BUNKER 77

11 February 2018 Texto: David Moreu. Fotografía: Archivo Bunker 77.


LA LEYENDA MÁS SALVAJE DEL SURF

(english below) Ciertas historias resultan tan asombrosas que es fácil pensar que han salido de la imaginación más desquiciada de un novelista amateur. Sin embargo, a veces el destino encuentra su manera de demostrarnos que todo aquello que parecía ficción es más real que la vida misma y nos lo presenta en forma de documental para la gran pantalla. A lo largo de las décadas, el mundo del surf nos ha sorprendido con varios relatos apasionantes que han contribuido a magnificar la leyenda de este deporte, pero el año pasado se estrenó un título que ha roto todos los esquemas y ya se considera como una obra de referencia para todos los amantes de esta cultura. Nos referimos a “Bunker 77”, la extraordinaria, salvaje y brutal historia de un personaje llamado Bunker Spreckels, que convirtió su vida en una montaña rusa de excesos a pie de playa y la vendió a los medios de comunicación mucho antes de que existieran los reality shows. No en vano, era el único heredero de una familia que había hecho fortuna en el sector industrial y su madre se había casado con Clark Gable, una de las mayores estrellas del Hollywood clásico. Sin embargo, este joven decidió enfrentarse a ese mundo de abundancia y practicar surf como si no hubiera un mañana en el horizonte. Se trata de una narración fascinante que nos lleva desde la década de los 50 en la utópica ciudad de Los Ángeles, hasta un desmadrado road trip por Sudáfrica en medio del Apartheid de los años 70, pasando por largas temporadas en la North Shore de Hawái y toda clase de excesos propios de un outsider que vive en un presente constante de vicio y decadencia. Hemos tenido la oportunidad de entrevistar al director Takuji Masuda y al fotógrafo Art Brewer (amigo personal de Bunker) para trazar este relato de manera conjunta y así indagar en cómo se gestó el documental y descubrir la cara oculta de un personaje que revolucionó el mundo del surf con su actitud de rebelde sin causa.

 

 

Durante tu etapa como profesional del surf, también aprovechaste para escribir artículos de viajes. ¿Sentías la necesidad de reflejar el mundo que te rodeaba? ¿Qué influencia tuvieron Art Brewer, C.R. Stecyk y Glen E. Friedman en tu manera de contar historias?
[Takuji Masuda] Una vez terminé mis estudios universitarios, me dediqué durante una temporada al surf como profesional en la categoría de longboard para marcas como Donald Takayama y Oxbow. Era lo más parecido a conducir coches de carreras clásicos junto a personajes legendarios. Como es evidente, la parte histórica de este deporte era algo que nos interesaba a muchos de nosotros y, con mis compañeros de equipo, tuve la oportunidad de conocer a los verdaderos pioneros del surf de la década de los 60 para entender mejor qué sucedió entonces. Fue en aquellos días cuando aprendí muchas cosas sobre la cultura de playa y el espíritu clásico de los surfers. Conocí a Craig en 1992 a través de Lance Carson, una leyenda del surf de Malibú, mientras yo todavía estudiaba la carrera. Conocí a Art Brewer en 1994 en una sesión de fotos para una revista. Con ellos dos y Glen E. Friedman nos embarcamos más tarde en una publicación llamada Super X Media, que estaba centrada en la cultura urbana y de playa, además del arte que va relacionado. Lo pasamos genial hablando sobre temas underground y creo que trabajar con estos “padrinos” de la cultura alternativa me permitió tener un punto de vista más auténtico y también me ofreció una perspectiva global para hacer cosas únicas.

 

 

1969 fue un año muy especial para ti porque empezaste a trabajar como fotógrafo para Surfer Magazine, una de las publicaciones más importantes de la época. ¿Qué recuerdos tienes de aquella experiencia?
[Art Brewer] Tienes razón, fue un año muy especial porque justo me gradué en el instituto y, a finales de agosto, me contrató John Severson para trabajar en Surfer Magazine. Entonces me mandaron tres meses a Hawái, de octubre a enero. Fue la primera vez que iba a la North Shore y recuerdo que en aquellos días todavía era un lugar mágico y sin demasiada gente. Tuve la enorme suerte de trabajar junto a un buen amigo y mentor, el cámara de cine Spyder Willis. Además, había un coche a nuestra entera disposición, la gasolina estaba pagada, teníamos dinero para comida y un lugar donde dormir al lado de la playa de Pupukea. Una vez Spyder y yo nos instalamos, John Severson, su esposa Louise y sus dos hijas aparecieron para compartir la casa y trabajar en la película “Pacific Vibrations”. Surfer Magazine empezaba a conocerse como la biblia de aquel deporte.

En 1990 te matriculaste en la Pepperdine University, que estaba situada cerca de la playa de Malibú donde habían cabalgado olas leyendas como Miki Dora. ¿Por qué crees que la cultura del sur de California se ha convertido en un fenómeno tan popular?
[Takuji Masuda] Miki ya no estaba en Malibú cuando yo llegué a la universidad, pero sí que tuve la oportunidad de coger olas junto a un tipo tan genuino como Lance Carson. Tal como Jimmy Ganzer comenta en el documental “Bunker 77”: “Hollywood siempre ha sido una gran influencia para los chavales que crecen en Los Ángeles”. Por este motivo hay tanta gente que se preocupa por las apariencias y el culto a la imagen. Muchas veces es pretencioso. Miki, Bunker y Tony Alva tenían un vínculo especial porque se veían a si mismos como iconos y compartían las mismas ganas de notoriedad. Creo que en aquella obsesión por el estilo se esconde una historia digna de ser contada. También resulta interesante que el resto del mundo se sorprenda tanto con esas imágenes. Incluso cuando yo era adolescente, sentía el deseo de formar parte de todo eso.

 

 

Tu primer encuentro con Bunker fue en octubre de 1969, cuando él era un adolescente que vivía como un salvaje en un bosque de la North Shore. ¿Cuál fue tu primera impresión y cómo era su personalidad en aquellos días?
[Art Brewer] Estábamos en la playa frente a Pipeline, yo tenía 18 años y Bunker 19. Todavía no nos conocíamos, pero algunos amigos que habían ido con él al instituto de Cal Western en San Diego me habían contado historias sobre él. Resulta que habían cogido olas juntos en un spot llamado Newbrake en 1967 y entonces compartían casa en la North Shore. Allí pasaba largas temporadas y, básicamente, dormía en el sofá, robaba su comida y se cambiaba de ropa. Sin embargo, también dormía varias noches en un antiguo búnker de la Segunda Guerra Mundial que estaba situado en una colina cerca de la playa. Era muy delgado, apenas tenía grasa en el cuerpo, practicaba surf cada día, robaba fruta de los agricultores locales y comía mangos directamente de los árboles, además, cogía prestado dinero de sus amigos. En aquella época llevaba una vida salvaje, tomaba pequeñas dosis de LSD y se atrevía con el peyote. Tuve la sensación de que Bunker no se preocupaba por el mundo, sino que vivía del campo y de sus amigos. A pesar de que venía de una familia millonaria, actuaba como si no tuviera dinero. Su manera de ser encajaba a la perfección con el título del documental de surf “Free and Easy”.

Supongo que la gran pregunta es: ¿Cuándo escuchaste por primera vez la leyenda de Bunker Spreckels y en qué momento decidiste rodar un documental sobre su apasionante vida?
[Takuji Masuda] La primera vez que leí algo sobre Bunker fue en la revista The Surfer’s Journal en la primavera de 1992. El número entero era muy interesante, pero su historia fue lo que me llamó realmente la atención. Después hice muchas preguntas a Art y a Craig cada vez que quedábamos. Y en la revista Super X Media publicamos dos reportajes sobre su vida. Cuando lanzamos un artículo de 43 páginas sobre el Pacific Ocean Pier y Dogtown en 1998, tuve la oportunidad de aprender cómo un reportaje puede convertirse en un documental porque entonces rodaron “Dogtown and Z-Boys” y luego hicieron la película de ficción “Lords of Dogtown”. Me informé sobre los derechos de la historia de Bunker y, en 2005, decidí que quería hacer un documental sobre su leyenda.

 

 

En el documental explicas que ese día en la North Shore tomaste varias fotos de Bunker solo en la playa. Sin embargo, lo que más te llamó la atención fue el diseño poco frecuente de su tabla…
[Art Brewer] Cuando nos conocimos, su imagen me recordaba al resto de nosotros en la North Shore, con el pelo rubio cortado en forma de bol y sólo preocupados por el océano y el surf. Entonces estábamos en nuestro propio mundo. Aquella tabla Alma era interesante por su diseño, sin embargo, lo que me pareció más fascinante fue su energía y su fuerza estando allí sentado en medio de aquella luz, justo antes del atardecer. El reportaje no tomó forma hasta unos años después, aunque empezó con aquella docena de fotos que hice esa tarde de 1969 en Pipeline. Creo que debía haber tomado LSD porque parecía que tuviera una aura a su alrededor y ésta se proyectaba mientras estaba sentado detrás de la tabla roja. El editor gráfico de Surfer Magazine cogió aquella imagen, la reencuadró e hizo varias copias. Resulta que el editor de la revista Popular Photography la vio y quería utilizarla para una portada, pero necesitaba que Bunker firmara su consentimiento. Esto fue un año y medio después de mi viaje a Hawái. Así que contacté con Bunker por carta a través de un amigo en común y me respondió dos semanas después diciendo que no nos daba permiso. Eso me jodió mucho. Le mandé otra carta diciéndole que era un miserable niño rico, que se jodiera y ese fue el fin de la conversación hasta 1973.

Los proyectos biográficos necesitan una gran cantidad de material de archivo para resultar exitosos. ¿Cómo conseguiste reunir todas esas fotos y películas personales de Bunker? ¿Descubriste alguna anécdota que no conocieras?
[Takuji Masuda] Tuvimos mucha suerte de poder contar con el material de archivo de Art Brewer y de Craig. Su entrevista grabada en audio se convirtió en el hilo narrativo central del documental y la mayor parte de las imágenes provienen de la colección de fotos y de películas que había hecho Art. También conseguimos localizar lo que algunos creían películas familiares perdidas de Bunker. Mi actitud como director fue mostrarme muy curioso y, como no había demasiada información sobre Bunker, no me quedaba más alternativa que escuchar. Tony Alva y Ellie Silva fueron las personas más cercanas a Bunker en sus últimos años de vida. Tenían tanta confianza con él como si fueran parte de su familia.

 

 

Unos años después de vuestro primer encuentro en la playa, volviste a coincidir con Bunker porque Surfer Magazine aceptó producirle una película de surf en Sudáfrica. ¿Podrías contarnos como surgió ese proyecto tan inverosímil titulado “End Of Summer”?
[Art Brewer] Bunker me apreciaba porque yo no estaba interesado en su fortuna ni tampoco tenía ningún negocio sucio que requiriera su dinero, como sucedía con el 80% de sus amigos. Por este motivo creo que le gustaba practicar surf conmigo y hacer sesiones de fotos. En la primavera de 1975, me preguntó si estaría interesado en viajar a Jeffrey’s Bay en Sudáfrica ese mismo verano. Le respondí que estaría encantado. Todo lo que dijo fue: “Perfecto, iremos”. Yo soy una persona realista y pensé que no me lo creería hasta que estuviéramos en el avión. Pasaron dos meses y medio, recibí una llamada de Bunker y me dijo que fuera a Honolulu con mi pasaporte al día siguiente. Llegué a su apartamento en la torre Ala Moana al anochecer e, inmediatamente, fuimos junto a su novia Ellie a las oficinas de la aerolínea Pan-American para comprar tres billetes en primera clase por todo el mundo. Entonces me contó el itinerario y me dijo que lo único que quería a cambio de pagarme el viaje era que llevara mis tablas de surf y las cámaras para rodar una película y hacer fotos. Él se hacía cargo de todos los gastos con la idea de partir a finales de junio. La primera parada sería en Los Ángeles para recoger material cinematográfico y construir carcasas para que las cámaras no se mojaran. Al principio, el proyecto sólo nos implicaba a mí, a Bunker y a Ellie. Yo había llamado a Surfer Magazine, les pregunté si estaban interesados en publicar un reportaje sobre ese viaje y me dijeron que sí. Aunque no podían poner dinero. Por este motivo Bunker y yo nos reunimos con el editor Steve Pezman cuando fuimos a Los Ángeles. Nos alojamos en el Hotel Beverly Hills durante una semana y media para prepararlo todo. Luego volamos a Londres, pasamos otra semana allí y después viajamos a Sudáfrica. Fue durante el trayecto entre Johannesburgo y Durban que conocimos a un tipo australiano que justo acababa de salir de la cárcel en su país. Se llamaba David Landsley, se dirigía a Durban para practicar surf y quería trabajar como soldador con la idea de empezar su vida de cero después de haber arrojado a un hombre desde el segundo piso de una casa como consecuencia de una pelea. Resulta que ese tío había intentado violar a su esposa. Bunker contrató a David en el mismo avión para que trabajara para él y nos ayudó conduciendo el segundo Mercedes-Benz. Se convirtió en el roadie personal de Bunker.

 

 

Muchos profesionales afirman que los documentales realmente toman forma en la sala de montaje. ¿Cómo fue el proceso de edición de “Bunker 77”? ¿Cuándo tuviste la idea de utilizar fragmentos de películas de Clark Gable y de Elvis Presley para ilustrar momentos de la vida de Bunker?
[Takuji Masuda]Bunker 77” es mi primer largometraje, así que aprendí muchas cosas en cada fase de la producción. Ahora me parece bastante irónico el hecho de que yo disfrutaba mucho enseñando a la gente a practicar surf y, mientras preparaba el documental, muchos amigos que formaban parte del mundo creativo acabaron participando en todo el proceso. Tuve la oportunidad de conocer a algunos de los mejores profesionales en casi todos los campos visuales y de sonido. Creo que nos aferramos a nuestras expectativas y también a las de los demás. Es un caso muy parecido al de Bunker Spreckels. La idea de usar las películas de Clark Gable fue algo completamente natural debido a que la presión que Bunker sentía a la hora de responder a la imagen de su legado familiar debía revolverle la conciencia. Fue curioso que el personaje que interpretaba Elvis Presley en el filme “Blue Hawaii” se pareciera tanto a Bunker, así que también lo incluimos como una referencia contemporánea.

 

 

En aquella película rodada en Sudáfrica, Bunker interpretaba a un personaje llamado The Player, que era lo más parecido a una versión surfista de Elvis Presley. ¿Cuánto crees que había de realidad y de ficción en esa actitud tan grandilocuente?
[Art Brewer] El nombre del personaje lo sacamos de un libro que Bunker había estudiado y anotado a conciencia. Se titulaba “The Player” y contaba la filosofía de vida de un chulo negro. Él quiso adoptar esa actitud mientras viajábamos por Sudáfrica y puede que la gente pensara que era su alter ego. Bunker también decía que era productor de cine porno cuando aterrizamos y eso apareció en los periódicos porque causó mucho revuelo. Lo que él quería era llamar la atención y generar rumores, aunque no fuera verdad. A Bunker le gustaba ser controvertido e interpretar un papel para que la gente pensara que era más extravagante de lo que realmente aparentaba. Montaba un espectáculo y daba a la gente de Jeffrey’s Bay motivos para hablar de él. Ten en cuenta que aquel pueblo era muy tranquilo e incluso aburrido, no había nada mejor que hacer que practicar surf. Nos echaron del Hotel Savoy después de que él rompiera el lavabo al tratar de hacer una pipa con una botella de Coca-Cola para fumar un poco de “veneno” que había conseguido en Durban. Quería darles algo de qué hablar a los lugareños blancos. Lo mismo sucedió cuando organizó su fiesta de cumpleaños en el Beach Hotel, donde nos alojamos después de que nos echaran del otro. Ese hotel estaba cerrado, pero él habló con los propietarios y les hizo una oferta para que lo abrieran y nos dejaran hospedarnos. En la gran fiesta que montó había una zona de baile y bebidas gratis. Invitó a todo el pueblo y, después de mucho beber, las cosas empezaron a torcerse porque un granjero sudafricano se puso demasiado cariñoso con su novia. La versión corta de la historia es que se desató la locura, los dos Mercedes-Benz se destrozaron y, al día siguiente, yo tomé la decisión de dejar de trabajar para Bunker. Sin embargo, él acabó apuntándome con su revolver PPK Walther del calibre 25. Una semana más tarde me pidió que volviera para hacer fotos.

 

 

Hoy parece que los documentales de surf no sólo giran en torno a olas perfectas, sino que también son una ventana abierta a historias asombrosas. ¿Cuál era tu motivación al empezar “Bunker 77” y qué has aprendido por el camino?
[Takuji Masuda] Mi objetivo era hacer una película de la que el propio Bunker hubiera estado satisfecho. Era un reto muy grande, pero cuando Tony Alva y Ellie Silva me dijeron que creían que a Bunker le habría gustado, me sentí muy alagado. Muchas personas cercanas a él me han comentado que, gracias al documental, han descubierto cosas de su amigo que desconocían y que eso les permitió poner su historia en contexto. Ahora sé que Bunker desconcertó a mucha gente, incluso a sus amigos más íntimos. Cuando empecé a trabajar en este proyecto todavía no me había casado. Sin embargo, durante la producción, me convertí en marido y en padre de dos niños. Evidentemente, esto aportó otra dimensión a mi criterio como persona y como realizador. A lo largo de todo el proceso, me hice muchas preguntas sobre “cómo actuar frente a diversas situaciones” y fue saludable tener el ejemplo de Bunker delante para examinar aspectos de mi propia vida.

Ellie Silva, la novia de Bunker en aquella época, también viajó con el equipo de rodaje a las playas de Sudáfrica y apareció en la película. ¿Cómo definirías la relación tan curiosa y autodestructiva que mantenían?
[Art Brewer] Eran novios y compañeros de viaje en lo que parecía ser una auténtica historia de amor. Creo que Bunker la amaba de verdad y se preocupaba por ella. El equipo de rodaje era muy reducido, sólo David Landsley y un servidor. Ellie salía por allí, iba a la playa, miraba a los surfers y estaba con Bunker. Pasó todo el viaje con nosotros. Creo que todo fue bien hasta que regresamos a los Estados Unidos porque él empezó a tontear con la heroína y a ella no le gustaba verlo de esa manera. Ellie también lo amaba y se preocupaba por él. Sin embargo, después de medio año, ella se fue a vivir a San Francisco, esperando que él se desenganchara. Bunker vivía en Los Ángeles, así que Spyder y yo íbamos a verlo cuando estaba en la Torre Sunset y nos interesábamos por cómo se encontraba. Entonces Spyder trabajaba en una película titulada “Decato”, que era una especie de prueba de pantalla en la que Bunker dejaba fluir su vertiente más extrema. A veces no sabíamos si era realidad o ficción. No vimos demasiado a Bunker en el verano de 1976 y, cuando se marchó a la North Shore y a Kauai en invierno de ese año, Ellie ya no viajó con él.

 

 

Spike Jonze afirmó que tu documental puede interpretarse como “una precuela de Dogtown and Z-Boys” y, además, tu carrera tiene muchos puntos en común con la de Stacy Peralta. ¿Te influyó de alguna manera aquella obra tan popular?
[Takuji Masuda] Spike es un director asombroso y me hizo de mentor en varias fases complicadas del documental. Él siempre dijo que Bunker era el punto de unión entre la escena del surf de Los Ángeles y el movimiento de skate iniciado por Dogtown. Siento mucho respeto hacia Stacy Peralta porque hizo una película brillante sobre su propia cultura y aportó su propio estilo visual. Espero haber sido capaz de encontrar mi propio estilo narrativo con “Bunker 77”.

Cuando lograba dejar de lado sus locuras, Bunker era un gran surfer y lo demostró en J-Bay. ¿Qué crees que significaba para él este deporte y la cultura a la que estaba asociado?
[Art Brewer] El surf era el motivo principal por el que habíamos ido a Sudáfrica y Bunker era un gran surfer. Tenía mucha energía y le gustaba coger olas con muchos estilos distintos, con diversas tablas, desde las más pequeñas, hasta fishes de Steve Lis y longboards. Cuando estábamos en el agua, siempre montaba un espectáculo. Cabalgaba las olas como nadie lo había hecho en Jeffrey’s Bay o en Bruce’s Beauties con su fish Big Black Faith. Tenía un enorme sentido del ritmo, casi como si estuviera bailando. Le encantaba este deporte y, mientras estaba en el agua, parecía que encontraba la paz. Tal como dicen los marineros: “El océano tiende a limpiarte”.

 

 

Para terminar, te propongo una pregunta de ciencia ficción. Si tuvieras una fabulosa máquina del tiempo y pudieras conocer a Bunker en 1976, ¿qué crees que habría sucedido?
[Takuji Masuda] Es curioso porque él era un tipo que cabalgó olas en Pipeline con una de las tablas más cortas que existían y yo hice lo opuesto con mis longboards. No sé si le hubiera gustado estar conmigo o si yo hubiera querido estar con él en 1976. Hubiera sido complicado porque mucha gente acabó mal con Bunker. Sin embargo, ambos somos cineastas independientes, así que habría sido divertido hablar de este tema porque algunas de las películas indies más asombrosas se rodaron en Los Ángeles en aquella época. Aunque una cosa está clara y es que lo habríamos pasado genial en 1968 en la North Shore de Oahu practicando surf como unos adolescentes que vivían sin ninguna preocupación.

La última pregunta de la entrevista nos lleva al trágico final de la historia. ¿Recuerdas cuándo recibiste la noticia de que Bunker había fallecido en Hawái?
[Art Brewer] Sucedieron muchas cosas en el invierno de 1976 en Hawái. Yo no quería estar en la North Shore porque el ambiente había cambiado mucho con la llegada de la heroína. La revista Rolling Stone contactó con C.R. Stecyk para que pasara una temporada con Bunker y lo entrevistara en su habitación del hotel Kui Lima (ahora se llama Turtle Bay). El editor ya tenía las fotos en blanco y negro y las diapositivas en color, así que sólo tenía que esperar a que Craig le mandara las cintas de audio con la entrevista para transcribirla. La noche del 5 de enero de 1977, de vuelta a los Estados Unidos, Craig y yo recibimos una llamada de Bunker amenazándonos con matarnos si el reportaje para Rolling Stone no se publicaba en breve. Ni Craig ni yo teníamos control sobre la revista, así que pasamos del tema. Dos días después, me llamó por teléfono mi amigo Rory Russell, diciendo que había recibido una llamada de Randy Rarrick contándole que Bunker había muerto en Oahu en la casa de un tipo llamado Charlie Sneed, cerca de Rocky Point. Charlie era un camello de la Costa Este. Bunker falleció en su casa después de que Charlie y su esposa hubieran ido a dormir. Él estaba en su habitación, había bebido mucho, había tomado coca y había ingerido Quaaludes porque estaba intentando desengancharse de la heroína. Su idea era regresar a Los Ángeles para desintoxicarse. Murió a los 27 años, como Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix y Jim Morrison. Cuando Craig y yo hablamos más tarde, no podíamos creerlo. Ambos pensamos que era otro de sus espectáculos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bunker 77 premiere in Los Angeles

 

 

 

English:

BUNKER 77.
THE WILDEST LEGEND IN SURFING HISTORY

Certain stories are so amazing that it is easy to think they come from the most deranged imagination of an amateur novelist. However, sometimes fate finds its own way to show us that everything that seemed fiction is more real than life itself and presents it in the form of a documentary for the big screen. Throughout the decades, the world of surfing has surprised us with several fascinating stories that have contributed to magnify the legend of this sport, but last year a title broke all the schemes and is already considered as a milestone for all the lovers of this culture. We are talking about “Bunker 77”, the extraordinary, wild and brutal story of a character named Bunker Spreckels, who turned his life into a roller coaster of excesses on the beach and sold it to the media long before there were reality shows. Not in vain, he was the only heir of a family that had made a fortune in the industrial sector and his mother had married Clark Gable, one of the biggest stars in the golden era of Hollywood. However, this young man decided to confront this world of abundance and surfing as if there was no tomorrow on the horizon. It is a fascinating tale that takes us from the 50’s in the utopian city of Los Angeles, to a wild road trip through South Africa in the midst of the Apartheid in the 70’s, through long seasons on the North Shore of Hawaii and all kinds of crazy decisions typical of an outsider who lives in a constant present of vice and decadence. We had the opportunity to interview director Takuji Masuda and the photographer Art Brewer (personal friend of Bunker) to trace this story together and find out how the documentary was conceived. Also, the hidden face of a character who revolutionized the world of surfing with his rebellious attitude without cause.

 

TAKUJI MASUDA

Let’s go to the beginning of this story. During the time when you were surfing professionally, you also wrote traveling articles for some magazines. Did you have an urge to tell stories or reflect what was happening around you? What kind of influence did Art Brewer, C.R. Stecyk and Glen E. Friedman had on you in those early days?
After graduating from my university studies I had a jab at surfing professionally as a longboard surfer with brands like Donald Takayama, Oxbow, etc. which is sort of like racing classic cars with legendary folks. Naturally the historical component was very critical to some of us and my young buddies and I pursued meeting the actual pioneers of surfing from the 60’s for our deeper understanding. It was during this time that I would learn about Beach Culture as well as the classical ethos of surfers. Originally I met Craig through Malibu’s surfing legend Lance Carson while I was still a student in Malibu in 1992. I met Art Brewer in 1994 to shoot some photos for a magazine article. With them and Glen E Friedman, we embarked on publishing Super X Media which focused on Beach, Street and their art culture. We had fun featuring underground topics and subjects. I think working with some of these god fathers of the culture gave me an authentic lens and having an global perspective helped to make it unique.

In 1990 you enrolled into Pepperdine University (located near Malibu Beach), and you surfed next to icons like Miki Dora. Did you have the chance to talk to him? As a storyteller, why do you think the Southern Californian beach culture has become so powerful worldwide?
Miki didn’t surf Malibu by the time I got to Malibu but I got to paddle out with Lance Carson which was really cool as he is such a cool guy. As Jimmy Ganzer mentions in BUNKER77 “Hollywood is a big influence” to kids growing up in LA, so there are people who are very aware of perception and image making. Often times it gets pretentious… Miki, Bunker and Tony Alva had a special bond. They saw themselves as public icons and their need to be seen was mutual. In such obsession for style I think exists drama worth reviewing. It’s also interesting that the rest of the world is mesmerized by such projection of images. When I was a teenager I definitely felt like I had to join in.

I guess the big question is: When did you hear for the first time about Bunker Spreckels’ legend? And when did you decide to start working on a documentary about his crazy life?
I first read about Bunker Spreckels from The Surfer’s Journal back in Spring 1992. The entire volume was enlightening but that’s where I first learned about him. I would ask questions to Art and Craig whenever we had chance to hang out and in our Super X Media we published two versions of a story on Bunker during the 90’s. When we published our 43 pages review on the Pacific Ocean Pier and Dogtown back in 1998 there was an opportunity for me to learn how an article could become a documentary film “The Dogtown and Z-boys” then eventually “Lords of Dogtown.” I held closely to the rights of Bunker Spreckels and in 2005 I decided that I wanted to make a movie about this guy’s life.

These biographical projects need lots of archival footage to be successful. How did you manage to get all those personal films and photos about Bunker? Did you discover anything new or any surprising connection about him during the pre-production stages?
We had some fortune in working with archived material from Brewer and Stecyk. The taped interview of Bunker by Craig is used as the narrative spine of the film then the most of the film’s images come from Art Brewer’s extensive photographs and films of Bunker. We also lucked into some what considered lost family films along our way.

I really enjoy documentary shootings because they are like a road trip into the main subject through the eyes of the interviewees. How do you remember the shooting and the great conversations with Tony Alva and Ellie Silva? Did you have a closed script beforehand or went with the flow during the conversations? It seems that Ellie still had vivid memories of those days…
I stayed curious and since there weren’t much information available on Bunker, Just listened. Tony and Ellie were the closest to Bunker’s later years. They were intimate like a family.

Many professionals say that documentaries became a reality during the editing process. How was the editing and postproduction of “BUNKER77”? What about the soundtrack? The graphic design and the visual side are really impressive…
This was my first feature length film so I learned so much in every phase. Ironically I used to take a personal joy in teaching people becoming a surfer thus when I was putting together a film so many friends from the creative community ended up contributing to the process. I was introduced to some of the greats in pretty much all the fields of visual and sound elements.

One of the aspects that I really enjoyed is how you use excerpts from Clark Gable’s films to explain some passages of Bunker’s life. When did you have that idea? Do you think Bunker enjoyed his fame or he wanted to destroy everything around him, despite being a millionaire?
I think we all impose on ourselves and to each other expectations. It was no different for Bunker Spreckels. Bringing in Clark Gable’s films seemed natural given that pressure to living to his legacy must had occupied his mind. It was ironic that the character Elvis Presley played in Blue Hawaii was sort of like Bunker so we played off on other references from contemporary zeitgeist.

Nowadays it seems that surf documentaries are not only about waves, but also an open window to other places, cultures and also amazing characters. What was your aim making this film and what about the feedback you have received in festivals? Dave Homcy, your cinematographer, also directed an a surf documentary called “Beyond the Surfacein India
For me I wanted to make a film that Bunker would be satisfied with. This was a tall order but when Tony Alva or Ellie told me that they felt that Bunker would had liked my film I was very pleased. Many people who were close to Bunker told me that they learnt so much more from the film and they were able to put his life more in context. I now know that Bunker had puzzled many people even the closest to him.

 BUNKER77” is not only a pop culture & surfing documentary, but also a personal project that took so much time to become a reality. What have you learn from the process? Are you the same guy that started it or your personal ideas have changed in some way?
When I started making this film, I was still a bachelor but during the production I had become a husband and a father to two kids. This definitely added dimensions to my capacity as a person. Through making the film I was able to ask many questions about “how to be” and it was healthy to have Bunker’s life as a mirror board to deeply examine my own life.

Spike Jonze said that your documentary is like “a prequel to Dogtown & Z-Boys”. Were you influenced in some way by that film? Have you ever met Stacy Peralta? You both have lots of things in common and you both have been selected to Sundance…
Spike is an amazing filmmaker and he mentored me through some critical phases. He was referencing Bunker being the conduit of LA’s surf culture to the Dogtown skate culture. I respect Stacy very much and he made such a great film about his own culture in his own great style. I hope that I was able to come up with my own style of story telling with BUNKER77.

To finish the interview, here comes the science fiction question: If you had a time travel machine and could meet Bunker Spreckels in 1976, what would you talk about? What would you like to do in California in that year before punk became popular? I guess you two would surf together…
It’s funny that he was a guy who rode on of the shortest boards at Pipeline and I did the opposite with my longboards. I don’t know if he would had liked hanging out with me or I with him in 1976. It would have been a tough hang and many went down hard with him. We are both independent filmmakers so that would have been fun to talk about as so many cool indy films came out of Los Angeles around then. One thing is for sure is that we would had fun in 1968 on the North Shore of Oahu surfing as teenager kids who didn’t care too much.

 

ART BREWER

The year 1969 was a special time in your life because you had just started working for Surfer Magazine as a photographer. How was that experience and what was the magnitude of that publication those days? Was John Severson still around?
Yes 1969 was a special year, I graduated from high school that year and ended up being hired by John Severson to work for Surfer magazine at the end of August and spent three months in Hawaii from Oct-Jan This was my first time I’d ever been on the north shore while it was still magic and uncrowned.  I was lucky enough to work with a good friend and mentor, cinematographer SPYDER WILLS and we had a car and gas allowance along with a food budgetfrom Surfer plus a place to live right on the beach at Pupukea.
After Spyder and I got set up John and Louise and their two daughters Jenna and Anna showed up to share the house and work on John’s movie Pacific Vibrations.
Surfer at that time was beginning to be thought of as the Bible of the sport.

Your first real encounter with Bunker was in October 1969, when he was a teenager living in the North Shore. What was your impression back then and how was he like? It seems that was also a very special moment in his life, living like a savage in the forest…
Yes my first encounter with bunker was in October 1969 on the beach in for the pipeline I was 18 bunker was 19 I didn’t really know him but I’d heard of him from friends that went to school at Cal Western in San Diego and they all surfed a spot called Newbrake that was in 1967 and the first time I’ve ever heard Bunkers name mentioned. When I first met Bunker at Pipeline face-to-face in 1969 I only knew of him through friends that lived and shared a house on the north shore. That was where he stayed from time to time and basically couch surfed stold their food and spare change, Bunker also stayed a little bit up in the world war II bunker on the hill above Pipeline. He was very thin without any body fat, surfing every day poaching farmers fruit and avocado trees and  borrowing money from friends. He was living pretty much feral life, taking a little bit of LSD and eating peyote. I got the feeling that Bunker really didn’t have a care in the world living off the land and his friends even though he came from money was like he didn’t have any.He really fit the title of Greg Macgillivary’s an Jim Freeman‘s Surfing film called “Free and Easy”

In the documentary you explain that you took several photos of him alone on the beach. But what really caught your attention was his strange looking board. Why was it so weird back then?
When I first met Bunker face-to-face what I really saw was like a ca mirror image that looked like a lot of the rest of us on the north shore blond haired haloe boys with the bowl haircuts  that all had the ocean and surfing in common. We were in our element,  I think the Alma board was interesting and fascinating by design but I think the real attraction was his energy and power sitting there in the beautiful light before the sunset. I think he might’ve been on LSD too , because he seemed to have a aura a bought him that he gave off sitting behind the red Alma board.
The project didn’t come until years later but it all started with about a dozen or so images that I took that afternoon at Pipeline in 1969. One image of him on the beach sitting behind the red Alma board had a lot of power in it and back at Surfer magazine the photo editor Brad Barrett had done some cropped in slide copies of that one image of Bunker with the board. A magazine editor at Popular Photography saw the image and wanted to use it as a cover but I needed a model release this was about a year and a half after I had taken the image so I contacted Bunker through a friend and sent Bunker a letter, I heard back about from him two weeks later with him telling me NO I won’t sign a release and that pissed me off so I sent him a letter back going off on him about him being this poor fucking rich kid and to fuck off that was the end of Conversation until 1973.

You met him again 2 years later, when Surfer Magazine decided to make a film with him in South Africa and you were hired as the filmmaker. Can you explain us how that crazy project started? What Bunker’s aim and who was involved?
I think it was January, Bunker happen to show up at a friends house where I living at the time and he didn’t know I was living there and ran into me and struck up a conversation talking about SurfingThis was after, he had inherited all this money a year or so earlier. He had shown in this Mercedes 450 SL convertible top down with two surfboards In the passenger seat this was during the time where nobody had money  and cars like that on the north shore and the way he dressed no shirt with a suit vest and bell bottom whit stretch pants and Bruce Lee style martial arts slippers on.He had been training in martial arts with professor Chow a Grand master that had trained Ed Parker who was thought to be the father of American martial arts. Bunker had seeked the training because of some altercations on Kauai after inheriting his fortune. Bunker was much larger and stronger looking from when I first met him at Pipeline and first photograph him, he looked like he had all this power.
Two days after that bunker showed up atwhere I was staying and ask me if I wanted to go surfing or possibly might want to go shoot some photos at Rocky Point so I took off with him, he was writing a little 5’7 Lis fish and I happen to take a couple more photos of him surfing that were pretty good. About a week or two later I got a phone call from Bunker asking if I’d like to go to Kauai and hang out and surf and possibly shoot some pictures. He would pay for my airfare and feed me so I took him up on it went to Kauai and met him his girlfriend and the caretaker of his house and his wife. During that trip he pulled out the letter that I had sent him years earlier telling them to fuck off and he wanted to let me know why he didn’t want that photo published at that time, it was because the image had a lot of contrast strong light in the dark in that image and it happened to make him revisit a time when he taking a lot of LSD and peyote and he saw the devil and God in that image it had spooked him.
After that trip I was asked back quite a few times over the next year and a half maybe four or five times and we became friends. Bunker liked me Because I wasn’t interested in this money I didn’t want his money I didn’t have any scams that needed his money like 80 percent of his friends I think that’s why he liked hanging out surfing shooting pictures.
Then In the spring of 1975 bunker ask me what I was planning to do that summer I said I was going down to Puerto Escondido Mexico to a wave that had just been publicized in Surfer. I was interested in Mexico because it was cheap and I had very little money I worked putting pulling weeds in a friends banana patch and  shooting a few images for Surfer magazine which was Bi-monthly, I was basically getting bye.
Then Bunker brought up Jeffrey’s Bay in South Africa and asked me if I was interested in going to Jeffrey’s Bay in South Africa that summer, I said sure I’d love to go there, all he said was perfect and that we will go. I’m a realist so my thought was I’ll believe it when I see it or do it.
Then about two months 2 1/2 months pass when I get a call from Bunker asking me to come to Honolulu and asking you do have a passport. I say yes, he says come in to Honolulu tomorrow afternoon and  show up at his apartment at the Ala moana towers. After I arrive he takes Ellie and I down to the Pan-American airline offices and purchases three first class tickets around the world, then proceeds to tell me the itinerary telling me all he wants in exchange for the trip is for me to do bring my Surfboards, cameras and shoot stills and movies. All expenses will be paid by him and we will be leaving at the end of June and first stop would be Los Angeles to pick up some extra movie equipment and build some water housings. The film and still project only involved myself Bunker and Ellie to start with. Even though I had contacted surfer and asked them if they would be interested in an article about this trip they said yes but weren’t willing to give me any money . So Bunker and I went down to meet with Steve Pezman when we got to LA. We stayed at the Beverly Hills hotel for a week and a half while picking up film and movie equipment. Then off for London for a week then South Africa. It was during our trip between Johannesburg and Durban SA we met a guy from Australia that had just been released from prison in Australia  named David Landsley who was going to Durban to surf and work as a boiler maker and restart his life after he’d thrown a man off the second floor of a house after a fight with the man because the guy had tried to rape his wife. Bunker hired David on the plane to work for him and help drive the second Mercedes , David became Bunkers personal roadie.

How do you remember that road trip with a Mercedes-Benz from Durban to Jeffreys Bay in the mid 70’s? There are some great black & white photos of Bunker playing with some local kids and we must remember that was during the heyday of Apartheid…
The road trip from Durban to Jeffreys Bay normally a 8 to10 hours drive but a policeman named Gary Purkis had befriended bunker and decided to give him special directions to get to Jeffreys Bay, the normal eight hour trip turned into a 24hour hell trip because Gary sent us down a roundabout way through the Transkei of South Africa with all these black townships and dirt roads and during the trip we blew out 4 tires on the two Mercedes. The night driving was crazy we would run into these groups of  black men in full length jumpsuits with full black beanies where you could only see the eyes and mouths out in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night . And Bunker would decide to stop when he saw group of them and would pull out a bottle Cane spirits and stand in the blackness of night and Drink with them. Little did anyone know that Bunker was armed with  two pistols. It was a very crazy trip from hell.
Bunker it been to South Africa two years earlier so he had some black friends in Jeffrey‘s bay and when Bunker came to town all hell would break loose,  they would put on a show for the white people and Jeffreys were Bunker with chase the black people around in front of the Savoy Hotel in his Mercedes and the local black people would run jump and dive to get out of the way and not get ran over  as he chased him in the car  through town . He wasn’t being mean or tiring to hurt them it was a game they played with Bunker then drank Cane spirits together and the whites hated it. . There was a lot of crazy things that went on when we stayed at the Savoy Hotel in Jeffreys which was the only hotel open in town, my room happen to be right above the black bar and I remember one morning on a Sunday I heard this ruckus going on and look out the window and see this white man chasing a black man out of the bar with a broom the black person was on fire because one of the other black men in the bar happen to play a so called joke on his friend as he was cleaning his trousers with cleaning fluid and the guy set a match to him and the man caught fire, the white man with the broom was tiring to but out the fire. In the end the guy on fire wasn’t injured. Bunker likes the local black kids and would go up into the townships in his car and bring presents for them and play and show them martial arts with them he loved it and they like him because he was a crazy American.

Bunker was playing a weird character named “The Player” in the film, behaving like a surfer version of Elvis. How much do you think he acted and how much do you think it was real from his personal attitude?
The name of the player came from a book that Bunker had studied and highlighted and underlined it was called “The Player” the philosophy and the life of a black pimp” that’s where the name came from it became a part that he play as he traveled through South Africa you might say was his alter ego he also claimed that he was a porno film producer when he arrived in South Africa as it was reported in the news papers which caused quite a stir he told the reporters this to get a reaction, but in reality there was nothing to it. Bunker liked being controversial and  playing a part making people think that he was more than what he was all he was doing was putting on a show giving them something to talk about in Jeffreys Bay which was a very quiet and boring place with nothing to do besides Surfing. We got kicked out of the Savoy hotel after he broke the sink when trying to make a chillum out of a Coke bottle to smoke some Durban poison he wanted to give the local whites something to talk about. Like when he had his birthday party at the Beach Hotel where we stayed after being kicked out of the Savoy. The Beach hotel was closed but he talked to the owners and made them an offer if they’d open it up and let us stay there
At his birthday he put on a big party with dancing and free drinks and invited the whole town to attended and after too much drinking things started to go south when a South African farmer became overly friendly with his girlfriend Ellie. Short version is all hell broke loose and the two Mercedes were totaled and the next day I quit working for him and ended up being spot at by Bunker with his 25 cal PPK Walther pistol. 10 days later he came to me asking me to come back and take pictures.

His girlfriend Ellie was also travelling with the film crew and appeared in “End Of Summer”. How was their relationship like? Do you think that she wanted to change him in some way?
Ellie was Bunkers girlfriend and traveling partner it somewhat seemed like a real love affair. I think he truly loved and cared for her. There was no big film crew just me and David Landsley Ellie just hung out went to the beach watch the surfing and be with Bunker. She was there the whole time. As far as Ellie changing Bunker I think all was good until we arrived back in the United States after the trip because  he was dabbling in heroin and she didn’t like seeing him that way because she cared and loved him , but after about 6-8 months eventually she left and went to San Francisco hoping that he would clean up his act. He was living in Los Angeles and Spyder and  I would go see him when he was living at the Sunset towers and check on him. Spyder was working on the film Decato which was like a long screen test where Bunker acted out his extreme side on film sometimes not knowing if it was real or put on. We didn’t see a lot of Bunker the summer of 1976 and when he left to go back to the North Shore and Kauai the winter of 1976 Ellie didn’t go with him.

Besides all the craziness, Bunker caught some amazing waves in J-Bay and you shoot him with your camera. What do you think surfing meant to him? Maybe that was the only time when he could reach some peace of mind and get away from all the chaos around his persona…
Yes surfing was why we were in South Africa and Bunker was a very good surfer very powerful and liked and surfed in many different styles of surfing using different boards from knee boards to Steve Lis fishes and long boards. When he surfed he put on a show. He preformed like nobody else at Jeffreys Bay or Bruce’s Beauties  surfing his 5’7” fish Big Black Faith gun at Jeffreys he had a certain  sense surfing a called what he was doing a “Dance”. He loved surfing and when he was in the water he seemed to have sense of peace. As watermen say the Ocean tends to cleanse you.

How was your friendship with Bunker once you returned to the US? Did you see him again or even went out with him? Did he ever tell you about his projects or his drug related problems?
The day after we return to the United States from the trip I left went back to Laguna Beach because I didn’t like what I was seeing with Bunker and the drugs. Ellie was there it seemed like she was sort of a hostage they were staying at the Beverly Hills Hotel and entourage of people showed up the night that we arrived back I knew some of these people and I really didn’t want to be around them so I left and went back to Laguna. After a week I went back to Hawaii an only stayed a few weeks, then pack up my stuff and sold the car that a friend had crashed and ended up getting a job back at Surfer working in their photographic darkroom starting to print all the Black and Whites from the trip.
Bunker was still up in LA he got an apartment at the Sunset Towers and he’d call and we’d talk . Spyder and I eventually we went up to see him and stayed at the Hyatt hotel across the street from where he lived, at that point I knew that he was on the edge so I kept taking photographs of Bunker, and Spyder filmed but we always kept our distance because he was losing it and becoming more drugged out and weak both mentally and physically not surfing and hanging with Hollywood people that thought he had money. He was always talking about projects and things that involved surfing , skateboarding, music and film that he wanted to do and he would  introduce us to people that he was going to work with in the end it seemed like just more talk than doing, there was a lot of talk but not a lot of action he was too fucked up.

And the last question is: do you remember when you received the news about him passing away? I have heard it happened in Hawaii…
There’s a lot that went down the winter of 1976 in Hawaii , I wasn’t there and didn’t want to be on the north shore, it had gotten really bad with all the heroin there.
CR Stecyk was approached by Rolling Stone to spend some time with Bunker and interview him on the North Shore at the Kui Lima hotel now the “Turtle Bay”
Rolling Stone already had the Black and White prints and colored slides and was just waiting for the audio tapes to be transcribed after CR had gotten back from Hawaii.
Then one night of both CR and I got a call middle of the night January 5, 1977 from Bunker threatening to have us both killed unless that article for Rolling Stone was published sooner than later. Neither CR nor I had any control over Rolling Stone ever running the article. So we blew it off.
Two days later I got a call the morning of January 7, 1977 .It was from my friend Rory Russell who had received a call from Randy Rarrick telling him that Bunker had died on Oahu at a guy named Charlie Sneed’s house at Rocky Point, Charlie was a east coast coke dealer.  Bunker died at his house after Charlie and his wife had gone to bed. Bunker was in the front room and had been drinking heavily doing coke and had taken Quaaludes as he was tiring to get off heroin and go back to Los Angeles to go into detox.  Bunker died just like Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison at 27 years old.
When CR and I talked later that morning we couldn’t believe it , we both thought he pulling off one of his shows.

 

www.bunker77film.com 

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