If you were a fan of motocross in the 1980s and early ‘90s, then you most certainly have listened to the silky smooth voice of Larry Maiers.
Maiers was not only a long running host on the famous MotoWorld TV show, but he also produced voice overs for many of the televised races during this same era. This is during the period when “Camel Supercross” was the common reference and televised races meant setting your VHS to record at 2 a.m., hoping and praying that your programing skills worked and you actually caught the race. If it did, Larry provided the voice to all the action.
Well fast forward to 2019. Camel is long gone, Jeff Stanton has been retired for nearly 25 years, but the voice of Larry Myers is still flowing, albeit on a rare one-off performance. It was the 50th anniversary of Unadilla, and event promoters Greg and Jill Robinson had hired Maiers to assist with the race calls, and just for old times sake. We caught up with Larry at the race.
Racer X: Larry Maiers and Unadilla. That goes together pretty well. When was the last time you were in the booth?
Larry Maiers: Well now wait a minute, you agreed to not ask me anything technical, and I have no idea when I last called a race here. I don’t even know when I first called a race here! I’m sorry. I don’t know the answer to that! Next question!
[Laughs] Well, we are off to a good start….what are you up to now?
Me? I’m just an old, retired guy. I do a little fishing now and then. My son has a couple of restaurants out on Kelly’s Island in Ohio. I go out and visit him once in a while. We live in a trailer in the summer that overlooks Lake Erie. Then when it gets cold in the winter we go back to our condo in Ohio. So not an awful lot going on, if anything. Just whatever comes along and sounds good and being retired offers us.
Your presence calling the races in the ‘80s and ‘90s shaped several generations of motocross fans. Give us a quick rundown on your career on television and how you got started.
There you go with those technical questions again! I was president of Penton Imports, the motorcycle company. As part of my job I became acquainted with most of the riders and the promoters on the circuit. We delivered our products out to the races on the weekends. One day, I picked up the PA system and started calling races live. Well, this evolved and often we would exchange my services for—not a monetary situation, but for the name Hi Point (the company name) being included in the mark of the race. They would put their paper down and say, “Presented by Hi Point,” which was a brand that we owned. That was my pay. I was at the races every weekend and I figured why not!
How did that lead to the TV gig?
Well, the announcing led to someone coming up to me one day and saying, “I’m going to start a TV show for motorcycles. Would you like to be on it?” That person was the famous Lou Seals. I said, “Sure,” thinking I’d never see the guy again. But lo and behold, he did call me back and we did start a show called MotoWorld. I did that for several years. Then ESPN got involved and I was not a heavy enough hitter for ESPN so Dave Despain moved in. I left and we started a new show called Bike Week. I did that for a fellow named Chet Burkes Productions up in Atlanta, Georgia. You want to know the years? They weren’t important to me at that time and they aren’t now. I never bothered to write them down and couldn’t tell year what year they were!
So you wore multiple hats back then—you’d come and work at the races on the weekends and then during the week you worked for Hi Point and Penton?
Yes. That’s just the way it worked. Then all of a sudden, the racing and the TV business, it just kind of grew together and I was not spending as much time at Hi Point, or Penton, Hi Point was the actual company, as I should have been. That was my primary function. I had to make a decision. I thought that probably if I kept going with television that I would be the next Johnny Carson. So I said, hell, I’ll take a crack at the TV and let the real job go. I had to leave Penton and became a full-time TV guy. It was a lot of research and a lot of that kind of thing where you needed to know what was going on and who was there and what races did you want to go to. So I was pretty busy during the week doing that. Other than that, I kind of sat around with my feet on my desk waiting for the weekends to come!
What’s your favorite Unadilla story?
Well, I guess there are a couple of them. Bevo Forte, a man that this publication would certainly know everything about, once threw a—he called it a half-stick of dynamite, but I think it was just a great, big M80 firecracker—under my motorhome. I think his goal was to wake me up. It was about 2:00 in the morning out on the hill. But in reality, all he did was split the holding tank on my RV. So all that nasty stuff came gushing out, and it stunk up the camping area for the whole weekend. That was a funny story—but it wasn’t funny to me at the time. What else—well, what we now call Gravity Cavity, two guys showed up to race. They were named Danny McGoo Chandler, and the other was Pat Moroney, a fellow who was sort of a local. McGoo stayed at Pat’s house this particular week, and the two of them went out to practice together. One of them would dive off into the cavity and do something with his motorcycle in the air that was quite spectacular, and the other one would have to beat it the next time around. Well, on the last lap they went off the Gravity Cavity top together. One on the left, one on the right. One of them flipped his bike out to the left and the other one flipped his bike out to the right, and they fell down that Gravity Cavity and they reached out and slapped hands. That was the most spectacular thing I’d ever seen on a motorcycle at the time. The crowd that had gotten together to watch just were silent totally. When they did that, everyone shut up. Then about two seconds later, it hit the roof. They just erupted. So, pretty spectacular, and just a goof ball moment.
Wait—what about the old “Dead fish in the jacket” story that Bevo always tells and involves your motorhome?
That’s a long story.
I think I’ve heard it five times, but Bevo always changes it.
So Bevo, myself, and [Bob] Hannah went fishing down in Florida one day. Bob was dating a Honda dealer’s daughter back then. Bevo, myself, and Bob went fishing with the man and his daughter. I caught one fish. It was about an inch and a half long and just a weak little thing. So we decided that fishing was not for us, and we left. In the meantime, someone had gotten cold. It was Hannah’s girlfriend, and she was shivering. I took off my Hi Point sweatshirt that I had on with the pocket in front, and she put that on. So I guess it was about two days later, I am sitting in my motorhome. We’re at Daytona by now. There’s a terrible odor. Just really horrible. John Penton was with me at the time. John says, “You know, I promised these guys I wouldn’t tell, but the fact is I can’t stand that odor so I’m going to tell. Hannah put that dead fish in the pocket of that sweatshirt that you gave his girlfriend.” You wouldn’t think a fish that was an inch and a half long could stink that much, but it did. So I went and found the sweatshirt in the closet and threw it away. But before I threw it out, I got the fish out of the pocket. About an hour later, Hannah, Bevo, and Keith McCarty, they all came by and they wanted to know if anything was abnormal about what was going on. They just kept leading up to this. I kept saying, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. No.” Pretty soon Hannah said, “Where’s that sweatshirt that you let her wear?” I said, “Oh, I left that in her dad’s cottage.” He said, “No, you didn’t.” I said, “I certainly did.” He said, “Oh, my God. I left a fish in your pocket.” He drove all the way back to that cottage because he thought that I left that fish where her dad would have to smell it. He didn’t want to get on the dad’s bad side! Of course it wasn’t there. So that’s one of the few times I got one over on Hannah.
How did it feel to be back at Unadilla?
It feels good. I came back here with no preconceived notions. I don’t know any of the riders anymore, but there are enough old people running around the racetrack that have been coming here for years, and enough people that are working here, and enough of the TV crew is still around that I worked with, that I was recognized and I had someone to talk to with. It was just a pleasure to reminisce and be part of this 50th anniversary at Unadilla. It’s a great family, the Robinsons. They just wonderfully put this thing together. I think everyone here is just having a great time.