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#187 John Denver

(Or, “The Show Must go on”)

Written 5-17


It was while I was in the airshow biz and we were scheduled to perform at a very high altitude airport in Colorado.  In fact, the airport had an illuminated sign which showed departing pilots what the density altitude was at the time of takeoff.  I’ve never forgotten that the sign said “10,800” that day.  I was married at the time and my wife was a died-in- the-wool fan of John Denver.  Hell, who wasn’t?  I liked the Colorado-loving, folk singer and pilot.


I had done the first half of my comedy act and was just waiting for my wife’s cue to enter and perform the last part of our comedy act.  At the end, she would shoot me down, Ace the Wonder Dog would herd the ducks up and the three of us would fly off together.  We’d make a secret return with another performer supplying a diversion.

But unbeknown to us, John Denver made a surprise appearance.  My wife was on the announcer’s stand, ready to give me a cue.  I was in my Cub, engine running and getting ready to roll.  John Denver was introduced by the airshow announcer and introductions were made all around up on the stand.  She was ready to meet her heartthrob and probably even had her hand out for a shake when she was told by the show controller that it was our turn.  She showed her true professionalism by turning to the singer and declaring, “Sorry, Mister Denver, but Krashbern is on…”  Then she transmitted on her handheld, “You’re on, Krashbern!”   She grabbed her 12 gauge and scampered out to the flight line to finish the act.  I took off and climbed to altitude, Nancy shot me down for failing to pay for the ducks she’d delivered.  Ace the Wonder Dog parachuted out of the plane, I crashed into the duck box, Ace rounded up the ducks and the three of us bounded into the Cub and took off into the Density altitude of 10,800.  With two people and a dog, it took forever.  I delicately climbed off the hot runway, over a couple of fences and down the valley, staying in ground effect, then slowly climbing until we were out of sight.  Another act was launched and, using him as a diversion, we landed next to the ramp and skulked back to our pit area.  Nancy hauled ass back to the announcer’s stand to finally meet John Denver.  He had left.

My character, Krashbern T. Throttlebottom and his sidekick, Ace, the Wonder Dog.

That was a long time ago.  Ace the Wonder Dog has been dead for years.  The marriage is over; John Denver was killed in an airplane crash.  Nothing lasts forever.

And, to this day, I have mixed feelings about that event.  On the one hand I feel so sorry and grateful that Nancy’s professionalism overshadowed her desire to meet the famous singer.  Yet I am always amused by the events that eclipsed her desire.  It may be one of the very few times of my life that I’ve allowed such schadenfreude to affect me.  But the show must go on, regardless of the consequences.  I applaud her sense of duty.


4 comments to #187 John Denver

  • John

    John Denver was my favorite performer and entertainer. He inspired many people. I would have liked to have met him, Krashbern and Ace the Wonder Dog! Wish you would post some video of your old act. Flying farmer routines are some of the best flying fun out there.

    • brian

      Video of the old Duck act is coming. It will just take some time. As I often say, There’s only ONE of me! And all should know that I intentionally stayed away from “Flying Farmer” acts, preferring story acts. I was inspired by Jimmy Franklin’s Zar act. In my opinion, the air show business has been doomed for some time. There are several reasons, but lack of knowledge of Showmanship is the main one.

      • John

        I look to forward to seeing such footage. Boy would I like to sit down over s cup of coffee and hear more about what you alluded to. I have some thoughts on that subject myself. And as far as airshows are concerned, I enjoyed more the old acts of grace and wonder. Watching sky born monster trucks cut the air up violently is far less enjoyable.

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