_I am now the proud owner of a classic 1971 VW camper-bus, complete with pop-top, fold-down bed, sink and refrigerator. Why did I acquire such a hippie vehicle? Two reasons. The first is I have always had a fantasy of owning own, ever since my father’s foster brother Jerry Leroy, aka Reality D. Blipcrotch, aka Jerry Wiley (I’m not making this up) parked his in the driveway of our home when I was about 10 years old. Jerry Wiley was his birth name and the one he used as a young up-and-coming actor. The second one was his stage name when he became a hippie rock musician with a group called “1” (I saw them do a sound check at the Fillmore in San Francisco). This from Wikipedia: “Come is 1's only album. The band had been signed by Paul Kantner to Grunt Records. Pat Leraci was assigned to help produce the album, and encountered the lead singer, named Reality D. Blipcrotch, demanding such things as a marijuana leaf popping out of the record, and the record self-destructing at the end of side B.”
His third name came when he was born again and moved to Hawaii and started writing Christian operas.
Now, somewhere in the middle of this he dropped his camper off with my dad (who happened to be the cosigner!) and disappeared, leaving my dad to sell it to cover the loan. My mother vowed never to talk to him again, although I know my dad was in touch with him several years later when Jerry “straightened out” and was writing Christian operas. Apparently he needed my dad’s help to orchestrate the music. (I never heard any of them.)
Although I don’t remember ever driving in it, I used to often peek in the window when I was playing in the front yard. I was fascinated by the compactness, and that everything you needed to survive was in such a small space. Designed for total independence (except, of course, when you need a cosigner).
The second reason I decided to purchase this camper is that I am hosting and co-producing a TV show, along with director Douglas Chang and co-producer Ivette Dumeng. The camper will be my primary mode of transportation (and sort of a character in the show). I don’t want to divulge the exact theme of the show yet, but we begin shooting the trailer (or “sizzle”) later this month.
I won the cherry-red 1971 camper (with 45,000 miles) at an online auction. The bus was located in Florida, and I decided to fly down to pick it up in person, as I didn’t want to wire money to people I didn’t know, for a car I had never seen. I also thought the drive back to New York would be an adventure (it turned out to be more an adventure than I expected). Ivette insisted I not make the drive back to New York alone and flew down with me, to share the adventure, and the driving (although we discovered in mid-flight that she had never driven a stick before).
The sellers have a vintage car restoration business. Ryan, a nerdy-but-handsome guy probably in his late twenties, and his 40-something uncle Mike, who had a slightly graying ponytail, were waiting for us at the airport in a highly non-collectable Honda. We headed straight out to their shop so I could inspect the bus before paying for it. It was beautiful and in amazing shape for being 40 years old. Most of these vans end up being trashed, or over-customized (i.e. destroyed), but this was all original. I got in and started it and drove around the parking lot for a couple minutes, and it felt cool.
We then went to the bank where I withdrew and transferred the funds to the sellers. With title in hand we returned to the shop, got in, shook hands all around, and hit the road.
If any of you have ever driven an old VW, the engine kind of sounds like a lawn mower. Charming I suppose, but a little unsettling. We didn’t get more than ten miles up 95 when the compression started to go and I couldn’t get the van to top 45 miles per hour. We pulled off the highway and called the sellers. They suggested that since it had been sitting for a couple weeks the carburetor might have gotten a little gunky and recommend adding something to the gas tank that would help unclog it. I did, along with another half tank of gas. Hopefully that would take care of the problem and we could drive the next 1,210 miles without incident.
All strapped in and ready to go, I turned the key. Nothing! Wouldn’t even turn over. Just a click. I kept trying. Finally, I called the sellers again and they couldn’t believe it. According to them it had been running perfectly before we got there.
(to be continued...)