Saturday, December 29, 2007

New Years at Deland

The winter of ‘92/’93 I was part of a competition 4-way skydiving team/study group named Muffy and The Divers. Muffy was kind of our team leader and she came up with the name. We did everything together. For New Years we decided to go down to Deland Florida for a huge skydiver’s party.

I think I might have run my little Samurai into a ditch at our annual chili party in Vandalia, Illinois because it was left there for repairs when we drove down. I drove down with Dan Cunningham and Laura G. Laura was on my team. We were taking her down to meet up with her fiancĂ© Jamie, but that didn’t stop us from making passes at her. We were the perfect traveling companions. We laughed almost the whole way down. U2’s Achtung Baby had just been released. In a trance listening to the lyrics of “One” Laura turned to me and said, “Bono is God.”

When we got there I was the only one that was too broke to get a room. I pitched my tent at the airport’s tent city and somehow crawled back to it every night. We must have been there a week but hardly jumped at all. The sky was always overcast.

One night, after a day of not jumping, Rob Walsh and I ended up at the pilot’s bar at the airport. Rob was also on my team. Everyone was mourning the death of Tommy Piras. He invented the style of team jumping we practiced. He died nearby and everyone knew him. Rob died last year in that terrible airplane accident in Sullivan, Missouri.

Rob had an affinity for tequila. He lined up 5 shot glasses and told me he’d roll a quarter off his nose. If the coin bounced once and went into a glass I had to drink it. At 3 or 4 shots I looked up bleary-eyed to catch him holding the coins right over the glasses.

Several other jumpers were there and when the bar closed we found ourselves in the parking lot. Some big, dumb redneck took a look at me and decided he hated me and everything I stood for. I recoiled in surprise as he took a swing at me.

Laura came to my rescue. She jumped on his back, swung fists violently at him and yelled, “You can’t hurt my friend!” All at once there was a riot and 20 or so people were at it. We had to return the next morning to find Jamie’s glasses. I was the only person that didn’t even get hit.

That morning was another overcast unjumpable day. Jamie said he knew a place that made the best Bloody Marys in the world. We drove for hours along the coast. The bar was tiny and at the end of a pier. There was an angry pelican standing guard. Jamie was right; I had never had a better or more unique Bloody Mary. I wish I could remember the name of the bar.

Muffy was going out with John Vincent then. John was the guy that scaled the Arch with suction cups and jumped off. That Halloween everyone in St. Louis was the Arch Jumper. My skydiving buddies brought him into the Venice Cafe one night when I was tending bar. A lot of pop culture celebrities visited the bar but my boss Jeff Lockheed was most impressed with The Arch Jumper.

He ended up spending a few months in jail because he violated his parole by jumping off the radio tower by the Kendrick movie theater. I mention John because Muffy and I spent an entire day at all the head shops in Orlando looking for just the right hash pipe for his birthday.

The party was at Deland’s biggest hotel. I think it was a Holiday Inn. We partied with a lot of skydiving celebrities including Bill Booth, the inventor of the tandem parachute rig and the 3 ring cutaway system that greatly simplified reserve deployment.

I made it back to the airport and crawled into my tent. I lay awake most of the night trying not to hear the moans of my neighbors in the heat of sex. After sleeping it off I walked back to the hotel. The place was a disaster. Clothes, trays, and bottles were strewn across the halls. One of the doors creaked open and I watched Muffy sneak out of one and tip-toe into another room. She wore a tiara, a torn dress, and fishnet stockings with runs. She looked spectacular.

When it was time to go Dan and I drove back without Laura. It was an empty experience. When we got back to Vandalia I went to the shop that had my car. They told me they didn’t even look at it because someone had vomited on the passenger side floor. I always bring my own vegetarian chili to the chili party. My leftovers had spilled giving them the wrong impression. After cleaning it up I had to spend another couple of nights there before I could drive home.

Photos are of Laura, Jamie and Rob Walsh at the airport. Rob is in a white jump suit with a blue rig on the right in our Missouri POPS record photo.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Christmas y'all

Pic taken of my son Dylan's first Christmas by my buddy 'Drea Stein. Her studio was in our basement. Check out her radio show at KDHX. I have a bit about them on an early entry. Also check out my version of the Christmas classic "Once In Royal David's City" featuring Yma Sumac at


If you’ve been following my stories you may have noticed that I will sometimes sacrifice entertainment for detail. This really is a memoir for my kids that I hope they don’t find until after I die. With this in mind I will occasionally submit a short story with questionable entertainment value such as the following.

My childhood seemed to have been made up of single mothers with their kids networking into a giant extended family. One of these mothers was a woman named Marge Ramsey. We lived for a time with her and her 2 kids Joe and Jean.

Years later Dominic took our band’s PA system and my acoustic guitar to a party. He left them behind and they were stolen. Marge was gracious enough to co-sign for a loan and the PA was replaced. It took me years to get another acoustic guitar. Sorry, guess I’m still a little bitter.

Anyway I was about 8 I think. Our 2 families had spent the day in the country. On our way home we stopped at an Italian restaurant with an outdoor dining area. I used to tease Jeanie a lot. She was a girl don’t you know.

We sat at a picnic table and the ground was covered with gravel. I threw handfuls of the gravel at Jeanie under our table and had a totally innocent look on my face. She eventually figured out who was pelting her and returned the gesture.

Her return gravel hit a wasp’s nest that hung right above my lap. The whole nest fell into it. I ended up with 8 stings to my genitals. It’s a miracle I have kids.

The poor restaurant owner was horrified. Before I knew it we were in the restroom and he was rubbing me with ice.

“Don’t touch me there,” I protested.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


In 1981 I went to the first Cardinal baseball game I’d been to since the pennant race in 1968. I was a Cub Scout then. It was the first time I’d ever seen or heard of their mascot Fredbird. During idle time Fredbird worked the crowd. He wrapped his beak around a baby’s head and I thought he was more entertaining than the team.
In 1982 I started working at the Oyster Bar which was 3 blocks south of the stadium. This happened to be the year we won the World Series and turned out to be a baptism of fire.
We still had the football Cardinals and a lot of sports personalities would end up at the bar including Fredbird. Fredbird was a guy named John Kendall and I was more star struck with him than anyone else. We became good friends.
Before I knew him very well Marion Wynkoop (Tracy’s wife) asked if I could get him to appear at their daughter Sarah’s 4th birthday party. That’s what I got for bragging that I knew him. I told Marion I thought Fredbird was too busy, but I’d ask.
To my surprise John said he’d love to do it. I told Marion the good news but she had already booked a party somewhere that had a fake Fredbird. I think John’s feelings were hurt.
Fredbird would always open a gate at the stadium to let us into a game. Then he would take us into the bowels and get us good and drunk on Anheuser Busch products. He’d also find us great seats, usually behind home plate. I remember once our neighbor in front of us was the mayor.
Every year St. Louis has a bicycle marathon that begins around 1:00 in the morning. I’d get off work at the Oyster Bar and John and I would sneak into the stadium. We’d have a few beers and I’d borrow his bike for the race.
After I moved of Nancy’s apartment in Lafayette Park I found out John lived next door in another apartment building. I came to a party at his house and was surprised to see him making out on a couch with Lisa Sherman. We had recently broken up and didn’t know they even knew each other
Somewhere in the mid 80’s Fredbird’s head was stolen. St. Louis was in a panic. It was finally recovered when radio station KSHE put up a $500.00 reward.
John is a childhood friend of Jeff Lockheed's and I believe that is the reason I even know Jeff.
To this day John still wears his 1982 World Series ring he received as a team member.
By contrast Kim Tucker was the skydiving Fredbird. He’s also a good friend of mine and a great photographer. He took the pics that appear on my freefall wedding entry. He’s famous in skydiving circles for being the only person to spiral around a leg of the Arch twice in one jump. There’s a great picture he took with a fish eye lens of his dangling Fredbird legs hanging over the stadium. I’ll try to post this picture if he’ll let me.
I’ve probably been on hundreds of jumps with Kim but the most memorable was a time we exited the back of a 727 jet going 207 mph. Terminal velocity is 120 mph so it was like hitting a wall when we hit air. The idea was that DB Cooper exited a 727 at 200 mph and we wanted to see what it was like. Somehow Kim videotaped the whole thing with a camera on his helmet.
At some point in the late 90s I quit teaching first jump students down in Sullivan Missouri. My wife wanted me home to raise our kids. My last night at the airport we partied until the bar closed. It just happened that it was prom night and the cops were out looking for drunken teenagers. I had driven through a river that morning in my 4-wheel and my license plates were spattered with mud. I was pulled over on the highway because the cop couldn’t read my plates and thought I might be one of these teenagers. Next thing I knew I was blowing .033 (over the limit) and spending most of the night in the Eureka jail. Did I mention Kim was also an attorney? It cost quite a bit but Kim got me out of the DUI. When I appeared before the judge the arresting officer noted that I was clean and polite. Clean and polite??! Ever since then I’ve considered Kim my mouthpiece. He’s a municipal judge now.
A brief aside: It comes in handy to know a judge. When I was living in Lafayette Park I got a parking ticket in front of my place that I didn’t think I deserved. I decided to fight city hall. The judge turned out to be one of my regulars at the bar. We pretended we didn’t know each other and the ticket was thrown out.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Out of control

I was at my girlfriend Valerie’s office Christmas party last night and people were talking about wild parties they’d been to. It reminded me of a New Year’s party we had around 1990 or so. My girlfriend at the time was Lora
Steffen and she lived with my buddy Benet.

The party was at their house in Benton Park. I remember everyone got more and more drunk. The music got louder. Everything began to seem tribal.

A friend of ours who was pregnant whipped out a boob on the dance floor and squirted a giant arc of milk over the dancing crowd.

I turned to a friend and said, “I think this party has gotten out of control.”

Uncle Bill

Uncle Bill Green was the first impression you got when you came into the Oyster Bar in the 80s. He was our doorman and chronicler. Everything that happened ended up in one of his poems. Go to and click on Never Say No. This is a piece we did together back then and all the old Soulard characters are mentioned. I think it’s the only recording of my guitar synthesizer.

One night George the T-shirt man tried to get past Uncle Bill without paying the cover charge. He said “Denny” never made him pay. No one ever called Dennis Denny unless they didn’t know him. George was promptly turned away.

A few minutes later George’s car came rolling slowly down Broadway. He jumped out and started beating Uncle Bill with a wiffleball bat. While this was happening the car rolled across the street, up on the sidewalk and through a cyclone fence to our local electrical sub-station.

Years later Uncle opened for Timothy Leary at the Sheldon. I was working at the Venice Cafe. I’ll never forget Bill introducing him to me. He said, “Glad to meet you David.” He said my name and I was totally star struck. He was experimenting with legal ways to get high and was stoned as he could be. He died shortly after this.

You can still find Uncle Bill working the door at the Venice Cafe. He often jumps on stage between the bands’ sets and performs. There’s a portrait of Bill on the wall with the words to “Stupid and innocent.”

I’ll have more about him later.

Photos are of Uncle Bill and Chuck Berry with Doc Terry and the Pirates. This was a picture I took from my vantage point behind the bar.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Dub Club

After leaving the Oyster Bar I tended bar at a few different places. My favorites were the Dub Club on the Landing and the Venice Cafe.

The Dub club was a Reggae club. It was cavernous with 3 levels and 3 bars. This would have been in the early 90s. There was a thriving underground Reggae scene then. The only white people in the place were all on staff.

This place was hard core gangster. The bouncer had a Taser and I witnessed more than a few people getting zapped. Everyone was searched and a lot of guns were confiscated. We made absolutely no money but had the best live bands I’ve ever seen.

The bands came from all over the world. We actually hid an African band in the attic while they tried to gain political asylum.

A young couple managed the place for owners I’d never even met who were supposed prominent “businessmen”. She was a very cute girl named KK and had a crush on my old buddy and drummer Benet Schaeffer. I seem to remember she had some kind of facial piercing and a blue streak in her hair.

Benet got me the job. I believe he was booking some of their acts. (At the time I think I gave him a lot of trouble about the job because I was living in absolute poverty but I wouldn’t have missed the experience for anything.)

I’ll never forget this little girl standing up to giant, angry musicians who weren’t happy with the money the band was taking home.

Her boyfriend was a total hard ass and very funny. I wish I could remember his name because it was unusual. One of the bartenders gave his STAFF t-shirt to a pretty girl. “Did she give you a blow job?” my boss asked. “No”, replied the bartender.” “Then you’re fired!”

They went on to run a place downtown called The New World. I think their clientèle were about “Rave” age, mostly minors on X.

The Dub Club had a 3:00am license and we never got out of there before sunrise. What we didn’t make in cash we more than made up for in alcohol consumption.

One night after closing, we all stayed up drinking with the intention of bungee jumping from a balloon in the morning. I begged out at the last minute because a girl I had a crush on just got into town from LA. She wanted to go skydiving. Just to set the record straight I wouldn’t skydive drunk, but I took her there so she could. (I probably would’ve bungee jumped though).

Across the street they tried to open St. Louis’ first strip joint. I can’t remember the name but it was shut down almost immediately. This is the place that later became Planet Hollywood.

The Dub Club was just too out of control to last very long but it was the real thing. You can’t find places like it in many cities.

The next entry will be about the Venice Cafe.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

My First Trip to Canada

As I mentioned earlier The Oyster Bar in the 80s would get too hot in the summer so we’d take a 2 week vacation. Sharon came up with the idea that Canada would be a much cooler climate. Joanie decided to come with us. I didn’t know her very well yet.

I made several mix tapes for the trip and it became clear that Joanie and I had the same taste in music. I’ll never forget the look on her face when Tommy James’ “Crimson and Clover” played.
We celebrated every state line. We had to improvise with the provinces because they were so far apart.

We found a cabin in Michigan at a lake. I jumped in without testing the water. I found out why I was the only one swimming. I think the only reason the water wasn’t frozen solid was the fact that it was in motion.

I’m not sure why we didn’t enter Canada though Detroit but we drove to Buffalo, NY and spent a day at Niagara Falls. The contrast between the depressing, smelly, dilapidated US side and the fairy tale land of Canada was a shock.

We spent a few nights in Montreal checking out the club scene. This was when clubs only let you in if you looked cool ala Studio 54. We lucked out and got in.

We struggled with our French and I think the effort paid off at the bars. Montreal was thinking about leaving Canada and no one spoke English. After exhausting our finances we decided to drive north about a hundred miles to camp. My French was so bad I ordered a chocolate milk shake at a McDonald’s along the way and got a hot chocolate.

I was already a vegetarian at the time but Sharon wanted meat for the camp fire. We found a small store but that far north supplies were hard to come by. I’m sure the meat had been in the freezer over a year.

The roads had moose crossing signs and I got excited because I’d never seen one before.

It was late at night when we decided we’d better find a place to pitch the tent. We followed signs to Loch Ratt. “That sounds lovely,” we thought. If you hadn’t already guessed that translates to Rat Lake. We stopped the car and were surrounded by thousands of rats. I still get chills thinking about it.

Many miles later we found a nice spot, pitched the tent, and went to sleep. Aroused from sleep by a storm I heard what sounded like a horse walking around outside the tent. A flash of lightning threw the silhouette of a giant bull moose against the tent. I’m sure it wasn’t a dream. I told the girls about it in the morning but they didn’t believe me. We climbed out of the tent to find an enormous pile of shit blocking the door.

During the drive home Joanie and I seemed to laugh about everything. Sharon became withdrawn and got sadder every day with separation anxiety over her daughter. I never appreciated how hard it must have been to do anything and raise a child until I had my own kids.