Felix In Hollywood

A Blog for the Smart Set

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Body - By Fisher.

If you've been reading this blog for a while you know that I am enamored of classic cars every bit as much as I am of classic films and classic Hollywood.  Well I just came across a real honey.  A car with a true Hollywood pedigree as Oscar worthy as the 24 karat gold trim it possessed, as brilliant as the 30 coats of crushed platinum dust that was it's paint job, as garish as the blood red leather interior!

As for the title of this post:

We of a certain age will certainly remember this badge on the bottom door sill of all General Motors cars.  While the vehicle in question was indeed a GM product, the body was as much indebted to the legendary George Barris as it was the Detroit Fisher plant.

There is another meaning to the title as well.  You see the owner of this dream on wheels was Marie "The Body" McDonald.

To tell Marie's story I'd have to be gettin' all Confidential Magazine on ya, for the life that she led was an amusement park ride...in a fun-house mirror.  The good news is that my wonderful friend, neighbor and resident Danger Dame, Donna Lethal wrote a brilliant article on the life and death of Marie which I encourage you to read.  And cuz you're so swell I'll put the link for it at the bottom of this post.

Meantime, suffice it to say that "The Body" was a moderately successful showgirl turned band singer, turned pin-up girl, turned actress, turned recording artist.  Perhaps greater than her talents though, Marie had three burning passions:  Alcohol, drugs, and publicity.

Our story picks up in 1954 when the six times married Marie was in the middle of her first of two marriages to Shoe Magnate Harry Karl (you'll recall that Harry is the same fellow that would bleed Debbie Reynolds dry a few years later.  It might also be of interest to note that between the two ladies, he was also married to the the widow of Columbia Pictures President Harry Cohn.  For exactly one month!)  So anyway, Karl decides he wants to give the Mrs. a present and he buys the star of the 1953 Motorama, the Cadilliac Le Mans.  (there were only 4 of these cars produced and he got the Le Mans #1)  He sent it to Barris Kustom Autos in Lynwood and this was the result:

It was featured in the December 1955 issue of Motor Trend Magazine:

Here's what Motor Trend had to say about the 'Barris Bonanza':

Boasting a television set, radio-telephone, tape recorder, and cocktail bar among its many other expressions of all-out individualism, this Cadillac Le Mans by Barris cuts a wide swath anywhere.
The body is mostly Fiberglas with the exception of the lower fender panels, which are formed of body steel and then blue-white chrome plated. Trim between the lower chromed parts of the fenders and the Fiberglas part of the body is 1/2-inch steel bar, plated with 24-karat gold. To stop rattles before they start, a strip of 1/8-inch rubber separates the gold-plated trim and the body panels. Hubcaps are done in a combination of gold and chrome; the thirty individually inserted "spokes" and the protruding center are gold, with the remainder in chrome. Paint is 30 [yes thirty!] coats of "platinum dust" sprayed over a polychromic base sealer.
The rear window and top are trimmed with chrome-plated steel. The whole top assembly including the rear window can be removed, or the window may be left in place and the top removed.
The engine is the 300-horsepower Cadillac with dual 4-throat carburetors set up by the factory for the original Le Mans model. All engine accessories, valve covers, etc., are chrome plated, of course.

In short order Marie wrapped it around a tree but both she and it were soon repaired.
Only a decade later, with the Caddy long gone, Marie, burned out and fresh out of ideas for one more publicity stunt,  hopped on the Percodan train for Fabulon.  She was 42.

In that horrible way that beautiful things are all too often not allowed to last, that beautiful car only made it a decade less than poor Marie.  In 1984 it was purchased by a collector in Pleasanton, Ca.  and several months later in 1985, a fire leveled the warehouse containing the car along with many of his other dream machines.

To read all about Marie McDonald's dizzying life go here


normadesmond said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
normadesmond said...

lovely post darling!

it may be a blessing that the car burned.

Ask the Cool Cookie said...

Another thing about Harry Karl - it got Debbie to pay for the rights to produce Scopitones for the US market - and it cost her a pretty penny.

kabuki zero said...

kabuki does not understand why the car needed 'customization' by barris. it seemed hideous and garish before he got hold of it, his work half-done. and this is the perfect 'felix steps out for lunch' car. just perfect.

Thombeau said...

What an awesome post! "The Percodan train for Fabulon"! LOL! And I must say that, though I usually don't care about motorcars, those are extremely faboo!

marksparky said...

With that Caddy she could be her own pimp.