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Utah's Mr. Tow Helps "Big" Star

A routine call for assistance leads to a celebrity encounter for one AAA

AAA driver Rick Davidson, aka Mr. Tow
Photo caption
Rick Davidson aids AAA members stranded in Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats.

What happens when a beloved movie star like Tom Hanks runs out of gas in the middle of a 46-square-mile chunk of Utah desert known as the Bonneville Salt Flats? AAA driver Rick Davidson, aka Mr. Tow, comes to the rescue.

Q Did you know you’d be meeting Hanks?

A No clue. They used his brother Jim’s AAA card. I just remember pulling up to this green Volkswagen bus, 12 miles out of little Wendover, Utah, right before sundown. And there was Tom Hanks, wearing shorts and sunglasses. He didn’t wait in the car or anything. He was right there with me every minute as I filled them up, joking about running dry.

Q So, pretty routine?

A From tire changes to breakdowns to crashes, every call is different. But I’ll always remember this one. When I went to take the doggone funnel out of his gas tank, it wouldn’t budge. The more I pulled, the tighter it got. Tom and Jim had to drive to their campground with this black plastic funnel sticking out of the van. My mechanic met us and cut it out with a razor blade.

Q How did it feel to see Tom recount the story and show your photo on the Late Show with David Letterman? (Watch at

A When someone is stranded and you show up to get them going again, it’s a good feeling. But when you show up and it’s a movie star, man, it’s a super-good feeling.

Photography courtesy Adam Finkle

This article was first published in January 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.