All is vanity

Published 8:00 am Friday, February 24, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Claude Hamrick, a retired Silicon Valley patent attorney who amassed a small fortune during the glittering days of the tech boom, is the proud owner of a vanity car tag that read ‘CASH,’ which, I suppose, let the world know of his wealth. According to The Monterey Herald, Hamrick has stated that for 50 years, he wouldn’t consider selling his tag—something that is indeed legal and transferable in California, ever since vanity plates began around 1970.


Now, at age 83, Hamrick has said he’ll sell it for—wait for it—$2 million bucks.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox


Who has that kind of money for a stupid car tag? And secondly, in this era of carjacking, who exactly wants to flaunt their assets as they drive a glitzy vehicle?


I’ve never felt the desire for a vanity tag although I have both laughed out loud as well as honked with fury at one particularly offensive one during my years in Los Angeles. The offensive one? A mini-van, driven by a man (and, I’m assuming, the husband) who, during lunch hour traffic, braked in front of me to pick up a hooker.


The plate on the van read “4 R Mom.”  


But I did give a grin and a big thumbs up during a gloriously warm and sunny winter’s day as a guy passed me in a late model convertible, “top down, Wayfarers on,” cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway with his framed tag declaring “F Toledo.” Tinged with vulgarity, I know, but, c’mon, who could blame him as snow and ice pounded his stomping grounds.


For years my horses resided in far better zip codes than I, meaning I made the nearly daily commute to Malibu to ride. You can do that when you work at night as a stand-up comic which, it must be said, was the sole reason for my entering that line of work. It was all about having my days free. And these daily trips meant I was sometimes behind celebrities who, I suppose, enjoyed the extra attention of being noticed. It was not uncommon to see Rod Stewart’s pearl white Rolls Royce with the plate which read ( a bit smugly, I thought) 1DAY4U2.


I have seen SIR STUD on, what else, a red Corvette…driven by a man clearly secure with himself, and “EWABUG” on a VW.


But the best plate of all, and I never saw it, only read about it, was one that I had wished I’d thought of as I had racked up hundreds in parking fines all over the city. Particularly on the street cleaning days of Wednesday and Thursday. I had no garage, parked on the street, and if my car wasn’t, as the street sign warned, moved by 7 a.m., I’d pay the consequences. Which I did nearly every week, no matter how resolved I was to get up early and move it to the other side. This fellow was far smarter than I as he brilliantly requested, and was given by the DMV, a plate which stated “NO TAG.” If I remember correctly, he had accrued thousands of dollars in fines and managed to get away with it for years after traffic wardens dutifully wrote down just that on their tickets.