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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:

https://gofund.me/e2028309

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:

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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.

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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 Ancestry.com), 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.

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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

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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:

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Ice Castles: The Worst $55 Mistake I’ve Ever Made as a Parent

If I could build a time machine, the first thing I would do after killing Baby Hitler would be to go to Ice Castles New Hampshire in mid-January 2016 instead of yesterday. This way I could have warned the world to stay far, far away from this ridiculously overhyped, money-sucking tourist trap.

Today is the last day Ice Castles is open this winter. If you already bought tickets, here’s some advice: Find your nearest Target or Wal-Mart and stare at the mounds of snow that the plows piled up in the parking lot. They are far more impressive.

Here’s what I thought I was bringing my family of four to see based on the Ice Castles website:

Bait-and-Switch: The glorious advertised image of the New Hampshire Ice Castles (source: Icecastles.com/lincoln/)

Bait-and-Switch: The glorious advertised image of the New Hampshire Ice Castles (source: Icecastles.com/lincoln/)

And here’s what greeted us when we got there, a really wide but not-so-tall snow fort:

ice castles-2

Backing up, here is the view from the parking lot:

ice-castles-1

This place was the ultimate letdown. Based on the admission fees ($15.95 online, $20 at the door), I was expecting a Disney-quality attraction – not something the guys at my local DPW could slap together with a bulldozer and a ski resort snow machine. Continue reading

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2 Billy Joel Songs You Should NOT Dance To

Allentown

Question for Billy Joel fans who were at Fenway Park last night. WHY do people dance to “Allentown,” a song about the collapse of the American economy and vanishing middle class? And for God’s sake, why do people dance to “Goodnight Saigon” about Vietnam?

ALLENTOWN

“Well we’re living here in Allentown
And they’re closing all the factories down
Out in Bethlehem they’re killing time
Filling out forms
Standing in line”

GOODNIGHT SAIGON

“Remember Charlie, remember Baker
They left their childhood on every acre
And who was wrong? And who was right?
It didn’t matter in the thick of the fight”

Verdict: Not danceable.

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It’s a Fourth of July New Hampshire Miracle!

This might not result in hordes of pilgrims visiting my town to commemorate the “New Hampshire Miracle,” but that’s not the shape of Vermont or Massachusetts oozing out of presidential candidate Rick Perry’s sweat glands at the 4th of July parade.

Take a closer look and judge for yourself:

2016 presidential candidate Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, campaigns in New Hampshire on the 4th of July

Even Rick Perry’s sweat glands love the New Hampshire Primary!

Now compare:

The Virgin Mary Toast has nothing on Rick Perry’s laundry.

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My Mortgage Company Wished Me a Happy Birthday!

mortgage birthday wishes

My mortgage company just wished me a Happy Birthday in my “important messages” box.

The most heartwarming part? The Print This Page option so I can display their card on my refrigerator.

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Dear Waze: Please don’t show me movie trailers while I am driving

waze

Dear Waze:

Driving in Boston is pretty stressful when you don’t know where you are going.

And so just telling us where to go instead of showing pop-up promo ads for sitcoms will reduce our odds of getting into an accident.

I fully realize you need to monetize your GPS app, but there’s gotta be a safer way.

Love,

Darren

XOXOXOXOXO

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