From “Remembering Butch: The Butch Van Artsdalen Story” by Douglas Cavanaugh:
“It was as if someone moved Bellvue Psychiatric Hospital to the beach and turned the inmates loose there at WindanSea. I remember filming there and Tiny Brain Thomas was getting rolled down the cliff in a metal trashcan. Then there was this huge pie fight. They had hijacked a pie truck, wiped it out and the next thing you know there was like twenty guys slinging pies at each other.
I think my first recollection of Butch is of him with all this lemon meringue pie dripping off his chin. They were the worst f**k-ups on the coast, absolutely no question about it.”
“I first met Butch in La Jolla. He was one of a gang of rascals at WindanSea who never knew a dull moment, always playing jokes on people and having a great time- Tiny Brain Thomas, Mike Diffenderfer, a guy they called “Lizard”, Del Cannon, Pat Curren…they were always into some kind of trouble.”
“They were the big wave riders of the surfing party-world. They drank just like they rode waves- with 100% commitment to go all the way. That’s probably why I didn’t hang out there that often. I couldn’t keep up with guys like Butch and the way they were always going full speed, rain or shine.”
“No matter where we went, we were always the ones having the most fun. We never went to a place expecting it to be fun for us. We BROUGHT the fun with us. We’d get drunk and things would get pretty crazy. Sometimes some hodaddy who happened to be down there would pick a fight with Butch or Wayne Land and end up regretting it. I think we were at just about every bar that closed down in Tijuana on the night things would go over the top and it would get shuttered by the authorities. We usually got out of there before they could arrest people, which they always did and for any reason.
The party never stopped with us, though. I remember driving back home after a weekend there with Butch, Al Nelson and Pat Shea and we were drinking shots of Everclear [pure grain alcohol, now illegal in California] and chasing it with shots of tequila. Crazy.”
“A bunch of us got out of a car in Mexico that didn’t make it. I said to Fleet Nelson, who was the driver, ‘You gonna just leave it here where it can get stolen?’ He says ‘Don’t worry about that. I got protection’ and he opens up his trunk. Inside he’s got a gunny sack and there’s rattlesnakes in it (he was kind of an amateur snake collector). I was pissed, so I said ‘I’ve been in this car all this time and you’ve had rattlesnakes?!’
Then he turns them loose in the car. I said ‘Do you really wanna do that?’ He says ‘If anybody wants to screw with the car they’re gonna get it.’
Somehow we managed to secure another car and this time Danny Prall is driving, I’m shotgun and Curren is behind me. We were totally trashed and driving erratic. Cars are going off the road trying to avoid us. I have no idea exactly how it happened, but we managed to roll the car right down an embankment. I couldn’t lift my head up because the roof of the car was level with the hood.
I somehow got out and I looked up and here’s all these people lined up along the top of the embankment shaking their fists. So I start to climb up and right when I get to the top:
POW!- Somebody hits me and I roll right back down the hill.
I climb back up:
POW! Down I go again. I guess I wore somebody’s fist out cuz eventually I climbed back up and nobody hit me.
I’m standing there and this guy walks up, pulls a gun and sticks it right in my face. There’s a silence for a few long seconds and then Danny Prall goes ‘Hit him, Graham. He ain’t gonna shoot.’ To this day I remember what the sound of the hammer is like on a .38 pistol double-clicking. I looked down the barrel and actually saw the bullet that was gonna come out and end my life.
Somehow we talked our way out of that one. Curren said later ‘I’ve never seen your eyes cross like that before.’ ”
“The crazy thing about having grown up in the atmosphere of a place like WindanSea is that I thought that this was all perfectly normal behavior. Being around it all the time made me think that everyone acted like this and that it was nothing unusual. You got used to it because it’s your daily reality. It’s when you get a little older and venture outside of the realm that you realize how truly nutty your ‘daily reality’ has been.
Jasmine Thomas says
Really interesting reading this thread. My grandfather is ‘Tiny Brain’ Thomas, he passed away when I was three and really don’t know much about him. I knew he was outgoing, constantly playing pranks, causing chaos and loved the ocean. If anyone in this thread knew him and has any stories they could share that would be great!!
Carter Haven says
ok, here’s one for you, told to me by Bill Andrews at the Windnsea La Jolla Luau honoring Butch. Andrews was a few years younger and was trying to make the transition from the Shores to Windn. It was Graduation day at LJ High. Butch told “Pinkie” (Andrews) that he was not allowed to surf there, and to make a point, stripped him down to his undies, and tied him upside down underneath the shack. He then told Andrews he was going up to the High School to tell Harry Balsinger, the Vice Priniciple that Andrews was ditching school and where to find him. He borrowed someones car, and started up Nautilus, where he spotted his brother Marvin sitting on a lawn, drinking beer with two girls. To celebrate Graduation day, he jumped the curb, drove thru a hedge and proceeded to make Marvin spill his beer by pretending to run him over. Not sure how Andrews got released, but that was enough for one day… kind regards to several of the older blokes at Windn who tried to drown me in the shore break for surfing there. They are dead, I’m not.
Jamie Nay says
RIP Ronnie Hodge. Snowman.
Lorin Singer-Mackey says
Does anyone remember Rick Snell and know where he is?
my nana cleaned up and stuff so my parents could both work.she ccouldnt find any dust one day and decided to clean up the entire hotel in la jolla.(the big one) she’s like a god to me, and she is now 97 and we live in lake co. she still does a lot of chores every day.no b.s. anyway, that summer I used to get a ride to the shores and she’d get me on her way home. (little veitnam),mini manila etc. you know what I’m talkin about! 20 minutes down Miramar rd. true story , this widow of a seebees ww2 man literally did just that: cleaned every single room, as head of housekeeping and her determination to get the dirt out launched my super stealthy and deceitful surfing apprenticeship as one of the kids nobody seems to know? nevermind all that , I’d trade all my tomorrows for one single yesterday. never use a leash, (only if destruction of board was inevitable), always go to lajolla meats and fuel up on the 1 $ bbq sandwich. I do not exaggerate.2 lb.s god what a time.you had to work your way up a succession of spots and keep your non local status hush hush and avoid people if possible . scripps ucsd pier had cheeseburger and fries with soda 1.50 additional 1$ choc malt. the crimes we commited all over la jolla of deceit blending in and getting drunk and getting a lot of perks,and now I have declassified this secret and now come into the light . signed The
Daryl Aukee says
Remember the days well. Lots of interesting memories.
rick eimon says
thanks for the many memories!!!!!!!!!!!! I’d forgotten about a lot of them. I, especially liked the one on Butch. I caught many waves with that guy. I hold him near and dear to my heart. MY how time flies!!!!!!!!!!
Jerry stirnkorb says
Gary wickham and I organizing a 50 year mac meda convention in Baltimore in honor of the 1965 convention at otis’ house in Manhattan beach/watts. Tom Wolfe is invited if he’s still alive. Black panthers are attending as before. National guard is also attending. Reagan is dead however. Progress with Progressives
Gary Wickham says
Here’s a quick Butch story.
A group of us were in The Bum-Bum Club in TJ, the club had a balcony overlooking the ahhh, lets call it the dance floor? The ceiling in the balcony was very low, only about five feet high and made out of sheet metal, I see Butch looking up at the ceiling and then all of a sudden he jumps up and puts his head through the ceiling, denting and ripping it open along a seam, not to be outdone, John Warren tries the very same thing but hits a spot where the ceiling is nailed to a two by four and he goes down, it almost knocked him out.
Harry Marriner says
And later John Warren joined “San Diego´s Finest” and retired as a detective after 20+ years.. Gary, I´m sure you remember at least one more “John Warren in TJ” story around 1964-65….I know I do.