- Fred Beckner— The Legend
Fred Colby’s character in the story
Surfing Into Downtown LA
was based on the real life hero of D&W Lifeguard Fred [Coby] Beckner.
The real-life Fred was a true lifesaver. Lifeguard Fred Beckner often played a hero in Hollywood as well. He was often was cast as a cowboy or a police officer in movies, big and small, and was a close surfing buddy of Gunsmoke star James Arness.
In 1963, the Baldwin Hills dam collapsed and burst. Oil had been sucked out from beneath the dam for years leaving its foundation in a weakened state. Floodwater destroyed many homes near Cloverdale Boulevard in Inglewood.
Fred was among the lifeguards sent out for search and rescue mission in a Willy’s Jeep.
The Baldwin Hills Dam Disaster of 1963
In the Jeep with Lifeguard Fred (to help save lives and property in the Baldwin Hills area after the dam collapsed), were Marty Thompson, Former Lifeguard Chief Don Rohrer, and Bill Prewitt (retired lieutenant). They rode in a Willy’s jeep to respond and look for bodies and vehicles from Lincoln Boulevard and along Ballona Creek. Eddie Hoffman who was stationed at the Creek reported getting shocked in the water from downed power lines.
What really Happened to Lifeguard Fred?
As a lone mercenary, LA Lifeguard Fred secretly entered the western frontier of Russia, at Vyborg, in 1971. There he began his personal campaign single-handedly to “destroy the entire fucking-commie-bastard-empire… because they’re a bunch of fuckin’ greasy hodads.”
Two months later the heroic lifeguard was not only able conquer the Communists but he had also learned to master time and space, through the sheer power of “being pissed off at valley punks.”
Fred finally emerged from Russia’s eastern border near the Sakhalin Islands, with his original cigar still lit, and still wearing an official County of Los Angeles lifeguard jacket along with the signature red trunks.
Before he left the recently named Russian seaport of St.Colbysburg, he stopped to surf a few waves in Sakhalin’s 42-degree water using the stolen, frozen body of Stalin, which had been taken in full public view, from Red Square, as a surfboard. Before entering the water, Beckner lit up a brand new commie Cuban cigar. Fred Beckner’s “obituary” mistakenly said that he had passed away in the late 1960s, during a fierce battle with Poseidon. The epic sea battle took place after the egotistical God of the Sea lost his board right in front of the D&W lifeguard tower-like a fuckin’ valley kook, and dinged Fred’s new girlfriend on the shoulder.”
Both of the larger-than-life figures, Beckner and Stalin, have not been seen since 1973.
Many of today’s South Bay surfers will swear on a stack of hauraches that the original battered D&W lifeguard tower #5, with its shades still drawn, still stands at the storage area at back end of D&W beach, still rocks… and “smokes” on a regular basis. We believe that Fred’s successor, Mark Paulin, who has taken over the lifeguard duties at D&W with his wife Lorrell, is the reason for the smoking and rocking.
Mr. Beckner, himself, has probably taken his place within the pantheon of gods in Valhalla, where the waves are always bitchin’ and free of peroxide kooks.
Though he reminded me of a drill sergeant, the real Fred was never in the US Armed Forces during World War 2, The Korean Conflict, or Vietnam. He fought his own war against the most “pervasive evil bastards” that he knew… “mankind’s most dangerous enemy.”
The Military knew Beckner, and realized that Fred would be more effective if they let him “fight the fucking greasy Hodads of the world” on his own terms.