Moondoggie


Fictitious character in Frederick Kohner's 1957 teen novel Gidget; played by teen idol James Darren in Columbia's 1959 like-titled movie. In Kohner's book, "Moondoggie" is the nickname for Jeff Griffin, a college-age Malibu surfer from a wealthy oil family. As described by Gidget, the lively 15-year-old narrator, Griffin drives a Corvette with red leather upholstery, and thinks of himself as "the sharpest-looking guy this side of Baja California." Moondoggie introduces Gidget to surfing, she falls in love with both the sport and her instructor, and the story climaxes as Moondoggie and surf sage Kahuna brawl over Gidget's honor.

The Moondoggie character was loosely based on Kansas-born Malibu surfer Billy Al Bengston, who later became an internationally recognized pop artist. Bengston is said to have taken his nickname from blind American avant-garde composer Louis "Moondog" Hardin.

In the book, Moondoggie invents the name "Gidget" (a fusion of "girl midget"), and eventually gives the chirpy teenager his class pin. Asked by Longboard magazine in 1997 if there was in fact any romantic relationship between himself and Kathy Kohner—the real-life Gidget and daughter of author Kohner— Bengston dismissed the thought. "She brought sandwiches to the beach. We ate them."