One Hell of An Eye
The Official Blog of Mike Salisbury
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Mike Salisbury_photo by

Mike Salisbury, La Jolla - photo by Roy Porello

On the hot and treeless corner was a Denny’s with its faux Frank Lloyd Wright, green edged roof canting down to the ground to shade the asphalt of Midway Drive in San Diego.

Surfing Magazine_Mike Salisbury, art direction; art by Terry Lamb

Surfing Magazine_Mike Salisbury, art direction; Dwight Smith ,design; art by Terry Lamb

AlmaSurf23_MikeSalisbury, art direction; GustavoMorais, design; photo by

AlmaSurf_MikeSalisbury, art direction; GustavoMorais, design; photo by Jeff Divine

Tomson quote

The Gotcha Magnate Hisself

Across the street under the overhang of a brandless gas station were two shirtless and very tan guys. With bright straw colored hair and red trunks, both looked enviably like Troy Donahue. They were cocky, laughing and collecting change from two girls in pigtails– a blonde in a pink gingham bikini and a brunette in the same outfit but light blue. The guys pumped whatever gas the change bought. One jumped into the back of the green 1949 Ford station wagon with the blonde girl. The other hopped into the driver’s seat with the brunette by his side and in one motion started the car, left the gas station, closed his door and headed south on Pacific Drive with the tailgate open and two yellowed surfboards hanging out of the back.

When I saw that woody in that San Diego gas station, I was out of college at USC for the summer driving to my part-time job in my suit and tie.  It was a day that changed my life. I quit my job and went surfing.  I went to work for Surfer Magazine when Rick Griffin was drawing Murphy.  Together we were the Beavis and Butthead of surfing.

SurferMagazine_Mike Salisbury, art director; Rick Griffin, illustrator

Surfer Magazine. Rick Griffin, illustrator

I went on to a sordid life of advertising, editorial design, music packaging, motion picture marketing, photography, writing and branding all to sell sex, drugs and rock and roll.

Rick took the high road from our little beach to painting biblical themes (after a wayward stay in Haight Ashbury) but his work, even at his San Francisco gnarliest, never lost that Murphy innocence mentored by our good friend Randy Nauert of  The Challengers Surf Band (whose debut album  Surfbeat was the biggest selling surf album of all time).

But in the days before I art directed Rolling Stone, created album covers for Michael Jackson and George Harrison,did the over 300 motion picture marketing campaigns (including ironically the movie Back to the Beach) I  helped create the first album cover John Severson photographed for the King of The Surf guitar who played Middle Eastern scales on his Fender Stratocaster upside down and backwards.  Dick Dale.

Dick Dale - Surfers' Choice_Mike Salisbury, art direction; John Severson, photographer

Dick Dale - Surfers' Choice. John Severson, photographer

Youth, smog-free sunshine, clean water, clear waves, swiping oranges fresh from the trees and sleeping between old yellow surfboards on a bare mattress with the tailgate down cruisin’ up the coast at a time when surfing was bigger than the Beatles.

Under the sun I created logos for Gordon & Smith surfboards,Olympic and Challenger surfboards,  Birdwell Beach Britches, designed and wrote and illustrated for Surfer magazine later redesigned Surfing magazine twice in two decades, redesigned Bodyboarder magazine, created advertising for O’Neill and OP surfwear but  the Gotcha and MCD advertising and marketing I created with Michael Tomson, Joel Cooper, Mike Funk ,Mark Price and Paul Holmes  broke the rules and set the pieces in stone as a guide for all surf marketing to come.

Gotcha ad withTyra Banks_Mike Salisbury, creative&art direction, design copy; photo by Howard Edelman sm

Gotcha ad with Tyra Banks_Mike Salisbury, creative & art direction, design and copy; photo by Howard Edelman

To be continued…

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Mike, love the blogs. A few weeks ago in PS met a guy who said you were “the shit.”  He said he was with Hot Rod Magazine and you did some work for them a way back.  Further on!!              J. Gould

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Love it, Mike; every story.  Who is helping you with the writing?  It’s wonderful.  Ken M.

Mike: Thanks. It’s all me, babe.  And my assistant, Lorraine, who makes sure that it is comprehensible.   The opening was from a piece I did on woodie station wagons for Patrick Cooke of Forbes a few years back.

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Nice! Airrion C.

Mike: Merci.  I do not know how we got her to sign on.  It was all Alice in Wonderland surf…

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Very cool! G. Terstiege

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