Monday, January 16, 2023

Mel’s Drive-In Celebrates 75 Years


The Mel's Drive-In at 2165 Lombard St., San Francisco, opened in 1985

Last month, in the middle of December, Mels celebrated its 75-year anniversary by offering 75% off classic menu items. Owner, Steven Weiss notified me about the sale, but unfortunately, I did not get this posted in time for readers to benefit. Oops. Sorry. However, the least I could do was remind folks to be sure to visit a Mels Drive-in next time you’re in the area.

As long-time blog readers know, Mel Weiss and Harold Dobbs first established Mel’s Drive-in in 1947 and seventy-five years later, it still exists, with four locations in San Francisco and four in Southern California. It is still in the Weiss family, now operated by Colton Weiss; his brother, Chasen Weiss; his father, Steven Weiss; and Gabriel Mendez. 

Besides being featured in the classic 1973 nostalgic film, “American Graffiti," Mel's Drive-In was featured in a Snoop Dogg music video and a Pepsi commercial with Doja Cat that aired during the 2021 Super Bowl. Mel's also counts celebrities Al Pacino, Adam Sandler, Paul McCartney, Wiz Khalifa, Andrew Wiggins and Guy Fieri as fans. 


Wednesday, August 3, 2022


Sadly, Bo Hopkins who played, JOE THE PHARAOH in American Graffiti (1973) died of a heart attack last May 28, 2022 in Van Nuys, California. I haven't yet had the chance to comment on this so I'll go ahead now and express a few thoughts and memories about meeting the sandy-haired actor with a "good old boy" persona and Southern drawl.

According to his website and other internet sources, Bo was born William Mauldin Hopkins in February 2, 1938 in Greenville, South Carolina. After a stint in the service he began acting in theater and soon earned guest spots on popular 1960's TV shows such as The Andy Griffith Show, Bonanza and The Wild Wild West. He made his first feature film when he was 30 years old in the Sam Peckinpah landmark western, The Wild Bunch (1969) which began his illustrious movie career with roles in over one hundred movies and thousands of TV appearances.  

Bo in the Revisionist Western, "The Wild Bunch" directed by Sam Peckinpah

Of course, American Graffiti fans will always remember him best as the Mercury coupe driving, gang/car club leader, Joe The Pharoah.  His gift for acting is on full display in the film particularly in the scene where his character tries to recruit Curt Henderson (played by Richard Dreyfuss) into his gang.  The initiation rites include vandalizing a patrol car driven by the local small town police officer, Holstein. Hopkins delivers his lines as only he can as he tells Curt, that despite scratching his friend's car earlier he likes him and he's going to give Curt a chance to realize his secret dream of becoming a member of the gang. Of course, Curt, whose planning to leave for college in the morning has absolutely no intention of damaging the cop car OR joining the Pharaohs. Realizing his reluctance, Hopkin's urges him saying, 

Look at it this way:  Now you got three choices. One, you chicken out. In that case, I let Ants tie you to the car and drag you around a little bit. And you don't want that, right? Two, you foul up and Holstein hears you and well, ah... you don't want that, right? Three, you are successful and you join the Pharoahs with a carcoat, and the blood initiation and all that, huh?

Bo as Joe, the leader of The Pharaohs with Beau Gentry & Richard Dreyfuss

I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with the actor at several events including autograph signings, classic car shows and appearances at American Graffiti celebrations.  He was always relaxed and friendly and willing to engage me in conversation about his role as "Joe" in American Graffiti no matter how often I and others asked questions. 

I first met Bo at the Petaluma Celebrates American Graffiti event in California along with some other actors in the film, Candy Clark (who played Debbie,) Manuel Padilla, Jr (Carlos) and Paul Le Mat (John Milner).  During our conversation Hopkins told me that in 1972 he worked on two films, Graffiti and a film starring Burt Reynolds, "White Lightening." In 1972 Reynolds was a huge star and Hopkin's played the character's sidekick in much of the film. "It was the beginning of Summer and right after I had filmed all my scenes with Richard Dreyfuss I immediately had to fly out to Arkansas and join the production of  White Lightening. I had been working at night on Graffiti and had gotten used to that and suddenly I'm working in the bright daylight, squinting my eyes and Burt would yell at me [laughs]. It was fun and kind of crazy. By I didn't mind. I was happy to be working."  I also asked him the age-old question about whether he knew at the time, Graffiti would become the classic that it is today. He replied, "Shit, I thought just the opposite. I was just sure Burt's film would be a hit but it turns out nobody remembers it. "But," he added, "That little ol' low-budget film, directed by some guy named, Lucas turned out to be a winner and people like you are still asking about to this day!"  

More American Graffiti (1979) promotional pic sent out to newspapers 

Bo couldn't have been more right.  Graffiti was a winner.  In 1974 it won a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture for a Comedy or Musical. It was nominated for several Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Candy Clark) and Best Film Editing. It also won several several Best Picture awards at well established events including New York Film Critics Circle Awards and the Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards. Of course, that's to say nothing of the accolades the film continues to receive from film fans and classic cars enthusiasts to this day. But I digress...

Bo and co-star, Candy Cark in Marietta, Georgia at one of many "Graffiti" re-screenings

I saw Bo again at a classic car show on the Cal Expo state fairgrounds in Sacramento, California. The yellow,1932 Ford coupe featured in Graffiti was on display. Hopkins was sitting at a collapsible table alongside actors, Candy Clark and Paul Le Mat. They were surrounded with fans who waited in line to have them sign photos and various Graffiti memorabilia.  I too waited in line, this time to have him sign a picture of Wolfman Jack and himself at the premiere of Graffiti. I was also going to video tape an interview with him and later that day I did but unfortunately, it was erased when I accidentally taped over it to interview his Graffiti co-stars, Candy Clark and Paul Le Mat (which you can find on You Tube). 

When I reached the front of the line, much to my delight, Bo looked up and recognizing me he slipped into character exclaiming, "Whadaya doin', creep?" This was the famous line in Graffiti when he and Richard Dreyfuss first meet  I, played along and countered with Dreyfuss's response, "Me?" To which he replied, "No, I'm talking to the other fifty creeps here."  This really was a secret dream come true. Here I was running lines from my favorite movie since childhood with the actual actor from the film. It doesn't get much better than this.  I waited for him to finish the next line from the script, "You know Gil Gonzales?" but he didn't continue. That was fine with me. I was star-struck and a little nervous anyway and would not have been able to continue responding with lines from the script that I had memorized since I was 12 years-old.  

One of several photos that Bo signed for this writer

I don't remember our entire conversation that day, eleven years ago, but I must not have seemed like a total “creep” because he asked me to watch his stuff at his autograph table for awhile as he explored the event and viewed the cars on display. I obliged. I remember how important I felt as I sat there in Bo's chair thinking, "Hey everybody look at me, I'm friends with film star, Bo Hopkins!" He was gone for an hour or so. People would stop and ask, "Where's Bo?" and I would tell them with great authority, "He's out getting lunch but he'll be back soon."  When Bo finally returned we chatted a bit longer. In his down to earth demeanor he told me about his hobbies; fishing, reading and watercolor painting. Then he thanked me by giving me a warm handshake and signing a color 8x10 screenshot of himself from American Graffiti.  As I write this, the photo rests on my bedroom wall along with my college diplomas and dozens of other autographed movie photos. The inscription on the photo reads, simply, "To Mark, Thanks, Bo Hopkins." Thank you Bo Hopkins. Thank you for bringing happiness to myself and so many people out there, whether you were on screen or off.

A signed pic of Bo as Joe The Pharaoh that hangs on my wall

Bored as Hell and Nothing to Rebel Against!

(Above) Ben Mankiewicz with Bo, Candy Clark & Paul Le Mat discussing "American Graffiti" at a 2014, Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel poolside screening

Bo & American Graffiti co-star/friend, Candy Clark Photo: Stephanie Keenan



  • Bo Hopkins of American Graffiti - Interview at 2019 Portland Roadster Show.
  • IN-PERSON CONVERSATIONS WITH BO HOPKINS. Mark Groesbeck. Various dates. 2009-2011.

Friday, April 19, 2019


“Sup Dawg?  This time, we gonna drop it when it’s hot!”  Oh, wow, how do I segue from mid-'90's rap blasting in my ear buds to 1950's rock and roll? I guess I'll pull up some early Elvis on Spotify.  Maybe a little, "Mystery Train" or "Let's Play House." Okay, now I'm in the mood.

 For this entry, in "Kip’s American Graffiti Blog,” we present to you (because you never asked), notes on the shooting schedule of American Graffiti. 

These notes include details about the actors, locations, technicians, and vehicles related to the production of the film.  It represents a timeline which states where and when production resources are used and the general filming locations.  The information presented here is reproduced from the daily progress reports as they are printed in the book, “The Cinema of George Lucas” by Marcus Hearn.   Additional comments by me, Kip. Also, I've included butt-loads of cool pics for fans to drool over.

So, lets set down the Gin & Juice and pick up a bottle of Old Harper & Coke and get into the spirit of things.  Keep reading!

Jana Bellan as carhop waitress, Budda looking cold with arms crossed.  She, Lucas and staff prepare to shoot take 3 in which Budda turns down Toad for a date

SHOOT DAY 1:  Monday, June 26, 1972

CALL 7:00pm                WRAP:  5:30am

LOCATION:  4th St (Between C st. and Lincoln) San Rafael, CA

Scenes:  EXT STREET & COUPE (John and Carol) Scene Sc. 22 (John “I don’t like that surfing crap.  Rock –n-roll’s been going downhill since Buddy Holly died”) 

Pages 2-6/8 

Setups: 10

SHOOT DAY 2:  Tuesday, June 27, 1972

CALL 8:00pm                WRAP:  6:40am

LOCATION:  4th St (Between C. and Lincoln) San Rafael, CA

Scenes:  EXT STREET & COUPE (John & Carol).  [John: “How old are you?” Carol: “Old enough.  How old are you?”   “Too old for you,”]

Pages: 4-7/8

Set Ups:  19

NOTES:  Unable to clear or control street as planned due to City Council Order to San Rafael Police Department

A 45rpm record used for American Graffiti radio spots

SHOOT DAY 3:  Thursday, June 28, 1972

CALL 7:30                    WRAP:  5:40am

LOCATION:  Oakhill Park & Petaluma Blvd., Petaluma Blvd., Petaluma, CA.

Scenes: EXT STREET (Coupe/Water Balloon/Park)

Pages:  3: -2/8

Setups:  29

Cars:  ’32 Coupe, Studebaker, 24 atmosphere cars

SHOOT Day 4:  Thursday, June 29, 1972

CALL 7:30pm                WRAP:  5:30am

LOCATION:  Petaluma Streets, Petaluma

Scenes:  EXT STREET & COUPE (Coupe & Falfa).  Scene 54 [Carol] Carol: "He’s fast” John: “Yeah, 'but he’s stupid.”

Pages 2-7/8

Setups:  28

Mackenzie Phillips and Pau Le Mat rehearse their lines as Lucas (red jacket in window) watches. 

SHOOT Day 5:  Friday, June 30, 1972

CALL 6:30pm                WRAP:  5:40am

LOCATION:  Rusty’s Auto Wrecking, 21481 8th St East, Sonoma, CA; Scene 30 (song indicated [“It’s just a matter of time”]

Pages 3-7/8

Setups:  23

Livestock: 1 dog

Paul Le Mat "John Milner"

SHOOT Day 6:  Monday July 3, 1972

CALL 7:30pm                WRAP:  5:40am

LOCATION:  4th Street San Rafael

Scenes:  EXT STREET (Coupe/BA/Bozo, etc)  Scene 24 [Traveling-Terry-Mercury”: song indicated: "Almost Grown”]  Sc 27 [Driver-Mercury: “Toad is that you in that beautiful car?"  Terry nods casually. “Jeeze what a waste of machinery.”]

Pages:  4

Setups: 16

HOLIDAY:  July 4, 1972
No work

The cast & crew ate meals at the old Mayflower Van & Storage location in Petaluma where cars and filming equipment were stored during the daytime.  (Photo courtesy of Candy Clark)

SHOOT DAY 7: Wednesday July 5

CALL: 7:30pm               WRAP:  5:30am

Location:  Wilson’s Appliance Store, 145 Kentucky Ave., Petaluma; Chamber of Commerce Parking Lot, Petaluma Blvd.

Scenes: EXT TV APPLIANCE STORE. Sc. 36 [Curt is shanghaied by the Pharaohs]





The talented, Bo Hopkins as "Joe the Pharaoh"

SHOOT DAY 8 Thursday, July 6

CALL: 7:30pm               WRAP: 5:45am

LOCATION: Richmond Streets, Richmond CA; Miniature Golf Course/Office, Pinole

SCENES: EXT STREET (Hoods/Curt/Merc)

EXT.  Miniature Golf Course

INT.  HOLE-IN-ONE OFFICE Sc. 48 [Joe: “We’re outta gas.” Curt: “They don’t sell gas here”  “We’re outta money too.”]

PAGES:  6-1/8


SHOOT DAY 9:  Friday, July 7

CALL: 7:30pm               WRAP:  5:15

LOCATION:  Chamber of Commerce Lot, Petaluma Blvd. North

SCENES:  EXT PARKING LOT, Sc. 62 [the patrol car loses its trans-axle and two rear wheels.]

PAGES:   1-7/8


SHOOT DAY 10:  Monday, July 10

CALL: 7:00pm               WRAP: 6:00am

LOCATION:  Mels Drive-in,140 S. Van Ness near Mission  San Francisco, CA

SCENES:  EXT. DRIVE IN, Sc 2 [“A large neon sign buzzes in the foreground, “Burger City,” while in the background, Rock Around the Clock” blares from the radio of a beautiful decked and channeled candy-apple red, tuck and rolled ’53 Merc that glides into the Drive-in.”]



CARS:  Citroen

SR EQUIPMENT: (1) Jeep Crane #4

In this rare photo you can glimpse one of the tall San Francisco buildings next to Mels that director, Lucas tried to avoid capturing on film.

SHOOTING DAY 11: Tuesday, July 11

CALL:  7:00pm              WRAP:  6:00am

LOCATION:  Mels Drive-in, San Francisco

Scenes EXT DRIVE-IN, Sc. 42 [John orders Carol a Coke; Song designated: In the Still of the Night.”]



Background actor, Donna Wehr sits on the now famous 1958 Impala.

SHOOT DAY: 12 Wednesday, July 12

CALL: 6:30pm   WRAP:  5:30am

LOCATION: Mel’s Drive-in, San Francisco

Scenes EXT. DRIVE-IN, Sc72

Pages 5-2/8


Filming Ron Howard in an interior scene at Mels Drive-in. Lucas (under counter), Haskel Wexler (behind camera)

SHOOT DAY 13: Thursday, July 13

CALL: 7:30pm   WRAP: 5:30am

LOCATION: C of C. Lot, Petaluma.  Petaluma Streets



EXT. CAR LOT/COPS (retake)

PAGES: 1-2/8


George Lucas directs future directors, Ron Howard & Charles Martin Smith

SHOOT DAY 14: Friday July 14

CALL: 6:30pm               WRAP:  5:26am

LOCATION: Marin Memorial Cemetery, Novato

SCENES: EXT CANAL. [Laurie gets angry with Steve;

The Merc is stolen; talk of the “Goat Killer”

PAGES: 4-2/8


A rare historical pic of Mels Drive-in which first opened in 1947 by partners, Mel Weiss and Harold Dobbs. It closed its doors and was demolished in 1976, four years after Lucas and crew had used the location as the kid's hangout in American Graffiti.

 SHOOT DAY 15: Monday, July 17

CALL: 6:00am               WRAP: 7:49

LOCATION: Mel’s Drive-in, San Francisco


EXT. DRIVE-IN, Sc [Curt speaking on the phone to the blonde in the white T-bird: “It’s important to me.. You’re the most perfect beautiful creature I’ve ever seen and I don’t know anything about.  Could we meet someplace?” Voice:  “I cruise 3rd Street every Night.  Maybe I’ll see you again tonight.”  “I don’t think So…I’m leaving in a couple of hours.”



Notes:  (1) Éclair camera fell off tripod-badly damaged

Director George Lucas poses with Richard Dreyfuss (sitting in a Citroen 2CV) 

SHOOT DAY 16: Tuesday July 18

CALL: 6:30pm               WRAP: 5:26am

LOCATION:  Marin, Memorial Cemetery, Novato;& Petaluma Streets, Petaluma



PAGES: 2-4/8


NOTES:  Light rain from 1:30am to wrap prevented completion of scheduled scenes, streets too wet.

Ed Greenberg "Kip Pullman."

SHOOT DAY: 17 Wednesday July 19

CALL: 7:30                   WRAP: 5:37

LOCATION: Petaluma Streets (Petaluma Blvd.,Kentucky, Washington, Western)

SCENES EXT. STREET (Curt/V.W./T-Bird/Kip) Sc. 29

[Shouting from on e car to another, Kip:  “Henderson, Long time no see.  What’cha been doing?” Curt: “Not much, just wanted to let you know that Bobbie here is hopelessly in love with you and trembles at the sight of your rippling biceps…” Bobbie turns in the V.W. and “starts flailing at Curt with her purse.”]

PAGES: 1-2/8


SHOOT DAY 18:  Thursday July 20

CALL: 7:30                   WRAP: 5:45

LOCATION Rowena Lane (KTOB transmitter), Petaluma, Lazy-Me Used Cars, 320 Petaluma Blvd.; North Petaluma streets.

SCENES EXT. RADIO STATION, Sc. 70 [Manager: “The Wolfman is everywhere…Listen-no offense to your hometown here, but this ain’t exactly the hub of the universe…Hell, here I sit while there’s a whole big beautiful world out there.”]





KTOB radio tower site located on Rovina Ln. was Petaluma's local community radio station for many decades. The exterior scenes of Curt approaching Wolfman's radio station, XERB were filmed here. 

Friday 7-21-72 - Company DID NOT WORK

SHOOT DAY 19:  Saturday, July 22

CALL: 12:00pm             WRAP: 8:45pm

LOCATION:  Marin Memorial, Cemetery, Novato


PAGES:  4-1/8


Filming a cruising montage on 4th Street in San Rafael, CA

SHOOT DAY 20: Sunday, July 23

CALL: 7:30                   WRAP: 5:40

LOCATION:  4th St., San Rafael




Note:  4 cameras used…one Jeep crane

Candy Clark "Debbie" rests between takes on the hood of a car.       
(Photo: Dennis Stock/Magnum Photos)

SHOOT DAY 21:  Monday, July 24

CALL: 8:30pm               WRAP: 6:30am

LOCATION:  Sanders Used Cars (B St. and Petaluma Blvd North); EZ Pickins Gas Station,

U.S. 101 (South of Petaluma); Frates Road, Sonoma County



EXT. GAS STA., Sc 66 [Attendant (to John): “Why do they even try…Hell; you’ve been number one longer than I can remember…”]

EXT PARADISE ROAD, Sc 75 [“Both cars roar off the starting line, tires smoking and screaming.”]

PAGES:  2-4/8


Climactic drag race on Frates Road "Paradise Road" in Petaluma, CA

SHOOT DAY 22: Tuesday, July 25

CALL: 8:30pm               WRAP:  6:40pm

LOCATION: Petaluma High School; Pet Streets; Frates Road.

SCENES EXT.  GYM PARKING LOT, sc 21 [Wendy: “Same old Curt.  All the time we were going together you never knew what you were doing.”]



PAGES:  2-2/8


NOTE: Blew reverse gear in ’32 Coupe

100 block Petaluma Blvd. North (circa 1986) Sonoma Co. Library

SHOOT DAY 23:  Wednesday, July 26

CALL:  8:30pm              WRAP: 6:30am

LOCATION:  Rear of Beasley’s Rest. (Petaluma Blvd. N. &Washington); Pet. Streets, Frates Road


EXT. STREETS (Curt/T-Bird)




NOTE:  1st attempt to roll car failed…approx. 6:10 Am. Continued to shoot until wrap.   Car unable to repeat run due to broken tie rod.

Beasley's Eats' (circa 1975) rear parking area located on Water Street, Petaluma. The beige car in the background is the location where Toad (Charles Martin Smith) got sick, beat up and rescued by John Milner (Paul Le Mat).  

SHOOT DAY 24:  Thursday, July 27

CALL:   8:30pm             WRAP: 6:40am

LOCATION: EZ Pickins, U.S. 101; Public Parking

Lot, Petaluma Blvd.; Streets and sidewalk, Petaluma Frates Road

SCENES EXT. GAS STATION (pick-up c.u. “John”)




PAGES:  3-3/8


NOTE: 2nd attempt at car stunt failed…Bent right tie rod.

SHOOT DAY 25:  Monday, July 31

CALL:  8:00am              WRAP: 8:00pm

LOCATION: Petaluma High School, Marin Memorial Cemetery, Novato





PAGES:  1-5/8


NOTE:  Retakes needed at Canal location due to underexposed film.

Candy Clark & Charles Martin Smith's make-out scene was filmed in daylight at a tributary of the Petaluma River located near the base of the first hill immediately north of the Novato airport.

SHOOT DAY 26:  Tuesday, Aug 1

CALL: 10:00am              WRAP: 10:10pm

LOCATION: Mt. Tamalpias High School- Boy’s Gym, Mill Valley

SCENES INT. GYM (Sock Hop), Sc. 14 [designated song: “At the Hop”]

PAGES:  6-1/8


NOTE:  4 cameras used

SHOOT DAY 27:  Wednesday, August 2

CALL: 8:30pm               WRAP: 6:15am

LOCATION: Petaluma High School; Petaluma Streets



EXT. DRIVE-IN (retake)

PAGES:  2-7/8


Executive Producer, Francis Ford Coppola visits Lucas on location at the Tamalpais High School boy's gym in Marin, CA

Richard Dreyfuss attempts to relax a nervous Wolfman Jack by goofing around between takes

SHOOT DAY 28:  Thursday, August 3

CALL:  8:30pm              WRAP: 6:40am

LOCATION: KRE Radio, Berkeley; Buchanan Field, Concord




PAGES:  4-2/8


NOTE:  Airplane unable to taxi off due to flat left tires.  Did not get shot of plane airborne.

SHOOT DAY 29: Friday, August 4

CALL: 8:30pm               WRAP:  9:30am

LOCATION: 884 Bodega Ave., Petaluma; Frates Road;. Buchanan Field (2nd unit)

SCENES EXT. /INT LIQUOR STORE, Sc. 44 [Toad tries to buy the elusive bottle of “Old Harper. Designated song:Teenager in Love”]


EXT. AIRPORT/AIRPLANE, SC. 79 [“Curt listens to the radio as the plane takes off.  As it climbs and banks out over the valley, the music fades and the station drifts between static and other stations an then it’s gone.  Curt turns off the radio and looks out the window.  As the plane banks, the wing tips down and through the window Curt sees the yellow Thunderbird crossing beneath on the small grey ribbon of highway.  Curt leans up, watching it-the plane shadow ripples over the car and then it’s gone”]

PAGES:  4-1/8


NOTES:  Low overcast prevented shooting at Frates Road location until 8:40am.  Stunt again failed to work. “A” arm and tie rods bent. (1) cameraman & (1) asst. cameraman to airport to film plane take off after company wrap at Frates Road location.

Wrap 1st unit shooting “AMERICAN GRAFFITI”

A rare pic of the the aircraft used for the final scenes in Graffiti. The company which loaned the prop plane to Lucas and crew was named, Magic Carpet Air Travel Club

2 nd UNIT SHOOTING: Monday, 8/7/72

CALL: 4:00am               WRAP: 10:42am

LOCATION: Frates Road

SCENES:  EXT PARADISE ROAD (retake stunt and explosion only)

EXT. ROAD/T-BIRD (aerial shot)

NOTE:  Used Cessna as camera plane f/aerial shot.

(4) cameras used on stunt.



Actress, Sylvia Koscina. 1962