What’s it like to be a Hollywood Christmas Parade driver?
The ’66 Red Mustang was just so sweet – starts in an instant, settles into a slow idle, with automatic, perfect for controlling parade speed with a light brake drag. I did have to go back and forth between right and left foot braking to avoid leg discomfort. I had the heater on only a little bit – it was super effective. My guests got a bit cold though. I had to ride in the Mustang with the top down back to the storage place after the parade, but it very cozy.
I was actually very warm the entire day from 2 pm until I left for home at 11:30 pm. T-shirt, wool shirt, and a thick jacket. Also winter gloves and a wool cap. It was moderately windy with temperatures from 60° down to 48° by the end of the evening.
This year the organizers suffered a bunch of glitches – half the committed convertibles never showed causing many drivers to do a second lap to try to carry the stranded stars. They were afraid of rain, which stopped by 2:30 in the afternoon.
I did not get the driving call confirmed until late the night before. Last year it was confirmed several weeks earlier. But the mood with the volunteers in the green room, the garage line-up folks, security were all as friendly and fun as ever. Way more food and coffee while hanging out than anyone could eat. It’s a long logistics day – 2 pm call time, home at midnight.
We start by picking up the Mustang at 2:00 PM two miles from the parade location, takes 45 minutes to get there due to many blocked streets. Pick up credentials, put the car on the 6th floor roof parking lot of the L. Ron Hubbard Theater, add the door signs, hang out until our call time around 5:15 to start the cars, get in line down on the 5th floor to pick up the guests. We’re provided with endless coffee, water, and snacks in the garage while waiting.
We also have the run of the hospitality green room with even more food and desserts, meet other volunteers, and walk out to the outdoor parade Star Walk where the media gets their interviews and photos as the stars arrive.
It’s quite a busy spot on the 5th floor as the famous are loaded up for their ride. We keep a big furniture quilt in the back seat to huddle with as they sit on the padded trunk lid. It’s then about an hour creep down the ramps, into the line up with lots of lights and photos awaiting our orders onto the route start.
I’m provided with a headset to hear driver orders, then watch for several hand signals to start and stop in front of the reviewing stand as an emcee chats at the car for the TV cameras. Then start off we go, after handing the headset back to anther crew member. Lots of cheering and waving. Gumby is still a kid favorite in his 60th year. My guests were the Clokey family of Gumby creator Art Clokey, while their soccer playing girl friend ran along in the Gumby costume.
The trick is to not lose the Rolls~Royce ahead while juggling the giant helium balloon figure behind me, a dozen folks rustling the thing in the wind, bowing down under traffic light, plus pacing the girl in the Gumby suit. She’d stop many times for hugs and selfies, then run ahead. At Hollywood and Vine, the Rolls was long gone, the balloon was way behind, so I suggested Gumby run around the intersection doing donuts, hugs and selfies for several minutes until the balloon can catch up in the wind.
Then onward the parade finish, back up to the 5th floor, exit the guests, park and join them in the Star VIP lounge with all the famous. Coffee and dessert, then off a bit later for cocktails and a late dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe, return the Mustang, return home at midnight. Whew…
My Disneyland Fire Engine was in the parade along with the D23 fan club kids.