Howdy! Grab a chair an’ a beer! Startin’ a new year makes ya think back on the good, the bad an’ the people who make your life special. I want to tell ya about a friend who was one of those special people. His name was Jack “Da Hat” Luna. I first met Jack in Las Vegas years ago, an’ he was one of those people that make you feel like you’ve known them all your life. The night Reggie and I met Jack, he was singin’ karaoke in a Vegas casino, and consumin’ a large number of free drinks from people he’d convinced that he was Kid Rock’s dad. That wasn’t hard to do, because there was a resemblance, an’ he played it to the max. If there was a good time anywhere around, Jack found it every time. He was a longtime member of the Hamsters USA, a close friend of the legends of motorcyclin’ an’ hot roddin’, an’ his trademark “Guido” hat was known far an’ wide.
Jack was a native of Hayward, California, an’ when he retired from his construction business, he started a little blues/jazz/swing group an’ played the Bay Area venues. Not because he needed the money, but because he loved entertainin’ people an’ making them laugh. He shared shows with the livin’ legend of burlesque, Carol Doda, and his own group, the Jackettes, featuring his longtime girlfriend Martha Cifuentes. You can visit his website at www.jackdahat.com an’ sign in to honor his memory.
Jack was a regular at the Frog Jumps in Calaveras County, an’ every year, we’d find him sittin’ on the wall in front of the Murphys Hotel waitin’ for us to get the mischief started. If things were too crowded in the bar, Jack had a well-stocked bar built into the saddlebag of his Road King, an’ was always willin’ to share a shot with his pals. Last year he insisted on dancin’ with Reggie in the crowded bar, and was swingin’ her around in her wheelchair with abandon (yeah, alcohol was definitely involved) an’ she spent most of the night apologizin’ to people with bruised ankles.
Another time, we’d gone to a party where Jack was playin’ a gig in downtown San Francisco. We were parked one floor above Jack in an underground parkin’ garage with really steep ramps leadin’ down to the lower floors. Reggie started down the ramp in her wheelchair an’ then yelled, “Jack! Catch!” (Again, alcohol was involved) an’ let go of her wheels, headin’ down the ramp at about 247 miles an hour in freefall! I couldn’t catch her, an’ she was headed for parked cars that would have ended her ride in a most injurious manner. Jack stepped out, stuck out his hands an’ caught her squarely on the boobs—the only logical target—and her momentum slid him back about six feet! He was embarrassed, an’ started to apologize, but we assured him that he’d saved her life an’ the perks were well earned.
He used to tell stories about his younger days, like the time he was ridin’ with the Hamsters an’ they were all doin’ about 100 miles an hour when the cops tried to stop them. Jack turned off, pulled over on a side street, changed out of his infamous yellow Hamster T-shirt an’ then rode right past the group while they were all getting tickets. Needless to say, he got the old “one-finger salute” as he rode past. He also told us about the time he accidentally burned down a Nevada “house of ill repute,” but I won’t go into that one. True or not, it was so typically “Jack” that nobody could possibly doubt it.
Jack wasn’t just a biker, but a hot rodder, as well. His latest was a 1959 Rolls Royce with an eight-inch chopped top, Indian motorcycle teardrop headlights, Corvette runnin’ gear, air suspension an’ all sorts of other cool stuff. It’s the most sinister-lookin’ machine I’ve ever seen—an’ the coolest.
Jack was one of those people that you thought would live forever, but sometimes fate robs us of the things we least want to lose. He’d gone to dinner with his good friend, Barry Weiss of Storage Wars, on Thursday night, an’ Friday morning he wasn’t feelin’ well. He wouldn’t go to the hospital, despite pleas from Martha, but by late afternoon he was feeling so bad he asked her to meet him at the hospital. Within a couple of hours, he was gone. I got the call about 9:00 p.m. from Martha, an’ I don’t think the reality hit me until some hours later. Sometimes, I think it still hasn’t, because I keep hoping for a call an’ the familiar, “Buckshooooot, what’s up, Brothaaaaa?”
The official cause of death was an abdominal aneurism, the same thing that killed George C. Scott, Lucille Ball an’ others. No symptoms until it’s too late, but at least he was havin’ fun until the end an’, as Arlen Ness told me at Jack’s funeral, “We just have to have as much fun as we can.”
I’ve never dedicated an entire column to anyone before, but there was never anyone like my brother Jack. His passing has left a huge hole in our lives, but like I told him at the funeral, “I’ll see ya on the other side, my brother. Save me a spot at the bar.”