By Corky Carroll
Doug Miller is not a normal dude. And, in this case, I mean it in the most positive and respectful way possible. He’s not a surfer, but is a huge part of Orange County, specifically Laguna Beach, culture. He is not as famous as Eiler Larson, “the Greeter,” but his place in the heartbeat of the town is just as deep and resonate. I have wanted to tell his story for a long time, so here goes.
Doug Miller is a guy with a wonderful mind, first off. He feels things and senses things very profoundly. As a person he is the kind we all wish we were. A sincerely good guy, heart in the right place. Wonderful husband and father, and if you are his friend, you are better off for it. And, the dude has incredible talents beyond that. Three of them. He is a photographer, an artist and plays the violin. In each of these he is far beyond what you would call “good.” He is amazing. A legend at the “Sawdust Festival.” And each of these talents has its’ own little world. He is so good at these things that it’s intense. Other stuff either doesn’t exist or just not important in Doug’s world. He doesn’t drive or do sports, probably could care less how the Lakers are doing. His world is super focused, fine-tuned if you will. And it’s a beautiful world, a perfect example of a “beautiful mind.”
OK, let’s start off with getting the preliminary background out of the way. I am going to do this by saying what I have to say and then including quotes from Doug himself from an online interview I just did with him. He was born in Los Angeles, grew up in Long Beach, went into the Navy and wound-up living in Laguna Beach. Here is his take on growing up.
“At 4 yrs - moved to Long Beach - school years to Long Beach City College there. Dad - sheet metal worker - built corrugated sheds in the oil fields and warehouses - He went fishing every weekend and took me along - half-day live-bait boats out of Pier-Point Landing in Long Beach - fishing at piers at Redondo, Belmont Shores, Seal Beach pier. And winter rock fishing in Laguna - I fished on the boats - Liked that. But I didn't fish much - I hunted shells in Laguna - and on the piers, I learned to use a gaff-hook on a thick nylon line and catch starfish and sinkers off the pilings.
The draft would snap me up from college - So I enlisted in the Navy - Dad told me that in the Army, I'd sleep in the mud - But in the Navy I'd be on a ship and have three squares a day. - I was never a good swimmer. But in Long beach I saw a skinny little sailor in his whites walking by - and said to myself - If he can do it, I can do it. - So I did it.”
The Navy took Doug all over the world and was more or less the spawning ground for both his art and photography skills. Each of Doug’s talents is, in itself, its own whole story. So, I would like to tell about each one that way. Let’s start with his photograph.
Doug walks most places. He always has his camera around his neck and normally is carrying a violin case. And he takes photos of everything and everybody. He has done this for decades and has a “the real thing” photo history of Laguna Beach that goes beyond words. Thousands, and I mean big amounts of thousands, of photos of places and people. Not just your tourist places. He has back streets and houses, sidewalks and trees, things you see but don’t really think about. And people. Everybody he meets and has met he snaps a shot or two. Then he gets names and writes them down in a little book along with their birthdays. He must have a zillion names and birthdays, all of which wind up on big “birthday” paintings that he does each year and displays at the Sawdust Festival. If you have ever met Doug your name is on one of these paintings. The more important you are in his life the bigger your name is. If he ever did a “Doug Millers’ Photo History of the last half century in Laguna Beach,” the thing would be the size of two phone books. His photos are amazing.
“Hong Kong, in the navy, is where I got my first real camera - Photographers mate advised me - and told me to go shoot a lot of film - Get to know the camera and take pictures every day. I was considered by the man in charge of putting the Cruise Book together to be the best photographer aboard - considering there were eleven photographer-mates aboard - So I shot the candid pictures of the crew and got my own section in the Cruise Book - Stayed on an extra two months to finish the job - and that got me to Laguna.”
That’s all I have room for today. But please stay tuned for part two coming up next as we get deeper into the art, the music and the life of Douglas Miller.