I was on my friend Ken's blog earlier today and he had a post about the Hyatt Regency Collapse in July of 1981. I remember July 1981 very well, for purely narcissistic reasons. At the time of the Hyatt Collapse, Harry Chapin had died the day before, and the love of my life was just about to end the wonderful thing we had.
The first professional interview I ever did was with Harry Chapin. He was playing at the Palmer Auditorium in Davenport in 1978 and the ticket sales were a bit slow, so I'm sure he was forced to do the dog and pony radio show. I was given a phone number to call and a time but when I called the number, no one answered. I went about my business and left the building for a bit. when I got back, there was a hand written message from the secretary that said "Harry Chapin called, please call him at the number you have". I kept that piece of paper for decades until the flood of 1992 in my basement destroyed it. I kept calling him Mr. Chapin during the interview and he kept correcting me. "My name is Harry, my dad was Mr. Chapin" He personally invited me to the show, I went and it was quite incredible, telling those stories. He died in a traffic accident on July 16, 1981. I was furious at the news and cried. It rained that day.
This video of the Hyatt Regency Collapse on Nightline features a couple of old friends Harold Knabe of the Fire Department and Scott Feldman, one of the best reporters ever to come through KC. I was at a local bar that Friday night (surprise) when it came on TV. It was July 17, 1981. I immediately rushed to the radio station to find Charles Gray and the staff of 61 Country knee deep in the story. "Blood's the word, we need people to give blood", then 30 minutes later being told by the Red Cross, "send them away, there are too many people wanting to give blood". It was one of the most chaotic nights I have ever spent in radio. I was there until two a.m. It rained all day the next day.
One of the heroes of the Hyatt Disaster was a doctor named Joe Wacherle. Doctor Joe was rich, handsome and single. Little did I know that he caught the eye of the woman I was dating at the time. Bree was one of the most scrumptious creatures ever. Intoxicatingly beautiful, she was the object of many looks and come ons. Funny, intelligent, tempestuous, unpredictable and she always went home with me. Until she met Doctor Joe. I couldn't blame her really, he pretty much had the whole package. Good looking guy, famous medical hero, a real man's man. This was the only woman who had ever hit me, popped me in the ear one time in a jealous rage. I certainly didn't deserve it but that was the nature of the relationship. It was one of the best years of my life. This was the woman I was with when we found out John Lennon was asassinated. I even took her to the Quad Cities to meet my family. They fell in love with her, too. She left on July 24th 1981 approximately a year after we experienced "love at first sight". I was emotionally devastated beyond recognition and it took me a while to get over it. It didn't work out with them and they were toast soon. Her and I had one more two day work out in October where we really couldn't get enough of each other (I remember the World Series was the Dodgers and Yankees for some reason) and then..she was gone and again I was never the same completely. I never saw her again. She moved back to San Francisco, married her high school sweetheart and had two beautiful children. By all accounts, she was living the life she had wanted until she was killed in an auto accident in 1995. I never loved anyone harder than her, but it was never easier to love someone so completely. She lived her life fully. She filled many chapters in this book and I think of her often. White Shoulders perfume never smelled so sweetly as it did on you. The picture on the left was December 1980 when I delivered a eulogy for John Lennon at the All Souls Unitarian Church and the picture on the right is Padre Island April, 1981
This was the song on the radio during all of this...the one I remember most anyway...
So, July 1981 was one of the worst times of my life for more than one reason. But unlike, Harry (dead at 38), all of those people on the skywalk or one of the loves of my life, I am here on this Earth to ramble on. Miss you, B.
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