Friday, December 22, 2017

Spade Racing Films 6 for 6: An Offseason Documentary Series--Don’t Turn Out That Light: The Last Man at MLC

(Open on a wide-shot of an aging Detroit-area office building at sundown.  The building has a large “RENT/LEASE” sign plastered over what appears to be a 90’s era Chevrolet logo.  As the narration begins, the camera very slowly zooms in onto the only window of the building with the lights on in it)

Narrator: “There’s an old saying—‘Last man out, turn off the lights’.  Well, truth is that in some cases, there’s reasons—usually of the legal variety—when one man has to stay.”

(Switch to an interior of the office building.  Dusty cardboard stand-ups of Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are piled against a wall in an otherwise unused conference room.  Another switch, to a rust-covered bathroom with a 90’s era Detroit Lions decal on a stall.  Finally, another switch to an office door, with lights on the other side.  We enter, to see a late-middle-aged man working at his desk.)

Narrator: “This is the office of Allen Cathy.  From 1999 until 2009, he helped run GM’s Chevrolet racing division, pumping millions of dollars into race teams like Richard Childress Racing and Hendrick Motorsports.  In 2009, GM entered a government-backed bankruptcy proceeding.  The profitable assets of General Motors was transferred to a ‘NEW’ GM, while the remaining components were kept in what was now know as Motors Liquidation Company.  The bankruptcy judge decreed that someone had to remain at MLC for legal reasons.  This is his story.”

Allen Cathy: “Hi—I’m Allen Cathy, executive director at Motors Liquidation Company, formerly known as General Motors.  Welcome to my world.”

(Title screen ‘Don’t Turn Out That Light: The Last Man at MLC’ appears across a late-90’s-era CRT computer monitor)

(Scene is set in an “interview corner” of Cathy’s office—there’s a framed autographed picture of Dale Earnhardt Sr. on the wall, as well as a random IndyCar diecast car on a small pedestal.)

Cathy: “Well, we did a lot here back when it was the old GM.  We won races, won championships, even established a dynasty with Jeff Gordon.  Not a lot of people know this, but I was one of the first people to suggest hiring Jeff to drive for us.  Back then Ford has all THEIR eggs in the Robby Gordon basket.  Nice to see how that’s turned out for THEM.”

Narrator: (as we see Cathy thumbing through filing cabinets) “Every weekday for the past nine years, minus vacations, Allen Cathy has come in to work at 9am, leaving at 5pm.  He’s the sole employee of this company, one that once employed hundreds of thousands around the world.”

Cathy: (interview corner) “The idea to bring in the Looney Tunes characters, that was all me—the bigwigs had their hearts set on Felix the Cat for some reason, but I convinced them that Dale Earnhardt (Sr.) transforming into the Tasmanian Devil was money in the bank.”

Narrator: (as Cathy eats a small lunch at his desk) “Its often been said that history cannot be bought, sold, or faked.  In that sense, the nearly-century-long history of Chevrolet is not embodied in the company based in the Renaissance Center down the road—its embodied here, by a man who maintains a job that consists almost entirely of archiving files and answering the phone calls of asbestos litigants.”

Cathy: (interview corner) “Nobody knew who Jimmie Johnson was until I put him in front of Rick Hendrick.  That kid was raw—anybody who saw him race for Herzog-Jackson in the Busch (now Xfinity) Series would know that.  But that’s what the sport needed at the time, not some polished pretty-boy who’d spend time every morning manicuring their facial hair.”

Narrator: (as Cathy adjusts a clock on the wall) “‘What’s good for GM is good for the country’, the old idiom supposedly went, but ironically the success of ‘NEW’ GM has pushed the legacy of MLC further from the minds of the public.”

Cathy: (interview corner) “So in 2009 I got reassigned to this place.  I still don’t know why I was moved off of the motorsports division, but one rumor I heard was because I took too much credit for everything, which is funny because I invented telling people that they did that.”

Narrator: (as Cathy sits idly at his desk) “As you watch Kyle Larson competing for another win.  As you drive by a Cadillac dealership on your way home.  As you see a Buick commercial and wonder how the heck they stuck around.  Remember that this all is from a company less than a decade old.  And that 101 years of success, history, and legacy is maintained here, in this office, by Allen Cathy.”

(Fade out over the office building as the single light remains on)