I’m just heartsick to hear of the death of Hollywood producer Dick Zanuck, who was my college roommate and best friend for several years at Stanford in the mid-’50s. We decorated our room at the Fiji house with African masks and spears and South Seas artifacts from the set lot at 20th Century Fox. We went to movies almost every night. We took a surfing trip in a Fox jeep to Baja California in 1954, and then a Fox Ford convertible on a surfing trip to Mazatlan in Spring of 1955. We partied hard, chased girls, surfed, cultivated sun tans, and weren’t too serious about academic excellence.
We both loved the beach, surfed, played volleyball, were the same size (not, um, tall) — and competitive (we actually got in a few fistfights). We’d go to a party, get semi-drunk, and take off for LA, arriving around sunrise. His family had a large house on the beach in Santa Monica, and my first experience surfing was riding a 12-foot redwood/balsa board owned by his brother-in-law Bobby Jacks at the Malibu colony. His family had a beautiful Spanish-style home in Palm Springs, built around a pool, where we’d go frequently, and John the butler would wake us up each morning with glasses of fresh orange juice from trees around the pool.
One of our rituals was started by him when we were teenagers (60 years ago—gad!). He sent me a postcard from Hawaii showing a surfer, with the message “Ho!” (he was there and I was not). I started sending him “Ho!” postcards when I would be somewhere or doing something that would make him jealous, and he’d eventually reciprocate. In recent years I’d send him “Ho!” postcards of me skateboarding or doing well in races, and he’d call me right up.
In recent years we’d talk about how all our friends were retired and we’d both say how we loved our work and were never going to retire. He never did. I’m so sorry to hear that he’s gone.