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Gatsby Summer Afternoon
Sep. 14, 2008

This "posterized" photo captures a nice representation of Lynn's impression of the Gatsby Summer Afternoon.

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Finding His Natural Element

Lynn's friend Willy sends an email message with an invitation for 1920's vehicles to participate in a "Gatsby" event. Sponsored by the Art Deco Society of California (ADSC), the Gatsby Summer Afternoon is billed as "the ultimate extravaganza in period recreation. Here is the opportunity for you travel back into the 1920-30s in your auto." Lynn is interested enough to look into this further and finds this description at the ADSC website.

On Sunday, September 14, the Art Deco Society of California will host its Annual Gatsby Summer Afternoon at the historic Dunsmuir House in Oakland California. Now in its 24rd year, the Gatsby Afternoon lets several hundred aficionados of the 1920s and 30s step back to a time when elegance was a way of life and the Charleston and fox trot were all the rage. This is not a spectator event. From 1-6PM the panoramic Dunsmuir front lawn becomes a stage on which all participants picnic, dance and sip champagne, reminiscent of a scene from The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald's famous novel of 1925.

WOW! This sounds like great fun!

In fact, the choice of the name Bugsby for the 1924 Kissel Speedster was a direct reference to the style and early 1920's time frame of Fitzgerald's novel. While thinking of an appropriate name for the car, Jeanne at one point suggests the name Bugsy, alluding to gangster Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel. While this name could have worked, Lynn wants something less sinister with more of a sense of old wealth, class and the high life. He tweaks the name to Bugsby thinking explicitly of Fitzgerald's story.

Lynn contacts Gregg Greenwood, the ADSC Auto Coordinator, and is delighted that Gregg encourages the Kissels (Bugsby, Jeanne and Lynn) to apply to participate in the event. Lynn wastes no time completing and mailing the application. Within days the Kissels' invitation arrives by return mail.

They Make a Nice Picture!

Jeanne in Bugsby Jeanne on blanket
Jeanne in Bugsby and sitting with the Kissels' modest picnic setup.

As the months and days approach for the Gatsby, Jeanne and Lynn refine their costumes and picnic setup. Not having participated before, they opt to keep it simple. At the event, they learn that they are Gatsby virgins and it doesn't take long for them to see and think of things that they'll do differently next year.

Gatsby participants Gatsby participants Gatsby participants
Simply watching the other people is a treat.

Many of the people participating in the Gatsby obviously take the event seriously. Elaborate picnic setups with linen, crystal, flowers and exquisite food abound. Everyone is tremendously friendly and sociable. At one point, a stranger from a neighboring party brings Jeanne, Adrea, Norman and Lynn Irish coffees.

1911 Oakland of Norman Schwartz
A 1911 Oakland roadster and it's owner, Norman Schwartz.

Jeanne and Lynn talk with scores of people during the day. They spend the most time with Adrea and Norman Schwartz from Lafayette, another couple of Gatsby virgins. Lynn believes that the Schwartz car is one of the oldest vehicles at the Gatsby.

Striking More Than a Pose

Posing woman
Posing woman Posing woman Posing woman beauty contest
Many participants are eager to have their pictures taken.

The party atmosphere is truly palpable. People are happy and at ease. Everyone is here for a good time, for a party on a grand scale. A band plays period music, accompanying male and female vocalists. Many people take to the dance floor.

On a blanket near where Jeanne and Lynn are sitting is a striking beauty in a bright red bathing suit and white knee socks sitting under a parasol. She has obviously spent a lot of time on her hair which was tightly curled. Lynn asks if he can take her picture and she smartly poses and smiles broadly for the camera.

Other people are posing and getting their pictures taken next to the cars. Lynn takes advantage of more than one situation where an individual is posing for someone else.

Lynn snaps the picture of one woman in a pink dress and parasol while walking across the grounds. The woman stops and says "Wait, I'll pose for you!" Lynn takes a second, better picture, shown above.

One of the highlights of the day is the beauty contest. The "Deco Belles" perform a dance number then join in a collective pose for the photographers. They must hold that position for five minutes or more as people take turns snapping a picture of the colorful group.

Selected from the Deco Belles is a new Miss Art Deco. The reigning Miss Art Deco surrenders her crown to the new winner who is escorted around the dance floor for review by the crowd. It is all great fun.

girl with 1932 Chrysler girl
A young lady poses next to her 1932 Chrysler Series CP convertible coupe.

One particularly interesting thing happens as Lynn is taking photos of the cars. He notices a girl playing with her parasol umbrella as he approaches a beautiful 1932 convertible. He asks the girl if this is her car and she says it is. Lynn asks if she would stand next to her car while he takes a picture. As if someone throws a switch, she transforms from a young girl to a young lady, and purposefully composes herself next to the car for the photo. Lynn thinks she is flattered to be treated as a adult, made to feel worthy of being photographed like many of the other adults on the lawn.

Many Stunning Vintage Vehicles

Vintage bus and house
Mr. Toad's Tours, a 1912 Rambler used for commercial tours pictured here in front of the Dunsmuir mansion, carries passengers to and from the event all afternoon.

While the estate grounds, the vintage picnic setups and the people in appropriate dress are likely more than enough to set the period mood, it is the vintage cars that complete the time transport and hold special interest for Lynn. He doesn't have an accurate count, but guesses there are 30 or 40 stunning examples at the event.

George and Carol Teebay with their 1934 Silver Arrow
George and Carol Teebay stand next to Archie, their 1934 Pierce-Arrow 840A Silver Arrow coupe. To the right of Archie is Isadora, their 1930 Pierce-Arrow Model B roadster. Lynn appreciates a person that names their vehicles. (Photo courtesy of George Teebay)

Vintage car Vintage car Vintage car
A 1925 Pierce-Arrow sedan (left), a 1937 Oldsmobile sedan (center), and the hood ornament on a 1937 V8 Cadillac grace the lawn.

ice cream
Several very nice commercial vehicles are on display. Ed Archer dispenses Dyer's ice cream (right) from the back of his truck.

Bugsby in Context

"Film crew" and Bugsby
A faux film crew poses next to Bugsby.

There is no shortage of attention for Bugsby. As soon as the car rolls onto the field, a constant stream of new admirers line up to look at him and talk with Lynn about him.

Within five minutes of arriving, Bugsby (and by association, Jeanne and Lynn) get an invitation to participate at next year's Great Gatsby Festival at the Tallac Historic Site in Tahoe. Sponsored by the Tahoe Tallac Association with significant participation from the Northern California Dodge Brothers & Sisters, Jeanne and Lynn are looking forward to being at this event in August, 2009.

Jeanne is usually mildly bored by "auto events," but the Gatsby is different. She says that that the event puts Bugsby and the other vintage cars in context, making it so much more interesting. Lynn couldn't agree more. In the words of a 17-year-old acquaintance of Lynn, the ADSC Gatsby Summer Afternoon is wickedly awesome and the Kissels plan to make it a regular part of their social calendar.

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Last updated: May 24, 2009