I started painting Cars & Choppers in the 60's - Then in 1969 I opened "Jeff's Place" Custom painting which soon became the best known place to in Southern California to have anything with wheels custom painted during the entire 70's era and into the 80's.

We were a full service shop, that did ahead of it's time Extreme One-of-a-Kind custom fabrication, bodywork, painting, lettering, airbrushing, pinstriping, Etc, Etc, Etc.

"Jeff's Place" actually went on to become world famous by being featured in a French film about about American Car Customizers & another one along the same lines from Belgium. And I was extremely honored to be a guest on the Johnny Carson show ~ showing Johnny how to Airbrush a 'Van Mural'.
Because the Van craze was in full swing during the 70's era.

This was wayyyy before sign computers & 3 stage paint mind you ...Lol... and here's an example: when Nat Quick didn't want to do it anymore ~ He recommended 'Lil young "me" to N.H.R.A in order that I take over painting the single stage paint of their Red - White - Blue graphics on all their NHRA Drag Racing - Safety Safari trucks - which also included 'Hand Lettering' that entire NHRA logo on everything as well.

Same with the small racing decals 'n logos on the bottom of Funny Cars & Dragsters too.
It was an ego boost when people thought those little sponsor logos were stickers, when in fact ~ they were HAND PAINTED ~ where as now a days, the entire paint scheme on a Race Car can be a giant digitally printed "Sticker".
I've had such an honor to work for and become friends with some of the most well known NHRA Drag Racers, owners, builders, painters, and mechanics of both past & present times, and can happily say: I knew 'em when!

We had so much work at Jeff's Place, that I actually had a day shift and a night shift crew, as well as about 20 - 30 constant part timers.
The shop also had a store front selling wheels, tires, waxes, all kinds of custom accessories, Hats, T-Shirts, Etc, Etc, Etc.

It was a highly visible 7,500 sq.ft. shop that was within yards of a major freeway off ramp, right next to a Motel 6 and a Denny's restaurant. It was located on a corner of a light industrial complex & had tons of parking room, was very well lit up at night, Etc.
So in his early years a little known Top Fuel Funny Car driver & my friend, John "Brute" Force, used park his race rig there because he knew it would be safe. Which I didn't mind, because after all, it was good for business. (This was years before he became NHRA's 16 time World Champion of course)

The only downfall of having that big rig parked there was, it would constantly set off the building alarm at 3:00 in the morning when they either came home or left for a race, which wasn't funny at the time to me or the Anaheim P.D.....lol.
I enjoyed that shop 'cause it was like a constant daily car show and not only did groups of little kids on their bicycles show up all the time to "Oooh 'n Ahhh" the various Custom Cars, Trucks, Vans, Boats, Race cars, T.V. / Movie cars, or any other crazy ISCA Show Car that might have been there, but so did the guests of the Motel across the street, customers of Denny's, Etc.
And we were not that far from Disneyland ~ which honored me with being a '"Grand Marshal'" of one of their 25th year anniversary parades. 
Jeff's Place eventually became a well known tourist stop for Custom Car enthusiasts from all over the U.S. - Canada & Europe, so we sold tons of T-Shirts & "Jeff's Place Posters"  that famed Drag Racing automotive Hall of Fame artist Kenny Youngblood designed for us.

The huge list of Automotive Magazine articles, cover shots, Newspaper articles, Posters, Movie & T.V. cars, Famous People, Endorsements, Paint Awards & the many life long friends I have garnered over the last 50+ years from having this business is almost endless!
Along with several famous I.S.C.A. (International Show Car Assoc.) touring show cars and National Champions, and last but not least, the dozens of Nationally known N.H.R.A. dragsters 'n funny cars I was lucky enough to put my talent on in some way ~ even if it was a quickie last minute,  24 hr repair on the car, so they could make the next race ~ and trust me, we did PLENTY of those!!!!

I was - have been - still am - truly blessed.

In 1982 a jealous competitor burned my shop down to dust 'n ashes and during that same time period I had been friends with Boyd Coddington for years ~~(way before he became a Hot Rod Icon)~~ and occasionally I would rub out & buff his own attempts at painting cars at his home, in a mere 2 car garage.
So when he quit working for Disneyland (as a machinist) a few months after my shop burned down, he decided to move into a large professional building, and asked me, of all people ~ to be "'Hot Rod's by Boyd'" first in house painter.

There came a time in my life I was getting burned out (no pun intended) on painting cars at this point and thus, decided to take a much needed break and refresh my sole & went to work as a photographer for Hot Rod, Street Rodder, Car Craft, and several other car magazines, Etc.

Yet the custom creative bug is just plain in my blood, so in the late 80's I opened up another shop with ONE employee this time & it was called: "The Custom Sign Studio".
Specializing only in Airbrushing, Hand Lettering & and of course my beloved "Hand Painted Pinstriping" ~ and that too, became an extremely successful business venture.

During this phase of my career, I was
 contacted to Hand Letter one of Elizabeth Taylors' yachts, called: "Cleopatra". Pinstriped Sylvester Stallones' limousine.... Yada, Yada, Yada.
And lucky enough to do some awesome work for several famous "Rock bands" in the 80's as well. 
One of which was my personal favorites by doing the background signs used in 'Motley Crue's rock video ~ Dr. Feelgood.
Met the guys, ended up painting their Harleys.... Bla, Bla, Bla.

During my 50+ year career I've had the tremendous once in a lifetime opportunity to meet & create my talent for the "who's who" in the T.V., Music & Movie business, for shows like: Happy Days, Night Rider,  Movie cars for: American Graffiti, Star Wars, Pink Panther. Various T.V. commercial vehicles for: BF Goodrich, Newport Cigarettes, Firestone Tires, Ford, and "Flamed" a 1946 Ford used in several Wolf Man Jack Clearasil campaigns.  
I was especially thrilled when Playboy Enterprises commissioned me to custom paint a gorgeous design that Kenny Youngblood created for a radically customized '55 Chevy Nomad for their 25th Anniversary Playmate, called the:
"Bunny Coach"

Jeff's Place and the Custom Sign Studio are only memories now, along with the 60's - 70's - 80's - 90's decades.

In 1992 I moved to the beautiful city of Couer d' Alene, in North Idaho, just across the state line from Spokane, Washington and never looked back at California ever again!!!

In 1993 ~
Thanks to a suggestion by fellow pinstriper Dave Whittle, I re-invented myself as:
 ***Von Dago***
In the utmost of Honor & Respect for the man who started it all "Von Dutch" (who had recently passed away, which prompted Dave's call)
and as Dave says:  
"To hopefully keep his name & the memory of Dutch ~  alive!

The people in my life who have truly inspired me to become who & what I am are as follows:

"My Dad" --- Ken 'Von Dutch' Howard --- Ed 'big daddy' Roth --- Larry Watson --- Ron Lester --- Dave Whittle --- Kim Dedic --- Nat Quick --- John 'the Zookeeper' Mulligan --- Glen Weisgerber and last, but certainly not least:
 Kenny 'Blood Did It' Youngblood
who I consider my most personal mentor & have the utmost of respect for.

I had a Hell of a Run  :-)