Rival classic car rallies lead to a religious rumble

His flowing robes bedecked with checkered flags and flames, Father Glenn Siquerias prays before a '32 black Ford 3-window coupe. "Almighty God," he intones, "bless you, your family and friends who ride with you." The hot rod belongs to Robert Williams, the painter known for his portrayals of severed limbs, giant tits, and auto wrecks. Williams removes his hat and prepares to be sprinkled with holy water. But this is no pew-crammed church, and Williams isn't here to repent. "May this car be kept safe from any accidents, unnecessary repairs, and any theft," says Father Glenn.

See also...
... by Rebecca Elliott
... in the Scope section
... from August 6, 1999

The pony-tailed priest from Glendale's Holy Family Church charges about, flicking his aspergillum like a man who has 1,500 cars to bless in one afternoon. A lowly assistant trails after him toting a bottle of cheap designer water. In the 90-degree heat, rainbow-colored snow cones cool down the more profane needs of the flesh, while the Royal Crown Revue swing band heats them right back up again.

Welcome to the Blessing of the Cars '99®, a gonzo car show that lured 10,000 car fiends, their souped-up roadsters and metal-flaked customs, to leafy Verdugo Park in Glendale, just north of downtown Los Angeles. Hep to the Catholic tradition of blessing everything from malls to gerbils, Stephanie and Gabriel Baltierra started the party in 1994. Now, bankable sponsors like Levi-Strauss have signed on and, according to Hot Rod Deluxe, word-of-mouth has made it one of the area's fastest-growing car shows.

Kinda Like the Hatfields v. McCoys

But neither the Father, the Son, nor even the Holy Spirit can sin-proof the hearts of men, and this year a roiling flame of uncorked vengeance erupted. Not that far down the freeway from the Blessing of the Cars, a collection of pre-World War II beauties and the greasers who rebuilt them had gathered in an old water channel at Hart Park in Orange County. No fancy sponsors here, just a bunch of guys in cuffed jeans who came out to support Alex "Axle" Idzardi, proud owner of a matte-red '29 roadster and ringleader of a rival show called Fuck the Blessing of the Cars.

"If they're saying 'fuck you' to us, we can say 'fuck you' back even worse!" Alex Idzardi is an angry man. His "phony" uptown rivals are only in it for image and profit. Worse, they've tried to steal business away from his car club, the Shifters. The rift began at the Baltierras' first car gig when, purely by accident, one of the Shifters ran over a park sprinkler. Sure, they'd all been guzzling, but... Anyway, Stephanie walked up to one of them and "proceeded to tear him out a new ass, totally yelling at him. There's better ways to approach people," says Idzardi.

Steph forever banned the Shifters from the Blessing, and sent Idzardi a $2,500 sprinkler repair bill. And she didn't stop there. Next, she tried to take over the Shifters' place presenting a car show at a Vegas rockabilly fest. Then, last May, she spread rumors that the Shifters' big dance at the Paso Robles car show wasn't happening. When the Shifters found that out, "everything went apeshit," Idzardi says. When Idzardi confronted them, Steph began spewing spit and Gabe grabbed a bottle and started after him. Idzardi got lucky 'cause somebody knocked Gabe's tooth out. But that was when he decided the couple deserved a good "Fuck..."

"They're constantly stepping on our toes," says Idzardi. Younger hot rodders like him (he's 32) don't spend hours lengthening their crankshafts to make a fashion statement. "It's about blood, sweat, and tears, and working on cars in the middle of winter on a cold cement garage floor. We wear white T-shirts and jeans because that's all we can afford. It's not a fashion thing."

Steph refuses to answer Idzardi's accusations, except to deny them all. "I don't even comment on that," she said, as if responding to CNN. "What they're saying just isn't true."

You Can Go to Fuck

Saturday's Fuck... attracted about 300 greasers and 125 cars -- a smaller crowd, but a fart competition spiced things up, and admission was free for humans and $5 for cars (Blessing charged $5 and $15 respectively). The crowd might have been younger, but they had to have older cars to get in -- every auto was made before World War II (as opposed to Blessing's pre-'68).

And the cars looked sweet; among them, the black '32 Ford 5-window coupe owned by Aaron Kahan, nephew of Blessing veteran Robert Williams. It's just the sort of heap that Williams (now 55) and his pals ripped apart when they were punks. They'd make a car like that go 120 mph like a brand new Cadillac, "which is what the essence of a hot rod is all about," Williams says, adding that he might've felt better if he'd gone to Fuck... where his heart and soul reside.

Meanwhile, the Corporate-Sponsored Grease Monkeys Keep on Rockin'

Williams still likes the original Blessing plenty, but says it draws too many rich guys trying to relive their youth in comfy "street rods" with air conditioning and front and rear suspension. They've "completely got away from the essence of hot rodding, and this younger generation sees what bullshit that is."

At Blessing, there were even families with Bowser on board. "Son," one mom said to her progeny, "these people pay a lot of money for their cars and put a lot of time into them. So do not touch them, or they will chop your fingers off." And Missy Steph threw a hissy fit at a couple of guys passing out flyers for their own clothing line. Levi's wouldn't approve.

But what the hell, the Steph and Gabriel show rocked too. The park crawled with just as many tattooed young bucks and greasers as pudgy oldsters. Rows and rows of driver-built cars -- chopped, frenched, channeled, and pinstriped -- left no splotch of grass ungreased, and the ubiquitous Velvet Hammer girls in zippered hot pants posed for snapshots of their pushed-up, fishnetted flesh. And at the end of the day, Robert Williams could still grin and croon:

"I have had the Revelation, the Automotive Revelation. I feel secure."

Rebecca Elliott, a freelance writer based in Southern California, wants to be a Velvet Hammer girl and hopes that being sprinkled by Father Glenn will help.