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Pat Tillman’s football, military career transformed into automotive art

Updated November 11, 2017 - 11:25 pm

It was the next-to-last day at the Specialty Equipment Market Association show, where a restored 1968 Impala convertible was spotted among the Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Babies parked in front of the north hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center. The author Tom Wolfe would have loved the scene.

This was no ordinary Chevy ragtop. It once belonged to Pat Tillman, the former Arizona State Sun Devil. It was the one he partied in with former teammate Zack Walz of Dartmouth when they were rookies with the Arizona Cardinals.

It looks different now.

The convertible roof, once sawed off to accommodate giant speakers and more Arizona sunshine, has been reattached. Much more conspicuous is a mural that has been airbrushed onto the hood and trunk and quarter panels and every other surface inch of Pat Tillman’s former cruising vessel.

The man with the airbrush was a former Las Vegan named Mickey Harris, who now lives in the little South Dakota town of Menno, population 608.

“It’s an amazing piece for an amazing hero,” Harris said of the muscle car that belonged to Cpl. Pat Tillman, 2nd Ranger Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment, who gave up a promising NFL career after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to enlist in the Army.

Pat Tillman received a posthumous Silver Star and Purple Heart after being killed in the mountains of Afghanistan in 2004 while serving his country. He was 27.

Mickey Harris spent eight hours a day for two months airbrushing Pat Tillman’s life story onto his party car restored by a veterans advocate from Texas named Ronnie Rains. The Impala will go on tour and be sold at auction in 2019, to raise money for Pat Tillman’s foundation.

“Wow,” was all a young woman wearing a gray blouse and black tights said almost to herself as she perused the convertible, paying respect to Pat Tillman, amazing hero, and Mickey Harris, amazing airbrush artist.

There were many more Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Babies to see. But none quite like this one.

Las Vegas Rock City

The runners aren’t the only ones pleased that Sunday’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon will go on as scheduled after the Route 91 Harvest festival mass shootings on the Strip. The musicians who put the rock ‘n’ roll in the marathon also have their Vegas Strong on.

“You cannot hide from crazy, you do not give in to fear,” said Jason Lee Beckwith, whose band, KISSED Alive, will provide heavy metal tribute band thunder for participants numbering in the tens of thousands. “When (the marathon committee) reached back out to us, we didn’t have to think twice.”

This will be the sixth year KISSED Alive has performed at the marathon, and it was touch-and-go whether Beckwith would even make it — the 47-year-old suffered his third heart attack, this one on stage, in August. He joked about it, saying his first request was for his makeup wipes so he didn’t have to ride in the ambulance looking like KISS drummer Peter Criss.


■ David Schoen’s piece on the “Vegas Flu” in Friday’s Review-Journal — about visiting NHL teams losing to the Knights due in at least small part to “staying up an extra half hour because you’re playing cards,” as defenseman Nate Schmidt put it — must have reminded old Pacific Coast League ballplayers about the “Pineapple and Hula Skirt Virus” when Hawaii was in the league. To limit expenses, teams would travel to paradise for a six-game series. There was an off day before and two off days after and usually a four-game series in Tacoma back on the mainland to offset the baseball bacchanal.

■ To those who emailed to complain about vandals sneaking onto UNLV’s basketball court and drawing upon it a silhouette of the Strip skyline: It’s not vandalism. It’s art. You’ll (probably) get used to it.

■ Forget about all the tea: There’s so much happening in China this past week that Jimmer Fredette and Stephon Marbury got into a shoving match during a basketball game in Shanghai with a giant inflatable shark floating above the court and hardly anybody noticed.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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