Sad to hear of the passing of Clarence Clemons, he of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, universally known as The Big Man. That's him above on the left. He was one of those people and presences you somehow thought would always be there, but given his size and his weight, his problems with his knees and his back, he did heroically well to last to 69.
I haven’t been able to find out much about his food appetites, though I assume they were prodigious. And I’ve been thinking what an advantage it is to be thought of as The Big Man, so much better than being known as The Fat Man or The Pudgy Man or The Morbidly Obese Man.
His quasi-autobiography, written with Don Reo is, titled Big Man (no “the”): Real Life and Tall Tales. Some sections are in Clemons’s voice, some in Reo’s. In one of the latter Reo writes, “If I’m in a crowded restaurant with Clarence, I believe I could pick up my knife and stab our waiter in the neck and nobody, including the waiter, would be able to give an accurate description of me. I would appear in all reports as ‘some guy with Clarence Clemons’.” Given some of the waiters I’ve met, it must have been tempting to put it to the test.
Now, in the way that opening a book at random so often provides a moment of wonderful synchronicity, I opened Boswell’s Life of Johnson, the section for Spring 1766. Boswell describes how he and Oliver Goldsmith dropped in at Johnson’s house intending to take Johnson down to one of the local pubs, the Mitre Tavern. It turned out, however, that Johnson was ill and not in a drinking mood, at which Goldsmith says, “Come then, we will not go to the Mitre to-night, since we cannot have the big man with us.” They order in a bottle of port instead.