Art Brewer: In fall of 2007, Taschen books published “Bunker Spreckels: Surfing’s Divine Prince of Decadence” by Art Brewer and C. R. Stecyk III. The tale of Bunker Spreckels (1949–1977) reads like a pitch for a movie to rival Boogie Nights: the stepson of Clark Gable is a privileged Los Angeles party boy who is heir to a multimillion dollar fortune; passionate about surfing, martial arts, guns, and women, he lives the life of a debauched international jet-setter before succumbing to his excesses at the tender age of 27.
Born Adolph B. Spreckels III, heir to the Spreckels sugar fortune, Bunker became a famous surfer as a teenager, but after his inheritance came along, he began to slip into a life of pomp and excess where surfing took a back seat to drugs, sex, and wild road trips. So remarkable was his lifestyle that he created an alter-ego who invited photographers and documentarists to trail him, piecing together a tell-all epic of his own rise to fame and fortune. Before the project, known as “The Player”, could be completed, Spreckels suddenly died of “natural causes.”
Thirty years later, photographer Art Brewer and writer/photojournalist C. R. Stecyk III (of 1 and 1 fame) have come together to make this book which traces the meteoric rise and dramatic fall of Bunker Spreckels. Widely considered one of the world’s most gifted surfing photographers, Brewer was a close friend of Spreckels and his personal photographer throughout the last decade of his life,
traveling with him from Hawaii to Los Angeles to South Africa. His images of Spreckels both on the waves and on land chronicle Spreckels’ metamorphosis from hippie surfer to international playboy, while Stecyk’s extensive taped interview with Spreckels, completed just three months before his death, provides a rare first-person perspective on all the decadent craziness that was his life.
Art Brewer is among the veteran photographers of the sport of surfing. His decades-long tenure as documentarian of the international sport and as photo editor for Surfer Magazine have garnered him numerous awards and titles. Bunker and Brewer were longtime surfing buddies when Bunker tapped the journeyman photographer to be part of his entourage to document and film The Player. Brewer continued his relationship with Bunker until his passing, providing the most complete photographic record of his life.
Born and raised in Santa Monica, California, C. R. Stecyk III’s first encounter with Bunker dates back to their meeting at Malibu Point in 1962. Their friendship of more than a decade spawned Bunker’s last interview, which appears in this book. Stecyk was an instrumental figure in the Southern California skateboarding scene of the early 1970s as both practitioner and chronicler, later serving as production designer and cowriter of the documentary film Dogtown and Z-Boys. The prolific artist and writer continues to create in Venice, California.