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(This new web interview has not appeared in The Monterey County Herald.)

All Aboard! Doug Lumsden’s Movie Bus

If things had worked out as planned, Doug Lumsden of Monterey, four tourists and I would be sailing over the sights of the Peninsula from the air, nice and low, waving to the tiny pedestrians down under. However, a $250,000 bus was more in Lumsden’s budget than a $1.5 million aircraft.

As it is, we are cruising the streets in a bus painted with the words “Monterey Movie Tours” and scenes depicting lip-locked Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster rolling in the surf.

“They shot that and ran to a blanket,” Lumsden says. “They were freezing.”

Lumsden, 59, an Ed Burns look-alike (remember Cookie on “77 Sunset Strip”?), with dark blonde hair, dark shades covering his eyes, khaki pants and a vest with his company logo, is a born actor and narrator.

He flashes a winning smile as he warns us that by the time the tour is over, we’ll be humming “Theme from a Summer Place” in our sleep. I curse him for this, but dissolve into reveries as scenes from the movie play on one of the dozen or so monitors overhead.

We pass Colton Hall in Monterey, where he stops the very instant Troy Donahue is on the lawn of what is supposed to be a girls’ school, running to greet Sandra Dee. He’s going to spring her from the joint.

Then, clips of Star Trek’s “The Voyage Home” appear as we lumber past the Monterey Bay Aquarium. One of many scintillating factoids, we learn that gullible movie-goers visited the aquarium expecting to see live whales in captivity because that’s what they’d seen on screen.

Nearly 200 films have been shot in Monterey County (as a board member of the Monterey County Film Commission, Lumsden knows this upside down and backwards). Based on this knowledge, and fabulous footage from a number of them, Lumsden gives public and private tours to a busload of oglers daily. Today, however, a bus delivering 20 visitors to him breaks down and never makes it. Thus, we get a royal tour.

As we drive from here to eternity, I gorge on the perfectly timed bits from such movies as “National Velvet” and “Turner and Hooch.” I can’t keep my mouth shut as we pass estates in which I once partied as a social scene writer. Lumsden suggests I should be giving tours myself!

Over shrimp at the Inn at Pebble Beach’s Tap Room, I grill Lumsden. Later, after the 3 ½ hour tour, we continue our conversation in the bar at the Portola Plaza Hotel (he picks up and returns tourists to the Monterey Conference Center). He orders his “usual” iced tea and I have warm chamomile.

Q: What inspired your business?
A: I was in banking for 23 years, a regional manager for a savings and loan. The industry had changed so much that it was sucking the life out of me. I was always a very hard worker; I got there early and stayed late. People said, “You missed your calling; you need to do your own thing.” I was a docent at the aquarium and finally saw how much fun it is to meet and greet people. I thought it would be fun to do (start a tour business) for a tremendous change of pace . . . I was going to do a scenic flight. I’m a pilot. I knew how to put together a business and marketing plan, but the numbers couldn’t fit. I was going to have to have a partner. No matter how much you want to do something, there’s a day of reckoning. I went to my CPA and the numbers wouldn’t pan out. I’ll never forget the day: I was sitting at The Creamery in Del Monte Center having dinner, and I said, “It ain’t gonna work. Put it to bed.” The next day, I got to thinking of a multi-media bus tour of Monterey. I wanted high-tech - not just a regular bus tour.

Q: Who were your yay and naysayers?
A: I’m very lucky because most of my friends were supportive. I’m really lucky today because there aren’t a lot of really encouraging people in this world. But some people in the industry would say, “Oh, people have tried that before and failed. Good luck!”

Q: How did you create your niche and how was it challenging?
A: Most people who come have been many, many times before. So, why would they do a scenic tour if they’d been on the 17-Mile-Drive before? It was a challenge getting people on board, and a challenge getting people in the industry excited about what we offer . . . We are, virtually, the only daily scenic tour operator on the Peninsula. I began giving tours in ‘99 and switched to movie tours in 2003 after the film commission asked me to do a one-time tour only for the 30th anniversary of Clint Eastwood’s “Play Misty for Me” movie, filmed entirely on the Monterey Peninsula in 1971. It was also the first movie Clint directed. We saw how much fun that was for people so we developed a tour that included many of the scenes from films shot on the Monterey Peninsula.

Q: What inspires you to carry on?
A: A couple things: you find out you have to believe in yourself; and you have to have a passion for it that is huge. And the third thing is: you cannot give up easily when obstacles get in the way of your dream. You have to find a way to hurdle over them or go around them. My problem, as with other entrepreneurs, is I enjoy doing the tour so much that it’s difficult for me to let go and hire other people so that I can build the business. I will always be doing the tour to some extent, because it’s my baby, but not on a daily basis. I’ll be training another narrator to do the tour and eventually getting another bus.

Q: When do tourists get on your nerves?
A: When they make a mess of the bus and do things they should not do. Rule one is not to bring lasagna on board (candy is OK). But, sure enough, someone will smuggle something on and the smell of garlic fills the bus. It disrupts. Also when they don’t put their cell phones on vibrate.

Q: What dreams have you yet to realize?
A: I’ve been focusing so much on this dream . . . I think it would be fun to start a scenic flight part of the tour. That’s the idea that I started with.

See photos and additional feature stories at the Web Site www.montereymovietours.com and call 800-343-6437 and locally, 831-372-6278.
 

 

 

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