When it comes to outlandish entrances, the MTV Video Music Awards has seen its fair share. And of course this past Sunday, when the Diddy-hosted VMAs invaded Vice City, was no different.
Before the Moonmen were handed out inside the American Airlines Arena, Green Day, Snoop, 50 Cent, the Game, Ludacris and others rolled up to the VMA white carpet in style — whisked to the event in autos pimped out to preposterous proportions (see “Snoop, Game, Luda And Shaq Show Off Their Donks And Drop-Tops” ).
Of course, there was a time, perhaps not even that long ago, when some of your favorite musicians and celebrities didn’t have it so good and had to get from point A to point B in real clunkers — bona fide jalopies that broke down like a widow at a funeral.
Take Garden State goth-rockers My Chemical Romance, who performed on Sunday night’s show and were nominated in four categories. They arrived at the VMAs in an armored car, but they didn’t always have such safe rides. There was a period when all five of the band’s members were slummin’ it. In fact, guitarist Frank Iero still is. His first wheels — a bottomless money pit known as a 1992 Buick LeSabre — are still in his possession.
“It’s in the shop constantly,” he explained with a sigh. “It never, ever runs well. It’s the worst thing ever. You get fumes in your face as you’re driving, so you need to have the windows down. There’s no air conditioning, of course. Brakes? Nonexistent. You have to, like, put your foot outside the door to slow it down. That’s mine.”
Gerard Way, My Chem’s frontman, no longer owns his first ride — a 1988 Subaru XT — but has nothing but fond memories of it. “It looked like an X-Wing [from ‘Star Wars’] and it came in just one color, which was ‘metal’ colored. It was awesome, though. I spent $700 on it, and I know people now who have rims that cost more than that. I had friends that all bought new cars and they were always breaking down on them. But mine lasted. Only thing was it couldn’t really go up hills.”
Guitarist Ray Toro was the proud owner of a 1991 Dodge Daytona … for a little more than a week. “It broke down and never worked again after nine days,” he remembered. “So I junked it, but then a couple of weeks later I saw it parked on the street. And I thought, ‘Mother—-er, that’s my car!’ I just didn’t have the money to get it repaired.”
Napoleon Dynamite didn’t have a car, he just took his bike off of some sweet jumps. But the dude who played him in the movie, Jon Heder, has owned a few rides in his life. “I had this blue van in high school that my twin brother and I shared,” he said of the monstrosity he and his friends nicknamed the “Blue Beast.” “The windshield wipers never worked, and the windows we had to pull up with our hands, and it always let off blue exhaust. It just had a million problems. We found a dead rat in the back, so it really stunk for a long time. I have never had that cool of a car. But in my opinion, they were cool.”
System of a Down’s Shavo Odadjian also had a nickname for his first car, a beat-up silver 1983 Ford Thunderbird. “It was called the ‘Mean T-Bird’ in high school because I had this, like, stereo system in there that would play metal the whole time, but it was just a broken down, beaten down car,” said the bassist. “I bought it for $300. I had to retire it and I gave it to the Salvation Army. I took out the speakers and kept the big amplifier. That’s what happened to the ‘Mean T-Bird.’ It was really tacky. We all had beaters.”
System guitarist Daron Malakian’s was “a white four-door 1987 Honda Accord that I took to the cemetery and crashed while — this sounds like a cheesy heavy metal story, but I crashed it listening to the song ‘Black Sabbath’ at the cemetery, because it was like a 15 mile-an-hour zone,” he said. “I was doing like 65. I actually, maybe a couple of weeks ago, told my parents how that car got wrecked for the first time.”
Malakian replaced the wrecked Accord with another Accord — which he drove equally as recklessly and also destroyed in a near-fatal wreck. “After I crashed all the Accords, I had to drive my mom’s Buick Regal,” he lamented. “It had a bad radiator, and every time we drove it, it made this dinging noise. So you would have to drive, like the whole time, with this noise going.”
Other rockers took better car of their cars — or at least tried to.
“Jon and I still share a ’68 Volkswagen Bug,” Switchfoot bassist Tim Foreman said of his and his guitarist brother’s first wheels. “The thing is, I’m the only one who actually takes care of it and drives it. But we both inherited it. It was my grandparents’ car. They bought it new in ’68, and it’s one of those clutch-o-matics, where you still shift, but the clutch is automatic, and it’s a total pain ’cause when its cold, it’ll stall and everyone thinks you’re a clown for stalling your car. In high school I spent all of this time redoing the interior. I painted the outside, and then it just sort of sat with the windows up for like eight years, and everyone knows a bug is airtight, so the interior actually physically melted and dropped off the ceiling. We opened it up the other day and it was just a wreck.”
The only memories the guys from Fall Out Boy — whose “Sugar, We’re Goin Down” video won the MTV2 Award — hold for their first ride are frightening ones.
“It was a white A-Team van, and because it had no windows, it was hot as crap,” bassist Pete Wentz recalled of the $1,200 purchase. “It had a big flower spray-painted on the side. The brakes went out on it when we were driving down this alley, and I go to our guitar tech — there was a fence and there was this other van — so I go, ‘Fence or van? ‘Cause I’m crashing into one of them,’ and he said, ‘Fence,’ so I hit the fence and it bounced into the van.”
The van even managed to attack Wentz on one occasion.
“On the first Fall Out Boy tour ever, we were taking this van out and I was driving on the highway and all of a sudden the side mirror smashed into my face,” he said. “What happened was, we got a flat tire and it wrapped around the muffler and whipped the muffler up into the mirror.” The force from the detached muffler shot the driver’s side mirror through the open window and into the bass player’s chin.
Maybe Wentz should just hire a chauffeur to drive him around, because it’s obvious the dude should not have a license. It’s going to end up getting the rocker killed.
“One time, [drummer Andrew Hurley] went out of town and left his 1996 Honda Civic hatchback in front of my friend’s house, and I went and took it,” he explained. “We drove it to Indianapolis, to see a show, and on the way there … it was a stick shift, and I didn’t know how to drive it, but I pulled into the fast lane anyway, and it was in third, I guess, and it was going really slow. So this guy comes up behind me, flashing his lights, freaking out, and so we pull over [into the next lane.] It’s this guy in this crazy fedora and he pulls up next to us and he’s got these two guaranteed hookers in there … they’re definitely prostitutes. And one of them pulls the seat back, and this guy pulls a gun out and points it at us, and we just we hit the brakes.”