Life Vests and Torpedoes

By Steve Beard

Some of the most emotional moments broadcast on television are when deployed military parents return unexpectedly to surprise their kids coming home from school, during a musical recital, or at a graduation. Sheer joy boils over and you can almost feel the tight squeeze of the bear hugs. Tears of happiness cascade down the faces of the unexpected with unreserved elation. In a perfect world, those moments would last forever.

While Memorial Day in May is specially designated to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice during military service, Veterans Day celebrations this weekend are an opportunity to show gratitude for all current and former members of the Armed Forces.

A few years ago, I joined my family at the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial in San Diego to honor my grandfather, Harold L. DuVal, a veteran of World War II. For the families gathered at the site near the Pacific Ocean, it is a breathtaking experience. Those leaving flowers or touching plaques want to make sure that their loved ones are not forgotten. Walking the grounds gives a good opportunity to reflect on the service and sacrifice of men and women in uniform. Continue reading

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Tom Morey, inventor of the Boogie Board, dies at 86

Tom and Marchia Morey celebrating the International Boogie Board Day. Screenshot from YouTube.

With the most vivid memories, I recall the first time I rode a Boogie Board in the Pacific Ocean. Like so many other young Southern California kids, I was out trying to learn the rhythm of the sea – waiting and waiting and then paddling and kicking like a runaway riverboat to catch a wave. The older wetsuited surfers may have resented us salt-water-swallowing groms pilfering their waves, but the ocean didn’t seem to play favorites. I learned nothing but respect for the mystical magic of currents, waves, and tides.

The durable and spongy Boogie Board was a great equalizer in the water – allowing the young, gawky, uncoordinated, and amateurish our opportunity on the bullride of the sea. Yippee-ki-yay, dude!

All of this is to say mahalo to Tom Morey, inventor of the Boogie Board who died last month at age 86. “That single device introduced more people to the joy of waveriding than any other person in the world,” said Jim Kempton, president of the California Surfing Museum. “His simple gift – a design that allowed anyone from paraplegics to Pipeline pros to boogie their brains out on a wave – will be his joyous, lasting, legacy.”

Kempton, former editor of Surfer magazine, called Morey “the Ben Franklin of the surfing world. Like Franklin, Morey was a jack of all trades and the master of so many it is almost dizzying.” Morey was a jazz drummer, surfing design fabricator, ukulele player, and an engineer.

The first Saturday of November is International Boogie Day — or the International Bodyboarding Day.

Morey sold his stake in his invention back in 1977. “I got a good chunk of money,” he would later report. “I spent some of it wisely and I spent some of it unwisely. I’ve been up and down and over and out.” When asked at age 72 if the Boogie Board made him wealthy, he said: “I can surf. I’m healthy. I’m creative. Hey! A lot of my multi-millionaire friends … they’re gone. Nobody’s trying to kidnap my kids, because they don’t have no money! I’m not running from the IRS. I don’t have any kind of income that’s of importance. Life is about riding in the curl.”

RIP Tom Morey.

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Bright Light in Montgomery

Hank William tombstone at the Oakwood Cemetery in Montgomery, Alabama. Photo by Steve Beard.

By Steve Beard

The sun was bright and unforgiving as I paid my respects at the gravesite of Hank Williams on a bluff in Montgomery, Alabama. A cowboy hat would have helped. The heat was a far cry from the dreary night of January 1, 1953, when much of the South was covered in snow and ice at the time of the country music star’s untimely death in the back seat of his 1952 baby blue Cadillac on the way to a concert up north. He was 29 years old.

“Praise the Lord – I Saw the Light” is etched in the massive marble gravestone with rays of light descending from the heavens, splicing right through his legendary name. The column is crowned with musical notes. Below, the base of the monument is adorned by a dozen titles of his boxcar worth of hits such as “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Lovesick Blues,” “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” and “I’ll Never Get Out of this World Alive.” Hank didn’t just tug at your heartstrings, he yanked them. Yanked hard. Dejection, cheating, and loneliness.

He also wrote loads of gospel songs. “I Saw the Light” was the most famous. No one mistook Hank for a saint, but his fans could relate to his message about one glad morning – someday in the future – when the old will be made new and there will be no more tears or toil. Situated above his first name, there is relatively understated bronze portrait of Hank playing the guitar with his leg propped up on a bar stool. The lyrics echoed through my mind.

I wandered so aimless, life filled with sin
I wouldn’t let my dear savior in
Then Jesus came like a stranger in the night
Praise the Lord, I saw the light Continue reading

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Happy Birthday Duke

Pretty stoked to be in Hawaii on Duke Kahanamoku’s 131st birthday. It would be have been a great gift to him to know that Carissa Moore won the first gold medal in surfing at the Tokyo Olympics. She did Hawaiians proud. “Stopped by to share my leis with Duke to honor our father of modern day surfing and the ambassador of Aloha 🌺 Surfing wouldn’t be what it is today without him and all those who have come before,” she wrote on Instagram.

Duke’s love of the ocean — manifest through his Olympic gold medals in swimming and pioneering expertise in surfing — has been a total inspiration and has only deepened my love for Hawaii and the values of Aloha. Happy birthday Duke! Mahalo.

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The return of Emy Lee

Many years ago when high school life was simple and zesty in the early 1980s, I was more than mildly obsessed with an Orange County rockabilly band called the Red Devils. My friend Jonny Ray slapped a blonde doghouse bass while his brother Dave Lee shredded a Gretsch Silver Jet and Scottie Campbell beat the drums. In the center of the stage was siren who shipwrecked the hearts of many young fans. Emy Lee had a voice that was created to shake rafters. Regrettably, the memory of that foursome’s time on the stage is only preserved via a few YouTube videos.

Through the miracle of technology, I was blasted back to yesteryear last Sunday afternoon when I was able to see Emy Lee perform online with fabulous musicians such as Kid Ramos (Fabulous Thunderbirds) and John Bazz (Blasters). Spectacular. One of the strange and wonderful sensations of life is being able to close your eyes and find yourself transported through well-preserved vocals and piping hot music. The brief set with selections from legends such as Billie Holiday, Ruth Brown, Wanda Jackson, and Janis Martin went by with the speed of a bullet train but brought a truckload of satisfaction.

The Los Angeles Times once described Emy Lee as a “magnetic singer” and the OC Weekly referred to her as “Ava Gardner in cowboy boots.” In her brilliant essay in John Doe’s book, “More Fun in the New World,” Maria McKee of Lone Justice fame described Emy Lee as “a gorgeous Puerto Rican girl dressed in perfect 1950s clothes” who “played a Charlie Christian guitar” and was being compared to Patsy Cline. It was all truth. Decades later, I can’t be more grateful for  Stellar Shows and Concerts as well as Campus JAX in Newport Beach for my nostalgic Sunday afternoon Zoom call to less complicated days.

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Congratulations, Sir Richard

Sir Ricard Branson posing with a Virgin Airlines flight attendant on voyage from New York to London. Photo by Steve Beard, 2005.

Daredevil. Entrepreneur. Astronaut. Congratulations to Sir Richard Branson for his pioneering flight aboard Virgin Galactic’s spectacular voyage to the edge of space this morning – more than 53 miles above the earth. Quite an accomplishment.

Back in 2005, I encountered Branson while I was munching on coldcuts and cheese wedges in the Virgin Airlines Upper Class Lounge at JFK Airport in New York. Through some fortuitous events, I was able to catch a ride with Branson (of course, he was seated elsewhere), media types, and anti-poverty activists with the One Campaign on a chartered flight from JFK to Heathrow and then on to Virgin’s first landing in Edinburgh, Scotland for the G-8 meeting of international leaders.

(Left to right) Bob Geldof, Djimon Hounsou, Natalie Imbruglia, and Richard Branson at Heathrow Airport. Photo by Steve Beard, 2005.

If you have to party with a billionaire on a transatlantic flight, Branson is your man. He was popping champagne corks and mugging for photos and goofing around on the intercom system. My first impressions: “Branson showed up looking tanned, toothy and exceedingly charismatic. He fits the profile of someone who has attempted to circumnavigate the globe in a hot-air ballon.” Ironically, I also wrote: “Most recently, Branson has been trying to muster up the business plan for commercial space travel (Virgin Galactic). If anyone can pull this off, I imagine it will be Branson.”

Virgin Galactic

Well, he pulled it off. Hats off to Branson and the brainiacs behind the endeavor. I really savored this section from the Washington Post coverage (owned by Jeff Bezos) this morning from Spaceport American, New Mexico: “Virgin Galactic seemed intent on making it clear that this was not a traditional NASA launch. Instead of a stoic countdown, there was a party-like atmosphere along the tarmac, a scene as much a spectacle as a space launch that even included a musical guest, Khalid, who debuted a new song during a performance here. The company’s live broadcast of the flight was hosted by comedian and late night host Stephen Colbert, and [Elon] Musk was on hand to watch Branson and the crew take off.”

Every frontier needs fresh pioneers to gamble with gusto. Well done, Sir Richard!

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Remembering John Lee Hooker (1917-2001)

John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd confer with John Lee Hooker on set of the Blues Brothers.

Twenty years after his death, it is an exceptional day to remember John Lee Hooker, a blues guitar legend and King of the Boogie (August 22, 1917 – June 21, 2001). For fans like me, he first emerged on to my radar because of his appearance in the 1980 movie “Blues Brothers” with Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi.

In respectful memory, enjoy a few excerpts from Charles Shaar Murray’s “Boogie Man: The Adventures of John Lee Hooker in the American Twentieth Century” in 2000.

• “Slouched in his chair and protected by his shades, Hooker works through his tales of lust and anger, sorrow and loneliness, regret and despair. They call certain kinds of blues ‘low down,’ and sometimes what is meant by that is a social judgment on certain sorts of Continue reading

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Pauley Perrette and the Psych Ward Sirens

Pauley Perrette wears a Psych Ward Sirens shirt in NCIS opening credits for Season 6 and 7. (Thunderstruck)

By Steve Beard

A dagger went through my heart as I recently watched an NCIS rerun and was abruptly reminded how much I miss photographing roller derby. During the opening credits of season 6 and 7 of NBC’s top-shelf show, Pauley Perrette (aka Abby Sciuto) is wearing a Psych Ward Sirens t-shirt – one of my beloved Houston Roller Derby teams I have shot for the last eight years.

Continue reading

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Rosary Beads Owned by Mary, Queen of Scots, Stolen in Castle Heist

Thieves snuck in through a window at Arundel Castle, a 1,000-year-old palace in West Sussex, England, on Friday night, smashing a glass cabinet and—in a matter of minutes—making off with a trove of gold and silver items worth more than $1.4 million, per a Sussex Police report.

Alarms sounded on the premises around 10:30 p.m., alerting authorities, who arrived on the scene after the perpetrators had fled, reports BBC News. Police discovered the likely getaway car—set on fire and abandoned in a nearby town—and an empty display case that once held artifacts including a gold rosary owned by Mary Stuart, otherwise known as Mary, Queen of Scots.

As Ben Mitchell reports for the Press Association, Mary may have carried this rosary on her person as she recited her final prayers in Latin and knelt at the executioner’s block. In a grisly scene, the axman struck Mary’s neck three times before fully severing her head from her body. The House of Howard, a noble English family with ties to Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn, has held the rosary in its collections at Arundel ever since.

“The rosary is of little intrinsic value as metal, but as [a] piece of the Howard family history and the nation’s heritage it is irreplaceable,” say authorities in the statement.

Read full story HERE

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Van Doren’s off the wall success

By Steve Beard

I know next to nothing about business – but Paul Van Doren clearly did. He was the founder of Vans, one of the most successful shoe, streetwear, and lifestyle brands in American history.

On May 6, Van Doren died at age 90. He had just completed his autobiography, Authentic: A Memoir by the Founder of Vans, shortly before his death. “With success comes reputation, and with hardship comes character,” he wrote. “Even when a cost is high or seems too high, it’s the downsides that create the most extraordinary upsides.”

From a gritty storefront and factory in Anaheim, California, Van Doren leveraged his small family-based shoe brand in the 1960s into a globally-recognized name synonymous with the individuality and creativity of action sports, music, art, and street culture. Tapping into the synergy of the Southern California surf and skate culture, the company today generates more than $2 billion in annual revenues. (VF Corporation – Dickies, The North Face, Timberland – purchased Vans in 2004 for $396 million.) Continue reading

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