No disrespect intended — and I’m sure Duane doesn’t mind.
No, Duane would be far more upset and feel truly disrespected were I to start off with a different phrase, the tease that was pretty much guaranteed to send him half-beserk with rage every time. That phrase — true to its nature as a tease — will only be revealed at the end of this post. That’s my tease.
Duane, AKA Johnny Flash AKA Ace, died way back in 1986, my second close friend to die too early. I’d known him since our high school days through college and beyond and enjoyed more than a few chuckles and adventures along the way, thanks to Duane. While writing recently to share stories of my old friend, Mike MacNaughton, I started remembering some of the stories about Duane — far too many to share in one blog post, so this one focuses on some high school (lovingly misspelled as “Hi Skool”) hi-jinks.
Now, Mike MacNaughton & Duane had been friends long before I knew either of them, meaning I missed out on some of their earlier antics and would hear sketchy stories about incidents only later. So, I missed out on the first little escapade that unfolded on the very first day of our high school freshman classes,. The way I heard it (meaning, no I cannot vouch for any this), Mike brought, for reasons unknown, a pair of handcuffs to school. Maybe it had to do with him learning and practicing magic tricks. But these were definitely not trick handcuffs. Again, I was not there, so I do not know the details, but somehow the handcuffs ended up on Duane and the key, which Mike had, of course, brought, ended up on the roof.
And Duane and Mike ended up starting high school in the office, awaiting the police who would release Duane.
I got to know Duane later, sharing a few classes along the way. Whether he was cutting up in class or playing with absurd toys in the courtyard before school (as shown in the photo), Ace enjoyed any and all distractions from the alleged learning we were supposed to be at school for —and often supplied his own.
For example, Duane was in the same chemistry class with me and MacNaughton. While Mike & my antics were more blatant and non-stop, Duane did manage to make our teacher, Mrs. Walters, freak out pretty good early in the semester. As she was lecturing with her back to the class, writing on the board, Duane quickly put not one, but both of his feet behind his head (a very limber fellow). “Mrs. Walters! Mrs. Walters! Look at Duane!” we yelled, she turned and saw him and nearly fainted. “Don’t EVER do that in my class again!”
We shared a junior English class where he established 2 little routines to kick off class each day. Firstly, he and Mike Eddy and Franklin Schaefer would sing “Hello” in 3-part harmony-3 Stooges style to our teacher, Mrs. Dubose, much to her daily amusement. Duane also set up a closed shoe box with an opening like a suggestion box, but labelled it “Pun of the Day.” Each class, he would select one of the puns someone had written down and stuffed in the slot (pretty sure he and maybe Mike Eddy wrote most of them) and would read one aloud before turning the class over to Mrs. Dubose for the day’s lesson — a little levity to lift the spirits. That was Ace.
When our school’s choir program announced a fundraising drive to send the chorale to Europe, Ace announced that the OK Chorale — that singing trio from English plus me — would likewise be raising funds for our big tour at the Auditorium Hotel, a cheap downtown hotel. He made various flyers parodying any publicity the choir would come out with.
In response to the high school English drive to derive deep meaning out of obscure, oblique, or opaque literature, Duane wrote a satirical poem called “The Electric Doggie Biscuit Review,” insisting its drivel was serious literature. Sure enough, it got published in that year’s student literary magazine.
Our senior year, MacNaughton and Duane started a weekly pep rally tradition of bringing some absurdly huge prop, like an “outhouse” with a hand reaching up from out of the toilet. I never attended the Friday morning pep rallies, so I missed seeing that, but stories circulating around school certainly filled in the details. However, when our football team, the Memorial Mustangs, was about to play our arch-rivals, the Spring Branch Bears, the vice principal stopped Mike and Ace from bringing in that week’s rally prop — a huge teddy bear nailed to a life-size cross. “Get that thing outta here,” Clanton snarled, not even slightly amused.
Ace got that nickname, at least in part, due to working on the school newspaper crew as an “ace reporter.” Mostly, he would finagle a hall pass, saying he was looking for “hot tips” and roam the halls. He rarely wrote anything but nobody on the student staff minded. Our journalism teacher, Mrs. Pritchett, however, eventually got irritated at Ace, so he and I co-wrote a quick column about pinball games and pinball wizardry (this was shortly after “Tommy” came out). Okay, I wrote most of the article and Ace shared the byline, with his name first. By supplying us with a daily dose of absurd entertainment, he more than pulled his weight around the newspaper crew.
Ah, high school — glad I had an Ace on my side to make it through those dull, dreary days back then. We would go on to have more adventures later in college — but those stories will have to wait till next time we visit again with my dear, dead friend Duane.
Okay, I promised to reveal the one phrase guaranteed to drive Duane beserk, the simple phrase you could always tease him with and he never seemed to get over, uttered as plaintive cry:
Dwain the bathtub, I’m dwowning!
Gotta go — that just might rouse him from the dead for a response! I’ll share more stories including his college inventions and inspiration later.