Many years ago, I shared a business class flight from Atlanta to LA with David Carradine.
I was already seated when Mr. Hollywood boarded the plane. He arrogantly walked down the aisle, his carry-on luggage trailing behind him like an unwanted child and a pair of dark shades covering his eyes. I caught a glimpse of the empty window seat beside me and anxiously thought what any normal person would at the site of a movie star approaching their seat on a four and a half hour flight: ‘Please don’t sit next to me. Please don’t sit next to me. Please don’t sit next to me.’
There was a moment of relief when David paused at the row in front of mine to display a pathetic attempt at stowing his carry-on in the overhead bin. This effort resulted in the case “slipping” from his grip and grazing the head of the aisle passenger as it dropped to the floor like a dead baby elephant, but David didn’t seem to mind. He left the luggage on the aisle floor and, without announcing his intention, clumsily maneuvered his tall, frail body into the empty seat beside me, making my relief short-lived.
The result of David collapsing beside me was the release of an aroma cloud that married the lovely scents of whiskey, cigarette smoke, and cream-style corn. I was almost tempted to lean in and say, “Oh come on, David. We both know you aren’t strong enough to lift that carry-on bag,” but I was too busy being repulsed by his funk, fearing I would dry-heave if I attempted to form words. I may not be a part of any elite Hollywood social circle, but I’m pretty sure it’s still offensive to introduce yourself to the famous with a vomit-burp.
A flight attendant rushed to the aid of the mildly-injured passenger (after stowing David’s luggage for him, of course) while David rummaged in a plastic bag between his legs. As the passenger gently patted his head to check for signs of blood, David proudly plopped the latest edition of Playboy (still wrapped in the please-don’t-open-this-in-the-store-because-there-may-be-children-or-angry-feminists-around plastic) into his lap. I assume the passenger laughed it off as a funny story to share with his wife as neither he nor the flight attendant brought the incident to David’s attention.
David wasted no time replacing his shades with thick-lensed glasses, tearing open the plastic like a kid on Christmas morning (letting the plastic drift to the floor between his denim-clad legs), and thumbing directly to the naked women, the sudden appearance of so many titties and vulvas startled me and reminded me that I should have been minding my own business. So there we sat, him buried in his nudie magazine; me buried in a paperback edition of What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality. Neither of us exchanged a word.
An hour into the flight, I was drawn from my book by the peripheral sight of David’s whack mag slipping from his grip and fluttering to the floor. I casually turned to discover him leaning against the oval window, eyes closed and mouth ajar. I’m not going to lie. I thought he was dead. I had mental flashes of Entertainment Tonight and TMZ in a bidding war for first rights to an interview with me, the passenger that found David dead. My palms sweated with excitement; however, before I could fetch a flight attendant and emotionally prepare for my big break (I told myself that I would have to practice crying for effect), David informed me he had just fallen asleep while lusting over women’s beavers by raping my ears with his phlegmy snoring. I responded by thinking, ‘Ah. Lovely,’ rolling my eyes, and returning to my reading.
The slight jostle of the plane touching down upon an LAX runway stirred David from sleep. I was grateful for this as I intended to just leave him there as we exited the plane and probably would have felt bad for it later. However, immediately after the seat belt sign was killed, Mr. Hollywood popped out of his seat as if he was trained for it, snagged his luggage from the overhead bin, and barreled through three rows of passengers to guarantee he was off the plane first. I guess he wanted to ensure exiting was safe for the rest of us.
As I gathered my belongings, a twinkle of reflected light from the now-empty seat caught my attention. I looked down and saw that David Carradine left behind his pair of brass-framed glasses. Either that, or the pair dropped in from a nearby worm hole that was attached on the other end to the mid-1980s (someone willingly wearing frames so out of style in the 21st century is just as plausible as a worm hole). I picked up the glasses and turned to call for David, but he was gone, as if he magically vanished into the crowded airport terminal.
I looked down at the glasses I held in my hand and pondered my moral dilemma: Do I fight the crowd in search of David to return his spectacles? Do I mail them to his agent when I get home? Do I turn them in to the flight attendant?
After a tragically brief moment of soul-searching, I decided on, “Fuck it. They’re mine now.” I just hope he didn’t have to drive anywhere because after trying them on while standing in the airport, I discovered he was blind as Hell.
But now I have a new dilemma with which I am hoping you can help. Do you think these glasses are worth anything? Zoe’s medicine and Blind Murphy’s special food isn’t cheap, so I could use the money. However, I worry that this item may have depreciated in value after he passed away as a result of a humorously tragic masturbation accident.
by Cary Vaughn (2015)