Cycle News Archives
This Cycle News Archives Column is reprinted from issue #21, June 1, 2005. CN has hundreds of past Archives editions in our files, too many destined to be archives themselves. So, to prevent that from happening, in the future, we will be revisiting past Archives articles while still planning to keep fresh ones coming down the road -Editor.
A Modern Archives Moment
By Scott Rousseau
Almost all of what you read in this section of Cycle News deals with a particular personality, story or event from the good old days of motorcycle racing’s past. That an Archives moment could be worthy of such celebration less than 24 hours after it took place in the year 2005 is the rarest of rare occurrences. Yet that’s exactly what did happen on May 18, 2005, when the Orange County Dualies motorcycle club—most especially club member and longtime motorcycle industry associate Larry Langley—put together the reunion to end all reunions, a celebration of the iconic Bruce Brown film On Any Sunday at the Edwards Newport 6 Theater in Newport Beach, California, with all proceeds going to benefit the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation.
Over 1100 people attended the gala event—which took on the appearance of a movie premiere rather than a reunion of some 35-year-old motorcycle flick—including perhaps the greatest assemblage of cast and film crew members since the real premiere took place in 1971. The crowd, who paid $35 a seat—some stragglers paid even more for the precious few empties and SRO viewing—was a who’s who of motorcycle legends, current stars, industry moguls, journalists and the hardest of hard-core motorcycle fans. The event had deep meaning for all who attended, not the least of whom were the main protagonists in On Any Sunday, such as 1969 AMA Grand National Champion Mert Lawwill and motorcycle off-road legend Malcolm Smith.
“I’m loving this,” Lawwill said. “The proof of what this movie has done can be judged by how many people are here. I mean, this is 35 years later. This is not the premiere. And for people to come up to me continually, year in and year out, and say how this film has changed their lives—this film has been a real blessing. I’m just so happy for the job that Bruce did on it. To make some something that’s 35 years old and still seems new is just amazing to me.”
Smith, whose gold medal-winning performance at the International Six Day Trial in EL Escorial, Spain, is well chronicled in On Any Sunday, said that he had many fond memories of the time he spent working on the film with Bruce Brown.
“I remember going to the Six Days with Bruce in Spain and not being able to eat dinner after the ride, and then going to sleep until midnight, and then getting up to eat dinner at midnight and then going back to sleep at two in the morning,” Smith said. “At times, it was just Bruce and I. We roomed together. That’s what I remember the most.”
Smith said that the continuous impact of the movie, which immortalized him, never ceases to amaze him.
“It is really surprising to me, really unbelievable,” Smith said. “I had no idea that I would be a big part of the movie. I just thought that I was one of the bit players. I didn’t really see anything until it was done. I have never, ever been unhappy that I did it.”
Those who “did it” were all there—almost. The noble presence of Dick Mann was missed, and the late, great Steve McQueen may have only been there in spirit, but just about every other main character in the film was there, such as Romero, Aldana, Rice, Nixon and Mashburn. Even more interestingly, several of the bit players in the film, from “the pig farmer from Murrieta” to the guy “who just threw away his $40 prescription glasses” and passed his buddy back at the next corner, to the guy who clothes-lined himself on the starting tape at the Elsinore Grand Prix, to the fella who learned the wrong way of handling a motorcycle by his uninformed next-door neighbor. They may not have had the star power of the professional racers in the film, but each of them still made a big impression on those who watched it better than three decades ago. Just by the mere mention of them, I’ll bet you can picture at least one of these people in your head right now.
And the version of the film that was viewed by the gathering wasn’t just any old VHS or DVD copy of On Any Sunday, either, but rather Bruce Brown’s personal 35mm film version of the movie, played on a reel-to-reel projector, just as God intended. The screening wasn’t without the occasional wart, most notably when the film broke just as we were about to get our first taste of Mert Lawwill’s profession: “Motorcycle Racer.” It didn’t matter. There was magic in the air, and enthusiasm for the occasion was at fever pitch.
David Aldana shared his thoughts on On Any Sunday for Cycle News, summing up what most of the players in the film have always felt:
“It’s nice to have been in racing when it [On Any Sunday] was being filmed,” Aldana said. “We were going to be out on the circuit no matter what, but being there when the movie was being filmed and to see what it did for motorcycling and how it changed people’s impression of motorcyclists, it really had an impact on my career. It has kept my name out in the public eye for that much longer because everyone remembers the characters in the film. It really is amazing how much impact it had on the spectators and the next generation. I mean, some of these kids weren’t even born when the movie came out, and they’ll come up to me and say, ‘I saw you in On Any Sunday.’ It’s an honor to be remembered for doing something that you did simply for fun. I never thought of it as a job. It sounds like a cliche, but we were just in the right place at the right time.”
And “the crazy kid from Santa Ana, California,” also relayed something about his introduction in the movie that not a lot of folks might know: He never even got stopped by the policeman following his van.
“I saw the tripods there, and I saw the film crew standing there, so I stood up out of my van and I waved, and I got back in and continued to drive to the hotel, and I swear I never saw a policeman behind me,” Aldana recalled. “To be honest, I was a little embarrassed to go to the premiere of the movie, so I waited a week to see what kind of feedback I’d get. People kept telling me that the movie was great and ‘Did you get in trouble? Did you get in trouble?’ I go, ‘What are you talking about? I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ They told me that there was a policeman behind me, and I’d say, ‘No, no, no.’ Then I saw it. What I think happened was that they got a call right at that time and then did a 180 and went the other way. I swear that from the time I got out of the van and back into it, I never saw the policeman until I saw it in the movie. Believe me, I would have remembered getting a ticket.”
So, for Aldana’s entire career, there’s been no trouble with the police, ever…?
“Well, I can’t say that,” Aldana grinned. “You’re just setting me up now.”
At the end of the night, Bruce Brown himself admitted that the scene in Newport that night was overwhelming.
“It was great to see all the people,” Brown said. “Some of them I hadn’t seen in a long time, like Jim Rice. It was great to see him.”
And Brown says that he never expected the movie to be the kind of cultural capsule for an entire sport such as it has turned out to be.
“No, I really didn’t,” Brown said. “I was just trying to do something that was entertaining and showed what the sport was like at the time.”
Those who attended the On Any Sunday movie reunion that night in Newport Beach had the time of their lives, one that will almost certainly be impossible to duplicate. As for On Any Sunday itself? That film will continue to capture the time of our lives for all time. CN