Behind the Steering Wheel [Courtesy Rovers Magazine, November 2013]
By Jeffrey Aronson
Honey Boo Boo and I share something in common; we’re both fabulous yet we’ve also confronted rejection. Now I know how her Momma June and her Daddy Sugar Bear feel when their super-adorable, utterly lovable, perfectly delectable tyke doesn’t win a beauty pageant. Not that I’m jealous or envious or anything; that would be petty and snarky, which of course, I’m not at all.
Fully aware of my Honey Boo Boo side the crew at East Coast Rover gave out my name and email to Eileen McGuigan, a location producer contracted by Lands’ End to source an appropriate Land Rover to use as a prop for a Maine catalogue shoot. I know from several readers that their Series Rovers have been used in catalogues; they wear their fame calmly and with composure. I, on the other hand, crave hanging around beautiful female models and luring them away from handsome male models. My folks always told me I was destined for…well, I don’t remember what, but I’m sure it had to do with stardom or fame or something.
Eileen’s email fairly dripped with verbal perspiration; she had a photo shoot scheduled for the following week and had come up empty so far. Would my “vintage Rover” be available? I looked out the window at the QE I. Its last bath had come the previous fall. You could barely see the interior through the pile of carpentry tools and bulging plastic contractor bags. It could possibly be ready next week if I set off a tactical nuclear weapon inside and ran it through a hurricane to clean the outside. Still I lied through my teeth, sent off some photos from years past and awaited the applause from the production team.
Instead I received a dismissive email that stated, rather cruelly, that the QE I- my Green Oval Honey Boo Boo - did not make the cut. The production company noted “our client likes the idea of a Rover but would like to see other options- maybe something in a paler color, or even in cream, white, or grey. Do you have access to other vehicles that might be available to rent for the shoot?” What did they mean, “another color?!” The QE I reigns supreme in its original Sage Green. Land Rovers of this “vintage” never came in cream, white or grey, at least not in the US market. Kermit the Frog was right; “it isn’t easy to be green.”
I sought solace from the wisdom of June and Sugar Bear about how to deal with the rejection; after all June herself once said “No one can be proper and etiquettely all the time.” So I mixed up a “Go Go Juice” cocktail of Mountain Dew and Red Bull, just like Honey Boo Boo drinks, and pounded it back. That gave me a caffeine and sugar rush that enabled a fine rant about hipsters, designers, photographers and the creative classes in general. To paraphrase singer Jean Knight, “Mr. Big Stuff, who do you think you are?”
Now I faced an ethical dilemma. I could, of course, claim not to know of any Series Land Rovers in “another color” and force Lands’ End to accept the QE I, or I could share the opportunity with other Maine Land Rover enthusiasts who owned Rovers of the requisite colors. WWHBBD – What Would Honey Boo Boo Do? She would share with those less fortunate, whose Land Rovers had fewer tiaras and less applause; she would also whine about it and then tell everyone about how she gave the opportunity to a lesser light. June and Sugar Bear would praise her to the skies. So I called Hallie and Matt Hawkes in Buxton, ME, and asked about their sand-color Land Rover, and well, the rest is their Cinderella story elsewhere in this issue. Now I can scrunch up my face and cry - Wahhh!!!!!
Next to a good cry Honey Boo Boo finds that vengeance always make her feel better. Of course, I only really envy those with Land Rovers in better condition, running more reliably than mine (yes, that’s a lot of people!) and only seek revenge against those who demean the QE I, my Land Rover.
So a lucky break came my way in June when the Tolette family, Cos Cob, CT, came to their vacation house on this island. Despite their considerable personal and professional achievements I know that Mark and Mary Lou secretly envy my life of fame and Land Rover turpitude. They’ve even set aside a room for me at their Connecticut house that I call “Jeff’s room” (they call it “the family room” – how quaint!). So I forgive Mary Lou for commenting on the puddle of gear oil the left on their garage floor or for their daughter Anna squealing in horror when the rear door flung open while she sat on a jump seat in downtown Greenwich, CT. Indeed I can barely remember the “No!” Mary Lou cried out when I suggested that a refurbished Land Rover would be the perfect island vehicle for them.
Last month, while I decided which t-shirt to wear that day, Mary Lou called in a panic. Their 2003 Toyota pickup had stopped running on a remote part of the island; could I rescue them? Not the same truck that had been thrown in my face for several years because of its reliability, safety and comfort levels, I asked? Really, that very same truck! Not only would I rescue them in the much-maligned, barely tolerated QE I, I would tow them to the local repair shop.
Their son Robby had also packed his girlfriend, Megan Archino, and college friends Liam Cochran and Erika Bucior into the Toyota for a sightseeing trip. He now sat humiliated and dejected beside the Toyota; I felt wonderful about his misery! Upon inspection, the Toyota would barely start and run. Only by putting it in low range and feathering the clutch could we even get the truck facing in the right direction. A tow strap that looks quite long when laid out on the ground looks much shorter when you’re being towed 8 miles or so up and down narrow, hilly roads but Robby kept the Toyota from slamming into the rear of the QE I.
As you would expect I treated their humiliation with respect and honor, gloating for only 30 minutes that I had rescued them and delivered them to safety without any regard to personal gain or recognition. I asked only that they acknowledge the superiority of the Land Rover, my personal valor and the brilliance of my recovery techniques. They caught me off guard momentarily when they asked how I knew so much about towing vehicles that had broken down – really, after all I’d done for them! – but I shrugged it off and continued to pat myself on the back.
Living with her family in rural McIntyre, GA, Honey Boo Boo lives within a world of hunting. After all when her mother, June, and father, “Sugar Bear” Mike, married this spring the bride and bridesmaids wore camo wedding dresses and the men wore blaze orange hunting vests. Male guests received hunting knives as wedding favors and everyone’s table glassware included mason jars with lids – sort of deer camp with a backwoods-accented theme. Naturally, with every move taped for later viewing on her TLC television series, the wedding couldn’t include real game. They’re messy and leave stains when they’re skinned and skewered, and that wouldn’t look good.
I followed the Shannon – Thompson family lead this summer when asked to create a float of the island’s July 4th parade. Land Rovers have participated in rare game expeditions on every continent; mine did its part by capturing and transporting ducks of all sizes, from the tiniest of rubber duckies to one Mutant Ninja duck. Like a modern-day Marlin Perkins of Wild Kingdom, I stalked the ducks, mounted them on the cap rails and tailgate of the Land Rover, and corralled a rare giant duck into my trailer for the parade.
Honey Boo Boo never seems bashful and I followed her lead, rejoicing when handed a megaphone with which to regale the crowds lining the streets. (Actually, the megaphone might be a handy accessory on future trips in the Series II-A; it would make it much easier to converse with passengers.) Rarely has a Land Rover been subjected to such ridiculousness. Some bystanders queried whether the giant duck on the trailer was there to pull the Land Rover along should it break down – well, wasn’t that rude!
The QE I got its revenge when, in short order, corrosion required a new fuse box for the auxiliary electrics to work, and a cross axle movement caused a broken axle shaft. Alright, no more humiliation this summer - my Honey Boo Boo moments are over but weren’t they glorious while they lasted?
Copyright Jeffrey Aronson and Rovers Magazine - 2013
"The Land Rover is not a vehicle, it's a way of life."