A young Lauren Bacall relaxes on the set in an image from Hollywood Rides a Bike
WoBSoCal Feature - Interview with Steven Rea of Hollywood Rides a Bike Cycling with the Stars by Melissa Balmer
Steven Rea loves bikes. He also happens to write about the movies for the Philadelphia Inquirer and lucky for us the two passions very recently came together in a Kismet like gift. During the Thanksgiving weekend of 2010 he decided to start a Tumblr as an online ode to his growing handful of images of Hollywood celebrities taking a turn on two wheels (sometimes three). Before he knew it the Facebook likes were piling up and people from all over the world, who were also bicycle and/or Hollywood enthusiasts, wanted to know if he'd like more images to add to his collection. Who was he to say no?
A book was born - a beautiful book - a coffee table book that is the perfect gift for anyone who loves striking imagery of bicycles and Hollywood glamour all tied up in a complete package. In "Hollywood Rides a Bike" both the Hollywood history buffs and the bicycle history buffs have much to celebrate and savor. This week I had the pleasure of an interview with Steven. I hope you'll enjoy his answers and shared imagery as much as I did.
WoBSoCal: I felt a tremendous amount of Synchronicity coming together when Angel City Press contacted us at Women On Bikes SoCal about your beautiful book. Did you feel any magical sense of being in the right place at the right time with this project? Have you been tracking the bike's popularity in fashion such as the Kate Spade designer bike, and the Missoni bike for Target?
Steven Rea: There does seem to be a convergence of all-things-bike right now: from high-end fashion (Kate Spade, Marc Jacobs) to bikes on display in stores like the Gap, Target and Urban Outfitters, from lots and lots of photos of contemporary stars and celebs riding around, to cities around the country implementing bike share programs and dedicating more streets for bike traffic - it's a great moment to be a cyclist!
The book definitely seems to be coming out at the right moment - for both its celebration of cycling as a mode of transport, but also as a celebration of these classic movie icons visibly enjoying themselves on two-wheels.
WoBSoCal: On that note, it feels like the stars are in alignment for bicycling to move back into popular culture as a smart urban transit tool again, but I think we'll need the power of Hollywood to make a really big of shift in our car-centric car culture.
From your position of watching popular culture through movies do you think this is possible? Do you think getting Cameron Diaz and Leonardo DiCaprio on bikes in movies and bicycle advocacy campaigns could make a difference? Perhaps it needs to be Jennifer Lawrence who plays Katniss Everdeen in the upcoming Hunger Games?
Steven Rea: There's a long list of modern-day movie and TV celebs who are also passionate about bikes: Zach Galifiankis, Ewan McGregor, Rachel McAdams, Robin Williams, Russel Crowe, Natalie Portman, Zoe Deschanel, Bryce Dallas Howard (on a bike in Kate Spade ads)...it definitely helps to bring home the message that cycling is a fun, liberating and environmentally sound to see celebs cycling around.
WoBSoCal: What was the most surprising discovery you made while compiling the images for your book?
Steven Rea: I’ve been surprised many times over by some rare and wonderful shots (two examples: the Lauren Bacall and Olivia de Havilland images in the book). And I’ve just been surprised by the sheer number of photos that are out there – it’s like the Expanding Universe theory: the more you look, the more there are!
WoBSoCal: You have been an avid bicyclist for quite some time, how's the current bike culture in Philadelphia?
WobSoCal: The bike culture in Philly is thriving. We have a great advocacy group, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia; there are more and more bike lanes being put in, and more and more people riding. Since there’s a large college-going population here (Drexel, Penn, Temple, University of the Arts and Philadelphia Community College all close in to Center City), we have a lot of students on bikes, but there are also commuters, families, professionals, retirees, etc. It’s also very easy to get from the heart of the city to river paths and parks, and topographically we’re pretty flat, which is also conducive to cycling. I say this in the book, but there are instances when I’m stopped at a light, and there are a half-dozen or so fellow cyclists alongside, where you almost feel like you’re in Amsterdam, not Philadelphia!
WoBSoCal: On your recent book tour in L.A. did you get a sense that your book's fans are mostly Hollywood memorabilia folk, or bicycle enthusiasts?
Steven Rea: A good equal distribution of both. I gave some talks and did book signings at several great bike shops (Flying Pigeon LA, Helen’s Cycles in Santa Monica, Public Bikes in San Francisco), and at these places the folks were probably a bit more cycling-centric. But who isn’t a movie fan? And lots of people are into the cool fashions on display in the book, too.
WoBSoCal: Do you have any advice for bicycle advocates across the country to interest and engage a much broader audience in the joy and benefits of riding a bike?
Steven Rea: Buy lots of copies of my book and give them out as membership perks! No, just kidding - I think the advocacy groups know what they need to do. But just getting people onto bikes, so they can experience the pleasures and practicality of cycling is a huge first step. And encouraging education programs, so that drivers and pedestrians and cyclists can all get along safely, and amicably.
To view more stunning images from Steven's book please click here.
About Steven Rea
Writes about movies for the Philadelphia Inquirer. He is a member of the National Society of Film Critics, and he teaches film studies courses at Drexel University. He also rides a bike. To order a copy of Hollywood Rides a Bike click here.