There was no parking at the car show. Somehow that made sense. This was not the crowd that took the bus. People drove cars to see cars. I trolled for blocks around the Fairgrounds until I found a spot a mile away from the gate, it seemed. Got to the front gate after a hike, presented my credentials at the ticket booth and said Huzzah, behold the Media; let me pass. They did not let me pass, but stared at my press badge like a Bulgarian passport. “Talk to the guy in the red vest.” That was an old man seated in the shade taking tickets. He looked at my badge with the same consternation.
“You want to do what now?”
I want to come in. Let me in. Don’t give me any not by-the-hair-of-my-chinny-chin-chin business, pops. This is an OFFICIAL PRESS BADGE. He waved me towards the media tent and let me in, and after that I could have just had the run of the joint but I duly signed in and got the thing that bestowed credibility: the laminated rectangle on a string. Once I had that, why, world = oyster. Crack it open and slurp it down, pal.
Found Shari, my Ace Videographer, and we set about finding metal to shoot and people to talk to. It’s a hard crowd for interviews. The men are all in their 50s and 60s, with a few younger examples and a small set of women. The men are taciturn, because whatever they have to say, well, there’s the car, that says it all. If they do say something it’s like this:
Well we had to shave it down six inches to astrate the rust off and then shimmy it up a foot to make it street legal, and then when I took out the hemifold I saw the fram couplers were shot, so, so I found a place, over by Eau Claire, they had a 58 coupler which is pretty much the same as the ’56 here except it has the flange drive they put on the ‘57s, so once we put those in an acid bath for a week or two I got the cramblastulator all setttled. Then my wife died, so I sort of left it alone for a few years, and then some original radio knobs turned up on eBay.”
We found an inordinately long Caddy, and asked if the owner would talk to us about it. He said nothing.
“He doesn’t say much,” said his friend, sitting in a portable chair in the shade. Shari asked if he could come to the end of the car for a shot.
“He doesn’t walk,” said the friend. And we’re now thinking, sorry, we’ll move along -
The owner laughed and stood up and went to the end of the car for a brief interview. Afterwards Shari informed me that the friend had held up a sign in the background: @$$HOLE GARAGE.
Without the euphemisms. I’m trying to keep a clean blog here.
She could blur it out, but jeez. So I went back and said, with a sharp annoyed tone: did one of you put up a sign that said @$$HOLE GARAGE?
The friend nodded, somewhat sheepishly.
“Because,” I said, “our paper has an advertising deal with (insert equally offensive name here), and if you think we’re going to give any air time to @$$HOLE GARAGE, you got another think coming.”
At which point we became GREAT FRIENDS, having proved we were not fancy-pants neeeewwwwspaper types but folks who could take a joke.
I love those guys. They’re the automotive equivalent of the people who repair old master paintings. Their hobby is oil and grease and sheet metal, and their restorative work results in astonishing beauty. Really. They don’t just bring these cars back, they add magic. These cars were never this good. Perhaps it’s because they had company before, so many other fine vehicles with their own style, their own brilliant hues and bright chrome. But they have company here as well: 12,000 cars on the Fairgrounds. The sound and smell when they muttered past was just magnificent.
On the way out I passed between two areas that had DJs playing period music, and both were playing “Cupid” by Sam Cooke. Except they were a few seconds apart. Hearing the song echo with such long delay made it seem like a dream, especially since this was the Fairgrounds. The classic car show is when it feels like summer is just getting started. I’ll be here in two months and change and it will be the Fair again, and summer will be coming to a close. You could ask where the time goes; then you look at all the cars and think it never goes away. It finds a place to rest and stays there, waiting for the splash of gas, the cloth on the brightwork. The turn of the key.
Without additional ado:
That's just a few, of course. I'll have more Tuesday through Thursday.
I'm surprised I haven't got around to this one. It's not in the archives.
I'm not going to give you a review or a blow-by-blow, because that's not what this feature it about. It's about amusing moments, like this:
Thud. Almost a Wilheim! Anyway, you know the drill. Atomic tests awaken an ancient beast. What sets this one apart is the quality work evident in nearly every frame, from NYC shots like this . . .
. . . to the acting talent. The obligatory Old Scientist is Cecil Kellaway, about whom imdb says "Kellaway was always in demand when the part called for a twinkling, silver-haired leprechaun."
There's the Gal Scientist, who is intrigued by Theories:
Paula Raymond, who did a lot of TV. There's a big hunky Cherman mensch she likes, and not just because of his brilliant theories about atomic energy reviving animals who've been dead for millions of years.
Oooh, ahh, and then there's the running and the screaming, which will be the focus of this piece. First, a bit of bygone New York:
McCormack's Bar. They served Schafer's beer and they had television!
There's something depressing about the signs on old bars that said TELEVISION; surely a few old-timers read it as "no conversation or personal interaction anymore." Although they wouldn't have used the word interaction.
This . . . is a great shot. Ray knew his art.
Sometimes the images, taken from context, deserve to be framed as strange, oblique art. . . .
. . . even though he seems to be wearing a dress. He gets eaten. It hurts. One woman sees it all:
Urban despair - but still stylish! Anyway, let's get to the running.
Note how the guy in the middle almost waves to the creature, gives him the peace sign. The guy on the left isn't reacting at all.
Pour it on, Tubby:
Ladies make a snap decision:
Nice shot of the city. Watch out for those i-beams; they're on their way to the Seagram Building:
Stuff must be knocked over; it's one of the rules.
Back at the studio, a calm announcer tells everyone to stay calm.
Fred Aldrich. Not one of those newsmen who played themselves on TV. Most of his roles were things like "Perry Mason (courtroom spectator)" and "Restaurant patron (uncredited.)" He made over 240 pictures and TV shows.
It ends as it must:
And you feel a little sorry for the guy. He didn't ask for this. On the other hand, showing up in New York wasn't a good idea. Ask Zuul.