Terry "Tubesteak" Tracy, 77, an impresario of Malibu beach when it became the most famous surf break in the world, has died in San Clemente, Calif., of complications of diabetes, said his wife, Phyllis. He was, according to surfing historian Matt Warshaw, a decent surfer, but his ticket to glory wasn't what he did on a board: It was the aesthetic he embraced. Tracy was the personification of the rebellious surf subculture that emerged in California in the late 1950s. He was an anti-authoritarian sage in Wayfarer shades and Madras shorts who made bumming on the beach the essence of cool and an irresistible draw for a girl he called Gidget. The burly bohemian was holding court outside his Malibu shack in the summer of '56 when a petite teenager named Kathy Kohner wandered by to borrow a surfboard. Five feet tall and 95 pounds, she reminded Tracy of a teensy girl he once met who had been dubbed Gidget, a mashup of "girl" and "midget." Inspired by the memory, Tracy later said, he called Kohner that -- and the name stuck. When she told her screenwriter father, Frederick Kohner, about the characters she met on the beach, he turned her stories into a novel, "Gidget, the Little Girl with Big Ideas," published in 1957. With the release of the 1959 movie, which starred Sandra Dee and featured Cliff Robertson as a Tracy-inspired shack-dweller named the Big Kahuna, the surfer lifestyle exploded into popular culture.
LOS ANGELES TIMES