Friday, August 1, 2014


What, you say you always wanted to be a Pharaoh but owning a car club jacket and learning the secret handshake just wasn't good enough??  Say no more. Here is your chance to own an authentic replica of the original Pharaoh’s Mercury featured in George Lucas' 1973 film, American Graffiti.  That's right the famous American Graffiti tribute car is up for sale!

This 1951 Mercury with a 356 flat head and a three on the tree, was built by the late, Glenn Shimmin of All Rod Custom in Colville Wash. It was put together from various old Mercury cars with the assistance and direction of such Graffiti alumni as transportation supervisor Henry Travers (drove & maintained cars for the film) and Don Orlandi Sr. & son who customized the main cars for the film (i.e., Milner Coupe, '58 Impala, Mercury, etc.)

Since the unexpected passing of owner/builder, Glenn, a few years ago, the car has been owned by the family and maintained by his daughter who inherited her dad’s passion and devotion to cars and the uncanny ability to build and maintain them.

Unfortunately, the family can no longer afford to maintain and show the car so they are presenting an opportunity for the serious American Graffiti fan to own the tribute vehicle. It is truly one of a kind.
Owner/builder, late-great, Glen Shimmin
Because it looks like the owner of the original movie car will not be restoring his broken down vehicle to movie-correct specs or selling it anytime soon, this beautiful tribute car is as close as one could ever get to experiencing the Pharaohs Mercury as it originally appeared in American Graffiti.  Every detail was put forward to be movie correct.

The interior features signatures of actress’s & actors related to the movie.

There is video, scrap books of the building process, and plenty of photos that will make the lucky new owner aware of what this car represents.

Mercury with original '58 Impala movie car and other Graffiti Tribute cars
It is hoped that the new owner of the car would be interested and capable of occasional travel to some feature events in nearby states with TRIBUTE TEAM AMERICAN GRAFFITI.

 When Glen first built this awesome tribute car I talked with him about the led sled.  Check out my interview with him as he discusses the building process.


 For further information:
 Facebook: tributeteam americangraffiti
 Contacts: Kim Shimmin at 509-680-1982/ owner
 Or, Chairman Ken Crawford at
 Phone 503-387-3304

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Bad boy gang members, The Pharaohs intimidate a worried Curt [Richard Dreyfuss]
By contributing writer, Charlie Lecach 
Even though their low-riding, Flathead powered Mercury is probably far from being the fastest car in the Valley, the members of the PHARAOHS [Bo Hopkins, Manuel Padilla, Jr, & Beau Gentry] are among the coolest kids in director, George Lucas’ 1973 nostalgic film, American Graffiti. These hoods appear to be the real badass guys who would eventually tie you to their rear bumper and drag you through Paradise Road or some other abandoned stretch of asphalt in Sonoma County (where parts of the movie were filmed). At least that’s what they would like Curt Henderson [Richard Dreyfuss] to believe but besides breaking into a few pinball machines and ripping off a police car’s rear axle, they don’t seem to be that bad. Just as most car club members from the 1950’s and 1960’s used to be in real life: Mostly grown up teenagers with cheap cars, trying to make them go faster, cruising all night to pick up girls and having fun “as usual.”
Thousands of these car clubs used to be spread all over the continent back then and it seems like each small town even hosted a few of them. Sometimes you could run into bigger organizations but most of the clubs consisted of 5 to 10 friends who chose a name, a logo, had a few car coats embroidered and some club plaques cast (quite often in a high school casting and foundry class). In the film, American Graffiti, PHARAOHS seem to be one of those smaller groups, as we just know about Joe [Bo Hopkins], Carlos [Manuel Padilla, Jr.], Ants [Beau Gentry] and most probably Gil Gonzales and Toby Juarez, who are mentioned in the dialogue.
During the fifties and sixties, there were many real car clubs across the USA called the PHARAOHS. Here’s a list of some cities where they could be found : Alamosa, Bassett, Braintree, Chicago, Eveleth, Flint, Delano, Deward, Eureka, Hurricane, North Sacramento, Genie, Phoenix, Oakland, Pocatello, Lake Stevens, Saint Paul, Braintree, Poplar Bluff, Santa Rosa, Del Mar, Munday, El Monte, Fort Worth, Fowler, Saint Louis County, Glenview, Little Egypt, Amarillo, Malden, Bassett, Oxnard, Pittsburgh, Raytown, Roseville, Salinas, Berdoo, Scottsbluff, Minneapolis, South Bend, Spokane, Clifton, Southland, Swanton, Toledo, Wilmington and a few more.

Back then, some clubs indeed preferred to spell their name PHAROAHS, like in Fremont, Seward, Mount Vernon, Mokes Lake, Tri Cities / WA or Concord. One club is known for spelling its name PHAROS and there was even one FAROS car club in Modesto, California, which was active between 1957 and 1973. Most likely, the name of the car club gang in Graffiti was inspired by the very same FAROS who cruised the streets of Modesto while director, George Lucas was growing up there in the late-1950s and early-1960s.



If you’re among those Graffiti fans who like to dissect each image of the movie, you might have noticed some other gangs hanging around in front of Mels. For example, after having spent the night with the Pharaohs, Curt [Richard Dreyfuss] is dropped off at the drive-in (originally located at 140 S. Van Ness Blvd. in San Francisco, CA). As he's walking to his Citro├źn 2CV Curt passes a few car buffs wearing club coats.  During this scene, at least two different clubs can be clearly identified: the Quick Changers and the Road Runners, both from Marin County. These clubs really existed and it’s most likely that some of their members were used as extras. After all, the few hot rods seen in American Graffiti - other than Milner’s Deuce which was a movie prop - must have belonged to some real hot rodders…
Thanks to Bill Junge for the photos of these car club plaques. Bill has gathered thousands of images and just finished a new version of his old website, listing and showing all these cast aluminum plaques,  If you want him to put you on his list of information to know when the new site will updated, please drop him a line:  
~ FIN ~

Sunday, March 9, 2014


  Just as they were beginning to break into the arcade's pinball machines to steal money for gas, car club hoods, The Pharaohs, are caught off guard by the sudden presence of the proprietor.  Not wanting to create trouble, Curt (Richard Dreyfuss) covers for the three hoods, by telling the proprietor that they’re his friends.

Back in 1972, when George Lucas was directing American Graffiti with a very limited budget, (approx. $750,000) nobody could guess that one day some Graffiti fans would dissect each image of the movie to point out the smallest goofs and anachronisms. But they do. And we have. In today’s entry of Kip’s American Graffiti Blog contributing writer, Charlie Lecach helps enlighten us on one of the anachronisms in the films: The pinball machines! 

And as you read, remember you can click on any of the  fascinating photos on this page to enlarge them, so as to appreciate their beauty & detail.  And, its all free at no extra cost to you, the dedicated & loyal Kip's American Graffiti Blog reader! 
Director, George Lucas on-location at the miniature golf & arcade in Pinole, CA  circa 1972
There were no sets used in American Graffiti.  Since a major portion of the film’s budget was going towards securing the rights to old rock and roll records, there wasn’t a lot of money to be spent on things such as designing sets.  Filming in real locations was much less expensive. This is one of the reasons every scene had planned to be shot on-location in the San Francisco bay area.  

So, when the crew needed to shoot scene # 48, with Curt and the Pharaohs robbing an arcade, Graffiti’s location manager, Nancy Giebink found a nearby small miniature golf course and arcade (referred to as the "Hole-In-One” in the shooting script) located in the town of Pinole on San Pablo Road.  

As it happens, most of the games in the arcade were typical modern machines found in most arcades at the time.  None of the pinball machines were made before the 1962 time period set in the film. The earliest model game in the arcade was made in 1965. It would have been ridiculous to lose time and money searching for period correct pinball machines, so Lucas chose to shoot the hilarious scene at the location exactly as it was, probably hoping that most film-goers would not notice how new the machines were.

Click to enlarge, or by accident. Whatever works.

With an establishing interior shot of the small arcade, viewers could see the following pinball machines, from left to right (with each brand and year of manufacture):  Wild Wild West (Gottlieb 1969), Royal Guard (Gottlieb 1968), Skyrocket (Bally 1971), Vampire (Bally 1971), Buckaroo (Gottlieb 1965), and Ball Park (Williams 1968).  Below are original brochure and trade-ad art work for the games seen in the film.

Royal Guard (Gottlieb 1968)
Wild Wild West (Gottlieb 1969)

Skyrocket (Bally 1971)
Vampire (Bally 1971)
Buckaroo (Gottlieb 1965)

Ball Park (Williams 1968) 

Much bigger in size, Ball Park wasn’t really a pinball but rather a bat game with a mechanical back-box animation. Baseball before electronics. Of course, car club hoods, the Pharaohs didn’t mind which kind of arcade game they’d rob, period correct or not. As long as they could “take along a little piece of this place” as proprietor, Hank told Curt before saying goodbye…

~ FINE ~

Thursday, February 13, 2014


Hey welcome back to Kip Pullman's American Graffiti Blog. I trust everyone had a decent holiday and you're well rested and have already gotten back into the groove of the daily grind. This month were gonna get a small taste of some of the early sounds of Rhythm & Blues/ Soul radio that disc jockey, Wolfman Jack helped make popular in the mid-1960s and early-1970s.  We've got some record surveys and very rare air-checks you can't find anywhere else.  Gonna blow your mind, baby. Most pix & surveys on this page can be enlarged for your pleasure by clicking on them. Soooo... let's get this party started!!
Wolfman burps on the telephone operator as he segues into "Gimme Shelter" by The Stones!!!
I Passed out seven times when I first heard this clip.

In the mid-1960s Bob Smith aka Wolfman Jack was working as the manger of a small daytime-only radio station, KUXL, 1570 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As manager, Smith helped station operator, Marvin Kosofsky change the programing from strictly religious to a more youth-oriented format: Rhythm & Blues.  The station broadcast continuous tapes of religious preachers during the mornings but from 1:00 in the afternoon until sundown KUXL played R & B records from the likes of Ike & Tina Turner, B.B. King, and The Four Tops.  The station also sponsored dances & concerts featuring performers such as The Temptations, Jimmy Reed, and Jr. Walker.  Even though he was the manager, Smith never broadcast from the Minneapolis station as Wolfman Jack during the time that that he was there.
KUXL R&B Hit List, November 1968

Here's a rare KUXL air-check with DJ, Admiral Richard E from 1967 (provided by Curt Lundgren)

KUXL Super Soul Thirty,  July 1972

Opening of Wolfman's XERB show segues into "Chain of Fools" by Aretha Franklin

Aware of  the immense popularity of the tiny station, Smith got dollar signs in his eyes and decided to apply the exact same format of paid-programming mixed with current R & B to take over the high-powered, 50, 000 watt Mexican station, XERB, 1090 AM. The transmitter sight for the station was located near the costal resort city of Rosarito Beach in the Mexican state of Baja California which is about 10 miles south of the California, U.S. border.  Helping with the new adventure were KUXL disc jockeys, Art Hoehn (a.k.a. Fat Daddy Washington) and Ralph Hull (a.k.a. Preacher Paul Anthony and The Nazz).  At first, beginning in late-1965, they operated the "Big X" from Minneapolis, then relocated to offices in Los Angeles, California in 1966.

A facsimile of the station's 1966 schedule. Turf Craft racing results & Glory Bound Train were (unannounced) paid advertising income for the station.

The station’s new format was a complete success. XERB had been a Country music radio station before Bob Smith & company took over.  The new "Super Soul" format was quite an exciting change, and on top of it all, they had the mysterious and outrageous, Wolfman Jack howlin’ and prowlin' over the airwaves for 6 hours every single night. Have mercy!!! 

 This faux air-check that I mixed is a good example of the diversity & craziness on XERB 1.) A frantic live version of "Ain't it Funky, Now," by James Brown, 2.) Phone Call, "Secret Agent Spy Scope" (original phone call which was later edited and used in the film, American Graffiti), segues into 3.) "Key to the Highway" by Freddie King (circa 1970).

XERB Record survey July 1967   Compare this "Soul Monster" record survey to that of KRLA's Top-40 survey also from July 1967 (further below)

Wolfman waxes poetically over "Let's Get it On" by Marvin Gaye (1973)
A March 1969 QSL post card from XERB engineers confirming that the recipient had indeed heard the station.  To get a QSL card from XERB (or any radio station) a listener would need to send a reception report to the station giving information about what they heard & the reception conditions.
XERB RECORD SURVEY, October 7, 1967. Although the XERB transmitter towers were in Rosarito Beach, in the Mexican state of Baja California, the station operated as though it were a local Los Angeles/Hollywood station and used many local L.A. sponsors. 

Radio ad for a free autograph picture of Wolfman & an XERB record survey (circa 1967)

XERB Super Soul-21 Survey, May 10, 1969
Wolfman gets heavy with "Hey Big Brother" by Rare Earth (1971)

While Wolfman's shows become more eclectic, XERB's "Soul" format became limited to specific shows by DJs such as Bill Harris as this 12/22/1969 survey shows.

By 1971 Wolfman had lost control of station XERB and had to hand the controls back over to the Mexican owners. With Wolfman's management out of the way, the station owners tried to duplicate his successful formula.  They changed the call letters to X-E-P-R-S and programmed soul music, calling the station “The Soul Express.” Wolfy still broadcast for a little while under the new ownership, but left soon afterwards.
Wolfman got to keep the call letters, X-E-R-B but the Mexican owners kept the station's frequency and facilities and renamed it X-E-P-R-S. This survey is from 8/20/1971.
 In the 1960s and early-'70s, the number-one radio station in the Los Angeles market was KRLA, 1110 AM. The station boasted a high-powered 50,000 watt signal during the day which was reduced to 10,000 watts in the evening. The popular station KRLA was blessed with some extremely talented on-air talent including: The "Real" Don Steele, Casey Kasem, Bob "Emperor" Hudson, Dave Hull "The Hullabalooer," and much later, Wolfman Jack (1984-87).

Here's a KRLA scoped (music removed) air-check from Sept.1965 featuring The Emperor, Bub Hudson. Incidentally, 2 yrs later, a film student at USC named George Lucas would feature Hudson in one of his student films titled, THE EMPEROR
The primary local daytime competition for Wolfman's station XERB, with a similar R & B format, was the Los Angeles soul station, KGFJ 1230 AM, but in the evening only XERB, with it's far-reaching, 50,000 watt signal bouncing across the ionosphere, could be heard throughout most of North America, west of the Rocky Mountain range. After a couple of years XERB's R & B format eventually became more inclusive of Top-40 rock found on other LA stations such as KRLA.  For a little over five years XERB, with Wolfman Jack at the helm, was the hip station to listen to at night.
This KGFJ Top 25 Rhythm & Blues record survey from the beginning of 1967 shows "(I Know) I'm Losing You" by The Temptations holding fast at number one for the second week in a row. One of the station's DJs, Magnificent Montague later joined the lineup at XERB.

~ FINE ~

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


The little red sports car spun out of control, breaking through the guard rail and crashing onto the rocks below. A fireball not unlike a nuclear explosion. But a moment later, the KING stepped unhurt from the flames, one arm around a beautiful blonde and holding a big bottle filled with pills of all kinds. And he winked and he waved and he shook when he laughed and he said, “I’m alive, I’m alive.” And the KING shall come when the KING comes.  

♬  ♪  ♬   MERRY CHRISTMAS!   ♪  ♫  ♬



Sunday, December 22, 2013


On December 23, 1955 this picture and the following text were printed in a local San Francisco newspaper:
J. C. Bonzani, manager of Bank of America's 16th and Mission branch, holds his hands to receive 20 Christmas Club Savings Plan books from Mrs. Dorothy Gregory, a Mels Drive-In employee. Looking on is Raymond E. Walker, fountainman at the drive-in, who likes the Christmas Club idea so well he makes collections each payday from 20 fellow workers and takes the money and their club books to the bank.

The Christmas Club used to be a staple in American banking, which in retrospect seems crazy.  Customers gave the bank money every month.  The bank paid them little or no interest and would not let them take out their money until December 1st.  In addition, there were many fees and other restrictions, including substantial penalties for early withdraw.  And yet, Americans would cheerfully put their money in these ridiculous Christmas Club accounts even though those same dollars could have been earning interest in a regular savings account. So, why did people do this? Because Americans assumed if their money was in a regular account they would spend it.  So, they were essentially asking the bank to tie their hands. Makes sense, right? 


Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Where are all the customer's cars?  Probably at McDonalds. By the time this pic was taken eateries like McDonalds were heavy competition for Mels and similar restaurants.  Circa early-1970s.
Welcome back to Kip Pullman's American Graffiti Blog where we get the truth on all things Graffiti related.  Contributing writer, Charlie Lecach recently sent me a newly acquired newspaper picture of the first Mel's drive-in right before it was demolished. This inspired me to make another attempt to put to rest an often printed historical inaccuracy. This one in particular is, of course, about The Mels Drive-in featured in the 1973 classic, American Graffiti. Let's discuss the lie first, then we'll clarify with the truth afterwords. The popular fabrication goes something like this: The Mels drive-in featured in the film had been closed down for some time and was about to be demolished in 1972 but was reopened briefly just for the production of the film and then razed by the time the movie hit the theaters. Pardon my language but, BULLSHIT! This folklore has been repeated so many times as though it were a well-established fact. I believe Michael Karl Witzel's popular 1994 book, The American Drive-in is partly to blame and may possibly be the original source from which this rumor is based. In it, he says,
"As colorful marquees were scheduled for removal, it appeared to many local enthusiasts that Mel's success story was about to end. [sic] The original Mels burger spot came to [Director, George Lucas's] attention and was leased prior to its demolition. Crews descended on the site and soon it was over again. Mels was back in business, immortalized in 35mm."
 Then  Witzel erroneously states,
"As the bulldozers razed the last remnants of the historic drive-in and trucks carted off the debris, American Graffiti opened in theaters."
In the author's defense, he may have been speaking metaphorically about the ending of an era, blah, blah, blah. The whole thing has a nice poetic ring to it.  The problem is however, that many have taken these words literally and rephrased them and turned them into "fact."  Do a quick Google or BING web engine search and you'll find similar statements all over the web.   Even the Mels Drive-in website has quoted Witzel's book in their history section. Oy Vey!

The restaurant shines beautifully at night in American Graffiti.

Donna Wehr  c. 1972
But, as the saying goes; A lie no matter how many times you repeat it is still a lie. As I've explained here before on my blog: The truth is that in 1972 when the location manager for American Graffiti, Nancy Giebink was scouting for a drive-in building to be used in the film the Mels Drive-in restaurant located at 140 South Van Ness San Francisco, CA was very much open for business.  This has been substantiated by Dennis Kay, the former director of operations for Fosters West, the owner of Mels in the early-1970s. Kay was responsible for making the arrangements for filming. Kay recalled, “We only closed for business on the nights of filming and re-opened the next day. Weeks after filming was completed, they called and said some film had been lost on the cutting room floor, so we had one more night of filming.”  American Graffiti was first released in August 1973 and Kay remembers the restaurant continued to remain open for several more years after the film's initial release.  For more on this see Part 2 of my article, Mels Drive-in The True Story.

Mackenzie Phillips on-location in the Mels' parking lot c. July 1972

The, now legendary, eatery first opened it's doors for business on December 23, 1947 and remained open and standing for almost 29 years before it was finally demolished sometime in the Fall of 1976.  In other words, The Mels drive-in featured in Graffiti was not razed until four years after filming was complete and three years after the film was first released in theaters. It was not demolished right after filming took place. Ya know, it's amazing the way historical trivialities such as these can get distorted.  If historians can't even get small details like these right, it kind of makes you wonder about the reporting accuracy of big things like the United States astronauts going to the moon. Who knows,  maybe the Apollo missions were really just weekend benders in Las Vegas.

This Kodak Instamatic camera photo appears to give credence to the fact that the patronage of a business that reportedly once was so busy it required 5 policemen directing traffic had really thinned out by the mid-1970s.. BTW: The parked CHP car appears to be a 1974 or '75 Dodge Monaco.  (Thanks Thom Soncrat & Jay Sparks!)

Oh, I almost forgot, I mentioned the photo of Mels that Mr. Lecach shared with me at the beginning of the post which inspired me to write this...well, here it is:

Caption on back of photo reads: 
Mels Drive-In in San Francisco which served 3,000 meals a day during the 1950s and '60s, is pictured shortly before it was turned into a parking lot. The change mirrors a national trend away from curbside dining. AP Wire photo. 1976

And here, 10 years later (1986) is the Milner coupe in the former Mels Drive-in parking lot

✶ FINE ✶

Matchbook cover   c. 1972
The buggy design on this book of matches also appeared on the drive-in's menus and can be spotted on the talk boxes in American Graffiti.
  • American Graffiti Filming Locations (June - August, 1972). Petaluma California's Salute to American Graffiti.
  • Old, Traditional Drive-in Yields to Fast-Food Site. Lawrence Journal World. Nov 17, 1976. 
  • Witzel, Michael Karl. The American Drive-In: History and Folklore of the Drive-in Restaurant in American Car Culture.  Motorbooks International; 1st Edition September 1994.