If you raced on the West Coast
in the 70s, you knew the guy we all loved to hate - William Lee
Doner - aka "The Dones". At one time he controlled
7 major drag strips in Washington, Oregon and California. SIR,
Puyallup, Portland, Fremont, OCIR and Irwindale were all under
the Doner umbrella and managed by a cast of charters worthy of
a Monty Python film.
To tell the Willie Lee story
would make a book truly worth reading... and one would ask why
one was never written - three words - statue of limitation. Doner
the Movie would be an epic comedy that would struggle for an
In a nutshell, after getting
fired from the Orange County Daily Pilot (sport writer) for getting
busted in a vice raid, and after nearly driving Carroll Shelby
out of business, The Dones headed to Seattle with a plan - sort
of - and virtually no money. He and the infamous Father Duffy
- along with the likes of Alan Green and Steve Evans - acquired
(the DVD tells how) Seattle International Raceway. A legend was
born and the end result was 4 closed drag strips, a laundry list
of bankrupt associates and a contract hit by the collective Top
Fuel racers (a joke).
By the end of 1979, after Irwindale
went belly up, all Team Doner had left was OCIR and it was on
shaky ground. So, living up to his motto - "No problem is
to big to run away from." - Doner and Big Red (his wife
Kathy) decided it was time to get out of Dodge and move to Cabo
San Lucas, Mexico. As a parting shot, some of his "friends"
arranged to return to the scene of many of Doner's crimes (The
Balboa Bay Club) in SoCal and hold a no-holds-barred roast aka
good riddance party. The results were 4 hours of drunken hilarity
featuring a gaggle of roasters worth of an uncensored Comedy
Bill Doner and
Jerry Ruth at SIR in 1975
The event was MC'd by Dave McClellan
and video tapped in full by Richard Schroeder and Don Ewald.
In 2006 Ewald tired (for the umteeth time) to get Schroeder to
find the 3/4 master tapes which had been either misplaced or
lost over the years. With the popularity of the DVD format both
agreed it was time to unleash this masterpiece on the world.
Long story short, Richard procrastinated until his untimely death.
In one of their last conversations, Schroeder apologized for
never finding the masters and asked Don to do the best with what
they had and share this classic in time with the world.
What they had was a VHS copy
at EP and therein comes some truth in advertising. The DVD
is no better quality than an EP VHS tape but its all there
- all 2+ hours of it. Amid a flutter or two all the characters
and audio is there. And trust me - it is Rated 'R'.
See John Force with black hair
and in rare form - Steve Evans in his prime. Other players are:
Gary Beck, Sid Waterman, Bernie Partridge (NHRA DD), Raymond
Beadle, Jim Rockstead, Freddy Dryer (LA Rams), Tom McEwen, Don
Prudhomme, Jon Lundberg, Kelly Brown, Larry Sutton, "Billy
Bones", Bill Schrewsberry, "Waterbed Fred", Bill
Tidwell, Carroll Shelby, Pat O'Day, "Father Duffy",
Alan Green, Joe Pisano, Steve Wolmer, Mike Campbell, Alan Carr