RIP Mike Dormer (1935-2012)

Creator of 1960s surf art and “Hot Curl” cartoon series

| posted on September 28, 2012

Mike Dormer (1935-2012)

Mike Dormer’s surf art came from an era that essentially saw the establishment of the genre. Along with contemporaries like Rick Griffin, Dormer helped to depict the emerging counter culture scene in California during the 1960s. In 1963, he and his friend, Lee Teacher, sculpted a 400-pound concrete statue and installed it on the rocks near the surf shack at Windansea. The sculpture of a shaggy-haired, 6-foot-tall surfer gazed out at the sea, holding a beer. “Hot Curl” as he came to be known, quickly became a nationwide sensation, appearing in SurfToons comics and as a plastic model kit.

Dormer’s artwork continued to circulate during the course of the 1960s, appearing in the opening credits of the film Muscle Beach Party and featured in an LA-based television series called Shrimpenstein. Over the course of the rest of his career, Dormer remained a working artist, continuing to paint and sculpt. In 2007, Hot Curl reappeared in a series of cartoons Dormer drew for SURFER, which blended 1960s cartooning with satirical commentary on the contemporary state of modern surfing.

SURFER was saddened to learn Dormer passed away in San Diego on September 10 in his home in Ocean Beach. He was 77 years old. His sense of humor and talent will be missed.

  • Jim Fox

    September, 10th 2012 a brilliant light went out on earth, Mike Dormer, creator of Hot Curl passed away.

    I’ve known Mike for 60 years, we shared an apartment in Hollywood in the mid ‘50s and I couldn’t have asked for a better roommate. He could put on a spaghetti dinner for a dozen people, including wine, for 42 cents a person.

    When Mike was drafted into the army, the night before he was due to report to the bus station we decided he needed a drink. We proceeded to stop by every bar in La Jolla. 2 A M came and Mike wasn’t ready to call it a night so we hopped into my little Berkeley and headed for Tijuana. After closing all the bars on Avenida Revolución Mike still wasn’t ready call it quits so we asked a taxi driver if there were any other bars still open. He directed us to a bar on one of the back dirt streets where the taxi drivers went after work. We ended up watching the sun rise over Tijuana while drinking beer with raw egg in it for breakfast. We barely made it back to San Diego in time for Mike to catch the army bus.

    Mike was like a brother, he and his lovely wife Flicka were family. No Fox family get together was complete without them. No trip to San Diego was complete without getting together with them.

    Mike was one of the most versatile and talented artists I have ever known. He did everything from the most beautiful figure studies to the most abstract work you can imagine. He often worked in media that no one had ever tried before such as his aluminum foil and resin works. He was also great cartoonist and writer with an incredibly fertile imagination. He was a poet, a musician, a true renaissance man. Hopefully one day his true genius will be recognized.

    Most of all Mike was a wonderful human being and friend. He was just fun to be around, a witty conversationalist always upbeat and funny. He will be dearly missed by all of us lucky enough to have known him. Our love, thoughts, prayers and condolences go out Flicka and his family.

    Rest in peace Michael.

  • Roberta Henson. . . . . and Doz

    I totally miss Mike. . . He was such a great man. . . His Art. and demeanor was so pleasant. . . . . He was my mentor!. . . and ardent supporter of my works! Things I have recently accomplished were because of much guidance from him on what avenue I should take. and how to proceed. . .I am greatful lthat i was able to thank him for all of his support . . kindness and HUMOR!. . . He will continue to be missed by me and my hubby!. . . Hugs and strength to you Flicki!

  • Rick Kauvar

    I never met Mike Dormer, but feel like I have known him since age 9 when I first arrived at The Sink in Boulder Colorado. It was there that my family landed after being rescued from a “nowhere life” in northern Ohio by my long departed grandfather Monroe Marks. He had owned The Sink since 1959 and decided to move the Kauvar’s to Boulder Colorado, and installed my father as the manager of the all ready famous 3.2 bar . It was located adjacent to the CU campus on what is now known as “the hill”. Mike was the genius behind the success and uniqueness of the bar / burger joint,. He was the “father of the artworks” which covered the walls and the front windows. (beatnik art) It is the art that has survived the ages. Shortly after finishing his work,there a man named Robert Redford arrived on site to put in some time as “The Sink’s most famous janitor,. His characters formed the backbone of the Sink’s seedy atmosphere and general theme since those early days, In the bar room today his original sink angel remains, and is being tempted to drink by 2 flanking devils. CLASSIC STUFF The Sink remained in our family for 33 years and was sold 20 years ago to a family which basically kept it “the same”… the art survives to this day.
    I believe Mike stopped in Boulder around 1958 and he left his mark on my life forever. We have the original panels and other sketchings. Would love to know more about the end of the 50’s and some of the history behind the original work he did for Joe Beinford ??? (who was the previous owner of the bar). We intend to make sure his brilliant art is shared with future generations to enjoy and to learn from his extremely unique style and undeniable swagger. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and his friends as they process his loss. He will be remembered by the many lives he touched. Thank you Michael…

  • rochelle walker

    I have a mike dormer pic that he painted in 1955 I need to sell it if anyone is interested 360 423 4049