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'On Any Sunday' 40 Years Later In Lake Elsinore

On the eve of this weekend’s Lake Elsinore Grand Prix and the 40th anniversary of “On Any Sunday,” legendary film maker Bruce Brown speaks to Patch.

For some local motorcycle racing enthusiasts, 1971 was a vintage year in Lake Elsinore.

Forty years ago, the iconic documentary film “On Any Sunday” was shot on location here. It chronicled motorcycle racing and the , both of which were still in their infancy.

Filmed and directed by then 33-year-old Bruce Brown, and financed by his friend and legendary screen actor Steve McQueen, Oscar-nominated “On Any Sunday” left a lasting impression on the city and millions of moviegoers.

On the eve of this weekend’s Lake Elsinore Grand Prix and the 40th anniversary of “On Any Sunday,” Brown spoke to Patch by phone.

He said the idea to make “On Any Sunday” was his. He had a series of documentary surf films under his belt that culminated with the classic “The Endless Summer” (1966). But he wanted to do something on motorcycle racing, a sport he participated in, so he consulted with fellow rider McQueen.

“I talked to Steve and he decided he wanted to ride in it (the Lake Elsinore Grand Prix),” Brown recalled. “He was so supportive.”

Making the movie was uncomplicated by today’s film making standards. There weren't any special permits required by the city or county.

“I don’t think we talked to anyone,” Brown remembered.

When he arrived in Lake Elsinore, “underwhelmed” might be a good description of his initial impression.

“The whole area was sort of depressed,” he said. “It was a sleepy little town -- it wasn’t a resort town. The water was about a foot deep. It looked like a lost lake.”

By contrast, this year’s race had to be rerouted because the lake level is so high.

But Brown said the focal point of the film wasn't about the city, the lake or any of the other locations.

“We were focused on the racing,” he explained.

The year after Brown made “On Any Sunday,” he returned to Lake Elsinore to ride the Grand Prix.

“I had such a good time filming it, I decided to ride in it.”

The 1972 event attracted about 250,000 people, many no doubt inspired by their movie-going experience.

Brown said he’s proud of his film’s impact.

“Back then, it was much maligned,” he said of motorcycle riding. “People looked at it as a bunch of losers … Hell’s Angels. (The film) gave the sport dignity."

Brown is now 73 and lives in Gaviota on California’s Central Coast. He’s retired, but has helped his son and grandson in their film endeavors.

Brown was a surfer and a motorcycle rider back in 1971, and he still does both today.

“I just don’t go as fast,” he said.

Lake Elsinore Mayor Pro Tem Bob Magee remembers watching “On Any Sunday” as a kid.

“It was so cool,” he said of the experience.

The movie inspired him to ride, but there was a major roadblock: “Motorcycles weren’t something my parents supported -- at all."

Forty years later, Magee will be in the field at the Lake Elsinore Grand Prix on his old 1995 Honda XR250. He’ll be wearing number 41.

It won’t be Magee’s first Grand Prix showing. He “participated” in the 2009 race.

“I can’t say I compete, I participate,” he said, explaining that he’s just looking to finish this year without breaking any bones. If he’s feeling up to it, Magee will also be in the lineup for a buggy race this weekend.

Unlike his parents, Magee introduced his son to riding. In 2004, his then-teenager placed seventh overall in the Lake Elsinore Grand Prix.

Magee said the event and racing are good family fun.

It's a far cry from the “maligned” sport of some 40-plus years ago.

The Lake Elsinore Grand Prix runs Saturday and Sunday. Parking is at The Diamond Stadium. Race times begin at 7:30 a.m. each day. for more info.

Diana November 12, 2011 at 02:18 AM
I wish they would bring it back to the streets and through dowtown, all those years it was such a blast...it's just not the same :( Of course I wish they would bring back the car shows and the street fair too!!
Roberto November 12, 2011 at 02:45 AM
Everyone knows what needs to happen in Elsinore to "Elevate" the town. The problem is the entrenched & uppidy hills naive. All the snake oil salesman who come to town havee destroyed it by pushing the concept that we need their projects or anti-property owner rights. In my opinion, it's them who don't respect our property rights and want to turn a blind eye to compatibility in the interest of high density. They including those corrupted on the dais only want what is good for them and not the community.
Steve M November 12, 2011 at 06:33 PM
"On any Sunday", that movie has some beautiful music with some amazing slow motion stunts.
Roberto November 12, 2011 at 07:49 PM
I remember the Bull Taco and the "http://mkott.hubpages.com/hub/Honda-Elsinore-Dirt-Bike" If we can learn from the past, we will leave a legacy for future generations.
Ken Mayes November 13, 2011 at 02:43 AM
Interesting fact, the elsinore scenes only comprised 7.5 minutes of a 96 minute film. Could not even get their 15 minutes of fame, like every thing else half ass.

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