Relax. Hagman’s not dead. But he damn-near killed himself in my presence. And damn-near took me and my then Mrs. along with him.
Out in L.A. – Glendale, to be exact – for the annual Love Ride, a spectacular benefit for the Muscular Dystrophy Association sponsored by Oliver Shokouh, of Glendale HD. This event raises millions every year and, as far as I’m concerned, Shoukouh gets nowhere near the credit he deserves outside the LA area for this event that has meant so much to so many kids and their families.
Anyway, in addition to real do-gooders like Jay Leno who frequently emcees the event, the Love Ride attracts a who’s who of celebrities who lend their faces and names to the hoopla, to further attract riders and dollars. I’d also say the event attracts a lot of, uh, let’s just say no-longer A or even B-listers who just want some camera time. And you know who you are Bret Michaels.
So thousands of bikes are lined up in parade formation, ready to ride the 50-ish miles from Oliver’s shop out to Castiac Lake for a full day festival of live music, food, bike vendors, etc. Being up toward the front always affords an extra measure of comfort in long group rides and being a VIP (What? Who? Me?) meant up-front status on the ride. We’re given a full-on police escort out to the highway, which means everyone rides two across in staggered formation at consistent speed. It’s a glorious thing. Once we reach the freeway, however, it’s every man for himself. Ditto for women. So naturally, some riders start acting the fool and doing crazy stuff like blasting up toward the front at insane speeds or popping wheelies for the TV cameras. It’s nutty enough to put everyone on very high alert and means everyone’s heads are on swivels to stay away from the speedkings and showoffs.
About halfway to Castaic, I see a bike in my right mirror coming at us hard and fast at a very odd angle. It doesn’t peel off as it approaches and is, in fact, heading directly toward us. I swerve to the left – with my right leg up to push the offending bike away if necessary (like that would actually work…) as my then Mrs. let out a scream that I’ll not soon forget.
The rider of the bike kept staring straight ahead and neither he, nor his passenger, seemed to notice what they’d just done or even that they were completely out of control. I pulled up next to him to get a good look and maybe share some, uh, safe riding advice, when I noticed it was Larry Hagman and his wife. (I’ll say right here that Larry’s a super guy.)
When we reached the party and parked our bikes, I went over to him and said, “Geez Larry, that was kinda scary, wasn’t it?” And he said, “Huh? Uh? What?” He didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. But me-thinks that enormity of the ride and the presence of the stunters un-nerved him. His Mrs. was equally rattled.
When my then-Mrs. finally calmed down, we went and sat down. I said, “Just think, if we all went down in a fireball, there’d be a huge story in the papers about how Larry Hagman – JR. Ewing and I Dream of Jeannie’s Major Nelson – died in a big bike accident. There’d be five paragraphs about his life story and praise from fellow celebrities offering kind condolences.
The last sentence of the story would mention our names as the other victims. Our names would be spelled wrong. And they’d say we were from Wyoming.