When he isn't jumping, Smitty is usually promoting. At conventions and air shows he sells SMITTY THE JUMPER T shirts and copies of his recently revised booklet, Smitty: His Exploits of Early Day Jumping. His trailer in north Wichita is a tourist attraction: Smitty's Wall of Fame.
The author, clutching a white pointer, conducts guided tours of the trailer, which is papered with historic aviation photos and posters. The body cast from his ill-fated Lincoln jump is displayed in a bedroom alcove. "If I could live my life over I'd live it exactly the same," he tells visitors, "but I'd leave out that last jump in Lincoln."
Until recently, Smitty made few concessions to his age. "I'd be out boogyin' at the Coyote Club from 10 p.m. to 2:30 in the morning," he says. "They'd give me free drinks. The girls would come up and tap me on the shoulder. I'm not bragging, just stating facts." He seems fatalistic about his grounding as a dancer. "That loud rock-'n'-roll, I don't know how I stood it as long as I did. I was teaching the Spanish tango when Valentino was in vogue."
In March, Smitty spoke at a dinner in Cheney, Kans. before a group of senior citizens to mark National Meals on Wheels Day. "It's an old persons' deal," he says. "I don't fool around with them very much. It might rub off." Bad weather there postponed a jump he had been hoping to make in preparation for his real goal: to jump as part of the Opening Ceremonies for the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, shortly before his 90th birthday.
"I know I'm old," he says. "I was five years old when the Wright brothers made their first flight. But with this tandem chute, I don't feel a year older. Now I'm jumping like a house afire. I'm ready to jump at any time."
Smitty grins. "The Olympics. Won't that be something?"