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surfin' wonk

May 07, 2000|Ed Leibowitz

In Hermosa Beach or Malibu, this red, white and blue icon might be mistaken for the trademark of some upstart surf-wear company hoping to compete against Stussy. But the Nixon Library gift shop's "hip new logo," emblazoned on everything from squirt bottles to stickers to cappuccino mugs, represents an unlikely competitor: namely, our 37th president.

"I wanted to freshen up the gift shop," says Luke Stedman, who designed the longboard-ready logo when he worked in the library's marketing department. "The generation who knew him was getting older, and we were going to lose contact with the younger generation."

From the pumpkin papers to his enemies lists to Watergate, perhaps no Southern California politician has radiated such scant sunshine and so few of the positive vibes of surfing as Richard Nixon. Nevertheless, there was strong historical precedent for Stedman's marketing decision. In 1971, when the Western White House was at San Clemente, Nixon reportedly became an honorary member of the local surf club for opening a stretch of prime beach that had been closed for security purposes.

"It's interesting to associate surfing--that is so carefree--with someone who's such an academic," says Stedman, a late-blooming surfer who is now liaison for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.). "He was such a policy wonk."

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