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CABANA BOYS RELIVE THE BRONZE AGE

Pampering was hard work at the Tides Hotel in the DiMaggio era.

By 8:30, the gulf sunset was only just done, but the Original Beach Boys had turned in. The party had been boisterous but boozeless. As always, testosterone flowed, but not like the roaring tsunami it had been in 1959. The Original Beach Boys are getting on. Six are left. They've lost two. They can't get even one leg into their faded Jantzen swim trunks.

But when boss Ed Hickey summons - that old taskmaster who worked them 11 hours a day, seven days a week - they come running.

Ed Hickey and his Original Beach Boys ruled North Redington Beach before those musical Beach Boys existed. This was back in the day, 1959, the year Buddy Holly died. They swept out cabanas, planted umbrellas and coated pampered shoulders with oil behind the Tides Hotel and Bath Club - where Joe DiMaggio and his fellow millionaires got away from it all.

They were eight. They were teenagers. They were studs. They had muscles and tans. They got the girls. They poured all the leftover suntan lotion from discarded bottles into one big container for themselves. They called it "Chazoom."

Ed is 82. He has hired dozens of Beach Boys since 1959. They've had two reunions over the years. For their 50th anniversary, Ed just wanted to see his Originals. He wanted to see them just because they're all getting old.

The old Tides is gone, so the six gathered on a recent Saturday evening in the clubhouse of the condo that replaced it. A few other Beach Boys of 1960s vintage inevitably tagged along.

Just to say this about their beloved old boss: He was a tyrant. Worked them like dogs.

No one quit Ed Hickey. He paid them each $80 a week, but the little pockets in their Jantzen trunks bulged with tips. They claim they could stuff $60 in quarters in one pocket. John Messmore bought himself a '58 Corvette with those quarters.

But here's what Ed said when a Beach Boy asked for a day off:

"Sure, take two days. Or take a week. Take a month. In fact, take the whole year. Goodbye."

Beach Boys Paul Balduf and John Wallace have passed away. Left are Messmore, Roger Hoke, Dick Doerr, John Wallace, Leo Tober and Tom Stewart.

Seems they all knew DiMaggio. They knew that the Yankee Clipper's wife, Marilyn Monroe, liked her iced tea with two lemons, and they knew that Joe was no fun when she was along. She put a stop to Joe sneaking off to the racetrack with Ed.

The Beach Boys sometimes had women problems, too. When they wanted to sneak away, they asked their girlfriends to go look for "buoy wax."

Ed and his wife gave the boys the run of their house. Some didn't have homes. Roger Hoke came down from Nebraska for a January vacation, then called his mother: "Mom, I'm not coming home."

Freddy Falgout was hired a year after the Originals. He slept at the Hickey house. He was fastidious. In the morning he liked to take his time in the bathroom. It was Freddy's misfortune that the bathroom was next to Ed's bedroom.

One morning, Ed heard Freddy go in. Then he heard the toilet paper roller spin and the toilet flush. He lay in bed, hearing more spins and flushes.

Finally, Ed bellowed through the wall, "G-- d--- it, Falgout, I'm taking $5 out of your pay!"

Freddy later followed Ed up to Panama City to work cabanas behind the Escape Hotel. During the first three days of a long, crowded 1965 Memorial Day weekend, three people drowned in riptides.

On the fourth morning, Ed warned the boys to be observant. He was scared to death of a fourth drowning.

Freddy was working cabanas near the pool. A father came running with his 4-year-old daughter in his arms. Her name was Penny. She was unconscious, her face deep blue. Freddy grabbed Penny and started mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. After 60 seconds, her eyes popped open wide.

Tourists, terrified by the earlier three drownings, got in line to shake Freddy's hand.

Ed called his Beach Boys together.

"Freddy got No. 4."

John Barry can be reached at jbarry@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2258.

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