The cause this year was the Progeria Research Foundation. Progeria is a genetic disease that causes rapid aging in children, with most patients dying by the time they reach thirteen. It is a horrible disease and one in which not only the children have little hope for a natural life, but families are wracked by the pain of watching their children age quickly right before their eyes. Every year Von Hot Rod and his friends find a most worthwhile and worthy group to support and this year that research foundation was special. One of the families afflicted by this horrible disease is the Foose family. Terry Foose was there to help raise awareness among the hot rodding community on behalf of her daughter Amy, who suffered from the condition. Terry’s son is Chip Foose, one of the more well-known car builders, located in Huntington Beach, California.
The pinstripers donated so many objects that Von Hot Rod decided to break the auction into two parts and began the first session in the morning. I listened to Von Hot Rod rile the crowd up as he emceed the bidding, but the bids were low and I would have stayed to help out, but there were stories to get and articles to write. I vowed to return around 2 pm for the main auction and put in a few bids for these treasures. I wandered around the cavernous buildings that were filled to the brim with beautiful cars and other automotive treasures. I loved seeing the nostalgic cars from the past and the previous Grand National winners. My attention was distracted by the noisy and boisterous crowds in the Suede Palace where the traditional hot rodders were located. I wanted to stay and watch the pin-up contest by the girls who vie for the coveted title and who dress just like the girls did back in the 1940’s and ‘50’s. But there wasn’t any time and I had to get back and cover the reunion and auction. On the way back to the main building, I came across a man with a strange instrument. Doug Holser was displaying the Beugler Striper Rollerbrush, a strange little machine that automated and regulated pinstriping. It fit gingerly into his hand and with flourishes and sweeps; he made designs appear as if out of nowhere. He explained to a growing throng how easy it was to use the instrument. Impressive as it was, I felt a little guilty watching him perform, as if I was a scab laborer helping to break a union strike. Nevertheless, it was a new concept to me and I thought that it would provide an opening topic with the other pinstripers.
Von Hot Rod invites around thirty of the best pinstripers from around the country to participate in the reunion. It is an honor to receive an invitation and there is a mix of talented people, from those who have spent five decades or more in the art, to those who have just begun their career. To Von Hot Rod and the other long time pinstripers, such as Tom Kelly, Herb Martinez, Bob Spina, the reunion is a way to pass on their skills to the next generation. It is also an event where they can show the general public what pinstriping is all about. In their way of thinking, pinstriping represents an art form that is ageless. Artists have been striping valuable objects for as long as paint and brushes have existed. In our recent automotive age, including cars, boats, airplanes and motorcycles, there have been pinstripers and painters from the very earliest day. Henry Ford and the other automakers would employ pinstripers in their assembly lines to stripe the cars. Ford, known as a businessman who was tenacious about cutting costs, fired many of the pinstripers and replaced them with men who used tools like the Beugler Rollerbrush. I was on shaky grounds here. I was certain that the modern day pinstripers would object to the tool that was responsible for so much unemployment in their profession in the past. I asked Tom Kelly about the Beugler and my prior supposition proved accurate. His normal friendly glare turned stony and he told me, “its okay for painting barns,” and I knew then that the trend in automation would never be accepted by the true artisans of the trade.
The first pinstriper that I interviewed was John M. Frankel and he came from northern California to attend the reunion. Frankel goes by the name of Deadman’s Hand studios and he specializes in pinstriping and artwork. He told me that he has been working as a pinstriping for twelve years now and that his inspiration is Carry Greenwood. Greenwood was the 1994 Von Dutch Award Winner. With him were his two daughters, Jennifer and Sarah, who were enjoying the Grand National Roadster Show. John says that he attends about four or five shows a year. A real pro in the field is Alan Johnson, who has been a pinstriper for fifty years. That’s one of the great things about what Von Hot Rod is trying to do, bring together the old timers with the history of the business and the skills of a lifetime, so that they can teach the younger artists. Johnson resides in Blairstown, New Jersey and is adept at lettering, gold leaf, airbrushing and pinstriping. He began his career when he was twelve and taught himself how to pinstripe. He credits much of his skills to Ed “Big Daddy” Roth. Johnson wrote a book, “How to Pinstripe,” to show the techniques he has acquired over the years. Alan has a pleasing retro style to his artwork and graphics. Another grandmaster among the pinstripers was Ron Foreman, from Upland, California, who has been pinstriping since 1954 and learned from Von Dutch himself. Von Dutch is the working title for Kenny Howard, who passed away in 1992. His influence in the art of pinstriping is immense and is one reason why so many pinstripers use Von in their names, as a way of honoring him. Therefore, at the reunion you will see Von Hot Rod, Von Raven, who is now Miz Raven and others who use the name Von in their names.
I looked for, but didn’t see Herb Martinez, from Livermore, California. Herb is another old-timer who has deeply affected and changed the way pinstripers work. He has written “The Guide to Pinstriping,” and gives workshops and training. He passed out a flyer that shows eleven shows, workshops and pinstriping events planned for 2009 in the United States and Europe. Pinstriping might have landed on rocky ground in the past, but it is coming back with a roar. East Coast Artie came all the way from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Artie is another old veteran and has a great website, as do most of the pinstripers. The next pinstriper was TBonez, who incorporates the rich heritage of pinstriping’s past into an edgy, but very modern style that attracts the traditional hot rodders. TBonez comes from northern California and his website is fearsome. Kong has been pinstriping for seven years and hails from the San Diego, California area. He told me that he took his inspiration from Jack Williams as his teacher. Kong’s website is very impressive. The next pinstriper was Miz Raven, who used to go by Von Raven, but changed her name recently. She is from Fallbrook, California and is an accomplished pinstriper and artist. This is her third reunion. With her jet black hair, ready smile and impressive talent as a pinstriper and artist, this up and coming young lady is a hit with the crowds. She is also adept at airbrushing and portraits. Jeff Styles came from Lake Forest, California and has been pinstriping for twenty-nine years. Styles has quite a reputation among the hot rodders and is in constant demand for his work. Originally from Arizona, Jeff moved to California in the 1980’s. He learned from Butch Tucker and Von Dutch. Eric “Eggie” Foust came from Sacramento, California and has been striping for four years. He is self-taught and does art work and silk screening as well as pinstriping. He goes by Mindless Pinstriping and Pinheadlounge. Young and irreverent, Eric brings a great vitality to his work.
The next two pinstripers are Jimmy C and Dave Whittle, both long time professionals in the arts and sought after by hot rodders. Jimmy C’s website is Kustomart.com and he hails from San Clemente, California. Jimmy C has a style that is complex and Celtic in style, with lines that interweave, telling a story within a story. There is nothing that Jimmy C won’t adorn or stripe. His inventiveness knows no boundaries. He moved to California from Arizona and has been pinstriping since the 1980’s. Jimmy C is one of pinstriping’s leaders and this year was inducted into the “Von Hot Rod Pinstriping Hall of Fame.'' But he is also a fine artist, sculptor and all around artisan. Dave Whittle is much quieter and reserved than Jimmy C, but his skill is just as impressive. Whittle goes by California Designs and he works out of Norco, California and has been pinstriping for almost five decades. Dave received the “Von Hot Rod Legends in Pinstriping Award” at this year’s reunion. With Dave was his good friend, Ken, from Ken’s Pinstriping, who also does computer graphics and designing. Ken has been pinstriping for thirty-five years. Greg “Coop” Cooper has also been pinstriping for thirty-five years and came all the way from Lancaster, Ohio to attend the reunion. He learned from Ed Roth. “I corresponded with Ed “Big Daddy” Roth over the years and when he died, I pinstriped Roth’s casket. Ohio is a hot bed of hot rodding back east and I do about half a dozen shows a year,” said Coop. Greg’s website can be found at www.coopstripes.blogspot.com. Tom Kelly is one of the leaders among the pinstriping revival. He has over five decades under his belt as a pinstriper and along with Bob Spina and Herb Martinez, represents the group that worked with Von Dutch and Ed Roth as equals. This year Kelly was also inducted into the ''Von Hot Rod Pinstriping Hall of Fame.''
Larry Fairfield is another with nearly five decades of experience. He was there at the reunion with his son, Shaun Fairfield, who is just beginning his career as a pinstriper. Larry is from Temecula, California and his alias is “Smudge.” His gray hair, long beard and bandanna give him the prototypical biker look, but his talent is unmistakable. Ron Myers goes by Myers Pinstriping and he comes from Tulsa, Oklahoma and has been striping since the mid 1950’s. This is his third year at the reunion and he is a self-taught artist. Darrell “Dr D” Roberts claims to be just “sick enough” and specializes in ‘Old School’ pinstriping. He has been pinstriping for five years and is self-taught. He does cartoons, lettering, body and face painting. He comes from Deland, Florida. I asked him what he liked to stripe and he said, “Cars, bikes, signs, people and anything else.” Don Fite goes by “Spiderman”. He came from Portland, Oregon to attend the reunion and has been pinstriping for fifteen years. He is self-taught, but also learned a great deal from Herb Martinez. Spiderman likes to attend a lot of shows and prefers the outdoor ones. Ghost is from Tokyo, Japan and has been striping for six years. He is self-taught and brings an Asian flair to his artwork. He does a lot of shows in Japan, the United States and Europe, the three big areas for pinstriping. Ghost paints in the Daruma style, which is a face that is stylized to represent a gruff looking deity. It represents patience and persistence, but to me it looked traditionally Japanese with a pinstriper’s touch. His website is at www.ghost.kustomkulture.jp. He combines the past with the present in a new style all his own. Jeremy Pedersen came from Austin, Minnesota and his company is Relic Design. His website is at www.relicstripes.com and he was with his wife, Krystal. Jeremy has been striping for three years. Jeremy was influenced by Doug Dorr.
Diablo has been pinstriping for ten years and lives in Bakersfield, California. He learned the trade from Krazy Keith Adamo and credits Rod Powell and Von Franco for his inspiration. Diablo does t-shirt, Kustom kulture, bodywork, posters and artwork under the Diablo Artwerk logo. Rufus comes from Las Vegas and is a self-taught pinstriper who likes to do helmets, seats, high heels and double basses among the small stuff. His big projects include hot rods, rat rods, Kustoms, bikes, semi’s and signs. Rufus has been pinstriping for almost three years now. He credits Lenny Ribardo and Frank Roberts as his inspiration. Another Las Vegas pinstriper was Cyrus Drew who goes by “FucT,” which needs no descriptive wording. He has been striping for twenty years and credits Roth and Chico as those he looked up to and who gave him inspiration. “I grew up in the Pomona drag strip parking lot, pinstriping for people as the races were going on,” he told me. After serving fifteen years in the military, Drew decided to return to pinstriping. Robert Gagnon has been pinstriping in the San Diego area for thirty-two years. He is a skilled artist, working with gold and silver leaf, hand painted pinstriping, custom artwork, graphics, flames, airbrush and more. He even has a mobile service to come to you. Gagnon’s website is located at www.Ldbyrg.com. Hiro “The Wild Man” Ishii comes from Yokohama, Japan and has been striping for twenty years. He regularly travels from Japan to America and then to Europe to give pinstriping seminars and is well-known among his fellow stripers. I could never understand how he got the name Wild Man, since he is very polite and helpful. Either these pinstripers have led a wild and carefree life from which they have reformed, or their nicknames were given to them in good humor by their friends. Ishii was one of the first pinstripers in Japan and is now associated with Moon Eyes Company. The Wild Man was honored with the 2009 Von Hot Rod Award of Excellence in the art of Pinstriping at the Grand National Roadster Show.
Larry “Bun” Bunderson is from Sioux Falls, South Dakota and has been a pinstriper for thirty years. Larry was also in the auto body repair business and retired from repairing cars. Now he is a full time pinstriper. His website is located at www.autographicssignworks.com. Doc “Von” Weber has also been a pinstriper for thirty years and is located in Riverside, California. He credits his success to learning from “Old Man Shaw.” Wild Bill has been striping for 31 years and also comes from Riverside, California. He does sign painting, lettering and airbrushing as well and his flames are spectacular. Will Bill is an enigma, so I googled and found hundred’s of Wild Bill pinstripers in nearly all the states of the union. Whoever he is, his work is real quality. Van Demon has been pinstriping for fourteen years and has his business in Orange County, California. He is self-taught and gives seminars on how to do pinstriping all over the world. He is also an artist. His website is at www.vandemon.com. A first timer to the reunion was Blondie. She has been pinstriping for six years and comes from Burbank, California. She learned from Tom Kelly, Bob Bond and Ron Myers. “I was at a car show and got really interested in the art. I learned from the guys and now I do metal sculpture for jewelry and leatherwork besides pinstriping.” Blondie, a petite young lady, was a huge attraction among the crowds at the Grand National Roadster show. Dwayne Vance came from Corona, California and has been pinstriping for ten years and this was his second reunion. He has self-published a book on pinstriping called “The Hot Rod Art Book; Masters of the Chicken Scratch.” Ron from Ron’s Colorworks, came from Upland, California. Bob Spina came from Las Vegas, though I didn’t see him there. Herb Martinez came from northern California, but likewise I missed seeing them both. Martinez and Spina are two very important mentors to dozens of young pinstripers and it is always a pleasure to see them.
My work was done and I had interviewed the pinstripers. Some were new and some had attended previous reunions. Von Hot Rod operates the reunion more as an invitational seminar and he is picky about whom he extends an invitation to attend the event. Von Hot Rod also holds what he calls a “traveling circus” of pinstripers who tour around Southern California and other parts of the nation, teaching new pinstripers the old art. One of his stops this year will be in my area at the City of Fountain Valley Car Show in June, at Miles Square Park. We are looking forward to seeing him there with the other pinstripers whom he has invited. The second auction was about to start and I quickly noticed that the small crowd from the earlier auction had swelled considerably and they were bidding the prices up, which is a good thing, since it was all for charity. But those looking for bargains found them in the morning sessions when the bids seemed to end around the thirty and forty dollar mark. This time the items were all topping a hundred and several went for amounts in the four hundred and up range. These were still bargains as some of the pinstriped items included guitars and globe faces. I remembered last year when I had come unprepared with a few dollars and lint and had been outbid on nearly everything, until finally, at the end, I won a rather heavy object. Rule number one, come with cash. Rule number two, bid on small and light objects or be prepared to carry them around for hours. Rule number three, anything you win will be a bargain, because these artists command a lot more for their artworks and this is for a worthwhile charity.