Book signings have the reputation of being rather ho-hum affairs. It's either the marketing ploy of a national bookstore chain to sell cappuccino, videos, and some extra copies of the tome in question or an obscure author tucked away in a musty corner of one of the rarest of the rare--a well-stocked independent store. Then, once in a great while, there's a celebrity book signing that promises to be both interesting and fun.
When the book is a collaborative effort of famed motorsports photographer and writer Dave Friedman and the inimitable Dick Guldstrand, and carries the title Corvette Thunder, 50 Years of Corvette Racing, you know it's going to be something special (see this month's Reviewing Stand for an in-depth look at the book). And when the book signing is taking place at a bookstore that's a mecca for Southern California car nuts and the roster of "signees" includes not only Mssr.s Friedman and Guldstrand but also a small but sterling selection Corvette racing legends, the book signing becomes a must-go-to event.
The store is Autobooks, a smallish but jam-packed-with-automobilia San Fernando Valley landmark (it's located at 3524 W. Magnolia Blvd. in Burbank; phone 818/845-0707). The date was Sunday, January 18th. Friedman and NCM Hall of Famer Guldstrand were kept company by 2002 Hall of Fame inductee Jim Jeffords (best known to Corvette aficionados for driving the famous Nickey Chevrolet "Purple People Eater" Corvettes--in which he won national titles in 1958 and 1959--and Jerry Earl's SR-2); Doug Hooper; Tony De Lorenzo (accomplishments include First in Class, 1970 Sebring 12 hour; First in Class, 1971 Daytona 24 hour; and SCCA A-Production Central Region Championships in 1968 and 1969); Davey Jordan (raced successfully in everything from Formula cars to production door-slammers; drove for James Garner's American International Racing L88 Corvette team); and Sherry (Mrs. Dave) MacDonald, widow of the famed West Coast Corvette champion who died in a crash during the 1964 Indianapolis 500. Driver's Talk Radio, a nationally syndicated program about motorsports that's hosted by second-generation racer Rick Titus, set-up shop at Autobooks and broadcasted the show live from the bookstore.
Even though information about the book signing was spread mostly by word-of-mouth and on a few Internet sites, a steady stream of Corvetters stopped by during the afternoon. Members of the Corvettes of Bakersfield (hosts and organizers of the annual Gamblers Classic in Laughlin) caravanned over 100 miles each way to get copies of the book autographed and to just plain ol' hang out.
The folks on hand at Autobooks got a treat mid-way through the afternoon when one of the best-known car nuts in Southern California, Tonight Show host Jay Leno, dropped by to buy a copy of the book and get it autographed by the Corvette racing celebrities. After he waited his turn in line, Jay hung out and chatted for a little while before climbing into the way-cool, two-place classic Bugatti he was putting around in that day and heading out.
Whether for just a few minutes or the entire afternoon (what Rob and I did), this was an enjoyable way to squander some time. And getting to meet some real legends of Corvette racing was too rare an opportunity to miss.