Tonight at 9|8c watch as Geoff Edgers gets “zombified,” does some damage at a demolition derby and competes in a haggis-eating contest while visiting Pennsylvania. Check out behind-the-scenes photos and get Geoff’s playlist from the shoot.
My fixation with demolition derbies began in 1976. That’s when Happy Days ran its “Pinky Loves Fonzie” multi-part storyline. Talk about cliffhangers. We got everything in those 3 episodes: romance, danger, redemption.
As the story goes … The Millachi brothers sabotage Pinky Tuscadero’s car. During the demolition derby, she’s stalled and decides to get out of her car. That’s when the villains strike. They deliver their infamous “Millachi Crunch” and poor Pinky gets knocked unconscious and rushed to the hospital. Cue the “to be continued.” Fonzie, Richie, Potsie, Ralph, Mr. and Mrs. C all rush to her side. Will Pinky live? Will she perish? Does Fonzie ever plan on washing his t-shirt? I was hooked. What 6-year-old wouldn’t be choking on his grilled cheese?
As a kid, the “Pinky Loves Fonzie” story inspired one of my frequent, grammar school daydream fantasies … badly hurt, I’d be in my own hospital bed and, while in that damaged state, concerned classmates would stream in to visit. It doesn’t take Sigmund Einstein to figure out the psychology behind this. In real life, I was getting teased for my bowl cut, the gap between my front teeth and the fact I wore my jeans twice in one week. In my daydream universe, a cast and an IV could serve as my bro and babe magnet.
Fact is, I got over Cami Cavadi et al by the 9th grade, but I never lost my desire to jump into a car, turn the key and smash into others for sport. That’s why when Edge of America launched, I found myself endlessly pitching demo derbies to the show’s producers. They pushed me off a few times until we found the right spot, what was pegged as the world’s biggest derby in Bloomsburg, PA.
When I showed up for the main event, I found the lot full of smash-up veterans, including fathers and sons, gear-heads who had been fine tuning their cars for months, and, naturally, a few dudes who talked like they’d gotten a couple too many whiffs off their spray paint cans.
The derby manager paired me with Dave. He had a sweet car, an ’88 Oldsmobile station wagon painted blue and labeled 007. Inside, I could quickly see how these wheels were special. Steel reinforcement bars keep the metal from crushing you after a hit. Beer kegs serve as gas tanks, ratcheted down where a back seat would normally be. No windshield, no lights, no radio.
I admit at first I was a little bummed about Dave. I wanted my partner to exhibit all of the worst qualities of Hulk Hogan, Bill Romanowski and Ozzy Osbourne. Dave spoke like a Tibetan monk. I could barely hear him at times. Then the gun sounded.
You’ll have to watch to see what happened next. Trust me. Dave and the ’88 don’t disappoint. It’s why the Pennsylvania “Edge” is one of my favorites. It’s also why if I ever drive in a derby again, I’ll remember it’s not about who yells the loudest, it’s about the driver willing with the courage to lean on the gas, even when you’re under fire.
- Geoff Edgers