In April the weather on the north shore of Oahu can be pretty foul, and now it was windy and overcast for the third straight day. "You really want to jump in this?" asked Mike Gennis, a two-time member of the world-champion U.S. skydiving team. Gennis has 2,100 jumps to his credit and California license plates that read AIRGASM but he himself was clearly reluctant to jump.
Russ Francis, erstwhile skydiving student and budding skydiving nut—and tight end for the New England Patriots—nodded eagerly. For the past week Gennis and Merle Clawson—the indefatigable Claw, Francis' best friend in the whole wide world—had been teaching Francis how to skydive so that a world-famous aerial photographer could get a shot of him jumping out of a helicopter. The whole thing had probably started back in 1978, at the Pro Bowl game in Tampa, when Clawson mentioned to an ABC fact finder that Francis had promised to learn to parachute that summer. Somewhere along the way that information was exaggerated, and by the time it came out of Howard Cosell's mouth during the game, Francis was already a sky-diver. Stories of his prowess had persisted and now, two years and 25 dives later, Francis was ready to back them up. Besides, to invent a word, Francis is a photophile. He loves having his picture taken. It would take more than a stiff breeze to stop him.
"You've got an advantage over me in this wind," Gennis pointed out. Gennis weighs 135 pounds, Francis 240.
Francis stopped buckling up his harness. "You're the expert, brah. If you don't think it's safe, just tell me."
"You're the guy with 25 jumps, brah. I'll survive."
"If you don't think I will, say so."
"You sure you want to?"
"Look, if it's too windy for you..."