As I write this post, a pandemic is shutting down the entire country. I can go in a few directions. I can write about how this event is affecting Kitty Hawk Watersports and the entire Outer Banks, I can pretend everything’s fine and that we’ll see you this summer, or I can spend some time reminiscing about the good times so we can distract ourselves for a few minutes.
1997 was my first summer managing a watersports business. It was the middle of the summer and the weather was overcast and not very appealing for getting in the water. Needless to say, business was slow. We were operating out of a location in Duck, behind a restaurant, when an average-looking man walked down the pier and asked if we had jet skis available. Figuring we’d be slow all day, I told him we did and that it shouldn’t be a problem getting a few. He said he was having lunch in the restaurant and that he’d come back to rent several. This is usually what people say right before you never see them again. On top of that, this restaurant was notorious for slow service, and I didn’t want to try to predict when he’d be finished eating. Because of these factors, I didn’t ask to take a reservation.
Of course, shortly after he left, the sun came out and so did the customers. I was happy to have the business and completely forgot about the man eating in the restaurant….until I saw him walking back down the pier an hour later. In my mind, I semi-panicked while trying to stay cool on the outside. I scrambled some smaller jet skis, and he didn’t seem bothered by it. Everything was going well, and after a slow start, it seemed like it was going to be a good day. The man was with his mom, another guy, and a bunch of kids. Everyone was having a great time.
Things slowed down for a few minutes and, as I gathered my thoughts, I said to myself, “That man looks familiar.” I pulled up his paperwork to check his name. Bruce Silverman. Hmmm, I was skeptical. Every customer has to sign a waiver so I looked at that. Bruce Silverman again. I wasn’t buying it. I scanned through the other signatures to see if anyone else used the name I was looking for. And there it was. His mother exposed him. I guess she doesn’t have an alias. I connected the dots.
A Living Legend Was Riding One of My Jet Skis
Bruce Springsteen and his mom were on my jet skis.
Right then, I looked up to see him standing on the other side of the gazebo. We locked eyes. He knew he was busted. I tried to stay cool and walked over to say “hi” again. I asked, “Are you who I think you are?” The Boss says, “Probably.” While all of this was going down, a random customer was sitting on a bench about two feet away.
Think about the celebrity you most admire: actor, singer, whoever. Now imagine meeting that person in an entirely random situation. That’s what happened to me in the summer of 1997. Bruce Springsteen did not disappoint. He was approachable and friendly. My biggest compliment is that he acted like a regular guy.
We had a short talk. I didn’t want to make a scene, and I didn’t want to take time away from his family. They finished up and went on their merry way. I went up to the customer sitting on the bench and said, “Did you see that?” He couldn’t believe what unfolded in front of him. He was waiting for his family to return on the parasail boat, and when they got back he said, “You guys missed it. Bruce Springsteen was just here.”
Here’s the funny part. I was the only person to recognize him, and I didn’t say a word about it to anyone else until he left. The college kids working with me were shocked.
Years later, I was destroying old waivers, and I grabbed a box from that summer of 1997. I thought to myself, “Somewhere in this box is Bruce Springsteen’s alias signature.” I could have dug through the box for half an hour, but what would I have gotten? Bruce Springsteen’s fake name. I destroyed the contents. The memories are much better.
John Van Lunen