About David Wilkening
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Hollywood film producers are not known for taking chances. So an R-rated film about a drug dealer taking his RV to Mexico might seem on the surface a bad gamble.
But the 2013 movie “We’re the Millers” was definitely a winning bet.
And a distinct departure from the usual family rated G-comedies produced by movie-makers.
Aided undoubtedly by stars such as Jennifer Aniston (as a stripper) and Jason Sudeikis (the drug dealer), the film cost a relatively small budget of $37 million. But it earned a whopping return of $270 million.
It was not only a departure from usual Hollywood “safe” movies, it did well at the box office despite tepid reviews by critics.
It apparently had no trouble finding an audience of more mature movie-fans who appreciated its comedy despite its adult rating.
As one patron put it:
“This was one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. I highly recommend it, but it is not for kids or for anybody who is easily offended. It had a lot of raunchy things and foul language, but they work a lot of funny things into it.”
The plot is perhaps an unlikely one: a veteran pot dealer creates a fake family.
Fake wife, fake kids.
They are used to disguise his effort to use his RV to move a huge shipment of weed into the US from Mexico.
“The ‘Millers are headed south of the border for a Fourth of July weekend that is sure to end with a bang,” is a summation,
The RV, which plays a prominent role, is also unusual.
It’s one of the Encounter line of Coachmen motorhomes.
The film was a showcase for the Coachmen division of Elkhart, Indiana-based Forest River Inc. It showed off what is known as Ford’s durable and dependable 22,000-lb, F-53 stripped chassis upon which the “Encounter” line of Coachmen motorhomes is based
News reports say that two Coachmen Encounter RV units were used during filming, as well as a 1991 Foretravel Grand Villa Class A unihome. The later was on a Chevrolet chassis. The Triton V-10 engine was also a prominent feature (distinct with noise and a V-10 emblem on the hood).
What made this movie a success may have been partly its R rating, which is given for “crude sexual content, pervasive language, drug material and brief graphic nudity.”
All of which may have been factors for ticket-buyers.
But the motorhome itself may also have contributed to its success.
Motorhomes in movies have long been a prominent feature of films since the 1950s when Lucy and Desi Arnaz ventured out in disastrous fashion in “The Long, Long Trailer.”
And there’s been continuing debate on which were the best and worst.
Without entering that route, the Winnebago may deserve the academy award for “best” RV.
At least when it comes to not doing very much, but in number of appearances.
Movie-dom fascination with RV’s might be traced to the 1950s,
That was when a 40-foot-long, 1953 New Moon was the star trailer in the Lucy-Desi film of 1953 which started the RV movement. Memorable scenes included Lucy’s (unsuccessful) efforts to cook a dinner. The most dramatic moment may have been when the trailer almost fell off a cliff, a moment many other RV riders may have sympathized with if not always experienced.
But we soon see the Winnebago in movies such as “Lost in America,” and “About Schmidt,” and even “Spaceballs” and “Independence Day.” The latter is best described as serious “science fiction.”
A Winnebago was also the unsung character in the highly successful “Independence Day” film about aliens trying to take over earth. Not really a starring part for the RV since it was mostly seen as crop duster and alien abductee Randy Quaid took his children with him to fight the aliens.
In the science fiction category…or at least comedy fiction…the film “Spaceballs” also had the mad creative genius of Mel Brooks in another Winnebago.
“Schmidt” in a Winnebago Adventurer is all about a recently-widowed man’s efforts to find himself during a solo road trip (which may help explain why it was not a major hit)
“Lost” starred well-known comedy writer Albert Brooks and Julie Haggerty as a corporate couple who abandon their lives to travel easy-rider style across the country.
A much bigger box office hit was “RV,” which featured a bus from Forest River Georgetown RV.
Bob (Robin Williams) convinces his family into taking a business trip disguised as an RV adventure. Many scenes of mayhem such as running over cars and shopping carts and an RV sinking in a lake. The family endures and wins in the end.
Also a hit: “Meet the Fockers,” which featured not only great actor Robert DeNiro but also a 2007 Pace Arrow. A tale of the difficulties of soon-to-be in-laws.
In the lesser known film category, there was also the 2006 “Motorhome Massacre,” which featured an Argosy “Woody.”
Good times in the RV till the machete-throwing crazy arrives to spoil the fun.
By David Wilkening
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Movie Truckers: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
The portrayal of movie truckers is not unlike how American Indians were seen during the heyday of the American cowboy west. They have not always been seen favorably in the flicks.
In other words…the way movies show truckers is a mixed bag.
Think of it like the well-known Sergio Leone western “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.”
The latter two categories, “bad and ugly,” are not always strictly defined.
The “Good,” however (at least in the movies) is easier to define. It is none other than Clint Eastwood. In the so-called Italian-made Sergio Leone westerns.
And of course, we see him later as the good guy again in another trucker movie.
In “Every Which Way But Loose,” he stars with ape-like Clyde as an amateur boxer.
Since that movie was mostly forgettable, let’s look harder at the bad trucker.
The really bad, and ugly, too, is J. D. Walsh. He was well-known for his amazingly diverse character roles.
And we see him at his best (or worst) as the scariest trucker ever seen in the movies: “Red Barr. “
The film is “Breakdown.”
Trucker Red graciously stops to help hero Kurt Russell when our hero’s own Cherokee Jeep vehicle breaks down.
But don’t let this fool you.
As the plot unfolds, Russell loses his wife to the kidnapping (or we should say wife-napping) trucker Red.
There are chases, fights, and bad characters you first thought were good such as a crooked sheriff.
The plot twists continue till Russell is reunited with his wife.
The trucker comes to a bad end when his semi-truck falls off a bridge and he is crushed to death.
The opposite of Red is “Smokey,” of course.
Who’s played by the world’s best “good ole boy” Burt Reynolds in “Smokey and the Bandit.”
He and memorable Jerry Reed are two truckers on a wild ride hauling beer from Texas to Georgia.
They are chased by another memorable character played by Jackie Gleason. He is sheriff Buford T. Justice.
Just about everyone’s seen it because it was the second highest grossing movie of 1977, behind only “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope.”
For anyone who doubted its popularity, the beer brand being hauled was Coors. At the time, it was sold only in areas east of Oklahoma. The movie was like a free ad for Coors.
Also of note in the movie: Burt Reynolds played the part with his real-life girlfriend of the time: Sally Field.
The trucks used in the film were Kenworth W-900 models.
PS: If you were too young to have seen the movie at the time, there were two other sequels.
Since we’re still talking about good guys, perhaps the world’s second most famous movie trucker is Martin Penwald, or Kris Krisfofferson.
Known in the film “Convoy” as “Rubber Duck.”
Kristofferson before the film was better known as a songwriter with perhaps his best known “Me and Bobby McGee.”
A Mack truck was used in the film. The hood ornament of a Rubber Duck gained immortality by being sold as a separate item.
They are routinely still offered for sale via the Internet.
Another good guy in the movies was Chuck Norris.
He is a former karate teacher whose films include “Good Guys Wear Black.” He does some of his fighting aboard an 18-wheeler in “Breaker! Breaker!”
One reviewer said:
“It’s 1977 and everyone wants to be a trucker. That was the craze. So someone figured to put some Karate and some trucks together.”
Lots of vehicle chases and crashes, and some kung fu as well.
Another good guy trucker largely forgotten today is Jan-Michael Vincent, a former “pretty boy” actor whose short-lived film credits included “White Line Fever.”
It’s the story of an Air Force veteran who decides to enter the trucking business to earn a good living for his family.
Unfortunately, the business has been overtaken by organized crime.
The hero and his 1974 Ford 1974 Ford WT9000 cab over rig with a Cummins turbo diesel engine nicknamed “Blue Mule!” fights back.
This film, if nothing else, added the phrase of “White Line Fever” to most vocabularies (meaning addicted to trucking).
“Black Dog,” which in trucker terms means the visions’ drivers get when terribly tired, also added to movie-goers’ vocabulary.
Patrick Swayze plays Jack Crews who is a good guy tricked into hauling a load of illegal firearms. Swayze actually drove an 18-wheeler truck in the film.
One of the best and most famous trucking movies ever had both a really good guy and a really, really bad one.
It was made for TV.
In fact, it’s often described as the best ever made-for-tv movie.
“Duel” was also famous for its director: Steven Spielberg’ first movie.
Dennis Hopper of television’s “Gunsmoke” fame is a motorist driving around in a red Plymouth Valiant (those who remember the world’s longest running television western remember him as good-natured “Chester”).
Chester in this film makes the mistake of passing a dirty truck tanker.
The truck driver, who is never seen, for some reason gets angry.
Very, very angry.
The trucker gives chase, via on the road.
Hopper barely escapes with his life.
In one harrowing scene, he thinks he is safe in a glass telephone booth (no longer found anywhere) when the truck driver plows right through the glass in his 1955 Peterbilt 281 tanker.
There are a lot of unforgettable-looking trucks in the “Road Warrior” movies. The vehicles of the future are unforgettable because of their heavy fortifications built around them like miniature castle-and-moat-protected cities in the middle ages.
Actor Mel Gibson famously drives a semi-truck supposedly full of ultra-valuable fuel to escape the heavily muscled bad guys.
Who could forget his famous line:
“Two days ago, I saw a vehicle that would haul that tanker. You want to get out of here? You talk to me.” Gibson jabs his finger at his chest.
There have also been some famous movie films about trucks that these days just a distant memory.
The best-known may be “They Drive By Night.”
It starred Humphrey Bogart and George Raft as down-on-their-luck independent truckers in a black and white movie.
Unlikely to be seen today except on old movie channels.
Of course, most movie portrayals of truckers which were most prevalent and popular during the 1970s are not very realistic for modern movie-goers
During the 1970s, other trucker movies included “Moonfire,” a film about truckers fighting villains in Mexico described breathlessly as “the most authentic trucking movie ever made.”
Or “Big Rig,” a documentary about real life truck drivers starring actual truck drivers, not actors.
It’s all about the “real people who drive the country,” according to advertising.
Which is just fine…if you believe what they tell you in Hollywood. ###
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On The Road: Truck Driver Humo r
When it comes to a truck driver’s sense of humor, it can be X-rated. Notoriously naughty. So we can’t repeat it here. But please stop us if you have heard this G-rated story:
A pastor and a truck driver are killed in a car accident. They both go to heaven.
An angel escorts them to their new home. A villa decorated with gold is where the truck driver is directed.
The angel escorts the pastor to a small wooden hut. Somewhat confused with his heavenly reward, the pastor asks why the driver was given a golden palace, while the faithful servant of God only got a wooden shack?
The angel explains:
“When you were preaching, people were sleeping, but when he was driving, everyone around was praying.”
As you might expect, truck driver humor often involves their favorite haunts. Like restaurants.
Here’s another you might not have heard:
An elderly couple goes to Burger King and shares their fries and burger. A trucker sitting next to them offers to pay for the old lady.
“It’s all right,” says the old man. “We always share everything.” On seeing that the old lady has not eaten anything, the trucker once again makes an offer.
The old man once again assures the trucker to stay calm and resumes eating.
Finally, the trucker asks the lady about not eating anything.
The old lady replies, “I am waiting for the teeth.”
Truck drivers like everyone else often like one-liner humor. And a company that sells used trucks is often a target.
Schneider is one example. It sells used products. And is often a target.
The answer may be on its web site, which has all kinds of caveats and says:
“All equipment is sold ‘as-is’, …without any warranty. All Sales are final, absolutely no returns or repairs. Stock photo’s do not represent the condition of the equipment and are only meant to represent the type of equipment. Any representation of condition or mileage.”
You get that warning, don’t you?
No wonder there’s jokes about it.
WHAT DOES A SCHNEIDER TRUCK AND A ORANGE BARREL HAVE IN COMMON? They both have a dirtbag in them!
But other truck related companies also are targets.
Roadway has also not been left out:
WHY DO ROADWAY TRUCKS HAVE ONLY ONE SEAT? So the driver knows which side to get in!
Other trucking companies as well such as Mack and JB Hunt also come up as humorous subjects:
DID YOU HEAR NAVISTAR INTERNATIONAL AND MACK ARE GOING TO MERGE?
The new company will be called corn-dog.
WHAT DO YOU GET WHEN JB HUNT LEAVES A TRUCKSTOP?
Two parking spaces!
WHY DID JB HUNT STOP HAULING DOUBLES?
The top one kept hitting bridges!
And back to Schneider:
HOW DO YOU SAY JB HUNT IN GERMAN?
DID YOU HEAR PETERBILT, KENWORTH, AND FREIGHTLINER ARE CREATING A TRUCK TOGETHER?
The new truck will be called peter worth shakin.
Uh, oh, we’re getting close here to adult humor.
The best truck humor may be jokes you probably won’t hear.
The reason is that they are often found on double 8-track tapes.
This goes back a ways, 50 years or so when Sony’s Walkman gave everyone the chance to take their music with them. That led to other companies offering portable music to be carried around anywhere.
In those early days, the big rig trucker may have been regarded as an American folk hero during the 1970s. That was when the song “Convoy” hit the top of the charts.
Truckers were rule-breaking models. They flouted authority in the song and the movies. And throughout popular culture.
The enemy was the highway patrol and the government.
Even Clint Eastwood, famous at that time as a cowboy (“The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”) made “Hero” movies about truckers (“Every Which Way But Loose”)
“The people who perhaps benefitted the most from the 8-track, however, were truckers. In retrospect, it makes perfect sense,” says a site Splitsider.
Truckers are on the road for long periods of time, confined to their cabs. They needed entertainment.
Enter the eight-track.
“As one might guess, the hyper-masculine truckers of America wanted X-rated humor that was profane, bawdy and explicit,” says Splitsider.
So truckers also developed a taste for recorded comedy, both of the standup and musical varieties, and thus was born an entire under-reported subculture of the humor business.
Truckers wanted comedy which reflected their own experiences on the road.
Truckers began buying more comedy CD’s than the numbers sold in record stores.
These recordings spoke the trucker’s own language in words and song.
Many of these often bawdy tunes were not sold in regular stores. Adults only. Risque.
Documentaries pointed out that many of these were unheard by most people outside the trucking industry who were not easily able to locate and buy them.
Funny enough, but here are some other trucker jokes about their familiar relationships with motorcyclists, cops and waitresses. And stop us if you have heard them…
—A trucker stops at a roadside diner for lunch and orders a cheeseburger, coffee and a slice of apple pie. As he was about to eat, three bikers walk in.
One grabs the trucker’s cheeseburger, takes a huge bite. The second one drinks the trucker’s coffee, and the third eats his apple pie.
The truck driver does not say a word. He pays the bill and leaves.
As the waitress appears, one of the motorcyclists growls, “He ain’t much of a man, is he?”
“He’s not much of a driver, either,” the waitress replies. “He just backed his 18-wheeler over three motorcycles.”
—-A trucker misses the turn-off before the low bridge and gets stuck under it. Cars are backed up for miles.
Finally, a police car pulls up. The cop gets out of his car and walks around to the truck driver, puts his hands on his hips and says, “Got stuck huh?”
The truck driver says, “No, I was delivering this bridge and ran out of gas.”
—A trucker comes into a truck stop restaurant and places his order. “I want three flat tires, a pair of headlights and a pair of running boards.”
The brand-new waitress, not wanting to appear stupid, says to the cook, “This guy out there just ordered three flat tires, a pair of headlights and a pair of running boards. … What does he think this place is, an auto parts store?”
“No,” the cook says. “Three flat tires means three pancakes; a pair of headlights is two eggs sunny side up; and a pair of running boards is two slices of crisp bacon!”
“Oh … OK!” replays the waitress. She thinks about it for a moment and then spoons up a bowl of beans and gives it to the customer.
The trucker asks, “What are the beans for?”
She replies, “I thought while you were waiting for the flat tires, headlights and running boards, you might as well gas up!”
Finally, another one-liner that might serve as a real life motto:
WHAT IS A SWIFT DRIVER’S FAVORITE SAYING?
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, if not for swift the right lane would rust!
By David Wilkening
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For anyone who does not think the movies are an influential part of just about everyone’s life, consider “The Long, Long Trailer.” Never heard of it, you say?
Maybe you have heard of “I Love Lucy?”
Also from the 1950s but also still seen in TV re-runs,
To stop the suspense, we are referring here to Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez who at one time were among the world’s most famous couples.
They were also the stars of the TV program and that the world’s most famous trailer movie.
The trailer itself was a star: New Moon made it. The Michigan-based company said it was the world’s largest. It was as much the star at Lucy and Desi in the “Long Trailer” film that portrayed the mishaps of the pair.
As you might imagine, many of the movie mishaps involved the long trailer crashing into just about everything. The main loser: homes.
This was the 1950s, when the so-called “Wheel estate market boasted many bold designs,” as writer Juergen Eichermueller put it in a story of that time that had the title: “When Wheel Estate Went Wild.”
What he was referring to…
“The travel trailer, or mobile home (as they were more commonly called), could be moved, usually by a special moving company, at the whim of the owner. Whereas the stick-built homeowner was tied down, literally, to the property on which their house was built, the mobile homeowner could ‘get up and go’ to any part of the country, and in any season.”
Of course, when Lucy and husband moved it via a 1953 Mercury convertible, it was comedic mayhem.
The popularity of trailers in these relatively early days was powered by Lucy, you might say.
“TV stars Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz brought respectability, fanfare, and a surge of sales to trailers and their industry with the 1954 comedy film ‘The Long, Long Trailer,’ “ according to one report.
The couple’s adventures were centered around their new vacation home on wheels—a streamlined, yellow-and-white, 36-foot 1953 New Moon version.
The film changed attitudes. Including the thought that trailer folks were cheap.
As the writer put it:
“The excitement that surrounded the ‘I love Lucy’ trailer was the best thing that could have happened to any trailer manufacturer in the 1950s. What’s more, trailer folks (as well as parks) were portrayed as nice and pleasant—never as ‘cheap.’”
The film also made Redman trailers popular.
They had been a small regional company making only two trailers a day. But as the film became popular, the company was transformed into one of the nation’s largest mobile home builders. A half dozen factories followed.
The movie was based on a book of the same name by a long forgotten author, Clinton Twiss.
The trailer used in the film is the 1953 film was the “New Moon” model, which sold for $5,345 (equal to $47,354 today) at the time. Since it was wrecked, several trailers were used. Also, several Mercury autos used as “stand-ins.”
The 96-minute film cost only $1.5 million to make but grossed five times that amount.
The movie became MGM’s best grossing comedy up to that point and transformed Redman overnight from a “small regional outfit into one of the nation’s largest mobile home manufacturers,” according to Hepcat Restorations.
Harold and William Redman started the company in 1930 with no trailer experience. Their first product came out of a former pickle factory. There were only eight men on the production line. The company was part of a trend that made Michigan the heart of the mobile home industry.
Redman Homes, also known as the Redman Trailer Company, New Moon Homes, and Redman Industries eventually became a multi-divisional corporation with headquarters in Dallas. In addition to mobile homes, it went into the production and distribution of aluminum and wood building components.
If you are a diehard movie fan and want a “Lucy” style trailer, there are occasionally some advertised on the Internet. One painted “Lucy brown” was described as a two-owner that was going for a price of $4995.
No wonder the trailer was later named after Lucy. She fell in love with it at a trailer show. Her character, Tracy, with husband Nicky, Desi’s movie name, also spent a wad of money on trailer hitches and numerous other expenses.
Some of the funniest scenes involve one or other or both of the two falling through the door into heavy mud. During rainstorms.
Another highlight is when Lucy tries to cook eggs that keep sliding off her pan as her husband drives up a mountain slope supposedly the Sierra Nevada’s.
The couple eventually tries to sell the long trailer in the movie. But that doesn’t work well, either.
The marriage that started out happy also becomes tense and troubling.
Of course, they reconcile. Though that has its comic moments as well because it’s done in the rain.
Legend has it that the film studio did not expect it to be a success. The reason: they thought movie-goers would not pay money to see Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in a movie when they could watch the couple on television for free (I Love Lucy). Arnaz made a $25,000 bet with the studio that the movie would make more money than the current highest grossing comedy at that time (Father of the Bride, starring Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor.
Arnaz won the bet.
Good luck for Arnaz and Lucy, whose TV show became even more popular.
However, in later life, they did divorce.
And downside or bad luck of the film itself was perhaps two-fold:
The author of the best-selling book Clinton Twiss “The Long, Long Trailer” never saw the movie. He died about a year prior to its release.
Perhaps it should come as no surprise that the couple’s divorce derailed the new version.
By David Wilkening
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