In memory of our founder, David E. Davis, Jr., Automobile Magazine editors are choosing our ten favorite American Driver columns and will be posting one each day over the next two weeks.
Mr. Dennis J. Walker writes from Vernon Hills, Illinois, to tell me that “many people” were laughing at me behind my back at the Monterey Historic Automobile Races because I was wearing a white suit with a black Cogito Ergo Zoom T-shirt, which, he suggested, made me “look like an aging cross between Raymond Loewy and Don Johnson.” He says his letter was inspired by my December column, wherein I suggested that we all celebrate Christmas at the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix, with the caveat that the cops would throw out anybody who didn’t subscribe to my own “infuriatingly arbitrary dress code.” He also suggested that I check out J. Crew, Eddie Bauer, and perhaps Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren as firms that might spruce up my wardrobe.
Well, first off, Mr. Walker, let me congratulate you on a finely tuned instinct for the jugular. Well-meant advice should always inflict a little pain on the recipient, and anyone who says that he writes “as a friend” to tell me about people who are laughing at me behind my back demonstrates sensitivity worthy of a career in TV journalism. I feel rather strongly that it is not fear of death that prevents most people from achieving everything they want in life but rather fear of looking ridiculous. Anybody who’s followed my adventures over the years knows beyond the shadow of a doubt that I’m not terribly concerned about looking ridiculous.
As to your suggestions about my wardrobe, a keen sartorial observer like yourself should have recognized that the white suit I was wearing at Laguna Seca was made for me by Brooks Brothers, and if you think people laughed at me in that, just imagine how they’d have reacted if I’d showed up in cutoffs and a tank top. I think Eddie Bauer does nice Ford trucks, and J. Crew – unless I am mistaken – sells bargain-priced Rugby shirts. As for Ralph Lauren, he has spent the past ten years creating a line of men’s clothes that look just like the ones I wear all the time. I appreciate your friendly concern, but I must point out that people have been laughing at me for years, sometimes behind my back, but in the case of my friends, generally right in my face.
Example: Doug Mahoney. Doug Mahoney got me into the retail end of the imported-car business in 1953 and got me into sports car racing more or less simultaneously. A couple of years later, I’d crashed badly and wound up with the face I now wear. The car I was supposed to drive in an endurance race at Elkhart Lake didn’t make it, and I’d flown all the way from California, so I went on to Michigan to see some old friends. When I went to Doug’s house, his wife took one look at me, then fled, weeping, and locked herself in the bathroom. Doug went to the door and said, “Come on out, Joyce. It’s just your pal David E. Same as he always was, but now he’s got something that character actors would give a lot to have. In this case, it’s one bedroom eye and one bathroom eye.”