I didn’t fare too well asking venerable Boulevard Drive In owner Wes Neal for his most twisted tale…
I mean, c’mon. Kids sneaking up on the movie projector, making finger puppets on the screen?
Nearly 60 years of lording over one of Kansas City’s top passion pits and no streaking stories, no shootouts, no plane crashes, no public sex. Just bunny ears on the big screen. Pretty pathetic.
Turns out there was one thing that jumps out….
And wouldn’t you know it, one of Neal’s most memorable moments was a story recounted in the pages of the Kansas City Star about something that never happened.
That’s right, fake news.
"Here’s a story that’s completely false," Neal says, pointing to a newspaper clipping on the lobby wall that ran in Star Magazine on September 17, 2000.
"Somebody sent that into the Star and they printed it," Neal says. "I didn’t see it until a long time later."
Which is why Neal didn’t bother to call the newspaper to ask for a correction.
"They didn’t verify it," Neal says. "I’ve been here every day and it never happened. It never happened."
Made a good yarn though for readers of the Sunday newspaper..
"Cattle night at the drive -in," the headline reads.
"One hot, summer night though, we were watching a western with the usual exciting cattle drive and the cowboys rounding up the large, bellowing herd. But then we actually began smelling those cattle, and the lowing seemed more real and closer. It soon became apparent that a cattle train had derailed next to the drive-in…The bawling cattle let everyone know they were scared and uncomfortable…"
If the above yarn sounds a bit to pat, take a number…
One minute, the cowpokes up on the screen are rounding up doggies. Next thing anybody knows, the doggies are stinking up the drive in?
Now allow me to explain how the game is played at the Star and where it likely went awry.
The Star solicits letters and essays from the public. When they arrive a staffer is charged with contacting the writer, confirming their identity and sorting out any loose ends. Like if the writer says she got flashed by Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, the Star would require confirmation.
That’s an exaggeration, but you get the idea. If the writer talked of getting drenched during Mamma Mia at Starlight and it never rained, the Star’s job would be to catch it before it was published.
Here’s how history can and sometimes does get re-written.
A writer recounts an innocuous tale that flies under the radar of the staffer confirming and/or editing the submission. Then off it goes into print.
"Essays about memories of Kansas City and the region are preferred," reads an editor’s solicitation at the end of the Star‘s bogus cattle drive story. "Include your complete address, phone number and social security number…and you will recieve a payment of $25."
The bottom line: the Star should have contacted – not just the writer – but Neal to confirm the suspicious story.
They did not, Neal swears it never happened and tens of thousands of Kansas Citians think they know differently. Not that it’s life and death, but fiction is fiction.
By the way, I have made (and continue to make) several attempts to contact the woman identified as the writer. I’ve one more lead to follow in the morning. If I break through, I’ll report back.