When the private jet flying Magic Johnson touched down in Evansville, Shawn Wittmer stood near his limousine waiting for the basketball legend. The NBA Hall of Famer amicably greeted Wittmer, the driver charged with safely transporting the multimillionaire from the airport to The Centre Downtown to give a speech at the ongoing Celebration of Diversity Distinguished Lecture Series. Wittmer, the owner of the luxury transportation company Auto Haus, has operated a fleet of limousines since 1992, and Johnson wasn’t the first celebrity Wittmer’s chauffeured.
Peabo Bryson was fresh off his hits from Disney soundtracks, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, when Bryson, a Grammy Award-winning artist, came to Evansville for a concert in the early 1990s. From there, Auto Haus accelerated, and more celebrities met Wittmer and his drivers for the next two decades, including comedians Bill Cosby and Jerry Seinfeld; baseball star Ozzie Smith and hometown hero Don Mattingly; and rock musicians Gene Simmons from Kiss and Elton John.
This spring, the driving factor at Auto Haus is prom. The Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation had 2,220 students attend a high school prom last year, and many rented limos. “It seems like we can never have enough cars,” Wittmer jokes.
From proms to weddings to celebrity chauffeuring, sometimes a busy season requires Wittmer to move from behind his owner’s desk to behind his limousine’s wheel. On those occasions, his day begins before he’s scheduled to pick up his passengers. Wittmer cleans the limousines and fills the gas tanks. He arrives early to pick up his passengers and talks with them as much as they allow.
Country music star “Hank Williams Jr. didn’t say one word to me,” Wittmer recalls. Johnson, on the other hand, was friendly. He asked Wittmer how the University of Evansville men’s basketball team would perform that season. At one point, Johnson paused a phone conversation to sign autographs for Wittmer’s father and son, and he passed his cell phone to Wittmer. “I had no idea whom I was talking to,” Wittmer says. “I told her he just had to do something real quick.”
For more information on Auto Haus, visit www.autohauslimo.com.