Thursday, August 27, 2015

WHO WAS WINNING THE DRAGE RACE ON PARADISE ROAD???


WAS FALFA BEATING MILNER???? Whether Falfa would have won the drag race in American Graffiti may be pure speculation. In the film it looks like the cars were neck in neck and Milner was starting to take the lead when Falfa's car began to run off the road. It’s ambiguous at best. The original rough draft (dated May 10, 1972) script reads, "Falfa's engine is winding incredibly and he begins to get the edge on John. The cars rocket through the dawn light along the flashing white line until Falfa's car hits the shoulder, his front wheel slips off...etc." So in the script it alludes to Falfa taking the lead at some point. However, things look different in the actual film where it looks to me like Milner is gaining on Falfa BEFORE Falfa hits the shoulder. But ultimately, the fact that Milner was winning is given credence by the actor who played Milner, Paul LeMat. When I spoke with actor, Paul LeMat he said that Milner was winning the drag race and he was told to pretend like he thought he lost. “He’s convinced he was losing the race,” said LeMat. “That’s not the fact or the way we were suppose to film it. Here I was thinking I lost the race but it was obvious to other people like Toad that I wasn’t losing the race.” I asked LeMat, Was Milner winning the race? He responded emphatically, “YES.” "But, I was supposed to act like I thought I was losing. I remember,” he continued, “that I tried to work it out without making him look insane that he was sure that he thought his time had come. Like he has obsessed about it so much. The race was so close that that was it for him. That was bad enough. That was worse. ‘I lost it, I lost it!’ LeMat compared it to a boxing match. “It’s similar to a fighter who wins a whole lot of fights and then he just BARELY wins one. He thinks, oh, my God! Did I lose it? I didn’t knock the guy out and he was beating me up. The other times it was so much easier. LeMatt said I still don’t think that scene works ‘cause I get people [fans] saying to me all the time, ‘You won the race what were you talking about?’ So there you have it: MILNER WAS WINNING! Now, go home and get your shine box! 

To see my whole interview with Paul LeMat watch the video below or go to You Tube: 




~ FINE ~

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Irish McCalla

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

NOSTALGIA DAYS: A GLOWING SUCCESS

Yours truly behind the wheel of the most famous car


Last weekend I headed up 101-North to Novato’s Nostalgia Days.  The annual event, run by Marv Giambastiani, included a Friday night cruise with about 200 custom cars “draggin’ the main.” It was so cool. To me the directions for the circuit were slightly confusing and made so many lefts and rights that I almost got whiplash trying to follow the action. I mean that in a fun way of course. Fun with a capital, "F."  Saturday there were plenty of sweet rides and custom machines on display. Bands played ‘50s style rock and roll as a backdrop to the many spectators walking around checking things out and others who sat in the cool shade on the patios of various restaurants on Grant Street.  It’s always fun to attend events such as these because I get to see a lot of friends, many of who own a car or two on display.  This year was no different. Two of the major attractions of the show were the American Graffiti Dream Team, which consists of dedicated hot rod builders who have meticulously cloned many of the major rides featured in the original 1973 movie.  They’re all a great bunch of guys. The other attraction was Candy Clark.
Photo by Alan Mercer
I knew the star of American Graffiti had come to the event so I arrived with my arms filled with memorabilia that I wanted her to sign. I was hoping we could chat for a bit too.  I've met Candy before at several hot-rod shows and have always enjoyed talking with her. She is intelligent, down-to-earth and has a wonderful sense of humor.  Unfortunately, I arrived a bit late due to car problems and as I was looking for the booth where Candy Clark was located my friend, Jim Bergstrom said, "You just missed her, she’s taking off!” 
Photo by Cynthia Simmons
 But, having no shame and wanting desperately to say hi to the actress, I ran after the van shouting “Candy!” Luckily the driver, Ron heard me and braked, stopping the vehicle.This prevented me from making a spectacle of myself. In other words I didn’t have to try grasping onto the bumper and have them drag me through town as, I shouted out the actresses’ name just to get them to stop.  Candy recognized me and playfully said, "You got here late."  I asked if she could sign some Graffiti memorabilia. She asked, “How many things do you have?” I had about 14 items that I’d brought for her to sign including an original poster, a couple of DVDs of her movies and a press kit but not wanting to delay her plane trip I sheepishly said “Three?” She graciously agreed. And, soon she and her entourage were back on their way to the airport. Someday I’m going to have a room specifically filled with American Graffiti posters, lobby cards, etc. signed by Candy and other Graffiti stars.  Someday.  But wait, there's more to our fun filled story so keep scrolling.
Falfa's '55 Field Car owned by Jeff Zastrow
'55 interior
'58 Impala owned by Ken Crawford
The Bucket-T is owned by Ken Crawford and the Red Truck is owned by Jim Bergstrom
40th Anniversary '32 Ford Coupe owned by Jeff Zastrow

Anyway, I was standing there half way in the street recovering from my star-struck state, after having interacted with Candy, when Jeff Zastrow, the owner of the 32 Milner Coupe and 55 Falfa Chevy clone, nudged me and asked, “Hey you want to do something fun? I replied, “What’s that?” thinking he was insinuating dinner with the group.  “You want to drive the yellow coupe?” Before he could finish his question I blurted out, “Yeah!” “Okay, said Jeff, “you can drive it back to the hotel. Just follow me, I'll be driving the black Chevy.” Sure nothing to it.  At first I stalled the engine a couple of times but eventually I got the hang of it and before I knew it I was “John Milner” cruising through the small town with people waving at me. Damn, where were my pack of non-filter Camels when I needed them?
Powered by a modified 327 Chevy engine
I continued to follow the black 55 Chevy, Jeff was driving. Once he took a left on Redwood Road Jeff picked up speed and I followed in pursuit. We were rallying along the long stretch of road with the engines blazing and cars moving out of the way for us.  I remembered earlier Jeff had said that the Coupe had enough power that the front end lifts up off the ground if you accelerate fast enough.  Well once we came to the first stoplight I just had to see if he was right. He was. The torque was amazing.  For about 5 miles I got to test out an astounding car with the engine winding incredibly and live a little bit of a dream that I’ve had since 1974 when I first saw American Graffiti in the theater with my sister, Kary and my dad in Woodland California. It was truly bitchin! Thanks to Marv, Jeff, Ken, Jim, Candy and everyone else for a great weekend!
Later, Alligator!

 ~ FINI ~ 
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Sunday, August 9, 2015

MELS DRIVE-IN: ALIVE IN 1974

(
Mels 140 S. Van Ness San Francisco August 1974

The restaurant drive-through is a staple of modern dining. However before the drive-through there was the drive-in restaurant. While the former offers an experience about as delightful as one’s daily large city commute, the latter, similar to the road trip itself, exists mainly for enjoyment's sake. In addition, when you're in transit and famished, it's a joy to discover local specialties alongside the pervasive burgers, fries and Cokes. From 1947-76 Mels Drive-in was one such place where one had the option of eating in their car, while checking out hot-rods, showing off their custom machine and ogling the opposite sex. The eateries’ 140 S. Van Ness location was the franchise’s flagship and was the place to be before drive-through and simple pick-up menu eateries became the mainstay of cheap modern dining. 

Today’s post features a pic of the drive-ins’ 140 S. Van Ness location in 1974 a year after American Graffiti made its’ debut in late August. It was taken by Mark Lee Goodale. He had the following to say about the picture:
It was in August of 1974. I had just graduated from high school and a friend of mine an I were driving up the coast to meet my girlfriend's family that were on vacation there and we got into town about 3:00 AM and I looked over and there it was: The Mels from American Graffiti!  They weren't open all night but they were lit up all night. We pulled over and slept in the van and in the AM took the picture.
I was already an AG junkie when we took this pic. I had seen the film at least 20 times in high school. I started collecting 45's around that time and the soundtrack was unbelievable. The songs fit so well with the scenes.  We had an 8 track player mounted under the dashboard and played the Beach Boys' ENDLESS SUMMER on the entire road trip.
We drove a 1967 Ford Econoline van. You can only see the back doors with windows (far right) in the Mels photo but this is what it looked like.


For the true exciting story on the closure of the original Mels featured in Graffiti check out the link below:

http://kipsamericangraffiti.blogspot.com/2013/12/mels-circa-early-1950s-welcome-back-to.html


    ~ FINI ~

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NOTES:
  • Goodale, Mark Lee. [photos] received Aug 8, 2015
  • Kronsberg , Matthew. Drive-In Restaurants Worth Going Out of Your Way For. (2014). Dow Jones & Co., Inc.
 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

MELS 1962 GIFT-CARNIVAL $15,000 IN PRIZES

1962 Thunderbird Hardtop 390 special V-8 Cruise-O-matic
Welcome back to Kip Pullman's American Graffiti Blog!  Today's post features a drawing worth $15,000 in prizes.  You could win a RCA transistor radio, a beautiful fur stole, an RCA Victor color TV, a $1,000 diamond ring or the grand prize...  a brand new 1962 Ford Thunderbird. So enter today.  Oh, wait, the drawing has ended. Sorry. Maybe next time. By the way, we do have some old lawn furniture that we've been trying to get rid of, so if your interested let us know. 

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AND THE GRAND PRIZE WINNER...
SAN FRANCISCO FIREMAN WINS NEW THUNDERBIRD

San Francisco Ford Dealer, Al Schlesinger delivers the keys to his new car to Al Williamson of 270 Drake Street as acting mayor, Harold Dobbs and Mel Weiss look on. Williamson was the top prize winner in a recent merchandising promotion conducted by the Mels Drive-in Restaurants.  He is a veteran city employee with nearly 23 years of service to his credit.


~ FIN ~


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Sunday, July 26, 2015

WAY BACK: MOVIE CREWS FILM SCENES IN DOWNTOWN AREA, JUNE 29, 1972


Hey, fellow Graffiti-addicts! Today's post is a 1972 newspaper clipping from Petaluma, CA's local paper, Argus-Courier. It details the night filming that was taking place downtown for a film called American Graffiti. Includes a pic of the coupe with a camera and tow bar attached.  (Thanks to Craig Counsell and John Furrer for sharing.) 

(Click image to enlarge)
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Sunday, July 19, 2015

WAY BACK: A NEW GENERATION LOOKS BACK IN GRAFFITI, L.A. TIMES JULY 29, 1973


Hello fellow Graffiti fans. Welcome back to your one and only Kips American Graffiti Blog. A couple of days before the premiere of American Graffiti on Aug 1, 1973 the principle film critic for the Los Angeles Times, Charles Champlin released a glowing and insightful review about the film in the newspaper. No one could have given the film higher praise and as a result, quotes from Champlin's review were constantly used in press books and ads for the film (such as the one above).  I recently unearthed a copy of Champlin's original Graffiti review. For your reading pleasure I present to you the full film critics' article as it originally appeared in the L.A. Times on July 29, 1973. To miss it is to miss something quite special!

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Click on article to enlarge

During his 26 years at The L.A. Times, Champlin served as the paper's principal film critic from 1967 through 1980.  Throughout his career, Graffiti remained on Champlin's Top 100 American Films list. He wrote several books on film including a coffee table book titled, George Lucas: The Creative Impulse: Lucasfilm's First Twenty Years (1992).  In honor of his film coverage and criticism, Champlin received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2007.

Charles Champlin (March 23, 1926 – November 16, 2014)

 ~ FINI ~


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  • Charles Champlin's Top 100 American Films. Cal State LA University Library. http://web.calstatela.edu/library/mmc/100/1champlin.htm. Retrieved 7/18/2015
  • A New Generation Looks Back in "Graffiti." Los Angeles Times. San Francisco Public Library. http://sfpl.org/ Retrieved 7/16/2015

Sunday, July 12, 2015

WAY BACK: IT'S '62 AGAIN at TAM HIGH, Aug 2, 1972


 Hello fellow readers of Kip's American Graffiti Blog! As I continue on my quest to bring you rare info and artifacts, I stumbled upon this little jem of an article in the San Francsico Chronicle archives.  Although most of Graffiti was filmed in Petaluma the sock hop scenes were filmed at the boys gym at Tamalpais High School, 700 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley, CA. Director, George Lucas and company filmed all the sequences at the gym in one full day.  To learn more keeping reading, Sam!

Click on image to enlarge