Took a flying trip to Pomona, California, Sunday with my good friends, Mel Larson, his wife, Marilyn, my step son, Ben Speidel, and Nancy Barr. We flew into the Pomona airport on Larson’s Italian built jet. The reason for this jaunt was the world premiere of a very special television movie, about an extremely important period of time in Mel and this writers life—the creation of the Mint 400 Off Road Race in 1967, and the subsequent revival of the race by SNORE (Southern Nevada Off Road Enthusiast) three years ago.
The film, sponsored by General Tires, and created by San Diego based film magician, Matt Martalli’s Mad Media, starts out with a few shots of the 2010 race, and Don Wall, President of SNORE, marking the 2010 course. The narrator, Dick Ervasti, informs the audience that the film is about a classic event, which has proven over time to be, not only the biggest off-road race ever held within the borders of the United States, but without question the most famous off-road race ever held, and one that every off-road competitor has had to say they raced in, at least once. The film gets started with a brief history of how the classic race was created and why. This writer and Larson were interviewed by Martalli and his crew, and are shown in the first segment of the 44 minute film.
The Mint 400 began in 1967, and officially ended in the late ‘80s, after the Mint Hotel & Casino (located on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas), was sold to the Binion’s Horseshoe Casino (attached at one time to the Mint Hotel). The famous race went dormant for nearly 20 years, until Don Wall, came up with the idea of revising the Mint 400, and trying to return it to its days of glory.
The rest, as they always say, is history. General Tires and Matt Martalli are to be congratulated for assembling a fantastic film. It truly depicts what the sport is all about today. It shows just how tough off-road racing is, and just how competitive it can be. Today it’s nothing to spend a million dollars, or more, on an off-road unlimited truck. When the Mint 400 was first run, and for at least the next 10 years, I don’t think there was a vehicle built for off-road racing that cost more than $30,000 (and that was the Baja Boot). Today the competitors have shocks that are, without question, the best in the world (and they only need one or two per wheel). In my day (1968 to 1982), we ran as many as 12 Bilstein shocks on a single-seat buggy, and double shocks on a mini-truck, etc. We had fiberglass seats with a little bit of foam, where today they have seats that actually float. But those were the early days and what made off-road racing so darn much fun. The famous “Rock Pile” of the original Mint 400, where a lot of vehicles either broke down and out of the race, or at least needed repairs, is back in the revised edition, and it continues its endeavor to destroy vehicles.
SNORE has done a lot to return the race to its days of glory. But, to be honest with you, it’ll never be like the Old Mint 400. And the reason for that, is it’s a fabulous bit of history, which lives on in only the hearts, souls and minds of those guys, and a couple of gals, who competed in the originals. Today, the sons and daughters of those early racers are competing, while us old racers sit in the pits, watchingand remembering those “Days of Glory,” which was and is the Mint 400 from 1967 to 1987.
“Triumph. It Runs On Steam,” is an alluring, entertaining and thrilling mystical journey that pulls back the cosmetic curtain taking you through the dimension of time, and a parallel universe, according to its publicist. The newest show to be created on the entertainment scene in a long, long time (other than another Cirque show), will makes its debut on Nov. 15, in the Las Vegas Hilton Theater.
Featuring the science of Jules Verne a true inventor, visionary and author of “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,” H.G. Wells, an English author, known for “The Time Machine,” and Nikola Tesla, an important contributor to the birth of commercial electricity and best known for his many revolutionary developments in the field of electromagnetism, Triumph is steeped in a sub-genre of science fiction and alternative history.
Enhanced by a chilling original music score, steamy sensual dance and featuring the magical illusions and aerial artistry of LaRaf, this unique show is all integrated in the sci-fi fantasy genre. “Triumph. It Runs On Steam” is a compelling and simple story of good versus evil, the battle of humankind that will never end.
Triumph is under the artistic guidance of New York Director Dom Ruggiero, who has extensive and impressive credits including national and international tours of “Phantom,” “Cabaret,” “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” “Shenandoah,” and “Anything Goes,” in addition to his numerous, regional and off-Broadway credits. The artistic choreography and associate direction is under the expert hands of Chet Walker, who has performed on Broadway since the age of 16. Chet’s professional stage credits include four Bob Fosse musicals: “The Pajama Game,” “Pippin, “Dancin’” and “A Chorus Line.” Mr. Walker originally conceived the 1999 Tony Award-winning musical “Fosse,” that also garnered an Outer Critics’ Award.
Scenic designer Kelly Tighe resides in New York and has created award-winning set designs to reflect Victorian nostalgia. Kelly’s credentials are impressive and include Off-Broadway productions such as “The Fantasticks.” National Tours and Regional productions include “Cats,” “Dreamgirls,” “The Full Monty” and “Jesus Christ Superstar.” His awards and recognitions include Northern California’s Shellie, Drama-Logue and the San Francisco Bay Area’s Outer Critics’ Circle. Tickets are now on sale at the Hilton box office.
Well, gang, that’s about it for another week. I’m outa here!