High, Wild and Handsome, Part Two

John Clark photo

As Beau Farnsworth reached middle age, he grew discontented and felt buried by the trappings of fame. An argument might be made that the prices were a mite high, but when a fan bought a tee shirt, he didn’t actually buy a piece of Beau. He just bought a shirt. Too many of them acted like they owned him. That was the first and best lesson his daddy taught him: “Never let nobody run over you.”

Nobody. Not a fan. Not a crew chief. Not Chevrolet. Not the damned President of the United States, for that matter. Nor did Beau try to run over them. He just minded his own business, but his business was damn big. He had his turf, though, and he was going to protect it. His fans loved him for what he was, and if, occasionally, he whirled around in the garage area and screamed, “Look, Goddamn it, I love every one of you, and, right now, I’d love for you to get out of my fucking way!” well, as they often said, “That’s part of it.”

He was tired, though. He remembered, like every jaded and successful man, how much more he’d seemed to enjoy life when he’d had so little money. It wasn’t like he could just quit. Oh, no. The more money a man made, the more commitment came with it. Beau, currently “unaccompanied,” was keeping up three wives, six children of his, and one stepdaughter. He recalled the old times, screwing around in the infield with Amy Gilliam, smoking weed, and watching his old man kick some short-track ass. Damn, them days were fun. Now he had to cut a commercial in Victory Lane that was seriously going to piss off the writers, but they’d get over it. It needed some authentic-looking props, so Beau’s PR gal, Alene Marr, had announced a “media availability.” The availability was being in a commercial for Cheerios.

Photos by John Clark
Photos by John Clark

Beau pulled the Famed Number 38 into the Charlotte Motor Speedway lane, climbed out of his car, kissed a beauty queen, put on Pet Milk cap – marketing tie-in! – and did what all NASCAR racers did, which was have a bowl of Cheerios. He hoisted a trophy, and some guy who sounded like Don Pardo said, “Congratulations, Beau Farnsworth, on winning another NASCAR championship!”

He hoisted the trophy. Confetti streamed. Bowls of cereal showed up all around him. It was an out-of-control Cheerios party.

“Anyone have any questions for the Champ?” asked would-be Pardo. A multitude of bona fide journalists raised their hands and even shouted in vain. “Go ahead, Fred.”

“Fred” was a professional actor who looked more like a writer in a 1940s movie than the contemporary model. “Yeah, Beau, which ya like bettuh? Da regluh Cheerios or da indescribable pleashuh uh Honey Nut Cheerios?”

“Fred” was apparently from Southie.

Close-up on Beau. “Well, you know what I always say, Fred. Sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you don’t.” (Note: He already had the express written permission of Mounds and Almond Joy, who sponsored him in a few Busch Series races.)

Several versions of the commercial were needed. Canned questions continued. The writers tried to leave. So sorry. The gates had been locked. The first gate that was unlocked was the one that enabled Beau to escape the writers before any legitimate questions were asked.

“See you later, boys,” the Champ yelled. “I’ll make it up to you.”




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