In Memory

Walt Davis

Walt Davis

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03/15/11 02:08 AM #1    

Robert Irvin


Walt was a robust and ethical kind of guy in the masculine sense.  He, Tim Oakes, and I had an apartment on Willing Street in our senior year in high school.  Just a place to hang out and drink a bit of beer.  We had a rattlesnake as a companion, in a glass cage, which we fed a mouse from time to time.

He was kind hearted man, who had an ironic appreciation of the complexity of life, too soon ended.

07/03/18 10:47 PM #2    

Jayne Loader

Walt Davis was my boyfriend in 1968.  We had a powerful mutual attraction that almost—but not quite--led to disaster.    Never were two people more ill-suited to one another.

In my eyes, Walt was handsome, charismatic, intelligent and wise beyond his years.    He had a cool, calm, quiet, authoritative presence that made him, effortlessly, the leader of his group of friends.   Whenever there was a question about what to do or where to go, all eyes turned toward him.   Unlike me, Walt always seemed comfortable in his own skin, as if he knew exactly who and what he was.    The burning issues of the day—civil rights, the Vietnam War—didn't confuse him the way they did me.   

Walt had a tough-guy, bad-boy persona.  But, in my view, underneath that was a person…a person only I got to see.  Maybe all girls who are crazy about the wrong boys believe that, but still.    

When I started dating Walt, my artsy, intellectual, high-achieving friends—all bound for elite colleges--were horrified.  They would dissect him mercilessly, while I’d object:

“Oh, no!   He’s really sweet.  And gentle. And kind!"

“No, no!   He is intelligent. You wouldn’t believe how smart he is!”

Correct.   They didn’t believe me.  What about the fighting?  The vandalism?  The drinking, smoking and hard-partying? His grades?

“He doesn’t care about school, so he doesn’t work. That would be…uncool.”

Walt reminded me of a character from “Rebel Without A Cause.”  Not the star, James Dean (Jim), who was sensitive on the outside, too.  Or the rich-boy lunatic, Sal Mineo.  No.  Walt reminded me of James Dean’s antagonist, Buzz Gunderson:   the leader of the pack.  Before he goes over the cliff during the chickie run, Buzz says to Jim, “ You know something? I like you.” "Why do we do this?” Jim asks.  "You've gotta do something. Don't you?”  That was Walt in a nutshell.  Except Walt would never get stuck in a car or go over a cliff.

As one of my older, wiser girlfriends put it, “You know where this Romeo-and-Juliet thing is heading, don’t you?   To rats and roaches and dead dreams.  The works!”

By the end of these conversations, my friends were (in current parlance) rolling on the floor laughing, while I stood there, bewildered, besotted.  They would give up and leave and I would go into my bedroom to write yet another poem about Walt.

The only person in my life who didn't think I should break up with Walt mother, normally fiercely protective where boys were concerned.  It wasn’t just that Walt turned on the charm full-force when he came over.  (Walt made you think you were the only person in the room.)  Or that he reminded her of my long-lost father, circa the summer they fell in love.   Mom was panicking.   All those years of protecting me from boys, and now, in just a couple of more months, I would fly the coop—never to return, probably.  She looked at Walt and saw red-headed grandbabies—and her last best chance to keep me in Fort Worth.   Poor Mom.

Walt’s person and persona were completely in synch in one area: politics.   He was an active, enthusiastic Young Republican, along with his friends Tim Oakes and Bill Owens, who ridiculed my left-wing politics mercilessly.  But I bonded with their girlfriends, with whom we double-dated:  Susan Motheral and Kathy Halbower, still my beloved friends today.

If Walt and I had stayed together, we might have become James Carville and Mary Matalin. But we didn’t stay together.

The beginning of the end came at Texas A & M homecoming in the fall of 1968.  Walt’s brother was an Aggie and in the Corps, and Walt planned to be an Aggie and in the Corps, too.  (To see how different Walt and I were, you only have to peruse the colleges to which we applied. Hers:  Reed, Swarthmore, Bennington, Oberlin, Antioch and Bard.  His:  Texas A & M.)   Sitting in the stands at the big game, I was horrified.  The shiny boots, the marches, the chants.  And, later on, the bonfire—it was like drowning in a sea of testosterone.  The whole thing was so traumatic that, to this day, I can sing every word of the Aggie War Hymn. Walt, on the other hand, was completely at home, happy, in his element.    When I finally told Walt exactly what I thought of Texas A & M, a few of the choice words that popped out of my mouth were “racism,” “sexism" and “fascism."  

Back in Fort Worth, I didn’t have the strength to make the move myself.  So Walt took pity on me and broke up with me.

Flash forward to 1977.  I was living in Washington, DC, making a movie, and had come home to spend Christmas with my mother. Richard Adcock took me to a party in Arlington Heights at what turned out to be Walt’s house.  Walt looked terrific.   His beautiful, wavy red-gold hair had grown out, past his shoulders.   His blue eyes twinkled at me from across the room.  

Or, as Dolly Parton sang it:   "Here you come again lookin' better than a body has a right to / And shakin' me up so that all I really know / Is here you come again...and here I go.”   

Before Richard realized his fatal error and dragged me away—the last thing in the world he ever wanted was me back together with Walt Davis—I told Walt to call me.   He did. The next evening, we met at Rick’s Locker Room on Park Place.

Over burgers and beers, I learned that Walt was working on the line at Miller Brewing Company.  (I don’t know what happened with Texas A & M.) This made me sad, because he was squandering his gifts.   Then Walt threw me a curveball:  the workers at Miller’s, then as now, were represented by the Teamsters Union.   Walt didn’t like the way the local was being run and had decided to get involved in union politics, to run for office.

Like my Aunt Maudie used to say, “Whoa, Nelly!”  Walt Davis?  A union organizer?  Nothing could have surprised me more.  But it seemed like a wonderful idea, a terrific use of Walt’s brains, charisma, good looks and charm.   The Teamsters Union was evil, dangerous and corrupt, true.  But Walt was tough, smart and wily enough to survive—even to thrive—in that cutthroat environment.   I recalled the Young Republicans convention of 1968 and the dirty tricks Walt and his comrades had played to get their candidates elected.    The Teamsters would be a cake walk, after Young Republicans!  I imagined Walt going straight to the top--with my help. 

During college, I had been an organizer for Countdown ’72, a voter registration group affiliated with the McGovern campaign.  I was terrific at writing press releases, making phone calls, and designing posters. During graduate school in Ann Arbor, I had worked for the United Auto Workers in Detroit.  Plus, my college boyfriend’s father was General Counsel for the Western Conference of Teamsters (a coincidence so unlikely you couldn’t  have put it a novel).   Mr. Brundage liked me (especially after I didn't marry his son!).   Surely, if I asked, he would mentor Walt, take him under his wing.

After a couple of more nights of making big plans with Walt, I flew back to Washington.  For a couple of months, we talked on the phone.   Gradually, the phone calls dwindled.   The big plans never materialized.  Both of us went back to our real lives.  The next thing I knew, Walt was dead.   What an incredible waste. 

07/04/18 05:57 AM #3    

David McMillan

Heartbreaking to hear of Walt's passing.  We were great friends and I'm sure I'm guilty of being an accomplice in many of Jayne's discriptions. 

Pretty sure the rattlesnake was a hand-me-down from Noel Ice & myself as Walt inheirited the apartment (on Willing) from us.  Our favorite rattler and probably the very snake Jayne saw, was a Pigmy Rattler we caught one summer night while driving around Benbrook lake.

Maybe Noel will chime in for clarification.



PS:  Happy Independance Day to all!  Hoping it's Grand!

07/04/18 11:22 AM #4    

Kirk Ray

Whenever Walt showed up, everyone was happy and excited. There was a "right place at the right time" aura he seemed to carry with him.

He had won a Golden Gloves award in 10th grade I think, and I wasn't interested in brawling with him unless we were on the same side. He was a tough sandlot football player, and those games weren't for wussys.

We enjoyed beer and poker, and he even liked singing for people, especially Johnny Cash-style-stuff. Since my dad was an Aggie, I knew all the cheers, songs, and traditions, which gave us another thing in common when we were out raising hell.

My friend (the late) Jim Unfried was one of Walt's best buddies, and I hope they've been having fun wherever they may be.

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