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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Beach Boys Landmark & Brick Brothers Forever

Brian Wilson Secret Handshake Club Co-Founders
You don't have to be a fanatic of The Beach Boys to appreciate their music and get an occasional smile on your face when one of their iconic songs comes on the radio. I was at the perfect teen age in the sixties and living in California to have been completely captivated by their sound which depicted the golden state as a mecca of sun, surf and young love. As their music matured and I grew up I never stopped listening to the band even though they lost some of their audience when they graduated past just the surf and car songs that had vaulted them to the top of the charts. In 1983 I heard about a Beach Boys Convention taking place in Oakland, California. This era was a particularly low ebb for their popularity so I knew I had to be there with other like minded fans of the band. One of the shows creators was a guy named Les Chan who turned out to become one of my best friends in life. Fast forwarding to 2004 Dick Clark and the Roll Hall of Fame were among the ardent supporters for a monument dedicated on the site of the home where the Beach Boys grew up in Hawthorne, California. The Beach Boys Historic Landmark was granted its official status as California State Historic Landmark No. 1041 and dedicated on May 20, 2005.

The monument itself sits at the edge of the Century Freeway whose construction cut through the middle of this Hawthorne neighborhood in the mid 1980's. Among the supporters of the project are many fans who had the opportunity to sponsor a brick in the facade. I was thrilled when my good friend, Les Chan, asked if I would like to co-sponsor a brick with him. Les is the quintessential Beach Boys fan.

Beach Boys Historic Landmark in Hawthorne, California

Brick Brothers celebrate their love for California music and the band that made it famous.
I call Les Chan the quintessential Beach Boys fan but it has nothing to do with an official fan club or other organization. Les Chan simply connected so many people together coast-to-coast and even in other countries. I say "simply" but I'm not talking about connection in terms of just swapping business cards or e-mail addresses. Les Chan genuinely loved people and the feeling was mutual. He engaged everyone he met everywhere. From a popular radio station air personality to the girl serving Hawaiian shaved ice at the local Maui kiosk Les engaged everyone. Some people might even call Les a stalker because he approached celebrities and common folk alike. The difference was that Les Chan was genuine, sincere and completely ernest. He was a photo fanatic and wanted a picture with absolutely everyone. He could warm up a room full of strangers like no one else I've ever known. Les loved the Beach Boys music so much that he just HAD to befriend the band and it became obvious that the feelings were mutual. Becoming part of the Beach Boys inner circle brought significant privileges. Some people spend their whole lives dreaming of a backstage pass. I joked that when you look up the term "ALL ACCESS" in the dictionary you'll see a picture of Les Chan. However, all of these privileges posed a constant dilemma for Les. He could only take a limited number of people along with him and he had an unlimited number of true friends.
Concert Security Pass Chart for the Beach Boys 50th Anniversary Tour
Even though the Beach Boys were my introduction to Les Chan our friendship grew into so many other dimensions. We both shared a passion for Hawaii and in particular the island of Maui. We were blessed to have several family vacations in paradise together. It did not take me long to realize that the sometimes nebulous and intangible "Aloha" spirit was manifested in everything that was Les Chan. Les spread love everywhere he went and has left a significant trail of it so extensive that it is practically untraceable. Knowing Les Chan confirmed my belief that everyone and everything is connected.

Another one of Les Chan's passions that reached almost the level of obsession was Disneyland. I am going to divulge a long time secret of his that really exemplifies his sense of humor. On his Facebook profile he shows his birthday as July 17th. Les was actually born on December 8, 1954 but his passion for everything Disneyland led him to list is birthday as July 17th which was the day the park opened in 1955. I thought it was hysterical when he received so many birthday wishes on Facebook in July. Les had a sense of humor that endured forever. Here is one of my all-time favorite photos of our families celebrating at the Magic Kingdom. Beginning in 1956 he has been to the park for what must be some kind a record of 70+ times with most visits for one week or longer. When we went to Disneyland with him he would be the first in line at opening. Then after mastering the lines and fast pass system all day long most of us were pretty well spent but Les would grab some dinner and return until midnight or closing. This park was built for kids or anyone like Les with the true heart and spirit of a kid.

Happy Times at the Happiest Place on Earth
Sadly, my dear friend, Les Chan, just passed away suddenly one week after his 58th birthday from a heart attack. His inner health was not nearly as robust as his incredible outer spirit. I am so blessed to have shared thirty of his fifty-eight years on earth. I am saddened like so many others who loved him but we all learned great life lessons from just knowing him. My next photo is a close up of our brick. Les insisted that the text was laid out just as seen here. I am both honored to share this brick and a bit embarrassed that my name is first. If anyone deserves top billing as a Beach Boys fan, it is Les Chan. But putting others first was just the way he rolled. I am forever grateful to have had Les Chan in my life. I am extremely proud to say that he was my dear friend and Brick Brother.

Brick Brothers at the 50th Anniversary Lake Tahoe Show  July 2012

25 comments:

  1. Beautiful Carl...just beautiful. Love it! Panayiotis

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    1. Thanks Panayiotis and thank you for all you've done for Les and his family for so many years.

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  2. You captured your friendship with Les perfectly. I know, I was there for the ride...W

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    1. And fortunately Wendy our families also reaped the benefits of his great spirit. So many great Maui moments and Disneyland days! We are forever grateful that you shared him with us.

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  3. Carl...You naturally are so spot on about Les. I can't imagine there is anyone else with more photos and autographs from the Beach Boys. I was just talking with Panayiotis this afternoon and I told him I know he's up in Heaven right now getting something signed from Carl and Dennis. Beautiful memories! Wayne

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  4. Beautiful Carl!

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  5. Only met Les once, but never forgotten. That was at T-Bird Tims house at a barbecue Panayiotis organised for two visiting Aussies in 2008. We had a ball. Good food and great company. Les was doing the bongos for most of the songs we were singing.

    Alyn and Brenda.

    Yep, we were the Aussies.

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    1. Alyn & Brenda, Thank you for sharing the bongos memory as it was one of Les Chan's trademarks. I was unaware but should have known better that his love stretched all the way to Down Under.

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  6. Carl I'm so sorry for your loss and for his family's loss. May he rest in peace. Though I never met Les I feel like I knew him because you always had so many warm and wonderful stories to share about the things you've done together.

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    1. Thank you TFG. In many ways Les was The Flirty Guy because he was so very friendly to everyone everywhere but at the same time never pushy and always respectful.

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  7. Carl, what a wonderful tribute.

    I first met Les in 1986 at a bookstore in downtown San Francisco. This was a chance meeting during my very first visit to the USA. Later that evening we met up again with both Les and Wendy.
    There are so many wonderful memories over the years. Great times spent at Les and Wendy's house in Guido Street in Oakland, and later in Alameda. Les also visited us here in Cornwall, England.

    Les was one of life's very special people. He ensured that every visit I made to California was extra special. Through Les, I got to meet the Beach Boys, Jan &Dean and much more. Things I could have only dreamed of before I met Les.

    I love the bit from a previous post, "I know he's up in heaven right now getting something signed from Carl and Dennis".

    Every photo, letter I received from Les, I have kept, going back as far as 1986. I feel so privileged to have met such a wonderful person.

    I will miss him greatly.

    Graham Hicks, (Cornwall, England)

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    1. Graham,

      The day after Wendy called me with the sad news of losing Les I went up to visit the girls. Among all of the great stories we told was the one of you two meeting in S.F. I had heard your name countless times before but I now have a great vision of you and really appreciate the friend you were to Les.

      -Carl

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  8. You're a wonderful friend Carl to have written such a beautiful story.
    Best to you always, Bert and lisa

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    1. Our paths crossed completely in coincidence but you really cheered me up Lisa. Thanks for peaking at my blog post. It is a story that is very close to my heart.

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  9. That was beautiful Carl.
    You captured perfectly what a kind, sweet soul Les is.
    Thank you

    Coleman

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    1. Thank you Coleman. And thanks for being there for so many incredible gatherings created by Les.

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  10. Thanks so much Carl for this amazing blog on our beloved friend Les, he was such a wonderful human being and your words evoked his spirit so perfectly...

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    1. If it weren't for the Les Chan network of friendships, we might not have met and that certainly isn't the way I would have wanted the story to end.

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  11. Les, we miss you. Thanks for the great times and great friendship.

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  12. Tears for one of the sweetest people that I've ever had the privilege to call my friend. There's a hole in my heart and I miss him dearly but I'm glad to have had the chance to get to know him. You were the one that introduced Les to me years ago and I will be forever grateful...

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    1. I know that Les felt blessed to have known you as well. I am thrilled to have been responsible for just making the introduction. Kindred spirits are always a safe bet for pairing.

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  13. Carl, I only knew Les for two-three years thru work. I get choked up thinking about him being gone. We both loved music, talked about the Giants, growing up in SF, etc. His gift to all of us was his warmth, caring and constant upbeat demeanor. I know I'm a better person from knowing him these few years. I dearly miss his texts and email updates. You wrote a wonderful tribute to our dear friend. Pegster

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  14. Pegster, Thank you for your very kind words. Les had a great knack for connecting so many people from his diverse passions, hobbies and professional life. Even though we've never met I feel that we are friends introduced by the kind spirit of Les Chan.

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  15. Hi dear Carl, brother of mine, That was an incredible tribute you made to your friend Les. I am sure that your friendship was very special to him as his was to you. Thank you for sharing this wonderful blog of memory. I feel like I knew Les thanks to you. Love, Gayle

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    1. Thank you Gayle. I know you've met Les at a few family gatherings and I am glad to be able to share this story of our friendship with you.

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