Runnin' all night on lake avenue
It's a piece of cake
If you know what to do
In the world of street racing, there are hoons
, Mat Rempits
, and hashiriya
. There are balonies, rubber rakes, skins, and wide weenies. You can haze the hides, bang shift, dig out, and end up in the weeds. And if those terms aren’t clearer than a cataract on a swamp-riddled alligator’s hide, then probably you should cut a wide swath around methanol or nitro “juice burners.” Because, despite appearances, drag racing terminology is not for sissies. In fact, there are entire dictionaries devoted to the terminology alone, and no two dictionaries are alike. Which means, based on the results of just three narrowly differing Internet searches, there are roughly 140-something trajillion terms. Imagine: entire conversations taking place that hover just above your ability to decipher them. It’s a quantum leap through the time/space/language continuum, if such a thing even exists.
Louis Grammatico is firmly in touch with the terms. His late-‘60s-early-‘70s street racing days taught him a thing or two, such as: winning the race wins the girl. And so he set out to win the girls. Which he did - but it was only later, as rock star Lou Gramm in the band Foreigner, when girls really began to hurl themselves in his direction. By the time this particular song came out in 1979, they were hurling themselves in even larger numbers, because as everybody knows, girls love a rock star
, paired with rock stars who are also street racers
, equals rock stars whose craniums are loaded with street racing terms
. Ergo, rock stars are not sissies. Or something like that.
'70 Barracuda 440
Lou’s life as a road warrior began “runnin’ all night on Lake Avenue” in Rochester, New York, the road so named because it runs from State Street all the way to Ontario Beach Park on Lake Ontario. His racing vehicle of choice? A Chevy Nova 396, which was 375 horsepower - 25 horses below the bragging rights he claims in the song. Not that it matters… 375 is a lot of ponies (although the mechanics of HP to MPH is so awesomely mystifying we’ve decided only a multiple degree-holding bona fide physicist can get to the bottom of it).
The chances of finding a good race on any given night on Lake Avenue back in the day were better than even. Favored for its straightaways, Gramm and his partners in crime (literally - street racing is and was illegal, hence the song’s verse about outrunning the law) would race from stoplight to stoplight, revving their engines (on the red line), bringing down clouds of smoke from the tires, and bang shifting as soon as the light turned green, squealing off into the night. See how we subtly incorporated that street racing term? It’s almost like you’re learning subliminally.
1968 Z/28 Camaro, typical type of car used to race on Lake Avenue. Singer Lou Gramm and Tim Crozier met the first time in 1978 while driving this car. Thanks to car owner Tim Crozier for all photos used in this article.
[This is where we planned to give you the quick tourist overview of Lake Avenue. But regardless of the intricate - or simple - searches conducted, we found next to nothing about the avenue itself. One blogger got rather zealous over how gorgeous the scenery is, saying a drive down the street was all one would need to get a good snapshot of the city, and the visitor’s guide for Rochester talks about Lake Ontario, but has nothing about Lake Avenue. In fact, just about all we can tell you is that there is a restaurant called NOLA (for New Orleans, Louisiana) located there, and the Lake Avenue Baptist Church! (exclamation point included in the virtual brochure for the church, presumably because they’re very excited to exist). So we’ll just move it right along.]
A muscle car fanatic since the day he got his drivers license, and an avid car collector still, Gramm has bought and sold enough classic cars to supply a small country with tire swings. These days a good muscle car can pull in over $45k - about the median price, in this economic Armageddon, of a single family home. At those numbers, we doubt he’s out there tearing up the street in his fat fender, flopper, door slammer, or rat motor. But if he is, we’re sure there’s plenty of middle-aged women waiting for him over the finish line.
~ Shawna Hansen Ortega