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Still in demand
By JOSEPH SITARZ
Saturday, July 27, 2013 8:00 PM
When I first moved to Greenwood, I thought it was cool to be living in the town Bo Hopkins was from because I love the movie "American Graffiti."
Hopkins, who was born in Greenville and raised in Ware Shoals, claims Greenwood as his home and it is where he first caught the acting bug under the tutelage of Greenwood theater legend Donald McKellar.
On Friday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is honoring "American Graffiti" on its 40th anniversary. The movie is being shown as part of the Academy's Oscars Outdoors movie series in Hollywood.
"American Graffiti" is the story about two California guys who decide to spend their last night cruising the strip and finding adventure before heading off to college in the morning.
According to Natalie Kojen, senior publicist for the Academy, Friday's screening will feature cars (a yellow coupe and a white Thunderbird) from the film as well as members of the cast and crew at the open-air venue in Hollywood, with room for about 500. The screening is sold out.
Among those slated to attend are production sound mixer Art Rochester, visual consultant Haskell Wexler, writers Willard Hyuck and Gloria Katz and actors Candy Clark, Mackenzie Phillips, Lynn Stewart, Cindy Williams and Hopkins, Kojen noted.
Many in the cast went on to become some of the biggest names in Hollywood. The movie was directed by George Lucas, who also was one of the writers. (Yes, it is that George Lucas ... kick in the "Star Wars" theme music now).
Besides Hopkins, Clark, Williams, Stewart and Phillips, the cast included Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Paul le Mat, Charles Martin Smith and Harrison Ford.
Even though "American Graffiti" is 40, the tale is not dated. The timeless classic has been much honored since it was released. It's among the American Film Institute's greatest 100 movies of all time.
Hopkins and others are still in demand for having had a part in the movie. There are numerous "American Graffiti"-related events and celebrations around the country. Hopkins was at such an event this weekend.
Hopkins already had success before "American Graffiti." He was in Sam Peckinpah's 1969 classic, "The Wild Bunch." Also in the movie were William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Ben Johnson, Warren Oates, Strother Martin and Edmond O'Brien.
Following "American Graffiti," Hopkins did movies (1978's "Midnight Express"), TV movies and had parts in some TV series, the most famous playing Matthew Blaisdel on "Dynasty" in the 1980s.
There are two other reasons I'm a fan of "American Graffiti."
One is the fact caricaturist Mort Drucker did the art for the movie poster. The poster has all the main characters, Mel's Drive-In and the cars of the day.
Drucker is perhaps best known for his work at Mad magazine.
The second is twofold. The soundtrack and the album cover.
The soundtrack, from the opening "(We're Gonna) Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and the Comets to the closer, "All Summer Long" by the Beach Boys, is one hit after another. Songs squeezed between those tunes include "At the Hop," "Little Darlin'," "Johnny B. Goode," "A Thousand Miles Away," "Almost Grown" and "That'll be the Day."
Even legendary radio personality Wolfman Jack, who is in the movie, can be heard on the soundtrack.
The album also features killer art with Mel's Drive-In in the background and a curvy pinup car hop on roller skates dominating the foreground. The art wrapped from front to back.
It was the first album I ever bought.
The first time I met Hopkins was on the stage at Greenwood Community Theatre. He was in town to promote a project and talk about a performance he would be doing in Greenwood.
I went to take photos while former Index-Journal writer Alice Hite talked to Hopkins. I had the "American Graffiti" album with me. When they were done with the interview, Hopkins saw I had the album and offered to sign it.
Hopkins has never forgotten where his roots are. He's been able to use his celebrity to benefit the town he grew up in and the theater that helped launch his career. He always remembers Greenwood, has kind words about McKellar and has always been cordial and accommodating.
It's not hard to understand why people like Hopkins.
Sitarz can be reached at 943-2529 or via email at email@example.com. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper's opinion.
Mr Sitarz, thank you for your kind words , .
For the Academy to honor American Graffiti was a good thing it sure influenced a lot of people.
I know a lot of people remember cruising from the Ranch to the Dixie, those were great times.!!
Thank you again Sir
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8/5/2013 8:50:00 PM
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