Kathy Kohner-Zuckerman

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Kathy Kohner Zuckerman (born January 19, 1941) is the real-life inspiration for the fictional character of Franzie (nicknamed Gidget) from the 1957 novel, Gidget: The Little Girl with Big Ideas, written by her father Frederick Kohner.

Early life[edit]

Kathy Kohner was born in 1941, the daughter of Franzie and Frederick Kohner. She spent much of her childhood on the beaches at Malibu. She started surfing at the age of 15, sometimes trading her peanut butter and radish sandwiches for chances to ride. She associated with such influential surfers as Miki Dora, Mickey Munoz, Dewey Weber, and Tom Morey.

Gidget phenomenon[edit]

Based on what Kohner told her father about her exploits in Malibu and her journal of her trips to Malibu, which her father discovered, he wrote Gidget: The Little Girl with Big Ideas. The book sold over 500,000 copies and was translated into Japanese, Spanish and Hebrew, among other languages. In 1959, Columbia Pictures, where Frederick Kohner had been a screen writer, adapted the novel into a film starring Sandra Dee. Two other Gidget films were made, as well as a 1965 television series starring Sally Field and several television movies.

Adult life[edit]

Kathy attended Los Angeles Valley College, California State University, Northridge, and Oregon State University and then returned to Los Angeles to teach. She married Marvin Zuckerman, a professor of English and Yiddish who had never heard of "Gidget". They have two children and live in Pacific Palisades.

Kathy still surfs annually to benefit a cancer charity. She was named No. 7 in Surfer Magazine's 25 Most Influential People in Surfing.[1]

Kohner-Zuckerman is a 2011 inductee into the Surfing Walk of Fame in Huntington Beach, California in the Woman of the Year category.[2]


You know, it's overwhelming, and I'm really touched. All I did was surf a little and tell my story.

I don't have the confidence I had when I was 15, I'm 64. I'm afraid of the other surfers. There weren't as many surfers in Malibu when I was a teenager. [1]

Some people have Alcoholic Anonymous, Starbucks, church, I was retreating, trying to get away from high school and boys and movies on Saturday night ... I had Malibu.

Nobody knows I'm a real person -- they think "Gidget" is Sandra Dee or Sally Field.

I guess someone would have come along and done it eventually, had I not been there. I don't get it. All this talk of the "Gidget" myth, and the legend of "Gidget" ... all I know is now there are a million little "Gidgets" in the water, and I think it's fantastic.


  1. ^ a b Albright, Mary Ann (January 23, 2007). "Real-life Gidget recalls life at OSU". Corvallis Gazette-Times. Retrieved 2011-07-10.
  2. ^ Carroll, Corky (June 9, 2011). "Walk of Fame inductee list one of the best ever". Orange County Register. Retrieved 2011-07-10.

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