Remembering Lawn Chair Larry

The Pixar folks are hosting a publicity event in the Twin Cities today to promote the upcoming animated movie “Up”, about a curmudgeon who ties balloons to his house and goes for a ride. Promoters have tied balloons to a chair at the Metrodome and are giving people rides. The Star Tribune’s James Lileks posted a picture.

I wonder, though, how many people remember Lawn Chair Larry, and whether history will treat him more kindly than reality did.

Lawn Chair Larry — Larry Walters — tied helium balloons to this lawn chair in 1982…

lawn_chair_larry.jpg

… with the idea that he’d go for a short flight, just to see what it was like. He miscalculated things, though, and ended up soaring to 16,000 feet, where the pilot of an airliner uttered — for the first time in history — the words, “I’ve just passed a guy flying in a lawn chair.”

Lawn Chair Larry’s plan was to shoot out the balloons with a pellet gun when it was time to descend, but he dropped the gun. He eventually landed in Long Beach. (If you’ve got RealPlayer, listen to the audio of conversations during the flight here.)

For the adventure, Walter received honorable mention for the 1982 Darwin Awards, and generally was ridiculed until he walked into the woods in 1993 and shot himself to death.

“Up” will probably rake in a fortune when it opens later this month. Larry wasn’t so lucky. Had he just used his chair to sit and watch TV, he’d have been considered normal.

  • BJ

    Great make me sad first thing monday morning, and now going to ‘UP’ with the kids will not be so fun. You had to add ” generally was ridiculed until he walked into the woods in 1993 and shot himself to death.”

  • Bob Collins

    I’m thinking things are OK with you, BJ, if 11:19 qualifies as “the first thing in the morning.” (g)

  • bob

    What was the basis of the ridicule of LCL?

    I vaguely remember hearing about the stunt, and thought it was cool, although I did think he was an idiot for not having secured the pellet gun prior to takeoff.

    And if he was doing it nowadays, he’d have lined up sponsors, done lots of pre-flight hype, and had mini-cams with him from all sorts of commercial entities, so that everybody involved could make a few bucks off of it…

  • BJ

    @bob “I’m thinking things are OK with you, BJ, if 11:19 qualifies as “the first thing in the morning.” (g)”

    Yes, well that makes it even more sad, working so hard didn’t know it was after 8:45AM

  • Michael

    I would like to correct this story by reading what L. Larry said himself. He didn’t miscalculate anything, when he floated up from his backyard,

    he was anchored to his jeep, put his friends untied him, ( just playing) then that’s when he descended into high altitude. And about the gun, He didn’t drop it, He wanted to shoot the baloons but he was afraid it would throw him off baLAnce and fall out of the chair. Please get the facts straight, just because somebody gets bored which is why he did it, and decides to do something risky for excitement why do people insist an individual would make a goof ? I appalud larry for thinking things out first. and for the cold beer him took with him.

    I wouldn’t do this myself, put it would be nice to float over the neighborhood and peep in peoples backyards, lol.

  • Kanuck

    Thanks for your uniquely kind treatment of Larry’s story. I remember hearing of his adventure at the time and finding it humorous but admirable. Having just read the ridiculing Darwin Awards account, it’s nice to see not everyone finds it necessary to make a mockery. As for the previous note that claimed there was no miscalculation, I seriously doubt the man intended to hit 16,000 feet!