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Published on Fri, Nov 8, 2013

By: The LACar Editorial Staff


Where They Raced - Speed Demons in the City of Angels reviewed

“Where They Raced – Speed Demons in the City of Angels”, the true story of motor racing in Los Angeles (the video version), is now available at better bookstores and online. See below for information about a special big screen showing, appearances by the author and director at Autobooks-Aerobooks, the LA Auto Show exhibit, and Turkey Night appearance by the author at Perris Auto Speedway. LA CAR DVD REVIEW Where They Raced Speed Demons in the City of Angels Narrated by Harold Osmer Sunny and Mild presents a Harry Pallenberg Film 102 minutes with 13 minutes of bonus footage Available directly at $24.95 + $3.95 S&H (and at better automotive bookstores like Autobooks and World Class Motoring) Review by Doug Stokes


The personal story behind this review goes back over 17 years to when this author was the communications guy for Perris Auto Speedway in Perris, California. We had received a package that was addressed to someone who none of us knew but it indicated that whoever that person was, they were thought to be involved with the PR side of the track (that was my job). So I opened it. What the envelope contained was a public version of a master’s thesis in geography, written and sent to the track by the author, a guy named Harold Osmer. The theme (if I may use that word) of the thesis was that in California at one time motor racing was used as a draw to get people out to sunny Southern California. Like the gold rush before, and Hollywood movie making a bit after, big money auto races for machines that were just a few miles past being called horseless carriages got people’s attention about the good weather out this way - particularly when races were run in October and November at places like Corona’s Grand Circle and on the streets of Santa Monica. Going a bit further, Osmer’s scholarly look at the situation also discovered one of the unintended consequences of the sort of influx of people that promoting the place with big motorsports events brought: The people that move in and complain about the noise. Harold’s book went on to race across the incredible history of racing in southern California, the men, women, machines and (of course) the places “Where They Raced”.


The manuscript, that became the book, that became the documentary (Doug Stokes photo)

I called this Harold Osmer guy and asked him what he was going to do with his work. He was not sure. I thought a photocopied version of it might be something that he could sell at an annual gathering of veteran racing drivers, crews, car builders and fans that was called “Gilmore Roars” and held annually at Farmer’s Market to celebrate the early days of motorsport in Southern California. Harold then went and did me one better, he augmented some of the illustrations, added some graphics, charts, and published the 64-page “Where They Raced, Auto Racing Venues in Los Angeles 1900 to 1990” in 1996. A few years later, in 2000, Osmer updated the original book expanding its field of view to include all of southern California with his 144-page “Where They Raced LAP2, Auto Racing Venues in Southern California 1900–2000. That book has subsequently become both bible and bar bet settler in the racing world; few serious fans of racing not having a copy of it on their bookshelves. I used to explain Harold’s book by telling a story on my friend, motorsports writer, Pete Lyons. If you were riding in a car with mister Lyons and he happened to take a corner or two a bit too quickly and everyone in the car sort of got quiet. Pete would let out a sigh and explain, “Oh, gee sorry, that turn was part of the old circuit!” I postulated that with Harold’s book one could use that excuse just about anywhere in So Cal. There were that many venues. And now that master’s thesis in geography has morphed into a 102 minute documentary-style DVD that visualizes Osmer’s seminal book and brings his pages to life with footage both contemporary and archival. Throughout the DVD viewers are treated to interviews with family members of the men who first made all the tire noise in Los Angeles and environs. Harry Pallenberg, for many years a producer for the late Huell Howser TV shows on KCET-PBS, was the guy who nudged Harold into the film world, and his work here as the film’s director has added a visual component to the intriguing story of motor sports in this part of the county. “Where They Raced, Speed Demons in the City of the Angels” is one of those items that all true racing fans should have alongside their copy of Osmer’s book. It rings true. Los Angeles’ contribution to motorsports is a huge one, it goes back right to the very beginning and this enthusiastic and authentic film follows it with interest and respect. POSTSCRIPT - Since this review began with a personal note, maybe a few words at the end won’t be out of place here. I always wanted Harold’s book to be called “Where We Raced” because many of the tracks that this guy had enumerated in his book were places that I had been to, worked at (and actually raced at in a few cases) since I came to California in 1955 almost 60 years ago. – Doug Stokes SIDEBAR COMMENT Marshall McLuhan said the medium is the message, and there is clear evidence of that in this latest version of "Where They Raced". As good as the books are (both the original and Lap 2), the motion picture documentary takes the viewer places that the books cannot go. It's one thing to read about where they raced, it's another to actually experience the sights and sounds of the places mentioned by Harold Osmer in his books. Filmmaker Harry Pallenberg does a wonderful job of capitalizing on the motion picture medium in this documentary, "Where They Raced - Speed Demons in the City of Angels." - Roy Nakano


Harold Osmer and Brian Blain in a 1911 National

WESTLAKE TWIN THEATER SCREENING A special big screen showing of “Where They Raced” will be presented on Sunday, November 10th at 7:00 pm at the Westlake Twin Theater, 4711 Lakeview Canyon Road, in Westlake Village, California. For ticket information, call 800-986-4977. AUTOBOOKS-AEROBOOKS APPEARANCE On Saturday, November 16th, 10am-2pm, special appearances by the author and director will take place at Autobooks-Aerobooks, 2900 West Magnolia Boulevard in Burbank, California. For information, call 818-845-0707. LA AUTO SHOW EXHIBIT From November 22nd through December 1st, see the “Where They Raced” exhibit at the Los Angeles Auto Show in Kentia Hall, Space K733 of the Los Angeles Convention Center. PERRIS AUTO SPEEDWAY TURKEY NIGHT APPEARANCE Last, but not least, author Harold Osmer will be at Perris Auto Speedway for Turkey Night on Thursday November 28th.

Where They Raced Trailer from Sunny & Mild Media on Vimeo.

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