Tuesday, October 4, 2011

U.S.G.P.W 1979

Yes friends here is yet another story that I have found in the Aug/Sept 1979 issue of the Write Thing. This story of some fans watching George Harrison watch the Long Beach Grand Prix was written by Karen Dyson, who also took the photos.

It was that time of the year again, the weekend of April 6, 7, & 8 for the U.S. Grand Prix West at Long Beach, California. Unlike last year, Patti Murawski and Jennie Swenton – head of the Harrison Alliance joined us this year, after having such a grand time at Watkins Glen with Kris Spackman and I last Oct. ’78.

Well, to get down to business – we knew George and family had flown in to LA a few weeks earlier, but again the Harrison’s took a holiday in Maui, so there was a good chance George wouldn’t show up for the Formula One race.

Friday went by without any showing of George, tho being the avid F1 fans we are we didn’t mind. Being there for the race, we regard George as being an extra added attraction!!

It was Saturday morning after the first practice session that George first appeared. Patti came running frantically to where I was standing in front of the WOLF and COPERSUCAR pits. “Karen, He’s here.” After much confusion, our whole troop had spotted him, with cameras aimed. George was standing on the far side of the pits at the COPERSUCAR time table talking to a couple of lady team helpers. He appeared to look up and notice five cameras aimed at him as he pointed in our direction, with a big smile.

George was looking great, dressed so nicely! The curls are gone, wearing his hair very ‘68ish! Wearing tan trousers, blue plaid shirt and a light brown corduroy jacket, with a healthy tan and smile, we could hardly stand it!

As the time went by George was warmly greeted by Emerson Fittipaldi and other team members. We spotted Jody Schecter strolling down the pits toward George. Being the good friends they are it was fun seeing them greet each other for the first time since the Brazilian G.P. in February. At one point George was interviewed by TV cameras, which may have been what was shown on Saturday’s Wild World of Sports.

Eventually, George and Jody headed down the pits, stopped here and there to say hello to Jocques Laffite, and then finally James Hunt. There they were, 3 of the most incredible men all in one spot, needless to say we were in ecstasy!

We followed George back up to the BRABHAM pits where he spoke with Niki Lauda, Bernie Ecclestone, and other BRABHAM team crew. Then George headed out of the pits. By now several people (some being acquaintances) had spotted him, and nearly caused a bad scene. George walked down the road, and was immediately pounced on by a couple of autograph hounds. I kept my distance as most of our troop did 99% of the time, at one point I was a few feet away from him, as he was signing, he looked up and noticed all the more people heading towards him, and said, “Oh no!” George eventually moved on, as a trail of about 20 people followed him along. He stopped again and he headed toward a field of motor homes, waving and saying, “See you later.”

Again after the final qualifying sessions, George reappeared in the pits saying hello here and there as he strolled down the road. Eventually stopped at the Ferrari pits, George spoke awhile with Jody Scheckter (who placed 2nd in Sundays race), which gave our troops excellent opportunities for some lovely photos. After about 20 minutes, George headed out of the pits again, which caused some commotion and a little bit of hysteria as he was recognized. One very young girl screamed (sounding as if she were in pain), George turned around to see what was wrong, with a worried look. When he realized he was the only one in danger, he high-tailed it down the road to a motor home, which he temporarily escaped the mob. After 30 min. or so, the crowds were gone as the cars had all made their way into the garage. George had spent his time in the motor home relaxing and chatting with friends and relatives of Emerson Fittipaldi, the Brazilian Formula One driver.

We all waited across the road and waited patiently, as George finally emerged from the motor home. A young girl waiting outside for an autograph, shyed away when George walked out, he took a few steps watching her, and then motioned her to go to him. George signed his name and then was off to the garage. We waited outside for awhile, trying to decide whether to go in or wait for him to leave again. Kris and I decided to go in and check it out, and sure enough he was in there. After a bit of gazing we went back outside to let the rest know he was on the way out, so it appeared. But Mr. Harrison did another of his disappearing tricks, apparently escaping out a side door.

Sunday was race day – an incredible exciting day. You can feel the tension in the air, which doesn’t mellow even a little til it’s 20 laps past the green light! We never saw George in the pits on Sunday, tho there are reports he was in the pits. Probably hanging out in the Ferrari pits, til the start.

We got a glimpse of him here and there within the garage after the race, but he beat us out and we missed him, as I bumped into an old friend I met at the Glen last year as we were tearing out of the garage.

Pat had been missing since the checkered flag had been waved, but as she reached the garage, out came George! So she proceeded to follow him across the circuit, across the ESSEX bridge, and thru downtown Long Beach until George found his limo with an unknown friend. Patti did manage to talk with him a couple of quick times.

I can’t believe we could be so lucky to see George again, like last year. Tho we never spoke with him as Kris and I did last year, it was very special to see him having so much fun, and to watch the respect and admiration George and the various drivers shared for one another. Well, here’s til this time next year!

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