The music went from Doo Wop to Pop and Motown, to the British Invasion. Songs were telling stories of integration and civil rights, the War in Vietnam, and the rebellions focused on the Selective Service System (aka The Draft), Campus Riots, Draft Card burning to Free Love and the open use of various mind-altering substances.
In the forefront of these times, was the breakthrough of what was termed the Motown Sound! Berry Gordy, the founder and President of Motown and Smokey Robinson, the Vice President, were seeking and developing some the most iconic artists of this time. There were messages and stories of happiness, sorrow, dancing, heartbreak, marriage, war, and civil rights hitting the airwaves. For many, those songs and those tumultuously changing times are among their fondest memories, even now, all these years later.
For the Heatwave Invitational, we were very fortunate to have a once in a lifetime opportunity to spend an evening with one of the most Iconic Artist of this time and in Motown History. Our Featured Entertainer, Ms. Martha Reeves, of Martha and the Vandellas was our guest of honor and our awards banquet entertainment. Her music broke through so many barriers and into so many cultures. Martha saw it all, lived it all, and gave us some memorable songs that we will never forget, providing for many of us the soundtrack of our youth.
There was “Dancing in the Street” at The Millennium McCormick Scottsdale resort, our host hotel, which provided a setting that seemed like a tropical oasis, with its shimmering lake and palm trees, surrounded by desert mountains – complete with warm sunshine during the day and light breezes! Indeed, Arizona’s glorious winter weather was a welcome escape for many of our guests who had come from the frozen east and northeast sections of the country. In fact, Visitors Roger and Gerard from the Michiana Dunes Region reported that the temperature was -11 when they boarded their plane in Traverse City, Michigan.
Some ambitious guests were ready to hit the trail on Thursday morning, and we were pleased to accommodate, with a VIP tour of the Central Arizona Project (CAP) headquarters in north Phoenix. CAP is the entity that provides the majority of water to Maricopa, Pima and Pinal counties in here in arid Arizona, via a 336-mile canal system that begins at the Colorado River and stretches all the way to Tucson. A group of 55 attendees took part in the caravan and tour of the CAP facilities, listening with some astonishment as our CAP host, Larry, described the history, building and implementation of this massive project. His presentation highlighted the magnitude of bringing life-giving water to Central and Southern Arizona, as well as its economic impact and population growth CAP has enabled in our desert locale.
CAP Tour and Luau
The group was invited to enter and experience the control center where two operators monitor, via computer and a massive mural of a screen, the entire CAP network, enabling them to see every function along the canal and control all aspects of the system’s water distribution. This remarkable 24/7 endeavor ensures uninterrupted water flow to all the cities and agricultural users along the extensive canal system.
From CAP headquarters the caravan continued on a picturesque desert drive to Lake Pleasant and the New Waddell Dam, which is a reservoir of Colorado River water. There the group learned about how that water is stored and when it is released to continue the journey further along the system. This entire presentation was fascinating and enlightening, to say the least! Following the dam tour it was time for an authentic Hawaiian Luau lunch catered at a scenic overlook of Lake Pleasant! The food was delicious, but perhaps most intriguing was the “Spam Musubi”, a type of sushi that incorporates marinated cooked Spam, which is apparently a popular snack in Hawaii!
By Thursday afternoon, many guests had flooded into the hotel, keeping our registration table volunteers busy. Some squeezed in quick visits to the Barrett-Jackson Auction tents or attended some of the other collector car auctions, others simply gratefully shrugged off their heavy coats and winter wear, and donned shorts and T-shirts, or even swimsuits, to pull up a chaise lounge to soak up the sunshine by the hotel’s lakeside pool.
By Thursday evening, the energy had built up for our official Heatwave Welcome Reception and cocktail party, just off the hotel lobby. A cash bar and selection of hors d’oeuvres were available as new and old acquaintances met up for several hours.
The highlight, however, was to be the greeting of Martha Reeves and her manager/agent, Dundee Holt, who were en route from Sky Harbor airport. Ever the maven of merriment, Heatwave Chairman, Kent, urged the crowd to keep an eye out for Martha’s limo at the curb. When Martha came through the door at around 8 PM, our festive bunch of revelers heralded her arrival with much applause and a rousing ovation of “You’ve got nowhere to run, nowhere to hide!” She admitted that in all her years of entertaining, she had never received a welcome like that! In fact, she was so charmed that she told the crowd, “Let’s keep going!” – and without skipping a beat to relax or freshen up, Martha and Dundee entered the reception hall and proceeded with introductions, picture-taking, storytelling, laughter and conversation, and more than a little wine… all set to our background music of Motown and other popular ‘60s hits. The change of time zones notwithstanding, Martha and Dundee made a spectacular first impression!
The first caravan out of the chute on Friday headed out for the ever-popular junkyard tour, heading south to the famous Desert Valley Auto Parts salvage yard in Casa Grande, a legendary treasure trove of classic cars and parts from the ‘40s through the ‘80s. Attendees, armed with their shopping lists, cameras and bulging wallets, marveled at the comparatively rust-free vehicles that can only be found in a dry climate such as ours. After several hours of navigating through row after row of twisted steel sculptures, a body gets hungry, and the attendees were served up another delicious catered luncheon, this time a delightful Texas barbecue with all the fixins’, with the wide selection of meats prepared onsite on a mobile 32′ smoker. Trunk lids became dining tables, wheel covers were placemats, it doesn’t get much “realer” than this for a famished flock foraging for flawless fender skirts!
Salvage Yard Tour and Texas BBQ
After lunch, another caravan assembled at the host hotel for an excursion to North Scottsdale’s Penske Racing Museum, with scheduled walking tours of the luxury automobile dealerships show- casing Ferrari, Maserati, Rolls Royce and Bentley, chaired by Kent. Upon arrival, guests (including Martha Reeves!) viewed various iconic racing vehicles such as the 1963 Pontiac Catalina 421 Super Duty that was driven by Roger Penske at the NASCAR Riverside 250 on May 16, 1963. Also, among many others, was the 1994 Indianapolis 500 winner, Penske PC-23 Porsche driven by Al Unser, Jr. The dealership tours were “eye- popping”. “Entry-level” Ferraris started at $225K. And the Rolls Royce choices were over the top! Models commencing at $340K could be outfitted with MINK carpeting for a measly 30 grand. Pony up $3,500 to get a headliner made from your favorite Giorgio Armani tuxedo fabric.
At 5PM on Friday, with eyeballs burning and wallets nervous, the groups began to file back to their respective transportation for the drive to the Stonecreek Golf Club for the evening’s dinner and entertainment. But Martha and Dundee were in for one more surprise… they were greeted in the parking lot by LCCI Central Arizona Region member, Lou, in his stunning ’64 Cadillac Deville convertible which would be their chariot for the commute! Martha posed for a photo shoot and Lou couldn’t keep from grinning.
The Stonecreek Golf Club was a perfect rendezvous spot for our weary guests. Martha Reeves, having arrived in “1964 Cadillac Style”, was again the center of attention! She rallied the troops with a fabulous a capella rendition of America the Beautiful just before the buffet line opened. The evening’s entertainment was emceed by Kent, with five teams of three perplexed contestants who were chosen for what turned out to be the campiest “drag race” in Phoenix! In a complete surprise, wardrobe racks were rolled out, stuffed with the most hideous assemblage of dresses, gowns, culottes, togas and trashy accessories (including rice-filled knee-high stockings that provided perfect, though pendulous breast augmentation for a drag queen on a budget! Each teams’ captain would be the “hapless victim,” and his two cohorts were to dress him, unassisted, in some combination of this “hote koo-choor”. The first team to successfully get its captain across the finish line won $25 each on a pre-paid Visa card! Kent expressed disbelief that none of the participants knew how to fasten a bra! “Team Dane” (of the Vegas HEAT Region) won the competition, perhaps having had some advantage due to his taking top honors in a similar contest at the SACK invitational, “Rocky Mountain High Gear” in 1996. Practice does make perfect, it appears. But kudos must also go to teammates Dundee Holt and Jamie. Martha and Dundee were again chauffeured back to The McCormick Scottsdale in classic elegance, courtesy of Rob and Dan, in their 1955 Lincoln Capri coupe!
Friday Night Banquet
Saturday’s dawn saw Larry, Car Show Chairman, and his enthusiastic second in command, Scott, out bright and early, to organize the layout of the car show display. Photographer (and Lambda friend) Gregg Edelman took a position near the lake to capture stylish portrait of each car and driver entering the lot, to be issued to attendees as a souvenir of their visit to The Valley of the Sun. The show officially got under way at 10AM, when DJ Greg Mather (along with wife Lori) cranked up the appropriate vintage jams. Larry and Scott found spaces for 62 vehicles, along with additional areas for two vendors (Community Tire Pros and Decked Out Treasures). AutoNation Ford Scottsdale also provided a wonderful display of new 2015 vehicles, including a hot new Mustang GT coupe in Race Red which was staged on the terrace behind the hotel ballroom. As a tribute to Mustang’s 50th anniversary, the 2015 model was juxtaposed next to a museum-worthy gold 1965 Mustang convertible loaned to us by a member of the Copperstate Mustang Club.
Invitational Car Show and Luncheon
Unbeknownst to show-goers, just behind the curtained ballroom windows, a transformation was occurring. Committee members were busy creating the stage set and decorating the tables for Saturday night’s Heatwave Awards Banquet and Martha Reeves’ entertainment. The heatwave committee effected a significant (albeit temporary) alteration of the room to achieve a nightclub atmosphere; gold records were in abundance along with Motown posters, record jackets and a variety of Mustang-related memorabilia.
Around noontime, guests gathered at the Mustang exhibit while awaiting the opening of the buffet line for lunch. Served on the terrace overlooking the lake, surrounded by palm trees, the lunch experience had the aura of a genuine “desert mirage!” While most attendees left lunch overstuffed and were able to enjoy several hours of free time before dinner – some heading out to the auctions, and others lounging by the pool. Elsewhere in the hotel, voting ballots were being counted by Larry and Scott, and Mark and Roger set about getting the award winners’ title cards set up for the ceremony.
And then the evening began…
At around 5 PM, guests began to congregate at the hotel’s lakeside terrace for cocktail hour. Some were dressed in their “Mad Men” finest attire… and then there was Don, complete with dark hair like he had (we can only assume) back in the day.
The scene looked like a movie set as the fire pits were lit, the cash bar was hopping and people were ogling the two iconic Mustangs glittering under festive strings of party lights. The sun was glowing red on the horizon and festoon lighting was flickering on in the palm trees and around the windows of of an office building across the lake, causing its surface to shimmer and glitter under the darkening skies.
Inside the ballroom, Martha Reeves was doing sound checks with DJ Greg Mather, and spot lights were being focused and set for her performance. When the doors opened at the end of the cocktail hour, our guests were amazed to find the ballroom transformed into a glamorous retro “night club”, with black table cloths, black linen napkins, white china and smart gold record centerpieces with geysers of sparkling gold sprays along their top edges! Dinner service commenced promptly as Master of Ceremonies, Kent, welcomed the crowd. A slideshow of photos taken during the day by our official event photographer, Gregg Edelman of Image Marketing, was being projected on the screen. Kent introduced Steve Moore, CAR president, who gave his welcome and introduced several dignitaries that were in the audience, including six LCCI regional presidents, two interregional coordinators, national treasurer (and CAR member) Eric Thomas, and LCCI national president, Jeff Tarr. Next up were Jim Cook (SACK Region), Guy Crouch (Show Me Region president) and Paul Sumrall (CCCC Austin Region president) who promoted their upcoming invitationals.
Jeff Tarr and Kent presented the Featured Sponsor award to a representative from AutoNation Ford Scottsdale. Their involvement made a significant contribution to our Mustang 50th anniversary display, and we were pleased to have been able to showcase some of their innovative new products during our car show. Also recognized for media advertising were Jack Tesorero, editor/publisher of ION-AZ Magazine, and Bill Gemmill, managing editor of Echo Magazine.
Car show chairman Larry Huber had generated eight award categories, each of which was cleverly named for a hit recording from the sixties! It was a close race in many of the categories, but the popular choice ballots revealed the following winners:
1. “Baby I’m Yours” (Best Interior) 1966 AMC Ambassador Wagon: Paul (CAR – Phoenix)
2. “I Saw Her Standing There” (Best Paint) 1964 Cadillac Deville Convertible: Lou (CAR – Phoenix)
3. “Cara Mia” (Favorite Foreign Vehicle) 1970 Subaru 360: Scott (CAR – Phoenix)
4. “We’ll Sing in the Sunshine” (Favorite Convertible) 1960 Pontiac Bonneville: Andy & Rob (Multiple Regions)
5. “Leader of the Pack” (Favorite Muscle Car) 1976 Pontiac Trans Am: Jim & Alan (CAR – Phoenix)
6. “My Boy Lollipop” (Favorite Boy Magnet) 1964 Chevrolet Corvette: Peter (CAR – Tucson)
7. “Dancing in the Street” (Host Hotel Choice) 1960 Chevrolet Impala: Ken & Tim (Freewheelers – CA) (Presented by Julie Heaney, Hotel Events Coord.)
8. “King of the Road” (Best of Show) 1934 Pontiac Sedan: Don (CAR – Phoenix) (Presented by Martha Reeves)
Finally, it was time for a little entertainment! Indeed! The desserts had been eaten, awards had been presented, and when Kent rose to the microphone, the crowd knew what was coming. “She’s in the house tonight! Please welcome legendary Motown recording artist… Ms. Martha Reeves!” A high energy instrumental of Nowhere to Run blared through the sound system as the 73 year-old diva sashayed through the ballroom in her bejeweled blue dress and exuberant coordinated scarf! Applause burst forth. On stage, Martha had the audience in her hands, kicking off the performance with a rendition of our de facto invitational theme sone, “Heatwave,” followed by her 1963 hit, “Come and Get These Memories!”
Much of the hour-and-a-half show was done in a delightful “interview” style, with Kent asking questions and Martha reminiscing about many elements of her career. She had actually begun her Motown stint by answering the telephone at the office on W. Grand Blvd. (She joked that she was never a secretary… she was a singer who could type.) One day when Mary Wells missed a session, Martha stepped up to the mic and got notice… and a contract!
She told wonderful anecdotes about her friendship with Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye. And she recalled the first day that Stevie Wonder walked into the Motown offices and was able to tap out a rhythm on anything he touched. But most captivating to a room full of “car queens” were her recollections of the making of the music video for Nowhere to Run – when she and the Vandellas infiltrated the Dearborn assembly line where brand new 1965 Mustangs were being built! She confessed that the workers (who had not been informed of the girls’ gig) were not amused!
Before the show ended, Martha had belted out her biggest hits, including Jimmy Mack, Nowhere to Run and Dancing in the Street, the latter of which has been preserved in a time capsule by the National Recording Registry in the Library of Congress. She explained that it was really “just a party song”, despite having unintentionally drawn fire as a political anthem during the height of the civil rights movement. In a moment that was quite touching, she urged all the couples in the room to get up and slow dance to her rendition of “My Baby Loves Me.” The final tune, however, was anything but slow. Martha and Kent came into the audience during a repeat performance of “Heatwave,” and managed to link up an impromptu “conga line” that circled completely around the ballroom. Quite a finale!
Martha’s manager/agent, Dundee Holt, orchestrated an autograph signing after the show and cameras were flashing left and right. The group shot which leads this story will be an enduring memory for everyone on the Heatwave team, and we hope you, too, took home some remarkable experiences!
Saturday Car Show Beauty Shots