FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) --The death of "Blackie" Gejeian has many locals grateful they were able to spend some time with the hot rod icon over the years. Gejeian died on Friday at the age of 90.
For 51 years, Fresno Autorama had car enthusiasts wondering, "what will Blackie bring this time?" The show featured shiny hot rods, motorcycles and Hollywood vehicles.
The only way to show your car was to earn a personal invitation from Mike "Blackie" Gejeian.
"There's more magazine cover cars right here than any show across the United States," Gejeian said in 2001. "There isn't one replacement, not one car that was here last year."
Gejeian started Autorama back in 1958. He was born in Easton and was an avid dirt track racer and Blackie called his 1929 Ford hot rod "shishkabob" because it was lifted to show off the chrome undercarriage.
Over the years, Gejeian inspired many people like Paul Hinkle of Clovis. Paul just returned from a car show in Cambria where his rebuilt 1948 Thames Panel Truck won first in class.
"You didn't have to pick his brain," he said. "He just told you. Blackie would tell you things on what he thought to do."
Garland Sharp was fortunate to earn three different entries into Autorama. He said Gejeian attended just about every single car show around the country and abroad.
"He was an inspiration to all the hot rodders," he said. "What was ironic was he was at Pleasanton last weekend. The last weekend of his life he was at a car show so that's how devoted he was."
Carol and Joe Cusamono helped care for their good friend Gejeian the past seven years. They took him to many car shows during their time together.
"His late 70s and 80s, he didn't have to wear glasses and it was amazing the things that he could see just looking at a car," Joe said. "He'd say, 'Do you see that little thing right there?'"
Blackie was extremely close to the late George Barris who was responsible for many Hollywood cars
"George Barris would not have built the Batmobile had it not been for the encouragement of Blackie because there had been a huge fire at the Barris shot," Carol explained.
The Big Fresno Fair celebrated Gejeian's 90th birthday by displaying his likeness at the fair museum. Services for Gejeian have not yet been finalized.