Everyone once in a great while the planets and star align and some really cool and somewhat unexpected things happen.
Every April I find myself in southern California covering the Long Beach Grand Prix. This year was no exception. The LBGP is the longest running street circuit in North America. It has seen everything from Formula 5000, Formula 1, CART, IndyCar, IMSA sportscars, and drifting competition. This event is the foundation of the rebirth of downtown Long Beach - it has made serious economic impact on this city over the past 40 years.
I made the trip to the left coast a couple of day early this year, as I was invited to attend two events which I had made minor photographic contributions to.
The second of these events was the world premiere of the new documentary WINNING The Racing Life of Paul Newman. The film is the love child of comedian, actor and radio personality Adam Carolla. He can add the title of movie director and producer to his resume. Carolla owns a lot of Newman's old race cars and was the driving force to making sure this film was made. He did a great job digging up old footage of PLN's racing career and adding in-depth interviews by Bob Sharp (Newman's team owner in the early days), Mario Andretti, and a various Hollywood actors.
I was contacted last fall by one of the producers when he came across one of my photographs of Newman. I did not photograph him very often - he was a private man and had very little tolerance for photographers unless they had a real reason to photograph him. I did shoot for one of the teams that he drove for during the 24 Hours of Daytona, and the last time I worked with him was a story for Car and Driver magazine about the catering team for his IndyCar operation. In those instances he was a pleasure to be around. Most of the other times I had no interest in him, nor he in me. I have two images in the film, one that appears early in the film and one of the last still shots toward the end. I was glad I could contribute. And pleased I was in LA and able to accept the invite to the premiere from the good folks at Nissan North America. Nissan was one of the sponsors of the opening and only fitting considering Newman was arguably the most famous driver ever to race one of their cars - which he did for the majority of his racing career.
The first event of the trip, and the real highlight of the trip, occurred the previous evening in Beverly Hills.. 2 weeks ago I received a phone call from Doug Fehan, the Program Manager for Corvette Racing, asking if I could quickly get my hands of the Le Mans 24 podium shot of the Corvette team I took several years ago. I said I could, and Doug put me in contact with Bruce Meyer.
Bruce Meyer and I have crossed paths a couple of times many many years ago through our mutual friend David Seibert. Bruce is a car enthusiast without equal. He was the founding chairman of the Peterson Automotive Museum. A man of great taste, and great humility, and a friend of everyone in the world of cars and racing. He had recently purchased the last Corvette GT1 car to with the Le Mans 24 Hour race. He saw my podium shot and wanted to use it in his garage.
Now Bruce's garage is unlike any other. His garage was built in 1926 and was the first public parking garage in Beverly Hills. The Corvette is the latest addition to his collection which includes Porsche 935, a Ferrari 250 GT SWB (both Le Mans winners), a 57 Ferrari Testa Rossa, a 1936 Bugatti, a 1929 Dusenberg, and so forth. His garage has been called by some "the ultimate man cave." i would simply call it a space filled with automotive significance and history.
So a couple of weeks back Bruce called and asked if my LM24 photograph of the Vette drivers on the podium in France celebrating their victory above the mass of humanity, could installed behind the car and be a permanent part of his collection. Uh, yes it can.
The Vette, painted in its original yellow livery, is the brightest car in the garage. The photograph is the only color image in the garage. They fit well together.
Bruce graciously invited me to his Racers Night Out event - a wonderful gathering of the (mostly) southern California racing scene - several of whom I have had portrait sessions with - Gurney, The Snake, Parnelli Jones, Dario Franchitti, and Jan Magnussen; and the chance to catch up with old friends that I don't get to see often enough - including Gayle and Peter Brock, Lyn St. James, and Johnny O'Connell.
Toward the end of the evening I saw Doug Fehan and thanked him helping to arrange all of this. He is racer in every sense of the word. He told me, "the coolest part of this whole deal is that car has a legacy that will be honored and admired here long after we are all gone. And your photograph will too."
Humbled and Honored.