June 3, 2023

Waxin’ Wayne – Part 1

Waxin' WayneI’ll be brief tonight, simply because there’s not much night left. The blog entries are going to be a bit light this week and next for the most ironic of reasons: I don’t have time to write because the co-author of our book, Veeps: Profiles In Insignificance is in town for a visit, and I’ll be busy reconnecting with him and plotting our next move in taking our book from the galleys to the stratosphere.

For those of you who’ve read much on this blog and our accompanying profile in the Cedar Rapids Gazette this past January, you know that Wayne and I share a unique history centered around our passion for the Vice Presidents. We both caught the Veep bug early. For years, we brushed past one another in Veep chatrooms and jousting one another for Vice Presidential memorabilia on eBay.

Before we even met one another, I received a torrent of hateful emails from him when I landed an Alben Barkley undershirt in a 1999 online auction on an eBay offshoot. I didn’t do anything technically wrong, but I contacted the seller in Silver Springs, Maryland, and promised him a rare bootleg copy of 1968 Curtis LeMay stump speeches that I happened to have two copies of if he’d withdraw his auction at the last minute and let me pay $5 over what it looked like Wayne was going to pay. That wasn’t wrong. That was just shrewd wheeling and dealing, and smart strategy.

Well, he didn’t see it that way. It was early in 2000 that we were waiting out an auction for a Dan Quayle gym bag and jar of Ben-Gay from his House of Representative years when he was known more for his pickup basketball sessions in the Congressional gymnasium than his legislative dedication. I didn’t have any tricks up my sleeve this time. I thought we’d just fight it out like men.

That made one of us. I was at my computer counting down the last 120 seconds before the auction closed, confident that my wrist and fingers were faster than Wayne’s and the winning last-second bid would be mine.

I had my hand on my mouse and was waiting for the magic hour when I heard sirens. I didn’t think anything of it. I had an auction to worry about. The sirens kept getting closer, and closer. I figured they’d just blow past.

Then they stopped in front of my apartment. I still didn’t pay much attention. I wanted that goddamned Quayle swag, and I sure as well wasn’t going to let Wayne have it. I didn’t care if the house was burning.

Fifteen seconds later and 90 seconds until the close of the auction and there are people pounding at my door, telling me to open it right goddamn now or it was coming off the hinges. I was spooked, and I had no idea what the hell was going on. I heard the “police” part, and I sure as hell heard the pounding and threats, but I was quite frankly befuddled why they were so anxious to get inside my apartment, and with 65 seconds left until the auction’s close, I still didn’t want to get up and answer the door.

I heard more sirens approaching and more tires screeching to a halt in front of my home, and I was pretty damned rattled at this point–35 seconds before the auction closed. I had my bid ready. I was there. And I’d deal with this obviously pressing issue afterward–in, like, 45 seconds. As soon as I heard my name–”Mr. Kelter, we are entering this apartment in ten seconds if you do not open this door!”–I had to rethink my dedication to winning the auction.

Uncle. They called me by my name. I don’t know what the hell is going on, but they’re obviously here for me, and I’ve just heard no less than four police cars skid to a halt in front of the house in which I rent an apartment. In a moment of clarity, I realized this could all end badly, so I left my computer and yelled that I was unarmed and coming to let them in.

Well, they’d received a phone call that a Bill Kelter was holding his girlfriend, Tipper–a fairly clever touch I thought–at knifepoint and was going to slit her throat and then take a revolver and blow his brains out because he was yelling out the window about how he was tired of being a loser and was going to end his miserable life right here and now.

It took about 90 minutes to sort the whole mess out. They wouldn’t believe the auction motive, but it was clear fairly quickly there was no hostage situation occurring inside my apartment. But the auction was over and someone–”suckitfanboy2000″ who just created their account that afternoon and had a PO box in San Francisco just a few miles from where I knew Wayne lived–came away with the Quayle collectibles. I still wasn’t out of the woods until they told me days later that the call came from a cell phone somewhere in the Bay Area that they weren’t able to locate and was registered under an assumed name.

He never ‘fessed to it, but he didn’t need to–after we became friends, I saw the dufflebag and the Ben-Gay in his trophy case in his apartment (he still claims he bought it re-auctioned in 2003).

Anyway, there are a number of choice things I can say about Wayne, and some of them are quite choice given that, beyond all odds, he would become one of my best friends and closest compatriots. More on this tomorrow.