Lawrence Richard Walters

The Legend of Inspiration I

Larry Walters really, really wanted to fly.  Larry had first thought of using weather balloons to fly at age 13, after seeing them hanging from the ceiling of a military surplus store.  He tried joining the Air Force, but was unable to become a pilot in the United States Air Force because of his poor eyesight.  Being no wuss, he became an Army veteran who served in Vietnam.  After he was discharged from the military, he sat in his backyard watching jets fly overhead.  At that time, he was employed as a truck driver in Southern California.  Like most blue-collar workers with crappy vision, dreams like flying never come to fruition; however, Larry wasn’t going for that sh!t. On July 2, 1982, he fastened 42 surplus balloons …to a lawn chair.  He launched his homemade aircraft, dubbed Inspiration I, from his girlfriend’s San Pedro home. Larry was an aviator-on-a-budget badass.

He hatched his weather balloon scheme while sitting outside in his “extremely comfortable” Sears lawn chair.  He carried various supplies with him (sandwiches, some Miller Lite, and a camera). This also included a CB radio and a pellet gun to shoot balloons one at a time to descend.  Strapped with a parachute, Larry mounted his gas-enhanced throne.  His intention was to attach a few helium-filled weather balloons to his lawn chair, cut the anchor, and then float above his backyard at a height of about 30 feet (9.1 m) for several hours.  Badasses prefer to drink their beer at high altitudes.

Larry with “Aviators” and mustache

Larry with “Aviators” and mustache

He didn’t realize how powerful the buoyancy of the balloons was.  When his friends cut the cord that tied his lawn chair to his Jeep (badasses drive Jeeps), he did not float lazily up to 30 feet.  Instead, he streaked into the L.A. sky as if shot from a cannon on freaking steroids.  He shot upward so quickly that his Aviator sunglasses flew to the ground.  How badass was Larry? He didn’t hover at 30 feet.  Heck no.  He didn’t hover at 200 feet.  That’s pussy stuff.  He didn’t hover at 500 feet.  F@ck that.  He floated around the L.A. basin for several hours and reached altitudes of up to 16,000 feet …in a lawn chair …with beer.

Larry2

“What the hell …are you staring at my awesome Aviators & sweet mustache?”

According to an article in the New York Times the next day, Walters was spotted by pilots from both TWA and Delta Airlines.  It was damn cold at 16,000 feet and he started shooting some of his balloons to descend, but dropped his pellet gun and had to wait for his rig to come down on its own.  Of course he landed like a badass – in a residential neighborhood in Long Beach and getting tangled in some power lines – causing a power blackout for over 20 minutes.  Screw your cable: Larry’s landed, bitch!  He was immediately arrested by the man for being the man.  Rumors say it’s because his mustache was more awesome than the L.A.P.D.’s.  As he was led away in handcuffs, a reporter dispatched to cover the daring rescue asked him why he had done it. Larry replied nonchalantly, “A man can’t just sit around.”

The stunt earned Walters fine from the F.A.A., the top prize from the Bonehead (more like “Badass”) Club of Dallas, the altitude record for gas-filled clustered balloons (which could not be officially recorded because he was unlicensed and unsanctioned) and international admiration.  He appeared on “The Tonight Show” and was flown to New York to be on “Late Night with David Letterman,” which he later described as “the most fun I’ve ever had.”  He even was a motivational speaker for folks less badass.

Larry’s route whilst riding Inspiration I

Larry’s route whilst riding Inspiration I

He gave his “aircraft” — the aluminum lawn chair — to an admiring boy named Jerry after he landed, later regretting it.  Not for selfish reasons, but because the g@ddamn Smithsonian wanted it.  When has the Smithsonian wanted any of your outdoor furniture?  Twenty years later, Jerry, now an adult, emailed a web site dedicated to Larry (www.markbarry.com) about the chair.  It was still sitting in his garage, attached to some of the original tethers and water jugs used as ballast.  Larry Walters said, “It was something I had to do.  I had this dream for twenty years, and if I hadn’t done it, I think I would have ended up in the funny farm.  I didn’t think that by fulfilling my goal in life — my dream — that I would create such a stir and make people laugh.”  Larry grabbed life by the nut-sack …and punched it!

Here is Larry in a 1992 Timex Ad for “Adventurous Individuals”

Here is Larry in a 1992 Timex Ad for “Adventurous Individuals”

R.I.P. Larry “My mustache is still awesome” Walters.

RIP

Here are the source links about Larry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Walters and here: http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/l/lawnchairlarry.htm and here: http://www.darwinawards.com/stupid/stupid1998-11.html

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