The Scene: Starting at rush hour--5 p.m.--on Thursday, L.A. motorists, arriving in everything from Hondas to Rolls-Royces, battled stop-and-go mid-Wilshire traffic and self-parked to be the first to cruise through the Petersen Automotive Museum at its grand opening gala. Exhibiting autos antique, futuristic, famous and prehistoric (a prop from "The Flintstones"), the museum opened to the public Saturday. The $40-million museum at Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue began with a $15-million donation for the purchase of the site (the former Ohrbach's building) from Petersen Publishing founder and Chairman Robert E. Petersen and his wife, Margie.
Who Was There: Stuck in social gridlock, a crowd of 2,000 packed the place. Among them: Gov. Pete Wilson, performing ribbon-cutting duties with the Petersens; event chairs Marion Laurie and car designer Carroll Shelby; James Garner; Mel Torme; Ann Miller ("I don't think you can beat Cadillacs"); Steve Garvey; Bruce Jenner, and Craig Black, director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History.
Buzz: "I remember when" yarns, as in, "I remember when Uncle Harry kept a Packard in his garage."
Quoted: Asked if she was as big a car enthusiast as her husband (whose magazine empire includes Hot Rod, Motor Trend and Car Craft), Margie Petersen replied, "Not really. But it sort of has rubbed off on me. I love cars, but I don't think anybody could be as much of a car buff as him. He drives about 10. I have two, a Mercedes and a Cadillac, but I get to drive his too."
Money Matters: Proceeds from the $125 tickets, a silent auction and a raffle will be divided equally between the museum and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
How to Identify a Real Car Nut: "I talk about cars with great prudence," explained car collector Nicola Bulgari of the Italian jewelry company, who estimates that he owns 25. "I don't impose my will on anyone else. A real car nut is not respectful of anybody. He just talks and talks and talks."
Overheard: "Look at Joan Crawford's car--look at how she tooled around," said a woman admiring the late actress's 1933 Model 452C Town Car by Fleetwood. "I like your limo better," responded her husband.
Triumph: Signs at the bars reading, "Please Don't Drink and Drive."
Freebies: Car paraphernalia, including a miniature Franklin Mint Duesenberg, a sample of Formula 2001 Super Protectant (for rubber, vinyl and leather), a Flowmaster pin (from the exhaust technology company), a racing-car poster signed by Shelby and a free, one-year museum membership.