It is elegant, modern and shiny.
Some have fins, roaring exhaust pipes, chrome rims, mag wheels, and tuck-and-roll upholstery – and they never fail to command attention. This is the allure of classic cars, hot rods, and muscle cars from the 40s, 50s, and 60s.
More than 400 vintage coupes, sedans and pickups will be on display in downtown Petaluma, Saturday, May 21, when Cruisin’ the Boulevard pays homage to the 15th anniversary of “American Graffiti,” a nostalgia feast. , filmed in Petaluma in 1972, which captured an era when car-obsessed teens drove around town showing off their cars, drinking beer and looking for thrills.
Set in the year 1962, the film reflects the teenage years of director George Lucas, while capturing an almost mirror image of the life of the small town of Petaluma during that time. It’s an era kept alive by classic car shows, top 40 heart-pounding tunes from the ’60s, and fond memories.
The highlight of the three-day festive event is “American Graffiti” stars Mackenzie Phillips, Candy Clarke and Bo Hopkins, who will meet with fans and sign autographs. Clark and Hopkins are familiar faces at the annual shindig, but Phillips—whose career has blossomed into numerous film, television, and theater roles—is back in Petaluma for the first time in 50 years.
In a phone conversation, Phillips recalled the shooting of the popular movie and spoke about her passion for classic cars, her career, and her purposeful involvement in behavioral health.
“It all started when I was 12 years old and living in Los Angeles,” Phillips said. “I was the lead singer in a little band in school where all the kids had a family in the entertainment industry. We were playing on open mic night at Troubadour nightclub when talent scout Fred Ross came over and asked if I wanted to be in a movie. Previous acting experience The only one I’ve had was playing Santa Claus in a school play. I auditioned for the performance and got the part.”
She hardly knew what she was getting into, of course.
“I was a little kid,” Phillips continued. “I didn’t really understand everything, but it seemed like a great thing. I had never heard of Petaluma.”
In the film, Phillips plays the annoying Carol Morrison, the early but annoying little sister who ends up riding in a yellow coupe with John Milner, played by Paul Le Matt.
“When they were filming, it was a great production,” Phillips said. “In the scenes with Paul and I in Devil ’32, because of the cameras, we were locked in the car for long periods. It was really a fun time. I was like the mascot on set. That was awesome. ‘American Graffiti’ was a huge hit. I watched it about 30 times “.
The film also introduced Phillips to appreciate custom cars.
“I love the classic cars from the movie,” she said. “When I was a kid, my dad owned a turquoise 57 Chevy and a 62 Caddy convertible that we named a Boris. The ‘American Graffiti’ opened me to different types of classic cars. It’s a very specific time for me.”
After the success of “American Graffiti”, the door of opportunity was opened for the talented Phillips. Julia is best remembered in the sitcom “One Day at a Time”, where she starred in 123 episodes alongside Valerie Bertinelli and Bonnie Franklin, Phillips acted in 14 films and played 47 roles on television. She has starred in 63 episodes of Disney Channel’s “So Weird,” nine episodes of re-enacted “One Day at a Time,” and six guest appearances on “Orange is the New Black.” Her previous stage roles include Grease, Vagina Monologues, Same Time Next Year, and Annie.
“I was 15 when I started ‘One Day at a Time,’” Phillips recalls. “I went to Waldorf School on set. Valerie and I were a class of two.”
She later had substance abuse problems and is now in a long-term recovery. She chronicled her struggles in her 2009 memoir, “High on Arrival,” which debuted at number three on the New York Times bestseller list and led to guest appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show and several morning television shows.
“I have a very rewarding second career working in behavioral health as a medication consultant, and in executive management at the Breathe Life Healing Center, in West Hollywood,” she explained. “I am not actively looking for acting roles, but I do not mind playing the role of a mother. I am proud of myself for taking care of me.”
Aside from anticipating her return to Petaluma where she began her acting career, Phillips has spoken about enjoying the autograph sessions, which provide the opportunity to meet and greet adoring fans.
“It’s always fun when people come in with autograph movie memorabilia,” she said.
In 1995, the Library of Congress “American Graffiti” deemed the film “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.
Cruisin’ the Boulevard was formed in 2005 by a group of classic car enthusiasts and “American Graffiti” enthusiasts to honor the film. The first two car shows were held at the Factory Outlet Mall, before moving into downtown, bringing the number of cars to 300.
For 2022, the cap was set at 400 entries, which was met 11 days after enrollment. Currently, 88 cars are still on the waiting list.
“The auto show on the streets of Petaluma where the movie was filmed,” said Boulevard Cruzen founder, John Furer. “We have the movie cars and we have movie stars. We have entries from 18 states and eight different countries. No one could have imagined the increase in popularity we have gained.”
For information and a full schedule of events, check out Cruisin’ the Boulevard’s Facebook page, Cruisin’ the Blvd. Petaluma’s Tribute to American Writing.