Category Archives: Famous people on wheels

The problem with Premium Rush (2012)

I rewatched the 2012 David Koepp / Joseph Gordon-Levitt movie Premium Rush last night, and noticed one problem. It wasn’t the comically dated flash mob at the end. It wasn’t the couple of times Gordon-Levitt teleported, once from the West Side to the East Side, another time from 105th Street back up to 110th. It wasn’t the time the guy on the fixed-gear bicycle kept up with a geared bike down the big hill in Central Park, nor the bizarre ongoing argument over whether or not one should have a brake on a fixed-gear bike (you shouldn’t, it adds nothing). No, the problem was the moment, about 1/3 of the way through the film, when corrupt cop Michael Shannon walks out of his stationhouse, sees a bicycle chained to a pole, and recognizes it as Gordon-Levitt’s.

Non-riders never notice bikes in that kind of detail. There is no way he would have noticed that this bike is the same as the one he had been chasing down Broadway 20 minutes earlier. No way.

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Olivia Newton John and Michael Beck on rollerskates (bonus: Gene Kelly!)

Any reader of a certain age will look at the title of this post and know precisely where these images will be coming from: Xanadu! The 1980 roller-skating musical that demonstrated to a skeptical world just how much cocaine it was possible to inhale and remain standing behind a camera.

Lay blame where you like, many of the people involved in this production were good in other things. They even cast the amazing Gene Kelly, who among other things was a superb skater (see, for example, It’s Always Fair Weather, 1955. Or don’t bother, I’ll post an excerpt here sooner or later).

The embarassing scene above is clearly meant to evoke the “You Were Meant for Me” number in Singin in the Rain. Note that Olivia Newton John, co-star of this rollerskating musical, never really learned how to stop on skates and they had to choreograph Xanadu so that she could crash into things to stop.

Ooh, I can’t resist sharing some of It’s Always Fair Weather. Check out how Gene Kelly stops here, as compared to the above:

I am married with children, and I still want to be Gene Kelly when I grow up.

I am married with children, and I still want to be Gene Kelly when I grow up.

Goodbye Segway, Hello Ninebot

Ahhh, the Segway, a future entrant in the Wheeled Thing Hall of Fame (when we build it).  Launched about 15 years ago Dean Kamen convinced Time magazine that the Segway was the next big thing.  In Time’s December 02, 2001 article they quoted Dean Kamen, the Segway “will be to the car what the car was to the horse and buggy.”   Time continued, “He imagines them everywhere: in parks and at Disneyland, on battlefields and factory floors, but especially on downtown sidewalks from Seattle to Shanghai. “Cars are great for going long distances,” Kamen says, “but it makes no sense at all for people in cities to use a 4,000-lb. piece of metal to haul their 150-lb. asses around town.”

For some reason Kamen though these things should not be street legal, but driven on the sidewalk.  He hired lobbyist to promote changes in the law in every city to allow the Segway to ride on the sidewalk.  NYC said “nope” (along with many other cities) meaning the Segway was a “toy vehicle” and could not be used on the street or the sidewalk.  The Segway was basically a “Big Wheel” for adults.

Big Wheel

People compared a Segway to a bike and guess what.  The bike is better in every category.  It can go further, faster, carry more cargo, cost less…

Then George W tried it out… and showed it’s not as easy to ride as people though (or he’s a klutz… or both)Seway Bushes

Jump to the 2015 and partially due to the fact that Ninebot was infringing on Segway’s patents with their Ninebot Personal Transporter and the One E+ Unicycle, Ninebot decided to just buy the whole company.    Thank you Ninebot!  We look forward to your products filling the Wheeled Thing site for many years to come.

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers go skating, 1937

Shall We Dance has once of the most striking scores of any of the films of its era, and this number is particularly memorable.

Fred seems a bit more sure on his feet than Ginger does, but they’re both good and they’ve got a lot of style.

Patrick Swayze, skating in 1979

The movie Skatetown U.S.A. is hard to find, I counsel those of you who might try not to bother. Despite period glamour and an amazing cast (Scott Baio, Flip Wilson, Maureen McCormick, Ron Palillo, Ruth Buzzi, Billy Barty and Dorothy Stratten in addition to Patrick Swayze in his first-ever role), it’s dull.

Swayze skates well but it’s not enough to save the picture.