Muffler Men in Hollywood
Hollywood caught on to the power of the Muffler Man as American Icon in the late 1960s when the big guy made a fleeting "on location" appearance in Easy Rider. Every since then, Muffler Men have turned up in movies, TV shows and commercials. He is never identified by name, never mentioned in the credits.
Easy Rider, 1969
The Dennis Hopper film about hippie bikers finding America between LA and New Orleans. The location is uncertain, though it's been argued that it might have been the Tucson M-Man or the one of the original Muffler Men in Flagstaff, which is close to where other AZ shoots occurred. (And see the muffler man built as part of a touring Dennis Hopper show).
Whatever Happened To The Class of '65, late 1970s.
"In the only episode of this short-lived show that I can recall, these two guys had a dream of opening a hamburger stand in Southern California. They scouted for locations, etc. and finally built there stand. To promote it, they had a Muffler Man put up next to the restaurant. The show went on about their business, etc. but then at the end the Muffler Man fell over onto the restaurant, totally demolishing it. This is classic Muffler Man TV trivia." [Jeff Anderson, 7/9/2000]
The A-Team, 1984
A Bunyan Muffler Man appears in an episode of the A-Team TV show. The episode is called "Timber" and originally aired on 10/16/84. The statue is seen several times in the background at the gas station. [Broken Claw, 7/21/2002]
The Wizard of Speed and Time, 1988
Mike Jittlov's feature film.
Nothin' But Trouble
Some late 80s Chevy Chase -Dan Ackroyd-Demi Moore comedy. There is a chase scene through a junkyard with several muffler men.
Wayne's World 1992
Watch the first few minutes of "Wayne's World." When they are cruising in the AMC Pacer they pass the Cigar store Muffler Man Indian at 63rd and Pulaski. Also seen in the same montage are the Cars on a Spike at 22nd and Harlem in the Berwyn/Cicero area. [Jon Lachky, 10/24/2005]
Saturn car commercial, 1998
The golfer Muffler Man near LAX airport is prominently featured.
The Sopranos, 1998
The opening credit sequence for HBO's hit series features a shadow-obscured car window view of Jersey City's carpet-clutching Muffler Man.
Battlefield Earth, 2000
The bloated L. Ron "Scientology" Hubbard epic, featuring John Travolta, includes a ruined Earth scene with a prominent muffler man ... believed to be totally computer-generated.
Big Fat Obnoxious Boss, 2004
On an episode of this mostly lame reality TV show, a Paul Bunyan Muffler Man stands in the background (at an indoor flea market) while the reality "teams" are being reshuffled. It's the one at Wolff's Flea Market, Melrose Park, Illinois. [Robot Greg, 12/6/2004]
The Sopranos, April 2004
Episode 50 "In Camelot, " features a scene at a "midget auto race" park where the camera pans to an Indian Muffler Man. In the script Tony says it's in New Egypt, but the true location is likely the racetrack in Riverhead, New York.
Hurricane Katrina news coverage, 2005
An on-site NBC News producer must have thought it would look cool to place anchor Brian Williams in front of the Metairie, Louisiana muffler man for a live network report on Hurricane Katrina devastation. The muffler man was visible to the left in the background in the first few moments. Then the camera pans right and never returns. Someone back at network HQ probably decided showing a towering, white man in a crown, surrounded by debris, might be a distraction...
Dodge Truck commercial, 2005
A Muffler Man steals a Dodge truck, so large that he covets it. This Paul has a black beard and mustache, a blue cap, red shirt, no suspenders, blue trousers, brown boots. Babe the Blue Ox makes an appearance (apparently modeled after the Bemidji Babe). In the final shot, you see the truck leaving with a giant double-bladed axe in the back. [George Farnham, Rick Wallerstein, John Ousterhout, 10/24/2005]
A Will Ferrell/Woody Harrelson comedy about a fictional basketball team, filmed in Flint and Detroit. The Flint Half-Wit was moved briefly to Detroit as a statue outside a sports coliseum to help simulate the 1970s.
Parks and Recreation, 2009
TV comedy's opening sequence features two fiberglass giants: an Indian and an Ice Cream Man. Our guess: they were both shot in Montpelier, Indiana.
Bad Ass, 2012
Danny Trejo stars in an action film as a Vietnam vet and public transit vigilante, hence the need to pass by this Muffler Man in East Los Angeles. [Joel Baker, 12/11/2013]
It's not exactly Hollywood, but Muffler Men have turned up in print ads from time to time.
- Kleenex tissues, 2002: Appears in the background of a road trip-themed ad, in national publications such as People. It's a cowboy, heavily shadowed and doctored in Photoshop to the point where he could be a 4-inch tall model instead of a real 20+ ft. statue.
- Travelers Insurance, 2007: The Joor Muffler Man, in a doctored image, is shown with his muffler and left hand fallen off, damaging a sports car below. Has appeared in Time, Money, etc.
Thanks to J. Ozwald Graves for select film stills.