the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: Buick

The Buick Time Machine

The 2010 Buick LaCrosse

DISCLOSURE: The nice people at Buick gave me two VIP passes to the TCM Classic Film Festival and a 2010 Buick LaCrosse for the week. I had a great time with Sophia. It was just what we needed — a fun event after the last few stressful months!

Some men spend their lives pondering the great questions, such as “Does God exist?” or “Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?” All my life, I have mostly asked one important question — “What does this button do?” From my first “stereo” with the identical-looking buttons for bass and treble, to the first time in bed with a naked woman sprawled in front of me, mysterious, unfamiliar body parts in display, it is “What does this button do?” Even today, in the virtual world of Facebook, I am always asking for assistance from a fellow blogger about the “Like” button, unsure of the ramifications of clicking it.

“What does this button do?” I nervously ask.

Because of this button affliction, I needed Sophia’s help in writing about the 2010 Buick Lacrosse I have been driving all week, back and forth from the TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood. I give credit to GM for asking me to attend this film festival. They took a chance on someone who has no experience in doing a sponsored or “review” post. While I am a good fit for a film festival, I am not the ideal person to review a car. SOPHIA is a car person, not me. She knows both cars and technology — a very smart woman and a self-professed gadget freak. That’s why I turned to her for help. We sat together in the car this morning, and I asked her the essential question, while pointing at the dashboard, the overhead panel, and the steering wheel —

“What does this button do?”

“That’s OnStar,” she answered.

“OnStar is what I use if I get into trouble, right?”

“Yes, but it’s a lot more. It’s really cool. You can call up OnStar and someone will recommend a local restaurant.”

“How do they know if the restaurant is any good?”

“I don’t know. They just do.”

The Buick Lacrosse is a beautiful car, and very luxurious, with leather seats, French seams, futuristic blue lighting in the dashboard, and a driver’s seat that pulls back to let you enter and exit more easily. I felt successful just sitting in the car.

“What does this button do?”

“That warms up the steering wheel.”

“What do I need that for?”

“If it’s cold when you first get into the car in the morning. Imagine you’re back in New York and that you get up early in the morning.”

“Can’t I just wear gloves?”

“Oh, you can also warm up AND cool down the seats. I love, love, love the cooling part.”

Sophia pressed the cooling button. I can feel my ass getting cold.

“It’s kind of a weird sensation.”

Remember, I am a tough critic.

The thing Sophia was totally psyched about was one of the most advanced aspects of the car – the use of the windshield head-up display (HUD) technology, similar to that used by Air Force F-16 pilots, so they don’t have to look away from the action. Also known as enhanced vision systems, the HUD systems project laser images of important data, such as speed, navigation directions and time directly onto the surface of a car’s windshield. Talk about futuristic.

The press has been quite excited by the LaCrosse, considering Buick’s staid reputation as the maker of “Dad’s car.”

From U.S. News and World Report:

When the 2010 Buick LaCrosse first appeared, the automotive press collectively gasped, “That thing’s a Buick?!” With a Lexus-like interior, and elegant exterior and better road manners than anything the brand has put out since its heyday in the 1950s, the entirely new LaCrosse is a triumph for GM.

We read thousands of car reviews, but rarely have we seen the automotive press so stunned. They’re not speechless – these are journalists we’re talking about – but they’re universally shocked at the sight, sound and feel of the 2010 Buick LaCrosse.

Buicks have earned a reputation in America as huge, ponderous cars with forgettable bodywork, flat bench seats, and decent engines but the road manners of a cabin cruiser. More than one reviewer has remarked that only senior citizens who can remember the fine Buicks of the 1950s and ‘60s tend to buy them.

The 2010 Buick LaCrosse, by that standard, has left a lot of jaws hanging open. It was so well-received, it was a finalist for the North American Car of the Year award.

As good as the reviews, I was still confused about all the buttons.

“Wait. What does this button do?” I asked Sophia, reaching for the shiny, flickering blue light near the navigation screen.

“Don’t touch that button. NEVER TOUCH THAT BUTTON.”

Of course, this just egged me on, and I felt obligated to press the button. The Buick started to shake and twirl and blink with lights. It lifted up a foot off the ground and then immediately floated down.

Sophia and I looked out the car window. Our house was gone. The entire neighborhood was empty except for a few shacks. A 1955 Buick Roadmaster passed by on a dirt road. “Tutti Frutti” was playing on the radio. There was a copy of the Los Angeles Times in the back seat of our car. I grabbed the newspaper and the lead story was about President Eisenhower.

Our 2010 Buick Lacrosse was also a time machine!

“Oh no!” cried Sophia. “I told you not to touch that button. What are we going to do now?”

“Why are you upset?” I said, smiling, suddenly understanding our good luck. “This is the best thing that ever happened to us. I can finally make it in Hollywood by making blockbuster movies before they are produced by anyone else! We’re gonna be billionaires!”

“Where are you going to find anyone in 1955 to make your movies?”

“Don’t worry.”

I pressed the OnStar button. A friendly female voice spoke.


“Hi there OnStar.” I replied. “We seem to have a special Buick LaCrosse that is also a time machine, and we have gone back in time to 1955.”

“I see. How can I help?”

“I would like to pitch a blockbuster movie idea to a studio executive. What restaurant would I find a studio executive eating in 1955?”

“You should try The Brown Derby.”

I thanked the OnStar woman, then turned to Sophia.

“Wow, OnStar IS good!”

Sophia and I drove to Hollywood. Our 2010 car was pretty impressive to passerbys, and stopped other automobiles in their tracks; so when we arrived at the Brown Derby, we were already a cause celebre. Darryl Zanuck of 20th Century Fox was eager to meet with us, sensing that I was “ahead of my time.”

“What’s you movie idea?” he asked over martinis.

“It’s a movie called “Transformers.” It’s about these metallic robot/car/machine things that beat up each other and blow things up. Kids will love it because they will buy the toys, and the movie will make 300 million dollars!”

“300 million dollars?! That’s music to my ears. Let’s make it.”

A year later, in 1956 (remember, with a time machine, time is fluid), Transformers opened at the Chinese Theater, starring a young Marlon Brando, Jack Lemmon, and Debbie Reynolds, the biggest budget movie ever produced.

Despite a massive publicity campaign, the movie got the worst reviews ever written. Critics and audiences in 1956 found a movie about battling robot toys incomprehensible, and Twentieth Century Fox went bankrupt.

Sophia and I were run out of town by an angry mob of studio executives. As we sped towards Bakersfield, I commented on the smooth ride of the 2010 Buick Lacrosse. I pressed the blue button again, eager to leave this time period.

Blue flash!

When the dust settled, Sophia and I found ourselves parked outside Red Restaurant on Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, via 1998. Why did this location and moment seem familiar? Of course. We had our third date in this restaurant!

Sophia and I were shocked to see ourselves — Sophia and Neil from 1998 — walking out of the restaurant. It was our third date. We were holding hands, seeming very romantic. My hair had no gray in it, and I walked with a virile jauntiness.

“How about we go to my place?” Neil’98 asked Sophia’98, a sexiness to his voice.

Inside the car, my eyes were filling with tears.

“I remember exactly what happened next,” I said to Sophia next to me in the car. “I forgot my wallet in the restaurant and went back inside. And then… we go back…”

“Oops, I forgot my wallet,” said Neil’98, right on cue, and headed back to the restaurant.

Sophia’98 looked into the window of the “futuristic car” parked outside of the restaurant and fixed her lipstick. She noticed that her mirror image was wearing a different hair style and color. Sophia opened the window of the Buick LaCrosse.

Sophia ’98 stared at her future self, her mouth agape.

“Uh, what…. how is this possible?”

“We’re from the future, Sophia. We are driving a 2010 Buick Lacrosse that also happens to be a time machine.”

“It’s a beautiful car,” said Sophia’98. “The car looks so successful. Neil must be soooooo successful.”

“Well, actually, he still drives the Honda Civic. We just have it for a week. Neil is testing it for his blog.”

“A blog? What is a blog? Is that how Neil makes his living?”

“Uh, well…”

“Wait a minute…” asked Sophia’98, her eyes brightening, “If you’re coming from 2010, that means Neil and I are still together? Do we end up getting married? Are we incredibly happy? Is it all a Hollywood ending. Do we sleep together tonight? Is he amazingly good in bed?”

“Well… actually… if you really want to know the truth…”

I quickly pressed the flickering time machine button, getting us the hell out of there before Sophia finished her sentence.

The Buick LaCrosse returned to 2010. I drove the car back to our home. I loved driving the Buick, but next time I’d prefer a car that doesn’t travel through time.

Thank you, Sophia, for the education and for being a great time travel companion. Thank you, Buick, for this wonderful opportunity. You were a lot of fun to work with, both at the festival and while exploring the LaCrosse. And thank you, Jane.

Disclaimer: Not all 2010 Buick Lacrosses come equipped with time machines.

Live from TCM Classic Film Festival!

I expected blogging to take me to new places, but filming a promotional video for Buick on Hollywood Boulevard is certainly a very weird and exciting surprise! It was a surreal experience There are so many classic Buicks in these films, and now I was driving around town in a cool new Buick being filmed myself.

Ryan Seacrest — watch out!

Saturday’s highlight was seeing a screening of “Singing in the Rain” at the Egyptian Theater. Sophia and I had the best seats in the VIP section. Before the screening, the director of the classic musical, Stanley Donen, stepped in front of the audience and was interviewed by TCM host Robert Osborne. Stanley Donen spoke about his experience working with Gene Kelly, Donald O’Conner, and Debbie Reynolds. He also told us how he was only nine years old when he first saw Fred Astaire in a movie, and how this inspired his career, and when he was twenty-five, he was already directing Fred Astaire in a film. After the fascinating conversaton, Stanley Donen sat in the audience to watch his own film — in the seats RIGHT IN FRONT OF US. Talk about a story to tell your grandchildren. I saw “Singin’ in the Rain,” one of the greatest movies ever, while sitting behind the director — Stanley “Freakin'” Donen!

Four Movies a Day

In “A Star is Born,” the first film showed at the TCM Classic Film Festival, James Mason “discovers” Judy Garland and arranges for her to get a screen test. He tells her that her life is about to be changed by success and that she should never lose her soul to the chaos of Hollywood.

I could use a little bit of that advice on my second day of this film festival.

As my first sponsored blogging gig (I received full passes for two — entries to all of the films and parties — and a new Buick Lacrosse to drive all week, from the festival’s sponsor, Buick), I understand that I am supposed to be blogging about my experiences here, but the festival is so all-consuming from 7AM to 2AM, that it is almost impossible to find any time to write anything very good. Do film critics write on their laptops in the middle of the movie? So far, this film festival has been a blast, but if you have been to BlogHer, you’ll understand what I mean when I say it is also exhausting!

Here is a quick recap so far, as shown through iphone photos —

Thursday night was the red carpet opening, a screening of “A Star is Born.” The day leading up to the event was chaotic. We were supposed to drive our fancy new Buick to the event, but the care got lost somewhere near Phoenix, and we didn’t receive it until two hours before the screening. We still haven’t had time to fully appreciate everything this car has to offer. Sophia and I had other concerns as well — what to wear! I bought a new shirt, but then discovered that it required cuff links. Who owns cuff links?

I wore cuff links once, at my wedding. I did what I always do nowadays when I need advice — I went on Twitter and asked for help. A female blogger, a Martha Stewart type, suggested I create my own cuff links from two buttons and thread.

“It’s very easy,” she said.

Yeah, right. I opted to change my shirt.

I ended up wearing this. This same female blogger, seeing this photo, criticized me for looking “too conservative for the red carpet.”

I had an even bigger problem. Sophia wanted to dress the role of old Hollywood glamour, wearing her mother’s vintage jacket from 1950’s Russia. Although it had an authentic feel, something a star might have worn to the original opening of “A Star is Born,” the jacket was made of… uh, well, FUR.

I visualized Sophia and I stepping out of silver Buick, onto the red carpet, and immediately getting covered in blood from some zealot from PETA. I’m not sure Buick, my lovely sponsors, would appreciate this, so I begged Sophia not to wear it. Did I wimp out? Probably. Selling out to the man CHANGES YOU!

Off to the red carpet in our Buick!

Hollywood was all abuzz with the film festival. The headquarters was at the Hollywood Roosevelt, and most of the screenings were at the Chinese and Egyptian Theaters.

I impressed Sophia by proving once and for all that my feet are bigger than those of Kirk Douglas.

Here’s a little secret about the red carpet. It’s not really red. It is more “cranberry.”

Next time I dress like Alec Baldwin. I WAS too conservative.

On Friday, Sophia and I attended four movies. One of the was “The Producers.” I hadn’t planned to attend it because I had seen it so many times before. But when I learned that Sophia had never seen it before, I was curious to see her reaction. Hey, Mel Brooks — I chose you over a screening of “Casablanca!” Mel Brooks was there for a discussion, having just received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame earlier that day.

By the way, Sophia loved “The Producers.”

Sophia didn’t enjoy “The Sweet Smell of Success” with Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis, calling it “too dark.”

In the middle of the day, I met with a video crew, who filmed me driving all around Hollywood, talking about old movies and Buicks. Don’t laugh when I post this video! I was blabbing all over the place. Hopefully, they will edit most of it out.

I felt like one of those American Idol contestants making those music videos. It all happened so fast, that I hardly remember what I said or did. At one point, I was walking along Hollywood Boulevard like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, en route to the screening of the film (even though the screening was not really happening at the time, or even on that day). Hollywood!

Off to another day of movies. So far, it’s been a great experience, but I am a little dizzy. One of the oddest things is having people ask me about my blog, and having to come up with answers for “What do I write about?” Now I understand why you all put up those annoying “blog badges” on your blogs. There is something about wearing a badge around your neck that makes you more legitimate in the eyes of others.

“Your blog sounds fascinating,” some actress-type said to me, thinking that I was someone of importance, seeing that I had the exclusive all-access pass.


I think I fell asleep last night while Fred and Ginger were dancing cheek to cheek in a screening of Top Hat, but I’m not sure.

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