Dodge City Field Report

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IMG_9244American Giants just got back from an awesome weekend in Dodge City Kansas to cover the Dennis Hopper Muffler men at the 3I event held at the new expo center. We were invited to come out by the Carnegie Center for the Arts who have recently received the Dennis Hopper Muffler Men from the Dennis Hopper Art Trust in California. Travel is nothing new for the Dennis Hopper M Men and they aren’t done yet! They were cast in 2000 and since then at least one of them has traveled the world. They were both cast from a muffler man in LA named Tony who is one of the rare bow tie versions. They were each made to resemble popular LA muffler men, the La Salsa man made by Bob Wade in Malibu and the Mobile muffler man that appeared in life magazine back in the day. IMG_9186After being cast it is believed that the only time Mobile man was publicly shown (other then this venue) was in June of 2010 just shortly after the death of Dennis Hopper. The La Salsa Man however was no rookie to public display and was first displayed in Amsterdam in 2001 and then Paris, Vienna, Melbourne and even rumored to have been on display in St Petersburg Russia at one point. You can tell one has traveled more then the other, the La Salsa Man has it’s share of scuffs and scratches while the Mobile Man is brand new and in almost perfect condition. IMG_3205I’ll save a bunch of the details of how it was shipped and ended up at the expo center for the future AG episode but by the time we got there they were all set up and on display. Summer Bates who is the executive director for the Carnegie Center for the Arts is basically the mother of these two boys and she has found temporary housing for them at the expo center where the 40ft high ceilings accommodate the muffler men’s vertical challenges. With the 3i show coming up she got permission to keep them there during the event and invited us out for the occasion. Screen Shot 2013-07-21 at 10.34.16 PMSo myself, Bo, Neto and Sam piled into the tiniest car we could find (32mpg) and after work Thursday traveled the 10 hours to Dodge City Kansas. Although promises had been made by each member to equally share the driving some of us arrived at the 3i show the following morning more worn out then others. We were immediately welcomed to Dodge by Melissa McCoy who is the project development coordinator for the city and she promptly took us to see the muffler men. In a building that size it makes them look a bit smaller then they actually are but these guys were definitely getting attention. Screen Shot 2013-07-21 at 10.27.18 PMAfter years in a warehouse they were making up for lost time and at their feet stood interested 3i attendees as well as tables with information about their history as well as a looping video of the Shipping Wars episode. Summer, Melissa and many others are excited about the arrival of the muffler men to Dodge City and welcome the many muffler men followers out there to make Dodge City a stop on their muffler men check list. IMG_9193The expo center that is currently housing the muffler men in a temporary solution and Summer is working hard on permanent housing for these guys. After a very full day of not only covering the muffler men but also the 3i convention we left with hours of B-roll and interviews for me to sort out in editing. We also left with a pretty good appetite that Summer took care of by taking us all to Boot Hill Museum Inc for a dinner and gun fight which we enjoyed thoroughly. Interestingly a muffler man named Big Matt once stood at Boot Hill many years ago and was finally taken down after his head kept blowing off in the Kansas wind. Screen Shot 2013-07-21 at 10.48.16 PMI was able to track down his story and history and will post a blog about him soon. From there we headed to Wichita where we visited the muffler man at Browns Tire (which is apparently worth getting up in the middle of the night for) and also caught up with Greg Holmes (The Lope) the proud owner of a muffler man head, both to appear in future episodes. We came home with allot of new content and information and I just want to sincerely thank Summer Bates, Melissa McCoy, Eddie Estes, Jeff Thorpe and Greg Holmes for making this trip possible and for taking such good care of us. The American Giants episodes are currently taking us up route 66 to Chicago but after they are complete I am planning to bump this Dodge City trip into the next episode. It’s not often two fresh muffler men get added to the charts and maps so make sure to stop by and pay them a visit on your next trip through the midwest.

If your interested, check out this behind the scenes clip taken while the American Giants Crew was filming Greg Holmes and his muffler man head. 

Dennis Hoppers Muffler Men on Shipping Wars

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IMG_8395Muffler Men made prime time today when Dennis Hoppers “Giant Art Sculptures” were shipped from Anaheim, CA to Dodge City Kansas and the shipment was featured on A&E’s Shipping Wars. The pair were made from a mold cast from a LA muffler man back in 2000 and the next year they started traveling with Dennis Hoppers art show. They have been to many places in America and I have even seen pictures of one of them in Paris. They were made to resemble two iconic LA muffler men, the La Salsa m man in Malibu remodeled by Bob Wade and also a muffler man that was featured in a life magazine picture standing at a mobile gas station in the 60’s holding a poster for free 5 cent coupons. IMG_3205The Malibu muffler man still stands today but I’m not sure where the other ended up. It is possible he is still in the area repainted and unrecognizable from his 1960’s picture or he may be long gone. The Dennis Hopper giants, estimated at a whopping $100,000 each, have been in storage for a few years  and were recently donated by the Dennis Hopper Art Trust to the Carnegie Center for the Art’s who notified me about their arrival in Dodge and gave us a heads up about tonights episode of shipping wars. They will be on display July 11th through 13th at the Western State Bank Expo Center. IMG_3222They are also currently working on a Multicultural park Design for their permanent home. It’s great to see these guys back out in view of the public and although not made by International Fiberglass in the 60’s they still certainly count as muffler men. The muffler man that the mold was cast from is known as Tony and he stands at a car repair business in east LA. He disappeared briefly in 2000 and Roadside America even got a few ransom notes as a joke until it was discovered he was being used to make a mold for Dennis Hoppers muffler men. IMG_8478Tony happens to be one of the rare muffler men with a bow tie and so thats how the La Salsa man copy ended up with one. The original that stands in Malibu is the standard version but Dennis Hoppers clearly boasts a black bow tie and that’s how you can tell which one you are looking at. The other Dennis Hopper muffler man known as the “Mobile Man” was altered with a normal neck line and it sits a bit higher up than it does on other muffler men. Tony still stands in east LA and was one of the earlier muffler men I visited when American Giants was just starting out. Needless to say we traveled out to Dodge City to check out the Dennis Hopper muffler men and get the scoop. Oh and interestingly enough these are not the first muffler men to call Dodge City their home.

#19 East Los Angeles, CA M Man

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This is Tony and he also has been around the LA area for a long time. He stands in front of Tony’s Transmissions and holds a beat up little red car. Actually the car isn’t that little but compared to Tony it is. IMG_8478The place was closed when I stopped by so I don’t know as much as I would like to about his history but I do know that this is a relatively new location for him. The business moved here in 2010 and he moved with it. He has a rare hat you don’t see often on M men although it is a close match to the one that used to sit on the head of the M Man in Handcock, MA. Interestingly Tony held the secrete to a mystery that took me some time to solve. Here it is…. in 2000 a picture was taken of a muffler man at an indoor art gallery in LA. Picture 13In the picture you can see what clearly looks like the La Salsa M Man made by Bob Wade standing there holding his plate full of goodies and his original hat (the top part of the burger). The shoes are a dead match as well as the poncho over the shoulder although it is a bit longer now then it was then. Everything looked right except that there was a clearly a bow tie at the collar. Tony is one of the rare bow tie versions and the La Salsa M Man is clearly not, both today and in the pictures taken of him when he was Mr Frostie Freeze and shortly after Bob Wade turned him into a mexican there is no bow tie to be found. So what muffler man was in that picture?  I came to the conclusion that it had to be Tony but why he stole La Salsa’s outfit puzzled me. IMG_3205Finally I learned that in 2000 Tony was loaned to the Dennis Hopper estate so they could make a few copies of him. In 2001 both copies appeared in a Dennis Hopper art gallery, one represented the La Salsa M Man and the other was a dead match to vintage picture taken of an M Man that stood in LA at a Mobile gas station in the 60’s. The two copied M Men can be found today in Dodge City KS after they were donated in early 2013 to the Kansas City Carnegie for the arts center. These days Tony has returned to his auto repair shop and stands with his simple white and blue holding his busted car and lives a much humbler life at the corner of City Terrace and Bonnie Beach.

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