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Gidget Is Back, as 27-Year-Old Travel Agent

May 30, 1985

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Some characters just won’t go away. One of them is Gidget, the surfer’s dream girl.

The book came first, followed by the 1959 movie starring Sandra Dee. At least four other movies followed, starring Monie Ellis, Deborah Walley, Cindy Carol and Karen Valentine. All too often, the reviews were ″unbelievable″ or ″embarrassing.″

The 1965-66 TV series starred Sally Field in her first role. Miss Field went on to better things, including Oscars as best actress for ″Norma Rae″ and ″Places in the Heart.″

Now comes ″Gidget’s Summer Reunion,″ which will be shown on an ad hoc network beginning June 1. From a five-minute preview it appears to be the same surf and fluff as the previous efforts.

Gidget Griffin is now the owner of a travel agency and is married to Jeff ″Moondoggie″ Griffin.

The newest Gidget is actress Caryn Richman, who starred as Sandy in the national touring company of ″Grease″ and later played on Broadway. She was also a regular in the soap opera ″Texas.″

″Gidget at this point in life is 27, although she still has a lot of the appealing qualities the earlier Gidgets had,″ said Miss Richman. ″But she is more realistic and more mature.

″And for me personally it’s very challenging to play. My previous roles have all been very dramatic. So for me to play a role with determination and energy and upness was tough.

″I know there is a tendency to say, ‘Oh, you played Gidget.’ But she is an older Gidget, not the same breathless, gee-whiz Gidget. So, I might be foolish, but I don’t have a fear of being stereotyped as Gidget.

″I can’t make it Shakespeare or ‘Gone With the Wind,’ but I tried very hard not to make it Susie Creamcheese. I fought for her to play the intimate moments intimately and play the pain with pain. Not as the old Gidget. She’s grown up.″

Miss Richman was born in Brooklyn and grew up on Long Island. Her mother, Alita Rosenbaum, sang with the Metropolitan Opera when she was 19.

″But we weren’t a show business family,″ said Miss Richman. ″I couldn’t figure out how actors became actors. I thought they were picked out magically. I didn’t have any thoughts about acting and studied to be a psychiatric social worker at Syracuse University. I also studied for a year in the Netherlands, working in an orphanage.

″Later, after ‘Grease’ had been running for a while I heard they were auditioning. My object in auditioning was to just get a chance to stand on a Broadway stage. I thought it would be a hoot.″

But she got a call a few months later to join the touring company as an understudy. She played all the female roles and ended up starring as Sandy. The run in Los Angeles enabled her to get an agent. Then she returned to college and got her degree.

She was soon back in Los Angeles and her first film role was in ″The Eddie Capra Mysteries.″

″I didn’t know what I was doing,″ she said. ″I played a very disturbed young woman who was running from a psychiatric hospital. They put me in a car, turned on the rain machine and shook the car. I didn’t know what to do. Afterward, the director complimented me on my performance. He said I had such a look of fear on my face.″

She also joined a recording group, Tuxedo Junction, and recorded a hit disco version of ″Chattanooga Choo Choo.″ Then disco died.

She played a country-western singer in the NBC soap opera ″Texas″ for 21/ 2 years.

Later, she found herself auditioning for parts and not getting them. She moved back to New York and took a job as a publicist. ″Finally, I realized I missed acting and that I had better do something about it. I moved back to Los Angeles and within a week I landed the part of Gidget.″