Because of their friendship, David painted a picture for my parents when they got married in 1968. It was a wild painting that had Heaven on one side and Hell on the other. In between Heaven and Hell, in the middle of the painting, was love.
David had a lot of interest in witchcraft. This painting had symbols from the magic alphabet on it naming the elements of the picture. I have fond memories of it hanging in our living room next to Dad's Rock-Ola Fireball jukebox. In addition to the gift of the painting, David also painted a magic alphabet sign on the front of my Dad's helmet. A few years later he left the Kansas City area for warmer adventures in Florida and then to California.
Like many families, my Mom got on a religious kick back in the early 1980's. Soon her attention was drawn to David’s painting…
You guessed it. She burned the painting in our fireplace. I was too young to realize the magnitude of what she had done. I remember the look of horror and defeat in my father’s eyes as it went up in smoke.
A few years ago David returned from the west coast to Kansas City and soon he and Dad were visiting regularly again. That was the first time I met David as an adult.
I was at a car show down near Kemper Arena. He was very friendly to me when I met him and he told me something I didn't expect to hear, "Your Dad, John, inspired one of my paintings for Easyriders."
I couldn't believe it. After having David’s real painting destroyed by my overzealous Catholic mother, here was my redemption! Could it be that my father was the inspiration for one of David's famous paintings? Perhaps the one where the guy is admiring himself in the storefront glass and is about to hit the VW bug in front of him? Or maybe, my Dad was the inspiration for the famous Ghostrider? Who knew?
My heart was beating 100 mph and I was hanging on David's next words. Then he said, "One time when your Dad had his three wheeler we were out riding and pulled up to a stoplight. When your Dad stopped, his back tire was on my foot. I said, ‘John, get the hell off my foot!"
I wasn't sure how to take this. On one hand my old man had inspired a piece of David Mann's greatness, but on the other hand my Dad had also run over his foot! Not the macho cool thing I was hoping for.
After some considerable searching I finally found the image of the painting on a website. (David didn't have any reprints since it was not that popular) Then I took the image and printed it out and took it to him to sign. His inscription reads - To: Jeremy - Your Dad and my fun times! - David Mann. I framed it and it hangs in my basement by my pool table.
All in all it turned out to be a pretty cool story. I never met anyone else who could say they were the reason for a David Mann painting. (Most of David’s work was based on real life situations) Too bad it wasn't something a bit more cool!
Dad and I went to the hospital where David was staying prior to his passing. He was in good spirits and actually seemed better. He told us stories of days gone by including a trip to Daytona where he and some pals went to a strip club. He said one of the dancers was giving him a lap dance when he reached his hand around her and stuck his finger up her ass just to see what reaction she would have. She said “Ooh baby, you found my sweet spot.” By the time we left his hospital room we all were laughing hysterically.
Just a week or so later, Jacquie called and told my Dad the end was near. He went back by himself and said goodbye. David was unconscious and didn’t respond to my Dad’s touch or voice. But he did get to say a final goodbye. David died a short time later.
David influenced a lot of people’s lives including mine. He told one of his other long time friends, “I am going first so everything will be ready for you guys when you get there.”
P.S. The helmet David painted for Dad got lost at the go-kart track in Liberty, Missouri in 1983 by yours truly. I could kick myself for that one too. I was wearing it racing my go-kart last I
Here is the trike in all its glory!