Jan 11, 2016

Gidget and Her Boys

During the early 1960s, there was a surfing craze. The Beach Boys were singing "Surfing Sarfari" (1962) and  "Surfing U.S.A." (1963). The documentary Endless Summer (1966) followed buff young men around the world in search of the perfect wave. Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello starred in seven surf-and-sun movies: Muscle Beach Party (1964), Beach Blanket Bingo (1965), How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965).

And in the fall of 1965, the 19-year old Sally Field, soon to become one of the most accomplished and successful actors in Hollywood, played Gidget, the "girl midget" who dares enter the male-only surfing world  (a role originated by Sandra Dee in 1959, and based on a novel by Frederick Kohner).

It aired on Wednesday nights after teen fave rave The Patty Duke Show, and was expected to draw a similar audience.  It was hip, in color, with a modern soundtrack and lots of exterior shots -- almost unheard of for a sitcom.  But in 1965 there was usually just one tv set per household, and the grown-ups all wanted to watch The Beverly Hillbillies or The Virginian,  so it wiped out after only 32 episodes.

Too bad.  It had a lot for gay kids to like.  Fortunately, it's available on DVD.

1. Although Gidget and her best friend Larue both have boyfriends, they seem more social necessities and objects of competition than conduits of desire.  The main emotional bond comes between the two girls.

2. And for the gay boys in the audience, there is an endless parade of beefcake.  In color.

Gidget's main boyfriend, played by Peter Duel (who would go on to Alias Smith and Jones).

Her boy pals, played by Rickie Sorenson and Michael Nader, left (nephew of gay actor George Nader)

Martin Milner of Route 66 and Adam-12 as the surfing great Kahuna.

Lots of muscular guest stars lounged in swimsuits on the beach,  included Dick Gautier, Walter Koenig (Star Trek), Daniel J. Travanti (left), and Tim Rooney (Village of the Giants).

Sally Field went on to star in The Flying Nun and become one of the most respected actresses in Hollywood, but she still has a soft spot in her heart for Gidget and her boys.