Snake & Mongoo$e Movie
Behind the Scenes
Review and article by Robert “Stormy” Byrd
Before I critique the flick let me give you some insight to what happened behind the making of this great, new movie…..
My buddy Trevor Larkin, son of the late great drag racer, “Little” Tommy Larkin, has been working in the industry for years, and through sources he met Robin Broidy, who was looking for people who know people in drag racing and my name was brought up. I got a call from Joe Addad, a set worker and acquaintance of Trevor's to see if I could recommend some people who would be willing to help and with the realization that this isn’t going to be a Steven Spielberg production. Once over at Joe’s, we talk and the list of dependable people starts to go up on the chalk board.
During this time a certain internet wannabe was also telling some of the people we’re trying to line up to not take part in the film. I guess it’s ego when you can’t be in charge, but then all of us that brought our stuff to the table did it because we wanted to be part of something that hadn't happened in 30 years. At one point it got so bad I had to block this person from my Facebook page as he insisted I was a sheep being lead to the slaughter by those who would use me. The fact is, my car is MINE and I will determine where and what I’ll do with it. I am in charge of deciding my own destiny, as will my good friend and crime partner, Randy Winkle. The balls some people have wanting to be the Czar of all things drag racing! Anywho…I digress, and in the immortal words of the late Jack Williams (1st NHRA T/F Champion), “I’d rather be a has been than a never was!”
Between Winkle and myself, we pulled in seven cars ranging from gassers, dragsters and, of course, my car Revelation and his GreenGo Fuel coupe. We spent two weeks on set - one in Bakersfield and the other down in Atwater (next to Glendale) in a huge parking lot that they made to look like the pits at Lions, OCIR, Indy, etc. Bakersfield is where were the rubber met the road however, as the people and cars that were brought in actually did battle on the famed Bakersfield’s hallowed 1320 under the watchful eyes of John and Blake Bowser (good people!).
Many of the action shots you’ll see in the movie are from here as was the inside funny car shots flying down the track at night. This was done with multiple cameras rigged inside Randy Walls original Super Nova. Randy had a great time except during the shooting of one scene. When we fired the car and I lowered the body, the engine would die. After several attempts I was looking around the mag, which was close to the tin work. Randy, strapped in with his “Snake” mask, helmet and firesuit, was yelling to get some rubber and tape it over the mag. One of the grips got us some strips of rubber and I taped it down over the mag with a roll of electrical tape; we re-fired the car and she ran like a top once the body was lowered. They got the great shots they needed; however, what you can’t see from inside was that at 900’ Randy shifted, pitching the car sideways where it went into a wheelstand at speed! No big deal for veteran Walls as he gave her some peddle and brought her back safely down to Terra Firma without incident! Getting the shot, by now it was almost at midnight.
The Famoso Mob was dead tired due to the previous day’s activities when Trevor had us make runs for some action shots. The problem was the big block in the GreenGo, wounded after burning a piston weeks earlier at Eagle Field while breaking the 1-to-1 tie on our match race there. The 3rd round, Randy led me all the way but the old gal gave up at the stripe, soaking the car and him in a bath of slimy oil. It was so bad Randy had to listen for my car as we pulled off the track as he couldn't see through his oil soaked goggles…Just another day in the Famoso Mob. After Trevor asked us to run for the cameras, Randy was dejected as the GreenGo was a dead player and only good to be on display for pit shots. "Wait dude,” he said, “we’re the Famoso Mob and we don’t know the word quit…”
We towed the car with a rope back down Highway 46 to his shop about a mile away, and at 6 p.m. started to assemble another blown big block for tomorrow’s filming. We worked until 3:30 a.m. then took a nap. At 5:30, Ken Lee (my crew chief) got up and finished bolting the engine in and setting the mag and barrel valve by guess. A squirt of gas and…WOMP! She was alive! Taking a break, Ken and I were outside the shop when a bare-assed Winkle was standing at his sliding glass door in disbelief. “Was that my engine, Mofo’s?!” Yep…she lives!
After getting some clothes on randy, we set the mag and tweaked the barrel valve, threw a strap on her and pulled her back down to the track. Normally we would just fire the car and drive it back down 46 to the track as we've done with both cars over the years, but we needed the ‘67 El Camino tow car back on the set for filming.
Filming was going on all over the track and in the pits. At night many of the top fuel cars made passes; however, the gremlins were on hand as in the case with Trevor Larkin in the ‘Lil’ Tommy Larkin AA/FD. While going through the water to annihilate the tires on a smoker run, the clutch gave up the ghost in such fashion that I saw pieces of clutch lining coming out the dump tube onto the track along with the putrid smell of burnt asbestos. Other cars blew blowers and had a hard time keeping it between the rails.
Randy and I were to smoke the tires 60’s style, but after two mishaps on track I asked John and Blake to oversee the “smoker” run to make sure all was safe. At 10 p.m. Randy and I staged the cars as our crew guys put water under our tires for the third time. With a boom camera behind us 30’ in the air, the starter got the nod from John and Blake and it was game on. At the drop of the flag we both put it to the wood and sat there smoking the tires as the cars slowly crept forward. Looking over at the GreenGo, I peddled Revelation to keep pace with her as clouds of smoke billowed from our machines. Both of us kept our feet buried to the firewall till about 900’ then lifted. With the still air, the smoke just sat there on the track.
We were told when we got back that a guy watching in the observation tent ran out and yelled: “That was F----G Awesome!” Even Prudhomme and Roland Leong complimented us, saying it was “cool” (and let’s face it, the Snake is as cool as the other side of the pillow!). Getting back I realized there would be no more racing as I had burnt the tires down to the cords on that third attempt! By the way, when the Snake in the Greer-Black-Prudhomme car and ‘Goose in the Yeakle car are pulling to the line in the movie, what you see from the boom shot is our “smoker” run, with Randy and me ruining a set of slicks. Was it worth it? You bet!
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