Gage will appear at the July 12 Cars Time Forgot show, set along Delavan Lake at Lake Lawn Resort. The show is expected to attract hundreds of classic cars and offers free admission.
More info at http://carstimeforgot.com/
"They’ve told me that anywhere he (Gage) goes, it doubles your participation, and we’ve usually had more than 600 cars," said Jackie Busch, executive director of the Delavan-Delavan Lake Area Chamber of Commerce. "He’ll be filming at Lake Lawn, but also in the downtown and around the area. It’s going to be awesome."
The Cars Time Forgot event, like all of those that make the final cut to be featured in one of Gage’s 26 annual episodes, piqued his interest from the host of submitted items to his website’s database (myclassiccar.com).
"I like filming in Wisconsin and the upper Midwest because it shoots so well," Gage said. "It’s a pretty area and cool place that has the resort on a lakefront. We like places for their settings, the Americana of the downtown. It’s always been a destination type of show, and I believe our longevity is because we offer diverse and eclectic things that you don’t see anywhere else."
And that fits Gage’s personality, background and myriad talents and interests, which have created a cornucopia of life experiences few others have enjoyed.
Gage grew up on a small farm in northwestern Illinois, where he tinkered with machines and bought his first motorcycle, a Honda 50, at age 12 and his first car, a ’59 T-Bird, at age 15. He also played guitar and trumpet in a variety of bands.
He then attended North Central College in Naperville, Illinois, where he majored in chemistry and physics and received an American Chemical Society award for his undergraduate research in quantum physics.
With a degree in hand, Gage took up the pedal steel guitar and started playing in country-rock bands in the Chicago area, eventually opening for acts such as Charlie Daniels, Waylon Jennings and Dr. Hook. However, after two years on the road -- and looking down the barrel of a .45-caliber revolver following an argument over payment from his group’s weeklong gig in Selma, Alabama -- Gage decided stardom had its limits.
"What we did was cool, touring with big bands and everything, but I learned I didn’t like it as a job," he said. "It almost soured me on music. On the drive back to Chicago, I decided I was done with that life and wanted to seek an advanced degree."
So, in July 1977, he loaded up all of his earthly possessions and headed to the University of Idaho, where he earned a doctorate in chemistry.
Gage then became a product development scientist at Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati, where he worked on or created most of the company’s food products in the 1980s, including Pringles potato chips, with which he bears a striking resemblance to the handlebar mustachioed character on the can. After 10 years, he took a position at Bristol-Myers Squibb in Evansville, Indiana, where he led the development of Boost nutritional energy drink, among other products, and still calls home.
However, his current entertainment persona took flight in 1995, when Gage became co-owner of Bradley David Productions Inc. That’s where he developed the pilot of "My Classic Car" for TNN, first airing in early 1996. It premiered as a weekly series in January 1997, but moved to Speed Channel three years later, eventually more than 85 million households. Now in production for its 20th season, "My Classic Car" is carried on the Velocity, MAVTV and Rev’n networks.
And although he still gets a guitar out once in awhile, his production work -- he became sole owner in 2010 and renamed the business MadStache Inc. -- continues to be a passion for the 61-year-old Gage.
"I’m a people person who loves cars, and that comes through in the show," Gage said. "I’m very much an everyman and like to talk to regular folks. Who I am works, and I believe people relate to the show that way."
Gage credits a lot of his eventual success to growing up during almost a perfect storm of events.
"We were very salt of the earth Midwestern people who believed in hard work," he said. "But it also was the tumultuous ’60s and a great time of change. It was a time when TV began having much more influence … you had the Beatles and Vietnam. It was a time of great cultural change. And the big automakers were increasing their market share … you had big engines and big stripes. It was just a great time to be young."
All of those interests have been and continue to be important parts of who he is and what he does, which includes being executive producer of the motorcycle TV programs "Trippin’ on Two Wheels" and "Corbin’s Ride On."
"I’ve always been the curious sort and want to figure things out," Gage said. "I’m not a guy who sets long-term goals. I’m driven by achievement. I’m not competitive, but I work hard and set high standards for myself. I see something that interests me, I live it to the max. It just seems like when I’m not learning anymore, something else opens up."
That’s not to say Gage hasn’t had doubts or doesn’t struggle occasionally, but his affiliation with "My Classic Car" is a marriage second only to the life with his wife, Ellen.
"TV is like the fashion industry in that it’s all advertiser driven," Gage said. "The business side always is a struggle, but we’ve been doing the show so long that we know that no matter what happens, we can make a good show out of anything. We know we can pull it off every time."
That includes their participation in Cars Time Forgot. He and Woehler are scheduled to enjoy the Friday night fish fry activities. On Saturday, they will get a feel for the area and scout out a second program with another local car enthusiast. They will do the Cars Time Forgot show on Sunday, film the second show Monday and fly out Tuesday.
"This is what we do and we’ve gotten pretty good at it," Gage said. "We always find good cars and good people. The networks could pull the plug tomorrow, but I’m going to ride this horse as long as I can, because what I do is pretty cool."