200 Words with Paul Dini #7 – Cruisin’ With Dr. Teeth – Almost

March 27, 2008

“Now there are two things you’ll need to know about this vehicle,” the seller told me. “First, it’s more than the price originally offered. Twelve hundred dollars more.”

“Damn.” I groaned. “There goes Christmas, but the heart wants.”

“And second, there’s no floor.”

“Like, no floor at all?”

“And no seats, either.”

It was 1979. In my mania to acquire the Electric Mayhem bus from The Muppet Movie as my first car I had forgotten one harsh reality; Dr. Teeth and his band mates were not actually people. What the custom movie car guy told me was true – Jim Henson and his cohorts had gutted the bus interior in order to work the puppets and I’d be buying little more than a colorful shell. And at twelve hundred over my max price, it just didn’t make sense, even to me.

I finally settled on a worthy runner-up, a 1967 Chevelle Malibu, canary yellow, slightly jacked, pristine body, one owner, a dream. It ran perfectly for two months, then the transmission blew as I was changing lanes on the 405. Total repair cost, twelve hundred dollars. I could almost hear the good Doctor laugh: “Oh, yeah!  Now that’s car-ma, man!”


Paul Dini is the Emmy and Eisner Award winning writer of Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, Detective Comics, Countdown among many, many other things. You can find him online at either kingofbreakfast.livejournal.com or http://www.jinglebelle.com/.


  1. First car stories are like assholes, everyone has one and they almost always end the same way, by taking a dump.

  2. My old 1984 Volkswagen Rabbit and it’s 180K miles at the time of purchase and non-matching seats agrees with you.  But it was no muppet car.

  3. I would have went for the bus and called it a work in progress.


    My first car was a 88′ Mazda MX-6 and the only thing that worked right was the radio, which I put in. Every time I tried to get something fixed, whether it was the sunroof, transmition or what ever, I was always quoted at $1100. Needless to say, I drove it into the ground like a good teenager… 

  4. My first car should have been a 94 jetta, but I saved myself 4 grand by getting a 90 civic hatchback. And then it started…leaky gas tank, shot alternator, radiator, some 90 dollar hose, and then the radiator again before I sent it to a scrap yard. I would have been much better off with a floor-less bus filled with lifeless, yet still smiling, muppets.

  5. My first car was an 81 (or 83? – both before the had little letters to determine models) Volvo wagon – my family used it to drive to Maine every summer.  It had so many miles I think the odometer had stopped.

    One day I was driving it and the ENTIRE bottom of the car fell off.  The cars behind me started honking and pointing…like I didn’t know?  C’mon people – I lost the bottom of my car.  Of course I know.  That’s not a quiet operation…plus the carpet got really "squishy" – you know – because there’s NOTHING under it.

    I think I got about $50 for it from some guy that was convinced he was going to get it up and running. 

  6. My first car was a ’94 Mazda Protege. It was also a stick (manual transmission). Long story short, just after learning to drive it but still shaky in reverse, I backed into a brand-new-never-off-the-lot Mazda 626 right in the dealership parking lot in front of all the salesmen and mechanics. Damn was I embarrassed.

     Luckily it only took some paint off my bumper, but unfortunately it took out the front quarter panel of the dealership car. Needless to say my insurance jumped up a bit in cost just a short time after buying my first car.

  7. My first car was my dream car.  It was a 1968 mustang coup.  It was canary yellow.  It had some problems like rusty torq boxes and little to no floor boards on the passenger side and almost 250K miles.  My mother and I rebuilt that car.  Until some asshole rear ended me and that was that.  We tried to restore it again, but it was never quite the same.  Man, I miss that car.  It was much less trouble than my 2002 cougar that I currently dirve. 

  8. I saw Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem perform live at Disney World on New Year’s Eve, y2k.  It was pretty spectacular – the real live band could be seen as shadows behind the curtain.

     My first car was a 91 chevy s10 in seafoam green.  It only caught on fire at 60 miles per hour once…

  9. My first car was an 86 Mitsubishi Montero which may have been the most unaerodynamic vehicle of all time – essentially a box on wheels. It leaked most fluids and the hood flew up on me while traveling in the high-speed lane on 95. Good times.

    A far as I’m concerned, everybody should have a complete shitbox as their first car – it builds character.

  10. I lucked out and inherited a 93 Honda Accord as my first car when I was 17 (back in 2000).  It was not a piece of shit by any means and ran really well for a car with +100k on it.  I then destroyed it in a brutal wreck a month later, and was carless until college, where I purchased a 98 VW Jetta.  That car was great until the window motors broke on three of the doors.  Talk about driving through rain storms where the windows would constantly slide down while driving, and when I left it to sit every night, I would come out in the morning staring at a window half rolled down.  It was annoying and they had to replace it like nine times.  By the eighth motor, other things started to break and before I knew it, it was a piece of shit.  Then, I got rid of it.

    On a side note, my roommate in college drove a manual truck that didn’t have a first gear.  So, he always started the car and drove in second gear and up.  He killed the car at every other stop light, and it died on him on a cold winter night halfway between Peoria and Chicago.  Now, that thing, was a piece of shit.

  11. My first car was PIMP. So pimp, it was stolen the week before my 18th bday. 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlas Cierra, lovingly dubbed Grandpa (mind you it was 14 years old at this point). It was a giant brown box with a plush red velvet interior. The dashboard would shake violently at 60 mph, the back doors didn’t open, and no a/c (which is a human rights violation in San Antonio, Texas summers).

    The great thing about having a crappy car is that no one wants it, not even two bit gang members. I was trying to leave school when I found a smattering of broken glass where my car had been parked. This was the part that pissed me off the most – the idiots had broken the driver’s side window of a car that was unlocked. The next day the car shows up at the city impound. Gone missing in the incident – the radio, a can of de-icer, and a gym bag with my favorite pair of tennis shoes.

    Moral of the story: you can’t get a great car story without losing something in the process (like your patience, money, or favorite tennis shoes).

  12. My first car was a 1974 Fiat Convertible.  It was $1200 and I drove it two years in high school and four years in college.  Then, while turning onto a 1-way street (so why look the other direction?) I ran it under a bus.  It fit quite nicely under the large, high bumper of the public transporting vehicle and it just never recovered.  Didn’t even scratch the bus, but the front end of my prized possession was toast.  It would have cost more than the original purchase price to get it repaired, so I then inherited the 1984 4-door Honda Accord and my coolness level sunk to never be recovered.  Dang, I loved that car….

  13. My first car was an 85 (not sure on the exact year) Jeep Cherokee.  The thing was the worst stick shift I have ever driven, but I loved that car.  A month after having it, I got into an accident and rolled it.  Looking back on what happened to make me roll the car, it would be a normal fender beder with how I would react to it now.

  14. My first car was this beautiful 1976 cherry red Volkswagon bus.  Only problem was I was that I wasn’t able to get my license.  However with today’s gas prices, and the pretty penny it would have cost to keep it in it’s great condition, it was probably never meant to be.

  15. Ah, memory lane!  My first car was an ’84 Ford Bronco.  I bought it when I was 16, and it was a huge truck for little ole me.  The only problem with that car was that every so often the car would stall in traffic and I would have to jump out and wiggle some wires under the hood in order to get it started again.  I used to love to drive around town listening to Warren Zevon or whoever on the 8 track (this was the early to mid 90’s).  I used to have to shop for hours at garage sales to find 8 track cassettes that still worked.