Sunday, April 5, 2009


(part 130) STILL ALIVE

The street erupted below, as I clung motionless to the bottom of the steel frame. I did not fight the situation, by moving unnecessarily, for fear of breaking it loose from the wall above and sending me to my death. I focused on what I was doing, knowing I had a single opportunity to succeed. Gathering my strength, I pulled myself up as far as I could and hooked my right arm over the the bar at my arm pit. From this position, I was able to leverage the rest of my body up into the waiting framework. I continued eyeing the fasteners, hoping they would hold a little longer, while I pulled my body to safety. The top of the second structure was 3 to 4 feet up and I carefully moved toward it until my hands reached the edge of the roof. With my heart pounding, I slid on my belly onto the rooftop and safety. I looked back over the side and could still see the TV cameraman at the window below. With one last wave, I disappeared from his view.

12 stories down, the crowd wildly cheered my acrobatic antics, showing their appreciation. Relieved that I was still alive, I raised my arms in the air, as a salute to my conquest and acknowledgment to those below. I laid back on the roof, exhausted, wondering how many more times I would put myself into these insane positions and for what? I knew if I continued to test the limits, at some point I would end up dead or seriously maimed.

I quickly brushed off the thought and pulled myself up to a standing position. The pain in my feet and ankle seared through my consciousness and I knew I couldn't continue this for much longer. I moved to the eastern end of the roof and looked down on the patio area around the pool, which was crowded with police rushing about looking confused. They'd heard the crowd yelling, but hadn't known why, since it was impossible for them to have seen me hanging on the steel frame from where they were. Smiling, as I now became visible to them, I yelled out cheerfully, "How's everybody doin' down there?" Most of them shook their heads in disgust, looking at me like I was completely fucking nuts.

With the incident on the Tower still fresh in my mind, I had to be able to get off this building alive, and without doing further damage to myself. I'd made my point, whatever it was, and turned my attention towards a plan to gracefully end the current crisis. I was only 10 to 12 feet above the authorities and knew I could jump to where they were without any real damage being done. I decided that jumping down to their location would give them an opportunity to get their hands on me, and would appear to the world as if I'd been caught, thereby defusing things. As I continued debating the way I would end the day's craziness, in my head, I thought back to an earlier time when life still held the bright promise of things to come.

* * *

In 1958, in St. Johns, Arizona, my brother Bill and I were getting ready to go on stage at the high school assembly and sing to the entire student body for the first time. We were still new to the town and were basically unknown by anyone there. Coming from Tucson, we found ourselves smack dab in the middle of the white Mormons on one side and the Indians and Mexicans on the other. There was a deep racial line dividing this place and Bill and I were standing on it. As I heard our names being announced to the crowd, I wondered how in the hell I'd gotten us into this mess. We stepped from behind the curtain of the auditorium's stage and up to a microphone. I looked out on the hostile faces staring at us, as Bill started playing his guitar. He'd launched into the chords of Little Richard's "Jenny, Jenny, Jenny", which was one of our best songs. My terror disappeared as the sound of my own voice came booming through the school's PA system. As I looked down at the now totally surprised and approving faces of the student body, my heart smiled at the power of music, and Bill and I became overnight sensations in the little northern Arizona town of St. Johns.

* * *

I smiled, while my thoughts of the high school assembly so many years before faded away. Now back to the current situation, I walked to the edge of the structure's roof and jumped down to the waiting crowd of police below. But what I didn't know, when they surrounded me, was how fed up the West Hollywood Sheriff's Department had become with my drain on their resources and time. Rather than ending the day's giant event safely, I was being hauled off to Camarillo State Hospital by an angry group of cops who were determined to have me, not only locked up, but put away. This would prove to be one of the most frightening experiences I'd yet to encounter.

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