|Kenny "Bubba" Helms from Lincoln Park MI celebrates the 1984 Detroit Tigers World Championship|
I knew Bubba back then, but not good enough to know his real name was Kenny. Back when I was an engineering student I worked about a year on the midnight shift at a Total gas station near Dix and Champaign in Lincoln Park and Kenny was one of the usual suspects of LP riff-raff that periodically stumbled up to the station in the middle of the night to pick up smokes and stand around and BS. I couldn't go anywhere so they had a captive audience. I worked in a small kiosk in the middle of the pumps, like one of those old photo booths in the mall parking lot. It was too small for customers to come inside, they gave me money through a window and I doled out their cigarettes and reminded them to stop the pump themselves. Bubba would stand there at the window and smoke and play tunes on his boombox and tell me about the party he went to and the chicks he was dealing and how shlockered him and his buddies got, yada yada yada. Kind of annoying but more interesting than the calculus homework I was trying to sneak in between customers.
So when I picked up the Detroit Free Press that morning after the World Series victory and saw Bubba standing there holding up the pennant in front of the burning police car I was like, Oh geeze you idiot. There was a note in the Free Press that said if anyone could identify the person in the picture to please call. I called the number and told them he was Bubba Helms from Lincoln Park. And the lady was like, Yeah, you're about the 50th caller. I'm guessing Bubba was one of them. Kenny became a flash in the pan Detroit area media star for being a 16 year-old drunk, high, dropout from Downriver passed out on the lawn.
Bubba took his life a few years back. From what I read he never did gain much traction in life, just kind of drifted. He might have turned out like most the other gonzo hall burnouts from Lincoln Park who eventually got their shit together and carved out a decent life Downriver, but Bubba never could shake that image from 1984.