'Living It Forever': Positively 22nd Street

[Newport Beach Film Fest] The documentary about Newport Beach's early surf scene was a labor of love for an OC couple

Rick Chatillon is sitting next to his wife, Ann, in the Starbucks near Newport Boulevard and Via Lido in Newport Beach, roughly facing the Lido Theater.

That’s the same historic movie house where the Chatillons’ documentary Living It Forever will make its world premiere on April 28.

Actually, the Chatillons are pointed more toward Lido Drugs, which for years was Richard’s Market, where Rick worked as a box boy back in the 1960s, when 13-year-olds could hold such jobs.

Filmmakers Rick and Ann Chatillon
Filmmakers Rick and Ann Chatillon
The 22nd Street Rat Pack (in 1961, above) gets its due
The 22nd Street Rat Pack (in 1961, above) gets its due

As for the spot he’s sitting in, years ago, it was the women’s department of Bidwell clothing store, where Rick’s mother worked until it moved across town to Westcliff Plaza and later changed its name.

Rick, who graduated from Newport Harbor High School, cannot move 5 feet in this beach town without bumping into a bit of personal nostalgia.

Approaching his 58th birthday, he has been surfing since the early 1960s and has hung 10 all over the world. But every morning he’s in town begins at 22nd Street.

“It’s a great wave when it breaks,” he says. “It’s just home, where you want to surf with friends.”

Living It Forever’s producer has, in fact, been living it forever. And the Chatillons believe the first surfers of the breaks near Newport Pier deserve recognition by the surfing world and beyond. “I feel they are the unsung heroes,” says Ann, the documentary’s writer and director.

Look at a surf report, and you’ll see the 22nd Street breaks identified as Blackies, in honor of the infamous watering hole that is separated by sand and parking lot from the waves. Rick remembers when it got even more specific than that, when a particular 22nd Street break was known as “Barstools” because it lined up with the bar’s outdoor seating.

The collection of nearby businesses that constitute what is now known as McFadden Plaza was raunchy back in the day, and it largely still is now, despite high rents and the presence of the upscale 21 Oceanfront restaurant.

But, as the engaging and informative Living It Forever shows, Newport Beach’s pioneering surfers loved 22nd Street then and still do now.

Some interviewed onscreen have gone on to great success, such as legendary tattoo artist, printmaker and painter Ed Hardy; world-renowned filmmaker Greg MacGillivray; and Old Guys Rule clothing founder Don Craig.

Three early United States Surfing Association (USSA) champions, who were crowned upcoast near Huntington Beach Pier, considered 22nd Street their home breaks: Ron Sizemore (1961), Ilima Kalama (1962) and David Nuuhiwa (1968 and ’70). They are also interviewed in the film, as are other 22nd Street surfers such as former NBA player John Vallely; Russell Surfboards founder Bobby Russell Brown; creator of the classic Penetrator surfboard mold John Peck; and, apparently, the only girls who used to surf 22nd Street, sisters Ann Kilroy and Sue Kilroy Hahn, both grandmas now.

Alex Knost, who surfs on the Vans and RVCA teams and forms half the music duo Tomorrows Tulips, is among the younger interviewees in Living It Forever, which is narrated by “Surf Junkie” Jeff Malanca, who writes an Orange County Register surf column and hits 22nd 365 days a year.

Despite hassles from cops, douchebags from the Inland Empire and city fathers who imposed a surf tax, 22nd Street’s first surfers stuck to their passion and opened the woody door for future wave riders such as Knost. That’s the legend Living It Forever amplifies.

“This is Rick’s labor of love,” Ann says of her husband, a freelance videographer with clients such as banks and Hoag Memorial Hospital.

She has been writing and shooting photos for Coast magazine since founder/former publisher Jim Wood approached her 15 years ago to join his start-up. Her reporting came in handy in identifying, locating and interviewing the people who appear in her 77-minute film. “We became sleuths,” she says.

“Like Sherlock Holmes,” adds Rick.

He turned to social networking, finding Facebook particularly helpful. “It was like a chain reaction,” he recalls. “We’d get one person, then get a phone call out of the blue from someone else saying, ‘I was there in ’59.’”

More impressive than the lineup is Living It Forever’s archival footage. “That was key,” Ann says.

Rick owned a color lab in the late 1990s when customer Ralph Myers, a retired San Clemente businessman, had him work on 16mm film that turned out to be footage of 22nd Street surfers. Myers didn’t think much of it when Rick told him the footage was historical and should be presented as such. The retiree believed the memories contained in the film only interested him.

Years passed, the color lab closed when the world went digital, but “Rick was not able to get this footage out of his mind,” Ann explains.

When he later learned that Myers’ pal Tom Jewell also shot film of surfers in the 1950s and ’60s and that MacGillivray possessed still more early footage of surfers and life at Newport Harbor High School, Rick got the idea for a documentary.

MacGillivray, co-founder of Laguna Beach 3-D and large-format production company MacGillivray Freeman Films, “gave us a reel and said, ‘Do what you want with it,’” recalls Rick, still sounding as if he can’t believe the gift.

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