ONE EYED CELEBRITIES, NEON NIGHTS ON THE SANTA FE TRAIL, AND A ROUTE 66 CELEBRATION – IN GERMANY
Just one of the many moviesfilmed along Route 66.
If I were to peg a time when it first began, it would be several years ago shortly after the publication of Ghost Towns of Route 66. First there were requests for interviews from local media, from radio stations in New Zealand, as well as from folks at Frommer’s and other major travel programs. On the heels of the interviews were invitations to speak on the popularity of Route 66 and ghost towns in general. Then I penned The Route 66 Encyclopedia followed by volume two, The Illustrated Route 66 Historic Atlas. In the latter I included a section on crime scenes and disaster locations, as well as celebrity associated sites.
It soon became quite obvious that I wasn’t alone in my fascination with the empty places, or the curiosity about the places where Sammy Davis Jr. lost his eye in an auto accident on Route 66 in the Cajon Pass or the course of the Santa Fe Trail along the pre-1937 alignment of Route 66 in New Mexico.
For reasons unknown, the interviews came easy. Even sitting with Jay Leno in his garage didn’t lead to excessive drinking to settle the nerves.
The presentations that placed me as the focal point of attention, however, were another matter. Public speaking was not exactly something that I felt overly comfortable with.
However, much to my surprise, the response received indicated that, with the exception of a most memorable presentation in the Netherlands plagued by equipment failure and technical difficulties, people thought that I was relaxed and polished.
Fast forward a couple of years. When the Route 66 Association of Kingman asked me to make a presentation in January of this year at a fund raising event for their neon sign initiative, I decided to create something special to celebrate the 90th anniversary of Route 66
So, a series entitled an Armchair Tour of Route 66 was born. This was more than a mere slideshow, it was a virtual tour of Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica, and from inception to the era of renaissance.
Using photos taken by my dearest friend and I, and historic images provided by Mike Ward, Steve Rider, and Joe Sonderman, I wove a travel narrative that included the lighter side of mayhem and disaster and a few celebrity sightings with stories of community revitalization, stilt walking French mimes, a modern generation of roadside personalities worthy of Rimmy Jim Giddings, and ghost towns.
Courtesy the Steve Rider collection.
I am quite pleased to say that the initial presentation was very well received. More than $1,200 was raised for the association.
Even better, folks unfamiliar with the Route 66 phenomena, the highways renaissance, its colorful history, or its vibrant international culture stayed to ask questions and talk about making a road trip or two.
Now we are taking the show on the road. On June 4, I have accepted a request to make a special presentation at the Grand Canyon Caverns.
On June 10, I am honored to be playing a supporting role in Holbrook’s Route 66 Festival by making a presentation on Friday evening.
In mid July, it will be my pleasure to make a presentation at the first European Route 66 Festival in Ofterdingen, Germany. On the third weekend in October, we will be at Cuba Fest, in Cuba, Missouri, always a delightful event. The same weekend I will make a presentation at the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park at St. Louis, and the following day, a special presentation for a school group. Interesting times indeed.
If you would like to liven up a festival, event, or fund raiser with tales of comedic mayhem, disasters, topless celebrities, Edsel Ford, and Dutch born restaurant owners in a bypassed Illinois farm town, drop me a note.