by Brule Eagan
“Do you feel lucky?”…one of the most memorable quotes in cinema history. And appropriate for Friday the 13th.
Sam, Chesney, and Lesane probably felt lucky. All of them were well-known, well-paid entertainers. Let’s meet them.
They called him “The Yankee Leaper”.
Sam was the original American daredevil, known for taking on risky stunts for money and fame, including the feat that put him on the map: jumping into the Niagara River from a raised platform. In previous jumps, Sam learned to hit the water feet-first, which is why he was able to survive.
On the sixth of November, 1829, Sam staged a jump into New York’s Genesee River. Not satisfied with the audience of 8,000 who came to witness it, Sam rescheduled the jump for a week later, and leapt from a platform 125 feet above High Falls. And he was delighted that the crowd was 10,000.
Then, there’s Chesney. Chesney could sing better than he could play the trumpet, and he could really play. Chesney was from an era when creativity and talent seemed to be fueled by copious amounts of heroin, and Chesney was addicted. Despite frequent brushes with the law, and having lost his teeth (some say in a beating), Chesney survived into the 1980s. Dentures gave him his smile back, and after adapting to them, he resumed his musical career.
Finally, there’s Lesane, also a singer, famous enough to have ringside seats to the Mike Tyson-Bruce Seldon fight in Las Vegas on September 7, 1996. After the fight, he got a ride with a friend. When their car stopped at an intersection, another car pulled up alongside; its occupants shooting at them. Lesane was taken to the hospital with gunshot wounds.
Here’s what became of Sam, Chesney, and Lesane:
Sam Patch’s stunt took place on Friday, the 13th of November, 1829. He was roaring drunk when he jumped. His body was recovered from the Genesee River the following spring, frozen solid in a block of ice.
Chesney “Chet” Baker was found dead on an Amsterdam street on Friday, the 13th of May, 1988. He’d fallen from his second-story hotel room, and although heroin and cocaine was found in his room and his body, his death was ruled accidental.
No one was ever prosecuted for the shooting of Lesane Parish Crooks, who died six days after he was shot, which was Friday, the 13th of September, 1996. You knew him as Tupac Shakur.
It’s said there are as many people born on Friday the 13th as any other day, but slightly more people die on Friday the 13th as any other day. Apparently fear can kill, whether the fear is reasonable or not.
So, perhaps, the question posed by Detective Harry Callahan should be rephrased:
“Do you feel reasonable? Well, do ya?”