Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Little Decisions, Huge Consequences

Brazilians are strolling on the beach, watching a pod of dolphins -- who promptly head for shore's edge. After a moment of surprise, people rush in and start pulling the dolphins back toward deeper water -- and safety. See the video here -- it's great.
    Why did the dolphins do it? Some sort of infection? Response to underwater noises...or earthquakes? (There are rumblings in the environmental world that since dolphins and whales have been grounding in record numbers, something odd is going on.)
    One quick decision, one action, almost changed their lives permanently.

Here are six famous people whose quick decisions did just that.

Tom Mix - One of the first Western movie stars -- and a strong influence on the genre. (He and John Wayne apparently disliked each other -- Mix said Wayne was a fake. Wayne said that when he was starting out, Mix had invited him and a fellow group of college football players to Hollywood, for jobs. When they got there, Mix had apparently changed his mind -- the security guard wouldn't let them in. Wikipedia says, though, that Mix did get Wayne a job moving props for the studio.)
    Mix had several marriages. (Also quick decisions, but that's another story.)  In between movies, he starred in a circus, which he eventually bought and gave to his daughter to manage. (It went bankrupt.) He continued to travel and do engagements, though his movie career eventually ground down. On Oct. 14, 1940, he was driving near Florence, AZ, and came on a washed-out bridge. Mix was driving too fast to stop quickly -- and when his car crashed, an aluminum suitcase stashed on the shelf behind him flew forward and smashed into his skull, breaking his neck in the process.
    The great "King of the Cowboys" died almost instantly -- thanks to his suitcase.

William Henry Harrison - Our ninth President of the United States was a little over 68 when he took office in 1841. (The only President older was Ronald Reagan.) Although he served in the military for decades, and was a former governor, he won partly because the other candidates were busy fighting each other -- and could agree on nothing except Harrison was a 'good guy.' Few people really knew what he thought on the issues. (I'm simplifying this some, but we're heading this way ourselves in the political process, sadly.)
    Harrison was tired of his opponents deriding him for being weak. (One of their favorite epithets was "Granny Harrison, the Petticoat General.") He decided to show them by delivering his inaugural speech standing up. For more than two hours. Outside. In the rain.
    President Harrison had never been that healthy, but he persisted -- and three weeks later, his ill health turned into pneumonia and killed him. He'd served only 32 days in office. All, it seems, because of a macho need to present a speech.  

Stevie Ray Vaughan - Considered one of the best guitar players -- ever. (Rolling Stone magazine rated him #7 on their 'Top 100' list.) After years of drugs and drinking, Vaughan was finally starting to get his act together. He'd completed a rehabilitation program, and released a new album "In Step," made with the band Double Trouble. Some of the music during those recording sessions are thought to be among Vaughan's very best.
   In August 1990, Double Trouble opened for Eric Clapton in Wisconsin; the second show featured a jam session between Vaughan and his brother Jimmie, along with Clapton, who introduced them as "the best guitar players in the entire world." The finale was "Sweet Home Chicago:"

                                                       Stevie at his last concert, last song

After the show, drummer Chris Layton began talking to Vaughan backstage:

    " He was looking forward to that ["In Step"] coming out and looking forward to us making another record. He was in great spirits. I mean, we just had two great nights and we talked about all kinds of stuff... Then he got up and said, 'I'm gonna go back down to the dressing room for a minute.' I don't know, maybe five minutes or so later, he came back up and he had his jacket on, he had his bags. He was making this turn, and I said, 'Hey, what are you doin'?' And he said, 'I'm gonna go back to Chicago.' I said 'Well, now?' And he said, 'Yeah, I gotta get back. I want to call Janna,' his girlfriend, in New York. I thought, 'Jeez, you could actually call her anywhere and then call her later,' but he turned around and said, 'Call me when you get back. I love you,' and kinda gave me that wink of the eye he would do. And then he was gone. He just disappeared into the night."

     Four helicopters took off late on that hazy, foggy night. The second one, holding Vaughan and three members of Clapton's entourage, crashed into the side of a ski hill. Authorities took hours to get to the crash site -- everyone was dead. Vaughan wasn't supposed to take that flight. But he did it -- because of a phone call.

Vaughan wasn't the only musical star whose life forever changed because of a flight on a stormy night. The Big Bopper died in the same plane crash that took Buddy Holly's life Feb. 3, 1959, because he had the flu -- and a band member, Waylon Jennings, gave up his seat. (Yes, that Waylon Jennings. Holly said to him, "I hope your old bus freezes up." Jennings said back jokingly, "Well, I hope your plane crashes." It's haunted him ever since.) 
     Ritchie Valens 'won' a coin toss for his seat on the plane. He was 17. One flip of the coin. (He lost -- he wasn't planning to go.)
     (Buddy Holly's distinctive eyeglasses, along with the Big Bopper's watch, weren't found until later, buried in the snow. They spent the next 21 years in the sheriff department's evidence drawer, until they were rediscovered in 1980.)

An even smaller decision can change your life forever -- like Michael Sands, a media consultant who engineered high-power deals for his celebrity clients. What took him down? He tried a meat sample at a deli, and choked to death on it. 

Life is brief. We don't always know that one decision may have huge consequences. But it can -- and does.


Sandi said...

Funny that I should start reading your blog posts at a time when I have had some health issues that have me reminding friends that "Life is short". I follow you on Facebook but haven't had time to read your blog til recently. I enjoyed this post, sad as it is. Earlier this week, I watched a western on Turner Classic Movies called "It Happened in Hollywood" (the 1937 version) and it was about a silent screen cowboy who was having difficulty transitioning to "talkies". It starred Richard Dix and I had the feeling that the character that he was playing was perhaps Tom Mix. I love Buddy Holly and thanks to a long ago guy who wanted to win my heart, I have one of his first albums. I grew up in Iowa not all that far from Clear Lake. I've had a number of things in my life where the position of a piece of furniture, the weather, a phone call, whatever made an interesting difference in my life. Neat post!

Cindy Brick said...

Thank you, Sandi, for the kind words -- and taking time to share.
I'd wondered if Tom Mix did far more silents than talkies, because he had a squeaky voice or something...but everything I've read says he had a lovely deep voice -- but was tired from all those years of doing his own stunts. Not to mention injuries.
I'm guessing, though, that your movie inspiration WAS Tom Mix. It makes perfect sense.
I wonder how the music world would have changed, if all these fantastic musicians had lived...

Thanks so much for writing.

There, But For The Grace of God...

Last night (Thursday), one of the Ride the Ducks boats capsized on the lake in Branson . A freak storm came up suddenly, with large waves....