The Story Behind the Car Kabob Featured in ‘Wayne’s World’
Remember the car kabob immortalized in the movie "Wayne's World"? It shows up at the very beginning of the film when they're singing Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody". Well, it was a very real sculpture in a shopping center parking lot more or less near my home in the west suburbs of Chicago and it wasn't universally loved. However, 14 years after its demolition, you can see an homage to the sculpture nearby on Route 66.
The car kabob, or "Spindle" as artist Dustin Shuler named it, was a 50-foot spike with eight old cars impaled on it kind of like a desk spindle. It was installed in the parking lot at Cermak Plaza in Berwyn, Illinois in 1989 and lasted until 2008 at Cermak Road and Harlem Avenue. This is according to Wikipedia.
The Wikipedia entry continues, that many in the Berwyn area weren't fans of the pop art, although the shopping center's owner, David Bermant, also a modern art collector donated a vehicle for "Spindle" and said the shopping center received 30% more business than comparable shopping centers due to the installation.
"Spindle" came down for a new Walgreens in the shopping center's parking lot during redevelopment in 2008. Yet parts of the installation lived on in other places. The Berwyn Route 66 Museum took possession of two cars from "Spindle" in hopes of erecting a new modified "Spindle" in the museum parking lot, and there's a model of the sculpture at Stratford Square Mall in Bloomingdale, another Chicago suburb.
Yet the residents of Berwyn can't escape the legacy of "Spindle". According to WBBM radio via MSN.com, Pete Garmen has recreated the famous car kabob sculpture at Paisans Pizza on Ogden Avenue in Berwyn, which is part of Route 66. It's a much smaller version, at only 23 feet high, and uses fiberglass go-carts to represent the cars.
The new art installation, along with a new Muffler Man roadside attraction down the street was paid for with a grant from Illinois ahead of Route 66's 100th anniversary in 2026 according to the radio station. I would assume, in the hope of drawing tourists to check out the part of Route 66 in the Chicago suburbs.
What actually tickled me the most about the opening of Wayne's World, was actually knowing some of the areas they filmed while the gang was headbanging to "Bohemian Rhapsody". The cigar store Indian they passed on the drive. My best buddy in high school lived in that neighborhood. Wayne's admiration of the Fender strat at the music store, I did something similar numerous times. Latenight burgers at White Castle? A few times, definitely. Finally, there was "Spindle" at the shopping center.
I was surprised to learn that "Spindle" was erected in 1989. If you had asked me, I would have told you it was always there until they tore it down. Of course, when I was cruising around the area with my friends, it was before "Wayne's World". So there wasn't any real curiosity to check the sculpture out. There were cooler things to do in the area, like checking out the abandoned mall they filmed the mall chase for "The Blues Brothers" in, or heading into the forest preserve to see where they originally buried the world's first nuclear reactor.
So is it worth checking out Route 66 in Berwyn, Illinois? Maybe. Although, be forewarned it's a suburb of Chicago and still a very thriving part of Chicagoland. If you're looking for that nostalgia trip on Route 66, there are other parts of the road better suited for that.
If you're visiting Chicago, the Route 66 Association Hall of Fame & Museum is worth checking out for the nostalgia and the photo op. There are also some great eats near there at Dell Rhea's Chicken Basket and White Fence Farm, both fried chicken places, which do a nice job of throwing you back to the past. Plus, you can get what some call the best hot dog in the United States at Gene and Jude's. Not to mention you can check out the homage to the car kabob over a pizza at Paisans.
Just don't go looking for the car kabob at Harlem and Cermak, it's now a Walgreens, and that whole area isn't half as cool as it was when I was growing up or when they filmed "Wayne's World". Then again, maybe it was just cool to be a teenager out with your best friends driving around, playing music, and not having a care in the world.