CANNONBALL RUN: The home stretch, Take 2

Date: July 4, 1981

Place: 20 minutes east of Redondo Beach, Calif. (as the Cannonball flies)

At a roadblock by a ghost town, two visions in Spandex leaned against the side of their black Lamborghini. The women looked frustrated--a rare state of affairs for them.

"How long have we been here?"

Jill Rivers nudged back the cuff of her skintight jumpsuit. A desert breeze played with her feathered blonde hair. "Twenty minutes," she replied.

Marcie Thatcher, her well-equipped driving partner, heaved a sigh. "We could have been there by now." She looked down the long line of vehicles on the shoulder of the road repair site. Most had their motors running, or were getting final under-the-hood adjustments, in readiness for the sprint to the finish. A quick count told her that nearly half the cars that started from Darian, Connecticut had dropped out. But the major contenders were still in the hunt, including the bogus priests, the bogus Roger Moore, and J.J. McClure's bogus ambulance. She glanced down at her "equipment" and smiled. Were these the only real things around here?

Several carlengths away, a voice came from a pickup's radio. "...repeating, the California DOT regrets the earlier report that Highway 10 was the only route open to Redondo Beach. In fact, it is the only route NOT open..." Mad Dog snapped off the switch in disgust. "Well, that explains why everybody wound up here, when there are ten other ways to go."

His partner Batman was still jazzed from miraculously jumping the train in New Mexico. "Man, if cameras had been there, we'd have made CBS Sports Spectacular for sure! Or at least, a cheesy movie that people with no taste will be watching on DVD 20 years from now."

"Oh, so you want to do it again?" Mad Dog asked sarcastically. Then he added after a moment, "What's a DVD?"

"The road will be open in 5 minutes, Father," said the flagman to one of the Ferrari friars, who was really Jamie Blake, the retired Formula One driver. He cultivated a tipsy "Rat Pack" image, mainly to lull the competition. But behind the wheel, he could hold his liquor and hold his own. The Ferrari's presence here, 2900 miles west of Connecticut, was proof of that.

"Thank you, my son," Jamie replied, staying cornily in character. He ambled back to his car and, as he passed the women, he cast a lewd wink at Marcie. It was strictly a throwaway. He fully expected a cold shoulder (or middle finger!), since she had brushed him off back in Darian. And indeed, the busty brunette was still not interested in the dirty old man-of-the-cloth. But she had to respect that he had kept up with them at breakneck speeds for almost 40 hours, and still had the panache to make a pass. So she bestowed an enigmatic smile, and a wink in return. What the hell. Anyway, she figured it might frazzle his concentration on this final stretch.

Indeed, a dream of post-race bliss in Palos Verdes began dancing in his head, until J.J. broke in with, "Hey, Father Putz." The self-proclaimed Cannonball favorite was lolling in the back door of his souped-up ambulance. His sidekick Victor was under the hood, recalibrating the flux capacitor he had salvaged from a DeLorean. (It didn't belong in this movie, but there were so many other goofs, he was able to sneak it through.) Renowned proctologist Dr. Nickolas Van Helsing, and their "patient" Pamela Glover, were sitting on the gurneys inside.

Jamie clapped his hands. "Why, Doctor Schweitzer! I want to thank you for telling that policeman in Missouri that we were flashers and sex maniacs."

J.J. chuckled. "That was just a return favor for that little stunt with the tire in Ohio."

"You know, what I don't get is, we left you 100 miles behind because of that. So how come when we pulled into the St. Louis gas station, you were already there?"

"Let's just say our driver got inspired, and made up the time."

"More like 'possessed'," Pamela chimed in, with friendly wonderment. From under the hood, Victor smiled. He liked Pamela...and "him" liked her, too.

The rivals trash-talked awhile more, about blimps and chocolate and rosary beads (or was it bleeds?), until finally Jamie said, "Can you take a little advice?"

"Sure," said J.J.

Jamie leaned in and whispered, "Marry Sally Field."

"Nah, I'm more into blondes."

"Then bring lawyers," Jamie warned ominously--and his partner Fenderbaum stepped up and added, with a toothy grin, "A LOT of them!"

Back at the car line-up, Seymour Goldfarb looked under the bonnet of his Aston-Martin, and frowned. The electrical problem, which had produced the "foggy day in Londontown", still worried him. "It may be time for a change," he murmured. His female companion crossed her arms, and pouted. "No no, my dear, not you," he assured her. "At least,"--he glanced at his Rolex--"not quite yet."

He strolled to the construction site's parking area, to scout for alternatives. In the second row, to his delighted surprise, he spotted a roadster that looked amazingly like his own (to the unsophisticated eye, at least). Its steering wheel was even on the proper "right-hand" side!

A young blonde woman whispered excitedly to a man nearby, who walked over to introduce himself as the owner. "Greetings, Sir," said Seymour. "I have a proposition for you." He indicated his own car, and said, "If you could patch up my vehicle, and deliver it to the Portofino Inn at Redondo Beach, I would gladly pay you 5000 pounds."

"Pounds of what?"

"Pounds sterling." These Yanks could be so charmingly naive. "That would be, I believe, somewhat over 10,000 of your American dollars. I would also need to borrow your own conveyance, and we can re-exchange them there."

The DOT man looked at the Aston-Martin. Even if this character never showed up with the money, just keeping that car would be a good trade. "You've got a deal, Mister...?"

"Moore..." he intoned, with dramatic import. "Roger Moore."

"That's strange. When my niece pointed you out, she said something else. Anyhow, she needs a ride into Redondo. Could she go with you, in case I can't get your car fixed?" They shook hands on the deal, and gave each other their keys.

Their attention was distracted by a rumbling in the distance. From the desert, a long line of tough-looking bikers had rolled into the ghost town. They were led by an scruffy 40-something who looked like an aging refugee from Easy Rider. The Cannonballers eyed them warily--not out of fear, but from wondering how the new arrivals might affect the race.

It didn't take long to find out. A minute later, the phony bride-and-groom pulled in on their motorcycle with the well-worn rear wheel. The bikers began hassling their Wall Street counterpart, and Seymour's companion got scared.

"You just stay close to Moore," he gallantly counseled her. "Oh, and I must have a word with you, darling, about travel plans..."

Suddenly fists and bodies were flying! The racers may have been fierce competitors on the road. But when one of their own was jumped, they jumped in, too!

"Dunt, dunt, DUHHH!" came the battle cry from behind J.J., and Captain Chaos stormed into the fight. Back and forth it raged, with Pamela taking pictures, and Fenderbaum on an amazingly handy phone, arguing with the Greek about his bet. The younger Japanese driver was especially vigorous. This was his first time in the U.S., and he was eager to show off his martial arts skills to American movie producers, errr, biker gangs.

Chaos fought off scores of stuntmen with dashing ease, and rescued the jumpsuited damsels who had been carried off for dastardly purposes. "You're so macho!" said Jill, although one of her tooth caps had come loose, so she was unable to move her lips.

Even Jamie Blake, the old timer of the bunch, was in the thick of it--until the flagman, coolly ignoring the fracas, tapped him on the shoulder. "Excuse me, Father, but the road's open."

"Thanks," said Jamie, with equal nonchalance. After 15 years with Jerry Lewis, nothing could faze him. He whistled across the set. "Fenderbaum! The road's OPEN!"

The Cannonballers dashed to their cars, like a classical Le Mans start, and roared into the desert. The ambulance had been at the head of the queue, and got the jump. But one by one, the other cars passed it on the undulating road to Redondo.

"Why'd you take off that damn mask?" J.J. demanded.

"I didn't take off the mask, HE took off the mask," Victor explained, if you could call it that.

J.J. groused. Live by the schizophrenic, die by the schizophrenic. "I'm going to get a beer," he announced grumpily, as he went back to where they were kept in the "Blood serum" cooler.

Suddenly the ambulance accelerated, the William Tell Overture blared, and Captain Chaos was again at the wheel! "Dunt, dunt, DUHHH!" They passed car after car, in the left lane, the right lane, down the shoulder, every which way! Nothing could touch them. By the time they reached the city limits, they had the lead again!

"Only ten blocks to go!" announced the Captain. "I have the feeling we are going to be...triumphant!!!"

Through the streets of Redondo Beach, like a Monte Carlo rally, the Cannonballers swooped and dodged. Luckily it was a national holiday, so almost no cars or pedestrians were about. In the final stretch, with the finish line in sight, Mad Dog and Batman came out of nowhere and took the lead in their pickup. But having used up their luck at the New Mexico train crossing, they spun out after smashing through a traffic gate. The Wall Street "newlyweds" had to lay down their bike to save it, and a general pile-up ensued.

"Okay, it's a footrace!" J.J. cried.

"I got the card," the doc declared, as he groped for the door handle.

"No, gimme that, Doc!" J.J. snatched the ticket to victory and bailed from the passenger side, as Chaos sprang from the driver's seat. Pamela, the doc, and the whole mob of Cannonballers followed, stampeding down the barricaded street.

"Take it and win, Captain!" J.J. thrust the card into Victor's fist, and launched a flying tackle from his Florida college days, taking down every Cannonballer there...except one. Marcie alone eluded him, and it became a two-way sprint between her and the Captain--but he had a commanding lead.

"We're gonna win, we're gonna win!" said Pamela excitedly, jumping in place. From being an unwilling abductee, she was now an all-out member of Team McClure.

Seymour dusted off his Armani suit. "Well, all I can say is that it's not a very sporting way to win. What do you say, Father?"

"Not a sporting way?" answered a disgusted Jamie. "It's a shi-, err, a 'good' way to win," he corrected himself, unsure of whether this was the first home video version.

Victor was a mere five feet from glory, and had struck a manly pose prior to thrusting the card home--when a woman cried out, "My baby! My baby! He's drowning!!!"

"No, Victor, no!" yelled a horrified J.J. But his partner wasn't answering to that name at the moment. Right now he was the heroic Captain Chaos, who had no choice but to charge to the rescue.

He tossed the timecard to the winds and, with his patented Chaotic Supersense, instantly knew where the "baby" was without being told. He bounded over a hedge into a concealed swimming pool, with such alacrity that you'd almost think he used a trampoline. As Marcie rang the timeclock for the win, a water-spouting Victor grandly presented the rescued pooch to its grateful owner.

Jill whooped, and pumped her fists. J.J. slumped in disbelief. The others grimaced, and shrugged, and began drifting towards the post-race area, particularly the bar. Suddenly Pamela sang out, "Wait! Wait! You told me you started after everybody else, when you couldn't find a doctor. So we can still win!"

"That's right!" said J.J. He hollered at Victor, "Get the card, Captain! We can still win."

The masked man's eyes lit up. What a day this will be! A knightly rescue, and a racing triumph, together! He searched the pavement for the card, which had blown to who-knew-where. Marcie stood by the timeclock in shock. Their just-secured victory was now in pieces...or was it? Her mind raced. She thought of running off with the clock, and hurling it into the pool. But that would surely disqualify them. There may be "no rules," but you couldn't sabotage the race itself.

"Ah, HA!" cried Victor. He snatched the precious card from one of the flower stands left from a street wedding that morning, and he charged towards the timeclock. Marcie had just one chance left. She'd have to rely on her "equipment" one last time. As Victor approached the clock, she pulled down the zipper of her jumpsuit, clear to the waistband, and spread the neckline to expose the gleaming red brassiere and the huge, enticing breasts it cradled. Victor, like any red-blooded American male, was drawn up short. She was still breathing hard from her sprint, which only added to the impact.

The clock was ticking. Marcie knew she just needed to hold him for a few more seconds. She slipped the straps off her shoulders, and poised her hands. The implied tease, that she would bare her beautiful headlights (the official Cannonball term), kept Victor rooted to the spot.

She smiled wickedly. "You want to see them, Fat boy...?" It was both a question, and a blindingly obvious statement. Marcie arched her back, and her equipment worked its magic, like on so many cops across the country (well, except for that Arizona trooper who had a pretty good tool chest herself). She let her fingers toy with the straps, and with Victor's mind.

"Punch the clock!" J.J. shouted. He started towards his fatally distracted friend. But Jill tackled him from behind, and hung on like a wildcat. She had already heard that Susan Anton and Catherine Bach were set for the sequel, so it was now or never.

Pamela and the doc also went to the rescue. But the doc lumbered like he'd fallen off a horse in too many Westerns. And Pamela--dare we say it in this retro, sexist movie?--ran like a girl. Neither would get there in time. Marcie smirked at her gangly competitor. She still couldn't believe this scrawny blonde's poster had outsold her own., six, five, four, three...

Suddenly a sopping wet whirlygig sprang into Marcie's arms. The dog, sensing with his canine instincts that his rescuer needed rescuing, had jumped into the fray! As Marcie fumbled and sputtered, Victor snapped out of dreamland, and punched the clock with one second to spare.

The bystanders erupted in cheers! The doc ran up and clapped Victor on the back. Pamela gave him a big kiss, and even kissed the doc, too! A dismayed Jill let loose of J.J., and sat forlorn on the pavement. Well, back to Orly County--if it's still there.

Marcie, disgusted, tugged her zipper all the way up to her chin. "Show's over, Chubby," she muttered. The Captain replied with gusto, "And so, dear lady, is the race!"

And so the whole exhausted field repaired to the outdoor bar. Corks popped, stories were swapped, and from somewhere a children's choir began singing about dreams. Spectators snapped pictures and sought autographs. A helicopter hovered over the 50-foot "Finish line" banner. Three latecomers drove up, including Seymour's car with the California DOT man. As he handed over the keys, he said, "Mr. Moore, I found another electrical problem that I think you should--"

"Tut, tut, my good man. Not to worry. Now that the mission is over, Q's team will give it a thorough scrutiny. And kindly advise your niece to have her ocular acuity evaluated. My word, I don't even have a particularly dark tan!"

Mr. Arthur J. Foyt climbed from a taxi, and confronted his escaped prey. The strait-laced bureaucrat had pursued the scofflaws clear across the country, and captured a few. But the big fish had gotten away.

"How do you all feel," he demanded, "now that you have raped the American highways?"

"Great! Wonderful!" came the answers from a dozen Cannonballers, already half-sozzled. The outnumbered official, with no proof on anyone and the race already history, finally accepted the peace offering of a cigar.

And thus the great Cannonball Run came to an end. But its spirit lived on. As Seymour Goldfarb said jauntily, despite a dunking from one final stunt, "I have a feeling next year, we'll do this again...!"