Patton, Phil 1952-

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PATTON, Phil 1952-

PERSONAL: Born March 23, 1952, in Durham, NC; son of Lewis and Mildred (Dwyer) Patton; married Joelle Delbourgo (an editor), May 16, 1976; children: Caroline. Education: Harvard University, A.B., 1974; Columbia University, M.A., 1975. Politics: Democrat.

ADDRESSES: Home and office—92 Bellevue Ave., Upper Montclair, NJ 07043. Agent—Melanie Jackson, 250 West 57th St., New York, NY 10107.

CAREER: Writer. Esquire, New York, NY, editorial staff, 1975-76. Worked as a contributing editor of ID magazine, Wired, and Esquire; has taught at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

MEMBER: Authors Guild.


Razzle-Dazzle: The Curious Marriage of Television and Professional Football, Dial (New York, NY), 1984.

Open Road: A Celebration of the American Highway, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1986.

(With Jeana Yeager and Dick Rutan) Voyager, Knopf (New York, NY), 1987; reprinted with new introduction, Adventure Library (North Salem, NY), 2001.

Made in U.S.A.: The Secret Histories of the Things That Made America, Grove Weidenfeld (New York, NY), 1992.

(With Bernd Polster) Highway: America's Endless Dream, photographs by Jeff Brouws, Stewart, Tabori & Chang (New York, NY), 1997.

(With Frank Del Deo) Bill Traylor: High Singing Blue, Hirschl & Adler Modern (New York, NY), 1997.

Technofollies: An Anthology of B, Holt (New York, NY), 1997.

Dreamland: Travels inside the Secret World of Roswell and Area 51, Villard (New York, NY), 1998.

Bug: The Strange Mutations of the Volkswagen Beetle, the World's Most Famous Car, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.

Contributor to Artforum, Esquire, Smithsonian, New York Times, Vogue, and many other publications.

SIDELIGHTS: Phil Patton has written or cowritten a variety of books, primarily in the areas of design and the culture of technology. In addition to his many contributions to magazines and newspapers, Patton has appeared on numerous public television series, served as a commentator on CBS's "Up to the Minute," and appears on television's History Channel. Patton has also served as a consultant to corporations and museums, including the National Building Museum and the Museum of Modern Art, for which he was the cultural consultant for the exhibit, "Other Roads: Automobiles for the Next Century."

In his books, Patton has written about such ingrained aspects of the American culture as America's highways and the popularity of televised football. He also cowrote books about the first plan to circumnavigate the globe nonstop without refueling by husband and wife pilots Jeana Yaeger and Dick Rutan, and he looked at folk artist Bill Traylor in a book written with Frank Del Deo. In his book, Made in U.S.A.: The Secret Histories of the Things That Made America, Patton delves into the relationship between popular technology and American society, covering everything from the Bowie knife and paper bags to automobiles and high-tech computers. "Vastly informative and great fun to read," wrote a reviewer in Publishers Weekly.Wendy Smith, writing in Entertainment Weekly, noted, "Patton tells this quintessentially American tale with intelligence and zest."

Patton, who has been fascinated with aviation since he was a child, touched on a strange and eccentric aspect of American pop culture with his book Dreamland: Travels inside the Secret World of Roswell and Area 51. Largely known as the place where UFO enthusiasts believe the U.S. government houses a wrecked alien spaceship and perhaps even an alien's dead body, Roswell, or Area 51, has been the subject of movies, television shows, and books. In his book, Patton provides a detailed history based on prodigious research of the government's use of Area 51 to test top-secret projects, such as the U2 spy plane and the Stealth Fighter. However, he does not ignore the conspiracy theorists' belief of government duplicity in hiding an alien ship as he interviews local residents, ex-workers, and UFO enthusiasts. In Booklist, George Eberhart commented that "Patton deftly separates the folklore from the history." And for Patton, the real story is the government's test planes, which are often mistaken for alien spaceships by those who see them flash across the sky. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that "Patton often succeeds in illuminating military aviation and issues of secrecy, though he cannot offer any substantial revelations on what is or isn't at the base." Writing in the Nation, John Leonard commented that Dreamland "is a brilliant book in which nothing is as it seems, while everything has a rational explanation, and yet, even so, the 'rational' is its own sort of Dracula."

For his next book, Patton turned from aliens and secret aircraft to the more commonly encountered Volkswagen Beetle automobile. In fact, the "Bug" has been one of the most wide-selling and commonly recognized cars in the world. In Bug: The Strange Mutations of the Volkswagen Beetle, the World's Most Famous Car, Patton provides a history of the car, complete with numerous anecdotes—from its creation as an affordable, reliable car for the masses by Ferdinand Porsche to its disappearance and reappearance on the car market. In the course of the Bug's tale, Patton ties in such disparate events as the creation of the automobile assembly line to manufacture the early Ford automobiles, Hitler's invasion of Russia during World War II, and the 1960s counterculture. In the Library Journal, contributor Eric C. Shoaf noted that other books about the Volkswagen Beetle "have more depth" and that Patton failed in his attempt "to combine history, social commentary, design analysis, and political intrigue in one package." However, a contributor to the Economist praised the book, saying, "Phil Patton, an American design writer, gives an engaging account of the car's history, from low-budget origins to new-tech reincarnation." Writing in Kirkus Reviews, another reviewer noted, "With brio and dash, Patton . . . charts the long strange trip of the little bug that became a grand cultural totem."



Booklist, August, 1998, George Eberhart, review of Dreamland: Travels inside the Secret World of Roswell and Area 51, p. 1927.

Economist, August 25, 2002, "Legless but Lovable; the VW Beetle," review of Bug: The Strange Mutations of the Volkswagen Beetle, the World's Most Famous Car.

Entertainment Weekly, March 13, 1992, Wendy Smith, review of Made in U.S.A.: The Secret Histories of the Things That Made America, p. 48.

Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2002, review of Bug, p. 1014.

Library Journal, September 15, 2002, Eric C. Shoaf, review of Bug, p. 76.

Nation, June 215, 1998, John Leonard, review of Dreamland, p. 23.

New York Times Book Review, June 29, 1986; June 20, 1999, review of Dreamland, p. 24.

Publishers Weekly, December 20, 1991, review of Made in U.S.A., p. 73; July 27, 1998, review of Dreamland, p. 66.

Washington Post, May 21, 1986.


Aliens on Earth Web Site, (October 8, 2002), review of Dreamland.

BookPage, (October 8, 2002), Michael Sims, review of Dreamland; Martin Brady, "Beetle Mania Rolls On," review of Bug.

Denver Post Online, (October 8, 2002), William Porter, review of Dreamland, August 30, 2002.

Phil Patton Home Page, (October 8, 2002).*