The Coast News Group
Mike Dormer and a re-creation of the statue he inspired and was built by his friend Lee Teacher. Courtesy photo/Dormer collection

The life and death of Hot Curl

Mike Dormer was a Windansea surfer and the artist who first drew a cartoon strip that would one day morph into a statue called Hot Curl. The following is an excerpt from Chris Ahrens’ upcoming book, “Windansea: Life. Death. Resurrection.”

According to Mike Dormer, “We published a little art and poetry magazine called Scavenger in 1958, and I did a ‘Hot Curl’ strip in it. Later, Lee Teacher called to say they were making a Hot Curl statue and installing it at Windansea. It was made in Donal Hord’s backyard. Hord was the only internationally recognized sculptor in America at the time, but he loved Hot Curl, even though it was a horrible thing, constructed in the dirt. It consisted of a bunch of discarded pieces of pipe, a bicycle basket, a light bulb, a mop, and about three hundred pounds of cement. We dried it, borrowed a truck, and hauled this horrible thing to Windansea. Once there, we dug a hole in the rocks, cemented the thing down and ran away.

“A couple of days later, the cops came down and said, ‘You can’t have this statue here, because it might fall on some kid and kill him, or something.’ The city came down and wrenched Hot Curl out of the rocks and threw him into a skip loader. Our friend Freddie Saludo rescued him and took him to his house. By then, enough people had seen the statue to want it back, and Thor Svenson organized a ‘Save the Statue’ petition. A bunch of people signed it, and the city relented, but it had to pass some sort of strength test. So, we made it stronger and put it back where it was. We had a big celebration that made the national news. By then, we had copyrighted it, made T-shirts, and tried to make some money off the thing. A few weeks later, somebody smashed it. For 15 years the rumor was that it was some hoodlums from Santee. Years later I heard it was Butch Van Artsdalen, probably drunk.

“Phil Turetsky, who owned Pacific Jazz Records, knew about Hot Curl, and put us in touch with this guy who was doing these crummy movies. He came down and we filled him in on the origins of Hot Curl and told him that the extras they were using in their movies didn’t look like beach kids. We offered to bring the best-looking kids from Windansea, real surfers. They said, okay, and we loaded three Cadillacs with kids including Butch Van Artsdalen, Chuck Hasley, Billy Graham and Mike Diffenderfer. All the girls were in bikinis when we marched everyone into the studio office. The girls looked so good you could hear a pin drop when we walked in. The first movie was ‘Muscle Beach Party.’ They picked Malibu star surfers Miki Dora and Jonny Fain and some other Malibu kids, and everyone had these low-grade movie careers for a couple years. The director wanted everyone to wear their Hot Curl T-shirts in the movie, and if they didn’t Hasley would yell out, ‘Excuse me, but Miki Dora isn’t wearing his Hot Curl shirt.’ They’d stop the action and make him put it back on. We always thought we’d make some money off Hot Curl, but the only time we did was when we licensed a model through MPC, and they sold around 360,000 of them.”

Mike Dormer was a beloved fixture in San Diego until his death in 2012.

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