A few years ago I got to hang out with Dennis “Grave Digger” Anderson during filming of a program for SPEED TV. Dennis and the whole crew are incredibly down to earth! I did have a problem though. For some reason I kept forgetting how to say Poplar Branch…the North Carolina home town of the Grave Digger and many other famous monster trucks. The show producer wanted to strangle me. I kept saying “Poplar BLUFF”. I don’t know why. It just happens. But Dennis was very cool about it …he even nick named me “rain man”. Not sure why…
This photo appeared in HOT ROD magazine in 1998 and depicts the staff at the time. I’m standing behind the car (fifth from the left) along with the rest of the crew. I spent 7 years as Tech Editor at HOT ROD and still regard it as the high point of my career. It was an honor to work with legends like Gray Baskerville (far left) and Ro McGonegal (seated on running board, far right). Also visible here are fellow staffers who would go on to great things of their own. To my left in the picture are JHeff Koch and Terry McGean. If you read Hemmings Muscle Machines you’ll recognize Terry as the Editor In Chief and Jeff as a Feature Editor (he also contributes regularly to Hemmings Classic Car and Hemmings Sports & Exotic). Gray Baskerville sadly passed away in February 2002, but his all-steel ’32 roadster lives on. I’ll never forget working with this dedicated and fun loving crew of car fanatics.
These lovelies descended upon me during one of the four 2011 Barrett-Jackson auctions. If you guessed it was at the Las Vegas event, you are correct.
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.