"Then they get into this big argument, Jackie and this guy. I'm trying to get Jackie out of the restaurant, but he wants to win his point. I mean, it's a heated argument. I'm starting to think there's going to be a fistfight.
" 'Jackie, let's go,' I tell him.
" 'That son of a bitch,' he says back.
"Finally this guy yells at Jackie, I was in the Navy, pal—in the United States Navy! You ever landed on a——aircraft carrier?'
"Jackie looks straight at him, and he doesn't even flinch. 'Yeah, sure," he says. 'Yeah, sure I have.'
"From then on," Johnson says, "I teased Jackie about that night. I'd see him and say, 'You ever landed on a——aircraft carrier, buddy? Yeah, sure. Yeah, sure I have.' And he didn't even have his license yet!"
When asked about the incident, Sherrill says, "My recollection is totally different from that. What I recollect, we're coming into the island, and the winds are real bad, and the runway's short. To make a point to Jimmy, I said it was just like landing on an aircraft carrier—it's what's called a hot landing. Jimmy said, 'How would you know? You ever landed on one?' And to make my point, I said, 'All the time, Jimmy. Haven't you?'
"It was said in jest between the two of us. And I did have my license at the time. I was on my second plane by then. As far as the person in the restaurant goes, I don't remember any of that. I don't remember any person, and I don't remember any big discussion about anything. And another thing: I would never have said something like that to somebody in the service.
"Now, as far as Jimmy Johnson is concerned, what does he know about flying, anyway? He has no knowledge whatsoever—not about planes or about aircraft carriers. None."
Did people know he was a clown? Not a real clown, they didn't. Or that every now and then he would put on the greasepaint, the fluorescent-colored clothes, the shoes as big as speedboats? Or that in his spare time he went to hospitals and sat with sick or crippled children?