NOT FADE AWAY: Big Wednesday's 30th Anniversary Brings the Stars to a Bar
“I don’t like surfers. I grew up in a surfing community and I thought surfers were jerks. I love Big Wednesday so much. Surfers don’t deserve this movie.” - Quentin Tarantino
On Friday, September 14, 2008 the Malibu elite met with the cast and crew of Big Wednesday to celebrate the 30th anniversary of a movie that was considered a bomb when it was first released. Big Wednesday is the surfing world’s American Graffiti, written by John Milius and Denny Aaberg and put on film by an A-list team of surfers and cinematographers that included Bud Browne, Jackie Dunn, Ian Cairns, Johnny Fain, George Greenough, Bill Hamilton, Gerry Lopez, Dan Merkel, Greg MacGillivray, Jonathan Paskowitz, Bruce Raymond Jay Riddle, Peter Townend and Spyder Wills.
Big Wednesday was made with the sincere heart of a surfer iced with Hollywood experience, but the movie tanked: “It didn’t do well in the box office, for one reason or another,” Denny Aaberg said to the Malibu Times. “Maybe the timing was off and it was a little slow for people. It got a lot of bad reviews that pulled it from distribution. When it aired, nobody cared about longboards, everyone was shortboarding. Basically it was a flop.” Like a ground swell that improves with time and distance, Big Wednesday has aged like wine and is now considered a “classic” by Quentin Tarantino, and many others.
There was love in the room in Malibu, 30 years later, as about 100 people, including Allen and Debbie Sarlo, Mysto George Carr, Original Gidget Kathy Kohner, Linda Merrill and Lance Carson schmoozed with Big Wednesday cast members Darrell Fetty, who played Waxer, and Rick Dano, who played Panhead. Reb “The Enforcer” Brown was there, but no crashers got past the MSA’s Steve Mahr and Michael Blum at the door, so there were no fights.
Jan Michael Vincent and John Milius weren’t there to fill the room, but there was a loud buzz when Gary Busey showed up, grabbed a guitar and took the stage with Denny Aaberg: “Tonight,.. is about what happened 30 years ago… in a movie. Thank you. Big Wednesday took the energy of that time, which is connected to this time.” Busey strummed a chord of his guitar and then he reminded everyone of another movie that came out in 1978: “There was a boy from Texas named Buddy Holly. And I know him spiritually and personally. And this is a song he played to save the Apollo Theater, because they wouldn’t have no white acts play in it.”
And with that, Busey launched into Buddy Holly’s Not Fade Away, and the crowd of surfers went nuts.