March 17, 2019:
Sad to learn today of Dick Dale’s passing. What a great sound he made. And while I’ve heard stories of him both good and bad, my experience with him was, well, odd.
While in college I had a photo assignment for the school newspaper to get on board the Sea Shepard ship. Yes, that very ship. It was in San Pedro for the day and we had been welcomed aboard. I shot the skipper and institution’s driving force, Paul Watson. Also muralist Wyland, James Garner and Dick Dale, all of whom were hanging out.
Dale, with a bit of braggadocio, said to me “next time you’re in Balboa, come on down, and we can do a photo shoot at my house. Mine is that last one on the peninsula.” The next weekend, I did.
Facing the street were big wooden doors. I explained to the intercom why I was there, and a few minutes later a crack appeared between left and right. All I could see was the giant diamond ring and other jewelry draped on a guy who introduced himself as “Diamond Jim.”
Diamond Jim told me to wait in the courtyard and that Mr. Dale would be down after he got dressed. This was two or three in the afternoon. Jim also said something about a cat, but not to worry about it.
I waited for a while, quite proud of myself for having the balls to actually impose myself on this guy, when from around the corner came an unleashed, full size, adult tiger. Now, I know Diamond Jim said not to worry about the cat, but that’s a little difficult during a one-on-one with a beast looking more hungry than wanting to pose for a photo.
So now my ballsiness was fully retracted into my throat, and as it came towards me I had no idea what to do. So I froze. When it was about three feet from me there was a voice from the door saying “c’mon baby… come inside.” And the cat turned away and went towards Mr. Dale.
Oy, my gut still tightens when I think of that moment.
And then Mr. Dale invited me inside, made me a drink of some sort, and we went out to his balcony and took some pictures. He couldn’t have been nicer. He also made it a point to tell me my lens was dirty and offered to clean it with his shirt.
He was kind to me, and man, what a great sound he gave us all. Ride the tide, Dick Dale.