Vic Lives On…Forever

vicStrange things happen.

My first husband was a man named Vic Latham and he lived in Key West. He was a huge, legendary kind of man who takes up too much space in the room. He drank, ate, snorted and smoked more than five men on a full moon night.  If they made a movie about Vic they would have to dig up Cecil D Demille to direct the damn thing. That’s how big he was.

He was more than twenty years  older than I and I was his fifth wife. (I was young and didn’t  think four previous wives was a bad sign for a marriage.) vic and I had two “first meetings”.

The second introduction occurred when my brother, Granger was getting ready to go to prison.   I had to take care of some shady business in the Florida Keys, for him while he was away.  I was in college at the time, semi innocent and dedicated, no, devoted, to my brother Granger.  He introduced me to Vic, who was one of the owners of a famous late night bar called the Full Moon Saloon (aka The Full Spoon Saloon). He asked  Vic to ‘keep an eye on me” while he was behind bars.

Vic fell in love with me. Hard.  I fell in love with Key West, the famous people who hung out at his house, the appearance of money and a rambunctious wildness, I fell in love with his charm, his stories and being completely adored.

After Vic and I had been dating for six months or so I suddenly remembered a picture, from a vacation my mom, dad and I took when I was a very little girl.  I called my mom and asked her to dig up the artifact. And she did. And it was so spooky I was nearly speechless for an hour.

My mother, father and I had visited Key West when I was eight years old. We ate lunch at a elegant bistro  called Louies’ Backyard. It was a beautiful old house on the ocean.  In the picture I’m wearing a blue Holly Hobbit smock shirt and eating steak tartar. My daddy is next to me with a bloody mary and smoking a cigarette.  The manager of Louies’ Backyard is standing between us staring directly at the camera with black eyes and a black goatee  He’s very tall, handsome and dangerous looking. And he’s the only one looking at the camera. It was Vic. He’d taken care of us that afternoon and he posed when my mother asked to take our picture.

For years Vic joked my father would have shot him right there had he known what would happen years later.

Obviously Vic and I were meant to be together. Fate was busy orchestrating our meeting and marriage because Jack and Mary were born, two of the most inexplicably magical, talented and extraordinary people on the planet. They are so much like Vic and so much like me. And they will change the world.

Vic died yesterday, Easter. But he lives on.

Vic Bails Jerry Jeff Walker Out Of Jail

jerry jeffI try to write stories, sometimes, about my family history.  I want to make sure my kids have them. And I realized recently I’m the last one who knows most of the tales so I better write them down.

My first husband Vic Latham  is a brilliant mess.  He was also, it seems, a muse for some of the most famous and talented artists in American history, from Jimmy Buffett to Phil Caputo. He’s always had  a cruel and elegant way of twisting the English language. Years ago, he came up with  one of my favorite lines  describing a smuggler friend, “he had that rich glint of lunacy”.  He is a huge man, nearly six foot six, but I always thought Danny DiVito should play him in a movie.

In the 1960’s Vic was living in New Orleans, bar tending at The Kings Room. Now he’s gnarled and gray. Once a newspaper described him as a cross between Orson Well and Santa Claus. But back them he was something to look at. Towering over most men with black hair, a black goatee and a voice as deep as the Grand Canyon.

He had a friend named Jerry who was a drifter and street musician at the time. For several weeks in 1966 Jerry had been crashing on Vic’s couch and then he went missing.  Finally, Vic found him, in jail.

After bailing Jerry out of jail for $52 dollars they went out and ate hot dogs.  While they were eating Jerry pulled out a piece of yellow legal pad paper and said, “check out this song I wrote while I was locked up.”

Vic read it and said something polite. He was still thinking about his lost fifty two dollars. He knew he’d never see that cash again.

A year later Vic was in some dive, outside new Orleans and dropped his change in the juke box.  There was a song  called “Mr. Bojangles” that seemed familiar but he didn’t recognize the name of the artist.  When the song started, Vic realized immediately  what he was listening to. Jerry had changed his name to Jerry Jeff Walker and the song Mr. Bojangles was his first big hit.

Since that night Vic bailed Jerry Jeff out of jail he’s gone on to realease more than two dozen albums and is a legend in Texas and the world of Country music.

When Vic first told me this story I thought it was bull shit. Then one day, Jerry Jeff called our house in Key West. He wanted Vic to play golf with him and jokingly offered to pay back that $52 bucks. Well hell, that time the story was true.

“The rich glint of lunacy” ….that’s actually the perfect way to describe Vic.