Arab Today, arab today denise mccluggage remembers carroll shelby
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Arab Today, arab today

Denise McCluggage remembers Carroll Shelby

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today Denise McCluggage remembers Carroll Shelby

Rome - Arabstoday

I\'ve told the stories before, but now, with the last of the lads on the seawall gone, I\'ll tell them again. The stories are about Carroll Shelby. The seawall was in a painting I bought in Modena, Italy, home of Ferrari, in the late 1950s. The artist was Ermanno Vanni, and everyone who came to town to buy a Ferrari or a Maserati in those days bought a Vanni painting. I bought only a painting. On the seawall sat three small boys, big of eye and deep in mystery. I took them as symbols of three good friends who just happened to be America\'s main competitors on the world\'s motor-racing scene—Carroll Shelby, Phil Hill and Masten Gregory. The three died in reverse order. Masten, the youngest, had a heart attack in Italy in 1985. Phil surrendered to a degenerative disease similar to Parkinson\'s in 2008 and now Ol\' Shel in 2012—with someone else\'s kidney, someone else\'s heart and 89 fully lived years on the odo—has also gone. I first met Phil at a 1955 race at the Beverly, Mass., airport, and I suspect that was when I met Carroll, too. But this story is about the next year. I was working for the New York Herald Tribune with the someone-had-to-do-it assignment of covering motor racing and skiing. Which meant that I was paid to race and ski on company time. Though I was only covering this race. Not driving. In those days, drivers were at least nominal amateurs, and newspaper reports of the events identified them by their day jobs—dentist, mechanic, paper-box manufacturer, etc. When I heard Carroll answer a rookie reporter\'s question about what Mr. Shelby did for a living, I jerked my head around. The kid, a local, was carefully writing it down, and Carroll was smiling in Texas innocence. I rolled my eyes but said nothing. Carroll won the big race in Luigi Chinetti\'s 4.4 Ferrari. The headlines the next morning dutifully declared: “Guano Distributor Wins!” Across the restaurant, I could see Carroll\'s shoulders shaking in his signature silent laugh at the newspaper before him. I saw that laugh in Cuba, too, 1958. My three seawall lads were racing there. Castro was in the hills and the dictator Batista\'s days were ticking away. Still, a world race was being run on the seaside Malecón circuit, as wavy in nature as what splashed at the shoreline. Phil and Carroll and Masten were comparing how their cars were doing in practice. How fast are you here? What are you turning there? They were offering each other numbers. Then they\'d lapse into silence to figure out what the other really meant. It was a given that the speeds, the rev numbers mentioned were either augmented or decreased in the telling. Now it was for each to determine whether upping the actual tach reading or lowering it would be beneficial to the teller. Would they want their competitors to think that they were slower or faster at this point or that? Then it was a matter of extrapolation to get to what was the likely truth. As the inner wheels turned, almost audibly ticking, I saw Carroll\'s shoulders start that shaking. A wide grin. He said to Phil: “I wonder how many lies you and me and Masten have told each other over the years?” They all laughed. And they all had their answers anyway. Carroll\'s shoulders figure in another story. At least one shoulder. The motoring scene, as was it wont in those distant Decembers, had moved to a relaxed and party-filled Nassau in the Bahamas. Races were draped throughout the week like so many paper lanterns, and scheduling left time for shopping the straw market, boating and the beaches. It was at the beach where most of us were gathered that I spotted a coconut shaped like a football. And thus a game got under way. My blocking assignment was to take out Carroll. My preteen after-school hours back in Kansas held a history of sandlot games of football. Tackle football, not the two-handed touch of this beach-day game. Thus I did, indeed and alas, take out Carroll. He got up from the sand, hand to shoulder and trailed off to settle by a pink wall. Guilt-stricken, I followed. I remember him squinting up at me and drawling: “Hell, you\'re big enough to go bear hunting with a switch.” The shoulder was taped, he was shot with pain killer, and I do believe won the race, certainly one of them. I was there when Carroll—with Aston Martin and Roy Salvadori—won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1959. Roy was finishing the race, and Carroll slipped off to change out of the light-blue racing suit most everyone wore those days and don his famous striped bib overalls (with the legs carefully tapered against any risk of hanging up on the pedals). I saw him re-entering the back door of the Aston pit as the final laps droned away. “Change of costume for the curtain calls?” I asked, and snapped off a couple of shots. His wide grin, his curly hair, his smart-marketing mind. He knew what side his image was buttered on. He winked and headed off to take his victory accolades. I\'m going to find those damned negatives and make me a poster. Love you, Carroll. Always.

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