An Interview With A Guy Who Spent An Unbelievable Amount Of Time, Money, And Energy To Track Down Lane Meyer’s Camaro From Better Off Dead.
Wednesday July 11th 2007, 12:44 pm
Filed under: interviews

Like a lot of people, Jeff Dutton saw Better Off Dead back in the 80s. He saw John Cusack hit rock bottom, meet a French foreign exchange student who taught him to believe in himself, and then inexplicably win a race down the K-12 on one ski. More importantly though, Jeff Dutton saw Lane Meyer’s ’67 Camaro. Years later, in September of 2001, Dutton decided he wanted to own it. BetterOffDeadCamaro.com was born.

Hypocritical Ross: Do you remember the first time you saw Better Off Dead?

Jeff Dutton: My first car was a rusty 1969 Camaro that I bought in 1980. I did a lot of work on it, and that car got me hooked on early Camaros. About six years after I bought that 1969 Camaro, my college roommate rented Better Off Dead on video. When I saw the black 1967 Camaro in that film, I remember thinking to myself, “Wow. I like the 67’s just as much as the 69’s. I’ll have to get one of those someday.” Aside from the car, there are many other elements in Better Off Dead that resonated in a big way with me, such as skiing, hating high school, losing a girlfriend, and cringing whenever Mom pulled something out of the oven.

HR: What led up to your decision to actually try to acquire and rebuild the Camaro?

JD: Near the end of 2001, the resources (money and garage space) for a 1967 Camaro of my own finally became available. My first thought was to build a car very similar to the one in Better Off Dead, because I had never seen a 1967 Camaro that I liked better than that car. After watching the film a few times to refresh my memory, I started to wonder where the actual car used in the movie might be. Without a plan in mind, I began searching the internet in hopes of finding clues. All that I could find online were some unanswered questions like, “Does anyone know where that car is these days?” The lack of information on the car made me all the more curious, and I decided to take the next step of contacting people who had worked on the film. After I got a few real clues, I became totally hooked on the search. That was a strange corner to turn, because I had no way of knowing if the car could ever be found. And even if it could be located, an opportunity to buy it seemed very unlikely. Near the start of my search, I imagined the car to be in perfect condition – just the way it looked in the film. As I had conversations with the gentleman who owned the car during the making of Better Off Dead, I realized that the movie history of the car had not been passed on to subsequent owners… the car might look very different after all those years. Restoring the car to its movie configuration seemed like the obvious thing to do if it could be found.

HR: Had you ever gone through this with any other movie cars?

JD: I’ve made a fairly big search to find the orange Ford Falcon from Better Off Dead – the one driven by the Cosell brothers. I’m not having much luck with that one, and it may have been dismantled or crushed by now. Because it was a four-door sedan, it had less chance of survival than the Camaro. I’d like to own a General Lee from the original TV series if the right chance comes along, but I’m not losing any sleep over it.

HR: I have to ask – how much money did all of this cost you?

JD: I’ve been trying to keep the price of the unrestored car confidential, but it was right in line with the value for a “regular” 1967 Camaro with those options back in 2002. The search to find the car was right around $2500, and the restoration total went a little past 55K. I know the restoration number sounds pretty stupid, but that’s actually on the cheap side for a restoration as thorough as this car got.

HR: What is it about rebuilding a movie car that makes it worthwhile to you?

JD: As movie cars go, the Better Off Dead Camaro isn’t very famous. The movie definitely has a cult following, but the Camaro is not the kind of car that gets recognized when you fill it up with gas. When I display the car at a show, I put up a sign that explains its movie history. Occasionally, someone’s eyes light up, and they begin quoting lines from the film and asking questions. It’s rewarding to bring back a happy memory like that. It’s the same happy memory that I have.

HR: Some people would probably say that you’re – I don’t know – maybe a bit off to go through all of that trouble. What would you say to those people?

JD: On my website, I added a way for people to send emails to me. Some people are downright offended by how much time and money I’ve plowed into this effort. That’s okay, because there are many other people who write in to say how much they appreciate my efforts. Everyone has their perspective, and they’re all valid.

HR: If you could do it all over again, would you? Would you say it was worth all the trouble?

JD: It was definitely worth the trouble, and I would do it again. However, I can’t think of another vehicle – or anything for that matter – that would be interesting enough for me to pursue at that level. There’s just something about that Camaro.

You can read more about Jeff and his epic quest to own the Better Off Dead Camaro at BetterOffDeadCamaro.com.

The White Stripes, MP3s, Q101, And A Whole Bunch Of Other Crap.
Friday June 15th 2007, 12:15 pm
Filed under: interviews,music,technology,writing

I have an article in the Chicago Reader this week. You can read it online here.

An Interview With Ray St. Ray: The Singing Cab Driver.
Tuesday May 22nd 2007, 11:46 am
Filed under: interviews

Up on JargonChicago.com today. Check it out.

Cyborg Dragons Fighting In The Middle Ages.
Tuesday April 03rd 2007, 1:45 pm
Filed under: bizarre,brain exploders,interviews,stupidity

Kenneth Eng (aka “God of the Universe”) is at it again! It goes without saying that the guy is a total moron, but this interview is kind of awesome.

(Thanks, Justin!)


Three Wishes.
Tuesday March 27th 2007, 9:51 am
Filed under: interviews

A few weeks ago I went to a mall and asked a bunch of people what they would wish for if they had three wishes. Here’s a bit of the audio I collected, edited together and set to thought-provoking instrumental music. Because that’s what you’re supposed to set things like this to… right?


An Interview With An Actual, Real Life Wizard (Who Made Ten Unicorns).
Monday October 30th 2006, 12:53 pm
Filed under: bizarre,brain exploders,interviews,unicorns

 Back in the 1980s, the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus boasted a “real life” Unicorn on its list of attractions. The “Unicorn” was actually a goat named Lancelot, but fuck it—it only had one horn, or it looked that way at least, so it was close enough for most of the paying public. The guy who… well.. MADE Lancelot, I guess, is a guy named Oberon Zell-Ravenheart (no joke), founder of the Church of All Worlds. He and his wife, Morning Glory, made ten Unicorns in the 1980s in an attempt to save the world. This is all totally for real. Seriously.

Hypocritical Ross: So where did you get the idea to create Lancelot and start the Living Unicorn Project?

Oberon Zell-Ravenheart: Well, it started off around 1975 when [my wife] Morning Glory and I got this idea to write a book on the true stories and foundations behind mythical creatures. In the process of our research over the next few years, we came upon the long-lost secret of the Unicorn—that these were actual living animals that had been produced by closely-guarded secret means that were lost and rediscovered several times throughout history. And we learned how it had been done. At that point, we said, “We could do this!” So we gave up on the book, moved to a hippie homesteading community in the mountains of NorCalifia, and began the several-year project of breeding and raising living Unicorns. Lancelot was the first, born on Spring Equinox of 1980. In all, we produced ten of them over the next six years. We named most of them after Knights of the Round Table. Some we kept as our own pets, and others we boarded out. For several years (1980-’84), we toured every Renaissance Faire in North America, and were interviewed and written up in countless newspapers, magazines, radio & TV shows, and even a few books—including the Encyclopedia Britannica. Four of them we leased to Ringling Bros.Barnum & Bailey Circus for a 4-year exhibition tour, where they were the star attraction of the Greatest Show on Earth (1985-’89). The very last one died just over a year ago, at the age of 17.


Caution: Flaming Keytar.
Tuesday June 20th 2006, 1:46 pm
Filed under: interviews,music

tom schuman circa 1980A few days ago, I sold my last keytar. I used to have two; now I have none. I feel empty.

After a few days of sulking, I managed to raise my spirits a bit and do some keytar-related web searching. Then I did some keytar-related emailing. Then I took a nap.

I had keytar-related dreams.

When I woke up, I had received a keytar-related response to my keytar-related email! Delightful! It was from Tom Schuman, keyboard player from Spyro Gyra and owner of the first prototype of the first commercially-released keytar (the Moog Liberation). Though credited as the first keytar player, he tells it a bit differently:

Thank you for thinking about me. I cannot take credit for being the first keytar player. I saw Jan Hammer with a thing called “The Probe” back when I just starting touring with Spyro Gyra in 1978. I think George Duke also used a keytar called a “Clavitar”. However, I can take credit for the first one to set his keytar on fire. Moog Music made me a prototype to the Liberation which had a compartment on the back for smoke bombs. At a certain point in my keytar solo, I had the stage manager kneel behind me and light the wick of a smoke bomb which then gave the illusion that the keyboard was smoking. Well, one time it actually caught on fire when the whole back of the keyboard started flaming at which point I was forced to throw the thing off of me. Fortunately, I was not burned. I also got electrocuted in Japan when our lighting director decided to string the keytar with flashing Christmas lights. He would turn them on when I went running through the audience. The effect was great except when I took off the thing to set it back on the stage, I touched something that shot 110 volts through my body…once again, I was forced to throw it off of me!

Needless to say, I no longer desire to use a keytar.


An Interview With Al Cabino: Sneaker Activist.
Saturday May 06th 2006, 3:58 pm
Filed under: consumer action,interviews,movies

Last week, I stumbled across an online petition dedicated to convincing Nike to release the shoes that Marty McFly wore in Back to the Future II. When I checked it then, there were over 16,000 signatures. As I type this now, a few days later, there are over 17,000. The people have spoken. But if it weren’t for one man bringing all them all together, their voices may have never been heard. That man, that great uniter, is none other than Al Cabino, a self-proclaimed “Internationally Renowned Sneakerographer.”

Hypocritical Ross: So what’s your deal?
Al Cabino: I’m a Capricorn. I love sneakers, rock music, hockey… I’m a twenty-something born and raised in Montreal, Canada, working on a book about sneaker culture.

HR: Have you always been into sneakers?
AC: Yes, I’m a sneaker fan!

HR: How many pairs do you own personally?
AC: A respectable number.

HR: What’s the deal with the Back to the Future II shoes? What makes them so special?
AC: Everyone dreams of walking in a movie star’s shoes. The McFlys are the Holy Grail of movie sneakers. The McFlys were created just for the film, they were never worn beyond the silver screen, and I’ve always been fascinated by them. There’s a sneaker legend that says that in 2015, Nike will come out with them. But I’m not going to wait 9 years. There are a lot of people who don’t want to wait 9 years.

HR: And that’s where the petition comes in?
AC: It’s the world’s first and only international sneaker petition. So far, there are over 15,000 signatures from more than 50 countries. I am applying activism to sneaker culture. There’s old-style activism with people like Naomi Klein (also born in Montreal). This is new-style activism.

HR: What do you do for a living?
AC: I work.

HR: Do you work for Nike? Is this all some sort of viral marketing campaign?
AC: Good question—The Washington Post wanted to know if I was a Nike spy.

HR: You have to admit—it does kind of smack of viral marketing.
AC: This isn’t Sneakergate, dude.

HR: I’m just trying to understand your position.
AC: I’m not one-dimensional. I love sneakers, I love hockey, I love activism… I’d love to work with UNICEF on a sneaker-related campaign, maybe create a special sneaker where the proceeds from the sale would go to UNICEF. If starting the world’s first and only international sneaker petition has turned me into an international sneaker celebrity, well, I’d also love to work with organizations like UNICEF. One of my childhood heroes is David Suzuki—he’s a Canadian icon. Google him.

HR: Wouldn’t a Nike-sponsored UNICEF campaign be a bit like mugging someone and then giving them bus fare so they can get home?
AC: I didn’t say it would be Nike-sponsored… what do you propose for my UNICEF sneaker campaign? I’m open to your ideas… I am a sneaker fan! Are you gonna write that I’m a Nike spy?

HR: How do you reconcile the differences between the tradition of activism you are coming out of and the consumer culture you are simultaneously embracing? Some might see that as a paradox. What would you say to those people that say Nike and activism can’t go together?
AC: Traditional activists are consumers too. As stated earlier, there’s old-style activism… this is new-style activism. Old-style isn’t new-style, they are different. Sounds like you can’t accept that. You’ve got liberals, you’ve got conservatives. If you get it, you get it. If you don’t, that’s fine too. I respect everyone.

HR: Some old-style activists would probably be hesitant to call what you are doing “activism,” though.
AC: The term “sneaker activism” is accurate. This is consumerism as an active, not passive, process. I was named a 2006 Noisemaker by the Montreal Mirror (Montreal’s answer to the Village Voice), Montreal is one of the most activist cities in the world. If Montreal has embraced my new-style activism, I’m sure some Cubs fans might too. In Back to the Future Part II, the Cubs defeat Miami to win the 2015 World Series.

HR: So have you gotten any response from Nike regarding the petition? It seems ridiculous that they would ignore over 16,000 people.
AC: Right after I started the petition I was contacted by someone at Nike. He said “Al, this is big. You are on the Nike Inc global intranet. Usually the only thing on there is very important stuff for the employees.” And I was on there. A few days in, they were already talking about it. Nike is the world’s biggest sneaker company. All good things take time, but everyone knows about my international sneaker campaign. I’m still collecting signatures.

HR: Why are you doing this? What’s in it for you?
AC: I want a pair of the McFlys.

HR: How much would you be willing to pay for the McFlys if they were commercially released?
AC: First, let’s get them released.

HR: Are there any other sneakers you want to see commercially available?
AC: I want to work with the Montreal Canadiens hockey club to release some special edition sneakers that would combine my love for the Montreal Canadiens and my love for sneakers. That would be the greatest honor ever.

HR: What’s with the chocolate Nikes? Where did that come from and what’s the response been like?
AC: I’m very inspired by movies, inspired by Willy Wonka… a HUGE underground success. MTV covered it. MTV turned me into an international sneaker celebrity.

HR: If you were trapped in an elevator with Phil Knight, what would you say to him?
AC: I’m trying to organize a special meeting with Phil Knight. We will talk sneakers over some good Japanese tea.

HR: Do you know any sweet shoe trivia?
AC: Michael Jordan rocked Converse. The first Air Jordan was banned by the NBA. Michael Jordan wore them anyway, amassing fines—up to $5,000 a game.