Sunday, March 25, 2012

Chapter Three: Drake the Flake

Note from Rebus: In 1992 the news from California was shocking. An annoying creep Rea had banned from the Biograph in 1972 had gone on a murder spree. Rea recognized Drake as soon as he saw the photograph in the newspaper. It was a face he had not forgotten.     


In the first months of operation a series of annoyances led up to Lynwood C. “Woody” Drake being literally thrown out of the Biograph Theatre. Owing to his talent for nuisance, the staff had already dubbed him “Drake the Flake” before he landed chest-first on Grace Street.

Although Drake resembled many of the hippie-style hustlers of the times, it was his ineptness at putting over the scam that set him apart. Every time he darkened our door trouble ensued. If he didn't try to beat us out of the price of admission or a cup of popcorn, there would be a problem of some sort in the auditorium and so forth.

His ruse was usually rather transparent. Then, when confronted, he'd go into a fit of denial that implied a threat. Eventually that led to the incident in Shafer Court, on VCU's campus, when Drake choked a female student, Susan Kuney.

Susan was also a cashier at the Biograph. To be fair to history, I need to mention that Susan had the greatest walk I can remember. She glided across a room in a way that usually caught everyone's attention; it was fun to watch people watching her walk.  

That evening Drake showed up at the theater to see the movie, just like nothing had happened. Shoving his way past those already in line, he demanded to be admitted next. The argument that erupted became the last straw. Drake the Flake was physically removed from the building and he banned from the Biograph. He was the first to gain that distinction.

The next afternoon, as we were about to open for business, Drake made what would be his final appearance at the Biograph. He burst through the lobby's exit doors and ran around the lobby, waving his arms and testifying like a man possessed. He claimed I had no good reason to have humiliated him. Then he stopped suddenly to issue a finger-pointing death threat at me. After that Drake left in a hurry, without any further persuasion from me.  

Although I tried to act unruffled by the incident, it made me uncomfortable. In spite of the blustery anger of Drake's words, there was a disturbing emptiness in his eyes. For a moment he had pulled me into his world of haunts. It was scary and memorable.

Although I never saw Drake again, I did hear a few stories about how he liked to beat up women. So, I felt even more certain I'd done the right thing to run him off. 

On Nov. 8, 1992, 20 years later, a revenge-driven crime spree in California ended, as the troublesome character I remembered as Drake the Flake blew out his brains with a .32 caliber revolver.

Shortly before Drake ended his life, he woke up a 60-year-old woman, a former landlord, by smacking her in the head with a blackjack. She scrambled to hide under her bed and miraculously lived to tell the story. In the 11 hours before taking his own life, Drake, who went to Thomas Jefferson HS in Richmond, had shot and killed six people in a little town in San Luis Obispo County.

The lurid news reports said that Lynwood Drake, who had always fancied himself an actor, had made a list for himself of people he intended to pay back, going all the way back to Virginia. It came as no surprise to read that he had lived through a tortured childhood. Drake wore theatrical grease paint on his face when he committed his murders.

As the swarming cops closed in on him, Drake the Flake squeezed the trigger one last time and punched his own ticket to hell.

All rights reserved by the author.  

1 comment:

  1. Catching a glimpse of the nuttiness is one thing, being pulled into it is another. It's good that you missed the feature and caught only the preview.