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I was just a kid when I first met Toby. As a teenager, he had hung around my dad's tire store in Gardena, California. My father was impressed with Toby's ambitious attitude and oddly conservative ways: milk with dinner, in bed by nine, altogether a reputation as a real dull date. Yet Toby himself was incredibly flamboyant, if not his lifestyle. Toby once showed my dad, who happened to have a penchant for expensive Florsheim shoes, his own closet harboring some forty pairs of flashy, discount-priced Thom McAnn footwear.
Toby's stock-and-trade was as a body-and-fender man. Once, as a teenager, I wrecked the front of my car and my dad sent me to Toby for repairs. As his men massaged the kinks out of my car's grille, Toby supervised another team which was literally grafting the front half of one Mustang onto the rear half of another, newer model. At the end of the day, the car emerged as one seamless shape of the same vintage. That's how Toby made his millions: buying wrecked luxury cars and breathing new life into otherwise discarded, unclaimable heaps. It worked, and the basis for "Gone in Sixty Seconds" was established.
My father attended the movie premiere and reported it was quite a shindig. It was a big bash pseudo-Hollywood affair, complete with street racing, real car crashes and hors d'oeuvres served out of hubcaps.
I worked for Toby for a short while on his second movie, "The Junkman." His "studio" was a large, rustic compound populated by a nonpareil tin toy collection, much Victorian decor, a huge vintage car collection and Toby's equally immense ego.
Toby's office was a gargantuan garage displaying toy cars, real cars and all sorts of antique bric-a-brac. If you saw "Gone in Sixty Seconds" you'll recall the many pairs of aviator-style sunglasses scattered about Eleanor's dashboard. In real life, it was his Rolls Royce which received the Toby treatment. To my mind, perhaps two items vie for the most striking feature of Toby's office: One was the way Toby could drive into the garage office and park the Rolls within spitting distance of his desk. The other was the desk itself: facing two overstuffed chairs with a chintzy fringed lamp in between, it stood high on a pedestal so that guests had to stare upward toward their host at about a 30 degree angle. Definite throne aspirations. Quirky you might say, but so was his assistant's weekly duty of having to mix equal parts "plain" and "peanut" M&M's into a single mixture in a large bowl for Toby's pleasure.
Anyway, I once made Toby wait for me at a breakfast meeting while I finished my meal. Toby waited for no man. His assistant promptly reported the parting of Toby's and my ways.
Sometime later, I invited Toby to my fiance's and my wedding. He responded warmly and kindly but declining the invitation. He sent me an autographed "Gone in Sixty Seconds" one-sheet poster and an 8 by 10 color photo head shot. Ah, Hollywood . . .
Fare thee well, Toby.
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