written and photographed by Joni Kabana
What’s a guy to do after he is awarded two Peabodys and an Emmy for knuckle-clutching TV sports filming? Go back home. That is precisely what Jeff Daly did in the ’90s. He made his way back to the Pacific Northwest, settled in Seaside and opened his delightfully eclectic studio space in Astoria on the first floor of a boat house that juts out over the mighty Columbia River.
Daly’s first foray into art car design was in 1969 when he acquired his first car—a 1948 Mercury Woody station wagon that he still drives today. When he realized he had to make a serious wage to be able to pay for all of his expanding projects, he took a career side trip to become a top notch TV cameraman. Having honed a keen eye for artistic flair from an early age, Daly’s shot of Tiger Woods’ “Nike ball hanging on the lip at the Masters” in 2005 contributed to an Emmy and is considered to be one of the best sports shots of all time.
Something called him back home to Astoria, the place where he had grown up the son of one of the original “Astoria Clowns,” the group credited with getting Astoria’s Megler bridge built. He wasn’t exactly sure where his new path might take him, but one thing was for sure, he had a strong desire to find the old Astoria Clown Car and restore it for the fifti-eth anniversary of the Astoria Clowns. Daly found it in the ghost town Shaniko, Oregon, towed it home, flipped it backwards onto a new chassis so it appears to drive backwards and the rest is history.
It wasn’t long after moving to Astoria before Daly picked up his camera again. This time, he turned his energy toward producing a documentary (Where’s Molly?) about his younger sister who was removed from their home when he was 6 years old and reunites with her forty-seven years later. He has also created numerous films for local organizations and political positions, most recently a YouTube hit, Helmet John – Astoria is Home.
Today, he still builds and tinkers with art cars (The Glam Tram, The Joy Train, and a 1928 rat rod), but he also has expanded into developing the Astoria Underground Tours and building a supersonically colorful AirBnB called, “The Wunderground Experience” in his warehouse studio. All that, and he still finds time to produce light shows and project films onto buildings to brighten and entertain during the winter months. To consider Daly an original is an understatement. But, to him, he’s just clowning around.
See more of Jeff Daly’s work and book an Astoria Underground Tour at www.oldastoria.com.