Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Drake the Flake's departure

In the first months of operation at 814 W. Grace St. there was the series of annoyances that led up to Linwood “Woody” Drake (pictured right) being literally thrown out of the Biograph Theatre. Owing to his talent for nuisance, the staff had already dubbed him “Drake the Flake” before he landed face-first on Grace Street.

Although Drake resembled many of the hippie-style hustlers of the times, it was his ineptness at putting over the scam that set him apart. Every time he darkened our door there was trouble. If he didn't try to beat us out of the price of admission or a cup of popcorn, there would be a problem of some sort in the auditorium … and so forth.

His ruse was usually rather transparent. Then, when confronted, he'd go into a fit of denial that implied a threat. Eventually that led to the incident in Shafer Court, on VCU's campus, when Drake choked a female student, Susan Kuney.

Susan was also a cashier at the Biograph.

That evening Drake showed up at the theater to see the movie, just like nothing had happened. Shoving his way past those already in line, he demanded to be admitted next. An argument ensued that became the last straw. Drake the Flake was physically removed from the building and banned from the Biograph for life.

The next afternoon as we were about to open for business Drake made what would be his final appearance at the Biograph. He burst through the lobby's exit doors and ran around the lobby for a few seconds, testifying. He claimed I had humiliated him. Then he stopped suddenly and issued a finger-pointing death threat directly at me.

Although I tried to act unruffled by the incident, it made me more than a little uncomfortable. In spite of the anger of his words, there was an emptiness in his eyes. For a moment Drake had pulled me into his world. It was scary and memorable; he left the building promptly, this time without any persuasion from me.

On Nov. 8, 1992, 20 years later, a revenge-driven crime spree in California ended as the man I remembered as Drake the Flake blew out his brains with a .32 caliber revolver.

Shortly before Drake ended his wretched life, he woke up a 60-year-old woman who was his former landlord by smacking her in the head with a blackjack. She scrambled to hide under her bed and miraculously lived to tell the story. In the 11 hours before taking his own life Drake, who had grown up in Richmond, had shot and killed six people.

The lurid news reports said that Drake, who had always fancied himself an actor, had made a list for himself of people he intended to pay back, going all the way back to Virginia. Drake wore theatrical grease paint on his face when he committed his murders.

As the cops were closing in on him, Drake the Flake punched his own ticket to hell.

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