I saw a photograph of a Ferrari 288GTO the other day and it made me think of Tom Meade and before I launch into my story about Tom, I feel it incumbent upon me to denounce the habit of naming contemporary Ferraris after glorious models from the past--Tour de France, Lusso, GTO--for it only serves as a reminder that those glory days are well and truly behind us and highlights the fact that none of the sublime aspects of these cars found their way into their modern-day namesakes. Nothing wrong with a 288GTO but it didn't win the GT championship three years in a row--or even once--and I'd have more respect for it had they named it a Barracuda or a Dart or a Metropolitan--at least the buyer of the present-day model would know that his or her purchase was superior to the namesake original. Try finding even a trace of the original Lusso's elegance in any part of the current 'Lusso' and your search will be endless and futile.
To say that Tom Meade was his own man is to indulge in understatement of monumental proportion. To write that he knew some interesting people would be damning with faint praise. I nicknamed him 'Ferrari's Rasputin' which more or less captures all of Tom's qualities, in my view.
I met Tom in the 70s and where ever he was, he seemed to be traveling out of a suitcase. He gave the impression of living like a homeless person albeit one with a garage full of exotic Ferraris half of which he designed and built himself using donor Ferrari chassis and engines. He kept company with some of the most beautiful women in the world--he once told me that Julianne Moore had been a flatmate of his in Italy when she was modelling under another name--and he and I frequented Milano's Nepenthe immersed in and surrounded by gorgeous models from around the world at catalogue time. As important as this aspect of life might have been, Tom never let it impose on what was really vital--his cars in general and the Thomassima cars specifically.
Those who follow along know that I originated Elysée Wednesday after Tom suffered a stroke and I'd take him to dinner to get him out of his dreadful room in one of the older buildings at the VA Center on the north side of Wilshire. I'd take him to his favorite Chinese restaurant in Santa Monica after which we'd hang out and have dessert at one of the sidewalk tables at the Elysée Bakery in Westwood--anything to delay a return to the depressing environment of his hospital room.
I added a bit of casting to those evenings as I was preparing to do a French version of (Interview) and French actors and actresses would stop by to say hello and discuss the show. At the same time, Ferrari pals began appearing and these evening gatherings grew and lasted for a number of years until I left Los Angeles.
After Tom was released from the VA, I would pick him up at his Westwood apartment, formerly his mother's until she passed, and I'll just say Tom was the sort of fellow who brought his work home with him--in abundance. The place looked like I would imagine the storage room at Sal DiNatale's shop if Sal had a storage room. Where one might expect to find condiments, food stuffs and even a well-stocked wine rack, there were spark plugs, taillight bulbs and pieces off of things only Tom would recognize. Clutter would be a fair description except for the fact that it doesn't begin to do justice to the scene. Tom favored low-key lighting and it took awhile for the eyes to adapt to the dark and, often as not, I was picking him up to go to Elysée Wednesday and was therefore in and out before I could actually begin to see the furnishings.
It was on one of those occasions that I was waiting for Tom to finish a phone call before we could be on our way that my eyes could start to see into the Rembrandt shadows of his front room and what looked like the body of a Ferrari 288GTO seemed to appear out of nowhere.
"What is that?" I asked.
"It's a body for a 288GTO," Tom replied as though every living room had one.
It is the sort of casual reply one might expect from a man who once had Julianne Moore as a flat mate, received compliments from Enzo Ferrari about his car designs and had a garage lock-up with at least $30M or more worth of cars in it.
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