Once upon a time I was doing a string of one nighters that took me through the great state of Idaho. Somewhere in the panhandle region you can find exceptional ski resorts, potatoes, and skinheads. Do not call them Nazis. That really really bothers them for some reason. Imagine that, the skinheads are intolerant of other hate groups.
I was onstage in yet another nowhere town in front of yet another group of indifferent rednecks who were mad because they couldn't play foosball while the comics were on. But this night, oh this night was different. In the back of the room were 20 skinheads. Nobody warned me. I thought perhaps it was a field trip of kids from Butte, who were returning from chemotherapy. (see, the Pit. A Road Story)
Here's how long ago this happened. The big news at the time was about Barney the Dinosaur. Remember him? It was a kid's show. A guy in a giant purple dinosaur costume talked to kids about reading and self-respect. People hated him.
An article had just come out that the actor inside the costume was an African-American man. Well, the KKK found out about this and put out a press release. I read some of it onstage that night. Somewhere in there the head clansmen is quoted as saying, "We think it's evil the way he hid his identity from people."
You have to laugh at that. Come on! It's coming from guys who dress up in sheets and hoods!
Who are you supposed to be, Casper the Intolerant Ghost?
Most of the crowd laughed. But those 20 skinheads did not find it funny. In my most stunning heckle ever, they all stood up at the same time and turned their backs to me. I guess the rallies give you a lot of practice at coordinated movements. You know, things like invading Poland and such.
It was explained to me later that what they were doing was turning their backs on me because I had sided with a black man and therefore I had turned my back on my people.
But that's not what I was thinking at the moment. When I understood everything that was going on, I took a sip of whatever it was I was drinking (it wasn't smart juice either), and calmly replied, "Oh. You're showing me your backs. I guess that's the view you guys have of most of your victims."
Again, they didn't laugh.
They rushed the stage. You know, if having an entire town hate you was invigorating, this was...painful.
It all happened so fast. I am just there smiling at my wit in the moment and the next thing I'm thinking is, wow, there are a lot of bald guys in the front row. Then it was, hey, that's a fist. Which was quickly followed by, that hurt.
I don't know how it looked to the small crowd, but I picture it looking like a Bugs Bunny cartoon when everyone goes down into a pile of tornado-like swinging fists and stray limbs. It was in that way that I managed to crawl out of the center of the brawl, without being missed.
It's true you know, hatred makes you blind.
They all just kept swinging away. I ran out to my car, proud that I was about to make a clean getaway. But the universe was not smiling on me that night.
I had locked my keys in the car.
Whatever you were expecting to happen in this story, I bet you will not see the next few things coming.
At the time I had become a huge stoner. Some nights I would get high before I went onstage and just giggle. Picture this, I would just stand there wondering why the crowd wasn't laughing and then realize I hadn't said the joke out loud yet. Nice!
I had been locking my keys in my car so much that I had devised a way to keep a key hidden on the inside bumper of the front end of the car. I remember bragging to a friend about the solution to my problem when he just said, "Or you could quit smoking weed."
Another very good idea I must say.
The car was also a disaster. I bought it for $400.00. When you spend that kind of money, you expect some trouble. First of all, the body of the car was about 80% Bondo. It wasn't a car. It was more of a four cylinder mud hut. It also had no parking brake. I had to keep a block of wood in the back seat and put it under the tires whenever I stopped. You really want to hear something odd? My last name, Klocek, is Polish. I am told that the translation is literally, "little block of wood".
To keep the car from rolling, I put a Klocek under the wheels every night.
Now there I am, a stoner far from home with a bunch of skinheads who want to kill me for pointing out the irony of the KKK critiquing someone for wearing a costume, with my keys safely in the car. I can see them too, sitting in the ignition just sort of glaring at me like the claw in one of those get-a-stuffed-animal-for-your-girlfriend kind of way.
What should I do?
This was not the smart thing. I went back into the bar and yelled, "Does anyone have a coat hanger!?"
The pile of skinheads turned, saw me and yelled "Get him!"
Luckily, this was about the time the local police showed up.
The cops knew most of these guys from other "social" groups. Even though it was 20 against 1, I was the asshole in their eyes. Things got sorted out, I got a coat hanger, the cops and the haters left.
I still had problems.
I twist the hanger into a long thin grappling hook and insert it through the window. On the first try I get the key ring! This isn't going to be so bad, I think. I pull. The keys turn in the ignition and for the first time since I have owned that piece of shit, it starts on the first try!
No parking brake, remember. So what does it start to do now? It starts to drive away without me!
The car keeps bumping into the curb but moving along basically in a straight line. At one point it runs a stoplight with me running behind it.
I catch up to it and start jogging alongside it and yelling "Stop! Stop!"
I don't know what good that will do. It's not KIT from Knight Rider.
It was at this time when the local police showed up again.
I am jogging alongside my car when they pull up next to me. The cop looks out his window and very casually asks me what I am doing.
If a cop ever pulls up next to and asks what are you're doing, as you're running next to your car, I have learned that you should not reply "Taking my car for a fucking walk, Officer!"
He was not amused.
Pulling in front of the car, he finally manages to stop it and helps me to get inside and turn the engine off.
There's an awkward few minutes as I stand there and he runs my ID.
He comes back and proceeds to start writing a ticket, never looking up at me.
"Weren't you the comic that started all that trouble tonight?"
Great. I am going to end up in some jail cell with cops and Nazis taking turns on me.
"Yah. That was me."
He hands me the ticket. It's for walking my dog without a leash.
Good to know there is a cop somewhere who has a sense of humor.
I honestly can't remember where that gig was.
I never heard from the skinheads again, and I lost the ticket in my accident with the cow.