Coastal Drive


When I was a boy I loved watching The Rockford Files featuring private investigator Jim Rockford. There were 124 episodes and eight films and haven't lost their bite. In most episodes he gets a beating, is employed by an attractive woman, has skirmishes with the LAPD, get followed in his car and gets shot at. I was hoping to move to the United States Of America and be him earning $200/day plus expenses. I ached to live in a trailer on Paradise Cove Beach in Malibu and - like him - be involved in many high-speed chases in my gold Pontiac Firebird Esprit. I've been watching them again and one episode inspired this terrible oil painting.


Scenes were filmed in the broad streets in central Malibu and on the dusty roads leading out and up to the Santa Monica mountains. I watched a scene where Jim was driving away from a bay and loved the way the setting sun was caught on the Pacific ocean. I paused the scene and printed it out and have used it to form this painting. I had to cut the Firebird car from another scene and plonk it onto the road (you can see the join in the photo.) Not many colours there to get wrong I thought - some oranges, mellow browns, beiges.


Some paintings seemingly paint themselves and this one did. I added a few skyscrapers on the horizon and a few boats bobbing about in the bay. I can't remember painting the car. Perhaps if I'd paid more attention then it wouldn't resemble a Ford Escort. I only opened four tubes of paint for this one; the sun has fallen reducing the bay's true colour.


Rockford Files fact download: a new answering machine messages was recorded for every show, his car registration plate was 8530KG, the Firebird was copper-mist coloured, he was the only actor to appear in every episode, his dad Rocky was only 14 years older, his telephone number was 3115552368, he lived in a 1959 mobile home, his kept his unlicensed gun in his biscuit jar and the show ended suddenly when doctors told Garner to rest his wrecked body (he did his own stunts.)


The painting progressed so quickly that I forgot to take more photos. I might keep this one to remind me of happy times watching The Rockford Files which you had to watch with rapt attention as it may not "come round" again and be repeated on television for another year (no video recorders then.) James Garner died at home after a heart attack brought on by coronary artery disease aged 86. By the time the ambulance arrived at his mansion he'd already gone.