Bruce Wayne better not need his wheels this weekend. The Batmobile is with its creator, Hollywood-based "King of Kustomizers" George Barris, who's in Modesto to help celebrate Graffiti Summer.
Barris, whose résumé includes such high-profile TV and movie cars as the Batmobile, KITT from "Knight Rider," the General Lee from "The Dukes of Hazzard," the Munster Koach and the "Ghostbusters" Ectomobile, hit town Friday to serve as grand marshal of the American Graffiti Festival parade.
Today, he's hanging out with the Batmobile in ARC Audio Alley at the North Modesto Kiwanis' American Graffiti Festival at Modesto Junior College. From noon to 5, he and friends and family from Barris Kustom Industries will be signing autographs, posing for snapshots and talking with fans about cars, customizing and Barris' illustrious career.
Barris was in Modesto in July of 2006 to have ARC Audio install an audio/video system in the Batmobile, but this is his first Graffiti appearance.
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Q: We're excited to have you in town this weekend.
A: It's been quite a long time. I was raised and graduated out of Sacramento and used to spend a lot of time in Modesto. ... I ran a couple of track meets there when I used to have to race against the Modesto High School kids. And I worked on the "American Graffiti" cars; (George) Lucas and ourselves kind of exchanged a few ideas. It was fun -- I did the Mercury and the Deuce Coupe, the Chevy. So it's kind of exciting for me to come back, it's been so many, many years.
Q: What can folks expect from your appearance at the festival?
A: I'll sign autographs on anything they want. Probably if they want Batmobile toys signed, since there's a trademark involved with Mattel, there's a little fee for that, but everything else we sign, we don't charge for. And when we do charge, most of the money goes to a charity anyhow. I'll bring Batmobile photos, so those we would have available. But a lot of people bring their own personal items, souvenirs, and we're more than happy to autograph those.
We'll meet and greet and talk about the things we're doing today. We're getting ready to do a sequel to Stanley Kramer's (1963) movie "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World," and we might get Betty Boop to do a little racing -- we're working on a movie where she does NASCAR.
And we're going to do another "Munsters" and also another "Green Hornet."
Q: Are you talking about movie productions in the works or just new versions of the cars?
A: Movies, yes. It's all preliminary right now, they haven't decided whether they want to use the old cars or have new ones built. In preproduction, you start looking at what you do want, what you don't want, just like we did with "The Dukes of Hazzard." When we did the "Dukes" TV show, then when they started working on the movie, they said, "We should carry it on the same way," so we're trying to convince them that when they do "The Munsters," bring it back the way it was. I think it's more interesting. ... Don't take away what people liked and try to force something new on them.
Q: You have a pretty full calendar of car-show appearances -- you must like it.
A: I enjoy meeting people. And it seems like car shows draw people away from the pressures of the economy. They enjoy the day, they get to look at cars, they get to talk to people -- it relaxes their minds. ... We just came back from Sweden, and their feature was "American Graffiti." They built the whole Mel's Drive-In right there at the show, we brought in the Deuce Coupe, we brought in the Chevy, and ("Graffiti" cast members) Bo (Hopkins) and Candy (Clark) came in.
It's a show that will last forever because what Lucas did was so real and was a part of what we did through Sacramento and Modesto and Fresno. That's the way we lived, and we enjoyed it. Yes, we did tie police cars' rear end with chains to a pole. Yes, a lot of things Lucas put in there was really what we would do. But it was harmless -- nothing we did would hurt anybody, it was just funny.
Q: When talking with people at shows, do you find that more of them are hard-core car enthusiasts who want to talk with you about details of customizing, or are they mostly folks who just dig the cars and think of them as life-size Hot Wheels?
A: Most of them are baby boomers. ... They like to reminisce about what we did to the Mercury, how we chopped it, what we did to the Deuce Coupe, what kind of engine we had. ... Young kids like to talk a little bit about the muscle cars. We do the new Challenger -- the Red Demon -- and we did a GTO. ...
The 2000 era is becoming more important to car enthusiasts because it's cars they can buy, cars they can find, cars they can drive and enjoy, so they like to customize their Challenger or their Mustang or their Camaro. A '50 Mercury like we did for the Pharaohs (in "Graffiti") is not a daily driver, it's an enjoyment car for a collector. But how many guys can become collectors?
We enjoy talking about cars of the past, cars of the future, movies and TV of the future ... so we have a lot to talk about.
The North Modesto Kiwanis' American Graffiti Car Show and Festival today and Sunday includes more than 650 vintage show cars, all made before 1973. Other festival attractions are 100 vendors selling food and crafts, kids games and three stages with live oldies music, DJs and acts. Performers include The Sensations, Hot Rods Band and the Kyle Barker Band. More than 12,000 people are expected to attend. All proceeds go to local charities.
Festival hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $7 adults, free to children 12 and under. MJC East Campus is at 435 College Ave. For more information, call 888-746-9763.