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HERBIE MANIA GRIPS U.S.!!!
Story and Photography by Lois Grace


As any kid (of any age) can tell you, Herbie is pretty big right now. Due to the release last year of Disney's newest Love Bug movie, "Herbie Fully Loaded", one of the hobby's favorite Bugs is enjoying a new wave of popularity.A lot of the kids seeing this new movie haven't even heard of or seen the original Herbie movies! In fact, Lindsay Lohan (who stars in the new saga) said in one interview that before she was chosen for this part, she herself had never seen a Herbie movie! That fact alone should have caused Disney execs to choose a more worthy candidate for this part like, for instance, ME. But things being what they are, I had to make do with Herbie mania in my own little part of the world and save the movie-making for others.

The release date for this movie was set for June 22nd, 2005, which happened to coincide with the "International Day of the Beetle", a fact I find more than coincidental. And, one of our Golden Gate Chapter VVWCA members, Greg Hyde, arranged for our club to participate in the press screening of this movie in San Francisco at the Kabuki Theater on June 20th, 2 days before the actual release.? Greg had set up a 60-mile cruise from south San Jose to the theater in San Francisco - the cruise beginning at 3:00pm. From our starting point here in the south bay, I led a small group of 6 cars north, where we met Greg and 6 more cars and continued north to a rest area. There we picked up maybe a dozen more and continued on north to The City. We arrived at the Kabuki Theater right in the middle of weekday rush hour traffic. The Disney rep wanted us to circle the theater for an hour before the movie started, but most of us abandoned that plan after a mere 10 or 15 minutes battling homeward-bound commuters, bicyclists, and so many pedestrians you couldn't see the sidewalk. You can only drive in that kind of 4-block congestion for so long! We finally got into the movie and settled into our seats for a very enjoyable hour and half of new Herbie adventures. It was dark when we got home, at 11:00 that night.

What I didn't know then was that when I woke up the next day, something had changed. It was almost like my 21st birthday again (minus the hangover), I didn't feel different, but something was definitely not the same. I wasn't able to put my finger on it until I started cruising eBay for Herbie items........and ended up spending hours on the computer bidding on things I never would have given a second glance to mere weeks before. It was then that I realized I?d been infected. AGAIN. I had caught Herbie fever, in a bigger way than I could have imagined.

Beetle fever is one thing and we all know what that is like - and we're used to it as it has become a part of our life. But HERBIE fever is another thing entirely. Besides just Volkswagen-related clothing, jewelry and accessories, there are a host of other goodies out there just pertaining to Herbie. Disney released a whole bunch of stuff for the original appearance of #53, from work shirts to sweatshirts to jackets and everything in between. If you can find these things now you'd best grab them for whatever price they command, if you are serious about collecting them. That is how rare they are becoming. I didn't bid or buy anything that was out of my budget but I was sorely tempted by the original Disney-release bomber jacket with the giant #53 embroidered on the back. To make it even cooler, it was reversible, with a gray sweatshirt lining and an even BIGGER embroidered Herbie design on the inside. OH MAN, I really had it bad. I contented myself (for a while) with grabbing up as many of the collectible Herbie Disney pins as I could, and I think now I have them all except for one. Oh yeah, I did get a Herbie charm for a bracelet I have......and a Herbie antenna ball......and every Herbie t shirt ever screened....and even a Herbie cell phone charm (original Disney, of course). Not that I'll admit to any of it.

I realized I had a problem when I began thinking about dressing my Bug like Herbie.'? There are legions of us VW people out there who have turned their cars - permanently or otherwise - into Herbie lookalikes.'? I have two good friends who have done it. I have a Toga White sedan, and I thought, Why not?? He's white, like Herbie. It'll be fun. Never mind that my Bogart doesn't have a sunroof. Never mind that he is a '69 Beetle, not a '63. Never mind that my numbers are magnetic and my stripes are tape. In my eyes, he looks fantastic! And, apparently he looks good to the rest of the motoring world around here too. Because the attention he gets is phenomenal. Without this Herbie getup, Bogie is just another beigey-white "late model" Beetle to most people. But in his stripes and numbers, he is HERBIE THE LOVE BUG. Kids wave and scream at us. Grownups in mini vans honk and wave at us. Heck, even two Harley riders - not so much Hells Angels but still the type you wouldn't think would even know who Herbie was (and if they did they sure wouldn't admit it) waved at us as they roared by. It is amazing, all this attention! Sometimes, it's too much. I'm not sure I'm completely comfortable with being stared at this way. But for a short while I can get used to it, and it's really a kick.

But dressing like Herbie is not without its hazards: the tape stripes left marks on Bogie's paint, and one of the big #53 magnets lost its grip and flew off while we were on a club "Fun Run." A quick-thinking and even faster-acting fellow club member managed to stop and retrieve it for me. I honestly didn't mind the small hassle, as it had been worth it, fun-wise. But if Bogie ever decides to shoot oil out one wheelwell, or split in half going around a corner, that's IT. His Herbie days will be over.


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