Kathy Kroll: upstaged/offstaged by the AMC Pacer

Has an AMC Pacer ever tried to kill you? Were you ever hired for the sole purpose of dodging its rounded corners at the last second before its moon rover body plowed over you? Kathy Kroll has, and she lived to tell the story.

Kathy was one of the dancers in a 1975 Pacer TV commercial. The 30-second spot was one of many that American Motors made to introduce the Pacer to the public before its official launch on March 1, 1975.

When Kathy first contacted Gone Autos about the commercial, I was floored. It's really rare to actually communicate with onscreen talent from these commercials. They're usually fast productions. Made fast. Shown for a few months. Then gone. And did I mention that this spot is now 37 years old?

But Kathy didn't come to me directly. She started her search for this spot through Jeni Panhorst's AMCPacer web site. Jeni contacted me and helped with the introductions. Then I promised Kathy a copy of the spot in exchange for all her behind-the-scenes stories.

Kathy agreed to tell me everything she could remember about sharing the stage with an AMC Pacer. (Actually, that's not correct. Watch the spot first. You'll learn that the Pacer doesn't share a stage with ANYONE!)

Here's the Gone Autos interview with dancer Kathy Kroll:

GONE AUTOS: Kathy, how did you get cast for this spot?

KATHY KROLL: My commercial agency sent me to the interview/audition.

GA: How long did it take to film the spot?

KK: It took two days. The first day we learned the routine, which only took a couple of hours. The second day we shot the commercial. That took about 10 or 12 hours.

GA: Who choreographed the dance sequence?

KK: Her name was Lee Theodore. She was a famous choreographer. (She played the original Anybodys, the tom boy Jets gang member in the first Broadway production of "West Side Story.")

GA: No film shoot goes perfectly. Did anything unexpected happen?

KK: For the dancers, yes. Every time the Pacer came down the white ramp, it left black tire tracks. (The air in the tires was deliberately low, by the way.) In between every take, the crew would come in and repaint the ramp. We would have to wait for it to dry. Then we would get stuck dancing and turning in each new coat of damp paint!

GA: There are a lot dancers in that spot. Which one are you?

KK: I'm the first one to jump into the guy's arms on the left when the car starts coming down the ramp. My hair is up in the top hat. I lead the line up the ramp, and then I'm the second from the top on the left. In one of the takes, I remember almost breaking the guy's jaw jumping into his arms.

GA: You probably filmed endless versions of jumping off that ramp. Did any of the dancers miss their cues and get bumped off by the Pacer?

KK: Endless takes, yes. Nobody got bumped that I can remember, but we had to be careful. A stunt driver was driving the car down the ramp. I can't remember his name, but he was in a lot of movies.

GA: Tell us about the star of the show. What was it like working with the Pacer?

KK: The Pacer was a diva and was treated better than the performers! (LOL!)

GA: The Pacer was a radical-looking car for its time. What did you think of it when you first saw it?

KK: I thought it looked like a pregnant Porsche!

GA: Do you remember when you did this commercial?

KK: I know that the Pacer hadn't come out yet when we shot the commercial sometime in '75, so it must have been early in the year.

GA: When was the first time you saw the spot and how did you feel?

KK: I first saw the commercial on TV just like everyone else did. It was a lot of fun! It was campy. It was definitely a different time and place.

GA: Kathy, thanks for sharing your memories with Gone Autos.

KK: My pleasure!

Kathy Kroll today with her husband, character actor Lee Paul

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