Goodbye, Crash

Have some sad news to report.

Daredevil Jim “Crash” Moreau, one of my favorite interview subjects of all time, was recently found dead in his home in Lincoln, Maine, when a friend visited to check on him. The “Maine Maniac” was only 73.

An original thrill show stuntman, Crash was one of the stars of “Hell Drivers: America’s Crash Test Dummies,” a documentary about the last county fair daredevils who crashed cars through RV trailers and jumped school busses and garbage trucks off burning ramps. They were the disciples of Joie Chitwood and Evel Knievel, and their mission to entertain became much tougher when movie and video game special effects set an impossible bar for comparison.

When I worked on “Hell Drivers” more than decade ago with filmmakers Peter Koziell and Al Ward, we spent many days on the road with Crash at fairgrounds in Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Ontario. His claim to fame was the “Steel Wall,” which involved standing up cars on their rear bumpers and then driving straight through them so they’d fall like dominoes.

“The Steel Wall” stunt involved setting up cars like Carhenge and knocking them down with another junk car.

He also did the “Steel Wall” with a school bus, theorizing that all the kids who hated school like him would LOVE the visual.

I just pulled out a random interview transcript where I asked Crash if he ever got nervous doing these insane stunts (and only for a few hundred bucks each – it was not a lucrative gig.)

“Actually, I’m nervous with everything I do,” he said. ”If you’re nervous, then you’re looking after things that could go wrong and you start realizing you could get hurt. So you take more precautions.”  

But as safe as he tried to be, he also wanted to make sure his explosions looked impressive enough for his adrenaline-junkie audience. I once saw him argue with a racetrack safety supervisor about how much gunpowder he could use for a stunt. 

“I have a theory. Crash is like a folk artist like Grandma Moses was,” pyrotechnician Michael Tooher told us. “(Guys like him) don’t know why they have to do what they do, but they need to do it. And money and fame doesn’t matter to them. He wants to put more gasoline in the trailer. He wants to put more black powder in the trailer.”

Here is a pic of Crash when he was part of the “Deathriders” Show in the early 1970s:

He was a real badass, but also a very joyful person who loved railroad and circus history. I loved the rusty colorful Partridge Family bus sitting on his front lawn.

I think of Crash every time I see a sign for a county fair or demolition derby. He once did his “Captain Explosion” act on network television, but he never became as famous as he had hoped to be.

Here is the GoFundMe for his funeral and burial expenses. His line of work doesn’t offer life insurance or a retirement plan:

On a final note, here are a few clips of Crash in action from the “Hell Drivers” trailer, a glimpse of how he’d want to be remembered:

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Most Ludicrous Riddler-Themed Song-and Dance Number You’ll Ever See

If you’re a Batman 1966 fan, you MUST watch this clip from “The Dean Martin Show” of comedian Frank Gorshin dancing like a marionette to the beat of corny riddles that would have kindergarten students rolling their eyes. The fact that this was prime time entertainment for adults only underscores just how popular the Adam West show was back then.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Red Sox Fanboy Flashback: Dustin Pedroia Once Said “Hi” to Me in a Hotel Lobby

Would an injury-free Dustin Pedroia have made it to the Baseball Hall of Fame? (Image source: Boston Red Sox)

Following a few heartbreaking seasons of insurmountable injuries, Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia announced his retirement from baseball today. As a tribute, I’d like to share this fun CNN commentary (“I am a Red Sox fanboy“) I wrote about the time I once made direct eye contact with Dustin in a Tampa hotel lobby.

I might be wrong, but in the swirl of mixed emotions on his Retirement Day, I suspect that Dustin may not be wistfully recalling the same memory.

Documented for posterity (for both Red Sox historians and my descendants browsing, here is a description of our chance encounter in the lobby of the Vinoy Renaissance Hotel:

NIGHT ONE, 11:30 pm – I spot a diminutive bearded guy briskly walking toward me. It’s second baseman Dustin Pedroia, the 2008 AL MVP. “Hey, good game tonight!” I say. Dustin is wearing headphones and could have pretended to be absorbed by the music. But he turns back, stares at me with the same intensity he reserves for Justin Verlander, and says “Thanks.” It was “thanks” with a period, not an exclamation point. But it was a long day and he certainly didn’t lack any enthusiasm on the field. And then, just like in “Field of Dreams,” he vanishes.

And a follow-up sighting of another Boston legend the next day in almost the same exact spot:

DAY TWO, 2 pm – Near the front desk’s complimentary jellybean bar, I see the greatest Red Sox pitcher of all time, the retired Pedro Martinez, blankly staring in my direction. I give him a friendly nod, the kind guys silently exchange in the halls at work or at the gym. He doesn’t pick up on the signal, so I don’t bother to tell him that the jellybeans are free. Free! Then, just like a regular person, Pedro checks into his room. I never saw Pedro again.

So if you are also just dying to know whether David Ortiz is a good tipper, or which member of the 2013 World Championship Red Sox likes deep sea fishing, you can read that kind of on-the-ground intel here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

New Hampshire is Fantasy Camp For Political Junkies

Ben and Jerry for Bernie Sanders

Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream founders Ben Cohen (left) and Jerry Greenfield prepare to dish out samples and voting advice at a Bernie Sanders campaign event in late 2019. (Photo by Darren Garnick)

There are two kinds of people in New Hampshire: those who love our first-in-the-nation primary tradition and those who cannot wait until next Wednesday, when presidential campaigns will stop emailing, texting, calling, ringing their doorbell, and stuffing their physical mailbox with political propaganda. Although I’m no fan of the marketing harassment either, I anxiously look forward to this moment every four years.

The primary purpose of the New Hampshire primary, of course, is to vote. But beyond that, it’s a free fantasy camp for political junkies who live anywhere. Unlike at the Democratic or Republican national conventions, where the speakers look like ants from the nosebleed seats, you’re sometimes close enough here to see the candidates perspire. During the 2012 primary, I saw Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry become a sweaty Rorschach test as the shape of the state of New Hampshire “miraculously” soaked through his shirt: Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Tulsi Gabbard’s Good Luck Charm

Given my family’s prolific history exploring the connections between superheroes and presidential candidates (watch the “Republicans in Tights” video below), I was amused by Tulsi Gabbard’s revelation that she brings Wonder Woman on the New Hampshire campaign trail.

Slightly disappointed it is not the Lynda Carter or Gal Gadot incarnation of Wonder Woman – or even the cartoon Superfriends version – but still very pleased by the Hawaiian Congresswoman’s taste in dashboard decor.

Here’s the video from the 2012 New Hampshire Primary, in which Superman got all the love:

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

An Ominous Sign The Red Sox Can’t Keep All Their Young Stars

Storm clouds gather around Fenway Park. Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts shines through like a ray of hope.

I snapped this pic from the bleachers during the early innings of the Red Sox-Tigers game on June 5, 2018. It looks like a foreshadowing scene in a low-budget apocalypse movie!

In the immortal words of President Trump, this storm turned out to be “meek and mild.” Just a light rain for two innings. But this shot remains one of my favorite baseball pics – and one of my favorite nature pics!

My baseball-crazed friend Chuck sent me this suggested photo caption: “Red Sox Locking Up Young Stars Looking Bleak.”

That’s what the baseball agents are thinking, too.


Leave a comment

Filed under Red Sox

Pathetic: How NOT to Remember Pearl Harbor

This offer for a free commemorative “75th anniversary” Pearl Harbor coin was in my Sunday Boston Globe today, mixed in with the toothpaste and laundry detergent coupons.  On first glance, I can think of only one person who’d want to collect this coin: Emperor Hirohito.

A few immediate thoughts:

* What American would want to display “dramatic artwork of Japanese dive bombers attacking U.S. ships,” which gives the screaming “PEARL HARBOR ATTACKED!” a gloating context?

* Does one display this next to their “TWIN TOWERS ATTACKED!” commemorative dinner plate?

* 2018 is actually the 77th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, which indicates that this company has a warehouse filled with unsold commemorative coins.

* Trivializing one of the worst days in American history even further, the free Pearl Harbor offer runs above the “Owl Always Love You” figurine by artist Kayomi Harai, best known for painting “nature’s cutest creatures… made even cuter with their big, expressive eyes!”

Whooooo can’t resist buying both?!?



Leave a comment

Filed under War Souvenirs

Maybe Hanley Ramirez had a better season last year than we thought…

More fake news in packs of 2018 Topps baseball cards?

On the heels of finding out that Yankees sluggers Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez might not really be BFFs, I found this other Topps Heritage card crediting Red Sox first baseman Hanley Ramirez for finishing fourth in the American League batting title last year.

Although I love Hanley, I remember his season being rather streaky and lackluster. So I looked up his 2017 stats: He hit .242.

Turns out that it was Cleveland Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez (.318) – the Ramirez with less interesting hair – who finished fourth in the AL batting race. The Ramirezes look absolutely nothing alike.

I hope Topps corrects the error and gives Jose his due. Even more so, I hope Hanley hits .318 this year!

Leave a comment

Filed under baseball cards, Red Sox Schlock

Are These Yankees “Pinstriped Pals” or Just “Awesome Acquaintances?”

Yankees sluggers Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez: BFFs 4-eva!

I love when baseball cards feature multiple players together and celebrate or fabricate what they have in common – i.e. putting Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays (1962) on a card and calling them the “Managers’ Dream” or grouping Jim Rice, Kirby Puckett and Jose Canseco (1987) as “The A.L. Pitcher’s Nightmare.”

So I was amused to see this 2018 Topps Heritage pairing of young Yankees stars Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, who are being billed as “PINSTRIPED PALS.”

Really? I’m not sure who looks more disinterested in friendship: Judge or Sanchez.

And although the back of the card notes that the pair set a Major League record for most homers by teammates under age 26, there is no mention of this alleged friendship. Just baseball stats and talk of future potential (not for a relationship).

I did some in-depth research (Googling “Are Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez friends?“) and the results are inconclusive.

However, there is strong evidence that Aaron Judge recently formed “an instant friendship” with Giancarlo Stanton.

So what’s the deal, Topps? If these guys really are “Pinstriped Pals,” why not include an anecdote or fun fact to back up your headline? And if they’re not really friends, what would’ve been the harm in labeling them “Awesome Acquaintances?”

Using alliteration for the sake of alliteration is inexcusable.



Leave a comment

Filed under baseball cards, Fake Yankee Friendships

Savvy Writing Like This Could Save Baseball Cards From Extinction

Candidly, I never heard of Jett Bandy before opening this pack of Topps Heritage Baseball Cards (with the cool 1968 retro design), but I am now a fan. Based solely on the Brewers catcher’s connection to the Tom Cruise movie, “Cocktail.” Here’s a closer look so you don’t have to squint:

Where was this kind of trivia on baseball cards when I was a kid? I do remember being enthralled by the journalism in annual Red Sox yearbooks, which usually documented every player’s favorite movie and TV show. This stuff matters just as much as the stolen bases and RBIs (for that matter, why do so many baseball cards ignore stolen bases and saves in the career statistics?).

Anyhow, hats off to the Topps writer responsible for this card!

Leave a comment

Filed under Sports, Trading Card of the Week