Fueled By Fame
From Jay’s jokes to Capone’s Caddy, celebrity ups the cachet of Car Week.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Someone once paid $3,154 for toast. No edible gold sprinkled on it, either.
Apparently Justin Timberlake didn’t finish his French toast during a breakfast interview, and the opportunistic radio DJ who hosted him shoveled it up and took it to eBay.
Note: This is not an isolated incident.
Scarlett Johansson blew her nose on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno; the tissue sold for $5,300. Britney Spears traversed into berserk and hit a car with an umbrella; it went up for auction at $25,000 (but was promptly taken down before bids leap-frogged higher).
The takeaway is simple. Given the right past owner, suddenly “used” sounds really good – something the auction houses swarming Monterey County understand implicitly. And their items are much more like the John Lennon Steinway that George Michael paid $2 million for instead of Scarlett’s sneeze rag – they can actually do something. Reggie Jackson’s cars, for instance – which have become as much of a fixture on the Peninsula in August as he once was at the World Series in October – can still lay some serious scratch.
Moreover, just as Michael can day-dream about Lennon crafting “Imagine” on ivories he now owns while writing the next “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” those who claim Queen Elizabeth II’s 1984 Daimler Double Six (selling in downtown Monterey this weekend) can practice their royalty wave from anywhere in the roomy interior, and the biggest bidders on the 1968 Maserati Ghibli Coupe Sammy Davis Jr. bought new can crack “What have I got? No looks, no money, no education. Just talent” or “You don’t swing where you sleep” while coasting down Highway 1.
Whoever ends up with the Marx Brothers’ 1928 Boattail Speedster Benz can grow Groucho mustaches that wiggle in the droptop wind – or revisit the famous Muroc Match Race against Phil Berg’s Duesenberg Model J on the dry lakes of East L.A. The right price will give one investor a chance to take Al Capone’s bulletproof 1928 Caddy to the racetrack with no fear of gunfire, or steer Bing Crosby’s 1966 Aston Martin DB6 to Pebble Beach’s first tee along 17-Mile Drive (while singing “White Christmas”). Just like the man who starred in The Magnificent Seven and The Thomas Crown Affair, whoever claims Steve McQueen’s 1957 Jaguar XKSS 713 can do their own stunts. And some lucky bidder will be able to command his mechanic to, “ask not what President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy’s ’62 Lincoln Continental ‘Bubbletop’ limousine can do for you, but what you can do for its fuel pump.” After all, they will say, a man may die, nations may rise and fall, but a limo lives on.
Carroll Shelby’s cars didn’t come with fame, riches and influence. His fame, riches and influence came because of the cars.
No American had won 24 Hours of LeMans before Shelby. But despite the fact that the Texas native and iconic car designer stole a world championship from the heart of European racing, he’s rarely given much love for it. Alas, such is life when your design creativity births more memories than your competitiveness.
“He designed for performance, cachet, muscle – everything that American cars represented,” local Car Week fixture and Quail Motorsport Gathering collaborator Gordon McCall says. “Shelby does represent the epitome when it comes to being a success in the car world.”
Shelby, now 87, will attend a Friday Quail event that will include a historic wad of Shelby Mustang muscle, and some of his signature chili being served by local celeb chef Julio Ramirez. Just over the Laureles Grade, Patrick Dempsey will race a Mazda GTP car. And the Concours d’Elegance just announced film industry-changing Roger Corman will attend. In other words, there are more forms of fame rolling around Monterey County than cars with past head-of-state owners.
Jay Leno, whose garage includes 51 motorcyles, 22 Corvettes, seven Duesenbergs, four hybrids, 12 electric vehicles, a 1954 Divco Milk Truck and a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, will again anchor the Concours d’Elegance afternoon, having fun with whoever wins items from the charity auction.
“He teases the person mercilessly,” says Concours rep Kandace Hawkinson. “They’re run through a gauntlet of Jay Leno humor.”
Former Running Man Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wasn’t exempt a year ago as he pimped low-emission luxury.
“‘I like dee caars of dee Caaar Week,’” Leno lampooned, “‘and, as paaart of my plaaan for Caleefornyah, everybaady gets dee Bentley.’”
This year one of the biggest stars on the nearby 18th fairway grass is mechanical. The Fastest Indian in the World had a 2005 movie made about it featuring Anthony Hopkins.
“You live more in five minutes on a bike like this going flat out,” says Hopkins’ Burt Munro, who designed and rode the record setter, “than some people live in a lifetime.”
“In this case,” Hawkinson says, “the [vehicle] itself is a celebrity.”
Apparently the celebrity pull is so strong that the group committed to creating the ultimate anti-Car Week experience is powerless to resist.
Last year, organizer-emcee Alan Galbraith and his merry band of bucketlovers decorated egregious Gremlins, repulsive VW buses and offensive Hearses with ribbons for classes like Unmitigated Gaul-Pre 1970 as part of the first-ever Concours d’LeMons in Toro Park.
“Many of the cars you see win,” he told the rowdy crowd, “could burst into flames, or require tetanus shots to touch.”
But for their second annual, Galbraith and the gang have gathered the most famous example of arguably the most unique (and downright practical) genre on the road today: the original prototype for the modern minivan. Somewhere, Lee Iacocca is grinning his ass off.
Despite the fact that he’s bringing in a pop idol, Galbraith insists his cars are of another ilk than the rest of Car Week. “Guaranteed that none of these cars were ever owned by Elvis,” he says.
Technically, neither was the clump of Presley hair that sold on eBay back in the day. Even though it was “used,” it went for $15,000.