It began as a normal day, heading down to Dealey Plaza; the entire city of Dallas has been all abuzz since filming began for Hulu’s original series 11/22/63, based on Stephen King‘s 2011 bestseller about a time traveller who tries and stops the assassination of JFK…
Of course like most Dallas-ites, I was curious and decided to go check the scene out and maybe catch a glimpse of a celebrity or two.
When I arrived, it was like stepping into the past: extras dressed in their 1960’s best, standing and shooting the breeze with the locals while they waited to set up the next scene; we (the locals) all were mesmerized by the eerie time warp.
The scene set directors began to tell us to clear the area, they were now setting up the infamous motorcade ride scene, the cars began to rev their engines and line up in order to recreate that infamous day.
That is where my story began, these cars were in top condition, the beautiful bright cherry red color beamed off the Buick Electra 225; I swear I was waiting for Mad Men’s Don Draper to step out of the car.
Right at that moment I see this young woman make her way through the crowds and begins to touch up the shine on the first car, she proceeds to start on the next one when the rest of the team joins her and they continue waxing the cars. I wait until she is back on the sidewalk and I ask her who owns the cars.
She replies with pride, “We all do. These are cars locally owned or brought in on loan from local and surrounding car clubs.” That’s right folks, this big movie production recreating one of the darkest moments in our history, could not be made possible without the talents and historic vehicles of the Chicano/Mexican-Am car clubs!
Of course I am from the 915 – and like many El Pasoans – I grew up with a love and appreciation of car club culture, so this was an extra special story for me. As soon as the group found out I was from “Chuco Town” they all welcomed me with open arms and allowed me to walk through the set to get a closer look at their cars.
As I was taking a tour, I was introduced to Alex Guzman, car club member and a living piece of American history. Only 16 years old when he witnessed the tragic shooting of President Kennedy on that grassy knoll and now traveling back in time, making an appearance in the film. It was such a surreal moment to have had an opportunity to meet him and listen to him re-tell his account of the moment that changed the nation.
While on the lot, I was also able to meet the man himself, King of Classic Cars, Johnny Echavarria or “Johnny Picture Cars” as he’s known in the industry.
The Dallas native is no stranger to Hollywood, he is a professional stuntman, with over 20 years experience and has appeared in films such as The Iceman, Machete, and Selena to name a few… However, he is responsible for getting the car production together for many big blockbusters like Olympus Has Fallen, Soul Men and The Day After Tomorrow (El Paso Unit) so when production began for 11/22/63 there was no question about it, Johnny was their guy.
Once all things were in place, Johnny says he reached out to his buddies across the car club network and the word quickly spread. Some of the men have had to step away from their day jobs to support the filming like, John Ramirez who is a Wind Turbine Technician or (El Pasoan) Tomas Alvarez a GE Technician.
When asked how the men juggle the time off, Johnny replied “I have a great working relationship built over the years with the executives but I do fight for my guys, they work hard and are out here all day, so I make sure they pay us worth our while.”
A side note about this Hollywood car production, Johnny’s team is 100% Mexicano, all the mechanics and owners, or as we say “Cien Por Ciento.”
Johnny is seriously the coolest cat and an original bad ass, he is currently working on other projects both personal and for the car club family, next on the list, Queen of the South, the English reproduction of La Reina del Sur.
I love that I stumbled across this story and am proud to bring you a piece of the Latino contribution to this film that most media will not acknowledge.
Thank you to everyone that spent some time with me out on the lot and allowed me into their world in order tell this story.
11/22/63 premieres on Hulu in February 2016
(all photos contributed by EPHP.com columnist Yol-Itzma Aguirre)