Wayne "Fast Eddie" Inman
“Drivin’ out of Darlington CountyI seen the glory of the comin’ of the Lorddrivin’ out of Darlington Countyseen Wayne handcuffed to the bumper of a State Trooper’s Ford”
Bruce SpringsteenBy Jay CowanWayne “Fast Eddie” Inman was always a great believer in sharing the wealth. If he had, you had. If you had, and he didn’t, which was much more often the case, he also believed in sharing, right to the bitter end. Sometimes with Wayne, you just got all shared out. Fortunately for him that never happened for long with most of his old friends, and it just shows how much really good he had in him.Wayne the Pain, Insane Wayne, Airborne Eddie Inman – he had a thousand nicknames and aliases acquired along the line while leading an incessantly … active life, most of it right here in Aspen. And much of that, in the early, golden years, focused on sport. No matter what it was – football, skiing, ski jumping, baseball, track – Wayne could do it well, better than just about anyone around, in fact. He always had more natural talent, and he always had more balls. Whether it was flying one of the first funky delta-wing hang gliders off Aspen Mountain, making the highest and hardest leap at the Devil’s Punchbowl, ripping huge angel-of-death spread eagles off 70-meter ski jumps, playing third and firing to first for the out when the runner was only a step away, or burning everyone off in a 100-yard dash, he always made it look easy. There was never a lot of ego or attitude involved. He was just a big, supremely gifted athlete with a good sense of humor and something less than a burning work ethic.Growing up in the late 60s and early 70s around Aspen, lots of us were afflicted with the latter, especially when there was so much more important going on. The draft, the drugs and partying, the war, the partying and drugs, the social unrest, the drugs and partying, the life-altering relationships, the partying and drugs … you know the drill. There was no lack of distractions for a tall, strapping, good-looking, wound-up kid with clear blue eyes, the easy, predatory grace of a leopard and a ready smile.
Wayne could have had any number of athletic scholarships out of high school, but the parties and the girls and the chance to be young and gifted and wild were all more important. He could have been a pioneer extreme skier, but no one had a name for it then or any way to make money from it. He actually was a big-time gelande jumper, which fit his lifestyle and schedule, but didn’t bring in as much as waiting tables at the Village Pantry, which Wayne also did for almost as many years as it was in business.There were a lot of good waiters at the Pantry over its 15-year run, and most of them partied as hard as Wayne, but none were more professional on the floor. And somehow that was always remarkable to me. If you had been with him the night before, as I too often had, you couldn’t imagine him even showing up, let alone being totally on top of it. Being totally on top of it at any other time wasn’t always high on Wayne’s to-do list. But in the restaurant it was, and he ruled.It was just a part of the prodigious talent everyone saw in him and the power to harness it when he chose to. One of his fellow waiters at the Pantry in the mid-70s was a former All-American football player from Northwestern named Walt Geister, who is now a Pitkin County jailer. He got to know Wayne well in both capacities. Back in the day Walt got Wayne, completely unheralded, a tryout as a punter for the Dallas Cowboys. Wayne could have played almost any position on the field, which is always helpful, but he could also kick the ball farther than Ray Guy on steroids. Unfortunately he just couldn’t quite arrange to be there for his biggest shot of all. I can’t remember if it was a party somewhere or just a bailout. But at least he always had the cachet of being able to say, “Well, I had a Cowboys tryout once,” whenever the opportunity presented itself. If there is something that the less talented people in the world like me tend to resent with an oversized passion, it is the wasting of great natural ability. Something that’s always easy to recognize in others, especially in retrospect. But in Wayne’s case you could see it so clearly at the time that after awhile it wore on you like some bad, recurring dream.We could be bombing down the junk powder and bumps at early Snowbird, Wayne throwing spreads and daffies and going 50, and people would stop him and ask him who he raced for, not knowing he had a head full of acid. He could be laughing and telling stories in the bar later, and someone would ask him who he wrote for, not knowing Wayne didn’t even really like to read. He could drink more and ingest more and stay up longer than anyone else, and so, of course, it was always Wayne who the girls wanted to “help.” Not knowing that Wayne never wanted any help. He just wanted to party.That’s something else there was no shortage of here during Wayne’s 50 turbulent years. Party people. Many of us were into partying at a young age, and with a certain vengeance, for far longer than was considered acceptable, then or now. It was part of the place, part of the times and at least partly fun, every day and every night, for all of the 1970s. Plus. This happened lots of places besides Aspen, but in Aspen it happened with almost religious fervor, and it was easy to get carried away. There were good drugs and glamorous dealers, major musicians to hear and serious stars to hang out with, endless all-nighters, beautiful women, high stakes and nonstop happenings. Wayne loved it all.
As more and more of Wayne’s friends either bailed out, moved on, died or got busted, he became more of the bitter patriot, the last partier standing, the one who loved to get down and hated to quit – so much so that he basically never did for the last 35 years. Most of us have probably known a few of these hard-core souls, sometimes even lurking not-so-deep inside ourselves. Making money, assuming responsibilities, trying to get some sleep – it all smacked of betrayal to Wayne, of abandonment of the faith. What mattered to true brothers was one more bump, one more joint, one more tab of Sunshine. What mattered was that you stay with him for another few minutes, another few hours, another few days.There was, I know, profound loneliness, insecurity and a longing for the glory days at the root of Wayne’s choices. The angst that is common to our generation, writ large and overwhelming. I believe that in his heart of hearts for the last 30 years Wayne wanted nothing more than to be 18 again, everyone high and happy and together, young and strong and beautiful. Not an unappealing vision, but one never likely to happen. It’s hard to fault him for a steadfast dedication to his cause, I guess, for taking all the DUIs, the county time, the legal fees and the homeless nights. For being willing to be the guy out there who everyone sighs and shakes their heads about, then goes to find when they need a fix, a few laughs, a temporary friend. As famous party authority Hunter Thompson said about his friend John Belushi after he died: “He was a monster. But he was our monster.” There are legions of Waynes, in Aspen and around the world, who believe that the party not only lasts forever, but that it’s a good thing. And who’s to say they’re wrong? Wayne chased the conviction to its ultimate conclusion, outlasted a lot of his peers and never gave an inch. He had hung in there so long, against such stiff, self-imposed odds, that it was hard not to think of him as invincible. Or at least charmed. As one who knew him well said, “I always thought after the nuclear holocaust, there’d be nothing left but cockroaches and Wayne.”Given his steady march in one dark direction, his relentless battle cry of being at death’s door while all around him others perished, it has been suggested that his elegy should read simply, “Mission Accomplished.” I agree. I know others who are pissed from their graves that Wayne, with all his life-imperiling flaws, lasted longer than them. But maybe they can rest easier now, knowing it will gall Wayne no end for an infidel like me to be writing his obit.Be easy now, buddy. Be happy. And maybe you can actually have the benediction Bob Dylan wished for us all. In your new home, in your old heart, may you stay forever young.
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