Not Fade Away

Big Wednesday's 30th anniversary brings the stars to a bar

| posted on July 22, 2010

Not Fade Away

“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.

Not Fade Away 2

  • Paula

    Nice to see the life of Big Wednesday is still alive..what a classic. I didn’t see that Jackie D was mentioned being there….anyone know where he is these days, contact info? We go way back to the 80’s like to touch base.

    • Janine Sterry

      Met him at a dog park in Carlsbad lastnight!!!

  • Mary Beaver

    I too would like to know where Jackie Dunn is. We both lived at Sunset point in the *0’s just found some pics of him. Would love to say hello..

  • terry anderson

    Trying to get hold jackie i lived in Kaneohe Bay in the very early seventies spent a lot of time on the north shore with the boys Jock, rory jerry,Jackie use to watch them surfing on 16mil. film at kurt Mastalkas house just wanted to know how he is doing.

  • Matt

    The legendary movie gets another year older, but perhaps we love it that little bit more. Yes it’s a cult thing, but when a movie appeals to you that much, you just ride the wave.

    There’s a bit of us all in Big Wednesday, and sometimes we wish there was more. It’s a fun story of what was and maybe still could be when the Summer rolls around and we take to the water. Even from the comfort of our chairs in front of the screen, we all feel like surfers.

    Let’s hope Gary sorts himself out, and comes back from his low points now to rise again, perhaps to our screens…

  • Garett Simpson

    I lived next door to Jackie’s mom, Hank (Henrietta) in Carlsbad right at Tamarak and Garfield in 1990 and had many conversations with him. He was a pretty cool guy, a bit sketchy, but cool non the less. His sister was married to a guy that ran/owned the bar Sharky’s in Moonlight Beach (Encinitas, Ca)
    Maybe that would help locate him?
    Good luck!

  • CannaMan

    Big Wednesday is a terrible film. No one to root for. Surfers beat on hippies, girl friends, each other,….by the time they get to “Big Wednesday” who cares if they live or die, not me,
    cause they are all jerks whom we hope will drown.

    • MickeySandorX

      What a mean and cruel thing to say. You had to have gone through this era to understand this movie. Milius did a darn fine job of capturing it. Pseudo wannabe kook.

  • Pedro

    Muito bom. Regards from “California of Europe” : Portugal!

    This story, of this movie, it´s something so big…! No more words…beautyfull!!!

  • Breakin

    For those looking for jackie dunn. Watch KCAL today at 5 pm. Should be the lead story.