Rockford Files Fest - 2011
Written by Jim Suva
On July 13, 2011, the 1st Annual Rockford Files Fest was held. In April I began to make arrangements to meet Pat McKinney and Brett Papworth. Pat and Brett are friends who helped me with my research of the Rockford Firebirds. Since my family and I were coming to the Los Angeles area during the second week in July, it seemed like a great idea to meet them in person! I then told Rob Howe that we were coming. Rob runs the official James Garner Fan Page on Facebook. He took this prospective meeting, which was going to include lunch at Paradise Cove, and transformed it into the 1st Rockford Files Fest. A Fest had been discussed for years on the Yahoo Rockford Files Group, but somehow that never became a reality. Until now.
Rob used to visit the set of the series during the last two seasons. Through the Garner Facebook page and his contacts with the show, he combined Rockford crew members and fans. This year’s Fest had a very limited budget and was really a trial run for next year’s Fest.
The Rockford Files Fest was held in two parts, in two different locations. The first part was held at Pat McKinney’s house, where we met at 10 a.m. Pat owns three (yes, that’s right, three) original Rockford Firebirds from the TV series. He has a 1976, a 1977 and a 1978 Firebird Formulas that were all driven by James Garner.
Pat also displayed his collection of Rockford Files memorabilia, including photographs, an original screen-used license plate, a telephone answering machine, a phone, a clock and a pencil holder, similar to the ones used in the series. Pat was nice enough to let us actually touch these items, and pose for pictures with his Firebirds!
Pat also has a collection of Rockford crew jackets and hats. These items were given to the Rockford cast and crew by James Garner during the filming of the series and the movies. What a classy guy!
The 1977 Firebird gets to stay in the garage, out of the sun. It is the actual sound car from the fourth season. You can see the plugs in the fenders where wiring and cables were run. It’s a beautiful car!
The 1976 Firebird is the only known car that has a letter signed by James Garner documenting the VIN number. It also states that he drove this Firebird on The Rockford Files.
The 1978 Firebird was used in the last two seasons of the series. As you can see, it still needs a little TLC!
Pat will be restoring these Firebirds as time and finances allow.
We also stopped by a nearby RV storage facility where Pat’s newest project is parked. He was given a 1959 Nashua trailer, which is the same kind of trailer Jim Rockford lived in during the series. Pat is hoping that with the help of Robert Zilliox, he will be able to paint and decorate the trailer to match Jim Rockford’s trailer. Robert Zilliox was the set designer from The Rockford Files. Robert has pictures of the interior of the trailer and the designs used on the show.
We are hoping to have all of Pat’s collection items at the 2nd Rockford Files Fest!
The second part of the Fest was held at Bob Morse’s Beach Café. This is the old Sandcastle Restaurant that was the site used for both the TV series and the CBS movies.
We met at the restaurant at 1:30 p.m. Rob made sure that we were sitting at tables where the original trailer sat. This area has been transformed into a beach area and has tables with beach umbrellas to keep the California sun off, our heads. The parking lot has been removed a few years ago. It was very cool to be sitting in that exact location!
Once most of us arrived, Rob held a brief introduction, welcoming us and introduced the Rockford crew and the fans. Everyone received a T-shirt that was designed by Sheilagh Howe. The T-shirts were black because that is James Garner’s favorite color. Pat McKinney also gave out Rockford Files hats, that he had made to many of the attendees.
Unfortunately, James Garner was not available to attend. Jim did send his personal car along with his driver, Chester Grimes. Chester has appeared on The Rockford Files several times in different roles. Note the Cadillac’s license plate! Obviously, a combination of his two favorite characters!
Roy Clark, Jim’s stunt double since his Maverick days, was kind enough to attend. Rob introduced Roy and he held a very nice speech. Roy also entertained us with several stunt stories, and about one particular stunt that he did in the episode “Battle of Canoga Park”
Roy was nice enough to go around to the different tables and he spoke with everyone. I was even fortunate enough to have him sign the visor of my Firebird! Roy also brought a great poster signed by James Garner, as well as a Rockford crew jacket.
Rob introduced Jon Winokur, who relayed a special message from James Garner. Jon is co-authoring The Garner Files, the story of James Garner’s life. It will be published in November, 2011.
Also in attendance was Blake Delgado, the son of Luis Delgado, Jim’s best friend for almost 50 years. You might remember Luis playing Officer Billings. Robert Zilliox, set designer, and Diane Adler, film editor, were also there. They signed autographs and had pictures taken with the fans. Unfortunately, my family left before Don Wilkerson came. He was an assistant director and was responsible for getting Rob Howe on the set. Ed Robertson also joined us. He is the author of Thirty Years of The Rockford Files. This book is my Rockford bible!
A very special treat was Paul Santo’s restored 1977 Firebird, painted in the correct Rockford color. He parked close by in the parking lot (management wouldn’t let him drive it onto the sand! I wonder why?) Many many pictures were taken of Paul’s Firebird. It was so cool to have the Firebird in Paradise Cove again.
James Garner was so appreciative of his fans that he signed three items to be raffled off at the Fest. He signed a Rockford hat, a pilot script, and a Rockford T-shirt. Below is a picture of the lucky winners with their prizes! They received their prizes in custom Rockford Files Fest bags, also designed by Rob and Sheilagh.
We had a wonderful time! We wished it could go on forever!
For more pictures please visit The Official James Garner Fan page on Facebook.
We are already starting to plan a bigger Rockford Files Fest for next year. All will be invited, so tell your friends! Please check back for updates on next year’s event.