All The Gidgets! Sandra Dee, Sally Field, And Five Others

By | September 7, 2018

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Gidgets you might remember -- or not: Sandra Dee (1959), Sally Field (1965-66), and Monie Ellis (1972). Sources: IMDB, IMDB, ABC via Getty Images

When you think of Gidget, you probably come up with the TV Gidget Sally Field, and perhaps Sandra Dee, who played her in the first Gidget movie. But there were actually seven Gidgets in all. Actresses Deborah Walley, Cindy Carol, Karen Valentine, Monie Ellis and Caryn Richman also played versions of the famous surfer girl who just wanted to surf with the boys.

There was also a real-life Gidget, the daughter of the author who wrote the book that inspired all this Gidget mania. The real-life Gidget also inspired many young girls to get out there and surf.

The famous boyfriend, “Moondoggie,” was played by James Darren in all three movies and then played by some other actors in the series.

The Real-Life Pre-Gidget

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Kathy Kohner-Zuckerman in 1956. Source: Ventura County Star,

It all started with this novel by Frederick Kohner. He planted the seed that started the growth of Gidget. Frederick Kohner wrote the novel based on his own daughter, Kathy. It turns out that he was a Jewish screenwriter who worked in the German film business. After the Nazis started removing the Jewish credits from movies, he decided to take his family and move to Hollywood. He and his wife had two daughters and they lived by the beach. As he watched his two daughters grow up around the beach, he took notice of the way they were becoming more Americanized by the “surf culture.” 

Because his daughter, Kathy, was trying so hard to be like one of the boys when it came to surfing, he was empathetic towards her and tried to support her in it. He saw her struggles and wanted to help her so he became more knowledgeable in those areas in order to help her. This became his inspiration for writing the different storylines that you see in the show and the movies. Gidget was her nickname.