By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Goodwin trucked in hundreds of tons of dirt, built all kinds of jumps and turns, and advertised it heavily. Celebrities like Steve McQueen came to watch. There were scantily dressed women, and prizes for the fans. But the big attraction was the famous peristyle jump. The riders rode a dirt ramp up through the stands and disappeared into one of the smaller side peristyle arches. Then, a moment later, they’d come flying back into the stadium through the big central arch, sailing 100 feet through the air before hitting the downhill ramp. It was “fantastically suspenseful,” an Internet motor-sports historian would later write. “The fans went wild.”
Goodwin’s shows made money virtually from Day One. He was soon running what are now known as Supercross events not only in the Coliseum but at the Rose Bowl, San Diego, Anaheim and other places around the country. But Anaheim was the big cash cow, and every year, the show got bigger. Goodwin put more people in the seats than the NFL; the only person to outdo him was Billy Graham. Goodwin once claimed to have made $600,000 in a single day.
In short order, Goodwin was driving a Clenet (an expensive hand-built reproduction of a ’30s touring car), wearing full-length fur coats, dining on pâté de foie gras and sipping champagne. He bought a 17th-century tapestry, an antique billiard table, a Frederic Remington sculpture and a Rolls-Royce supposedly once owned by Princess Grace of Monaco.
He traveled around the world on big-game expeditions, spearing a 185-pound wild boar in Tennessee and killing a Kodiak bear in the Aleutians with a .44 Magnum handgun (albeit, according to a fellow hunter, after first breaking the bear’s spine with a rifle shot). He fell off a motorcycle at 132 mph and, wrote Shav Glick of the L.A. Times, ground off “one cheek of his butt.” He won a contest to spend a “wild wicked weekend” with “lusty Gloria Leonard, the queen of porn.” The opening line of his winning entry: “I enjoy successful attractive ladies who share my zeal for exotic sex.”
Besides sex, he loved dogs and hummingbirds. He cried bitterly when his black Lab Jocko died. He spoke to his mother a minimum of twice a day, and when she suddenly died of a heart attack, says the friend who broke the news, “he began screaming, ‘My mommy! My mommy!’ He was sobbing uncontrollably.”
To display his animal trophies and artwork in high style, he built a three-story cedar-wood-and-white-stucco hillside home with an ocean view in Laguna Beach. The house featured a spiral staircase, an indoor waterfall, a bear rug, an elk’s head on the wall, and a roll-top desk that he says once belonged to the infamously sharp-dealing Gilded Age financier Jay Gould. According to Sports Illustrated, Goodwin kept two tape recorders with him at all times, one for incandescently creative thoughts and one for merely important ones. He had a main office in downtown Laguna Beach and, for his inner circle, a smaller office in his home, albeit one with 12 phone lines. He was driven, dominating, and terrifying to new employees. Most of his secretaries left in tears after two or three days. Goodwin didn’t care. “I’m not a people person,” he told Thompson’s lawyers in a deposition. “All I care about is results. If someone has a contract with me and they don’t perform, I’ll take their legs off.”
Unlike Goodwin, who blazed a trail through school, Mickey Thompson was lucky to graduate at all. Recognizing that he was not learning anything in class, his high school English teacher would let him work on her car instead. Mickey never learned to spell. Today he’d be labeled ADD, “but,” says Sheriff’s Detective Lillienfeld, “he was a genius with his hands.”
Thompson built his first car at age 7 using the engine from a washing machine. He went on to race cars, trucks, buggies, boats and planes. At the time of his death, he was the owner of or a partner in some 27 companies and held upward of 100 major patents. His companies manufactured high-performance precision parts for race cars, and heavy-duty tires used by both the Israeli army and the shah of Iran. He invented an early hydraulic version of the Jaws of Life (to cut him out of his own vehicle in case he wrecked it during an assault on the land-speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah). He manufactured a water-filled plastic vehicle barrier, which police used around St. Vibiana’s Cathedral when the pope visited Los Angeles. He designed the wide-oval, low-profile tires that later became standard at Indianapolis.
But his first and last love was racing.
“He crashed cars and sunk boats in two continents,” the L.A. Times said about Thompson in 1973. He entered more than 10,000 races in his lifetime and won 500 of them. Feature writer Jan Golab once described his racing strategy as “stand on the gas,” which is to say, driving as fast as he could until he wrecked his car or won the race. In the process, he was hospitalized 27 times, four times with a broken back, once for six months.