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Gary Propper

By Kim Dawson

Much much Aloha

I got my first surfboard in 1959 at 11. At 14, I got my first Custom made Hobie surfboard. The day I met Gary in Laguna Beach in the fall of 1980, I asked if he was the surfer, Gary Propper. I’d ridden the Propper model Hobie. The next day we had a dawn patrol at San Onofre and became instant mates. Water dogs. We’ve been howling at the moon ever since.

That began a 6 year run that saw us produce a dozen comedy specials with Gallagher for Showtime where Gary’s keen knowledge of the entertainment business led to groundbreaking marketing strategies and record breaking license fees and budgets. There was nothing common about Gary. I remember him telling the attorney to tell, not ask, Showtime that the cost per show was going to be 3 x’s the previous fee. The lawyer said that’s crazy, but honored GP’s stance and got the biggest commission check of his life.

Gary was beyond generous. He always had his eye out for the lonely, forgotten, low person on the totem pole and make them feel as important as other people thought of themselves….He saw in people the truth….he cut through bullshit better than anyone I ever knew and he enlisted the support of the key people he knew could insure the success of a project.

In the 39 years I knew GP I never saw him back down from a challenge. And I could never tell him something he didn’t already know! How does a guy who never owned a computer, could no more spell Google or send a text than fly to the moon, somehow seem to know everything that was going to be trendy or hot or new and popular…like way before everyone else….he dug nuggets of information from his endless magazines and his amazing network of friends who listened to his rants or dreams or visions over the ever present phone.

When Gary called me from Detroit in the late summer of 1987, I was in the middle of preparing a Gallagher special. He told me to drop everything and get the rights to this comic book he’d just found that was going to make a hit movie. Mind you, it’s hard to hang with GP and not smoke pot, but I figured he was way off the deep end with the Turtles. He was reading the lines from the comic book over the phone saying we could get this guy to do this character and add some stuff like “cowabunga Dude”….And really that changed our lives. We got an option on the rights and took 17 months out the the 18 month option to set up the deal with Golden Harvest and Newline….and it kept nearly falling apart …. and then 3 years after we started, we released our first of three features.

The Turtles did change our lives and kept us both in Florida for longer than either of us thought would ever happen. We spent 12 glorious years in the waters near Sebastian Inlet and watched as he gave my little girl some style tips on the longboard. He would be beyond words when he sees this month’s issue of Surfer Magazine that features that grown-up girl at Rocky Point. He loved anyone who truly goes for it with reckless abandon.

Over the years, Gary has ignited more careers and outrageous ideas than anyone I have ever know. Gerry Lopez once told me the he admired and respected Gary because he was the first professional surfer to treat himself as a professional, demanding appearance and endorsement fees and building prize money for all. For all of it, Gary wanted no special treatment or consideration, other than having the chance to prove he was the best. He’d rather have a handicap than an advantage, because he had an indomitable belief that he would prevail. No matter what.

Gary loved to reminisce about past exploits, but most who knew him would confirm that such exploits were always shared experiences. One of my dear friends is a gaffer electrician who used to work for a theater in Wichita, Kansas…back in the early 80’s he met GP backstage and went out of his way to load some fruit into the theater when GP was setting up a show. After the show, Dennis, my friend, was backstage and GP handed him a $100 bill and a big joint, which they smoked together.

Years later, Dennis remembers that night because it made him change his opinion about big shots. GP was a big shot, in his own mind, in the minds of his competitors and certainly in the minds of his fans. He was that flash of lightning that gets caught in a bottle, he bashed his way around and brought brilliance and love and smiles to so

many. If there is abiding hope he would have wanted to share, it would be to Go Surf. Nothing, ever, ever, EVER is, was or ever will be better or more important than washing ourselves in the ocean, of playing in the waves with our friends and making memories that will last across the universe. GP had style and he wanted everyone he came into touch with to own their own style…to claim their place….he encouraged that in all of us.

Paddle out.

Kim Dawson, Orlando

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