I wish I could say Dennis Hopper and I were good buddies. The fact is, when I snapped this picture of him in May of 2004, he wasn’t very happy with me. We were gathered at the premiere screening of a made for TV movie called The Last Ride. Hopper was in the movie which featured a number of then-new Pontiac GTO’s. I was sent to the premiere by High Performance Pontiac magazine to get the story. I was granted a few minutes with Hopper to interview him and have him pose with one of the movie cars (a single exhaust ’04 GTO with a fake dual exhaust outlet – to emulate the look of the 2005 treatment). Somehow I sensed he was tired and suggested “you don’t have to kneel with the car if your knees hurt”. I guess I was being presumptive about his health, he was offended and became silent. We skipped the interview.
I’ve been told I have a face for radio. Not sure if that’s a compliment or not, so far my only radio experience is a regular visitor to the studios of 99.1 WPLR in Connecticut. In the days before each Barrett-Jackson collector car event, the morning team of Chaz & AJ ask me to do a quick segment about what to watch for and what’s going to break the bank. Serious car dudes (Chaz has a late model Mustang GT350H and AJ has a ’63 Fairlane with Thunderbolt mods) we hope the exposure motivates WPLR listeners in the metro-Connecticut / New York City listening range to tune in to the auction. Check out the WPLR website for AJ’s Car Of The Day!
At the same NHRA Museum event, I crossed paths with Tom “Mongoose” McEwen (back to camera) and Don “Snake” Prudhomme. Don is a regular at the Barrett-Jackson auctions. As I write this, I’m trying to put together a comedy bit for the upcoming 2013 Scottsdale auction where Don and I have some on-camera fun with a pair of Hot Wheels cars. Time will tell if we get it done or not. On related news, keep your eyes out for the upcoming feature film “Mongoose and Snake” a bio-pic about the legendary exploits of Wildlife Racing – the first big time non-automotive drag race sponsorship. You do remember the Mattel Hot Wheels-sponsored Mongoose and Snake Duster / ‘Cuda funny cars, don’t you? Me too!
Dave McClelland and I were teamed as co-hosts for a number of episodes of the old HOT ROD Magazine TV, back when SPEED TV was still Speed Vision. I had known of Dave – and his booming voice – since hearing him announce NHRA drag races on the ABC Wide World of Sports TV show as a kid. Like Garlits, I never dreamed I’d be working with him later in life. Here, I’m getting his thoughts during an event at the NHRA Museum of Drag Racing in Pomona. Dave is a truly generous man on camera. He went out of his way to give me equal time – and weight – during our work together. He also owns a 1970 Buick GS455 ragtop…yep it’s a factory Stage 1, four-speeder too!
Andy Milonakus (center) was working for the Jimmy Kimmel Show when he interviewed me and fellow altered wheelbase funny car fanatic Richard LeFebvre (right). We were at the Irwindale Raceway running our altered wheelbase cars down the 1/8 mile strip when Andy’s ABC crew cornered us for a few words. Here, we are attempting to describe the basics of drag racing. I’m saying something like “the two cars have to line up evenly for a fair start”. I have no idea if this bit ever made it to air.
Seasoned magazine readers will know Jim McFarland (left) as a regular contributor to HOT ROD since the Sixties. Also a stellar engineer and public relations guy (he served at Edelbrock for many years), I used to ask Jim to proof read some of my more technical writings at HOT ROD. He always added something of worth – and occasionally steered me away from making mistakes. Jim is a living legend in the car magazine world. Another of my favorites was Roger Huntington. Though deceased, Huntington’s writings for all of the major magazines were toned like a personal letter from a pal. He had a way of bringing the reader into the discussion like few others.
I have always had a soft spot for stand up comedians. When I lived in LA I used to hit The Comedy Store on Sunset for a late night pick-me-up. There on every night of the year, hundreds of known and unknown comics do their thing. Here I am with (L to R) Brody Stevens, Don Barris, (former SPEED TV executive) David Lee, an unidentified comic and yours truly. While I’ve never attempted stand up myself, it is one of those things I know I must attempt before I croak. To me, comics are as brave as astronauts.
Brad Whitford may not have the same level of instant recognition factor as Steven Tyler, but as soon as this world class guitarist plugs in, you know where a good chunk of Aerosmith’s sound comes from. Also a car fanatic, I put Brad to the test during a Feel The Steel segment at the Barrett-Jackson Las Vegas show in September, 2012. Brad mentioned he had owned a few 1967 Corvettes so that’s what I chose for him to try and identify – while blind folded. Guess what…he got it. Some folks ask, “Is Feel the Steel rigged?” No way. I kid you not. The task is really a lot easier than it looks. Try it sometime and I bet you’ll eventually get it right. The trick is this: go to the hood scoop! That’s the best tip-off. From there, you need to have a good understanding of grille shapes and textures. But this is real folks!
Big Daddy Don Garlits is another legendary guy I used to read about as a kid in the mid-Seventies. Who knew we’d become first-name pals. Though it’s certainly a much bigger deal for me than for Big, I’m thrilled whenever I get the chance to do an interview with this drag racing pioneer. His memory is as sharp as a 20 year old. Here we’re chatting about his then-new 392 (Gen III ) Hemi powered front-engine retro dragster at the 2008 SEMA show.
Ralph Gilles (pronounced “geel”) is the top man at the Dodge SRT branch. I met up with him during the 2012 Woodward Dream Cruise in Detroit. I was there on behalf of RedlineDodge.com (doing live and pre-taped video segments for online viewers) and Ralph came by the Dodge display on the corner of Woodward and 14 Mile. Ralph has the guts to tell it like it is and recently took aim at Donald Trump via Twitter for some innacurate and unfortunate remarks about the future of Jeep. You probably heard about it in the news. I say Good On You Ralph for standing up and setting the record straight!