Thursday, March 26, 2009

Knight Rider Festival: The stars, part 1

What happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas, as far as the BRBTV News Blog is concerned. We want to tell you all about it! (We'll even tell you all about the road trip there and back, alien jerkey, Area 51, cows, hail, snowstorms, desert, birds, fly-away hats and all, if you really want to hear.) Today we continue our coverage of the first-ever Knight Rider Festival with a look -- and a listen -- to the celebs who appeared at the event.

George Barris, the custom-car guru behind the Batmobile, the Munsters Koach, the General Lee, the Beverly Hillbillies car and much more, had some interesting things to say during the event's Q&A sessions. Shown here with (from left) Catherine Hickland and stuntmen Dennis Braid, Jack Gill and Buzz Bundy, the newlywed Barris talked about the beloved KITT and working on the 1980s "Knight Rider" show.

“We built a pursuit car," he said. "It was the hardest car we ever built for any TV show. I’ve been on ‘Knight Rider,’ ‘Dukes of Hazzard,’ ‘Batman,’ ‘Beverly Hillbillies,’ ‘Green Hornet,’ all those shows. But ‘Knight Rider’ was the number-one hard car. The pursuit car was a car that had a goal of speeds of 150 miles an hour in the air with rockets. I had my dear colleague, Dennis here, he had to maneuver how to put this car in the air with all the speeds of 150 miles an hour. That means everything had to actuate. Front end would come out, back end come out, up come the back, rocket tubes, side panels. Now that was pretty good. We got that, and he was inside the car making everything move, as we were watching him and of course, the director was filming everything. But the hardest part was, what happens when you’re up there in the air, at 150 miles an hour – how do you stop? So just like a jet aircraft. If you looked at a jet aircraft, whenever it would come in to land, those wings would come up and cause the airbrakes. So Dennis got the top to come up, the hood to come up, the door panels to come out, the back end to come up, to cause airbrakes. Now all of this had to happen all at one time. That was the hardest car we had to do.”

Stu Phillips, second from left above (and on the left is Rebecca Holden), is the man responsible for the theme music of "Knight Rider." Phillips has worked on a ton of other TV stuff over the years, such as the original "Battlestar Galactica," "The Monkees," "B.J. and the Bear" and "The Hardy Boys / Nancy Drew Mysteries."
“For television or films or anything else," Phillips said, "you get an assignment, and you either get lucky and get inspired, or you don’t and you work hard. In this particular case, it was a little bit of both. It was a direction that everybody wanted me to go, which was definitely to try to be electronics, to be one of the first electronic scores or television themes, at least, on television, in the history of television. Until then, there’d only been slight usage of synthesizer. But this was going to be an all-out attempt to go hog-wild with electronics since the car was fitted out to be that way. The idea was given to me to do that.”

Above, Catherine Hickland runs back off the center stage area after signing one of the KITT cars on display. The star of "One Life to Live" and onetime wife of David Hasselhoff (who, by the way, was scheduled to appear at the festival but wasn't able to make it) played Stephanie ("Stevie") March on "Knight Rider" and even wrote one episode and performed some songs in others.

Photos by Billie Rae Bates / BRBTV
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