Weekly Gunslinger Rap
Sam Bass Rides Again
The Japan Airlines Boeing 747 pulled onto runway 26 at L.A. International Airport. The engines were quiet and I felt a sense of warmth come over my body. "Ladies and Gentlemen you may notice an increase in temperature in the cabin as we shut off the air-conditioning system so that we will have full power available for takeoff." These were the words of the captain just prior to taking off for our trip to Honolulu Hawaii and on to Tokyo Japan. The thought crossed my mind, (If they need the power it takes to run the air-conditioning system to get this big flying cracker box up in the air, what the hell am I doing here?)
We are leaving Los Angeles on my third trip to Japan. On the flight are Dick Murdoch, Terry and Myself. As the engines roar and the plane begins to shake, the captain releases the brakes and we start our take off roll down the runway. I am watching the Signs out the window that tell you how many feet to the end of the runway in increments of 1000 feet. 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, I watch the two thousand feet to go marker as the nose lifts and we are airborne. Maybe it was a good thing the captain shut off the air-conditioning.
On international flights, the drinks are free so we figure for every mini bottle of alcohol we can drink we are earning two dollars. It is 1971 and this is my first flight on a 747.. The big plane went into service last year, 1970 and Japan Airlines is building a large fleet of the newest airplane in the sky. Dick Murdoch says he flew on one before, a Pan American Flight into Puerto Rico.
Murdoch's plane was on approach to the airport in San Juan when the captain came on the P.A. system and said they were having difficulty with the hydraulic system and the landing gear would not come down. They showed everyone the "Brace Position," took all pens and sharp items out of their pockets and told them to prepare for a wheels up landing. About a minute or two before landing the captain came back on the P.A. and said to relax that the landing would be routine. Everyone was scared to death, but relieved. Just before touchdown, from the back of the plane, Dick Murdoch yelled out, "Brace." Everyone on the plane screamed and ducked down into the brace position. The landing was routine.
The flight to Honolulu is six hours, time enough for us to get good and drunk, piss off all the stewardesses, and pass out and wake up for landing. In those days in Honolulu, the big jets parked out on the tarmac beside a three story building used for a boarding gate. We had a one hour layover for re-fueling. Terry, Murdoch and I wanted to go into the Terminal. There was a "Riki Bus" that would give you a ride to the terminal.
Once in the terminal the shopping was great. I filled up on Macadamia nuts, aloha shirts, and the maximum three bottles of liqueur for gifts once we arrived in Japan. (Johnny Walker scotch, Black Label Jack Daniels whiskey, and Crown Royal Canadian Whiskey) As you might guess, we were late at the stand where the "Riki Bus" was to take us to the plane. The last Riki bus had left. It appeared to be about two hundred yards out to the three story building where the big JAL 747 was waiting.
Terry and Murdoch were dressed casual, Bermuda shorts and T shirts, but I was NWA world champion so it was suit and tie for me. (Mohair taylored) They started walking, but as I looked at my watch, I knew we would never make the flight so I took off running. What would they think in Japan if the world champion can't even make his flight to Tokyo. I knew there would be a press conference upon arrival. I ran all the way to the three story building. (Temp. was a nice 80 degrees in Honolulu) As I arrived at the base of the three story building, I couldn't find the entrance. Finally I found a spiral staircase that went to the third story. I raced to the top and down on the other end of the building I could see the big JAL 747. I ran to the boarding gate and no one was left at the gate. I panicked. I expected the big plane to pull away at any moment. There was no ticket agent at the counter, only a little old lady with a mop cleaning the boarding area. I ran to her and said, "Where is everyone." She said the boarding area is on the second floor." I felt like an idiot, I came up the spiral staircase so fast I missed the second floor, (Boarding level) I ran to the spiral staircase and raced down to the second floor and ran toward the JAL 747. I ran right past Terry and Murdoch as they were strolling in their casual clothes to the flight. (It had been delayed twenty minutes.) "Junior, Where the heck are you going" It was Dick Murdoch and Terry. I stopped, looked at myself. I had perspired through my mohair suit, my shirt tail was hanging out below my suit coat, and I was panting and puffing just like I had just finished wrestling a one hour match with Jack Brisco. I was a nervous wreck and a mess. Murdoch and Terry had their fun.
As the big 747 rolled down the runway at Honolulu International Airport I was exhausted, too tired to worry about why the pilot turned off the air-conditioning for take off or how much of the runway we used. I just wanted one more mini-bottle Crown Royal and I would be sound asleep.
When we landed in Tokyo Haneda Airport (Before Narita was built) we met the other wrestlers on the trip. Dick Steinborne, Sam Bass, Rip Tyler, Jimmy Golden (Currently wrestling in WCW as Bunkhouse Buck) and Mike Padousis, For ten days we would all travel together and be best friends. Sam Bass commented to me that he was really proud that he would be considered for an international trip like this. He also asked me if I wanted to go out with him and try some of the Black Nikka whiskey. I never made it on account of the importance of the matches I was involved in. If anyone out there remembers Sam Bass, let me know he was a great guy.
Terry and I would win the International Tag Team Championship belts in a match with Giant Baba and Antonio Inoki and I would wrestle Mr. Baba and Mr. Inoki in singles championship matches on the same tour If I thought it was tough running all the way out to the boarding gate in Honolulu, that was nothing compared what I went through in the ring on this ten day tour.
Sam Bass finally got his wish. He showed up for the train to one of the towns after a night out drinking Black Nikka whiskey. He upchucked on the way into the train station and passed out on the ride. Dick Steinborne had a tape recorder and we taped his funeral that day. Everyone had a few words to say about old Sam Bass who slept through the whole thing.
Six months later Sam Bass died in a car accident in the Tennessee Territory. I am glad we had a few good words to say about Sam before he passed on.
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