For years I’ve been searching for a personal boilerplate. I’ve got it. I’m a stunt driving chauffeur. In April I’d never even driven in Manhattan and today I was on FDR Drive doing 70 mph in a maroon Chrysler minivan with the rear hatch wide open and a videographer hanging out the back shooting a rider on a vintage motorcycle. Hassled by the cops as we pass by at the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge? Fughedaboutit! Still, the camera guy was one big bump away from taking a dip in the East River.
We’re wrapping production on a show called Café Racer that (shameless plug) debuts on Discovery HD Theater October 25 at 9 p.m. EST and we are currently on our third trip to NYC this year. I’ve logged a few (scary) miles in the five boroughs and determined that this place is an animal. A beast, even. Driving in New York is unnerving enough. There is absolutely no shoulder on the highways. None. The shoulder is concrete K-Rail walls. And the range of speeds people drive at is wide. Some hum along at around 50 mph over the limit and others like to buzz about 25 mph under the limit. It makes for interesting traffic conditions if you’re the guy trying to stay between. So, when it was time to finally put the 1958 BSA A-7 (British Motorcycle) that Hugh Mackie of 6th St. Specials had been building for the show out on the pavement in a road test, we decided FDR Drive, the thoroughfare that runs along the East River from the Bronx down to Battery Park, was the best place to see what this bike could do. I was driving the vehicle so I have no pictures to document our idiocy but this is the type of stuff for which roads would be closed. Ever heard the saying, “We had to get the shot”? This is what they mean.
AJ Fulgado, a builder of Street Fighter motorcycles was the test rider. He couldn’t be any different than Hugh, a gruff Scottish expat who burrowed himself into the lower east side back in the early 80s when drug dealers were like milkmen. Now the LES is where you find hipsters who dress like they hate themselves and the set for any given shoot of an episode of Law & Order. And vintage British motorcycles. And that’s what AJ and Hugh had in common – motorcycles. So they got along well. Seeing those two chattering away about life and riding made me rethink my job description. When someone asks me what I do for a living I simply say, “I make television shows” and leave it at that. I don’t know any other way to say it. But today I felt like a stunt driving chauffeur who brings together unlikely people. It’s hard not to get people to bond when you’re trying to fix a motorcycle while trapped on a traffic island underneath FDR Drive at 96th Street amidst the cacophony of car horns.
It’s funny because we were doing this exact same dumb stunt a couple of weeks ago in the mountains of Southern California and even though it was just as illegal and dangerous it didn’t seem nearly as scary. Maybe that was just a warm up for The Big Apple.