Monday, March 7, 2011

Whatever Happened To -- George Barris?

A Story About My Father and George

Every once in awhile I ask myself, “Whatever happened to George Barris?

An important part of my blossoming adolescence, George was, singularly, the only one to whom my father ever paid enough attention to threaten my sense of undefeatable privilege that my father had instilled in me?”

(Here is a clue as to the etiology of my needing to recover from being a Jewish American Princess.)

A recent interview with George, posted online gave me a handy update.

Titled -- George Barris: King of TV's Custom Cars .. the online interview article offered me a fuller picture of George than I had been carrying around in my mind’s storage cabinet of adolescent memories.

There George was held, only, as a starving, relatively young, Hollywood-type artist who showed up at odd hours of the night – to take my father’s focused, concentration on me away.

Believe me, I did not like this at all!

If you know more of the unabridged story of my father and George Barris -- one of those topics that can take awhile to unfold -- you may come to understand how this outrage came to manifest itself in years of reoccurring my dreams about (of all things) blowing up Cadillac dealers’ showrooms.

Even with this short story, however, you may discover a few pieces of my/her-story that explain some of the mystery you presume of me.

I have often been accused of being mysterious – and – apparently my best efforts so far to travel bare-faced (sans any deliberate masking on my part) are not yet enough.

Yes, I was born in Ohio, a bonafide Buckye. I attended my first two years of college at Ohio State, grew up in Hollywood, California (when I was not visiting my mother in Ohio) and have spent my entire adulthood in and around the Washington, D.C. area.

Since geography does account, somewhat, for aspects of personality, this may explain away parts of me that may still seem steeped in enigma for you. I hope so. Transparency is so important to me for our purposes here.

For more on George Barris -- you can read the interview in its entirety for yourself at ---

For the benefits of my totally self-seeking intent, only one sentence of the whole interview --

"There were not customizing shops back then," Barris said --

had more than a passing interest for me.

Thus I offer an embellishment of my father's establishing a custom car enterprise,  Custom Corner, circa 1952, at George’s suggestion in the story below.

My dad met George Barris at a car show when George was, probably about 27/28. It was 1952/53. George was a “starving, ”young” artist at the time though he had on display at the auto show one of his early custom car successes, the Golden Sahara.

The story of their meeting and subsequent partnership goes like this –

My dad had gone west to Hollywood to start a new life at my urging.

(My father and I had both needed to get away from my mother’s raging mental illness and relentless abuse in Ohio.)

My father, carrying a hefty bank roll after selling his junk yard business in Elyria, Ohio. soon met up and collaborated in establishing the Custom Corner enterprise with George.

The foundations of the business partnership were my dad’s money and business acumen, George’s ideas for a custom car business -- and -- George’s creativity and contacts in Hollywood.

With some kind of partnership arrangement in place, my father and George opened up Custom Corner which covered most of a city block on Vine Street in Hollywood (operating from 1953-1961?).

The business location was not far from Hollywood and Vine, on the corner of Vine and Willoughby (diagonally across from Desilu Productions who used the Custom Corner lot for extra parking when needed for overflow). I believe the year they began was 1952 or 1953.

George designed in a little house on the lot while my father supplied the custom auto parts for their design projects; many for celebrities or those in related entertainment industry activities among them Liberace’s car.

My father’s Custom Corner showroom was similar to the auto parts showroom he had earlier on Oberlin Road in Elyria, Ohio, only larger. He also had service bays where mechanics did mechanical work and smaller body work jobs.

From the online article, George’s personal story continues on –

Then one day a man from a movie studio who had heard of the hot rods Barris had helped customize and asked if he'd help with a movie called "High School Confidential!" in 1958. His relationship with movies began.

In the early 1960s, CBS asked Barris to come up with a jalopy for a new series called "The Beverly Hillbillies."

George and my father probably split somewhere around this time (1958).

One reason the partnership ended on my father’s end was that my step-mother did not want my father with George.

Probably -- in part -- because of the Hollywood crowd that was part and parcel of the whole business. My “mom” threatened to leave my father, if he continued with George.

As far as I can recollect, my father closed up Custom Corner in the early 1960s and opened a subsequent business in Sherman Oaks. He died in 1976.

There you have it, the beginning of the story of my father and George Barris as I know it; the teen-age adventures of a small town Ohio girl gone to Hollywood. And my lifelong confusion and conflict about what Americans do with their money insofar as automobiles (and status, especially celebrity) are concerned.

Stories about my life in Hollywood, cars, car destroying dreams and I -- to be continued as time and energy allows.

From Anastasia
Watching a gorgeous red cardinal, feeding on one of my bird feeders, outside my office window.

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