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A radio interview with George Maharis January 14, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Radio, Television.
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George Maharis, co-star of CBS-TV’s “Route 66″ drama of the early 1960s, was interviewed for 21 minutes a few days ago on “The Vintage Rock and Pop Shop” on WFDU radio in New Jersey.

Maharis now is 85 years old.

In 2007, I interviewed Maharis for about a half-hour before “Route 66″ episodes finally trickled out on DVD. It’s become one of the most popular posts on Route 66 News.

All four seasons of “Route 66″ can be purchased here in one box set. If that’s too much for you, there’s a two-disc package of the 11 best episodes here.

(Publicity still from “Route 66″ of co-stars George Maharis, left, and Martin Milner)

Religious imagery and “The Grapes of Wrath” January 6, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Books, Radio, Religion, Road trips.
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Frank Gifford of rt66pix.com recently was interviewed by Susan Olasky of WORLD radio, which is part of a Christianity-based multimedia group.

Gifford explained how he found Christian imagery in John Steinbeck’s seminal novel, “The Grapes of Wrath,” much of which takes place on Route 66 during the Depression:

WORLD radio also linked to this University of South Queensland page that lists the allusions to the Bible in “The Grapes of Wrath.” They include the Book of Job, Noah and the Flood, The Promised Land, and Jim Casy, Tom Joad and Rose of Sharon from the novel.

Interestingly, if Steinbeck indeed used the Bible in “The Grapes of Wrath,” it probably was little more than a literary device. Research over the decades indicates that Steinbeck was agnostic.

Gifford thinks the Route 66 community is missing out on an opportunity to market Route 66 to Christians via “The Grapes of Wrath.” He elaborated in an email:

In polling, 77% of the US population identifies as “Christian” and 34% as “Born-again.” The “Born-again” group alone is 100+ million people.  They’re already in America and could be persuaded to travel a family-friendly highway crossing the Bible Belt.
Biblical imagery in The Grapes of Wrath is not mentioned in road-related books or promotional literature.  (Can you find a single reference?)
A “faith journey” is not even considered in the massive Rutgers study.  But skiing, nightlife and gambling, among many other things, appear on page 201 of the Technical Report.
On page 205-06 of the study: the typical Route 66 travel group is older adults.  On page 234: the typical travel party has just 0.2 kids.  Christian families/groups could alter these demographics for the better.  Importantly, they likely would not alienate current users.  Every business/attraction along the road (except for bars and casinos) would benefit.
Since government promotion of a faith journey is restricted by the Wall of Separation, the burden falls on private groups and individuals.  The research has already been done and is easily accessed on-line.

Gifford added he’s a “non-believer,” which may give him more objectivity on the Route 66-religion issue.

Gifford may be right in saying Route 66 is missing out on such a market segment. But I’m skeptical whether such marketing can and should be done.

In more than eight years of daily researching Route 66 for this website, I’ve encountered very few religious allegories or discussions tied to the Mother Road. And most of those are peripheral, such as 66 books in the Bible. One notable example is Chuck Williams, a roadie who recently published a new version of his “Eternal Route 66″ book that ties the Mother Road to biblical musings.

Whether it’s because of a lack of interest or it being a sleeping giant, joining Christianity and Route 66 aren’t high on folks’ priorities on the Internet.

If there’s a ripple metaphysically, it’s travelers (including non-Christians) seeing the road’s 2,400 miles and its twists, turns and dead ends as a metaphor for life.

What I’m trying to say is faith is too complex to think one could consistently shoehorn Route 66 into someone’s belief system. Having tourism centers taking such a delicate approach would be fraught with peril and might be counterproductive. If a Christian or a Buddhist or a Muslim or a Wiccan finds a measure of personal enlightenment while traveling the old road on their own, that’s fine. But trying to force the issue likely would be foolish.

Your mileage may vary. What do you think?

(Image of the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ Ministries in Groom, Texas, by Gouldy99 via Flickr)

Michael Wallis confirms there will be a “Cars 3″ August 17, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Books, Movies, People, Radio.
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Michael Wallis, author of “Route 66: The Mother Road,” recently traveled to Alton, Ill., for a reunion of Western Military Academy alums.

You’ll hear him during this 25-minute interview on WGBZ radio in Alton about the military school, plus Route 66 and his role in the movie “Cars.”

But about the 22-minute mark, you’ll hear him drop a pretty big nugget of news — that Disney-Pixar will make a “Cars 3″ film that goes back to Route 66 and includes Route 99, a historically significant highway in California.

This isn’t idle speculation by Wallis. He’d hinted before about a second “Cars” sequel. And the fact he’s Route 66 consultant for the “Cars” franchise in addition to holding the Sheriff of Radiator Springs role (seen above) gave his hint more credibility.

But instead of hinting, Wallis came right out and said there would be a “Cars 3,” despite the lack of direct confirmation by the studio.

The first “Cars,” released in 2006, grossed more than $460 million worldwide. That’s impressive enough, but the film spawned more than $5 billion (with a “b”) in merchandising sales — by far the most at Pixar. “Cars 2,” released in 2011, wasn’t as well-received (even Wallis acknowledged he didn’t like it that much during the interview) but it grossed more than $550 million.

“Cars” depicted the fictional Route 66 town of Radiator Springs, based on many real-life people, towns, and landmarks on Route 66.

(Hat tip: Suzanne Wallis)

Route 66 Radio Tour begins Thursday June 1, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Radio, Road trips.
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Chicago-area-based WRLR-FM 98.3 and UK-based Forest FM 92.3 will begin a long-planned joint broadcast of their Route 66 Radio Tour on Thursday.

The stations will do daily broadcasts through June 12 with significant figures and landmarks along Illinois Route 66. Visits will include Lou Mitchell’s restaurant in Chicago, Palms Grill Cafe in Atlanta, Joliet Area Historical Museum, and the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum in Pontiac.

Interviews will include Dave Clark, John Weiss, Ellie Alexander, Cathie Stevanovich, and William Thomas.

Here’s a promo for the Route 66 Radio Tour:

An NPR commentary about the “Route 66″ TV show April 28, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Radio, Television.
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In 2003, Larry Cohen delivered this commentary about the 1960s television drama, “Route 66,” on WRVO-FM, a National Public Radio station in New York state.

Cohen said he was inspired to do the piece after talking to the officers of Route 66 organizations.

On a related note, you can read about my chat with “Route 66″ star George Maharis from 2007.

A look at retro tobacco ads January 23, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Radio.
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Frank Kocevar of Historic Seligman Sundries in Seligman, Ariz., put together this video about vintage cigarette advertisements, including radio clips, from the 1940s and ’50s.

It’s startling to see doctors and nurses touting the health benefits of smokes. Cigarette advertising ended on television by 1970.

Kocevar says that some of the images of memorabilia come from his own collection.

 

A fun chat on KMOX radio November 26, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Books, Radio.
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For fun, here’s 34-minute broadcast on the KMOX-AM Auto Show in St. Louis. Host Greg Damon brought in Route 66 aficionado Joe Sonderman to talk about old cars and the Mother Road.

The show really gets cooking around the 5-minute mark, where a caller tells about the Corvette he ordered.

Sonderman owns the 66postcards.com site. He’s also written several books, including “Route 66 in New Mexico” and “Route 66 in Oklahoma.”

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