city ​​streets, shiny cars and Mackenzie Phillips

They are elegant, elegant and shiny.

Some have fins, snarling exhaust pipes, chrome rims, mag wheels and tuck & roll upholstery – and they never fail to grab attention. It’s the attraction of classic cars, hot rods and muscle cars from the 40s, 50s and 60s.

More than 400 pristine vintage coupes, sedans and pickup trucks will be on display in downtown Petaluma on Saturday, May 21, when Cruisin’ the Boulevard presents its 15th annual tribute to “American Graffiti,” celebrating the nostalgic film about the transition to Coming of Age, filmed in Petaluma in 1972, which captured a time when car-obsessed teenagers roamed the city showing off their vehicles, drinking beer, and seeking thrills.

Set in 1962, the film reflects director George Lucas’ teenage years, while capturing an almost mirror image of life in the small town of Petaluma during that time. It’s an era kept alive by classic car shows, the thrilling top 40 tunes of the 60s, and wholesome memories.

The stars of the three-day festive event are Mackenzie Phillips, Candy Clark and Bo Hopkins, who will socialize with fans and sign autographs. Clark and Hopkins are familiar faces at the annual shindig, but Phillips — whose career has blossomed in numerous film, television and stage roles — is returning to Petaluma for the first time in 50 years.

During a phone conversation, Phillips recalled filming the iconic film and spoke about his affection for classic cars, his career and his significant involvement in the field of behavioral health.

“It all started when I was 12 and living in Los Angeles,” Phillips said. “I was the lead singer of a small band at school where all the kids had family in the entertainment industry. We were playing at an open mic night at Troubadour nightclub when talent scout Fred Ross came over and asked me if I’d like to be in a movie. The only acting experience I had was playing Santa Claus in a school play. I auditioned and got the part.

She barely knew what she was getting into, of course.

“I was a little kid,” Phillips continued. “I didn’t quite get it all, but it seemed like a cool thing to do. I had never heard of Petaluma.

In the film, Phillips plays Carol Morrison, the precocious but irritating little sister who ends up riding in the deuce yellow coupe with John Milner, played by Paul Le Mat.

“When they were filming, it was quite a production,” Phillips said. “In the scenes with Paul and I in The Devil of 1932, because of the cameras, we were locked in the car for long periods of time. It was really a fun time. I was like the mascot on set. It was cool. “American Graffiti” was a huge hit. I watched it about thirty times. »

The film also introduced Phillips to an appreciation for custom cars.

“I love the classic cars in the movie,” she said. “When I was a kid, my dad had a turquoise ’57 Chevy and a ’62 Caddy convertible that we called ‘Boris.’ ‘American Graffiti’ opened me up to different types of classic cars, and it’s a very special moment for me.

After the success of “American Graffiti”, the door of opportunity opened for the talented Phillips. Julia is best remembered in the sitcom “One Day at a Time”, where she starred in 123 episodes with Valerie Bertinelli and Bonnie Franklin, Phillips starred in 14 films and played 47 television roles. She starred in 63 episodes of Disney Channel’s “So Weird,” nine episodes of the revival “One Day at a Time,” and six guest appearances on “Orange is the New Black.” Her past stage roles include “Grease”, “The Vagina Monologues”, “Same Time Next Year”, and “Annie”.

“I was 15 when I started ‘One Day at a Time,'” Phillips recalls. “I went to a Waldorf school on the set. Valerie and I were a class of two.

She then encountered substance abuse issues and is now in long-term recovery. She chronicled her struggles in her 2009 memoir, “High on Arrival,” which debuted at No. 3 on the New York Times bestseller list and led to appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show and many morning TV shows.

“I have an extremely rewarding second career in behavioral health as an addiction counselor and general manager at Breathe Life Healing Center in West Hollywood,” she explained. “I’m not actively seeking acting roles, but I wouldn’t mind playing a mom. I’m proud of my upbringing.

Along with the anticipation of returning to Petaluma where her acting career began, Phillips spoke of her enjoyment of the autograph sessions, which provide an opportunity to meet and greet admiring fans.

“It’s always fun when people come up with movie memorabilia to sign,” she said.

In 1995, the Library of Congress deemed “American Graffiti,” the film, “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Cruisin’ the Boulevard was created in 2005 by a group of classic car and “American Graffiti” enthusiasts who wanted to pay homage to the film. The first two car shows were held at the Factory Outlet Mall, before moving downtown, which increased the number of cars to 300.

For 2022, the limit has been set at 400 entries, reached after 11 days of registration. Currently, 88 cars remain on a waiting list.

“The car show takes place on the streets of Petaluma where the movie was filmed,” said John Furrer, founder of Cruisin’ the Boulevard. “We have the movie cars and we have the movie stars. We had entries from 18 states and eight different countries. No one could have imagined the growing popularity we have gained.

For more information and a full schedule of events, check out the Cruisin’ the Boulevard Facebook page, Cruisin’ the Blvd. Petaluma’s tribute to American graffiti.

About James K. Bonnette

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