In 2014, I interviewed George for Autobody News. Here are some excerpts from that interview:
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
George Barris is a legendary vehicle customizer, well-known for his celebrity creations that include the Batmobile, Munster Koach, KITT from Nightrider and the Dukes of Hazard’s General Lee. In addition to building vehicles, Barris authored many “how to” articles for magazines, such as Hot Rod Magazine, Motor Trend, Car Craft and Rod & Custom. As a pioneer and icon in the industry, Barris continues to actively influence the industry’s styles and trends. A regular attendee at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, Barris is admired and respected by many in the industry. He was also my friend and that's why I was saddened when I found out earlier today that he died last week.
In 2014, I interviewed George for Autobody News. Here are some excerpts from that interview:
Q: Tell us about the first car you got paid to customize and a little about your childhood.
GB: My parents owned a restaurant called Dan’s Grill in Roseville, CA right on the edge of town. When I was 15, my dad taught me how to be the dishwasher but it didn’t interest me at all, so I focused on my models pretty much. About a year later, we moved to San Juan, CA and that’s where I got my first customizing job. A kid drove up in a 1932 Ford and told me he wanted to customize the car. I told him that I was going to put in a set of cat eye tail lights and he agreed to pay me 10 bucks. 10 bucks! And that’s when I determined that I would make it a career. I thought, I’m going to be a big customizer and a billionaire! (laughs) I made up my mind right there that I would name my company Kustoms of America. I threw that “C” out of there and turned it into a “K.” People use it now all the time, but I was the one who came up with it when I was 16.
Q: Your first passion was building models as a teenager and you won a lot of awards for doing it. Please talk about that hobby and how it turned into bigger and better things.
GB: As I said before, we grew up in Roseville, CA and one day I went to the five and dime store and saw a flyer announcing a model airplane contest. I would go in there with a model car and they would tell me, ‘This is for airplane models’ and I told them I’m into cars. I want four wheels, not two wheels! We stuck to it and eventually we started winning some contests. That’s how we started in the model business with Revell. Then, in 1960, I started working with Aluminum Model Toys (AMT), a company that was making models for all the car companies. So, I was able to see how the new cars looked before they hit the market. That way, I could create models of them well before anyone had seen them, so I had an advantage there. I made custom kits for those vehicles and then eventually we started making 3-in-1 model kits, so that the hobbyists could pick which design to use. That way, they could customize the models and use their creativity. During that time Lee Iacocca from Ford Motor Company started something called the Ford Custom Car Caravan, where they would take this little racing track and go out there and do model racing. We went to all the World of Wheels and Motorama shows and it got very popular real fast.
Q: Meeting Robert E. Petersen (the founder of Hot Rod and Motor Trend) was also a big deal and brought you a lot of worldwide attention. Your “How-To” articles in these magazines became popular as well. Describe that long-running relationship with Petersen and how it brought the Barris name to the hot rod world.
GB: We called him “Pete” and I met him when he was 18 and he was putting on a car show in L.A., and everyone loved it. After that, he started Hot Rod, then Car Craft, Rod & Custom and I got involved in all of it. As a result, people all over the world got to know my name. I wrote columns and helped Pete with his “little book” series and we also started the very first Motorama car show, which we held right next to the Chinese Grauman’s Theatre in Los Angeles and that was a winner and a half. I had 60 cars in there, including the Batmobile and the Munsters cars and it was the #1 car show in the world. They closed down Hollywood Boulevard and that was the first time that ever happened. Don Prudhomme did a burnout with his dragster right down the middle of the street. Boy, that was an exciting time!
Q: Of all the celebrities you customized vehicles for over the years, who was your favorite?
GB: There was one young man and I was doing a limousine for him and he would come into the shop to visit and check on our progress now and again. One day, he walked into the garage area where we were working on the car and started talking to my guys one-by-one. He knew everyone’s names and everything about them, asking about their kids and families, etc., because he really cared about them. He wasn’t just doing it to impress anyone , he was doing it because he wanted to. And that was Elvis Presley—a really wonderful man. He cared about people and did everything for everybody. He was an exceptional individual. I did a Cadillac, a bus and a limousine for Elvis and we became very good friends with him and Priscilla. He was a real car guy, that’s for sure.
Q: Some of your first film work involved working with Alfred Hitchcock. After that you worked with Orson Welles and provided special vehicles for movies like The Car, The Silencers, Thunder Alley and Fireball 500. How was it working with top names and creating cars for the film industry?
GB: My first movie was High School Confidential with John Barrymore. Jr. where we built a cute little chopped Chevy for that film. They wanted to use it in a race scene and roll it over. But as hard as I tried, I could not roll that car, because it was too low to the ground. So we had to get a lift and a cable down on that vehicle, to flip it and drop it. A whole career started right there. We went on to work with Sonny and Cher, Fireball 500, Gone in 60 Seconds, Super Van, Mag Wheels and High School Confidential was the start. As far as Alfred Hitchcock, yes we worked with him on North By Northwest. He wasn’t a car guy, but he was interested in what we were doing to get this car in his film. The most interesting film or TV car that we created was for the TV show Knight Rider. The studio wrecked the car every episode, so we had to fix it pretty much every week. They always broke the fiberglass nose piece on it and one day the producer told me this is costing us a lot of money. So, I made a mold of that nose and created a rubber one and didn’t tell them about it. The next time they wrecked it, I just walked over there, popped it off and showed them! We had to do a lot of funny stuff to make these cars work and it was a lot of fun. We also did the Blues Brothers film, building a lot of police cars, Blade Runner and Thunder Alley. We worked with Clint Eastwood, the Rat Pack, Michael Jackson and Bob Hope and so many more!
Q: In the 1960s, you got more involved in T.V., which is where you really made your name. During this time, Batman, The Munsters, Mannix, the Beverly Hillbillies, My Mother the Car, The Monkees, Starsky and Hutch, Banacek and Power Rangers were touched by the Barris magic.
GB: The Batmobile is definitely the most well-known of all the cars I’ve created. I wanted it to be the star of the show, right along with Batman and Robin. I told the producers, I’m going to have rocket launchers, oil squirters—I am going to make this car a star. And that’s why it was such a hit, because it had all these different things it could do. The oil squirters were made out of lawn sprinklers and those were what we used. Beverly Hillbillies in 1960. I met with the producer and they said we need a jalopy. How am I going to find a jalopy in Beverly Hills? So, I traveled to San Bernandino and that’s where I saw a feed store. The owner of the store had an old 1922 Oldsmobile four-door sedan and he cut the back off of it and made it into a feed truck so he could carry his hay. So, I took pictures of that and went back to the producers and that eventually became the car for that show.
Q: You’ve been nominated to the SEMA Hall of Fame. Please tell us some of your greatest memories of SEMA Shows over the years.
GB: I remember back when SEMA first started in 1963 and they had 18 tables. It was basically a hot rod show back then. All the old-timers were there and I was representing California Custom Accessories. I did all their aerosol paints and the different parts we designed for them. That’s how I started with SEMA and then of course it exploded to where it is today. They asked me recently do you want to be in the SEMA Hall of Fame and I said of course. At first they said, you don’t qualify because you don’t manufacture aftermarket parts. And I told them I was making aftermarket parts before you were born! (laughs) I’m honored to be associated with SEMA and proud to be in their Hall of Fame.
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
Warning: My baseball predictions are normally awful. For example, my pre-season MLB picks this year had the Red Sox beating the Nationals in the World Series and of course, neither team made the playoffs. But, I never give up, because I’m an idiot.
So, here goes. This is my breakdown for the 2015 World Series:
The Mets are this year’s surprise team and anyone who picked them to be in the World Series in April is either crazy of lying. The Royals were the best team in the American League this season after barely losing to the SF Giants in the Series last year, so the fact that there here again is not a huge surprise.
The Mets snuck past the Dodgers and spanked the Cubs and now they’re looking to finish this thing. The Royals want to prove that they deserve to be at the pinnacle and are hungry to make up for last year’s defeat. I look at both teams and I see that they’re pretty close in talent and I do believe that the Royals are a more solid, better-coached and overall deeper squad. But in the end, the Mets have too much amazin’ starting pitching and that’s why I think they will win the Series in 5 games.
The Royals have some hot hitters (Ben Zobrist .326 and Alcides Escobar .386 in the postseason) and they will surely not be intimidated after being in last year’s Series. They also have some solid starting pitchers (Ventura, Cueto, Volquez and Young), but in the end the Mets just have too much superior pitching.
It will be a Series of power vs. contact, but this year proves that home runs are king. So, I am picking the Mets to score more runs than the Royals. They say the Royals don’t strike up much, but they don’t always face a staff like NY’s.
Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz are all young and explosive. They remind me of the four young pitchers that the Amazin’ Mets rode all the way to the world championship in 1969—Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Gary Gentry and a spot starter by the name of Nolan Ryan.
As far as offensively, the Mets have arguably the hottest postseason player in the history of this great game. With seven home runs and a batting average of .421, why would you even think about pitching to Daniel Murphy?
So, here is how I think the Series will play out:
Harvey and deGrom will dominate the first two games in Kansas City. These guys have lights out stuff and the Royals have not seen them enough to know what’s coming. A rested Harvey will be poised and prepared to take Game #1 and deGrom is young, but I don’t that he’ll get rattled about pitching on the world’s largest stage.
By the time the Series hits the Big Apple, the Mets will be up 2-0. I think KC will take #3, mainly because I just don’t think that the Mets can sweep a very good Royals team, so I am picking Syndergaard to lose a tight game. Then, I believe Matz will take #4 and Harvey comes back to finish the job in New York.
The Royals have a better and deeper bullpen, but the Mets have a superior closer with Jeurys Familia (0.00 ERA, 86 K in postseason). The Royals are better defensively, but the Mets’ pitchers make that less of a factor. The scene in KC will be insane, but the atmosphere at Citi Field will be over the top!
Who will the MVP of the Series be? My pick is David Wright and here’s why. The Royal’s pitchers will be thinking about Daniel Murphy and Wright bats in front of Murph. I believe they will be too concerned about Murphy to concentrate on Wright and that’s why he will be their MVP.
To make the Series more complete, I also hope these things will happen:
-Amy Schumer announces her engagement to Matt Harvey, breaking poor little Bradley Cooper’s heart.
-Jacob deGrom sits in and plays with the SNL band while Daniel Murphy hosts
-The son of the Mets’ fan who made all those great signs during the ’69 Series continues the tradition.
-A man tries to bring a goat into Citi Field and they let him
-The Royals start in-fighting and a headline in the NY Post reads “Yost Infection”
-Announcer Joe Buck loses his voice and the underrated Harold Reynolds takes over
-Erin Andrews asks at least one interesting question
-Tim McGraw gets to sing the anthem at one of the game’s in NY, out of respect to his late father
-Ba Ba Booey from the Howard Stern Show and 50 Cent do not throw out first pitches (Seen enough)
-Some NY fan catches a ball without dropping his baby and two beers
Friday, October 16, 2015
CALL FOR ARTISTS
Artists Uniting To Save the Elephants (and Rhinos Too!)
96 Elephants are killed needlessly every day and that’s why we’re calling upon 100 artists to donate their artwork as part of the Pachyderm Sticky Note Project (PSNP), a collective art assemblage featuring the work of 100 different artists from all over the world, representing the 96 elephants (and four rhinos), depicted on 3” x 3” Sticky Notes.
The finished piece (30” x 30”) will be sold as fine art numbered prints as well as smaller digital prints and also used on other items, such as beach towels, t-shirts, tote bags, etc. All of the proceeds will go to www.MarchforElephants.org to fund their efforts in saving this endangered species.
So, we’re putting out a call to artists to create an image to tell the story of the elephant’s plight while raising much-needed funds for www.MarchforElephants.org.
Details: If you’re a painter or want to use a larger format, that is fine, as long as we can reduce it to 3” x 3” for this assemblage. If you’re doing to use a sticky note, please please use 3M Post-it Notes, because the other ones are cheap and different shades of yellow, and always please use yellow for the purposes of uniformity. You can fill out the background, but please go with yellow. PS—since it’s a serious message with this poster, we don’t want the elephants smiling or being too cartoonish but we don’t want them looking too sad either.
How to Get Involved: You can scan the image and send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can look at it, but we do need the original, so please send it to us at Ed Attanasio, 2005 Vallejo Street, San Francisco, CA 94123. You will receive full credit for your art and if you’re in the San Francisco area, you can also attend the unveiling and signing of the poster, scheduled for mid-2016.
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Someone years ago invited me to go bungee jumping and for some reason I said yes. I will come up with some lame excuse to get out of it closer to the actual date, I thought. But, then everyone starting talking about it and I realized one day—damn I have to do this.
I’m scared of heights and I am not very into doing things where I could die. I’ve never gone hot air ballooning, sky diving, scuba diving, snow skiing, skateboarding, mountain biking, surfing—even competitive soduko, that can be very dangerous from what I’ve heard. I have never been on a motorcycle and I stay out of the ocean if at all possible. When I walk at night my wife makes me wear a yellow reflective vest. People might think I’m boring, but the way I look at it, I’m still alive!
So, bungee jumping is something I wouldn’t normally ever agree to, but the power of peer pressure is hard to say no to. So, before I realized it, I was in a car headed to Angels Camp, CA to jump off an 80-ft. bridge with a bungee cord attached to my feet. There was a group of 10 people there ready to jump when we got to the bridge. The bungee people gave us a speech about safety and then they asked us about our weight. At that time, I weighed 300-plus lbs., but because I am vane I told them 265. Big mistake!
When I finally jumped, I bounced a lot more than anyone else! The first rebound raced me back up to the bridge and I thought-I am going to pancake myself under this bridge. I was bouncing back toward the bridge so violently that I actually almost slingshot myself above the railing of the bridge on the other side. The other bungee jumpers were looking at me in shock while a few of them actually laughed.
I must have looked like a big Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon flying around on a bungee cord. Later I found out, one of the operators of the bungee jumping company asked his assistant, “What did he tell us his weight was?”--knowing full well that had I obviously reported something considerably less. Today it is an amusing anecdote, but at the time it was a scary moment.
Lesson: It’s never good to lie about your age or your weight, because you never know how it can back and bite you right on the ass!
More upcoming articles will offer great life advice, such as:
Don’t Jump in a Water Hazard at a Golf Course (Duck Poo!)
Don’t Jump in a Water Hazard at a Golf Course (Duck Poo!)
Don’t Eat From a Taco Stand in that Smells Like Death
Don’t Go to Candlestick Park Wearing an LA Dodgers Jersey
Don’t Ask a Drunk Cougar Her Age
Sunday, August 16, 2015
"We admire elephants in part because they demonstrate what we consider the finest human traits: empathy, self-awareness, and social intelligence. But the way we treat them puts on display the very worst of human behavior." - Graydon Carter
Please join our March for Elephants and Rhinos in San Francisco
Saturday, October 3, 2015
10:30 am – 3:00 PM
Starting at Jefferson Square
Did you know that approximately one elephant is killed every 15 minutes in the African continent, 100 elephants are killed every day, 35,000 elephants are killed every year, 1 rhino is killed every 7-11 hours and extinction looms within a generation?
Did you know that San Francisco plays a major role in the illegal ivory trade? A survey commissioned by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that up to 80 percent of ivory in San Francisco is illegal under current law.
Did you know that China is the world’s largest market for illegal ivory?
Did you know that March for Elephants, San Francisco(MFE) has worked tirelessly within the Bay Area and globally to bring attention to the illegal trade in ivory and rhino horn?
March for Elephants will be joining over 100 other cities around the globe in organizing a march and speaking out for elephants and rhinos on October 3rd 2015 in San Francisco. We’ll gather around the Chinese consulate demanding an end to the ivory trade in China, an end to the trade in San Francisco, an end to the trade in the USA and an end to the trade anywhere ivory and rhino horn are commodified. Last year, the San Francisco march and rally drew approximately 2,000 people.
MFE is a grassroots volunteer organization based in San Francisco that workson behalf of earth’s last elephants and rhinos. We are a group of dedicated advocates, lobbying strategically to promote local and global awareness about the elephant and rhino crises, calling forgovernments to take immediate action to end poaching in range nations,anddemanding an end to the ivory and rhino horn trade at all levels: locally, nationally and internationally.
You can help us by marching for elephants in October. Learn more by visiting marchforelephants.org.
Here is a video of the State of Elephants from our archives:
Here is a beautiful photo taken by Patrick Freeman:
Saturday, May 02, 2015
Hope to see you at my upcoming art show. If you can't make it on Friday May 15 @ 6-9 pm I will also be at the store on Saturday, 5/16 from 11 am to 2 pm.