An acquaintance of mine recently posted a video on Facebook. On the video, Jack Nicklaus is driving into the country club at Augusta to attend The Masters Golf Tournament. Ol’ Jack has aged quite a bit and wasn’t real familiar to several of the rentacops and sheriff’s deputies running security. But as soon as they recognized him, they bowed and scraped, apologized for not recognizing him, blew off any thoughts of checking his I.D. and waved him through. Mister Nicklaus was gracious. At one time, he said to one of the security guys, “Don’t apologize… you’re just doing your job”
Watching this famous golfer enter this prestigious golf club made me remember another famous performer of equal class and talent. Many years ago, Tommy Jones was the director of the Oklahoma City Airshow. He was the world champion
aerobatic pilot to boot. On the day of the show at Oklahoma City, Tom had been pretty busy. As a result he was running a bit late. He figgered he’d just drive in the back way and didn’t anticipate any problems. It should be pointed out that, at that time, Tom drove a cool little pickup truck with a jet black and shiny paint job. Under the window in elegant gold lettering, it proclaimed him to be “Tom Jones, Famous Stunt Pilot”. Perhaps it should also be pointed out that the Oklahoma City Airport was pretty democratic. Ever since it’s founding, unlike Augusta, it had allowed women and black fliers to swoop on in. But I digress.
Well, evidently a few other people had the same idea and Tom was held up on a dirt road as traffic slowed to a crawl. Tom fussed. He drummed his fingers. His tension rose as he realized how much he had to do, preparing his plane, conducting the briefing and finally performing. Eventually he got to the cop who was directing traffic.
“May I see your pass, please,” the cop inquired. I can’t say that I blame Tom. He probably didn’t expect the same treatment that Jack Niclaus got years later at Augusta, but it’s safe to assume that he was surprised at being stopped. After all, he was driving “The Stunt Truck”, he was attired in his nomex flight suit with sponsor patches all over it and wearing his AAR Oklahoma hat. However, he didn’t have a pass. He never thought he’d need one. The cop thought differently. Tom explained who he was and the fact that it was kinda important that the Airshow Security guy let the Airshow Director through.
Well, I wasn’t there, but I’ve been in the same position enough times that I can pretty much guess why things came to the head they did. Tom, realizing that time was wasting, told the cop that he didn’t have time for all this badge foolishness. He took off. The little truck bounced across the field as Tom made his way to the hangars. The cops were in hot pursuit. As I understand it, the chase actually ended when an officer leveled a shotgun at Tom and ordered him to stop! They may have even ‘cuffed him!
Thankfully, one of the big shots with the airshow scrambled to the scene and smoothed all the ruffled law enforcement feathers. Tom was allowed to continue, grumbling all the way.
But maybe in a way these two venue arrivals, both Jack Nicklaus’ and Tom Jones’, illustrate the difference between two entertainment venues. I guess that champion golfers will always be more well-known and famous than champion pilots, who in so many ways have so much more to lose. And Jack Nicklaus didn’t even have “Jack Nicklaus, Famous Golfer” emblazoned on the door of his car!