By David Chesanow
Over the broad and changeable landscape of American popular culture, the automobile crosses all terrains, all social divides: From art and music to sport and lifestyle, among rich and poor, regardless of gender, race, creed or political persuasion, cars continue to elicit the same fanfare and excitement that greeted the first “horseless carriages” in city streets and cow towns across a U.S. on the threshold of the twentieth century. They have always been, and will always be, cool.
Cars, and the people who ride in them, have needs, the most basic of which is fuel. And so car culture met food culture along the nation’s roadways, giving rise to a distinctly American icon: the diner.
Even those with no firsthand experience of real diners still recog- nize them on sight from their depictions in the media and through the paintings of John Baeder, a former advertising art director who began creating stunningly realistic portraits of diners for postcards in the early 1970s; today his work is in major museums and private collections around the world.