It was one of those phone calls you always love to receive as an author. Pixar Studios was on the line, and they wanted to take a meeting with me.
“Sure,” I said. “Love to.”
The meeting occurred ten days later at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, a small city across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco and about forty-five minutes by car from my home. The studios are behind a gated entrance. I parked and walked into a lovely amphitheater and open space where Pixar employees take lunch and hold company events and meetings. In a courtyard was the famous lamp, which is the company symbol and always makes an appearance in the credits at the start of every Pixar movie.
It’s Sunday afternoon in the banquet room of a hotel in West Hollywood. I’m sitting across the table from a Hollywood producer pitching her on why my book, Operation Bullpen: The Inside Story of the Biggest Forgery Scam in American History, will make a great movie.
“It’s all true,” I tell her. “I’m not making a word of this up. It all happened.”
“Great,” she tells me. “I love true stories.”
“It’s about a group of people who basically start with nothing and create a $100 million forgery ring, the biggest in America.”
Suddenly the producer looks puzzled, like she ate something bad. “How? What are they forging?”
“Fake autographs. You know, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, superstars like that. And they’re forging these autographs on baseballs, jerseys, photos, posters—you name it. They produce hundreds of thousands of fakes and sell them on the home shopping channels, eBay, stores, all over the place. And they make millions in cash.”
“Okay,” she says, finally getting it. “What’s the story?” Continue reading
People have been asking this question ever since Auguste Rodin’s monumental sculpture, “The Thinker,” debuted in Paris in 1904.
Is he contemplating the great questions of God, existence, mortality? Did he get jilted by a girl and is wondering how to get her back? Is he trying to remember what he needs to pick up for tonight’s dinner?
Although a formidable six feet six inches tall (not counting the pedestal), The Thinker is a kind of Everyman. Like all great art, what we see in it is a reflection of ourselves. Our own lives, our own thoughts. Continue reading
The races at El Mirage, circa 1948, compliments of the SCTA.
“Fastest Car” is an entertaining automobile racing series that premiered on Netflix in the spring. Each hour-long episode pits a production supercar such as a Ferrari or Lamborghini against three “sleeper” cars built by garage mechanics. The cars square off in side-by-side drag races with the winners meeting up in the climactic finale at El Mirage dry lake in the high deserts of southern California.
During my research a few years ago for Wheels of Change, my friend Bob Newlon and I ventured out to check out the scene at El Mirage. It’s a fantastic place, and if you’re into cars, it’s worth a trip to see one of the SCTA-sanctioned races held there. The Southern California Timing Association has been running races there for half a century, and it is a first-class organization. The day we were there, we saw a car break the 300 mph barrier. It was…MOVING!
The heyday of El Mirage and racing on the dry lakes was the 1940s and ‘50s when teenage hot-rodders such as Dean Batchelor and his buddies were running their fast cars there. From Wheels of Change, here is a little taste of the dry lakes scene back then: Continue reading