On April 21, 2006, I received an e-mail from Norman Cabrera stating that he owned the 1956 Cadillac hearse that The Monocles used to haul their equipment and themselves to their gigs. Below are excerpts of what Norman wrote over the weekend. Also, check out his band's website. It is really cool! (Don't forget to come back.)
Just in case you ever wondered what ever became of the old Monocles 56 Hearse, well, I own it!! I purchased it last year from a guy who bought it in Arizona. I thought you might dig seeing a picture of it. It's truly an honor to own this baby. I just had the engine rebuilt and it runs great. I'm doing some minor body work on it but it's truly in amazing shape. I'm actually a big fan of The Monocles too! I wasn't around when they were originally playing but got very into stuff like "The Spider and the Fly" and 60's music in the 80's. I actually play in a band as well called The Ghastly Ones. My band plays 60's instro surf ala Dick Dale but with a more haunted vibe to it. It's all fun 60's inspired stuff. Everyone in our band is into stuff like the Monocles and other teen bands of that time.
Also, I wrote a small article about the '56 for a hearse appreciation car club that I belong to called VHA (Vintage Hearse Association) It basically tells the story of how I acquired the vehicle.
Resurrection of a Ghost
The love affair started the second I laid eyes on her. She was wicked, the color of a raven’s wing and born in ’56. Considering what I knew about her and those wickedly beautiful lines, I knew some day she’d be mine. Yes, I know you’ve heard it all before and the fact that this is a hearse publication you’ve probably even felt these same feelings. But for those of you casually reading this, the romance of a vintage vehicle is true! By God or Satan, whichever you prefer; it is a very real and tangible thing!
In the physical world, the world of flesh and blood, I only have one true love, my lovely raven-haired Kate who joined me in matrimony last Halloween eve. (Notice I go for the dark-haired lovelies). But in the world of steel and rubber my heart goes out to that beauty (or “beast” as Bryan Moore dubbed her) from Detroit; built in a bygone era where pride, workmanship, and quality were number one goals.
The first time I took a stroll inside “The Beast” was in the passenger seat. She belonged to my pal Benny. He purchased her as a band vehicle for a surf & frat rock combo that we were in together called The Mighty Kegsmen. She was previously owned by a little ol’ lady from Arizona who purchased it from a band who toured in it in the sixties, The Monocles, who had an underground hit among fans of garage punk called “The Spider & the Fly”. Already you can see why this beast had to be mine. Not only was she beautiful but her history was too tasty for words. This beast toured the U.S. through’65, ’66, and early ’67 with garage rock legends! And did I mention it still had their wonderful, original, hand-lettered logo complete with mascot still visible on the side!!! Okay, breathe, breathe. So, all I was thinking as I sat there on the beautiful, if aged, silver and burgundy tuck and roll bench was how I can take her off of my good pal Benny’s hands. Naturally, I mentioned to him if he ever wanted to get rid of her… well, all that comment got me was crooked smile and a slight chuckle.
Cut to us driving home from a Mighty Kegsmen show. It was about 3AM and we were all very tired and nodding off. Benny was driving and our rhythm guitar player was asleep in the back when… BANG!!!!! It felt like a bomb went off inside the thing. I thought our rhythm guitar player was dead! What the f**k happened? Did we go over a landmine? Perhaps we got caught in the crossfire of some gang fight and got hit with a shotgun blast. I was yelling out our rhythm guitar player’s name… he wasn’t answering. Holy shit, he is dead! Naturally in our delirious state the last thing we were thinking was that the damn thing threw a rod. Luckily we were coming off the ramp at Griffith Park so we coasted to safety at the base of Los Feliz and waited in late night drizzle for the flat bed to show up. We sat there for nearly an hour in that hollow shell. My beloved “Beast”, as she would later be known, with no engine to propel her, was now truly dead. Her ghost sat for over a year in Benny’s parent’s backyard. Benny tried several times to revive her but got ripped off one last time for 2 grand by an unscrupulous mechanic. Without the dough to fix her she just sat untouched and unloved; in a lonely backyard tomb in Lancaster.
Flash to a year and a half later. Benny, Kate, my good pal and band mate Kevin, the bassist in The Ghastly Ones, and I are eating, talking and laughing (not necessarily in that order) at Mucho Mas in North Hollywood. I hadn’t seen Benny in awhile and naturally I asked about the hearse. Well, when he mentioned it was still sitting in his parent’s backyard I jumped on the opportunity to ask if he wanted to sell it. A chill came over me when his answer was yes. “The Beast” would finally be mine. I’ll never forget going to the mechanic in Burbank and meeting up with the endlessly helpful and truly gracious, Bryan Moore to see “The Beast” for the first time since that fateful night in the drizzle when I saw her die. I could barely speak as Bryan repeated “you lucky bastard” over and over. I just stared at her, starry eyed and grinning knowing that this ghost before me would live again.
I would love to get in contact with Rick or Robb and show them the old '56. I love that thing. I bet they had some fun times driving around and appearing at shows with her. We use it for our band so I feel like their legacy was passed on to us somehow. I know it's their hearse because it still has their logo on the side! It was painted over when I bought it but you could still see it under the paint. I very carefully got the paint off and there it is, clear as a bell. I bet the guys would love seeing it again.
This was part of Rick's response when I e-mailed him the photo:
WOW!!!!!! What a trip!!!! Tears came to my eyes when I saw the pictures of the hearse. So many memories come flooding back....... I can't believe she is still around and that someone is still caring for her. We used to have so much fun cleaning and polishing her. There were many girls who would put on their bikinis and come help! We used to park right in front of where we were playing. I wonder how many people have seen her?????
Click the photo above to return to Monocles page 3.