Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
George Lucas. In April of 2007 I got an email from Mary Franklin saying she needed two stormtroopers to escort George Lucas at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. It turns out that he was taking some personal time to race in the Celebrity Race, and to make an appearance as the Grand Marshall of the race. Since he was on a personal trip, this request came as a last minute suprise to everyone at Lucasfilm, but luckily Mike Prestin and I were able to make it down there and met Alexis Riding-Rice our handler for the day that morning.
I have to say that being backstage around all of the cars and drivers was a very exciting experience. We were treated very nicely and as the moment drew nearer we were all set to escort George. There was only one small problem. The golf cart that was brining our armor was gone! Alexis was getting very nervous, but finally it arrived and we dressed in record time. We joined George his family group in the VIP area for a little photo op type stuff. George was in character for us, letting us know about the mission ahead. He was pretty funny trying to psych us out. Too bad I did not have my voice amp on this troop - it was too loud anyway - but it was a pretty one sided conversation.
Then the big moment. We were never really told what to do- so when everyone started walking towards the track we all went! We marched past all of the press, cars and drivers. I even caught a glimpse of actor Djimon Hansou as we walked.
We were told that they wanted us to ride the parade lap in the Toyota Tundra behind George, so we took up positions with him on the parade stand and waited. We were there on stage while they made all of the announcements, then the parade laps started. First the Drivers, then George, then us!
That is when Alexis made the call - it was just too dangerous. There was no where to hang on, and we'd have to stand. We tried to tough it out, but alas, no parade lap. Oh Well! So Close!!!
After that George announced "Gentlemen, Start your engines!" and all of the cars fired up. It was SO LOUD! And the fumes from the racing fuel were very strong. It made your eyes water it was so strong.
Then the cars were off to make a running start. At that point we had to quickly cross the pit area before they came back around again. In the chaos of everyone clearing the track, we had to get over a 2 foot concrete wall. Not so easy in armor. But who was there to help us over? Uncle George himself! Nice to see him wait for us to make sure we got down OK. :)
Then that was about it - we scurried back to the VIP Areas, George ducked into a tent and we were back by ourselves to enjoy the rest of the day. We get treated to a nice steak and lobster lunch and were given cushy pit seats even. Too bad we had to rush back to another charity event the same day.
All in all - what a great and fun experience that will not soon be topped!
Big thanks to Alexis for taking such great care of us and for being our photographer for the day. We had a great time thanks to her.