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Hollywood calls for Sherrard VW bus

Diane Cebula

Georgia Fordham of Sherrard stands on her lawn with her Volkswagen Bus collection behind her. From left are Hollywood (Holly for short), Jade and Lizzy. Ms. Fordham is a member of the Buskatiers, a national group of VW Bus enthusiasts, and her Holly recently landed a role in an upcoming Steve Martin movie.

By David Heitz, staff writer

Something about the Volkswagen Bus makes people smile.

Georgia Fordham of Sherrard said a huge grin rolled across her face when 20th Century Fox called two weeks ago and offered her $1,000 in exchange for the use of one of her VW Buses in a Steve Martin flick.

The studio found Ms. Fordham's shocking-orange-and-blinding-white Bus through Cars in America, an Internet-based business that specializes in matching classic-car owners with moviemakers.

``All of this is pretty exciting for a small-town girl,'' said Ms. Fordham, a 1983 Rock Island High School graduate who lives in Sherrard. ``It has been stressful, as well as unbelievable.''

The movie, ``Cheaper by the Dozen,'' is scheduled to open Dec. 25. It stars Mr. Martin as a successful small-town football coach who gets an offer to lead a Big Ten team.

Filmmakers kept Ms. Fordham's Bus on their Chicago set from June 22 to June 25. ``I was worried the whole time she was in Chicago,'' Ms. Fordham said. ``I never let anyone drive my vehicles.''

The tale of how she came to own her 1973 bus, which she named Hollywood, is a long story about a little-known group called the Buskatiers. The Buskatiers is a federation of folks (or ``Volks,'' if you will) who have a romance going with the VW Bus, the unofficial vehicle of the free spirit.

Ms. Fordham always has had a thing for Volkswagens. When she turned 16, her parents presented her with keys to a 1973 Thing, a short-lived model that resembled a neon moon buggy. Hers was orange, and she named it O.J.

Years later, she replaced O.J. with another Thing and continued her love affair with the German automakerís products. When the information highway made it possible for even the owners of broken-down Bugs to find each other, VW owners began to form groups.

Enter the Buskatiers, a group that showed Ms. Fordham a good time last Labor Day weekend at an event in Missouri's Ozark Mountains called BNNTA -- Buses No Near the Arch.

Although she had a Thing, Miss Fordham needed a VW Bus to become a Buskatier. So a few months ago, she bought Hollywood, or Holly for short. ``Buses are awesome,'' she said. ``They're roomy, better on the highway than the smaller VWs, and you can camp in them.''

And ownership means you get to be a Buskatier.

Just last week, fellow Buskatier Gerland Livingston, a Houston man, made a ``Bus'' stop at Ms. Fordham's house.

As part of a complicated Bus trafficking deal, he came to the Quad-Cities to pick up a vehicle purchased from another Buskatier in Michigan. That Buskatier delivered a 1970-something model equipped with a stove and fridge to Ms. Fordham's house, and Mr. Livingston took it from there.

He planned to drive the Bus, named ``Melvin,'' back to Texas. As if Melvin, a rickety yellow paint-splattered Bus, hasn't covered enough ground already.

Melvin sports plenty of souvenirs from his umpteen previous owners.

A Haight-Asbury sticker advertises San Francisco's hippie district. Another sun-faded decal looks like a Pepsi logo, but a closer inspection reveals that ``Peace'' has been superimposed over the familiar red-white-and-blue trademark. Various images of dancing, technicolor turtles dot Melvin, and plastered across the rear window is an advertisement for the Grateful Dead.

On his way back to Texas with Melvin, Mr. Livingston planned to stay with some fellow Buskatiers in Omaha. He also planned to stop in Kansas to deliver some specially made curtain rods to a Buskatier who wants some privacy on his Bus.

It's sure to be a long, strange trip.

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