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See the USA in Your Chevrolet

Ever wonder why they don't make the '57 Chevy anymore? They could do it--and it would sell like hotcakes.

11:00 PM, Nov 3, 2002 • By LARRY MILLER
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I'm old enough to remember Dinah Shore--"Jewish, you know," my parents would always say with a smile--closing her show by singing, "See the USA in your Chevrolet!" On the other hand, I'm apparently too young to remember the next line of the jingle. I think it was roughly like, "America is something for your something."

What I remember far more clearly is how, every year, the new model Chevys were introduced nationwide--I believe exclusively, but I don't know for sure--at the end of a special, late-September episode of "Bonanza." Lord, how I waited for that night. I even remember the network pumping it up a few weeks beforehand, in commercials, by having Lorne Greene standing next to a car covered by a tarpaulin and saying, "Well, folks, here it is. I can't show it to you yet, but it's a beauty. Two more weeks to go." Speaking of Jewish stars, I didn't find out 'til years later that Lorne Greene was Jewish, that one of Michael Landon's parents was Jewish (close enough), and that David Dortort, the creator and producer of "Bonanza" was Jewish. I don't think Pernell Roberts was Jewish (too many bad career decisions), and I'm pretty sure Dan Blocker wasn't either (too polite). Mr. Dortort, by the way, is still alive and well and active in many Jewish charities and causes.

But back to cars. Unless my memory is failing me, which is only slightly less likely than Henry Kissinger and Christopher Hitchens going in on a time-share, I seem to recall that all the American car companies, the "Big Three" as we used to call them (boy, there's something you can't imagine saying anymore), brought out each year's new models in the fall, on pretty much the same week, maybe even the same day. (This brings to mind a very funny bit Bill Maher used to do in his act back in the eighties. He would observe that it seemed all the Christian and Jewish holidays were at the same time. "You know," he would say, "Christmas and Hanukkah, Easter and Passover . . . and the World Series and the day the new Cadillacs come out." (Hey, is it my imagination, or is something Jewish popping up about every two lines so far? The media may not be controlled by the Jews, but this article certainly seems to be.)

See, we were a Chevy family. We had a four-door, hardtop, '61 Impala, gray with that little stripe (red) down the side, and then traded that for a two-door, hardtop, '68 Impala, olive-green metallic with the newly available (and very flashy) black vinyl roof, and I continued to patronize the company, so to speak, as I struck out into the world. Freshman year at school, Willie Kitts and Jack O'Donnell and I hitchhiked a few miles down the road to a used-car lot in Hadley, Massachusetts, and plunked down seventy-five bucks, cash, for (another) four-door, hardtop, '61 Impala, very light (or very faded) green. This time the little stripe down the side was white (-ish). We giddily drove this sweet thing all over the place, and to no place at all, for a month, and then remembered to take it in for an inspection, whereupon the mechanic informed us that he could find no A-frame on it whatsoever, and that the fuel line was as shot full of holes as the ethics of (INSERT FAVORITE HATED POLITICIAN).

There's a law that says a used car has to be able to at least pass an inspection, and since even three mutton-headed eighteen-year-olds can't wear out an A-frame in a month, the dealer gave us our dough back. I fancied that the car was sadder than we were. Ah, well, no matter the length of a relationship, our love for her was real, and she knew it, and that's more than many of us get.

I didn't have another car until l981. I had been a comic for a few years, and I made my move to California, where, unless you're Ed Begley Jr., you need a car. (By the way, Ed is a seriously good friend of mine. The guy's a hoot, and I love him, he's got a great family, and he's called me up several times to appear at benefits for political causes and propositions, and I've done it every time even though, every time, I get up there and tell the people, "I don't even know what this goofy thing is for, and I'm certain I'm against it, but if Ed wants it, that's good enough for me.")

Anyway, back in 1981 I needed a car. And a comic friend of mine, who knows everything in the world about cars, looked through the classifieds with me, and we drove out to, literally, a little, old lady's house. She was selling a beautiful, low mileage, four-door, hard-top, '63 Impala, white, clean as a whistle, for six hundred dollars, and my friend checked it out and pronounced us man and wife. (The car, not the old lady.)