October 11, 2017
One in a series of enthusiastic posts, contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars during 2017, on the subject of our favorite squads.
Sydney, Australia, 1946. A not terrific movie called A Song to Remember starring Cornel Wilde as a young Frederic Chopin is a surprise hit with Sydney youth, playing to packed houses for months on end. Astute barbers around Darlinghurst and Kings Cross, where the rebellious element hangs out, start offering a “Cornel Wilde” cut: a kind of a pre-Elvis, bushy brushback.
Meanwhile at the nearest surf beach, Bondi, there’s conflict between swimmers and board-riders. Regulations are put in place making surfboard riding illegal except for members of the local surf club, kind of a voluntary lifeguard-cadet thing, with military like discipline. Indie surfers ignore the ban. A “beach inspector” steps in, lays charges against a board rider. Angry scenes. The press arrive, note that the rebels have Cornel Wilde haircuts. More journalistic digging reveals that away from the beach the Cornel Wilde Boys wear zoot suits and drape shape coats, or Levis with turned up cuffs, and jive to covers of west coast US jump rhythm and blues.
That same beach inspector, one Aub Laidlaw, is also carrying out a one-man campaign against “immodesty” on the beach, fining girls wearing two-piece (”French”) bathing suits, or who undo their bra straps while sunbaking (not kidding). Then the shock: the “Cornel Wilde Boys” the Bikini Girls, bobby soxers turn out to be sort of one big bunch. Has to stop.
A reporter quotes a Cornel Wilde Boy saying that the old surf club goons are jealous, “gnashing what few teeth they have left,” because the young indie board riders are attracting the girls. Cops start patrolling the beach. Eventually, areas are designated for non-club board riders at all the Sydney beaches.
Cornel Wilde Boys surface in the yellow press from time to time over the next few years, as folk demons-lite, but they’re totally forgotten with the coming of rock’n’roll in the 1950s. I grew up in oceanside Sydney, but the first I heard of them was in the late 1990s, from a retro-clothing maven. (I knew of Aub Laidlaw though: he was still bikini-busting in the 1960s.)
The Cornel Wilde Boys were never that much of a moral panic, really, but it’s noteworthy that in that early pre-surfer, pre-rocker, pre-mod manifestation of youth culture, the surfboard, the zoot suit, the bikini, blue jeans, bobby socks, greasy brushbacks, jive and rhythm & blues music could all happily co-exist under one banner.
#SQUADGOALS: Annie Nocenti on THE WILD BUNCH | Alice Boone on PRETTY LITTLE LIARS | Gordon Dahlquist on BOWIE’S BAND | Rob Wringham on THE HOME GUARD | Jennifer Krasinski on WATERSHIP DOWN RABBITS | Annalee Newitz on ROBIN HOOD’S MERRY PALS | Adrienne Crew on THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | Mark Kingwell on THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | Adam McGovern on KAMANDI’S FAMILY | John Overholt on THE CLUB | Greg Rowland on THE VULTURE SQUADRON | Sara Ryan on BETSY, TACY & TIB | Chelsey Johnson on VI ÄR BÄST! | Brian Berger on THE JOHN FORD STOCK COMPANY | Sherri Wasserman on THE WARRIORS | Jessamyn West on FAREYNIKTE PARTIZANER ORGANIZATSYE | Josh Glenn on DADA | Matthew De Abaitua on THE TIME | Mandy Keifetz on THE FOUNDING FATHERS | William Nericcio on ZOOT SUIT PACHUCOS | Deb Chachra on FIREFLY CREW | Matthew Battles on THE ANIMAL FAMILY | Ingrid Schorr on THE HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS | Joe Alterio on THE USUAL GANG OF IDIOTS | Dan Reines on THE BREAKFAST CLUB | Rob Walker on LES TROIS INSÉPARABLES | Devin McKinney on 1975 RED SOX | Steph Burt on DAMAGE CONTROL | Elina Shatkin on THE HOLOGRAMS | Chris Spurgeon on THE ALKALI METALS | Carl Wilson on NEW YORK SCHOOL POETS | Barbara Bogaev on THE MOD SQUAD | Franklin Bruno on THE AACM | Judith Zissman on THE FUTURIANS | Mimi Zeiger on ARCHIGRAM | Jacob Mikanowski on THE RATBASTARDS | Lynn Peril on THE DALY SISTERS | Anindita Basu Sempere on MEG MURRY’S FAMILY | Libi Rose on THE ENIAC TEAM | Gary Panter on THE TRIBE OF HIPPIES | Peter Doyle on CORNEL WILDE BOYS | Ken Layne on THE MONKEY WRENCH GANG | Molly Wright Steenson on BAUHAUS | Katie Hennessey on BEAT POETS | Mimi Lipson on THE RUNAWAYS | Jordan Ellenberg on BOURBAKI | Michael Campochiaro on THE SUICIDE SQUAD | Deborah Wassertzug on THE BLOODHOUND GANG | Colin Dickey on ACÉPHALE | Douglas Wolk on SEVEN SOLDIERS OF VICTORY | David Smay on THE MYSTIC KNIGHTS OF THE OINGO BOINGO | Karinne Keithley Syers on BLACKLIPS PERFORMANCE CULT.
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