. “We were on the phone, and she’s like, ‘What’s he doing there?’” Thumper recalls. “And I was like, ‘You don’t understand: he’s back.’ And my sister said something like, ‘That is so not happening. That is not groovy.’” His sister never came home. She moved into a house in Laguna Canyon. His parents didn’t seem to care. “She was old enough to do what she wanted to,” he says. “And my mom and dad were more into trying to save their own marriage for whatever goofy reason than caring about us, quite frankly.”

A month later, Thumper came home from school and heard yelling and screaming again. “So I go into the house and Mom’s all bloody and Dad’s beating the hell out of her,” he recalls. He pretended to call the police—a desperate ploy to scare his father—grabbed his stepbrother, and ran out of the house.

“So I went in search of my sister and stopped by Mystic Arts right across from Taco Bell” on Pacific Coast Highway. Unbeknownst to Thumper, his sister was already notorious. “Everyone called her Sunshine,” he says. “I asked a bunch of people where she was and they said, ‘Yeah, she’s at a group grope.’ I had no idea what that meant, because I was 14 years old.”

Thumper thumbed a ride. “There are these guys out front of this house smoking doobies,” he says. They told him Sunshine was inside. “So I go in there. They’re having this massive orgy. They looked like maggots. So I’m like, ‘Excuse me, pardon me, excuse me.’” Finally, someone pointed out his sister. She was “like, busy every which way.” It’s easy to imagine the 14-year-old Thumper, barely entering puberty, standing fully clothed in the middle of an orgy, the sitar of Ravi Shankar dripping thick from the ceiling, incense and pot smoke hanging in the air like cotton, naked bodies writhing around him.

He tapped his buck-naked sister on the shoulder. “I’m hungry,” he said. “Mom and Dad are fighting. Do you have five bucks? “She’s like, ‘Not on me.’ Which was pretty apparent.”


In the midst of that throbbing mass of passionately entwined bodies, Thumper set foot on a path that would take him into the arms of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, a legally registered nonprofit religious institution centered on Mystic Arts World, a head shop in downtown Laguna Beach. The church’s figurehead and high priest was Timothy Leary, a world-famous former Harvard psychology professor turned proselytizer of psychedelic drugs. Leary and the Brotherhood preached spiritual awakening through Buddhist meditation and drug experimentation. Leary’s mantra—Tune in, turn on, drop out—had already led countless disaffected middle-class kids to quit their jobs or classes, head to California and drop acid.

The Brotherhood’s bible was Leary’s Psychedelic Prayers, his idiosyncratic translation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Mystic Arts sold copies of Leary’s book, along with incense, candles and imported counter-cultural paraphernalia. Behind a bamboo-covered wall, church members gathered in a secret meditation room decorated with a massive Taxonomic Mandala, a technicolor spiral depicting the evolution of life, from primal ooze to Homo sapiens.

But Mystic Arts was more than a head shop or meditation center. And although it didn’t start out that way, the Brotherhood of Eternal Love wasn’t just a church. It was also Orange County’s first major international drug smuggling network. The Brotherhood viewed marijuana and acid as sacraments. Many of its members were serious, spiritual people who hoped to end the war in Vietnam and inspire a generation to achieve worldwide peace and harmony. It funded vegan soup kitchens and promoted an array of local artists, but it also financed a complex conglomeration of underground pipelines that would eventually funnel untold quantities of hash and marijuana—and later cocaine—to Southern California from such exotic locales as Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Costa Rica.

The Brotherhood also ran secret local laboratories for the production and distribution of Orange Sunshine, a powerful orange acid tablet that turned on thousands of young people in Laguna each year. By the time Thumper met the Brotherhood during one of its sacred sex rites, the group’s inner light was already dimming. Less than a year later, on Dec. 26, 1968, an ambitious young Laguna Beach police officer named Neil Purcell arrested Leary for possession of 2 kilos of marijuana and hash. Leary would spend a brief stint in state prison before escaping—with the help of the Brotherhood—to Algeria.

Four years after his arrest, the Orange County grand jury indicted 46 Brotherhood members and fellow travelers on charges of belonging to an international drug ring. A 1972 Rolling Stone article dubbed them the “Hippie Mafia.” Local law enforcement officials declared victory.

One of the founding members of the Brotherhood wasn’t indicted: John Griggs, an Anaheim-raised hippie who worshiped Leary and hoped to install him as a prophet on a church-owned island. By the time the convictions came in, Griggs was gone, dead from an overdose of psilocybin in 1969. Most of those arrested spent, by today’s standards, a relatively short time behind bars. Many lived on the run under assumed identities for years, like Nicholas Sand, who evaded capture until 1996, when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police caught up with him in British Columbia. Police finally arrested Brother Russell Joseph Harrington in 1994, at his home near Lake Tahoe. But few of the survivors did as well as John Gale. Briefly jailed in the 1970s and early ’80s, he went on to earn millions of dollars dealing drugs long after Purcell and the rest of Orange County law enforcement claimed they had crushed the Brotherhood.

If the cops didn’t actually destroy the Brotherhood, drugs did. Cocaine trafficking and the money that came with it perverted whatever was genuine in the church’s spiritual origins. The Brotherhood’s drug empire produced great wealth, addiction and a surplus of paranoia that lasts even today, more than 30 years later. Many people, including those only peripherally involved in the famed Hippie Mafia, are still reluctant to talk about it. One of those people, a Laguna Beach shop owner, was among those named in the original indictment. Although the charges against him were dropped when it became clear he wasn’t a party to the Brotherhood’s criminal dealings, he refused to discuss his past. “All Leary did by coming to Orange County was bring a lot of heat on a lot of people,” he says. “Nobody’s going to talk to you, and if they do, you shouldn’t trust what they say they remember. “If you remember it, you weren’t there.”


When Sunshine’s group grope ended, she dressed and took Thumper and their stepbrother to a communal house on Bluebird Drive. Her “friends” included Griggs and Gale. Thumper remembers being immediately drawn to Gale, a Jesus look-alike, the extrovert son of a wealthy Newport Beach boat manufacturer who also owned a Harley-Davidson distributorship.

“Gale was a beach boy, a surfer, musician, ladies man and man about town,” Thumper says. Some of the other Brothers, like Griggs, were “inlanders.” Thumper thought Gale was the real deal, a generous, larger-than-life character who loved playing practical jokes on his friends and took the time to make a lasting impression on total strangers.

“Gale used to go down to Taco Bell, and would hand out two dollars to everyone there,” Thumper says. “Two dollars doesn’t sound like a lot of money. But back then, tacos cost 19 cents. And he would literally give away $100 every day.

"The original conception of the Brotherhood wasn’t about making money. We were funding soup kitchens. We had this one vegetarian kitchen called — what was it? — Love Animals Don’t Eat Them. The Brotherhood wasn’t about being greedy. It was about feeding people.”


Kent Kelly, a soft-spoken, pensive veteran of Laguna Beach’s hippie scene, owns Blind Faith, an aptly named art gallery in San Clemente. He moved to Laguna Beach from Chicago in 1968 and served food at the Love Animals Don’t Eat Them food kitchen. He also managed Mystic Arts, after landing a job sweeping floors there. That’s when he first met Timothy Leary, whose son Jack already worked at the shop.

“Sometimes we’d have Leary’s whole laundry load from the dry cleaners in the store for two weeks, and it was nothing but Leary’s silk robes,” Kelly says.

The store was a mecca for eccentric Laguna Beach hippies with odd nicknames, like Crazy Horse, a towering sword swallower who often wore a safety pin through his nose, and Cocaine Carol, who avoided pot, hash and LSD but always seemed to be snorting a hitherto-unknown white powder. He remembers the Brotherhood of Eternal Love as a bunch of “very generous” guys. “They might have had thousands of dollars, but they’d still hitchhike.” But Kelly wasn’t a fan of Leary, a man he regarded as irresponsible.

“I thought his message was too willy-nilly, everyone taking LSD,” Kelly says. “It wasn’t for everyone.” Although he knew the Brotherhood ran Mystic Arts, he doesn’t remember taking orders from anyone. “I was a worker bee,” he says. Occasionally, 30 or 40 people, sometimes Leary himself, would attend store meetings. “Leary just sat there and smiled and never said much,” he recalls. “The Brotherhood is just as much a mystery to me as it is to you. I didn’t really have any communication with them. They were really secretive . . . You heard rumors about people running around the world to Afghanistan, but no one in the Brotherhood told me about it.”

Among other things, Kelly was unaware that Mystic Arts had become part of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love’s marijuana, acid and hash distribution network. But hippies came to the shop from around Orange County to buy LSD in bulk.

“We would make frequent trips down to Laguna Beach,” says a woman whose housemates in Silverado Canyon included drug dealers. “I was on the very fringe, and the people in the Silverado house were on the fringe too. They were connected by virtue of the fact that these guys were selling their LSD. The Brotherhood didn’t use the term ‘Brotherhood.’ It was more like a secret, a fraternity . . . it wasn’t a staple of their conversation.” Every time she and her housemates drove to Mystic Arts, they re-painted their Volkswagen minibus to avoid police detection. “Now it seems silly,” she says, “but back then it seemed serious.” Her commune collapsed when some members moved to Hawaii and others headed north to Big Sur. She went to work in a San Francisco soup kitchen called The Living Room, where she met a wild-eyed man who thought he was god. “Charles Manson came into The Living Room every day for a week,” she says. “He was on his way to the desert and I had just come from there, so we had a lot to talk about. He was already out of his head, but so were a lot of people. He didn’t stick out until we saw him on the cover of some magazine.”


Not long after moving in with his sister, Thumper lost his virginity to a 23-year-old woman. There was no shortage of free love. He figures he had sex 100 or 200 times with various, more-than-willing female partners. “It was a pretty wild time, a promiscuous time. There were things a 14-year-old shouldn’t know and shouldn’t do.

“Here you had a bunch of kids doing such crazy things as selling all the pot in the world, all these commercial kilos that they would wrap up and sell as four-finger lids,” he says. “They would get the money and go buy, like, a new surfboard. Everything was so innocent. They were literally making LSD in some laboratory by Mystic Arts. They made thousands and thousands of these tabs called Orange Sunshine.”

Thumper says the Brotherhood kept him and other kids away from LSD. He talks about Leary as a kind of father figure. It was Leary who gave him the name “Thumper”—after the hyperactive rabbit in the Disney movie Bambi—for his nervous habit of tapping his foot. And it was Leary who gave him his first joint—not to smoke, but to sell. “Tim was very kind to me,” Thumper says, but also told him he’d have to work for his cash. As Thumper describes him, Leary, in the vanguard of the counterculture, was puritanical when it came to money.

Leary “gave me this paper bag,” Thumper says, and told him to go down to San Clemente, find Marines on leave from Camp Pendleton, and offer them four “fingers” — rolled-up packages of marijuana — for $10. “And I’m literally, honest to God, going, ‘Are you kidding? Fingers?’ And he goes, ‘Not anatomical. Just tell them that and, trust me, you’ll get your money.’”

“So I went down there and waited all day long until I saw some jarheads I thought I could outrun,” Thumper says. “I had hair down past my shoulders, and they were fighting each other over who was going to give me the money first. And not only did they not beat me up or call me ‘fag’ or ‘girl,’ but they thought I was cool. And I got $10.”

The next day, Thumper says, he asked Leary for four more fingers. Leary agreed and Thumper made another deal. “I did this pretty much five times a week for several months.” Usually Griggs or another Brother would hand him the paper bag. When Thumper asked if he could have several bags at once, they told him that wasn’t the agreement: just one lid at a time—which would give Thumper and his stepbrother just enough money to buy lunch at Taco Bell or Orange Julius.

“Right then,” he says, “I was learning this goofy work ethic.”


Everyone has their stories, and the notion of Leary or anyone else handing a 14-year-old marijuana didn’t sound right to Robert “Stubby” Tierney, one of the original members of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love. “I never seen him do that—ever,” he insisted. “Timothy was pretty high-strung. And we didn’t have 14-year-old kids on the front line.”

A Buddha-shaped, baby-faced man with a gentle smile and quick laugh, Stubby speculates that Thumper could be one of the countless people he’s met over the intervening decades, people who claim to be part of the Brotherhood but weren’t really involved. “Everyone says they were part of the Brotherhood,” he says. “And in reality, that’s what we wanted—we wanted everyone to feel part of it.” On the other hand, he points out, it would be impossible for everyone to remember those days the same way.

“We’re all just sitting around a big campfire,” he says. “He might have seen the campfire from a different angle than me. There were branches of our family that I didn’t know. I’m not going to completely deny what the guy is saying. I just know I was there. I was one of the officers of the Brotherhood. I was third in command on the FBI’s flow chart. What I’m saying is, some of it doesn’t match up with what I remember, but I can’t discredit the guy either.”

Stubby is used to hearing stories that don’t quite add up, and says nobody was guiltier of self-aggrandizement than Leary. “I could never figure Tim out,” he says. “He would always take credit for our experiences and talk about them in the first person.” And then Stubby drops a bombshell of his own: “Unbeknownst to me, Timothy Leary worked for the CIA. He came to infiltrate our gang.”

If anyone would know the Brotherhood’s inner dealings, it’d be Stubby. Although many claim the Brotherhood originated in 1965 with John Griggs and his Anaheim-based gang the Street Sweepers, Stubby says his branch of the family originated two years earlier, in Newport Beach.

In 1963, Stubby began hanging out with a bunch of surfers known as the 15th Street Gang, in a house called the Animal Farm. “We were the potheads in town,” he says. “We were longhaired kids. The cops got on our case as a public nuisance.” One of those cops was Neil Purcell, who then worked for the Newport Beach Police Department and who would go on to lead the charge against Leary and the Brotherhood.

With a push from Purcell, Stubby and his friends moved down to Laguna Beach in about 1966. “We called ourselves the Tribe of the Rising Sun,” he says, displaying a medallion that depicts a flaming orb of sunlight. “We merged with the Brotherhood of Eternal Love. The cheapest rents were in the canyon. So we rented two houses on Victory Walk. We dealt drugs out of one house and lived in another. I had seven houses at one point because when one house got hot I had to rent another. Johnny Griggs and Leary lived next door on Roosevelt Lane.

"This was right after we opened Mystic Arts World, which is how we got to be known around the world. We used to go into the back room and smoke out.” Much more than simply a group of people interested in puffing joints or dropping acid, Stubby insists, the Brotherhood of Eternal Love was a family of people seeking spiritual enlightenment.

“We were totally spiritual, religious people,” he says. “Acid and marijuana were sacraments to us. We were so upset about Vietnam. We were like soldiers. We brought Timothy Leary to us to approach famous people like Crosby, Stills & Nash, the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane — all the San Francisco bands — so we’d have control of the music. We really had power.”

Part of that power was the Brotherhood’s trademark orange acid. “Orange Sunshine was the purest form of LSD,” he says. “But we made it a little too stony” — that is, too powerful. Tierney and his friends would manufacture hundreds of doses at a time by taking a piece of plywood, drilling holes halfway into it, then rubbing the acid paste into the plywood to dry.

“We did it right in the canyon,” he says. “We distributed Sunshine for 10 cents a dose. There was nothing in the world that would get you high for 12 hours for just 10 cents. If a person wanted a bunch of doses, the price went down to 5 cents and I’d give them a case of Leary’s Psychedelic Prayers. We always distributed the money we made so everybody could have a house. We weren’t greedy. We just wanted people to get high.”

Stubby says he and John Gale would play football each New Year at Laguna Beach High School. The losing team brought a kilo of pot to the after-party. They also took turns showing up at Grateful Dead concerts, passing out free doses of Orange Sunshine. Gale would usually dress in an orange jump suit.

They also inserted their spirituality into the surf industry. With financial support from Stubby, Gale founded Rainbow Surfboards, around the time the Brotherhood made “Rainbow Bridge,” a 1970 Hendrix film in Hawaii. Stubby still has outtakes of the film where Brothers open up a surfboard to reveal stashes of pot hidden in the tail fin. Rainbow boards featured Buddhist mandalas, dolphins, religious symbols and “things you could reflect on,” Stubby says. “We had the widest boards and the most unique designs,” including one based on the dimensions of an 87-foot boat the Brotherhood owned. The company still survives, under new management whose website echoes its genesis: “A legend reborn! Rainbow Surfboards was founded by Johnny Gale in 1969 in Laguna Beach, California. The late 1960s and early 1970s were a time of mind expansion, new music and pure cosmic surf soul.”

But music, meditation and surfing became secondary to drug smuggling. Stubby had friends in Mexico who provided the Brotherhood with tons of cheap pot smuggled on the bodies of people who simply walked across the border. Soon, he and other Brothers were transporting marijuana and hash from all over the world.

“Everybody started traveling and getting involved in it,” Stubby says. Serendipity bred instant smuggling routes. “You’d be somewhere halfway around the world and bump into a Brother and they would take it from there. It was like the Lord put it there for us.”

The favorite source of cheap, highly potent pot was Afghanistan. From there, the Brotherhood would transport it to Germany. “Then we’d buy a Porsche, ship it to Canada and then drive it across the border.” The police were always one step behind them, even after Officer Purcell moved from Newport to Laguna, seemingly bent on busting the Brotherhood.

At night, cops would stalk through Laguna Canyon with parabolic antennas aimed at windows, attempting to pick up coughing sounds or drug-related conversations. Stubby heard rumors that the police thought the Brotherhood employed a pack of guard dogs capable of sniffing gunpowder to protect their stashes and used to impound any stray dog they came across. Sure, the Brotherhood had dogs, Stubby says, but they didn’t know gunpowder from dog food. In reality, Stubby says, he had a brother-in-law who happened to be a federal drug agent based in Tustin.

“He would call up and say they were going to do a bust on Tuesday or Wednesday,” he says. “So I was being warned.”

Being isolated in the canyon afforded the Brotherhood a certain redoubt. But the cops kept coming. “There were telephone taps on one of our smuggling operations. They considered us a threat to global security because we were avatars playing God and hooking up with the Yogananda and exposing it to the youth. And we had a lot of naked women running around. The police really envied us, and it made them want to get us even worse.”


The biggest bust of Neil Purcell’s career also marked the beginning of the end of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love. At about 11 p.m. on Dec. 26, 1968, Purcell, who had followed Stubby and the Brotherhood from Newport Beach to the Laguna Beach Police Department, drove his cruiser up a twisting stretch of Woodland Drive. He spotted a station wagon parked in the middle of the road. People were moving around inside. They appeared to be arguing. They were too busy to notice him.

Purcell tapped on the window and demanded the driver’s identification. But he didn’t need to read the name on the license. The driver was Timothy Leary. Purcell knew Leary well. He ordered him out of the vehicle and, after calling for backup, searched the car. He would later say that he could smell the acrid odor of marijuana emanating from the station wagon through Leary’s rolled-down window. According to Purcell, a quick search turned up two kilos of marijuana and hashish, some of it hidden in clothing and luggage strewn throughout the wagon. Purcell arrested Leary for marijuana possession.

Leary remembered things differently. In his 1983 memoir, Flashbacks, he claimed Purcell planted two joints on him. “That’s bull,” says Dion Wright, an artist who was staying with Leary, Griggs and other members of the Brotherhood at Woodland Drive that night. “You can’t believe anything Tim says. If it makes him look good, he’ll say it. It doesn’t have anything to do with the truth.” Wright painted the Taxonomic Mandala that decorated the hidden meditation room inside Mystic Arts. A good friend of Griggs, Wright says Leary’s son Jack—and by extension, Leary himself—was responsible for the bust.

“Jack was taking all the Brotherhood wives into bed with him, and John Griggs had a very different idea of what the Brotherhood was supposed to be about,” Wright says. “John got fed up with what Jack was doing and told Tim that Jack had to go, or else everyone else would.” So Tim put his wife and son in the car. “They drove down the hill in an emotional furor; they just spun out of there arguing.” That recollection would explain why Purcell was able to creep up on Leary without being noticed.

“Purcell had been stalking Leary for months,” Wright adds. “They had ‘Purcell Watch’ at the house—a whole system of alarms and whistles so everyone knew when Purcell was around. It was Tim’s folly that got him busted. But to this day, I don’t think Purcell knows the reason he was able to bust Leary that night.”

Earlier, Griggs had been trying to raise money through Mystic Arts to purchase an island where he, Leary and the rest of the Brotherhood could establish a utopian society founded on Leary’s religious teachings. Leary convinced Griggs that a ranch in the mountains was more practical. “Tim didn’t want to go to an island,” Wright says. “He wanted access to the media, and that’s what set off the conflict that destroyed the Brotherhood. John liked Tim, but the rest of the Brotherhood didn’t. They moved off to Hawaii.”

Wright says even Griggs grew disillusioned with Leary. “John Griggs viewed Leary as a Christ-like figure and viewed himself as John the Baptist. But after Leary got here and they got involved with each other, it was an erosion of reality.” Wright wasn’t impressed with Leary. “He was a very charming guy. But he was a very irresponsible hedonist—with a great brain. He had legs as a psychiatrist, but as a social being, he was too caught up with the jet set. John worshiped Tim, and Tim wasn’t careful about that. He was careless.”

Wright met John Gale while living with Griggs in Laguna Canyon. Gale had just sold a bag of dog feces to a pair of undercover detectives, escaping into the bushes with their money. “The cops started shooting at random into the hill,” Wright says. The gunshots fouled up a nearby unrelated anti-Brotherhood sting operation by state narcotics agents. The agents weren’t happy. They came over and started yelling at the cops. The shooting also drew a crowd of people, and everyone started Om-ing, chanting the Buddhist mantra in mockery of the cop clusterfuck.

“The local cops started streaming onto the scene, and they joined the shouting match,” Wright says. “Then the cops started billy-clubbing people and arresting everyone for resisting arrest.” Wright was up the hill at Griggs’ house, watching the melee. “Gale came out of the bushes and ran up to us laughing his ass off and counting all the money he took off the agents.” Gale would eventually gain a reputation as one of the most successful drug dealers affiliated with the Brotherhood, but Wright considered him a hanger-on. “There were a lot of obnoxious people around, and Gale was just one of them,” he says.

Wright says the Brotherhood’s glory days ended less than a year later, when Griggs died after overdosing on psilocybin. “By the time he died, he was ready to die, because if he didn’t, he would have had to face the reality about Tim,” he says. “It was the end of the era as far as I’m concerned. He was the true believer. When he died, the chance of his vision becoming reality was gone. People like Gale didn’t have any vision. He didn’t have the message at all. An exploitative criminal with the trappings of psychedelia is all he was. I would say Gale is the guy who turned the Brotherhood into the Hippie Mafia.”


Before Purcell busted Leary, Thumper says, police raided the house on Bluebird Canyon. “There was a cave out near El Toro Road,” he says. “And we went down the canyon and wound up living in the cave for a while. “There was about 10 of us: me, my sister, Cocaine Carol, Tipper and Beaver and Johnny Gale, who didn’t really live there but thought it was cool.”

Living in a cave didn’t mean an end to responsibility. “There was a sense that if you needed money, if you wanted to buy a surfboard, you had to earn your money,” Thumper says. “That was totally the Tim Leary edict. Another edict of his was you had to go to school. Beaver always seemed to get out of it. Leary always used to be yelling, ‘Where’s Beaver? Where’s Tipper?’” At the mention of those names, Thumper pauses for a moment. “If you ever bump into somebody that claims they were there back in those days, and you want to know if they’re the real deal, you have to ask them: ‘Where’s Tipper and Beaver?’ If they don’t know, they weren’t really there.”

After staying at the cave, Thumper moved into a house with Cocaine Carol, Tipper and Beaver. He says John Gale drove him to school every day after discovering that he was playing hooky to go surfing. “John Gale became my designated driver. He would sit there pestering me to get my ass in school.”

After Leary’s bust, Thumper noticed the vibe changed. “There were a lot more psychedelics, and there were a lot more cops. And at that point, I really didn’t want to be around there anymore.” But because he needed money, Thumper continued to hang out with Gale, who, like Stubby, had become a major smuggler.

“As a kid of about 18, I had the job of going to every bank in Laguna, Dana Point and San Clemente to exchange fives, tens and twenties into $50 bills and most preferably $100 bills in $9,000 increments; that was the most you could do without having to fill out some forms,” he says. By then, the Brotherhood had all but ceased to exist. “They were running their own Amway. The Brotherhood was nothing more than a pyramid scheme. Guys like Gale had money like you wouldn’t believe.”

At one point, Thumper says, Gale and a friend went surfing in Sri Lanka and discovered the villagers grew a powerful variety of marijuana. Gale offered to buy their whole crop. But the villagers didn’t want money; they wanted Levi’s jeans. “They headed back [to Laguna] and made everyone go to every Sears, looking in the paper for a cheap pair of Levi’s,” says Thumper. “And they shipped them over there and bought all this pot. They called it Mars pot. It was high-grade pot; it put Oaxacan, Michoacan and Colombian Gold to shame. And we drained Orange County of Levi’s. And that’s cool, you know, that’s entrepreneurial. What wrecked it was coke.”


With the possible exception of John Gale, nobody grew richer — and ultimately lost more — from cocaine than Robert “Stubby” Tierney. At one time, Stubby had millions of dollars, all the beautiful women he could want, and friends in high places. Now he has nothing but memories and mementos: a signed photo of late Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia, a faded picture of Timothy Leary in Algiers, and a photo of himself with director George Lucas. He lives off a Social Security check of less than $900 each month in a Newport-area senior citizens’ home, doesn’t drive a car, and eats at a Costa Mesa soup kitchen.

“Cocaine destroyed our scene,” he says. “Brothers started taking opium and doing cocaine and amphetamines. That took all the spirituality out and made people selfish. We took so long to destroy the ego. We were a Brotherhood, a family beyond family. In the beginning it was really strong, and later the coke would make everyone paranoid. Some of the Brothers got turned around,” he says, meaning they became police informants. “Others got into worse stuff.”

Stubby left Orange County within months of Leary’s arrest and headed to San Francisco, where he enjoyed music and dealt marijuana. “Then I got into cocaine, because it was a small package with a big profit,” he says. He helped arrange the sale of a Brotherhood-owned ranch in Oregon to raise cash to bust Leary out of prison. “We took $50,000 or $60,000 and gave it to this guy saying he represented the Black Panthers and that the Weathermen would get the money.”

Soon thereafter, Leary jumped a prison fence at the California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo and climbed into a waiting van driven by members of the Weather Underground, the radical group responsible for a string of anti-Vietnam War bombings. He made his way to Europe, then to Algeria, and finally to Kabul, Afghanistan, where he was arrested in 1973. Leary spent the next three years in prison before moving to Beverly Hills, where he died of prostate cancer in 1996. At his wishes, his ashes were placed in a rocket and blasted into space.

Before Leary died, Stubby says, he hounded Leary to get his money back, but Leary kept dodging him. After arranging Leary’s release, Stubby headed to Mexico, and thanks to his connections with the Mexican mafia, carried papers identifying himself as a federal agent investigating marijuana smuggling. Posing as a narc, he conned his way onto the Brotherhood’s yacht, which had been confiscated in Mazatlan.

“I couldn’t believe it, but I got the boat out of there,” he says. He spent the next two years on the boat, traveling the Pacific and eventually the Panama Canal, where, in 1973, he was captured and deported. He spent the next year at Lompoc Federal Penitentiary. After being released, he headed to the Caribbean and then to northern California. “That’s when I started really dealing cocaine, and it made my life miserable,” he says. After serving time, Stubby lived under an assumed name, which helped him find work in television while he continued dealing drugs. He became a successful TV producer for NBC, working on both Real People and That’s Incredible. He even developed his own Real People character, Captain Sticky. (The actor who actually played Captain Sticky recently died in Thailand, where he moved to establish a sex-tour business.)

In between shoots in San Diego, Stubby flew to San Francisco and met an ambassador from “a foreign country” who would walk through airport security with diplomatic immunity and 25 to 50 kilos of coke in two suitcases. “We’d bring it to a stash house in Daly City, and El Salvadoran soldiers with their whores and girlfriends and submachine guns would guard it,” he says. “We had millions of dollars.”

Stubby had a close call at San Diego’s airport, when two FBI agents stopped him in the terminal and said he fit the profile of a drug dealer; Stubby had a few grams of cocaine and a suitcase full of money with him. At the last minute, an airline representative told the agents they had just stopped a TV producer. After ditching the drugs in a toilet, he landed in San Francisco and told his coke connections he couldn’t take the pressure.

“They paid me $250,000 to retire from the coke business,” he says. That money bought Stubby some video editing equipment, and he reinvented himself as a TV and film editor and, later, a video producer. His company supported dozens of employees and their families; he says he also raised hundreds of thousands for charities. But a series of unfortunate events — business partners ripped him off, a fire destroyed expensive equipment, he got screwed out of royalties—conspired to pull him down. Whatever hopes of keeping his career together ended when Costa Mesa police busted him for possessing a kilo of marijuana. Although the charges were reduced to possession because he had a doctor’s note saying the drug helped him fight symptoms of his diabetes, he spent six months under house arrest. His wife left him, and his brother-in-law took custody of his youngest son. “I lost my family and everything because of drugs,” he says.

Now Stubby takes a bus to the Newport Beach Pier and hustles lessons on video editing to help pay his bills. “I’m talented and I lose a lot of opportunities because of my record,” he says. “When I was rich, I thought I was infallible. Now that I’m poor, I don’t get a lot of people visiting me.”


Thumper credits his first glimpse of coke to the legendary Cocaine Carol. “All she did was coke,” he says. “It was like her job. Fifteen years later, I was addicted to it. But back then, she was way ahead of her time.” But he says his first taste of the betrayal and greed that came with dealing cocaine occurred in the early 1970s, when he went to Peru on a surfing safari with John Gale.

“We went to this fishing village called Chicama,” Thumper says. “We surfed the perfect wave. It was a mile-long perfect left. It was absolutely the best wave I have ever seen in my life. Gale paid for the trip. We stayed there seven days. And on the third day there, Johnny says, ‘I need to use your surfboard. I’m going to another place and I’m probably going to be gone the night.” Gale headed over a surf break with Thumper’s board, returning shortly before they were to fly back to Orange County. When they landed at LAX, Gale handed him $500. “He says, ‘Here, Thump.’ And I’m like, ‘What the hell’s that for?’” Gale laughed — and then explained that he’d stashed eight ounces of pure cocaine in the tail fin of Thumper’s board. “They didn’t tell me about it because it would make me nervous,” he says. Thumper threw the money in Gale’s face. “I was pissed. I wasn’t 14 anymore. I was big. And I said, ‘You know what? That is fucked up. I could have ended up in prison. You’re a fucking prick.’ At that point, I knew everything had changed, because I was a patsy.”

Thumper kept away from Gale for the next few years. But while attending college in Fullerton, he got a call from Gale. His old friend told him he had a lot of cocaine and needed help unloading it. “He was known as the king of cocaine at that point in time,” Thumper says. “I wanted money, so I started selling it to all the groovy people in northern Orange County. I was selling like, six, seven, eight ounces of blow a week through Johnny. And then I got busted in San Clemente.”

By the time he was arrested, narcotics detectives had been following Thumper all day; he faced 21 drug-related counts. The cops wanted him to set up Gale. “They said, ‘You work with us or go to jail.’ I said, ‘I guess I’m going to jail,’ because I wasn’t ready to talk about anybody. But I soul-searched and realized how I wound up where I was. And I was looking at a shitload of years. And you know what I thought about: that surfing trip to Peru.” After getting a stern lecture on the folly of dealing drugs, Thumper agreed to work as an informant. But he refused to snitch on Gale. “He would have killed me. He had bodyguards and Ferraris and all this crazy shit — a brand-new Mercedes — and you know what? The weird thing was he was not a nice guy anymore.”

Thumper says he helped the police set up a massive sting against a drug ring competing with Gale and then said he wanted out. He’s never looked back—except once, a few years ago, when his daughter attended a DARE class at school. She returned home with a pencil that the cop who gave the speech had passed out to all the kids. The pencil was inscribed with the name of the cop who had arrested him. He called the cop and thanked him for turning his life around.

Now a wealthy corporate executive for an organic food distributor, Thumper recently shared his story over dinner at Oggie’s Pizza in Huntington Beach. Fifty-one years old, he’s married with two kids, and agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity. At 6 feet 4 inches, he still surfs, but he looks more like a linebacker. (Ironically, his stepbrother went on to become a defensive tackle in the NFL.)

Thumper’s not proud about his involvement with the Brotherhood and only agreed to the interview because he wanted to explain how, even though the group became nothing more than a cynical network of drug dealers, it didn’t start out that way. During the interview, his wife and youngest daughter ate pizza at a nearby table. After two hours, they joined us. Thumper mentioned he has a signed coffee table that Leary sent him on his sixteenth birthday while Leary was hiding out in Algiers. As a kind of proof for me, he asked his wife to tell me who had more influence on him: his biological father or Leary. “Tim,” she immediately said. “But it depends on what you mean by ‘influential.’ If you mean who had a positive influence, then Tim. Not your father. He didn’t influence you in a good way.”


The cop who busted Thumper is Jim Spreine, who became chief of the Laguna Beach Police Department after Purcell retired. Reached by telephone while on vacation in Oregon, he says he plans to retire next year. In the early 1970s, he was a narcotics detective with the San Clemente police force. “I made a lot of arrests during that time, so it’s hard to remember him,” Spreine says. “I know some former narcs, and they really hated the dopers. That wasn’t me. These people got caught in it for greed or personal necessity. I felt it was a vicious circle and a lot of innocent people got sucked into it and some very greedy, wealthy people took advantage of them. And in this particular case, I could tell he had a lot more going for him than the average guy, and I told him he should make something of his life.”

Spreine says he was never able to arrest Gale. “They had a network to scare their people. At the time, we didn’t see a lot of Brotherhood people work as informants. There were guns. They used guys by throwing money at them, or getting them hooked on drugs, and these guys would be scared to death.”

The police did, in fact, arrest Gale a few times. An April 30, 1981, UPI story reported that Gale, “one of the wealthiest drug brokers in Southern California,” had been arrested the day before in a raid on two beachfront homes in Laguna Beach. The raid netted more than $7.5 million worth of cocaine, $100,000 in marijuana and hash, $150,000 in cash and $250,000 in gems, rare coins and gold. But Gale never served serious prison time. He probably would have, but he died in a 1982 car crash in South Orange County when his Mercedes missed a turn. The car hit a chain-link fence, which went through the car, instantly decapitating Gale.

Unlike Thumper, Stubby kept in touch with him until the end. “John Gale was a living god, a pure entity,” he says. “I love him with all my heart. I was proud to know him. It’s too bad his life was so short.” Neil Purcell believes rival drug dealers were chasing Gale when he died. After busting Leary in 1968, Purcell was awarded Officer of the Year and rose to become chief of police in Laguna. After a brief retirement in Big Sky, Montana, Purcell went back into law enforcement, as chief of police in Anderson, California. He’s now writing a book about Leary.

“Gale was an egotist, a greedy-type person, and that’s what got him killed, in my opinion,” Purcell says. But Purcell was apparently unaware that the Brotherhood, led by Gale, moved into cocaine trafficking after the high-profile bust of Timothy Leary. “I can tell you that Johnny Gale did his share in acid and hash and was an extremely large dealer,” Purcell says. “I chased him for a number of years. But if he was a giant in coke, that’s news to me.” Because of his upcoming book, Purcell is reluctant to talk about Leary but can’t resist taking credit for taking him down.

“I personally hold him responsible today, and will to my death, for being one of the main reasons we have such a dope problem today,” Purcell says. “His advocacy of psychedelics and hash and peyote caused a lot of people to die, and in my opinion, he was a ruthless, cowardly, self-serving individual.”

Kent Kelly’s affiliation with Mystic Arts—and the Brotherhood of Eternal Love—ended suddenly when it burned down in 1970. “The building inspector said it was faulty wiring,” Kelly says. He and others suspected arson. The only thing to survive was the meditation room with the Taxonomic Mandala. “By then most people were so scared, they moved to Hawaii or Oregon,” he says. “Neil [Purcell] came up to me and said, ‘You’ve had your day in this town; you’re going back to Chicago.’”

Kelly says he didn’t see Leary again until shortly before his death in 1996, when he drove up to Wavy Gravy’s Hog Farm in Oregon. “One thing Tim asked me to do was give Neil a message. He wanted to know why Purcell never thanked him, because he became policeman of the year and chief of police thanks to that arrest.”

Dion Wright, the man who painted the Taxonomic Mandala that survived the Mystic Arts fire, now lives in Flagstaff, Arizona. But he returns to Laguna Beach each year to display his sculptures at the Sawdust Festival. The mandala isn’t on display, but Wright says he’s willing to sell it to anyone with $150,000. As he set up his booth there on a recent afternoon, he agreed that someone burned down Mystic Arts 35 years ago. “Everyone knows the John Birch Society did it,” he says.

Wright recently finished Drugglers, a 500-page memoir about the Brotherhood. He’s looking for a publisher. He offers a piece of folklore about John Gale, the man he calls “JG.” “You know about the Elvis theory, right?” he asks. “There’s this story in the underground that JG isn’t really dead. Supposedly, his dad removed all his teeth and planted them in a likely corpse and staged the wreck — and JG is happy in Bali or some such idyllic spot. Nobody really believes that story.”

Just then, Wright spotted a man wearing an eye patch who had just finished his lunch. “He’s been here since the ’60s,” Wright says. “Hey Rick,” he calls. “You knew JG, right?” One-Eye Rick walks over, screws up his good eye to a spot near the ceiling and pauses thoughtfully. “Gale got what he deserved,” he finally says, and walks out the door.

A few minutes later, a woman taps my shoulder. “Are you the reporter?” she asks. “The guy in the truck wants to talk to you.” As I approach, I see that the driver is One-Eye Rick. He nervously looks both ways to make sure nobody can overhear him. “Be careful who you talk to,” he says. “Gale could be in witness protection.” I ask him if he knows Tipper and Beaver. “Sure, I knew Tippy and Beav,” he answers, stepping on the gas and nosing his truck out of the parking lot and onto Laguna Canyon Road. “They were Cocaine Carol’s kids.”

Orange Sunshine

Most of us surfers who were around at the time, but not involved with them, merely knew of them as "The Brotherhood." Here's an excerpt of: "Eternal Sunshine Director William A. Kirkley rediscovers the dark side of OC’s Summer of Love," By NICK SCHOU Thursday, Orange County Weekly, June 7, 2007 about them and Orange County’s secret history as the nation’s onetime epicenter for LSD:

William A. Kirkley presented a trailer for his upcoming documentary Orange Sunshine, the true story of Orange County’s Brotherhood of Eternal Love, also known as the Hippie Mafia. The movie depicts the unbelievable rise and fall of Timothy Leary’s legendary cult — which started as a group of Laguna Beach surfers and quickly became the world’s largest acid, hash and marijuana distribution network. The group’s headquarters, a Laguna Beach head shop called Mystic Arts World, mysteriously burned down in 1970, and two years later, law enforcement indicted several dozen members of the group. Those who weren’t arrested fled overseas.

The story of the Brotherhood is one of the strangest chapters of American counter-cultural history, yet 40 years after its inception during the so-called Summer of Love, it’s one that remains little-understood and, outside the confines of Laguna Canyon, all but unknown. That fact isn’t completely coincidental. Many people associated with the Brotherhood continue to live underground, believing they could end up in jail if authorities learn their true identities. Several members of the group lived under assumed names until the mid-1990s, when they were finally tracked down and arrested. Meanwhile, other people who weren’t really in the Brotherhood have made a career out of hyping a self-proclaimed connection. As one former member — who spoke on the condition of anonymity — told me, “If you remember it, you weren’t there.”

Fortunately, enough people who were really there and who do remember what happened are now helping Kirkley tell the tale. The film’s title comes from the name of the orange-colored acid tabs the Brotherhood printed up by the thousand in Laguna Canyon and then distributed to Grateful Dead shows and communes around the country in their effort to fuel the nation’s psychedelic revolution, which they hoped would eventually lead to a nationwide spiritual awakening.

Kirkley, 28, grew up in Newport Beach... His father-in-law, a former Laguna Beach resident who had peripheral involvement with the Brotherhood, told him about this crazy band of surfer hippies in Laguna Canyon who once tried to sell enough acid to buy an island where Timothy Leary would reign as a demigod.

Then — shameless self-promotion alert — Kirkley read my Weekly feature story about the Brotherhood (“Lords of Acid,” July 8, 2005), and he was hooked. “I couldn’t believe that OC had this kind of hidden past, this secret history you would never expect in such a conservative place,” Kirkley says...

[around 2001, Kirkley's wife's] father, Don, who had spent time in Laguna Canyon in the 1960s, regaled Kirkley with tales of the Brotherhood and urged him to consider making a documentary about the group. “I told [Kirkley] that not only are a lot of us getting older now and some are already dead, but there is also a critical mass happening with the Brotherhood,” Don says. “People have always been pushing me to tell this story because it’s never been told.” After reading “Lords of Acid,” Kirkley says he realized his father-in-law’s stories about Laguna Beach’s hidden past could make a great movie.

He began researching the Brotherhood. He tracked down rare archival footage. He convinced one of the artists who ran with the group to share posters and other mementos as visual aids in the film. He also interviewed numerous veterans of the group, many of whom were profiled in “Lords of Acid” but were initially reluctant to appear on camera.

You can find Kirkley’s trailer on YouTube by typing in the words “Orange Sunshine” and “Kirkley.”

Among the ex-Brotherhood figures featured in the trailer are “Thumper,” an Orange County businessman who ran away from home at age 14 to live with his sister in a Laguna Canyon house. Thumper went on surfing trips with John Gale, one of the Brotherhood’s legendary leaders, and later became a major drug dealer in his own right.

Kirkley also interviewed Robert “Stubby” Tierney, a major Brotherhood smuggler who did a stint in federal prison, then changed his name and became a television and music-video producer before losing everything. A born-again Christian, Tierney now lives in a senior center in Newport Beach.

(Full disclosure: Also appearing is yours truly as a supposed “expert” on the Brotherhood. Besides the story I wrote two years ago, I’m also working on a book about the group and am sharing information from my reporting with Kirkley. Once the film gets made, I will get a writing credit.)

Helping Kirkley are several colleagues from the commercial-production company where he works. He’s currently meeting with potential distributors. One prominent OC-based surfwear manufacturer expressed interest in the film but backed off after realizing the movie’s hallucino-centric content violated the company’s anti-drug policy. “We have all these great people in place,” Kirkley says. “Everyone really believes in the project, and we just have to get somebody to help make it.”

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Bobby Ah Choy (continued)

[ Excerpt of: "Beachboy Ah Choy returning to waters he loved," By Catherine E. Toth, Honolulu Advertiser, June 6, 2007 ]

WAIKIKI — When Waikiki beachboy Robert "Bobby" Ah Choy was diagnosed with liver cancer in October 2006, he was told he had a month to live.

But he wasn't about to let someone dictate the length of his life.

It didn't take long for Ah Choy to get back on the beach, teaching surf lessons and steering outrigger canoes in the waters off Waikiki.

He lived for another seven months before succumbing to the cancer that had spread to his lungs.

Ah Choy died in his bed on the afternoon of May 21. He was 66...

"He was just a beautiful, loving, kind, generous person," said girlfriend Karen Schmidt, 56, who had been with Ah Choy for 20 years. "People will remember his love for the beach, his aloha and how he tried to help everybody."

Ah Choy was born in 'O'okala, Hawai'i, in 1941. He moved to O'ahu as a youngster, spending most of his time on Waikiki Beach.

He was a natural in the water, quickly learning the beachboy traditions of hospitality and stand-up paddle surfing.

"He's like the beachboy's beachboy," said longtime paddler and surfer Todd Bradley, 48, who wrote a story about Ah Choy published in Surfer's Journal in December 2006. "He was the epitome of aloha. Whether you were a haole from the Mainland or a visitor from China, he would embrace you and teach you what it meant to be part of the water."

Waikiki regulars will remember Ah Choy raking the sand on Kuhio Beach every morning or standing on a longboard in the water, a canoe paddle in one hand and a camera around his neck.

"One time I saw him sitting on a stool on his board, paddling around and barking at people," laughed Bradley.


Ah Choy was one of the most respected canoe steersmen in Waikiki.

Just two weeks before he died, Ah Choy had steered an escort canoe of beachboy legends out to the site where entertainer Don Ho's ashes were scattered off Waikiki.

"He was one of the top steersmen," said legendary surfer George Downing, 77. "He really cared about the people he took out in the canoe. And he was really good at it."

Though most people will remember him as a veteran surfer, skilled steersman and beloved beachboy, Ah Choy had recently developed a following of stand-up paddle surfers.

He and his brother, Leroy, have been credited with carrying on the tradition of paddle surfing, which helped lead to its surge in popularity around the world.

Fittingly, Ah Choy competed in the first stand-up paddle surf contests in Waikiki last July. He made it to the finals but lost to veteran waterman Brian Keaulana, who presented the title and trophy to Ah Choy as a tribute during the awards ceremony.

Everything Ah Choy knew he taught to others, Schmidt said.

"I was just so honored to be able to learn from him," said Schmidt, who met Ah Choy in Waikiki in 1986. "He was always broke, but he still would give as much as he could (to others)."

In October 2006, Ah Choy collapsed on the beach and went to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with liver cancer.

Though he lived, worked and surfed for seven more months, he weakened in the last two before the disease forced him to remain in bed.

"I was at home with him, watching his last breaths," Schmidt said. "When he died, I swear I felt this warmth all over, this life come up through me. He was just looking up at the sky, like he was saying, 'I'm ready' ... I felt privileged to be there."


Some worry that his passing will continue to change the landscape in Waikiki, where luxury hotels and high-end retailers have started to replace the once simple and laid-back beach lifestyle.

But others believe beachboys like Ah Choy will always be a part of Waikiki, even if just in spirit alone.

"When you lose one artist like Bobby, it doesn't mean he's gone forever," Downing said. "He set a standard, and someone else will fill those shoes ... (Waikiki) is not going to change. The spirits are still there, all the people we've laid to rest. That's not going to change."

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Bill Whitman (1914-2007)

Pioneering U.S. East Coast surfer Bill Whitman died in 2007, at the age of 92.

The following is excerpted from: "Surfer, horticulturist William Whitman dies," BY DAVID SMILEY, MIAMI HERALD, June 1, 2007

The surfboard Bill Whitman built in 1932, the first of its kind in Florida, helped earn him a spot in the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame. -- The underwater camera he invented and patented in 1951 shot footage that ended up in the Oscar-winning documentary "The Sea Around Us." -- And the 600 truckloads of rich, acidic soil he had dumped in his Bal Harbour backyard in the 1950s nurtured a world-famous grove of exotic, tropical fruits. -- Throughout his 92 years, the horticulturist scoured the world for tropical fruits -- breadfruit, Kohala longan and a 40-pound jackfruit. All in all, Whitman is credited with introducing 80 varieties to the United States and donating more than $5 million to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.

William ''Bill'' Francis Whitman Jr. ... was born June 30, 1914 in Chicago, but as a boy the family moved to an oceanfront home in Miami Beach.

In 1932, he and his younger brother Dudley Whitman wanted to surf Hawaiian-style. But there weren't any surf shops selling boards anywhere in Florida, let alone the East Coast. So, the brothers made their own, according to the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame, of which both are members. The elder Whitman continued to surf well into his 80s.

''He was probably one of the greatest underwater men that ever lived,'' said brother Stanley Whitman. Added brother Dudley: ``He was more fish than man.''

An example of the brothers' 80-plus pound surfboards can be seen in their private museum at the Whitman-owned Bal Harbour Shops.

On their trips to the Pacific after World War II, the brothers learned new trades, including spearfishing, which they introduced to the East Coast and Caribbean, Dudley Whitman said.

In 1951, Bill Whitman wanted to show friends back in South Florida a glimpse of the South Pacific, so he created the first underwater camera and began shooting film below the surface, Dudley said. Early films earned the brothers nominations for Academy Awards. They sold some of the scenes they shot to filmmakers for use in the 1952 documentary "The Sea Around Us." The film won an Oscar. ''We won the academy award and we weren't even in the business,'' Dudley Whitman said.

Despite the accolades, Whitman was possibly best known for his expertise and accomplishments in horticulture. He devoted himself to bringing back to South Florida many of the exotic fruit species he found in the South Pacific. He found the sand and marl in his own backyard unfit to nurture the fragile plantlife, so he had 600 truckloads of rich acidic soil taken from Greynolds Park area and dumped in his Bal Harbour backyard.

He continued to scour the world -- from the Amazon to Borneo to the Australian rain forests -- for species he could bring back to United States. His traveling partner on many of the trips Whitman made late in his life was Steve Brady. By that time, Brady said, Whitman could hardly walk and used a wheelchair. But that was no deterrent. ''If it involved his passions he would go to the ends of the earth,'' Brady said.

In 1999, Whitman donated $1 million to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, where the Whitman Pavilion was erected in his honor. In 2003, he added $4 million to endow the tropical fruit program. He also helped found the Rare Fruit Council in 1955, and served as president until 1960.

In 2001, Whitman authored the book, "Five Decades with Tropical Fruits: A Personal Journey."

Whitman's accomplishments earned him an honorary doctorate from the University of Florida's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in 2004. He earned his bachelor's in administration from the school in 1939. A public memorial will be held at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in November. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be sent to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. In addition to brothers Dudley and Stanley, Whitman is survived by wife Angela Whitman and children Christopher Whitman, Pamela Whitman Mattson and Eric Whitman.

[Excerpt of: "Bill Whitman, 92, Is Dead; Scoured the Earth for Rare Fruit," By DAVID KARP, NEW YORK TIMES, June 4, 2007 with Correction Appended ] William F. Whitman Jr., a self-taught horticulturist who became renowned for collecting rare tropical fruits from around the world and popularizing them in the United States, died Wednesday at his home in Bal Harbour, Fla. He was 92. Mr. Whitman, who had suffered strokes and a heart attack, died in his sleep, his wife, Angela, said. Among rare-fruit devotees, Bill Whitman, as he was known, was hailed as the only person to have coaxed a mangosteen tree into bearing fruit outdoors in the continental United States. Native to Southeast Asia, mangosteen is notoriously finicky and cold-sensitive. That did not deter Mr. Whitman, whose garden is propitiously situated between Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, minimizing the danger of catastrophic freezes. (Mangosteen is the most prominent of the exotic “superfruits” like goji and noni, which are made into high-priced beverages from imported purées.) Mr. Whitman managed to cultivate other fastidiously tropical species like rambutan and langsat, and he was recognized as the first in the United States to popularize miracle fruit, a berry that tricks the palate into perceiving sour tastes as sweet. In pursuit of rare fruit, “Bill was a monomaniac,” said Stephen S. Brady, his doctor and friend, who traveled with him. “He’d hear about a fruit tree, and pursue it like a pit bull to the ends of the earth.” Richard J. Campbell, senior curator of tropical fruit at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, Fla., went on many of these expeditions. “When people said, ‘You can’t grow that in Florida,’ he took that as a challenge,” Mr. Campbell said. William Francis Whitman Jr. was born in 1914 in Chicago, a son of William Sr. and Leona Whitman. His father owned a printing company in Chicago and added to his fortune by developing real estate in Miami. Bill and his brothers helped pioneer surfing in Florida, and he was inducted into the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame in 1998. After serving in the Coast Guard during World War II, Mr. Whitman, along with his brother Dudley, built and patented an underwater camera that provided film for several movies, including “The Sea Around Us,” which won an Academy Award for best documentary in 1952. Mr. Whitman’s devotion to collecting and propagating rare species and varieties stemmed from a sailing trip to Tahiti, where he became enchanted by the fruit. Mr. Whitman was a founder of the Rare Fruit Council International, based in Miami, and was its first president, from 1955 to 1960. Foremost among the fruit he introduced to Florida was Kohala longan ...

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Bobby Ah Choy (1941-2007)

The following is from



Honolulu - (Monday, June 4, 2007) - It is with great sadness that we recognize the passing of legendary Waikiki Beachboy and standup paddle (SUP) surfing pioneer Robert "Bobby" John Ah Choy. Ah Choy, 66, passed away on Monday, May 21st, 2007. It was little more than a month ago that Ah Choy steered an escort canoe of Beachboy legends out at Waikiki for a tribute and scattering of ashes of famous Hawaii singer Don Ho.

News of Ah Choy's death will be particularly hard-felt by the rapidly growing world-wide community of standup paddle surfers (SUP). Many newcomers to the sport, especially those outside Hawaii, have only recently discovered the story of Bobby and his contributions to the sport of SUP.

Ah Choy and his brother Leroy were pioneers of SUP at Waikiki in the early '60s. They developed the unique method of catching and riding waves with a canoe-style paddle while searching for ways to get closer to Waikiki surfers in order to take their photos. What started out as a photographer's platform evolved into a unique way of enjoying the waves.

Today, SUP is currently enjoying a major revival in all surfing communities around the world. The sport is reaching new heights, exploring new wave-riding methods, and is gaining impressive international participation and attention.

"We are only glad that Bobby was able to witness and enjoy the fruits of his contributions to the world of standup surfing," said Todd Bradley, of C4Waterman, who wrote a recent article about SUP and Bobby in Surfer's Journal, titled "Upright", in Volume 16, No. 6. "I think it was a real joy and great source of satisfaction for him to see new generations embrace a form of surfing that he has enjoyed for decades."

On the heels of SUP's revival, Ah Choy competed in the very first SUP contest held in Waikiki last July. Fittingly, he made it to the final. While the final was won on paper by Brian Keaulana, the victory will go down as Ah Choy's. Keaulana presented the title and trophy to Ah Choy during a moving tribute at the official awards ceremony.

Born in 'O'okala, Hawai'i, Ah Choy was an outrigger canoe captain and Waikiki beachboy. He is survived by his son, Robert Dutcher; father, John; stepmother, Thelma; brothers, Ricky, David and Michael; sister, Susanne Young; stepsisters, Judy Bell, Elaine Wong and Linda Chelewski; and his girlfriend, Karen Schmidt...