‘Gidget’ rides into town for One Book, One City-Malibu

"Gidget" is the book featured for One Book, One City-Malibu month.

Malibuites will ride a giant wave back in time to explore the life and adventures of “Gidget,” the selected novel for the third annual One Book, One City-Malibu month. Some folks from Malibu will read the book about the “little girl with big ideas,” written by the father, Frederick Kohner, of the real-life Gidget, Kathy Kohner Zuckerman, for the first time. Others may remember the “girl-midget” story from the feature film starring Sandra Dee, or the subsequent TV series starring Sally Field.

The idea to bring One Book, One City to Malibu was the brainchild of resident Alexis Deutsch-Adler about four years ago.

“I read about a literacy program they were doing in Chicago and Seattle and I was so impressed because the whole city mobilized and read the same book at the same time, and the library was supporting the community and made the book available in a multitude of languages,” Adler said.

She said she thought it would be fun for Malibu because it’s a community friendly, nonpolitical program. “It’s about community spirit and supporting the library and bringing people together to support books, like a big giant book club while raising money.”

The inaugural year of the program featured the book “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger and last year’s entry was F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.” Adler and her selection committee thought “Gidget” was a feel-good selection that could bring the community together and get back to the heart of Malibu.

The committee has planned events throughout the month of April, celebrating the book, which was first published in 1957. Not long after the movie starring Sandra Dee was released, surf films filled cinemas across the nation. Surf culture, the slang and the music became an important aspect of American culture, especially here in Malibu.

Real-life Gidget, Zuckerman, said she feels honored. “This is a really long wave I’ve ridden!” she said in a recent telephone interview. “It’s hard to imagine at 64 that I’m reliving my youth. Without hesitation it’s an honor to my father. He was able to tell a story with charm and dramatic purpose, which I couldn’t create. It was my mother who loved Malibu and wanted me to be at the beach, not the movies. But my father was the writer, the intellectual property there, so to speak.”

Zuckerman’s father picked her up from the beach everyday since she was a mere 15 at the time. She told him she wanted to create a story based on her diaries of her days in the sun. He agreed to take pen to pad for her. She read her diaries to him as he wrote.

“It was a work of fiction loosely based on me,” Zuckerman said. “Yes, certain events took place in Malibu. It is true that I worried about the size of my breasts.”

Zuckerman said the stories of “Gidget” gave her father success and the same kind of freedom she felt when she was surfing in the 1950s. The “Gidget” book sold more than 500,000 copies. Zuckerman said she saw the movie starring Sandra Dee more than 50 times. “As a 16-year-old girl, I had no concept of this brief moment in time lasting up to now,” she said. “It’s just amazing, it does belong as a Malibu book. I guess it’s the final stop for the Gidget.”

Kathy Sullivan, who is on the board in charge of One Book, One City-Malibu, said the program has had a great response this year. “The fact that we’ve been able to get all these great writers involved, this year it really seems like something’s happening now with the community. We’re hitting our stride.”

Sullivan said the last couple years the net profit has gone to literacy programs, for instance, buying English as a Second Language books.

The kick-off celebration will take place at the Malibu Library April 9, at 3 p.m. featuring the “girl-midget” herself and city and library dignitaries, with acclaimed author Deanne Stillman as the keynote speaker discussing “Message in a Bottle: the True Story of ‘Gidget,’ the novella that launched “The Endless Summer.” Stillman contributed to the introduction of a recent re-issue of “Gidget.” She also authored “Twentynine Palms: A True Story of Murder, Marines, and the Mojave,” which the Los Angeles Times called one of the best books of 2001.

Other events schedule to take place are: April 16 at 3 p.m., a dialogue will take place at the Malibu Library featuring acclaimed screenwriter and Malibu resident Janice Cercone, Gidget and others. April 29 at 1 p.m. at Malibu High School, a surfing film festival will be shown featuring the original “Gidget” film with Sandra Dee and an appearance by Rebecca Heller, author of “Surf Like a Girl.”

Finally, a gala celebration of surfing will take place April 30 at 3 p.m. (location to be announced) with music, food, prizes, and appearances and demonstrations.

In addition there will be a writing contest for all ages. Entrants must submit a poetry or prose piece, up to 300 words, to Diesel, A Bookstore by April 15. Winners will be awarded $100 gift certificates at the final celebration.

For more information about any of the scheduled events, contact the Malibu Library at 310.456.6438.