Ed Garner, a local Southern California surfer who found a home alongside the likes of Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon in several of the popular beach party movies of the 1960s, has died. He was 77.
Garner died March 5 at his home in Carmel-by-the-Sea after a few years of illness, his wife of 38 years, Kelly Green Garner, told The Hollywood Reporter.
Garner was surfing regularly in Malibu and not too far removed from graduation day at Beverly Hills High School when a family friend got him a part in American International Pictures’ beach party (1963), the Funicello-Avalon adventure that kicked off the whole subgenre. Director William Asher asked him to bring along some of his surfing pals to populate the film.
Garner then appeared for Asher in muscle beach party (1964), Beach Blanket Bingo (1965), How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965) and Fireball 500 (1966), that last one set in the world of stock car racing but starring Funicello and Avalon nonetheless.
Along the way, Garner was signed to a contract by AIP while he worked for the studio in such other films as pajama party (1964), bikini beach (1964), ski parties (1965) and The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966).
The background player was even loaned to United Artists to appear in For Those Who Think Young (1964), starring James Darren and Pamela Tiffin, and was on the 1964 episode of NBC’s Dr Kildare in which guest star Yvette Mimieux made TV history by showing her navel.
“I didn’t appreciate what I had. For me, it was just a great gig, making great money and basically introducing myself to a totally different lifestyle,” Garner said in Tom Lisanti’s 2005 book, Hollywood Surf and Beach Movies: The First Wave, 1959-1969.
“I went from being a carpenter’s apprentice and surfing to making movies and dating in a whole different circle. I was having the time of my life.”
He said he never considered himself an actor.
Edward Byron Garner was born on Oct. 15, 1944, in Cheyenne, Wyoming. His grandfather was HB Warner, an actor who appeared in silent films and in It’s a Wonderful Life, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and, as himself, in sunset blvd.
After the quick rise and fall of the beach party movie, Garner worked with Doris Day’s son, Terry Melcher, in the music industry and appeared on a 1972 episode of her CBS comedy for his final onscreen credit.
He also opened a restaurant, Head of the Wolf, in Santa Barbara and developed a chain of retail stores, Camp Santa Barbara, which sold California lifestyle clothing.
Garner re-entered the music business in the 1980s and was involved in licensing for groups working with Concerts West and Jerry Weintraub Entertainment. He and his wife moved to Carmel-by-the-Sea in 2009.
Survivors also include his sister, Melinda; niece Tricia; nephews Christopher and Patrick; brother Dan; and sister-in-law Keri. He was married to French actress Dany Saval in the ’60s.
Donations in his memory may be made to the Surfrider Foundation.