Darren Camp, March 2017
The summer of 1986, I volunteered to help the local Civitans put on the annual Dixie Cup Regatta boat race.
Already the second biggest guy on the high school football team at 250lbs, I suppose I looked like I could work security and that's what I was assigned to do. I was put in charge of only allowing authorized people through the gate by the pit area and keeping people from parking anywhere around the gate.
The man who showed me to my assigned spot and gave me my “training” told me, “Okay, this is an important place by the pit. If anyone wants through, and doesn't have a Pit Pass, they don't come through here, they don't park here, period. I don't give a shit who it is, no one can park here. I don't care if it is the president of the United States. Can you handle that?” I assured him I could and would.
Traffic in and out was minimal and most of the morning was uneventful. Suddenly, I noticed a large tour bus turning into the hotel parking lot and heading for the gate where I was posted. I noted that the speed of the bus was really too fast for the area of the parking lot, especially since there was a lot of pedistrian traffic. The bus came to a stop inches from the chain-link fence gate and immediately activated the air brakes, causing a loud “PSSSHHHHHHH!”
After a long few seconds the side door of the tour bus opened and a man stepped out and began surveying an empty area of the pit, just inside my gate, as he briskly made his way to me.
“I need you to open up this gate, boy. I'm going to park this bus right over there”, he said, pointing at the unused strip of asphalt.
“Can I see your pass, please, sir?” I asked him.
He obviously found this funny and chuckled while shaking his head.
“We ain't got no pass, son. We don't need a pass. We just need you to get the damned gate open so I can park this bus over there!”
Remembering my strict but simple guidelines, it was easy to determine my decision, which I unapologetically shared, “First off, sir, unless you have some damned good proof, I'm not your son. Secondly, If you don't have a Pit Pass, you're not coming through my gate. Thirdly, since you have no proof of fathering me and no Pit Pass, you're gonna have to back that damned bus out of here and go park somewhere else.”
Apparently, this gentleman didn't find my response as humorous as my last one. He became visibly angry and raised his voice and pumped a fist in my direction, saying, “You don't know shit, do you boy? Don't you know who's bus this is? This bus belongs to Johnny Lee!” I was familiar with Johnny Lee and his successful hit, “Looking for Love”, but I've never been impressed by celebrity. Besides, I had my orders.
“I could really care less who's in the bus. As a matter of fact, I don't give a shit. The only thing I care about is how fast you get this damned bus out of my Pit area”, I explained. He spun around and took a few steps towards the bus before pausing to turn and shake his pointed finger at me and say, “You're in a heap of shit!”
He stomped up the steps of the bus and I then heard muffled frustrated sounds, which were plainly him recounting the story. It was then that a bright light brilliantly glowed from the tour bus door... uh, nah, not really... but Mr Johnny Lee did come out, both feet hitting the pavement at the same time, immediately followed by two other men. The made a bee-line towards me.
“Listen here, boy!”, Johnny Lee said to me, “We are parking this goddam bus over there, so open this F*&king gate right now and let us in!”
I smiled at him the entire time he was talking. When he finished, I answered, “Nope.”
“You're telling me you ain't letting me in there?” he asked.
Being the natural smart ass that I am, I replied, “I'm glad you're catching on! I don't give a damn what you say, you will not get through this gate today, or ever. See ya!”
Mr. Lee poked out his chest as he stepped up to me toe-to-toe and said, “You must want your ass whipped, boy!”
Not intimidated whatsoever, I said, “How do you think it's gonna look in the newspaper when they print a picture of you on your ass with a busted lip, that silly hat knocked off your head, and those sunglasses laying broken beside you, with a caption that says 'Local Teen whips country singer's ass' underneath it?”
He then said a thing or two about my mother, hopped on the bus and backed away. I made it a point to continue looking at them while I laughed. I'm not sure if he found a place to park, but I doubt he had much luck. I guess “Love” wasn't the only thing he was trying to find in “all the wrong places”.