A true story, as told to me yesterday by my uncles over dinner in Fort Smith, Arkansas.
The heroes of our story are my uncles Kit and Jimbo. Kit is a clean-shaven, silver-haired doctor with a rather wild past (it’s possible he has a rather wild present, but if so I’d rather not hear about it). Back in the mid-80’s, when we lay our scene, he used to look a tiny bit like Dan Quayle. His brother, my uncle Jimbo, is a Russian military history scholar with a big belly and a big red beard. He enjoys drinking heavily, laughing loudly, arguing vehemently, and listening to Elton John. The last part is the most important; Jimbo loves EJ with a passion unswerved by his stern disapproval of gay gay gayness.
In the late 80’s, during Bush the Elder’s first presidential campaign, Jimbo, Kit, and their childhood friend Kyle flew into Dallas for an Elton John concert. Kit and Jimbo did this sort of thing so frequently that they had developed a pre-EJ-concert tradition, which unsurprisingly involved drinking. They were picked up at the airport by a limo, and drank a bottle of vodka en route to Trader Vic’s. At Trader Vic’s they drank as many Scorpions as time would allow, then bought a case of champagne and drove a nearby lake. By the time they reached the lake they were “feeling pretty good.” Jimbo wandered down to the water, speaking loudly to himself in Russian and drinking vodka out of the bottle, and Kit followed swigging champagne and singing Elton John at the top of his lungs.
At this point, the limo driver approaches their friend Kyle. “Excuse me, sir,” the driver says timidly, “those are important people, aren’t they?” Kyle, who has a reputation as a trickster, remains stone-faced. “That’s right. Do you know who they are?” “Well,” ventures the driver, pointing at Kit, “That one’s Senator Quayle.” “Yes,” Kyle confides, “And that red-haired man is the Executive Assistant to the Russian Ambassador.” The driver can hardly contain himself: “I knew it!” “You’ve got to keep this quiet,” warns Kyle, “The secret service doesn’t know they’re out tonight. The Senator is incognito. He loves Elton John.” The limo driver stares in awe at Kit, who at this point is braying “Yellow Brick Road” to the great dark vastness of the lake. “I can see that,” the driver respectfully agrees.
Elton John is playing at the state fairgrounds outside Dallas, which are Texas-sized. The driver takes a wrong turn and drives them to a remote part of the fairgrounds. The most direct road leading back to the stadium has been blocked off for purposes of EJ traffic control. The driver rolls down the window separating the front and back seats. “I’m sorry, Senator, but it’s going to take us a half-hour or more to get back over to the concert. We’ve got to take the long way round.” Kyle leans forward with a superior air. “You see those state troopers by the barricades over there? You just tell them you’ve got Senator Quayle and the Russian Ambassador”—by that time Jimbo had been promoted to Ambassador—“and ask them to step aside.” The driver is reluctant, but gets out of the car and walks over to the barricade. For five minutes, they watch him talking to the state troopers. The state troopers go get a superior. The superior speaks with the driver. The superior disappears and comes back with another superior. The two superiors consult for an eternity, then turn, walk over to the limo in slow motion, and tap lightly on the window. “Senator Quayle? We’ll get you right over to that concert, sir.” The barricades move aside, and my uncles get a motorcycle escort to the concert gates. The state troopers gamely agree not to breathe a word to the secret service, scouts’ honor.
On their way out of the concert, drunker than ever, my uncles discover the limo waiting for them right outside the stadium doors, surrounded by state troopers. They climb back into the limo, dimly aware that drunk luck can only last so long. The troopers fire up their motorcycles and prepare to escort the VIPs all the way back to their hotel. On the way out of the crowded concert parking lot, Kit gets cocky, pops out of the limo’s sunroof, and waves to the voters. “Look!” cries a woman in the crowd, “It’s Senator Quayle!”
I promise I’m really not making this up—this is straight from the uncles’ mouths.
2 months ago