The Sexual History Of "Gidget"

Illustration for article titled The Sexual History Of "Gidget"

"Gidget has always been such a strong symbol of girl power...With female surfing exploding across the globe, the time is right to bring her back in a major way." Clearly, these producers haven't read the weird original source material!


The new show, which "Pterodactyl Prods" tells Variety "will tackle contemporary issues and will be aimed at teens, tweens and pre-tweens" clearly echoes the wholesome 1960s Sally Field series and the trio of popular teeny-bopper films that spawned it. But the original Gidget books, on which the franchise was based, were weirder altogether. Creepy, even. Okay, maybe that's a little unfair to Austrian-born scribe Frederick Kohner. But it's also true that the Gidget books were bi-zarre. And that the author, a Hollywood screenwriter, apparently based the first one on his teen daughter's diary, which he found and read against her wishes. Girl-power?

The first one, 1957's bestselling Gidget, was the most straightforward: Gidget is a sheltered young woman who longs to join the crew of surfers, like the real-life Kathy Kohner. She does, and gets involved with the dreamy Moondoggie. Sure, the film left out the weird "psychiatrist" sequence and her preoccupation with sex, but as adaptations go, this was relatively faithful.

Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961) This was an adaptation of the eponymous film. Gidget goes to Hawaii with her parents. Problems with Moondoggie and another girl jealous of Gidget's surfing prowess ensue. The rival girl spreads rumors that Gidget is a slut. Gidget has a weird fantasy sequence of being pregnant and possibly a hooker. That's all cleared up, but Gidget suspects her parents are having wild affairs and arranges some kind of scheme to entrap them.

Gidget Goes to Rome (1963) Another adaptation, this one is relatively staid. Gidget, Moondoggie and friends head to Italy. She gets involved with an aging Italian roue. They almost have sex.

The Affairs of Gidget (1963) "Undersized girls have oversized drives," says Gidget. And then almost has sex with three different guys.

Gidget in Love (1965) Gidget and Moondoggie have a fight and kind of go on break. She is, I believe, 19, but ends up teaching English to high-school seniors at a private school. She gets involved with one of her students, the alienated "Brad," who writes angry compositions about conformity that knock teach's socks off. They go for a boat trip and Brad deliberately strands them on some island so they can be alone. They almost have sex.


Gidget Goes Parisienne (1966) Gidget suddenly has black hair. Gidget goes to Paris. She catches the eye of a famed couturier who is inspired to do an entire line of clothes for petite women, with Gidget as muse and main model. She gets involved with a kooky bagpipe-playing bohemian expat. They almost have sex. She gets involved with an aging French aristocrat, She almost becomes his mistress.

Gidget Goes New York (1968) Gidget gets a job as a UN tour guide. She has an affair with an Australian Agronomist. Then she gets back together with Moondoggie.


The books are all written in a slangy, arch, faux-youthful vernacular that's as odd as it is compelling. (Yes, I read them all as a kid.) Gidget talks obsessively about her body and her sex drive, which would be one thing if A)not written by a middle-aged dad and B)not moderaed by the fact that Gidget is a perpetually sexually-frustrated virgin. Not that I want him writing the sex scenes, either, mind you, but the "foiled again!" near-sex in every single book manages to be really strange without sending any concrete message save that this was one bridge even a creepy dad couldn't cross. They're all weirdly titillating - think lots of hands on breasts, the way said breasts look in various sweaters, none of which has anything to do with the "plots" - but also determinedly chaste. In real life Kathy Kohner, the actual Gidget, continued surfing but, as Wikipedia puts it, "did not marry Moondoggie, but rather Marvin Zuckerman, a professor of Yiddish who had never heard of "Gidget."" Somehow that didn't make it in. We kind of hope that with Gidget 4.0, none of the source material does.

Gidget Surfing Back To Film And TV [Variety]



We briefly studied Gidget in my History of Surfing class. That family had some interesting dynamics going on. I can't really remember specifics, but I do recall that the father wrote some pretty creepy things about his daughter.