OK, hereʼs what happened. It was very early the morning of February 21,
1983, in San Antonio, Texas. Iʼd been up drinking whiskey and doing coke for a
couple of days culminating in an all-night, two-man poker game at the suburban
home of my childhood friend, Larry. I was extremely drunk, pissed off and
frustrated; Larry was winning.
About a month before in the midst of a heated dispute, I walked out on my
wife Barbara. Divorce was pending, and the climate between us had turned
For weeks I had been compulsively traveling around the country. Now
back in my home town, I was wearing my semi-automatic Colt .45 in a shoulder
holster, just to protect myself from what I believed was a threat from my
estranged wifeʼs drug-dealer friends.
I had already taken twenty of Barbaraʼs one-ounce Krugerrands, worth
about $10,000, out of our safe deposit box to finance my next escapade to Las
Vegas. I was carrying several of the gold coins around in my pocket.
Occasionally, when paying for something, Iʼd pull one out and ask a clerk, “Got
change for a Krugerrand?”
Barbara called me at Larryʼs house at about 7:00AM, and she and I got
into a nasty argument. I ran out of the house to go deal with her in person. I
jumped into my Chevy pickup, and took some back roads toward an apartment
Barbara and I had rented. The house at our horse farm was being remodeled,
and the apartment served as a temporary residence for both of us, mainly me.
Speeding out of control at a ninety-degree turn, I launched my pickup over
the shoulder of the road to its final resting place on some boulders at the edge of
a ravine. The truck was completely immobilized. The people who later pulled it
out couldnʼt figure out how it managed to land where it did. They said it looked
like it had been lowered onto the boulders by a crane or helicopter, and if it had
gone just a little further I would have gone over the cliff.
I wasnʼt hurt in the crash, but it was a huge rush. I got out of the truck,
stood in the middle of the road and flagged down an oncoming Blazer that had a
winch on the front. I was wearing jeans, a wifebeater, blue anteater boots, an
oxblood leather jacket, and my Colt .45 in the shoulder holster, its grip protruding
out from the front of my jacket. The Blazer was driven by a kid on his way to high
As soon as the kid stopped his truck I began to explain that I was an
undercover narcotics agent pursuing a suspect in a high-speed chase, and I had
crashed my vehicle. I asked the kid to use his winch to pull my truck off the edge
of the ravine. We tried, but my truck wouldnʼt budge.
So, I pulled out my .45, cocked it, and fired a few rounds into the abyss….no particular reason,
just as a demonstration of my prerogative as a law officer. I offered the kid the gun asking
if he wanted to shoot it, but he declined. He seemed terrified.
After a further account of my plight, along with the fact that I had a gun
that I was firing at random, the kid agreed to give me a ride to my destination. I
abandoned my truck, climbed into the kidʼs Blazer, and we drove to the
apartment where Barbara was waiting with our ninety-pound female Rottweiler,
Candy. The kid dropped me off and fled in his Blazer, with a bizarre story about
his morning drive that he could tell his friends when he got to school.
As soon as I arrived, Barbara and I began to argue, and we got into a
terrible, screaming fight in front of the apartment complex – it got physical.
A neighbor who observed the fight from her front door and saw that I had a gun in
a shoulder holster, screamed at Barbara, “Come inside, he’s going to kill you!” I
forced Barbara to give me the keys to her new Fiat Spyder 2000 sports car, and I
drove away with Candy.
Iʼd really hated that Fiat for the entire time we owned it. It had been
nothing but trouble, a real lemon. I had complained repeatedly, but Iʼd never
been able to get any satisfaction out of the dealership where we bought it. With a
great display of the power of the rich, fueled by red wine and cocaine, I had
attempted to get Fiat of America to take the car back and give us a refund, but
they would hear nothing of it. And, what was worse, the car had become a
symbol of Barbaraʼs independence.
With the Rottweiler overflowing the passenger seat of the two-seater
sports car, I drove further out into the suburbs, to the rented estate of my friends
Brian and Judi. When I arrived, Judi was at home with their six-year-old daughter,
At this point I was in a blind rage and totally under the influence of booze
and drugs, I began to see a plan developing. I drove to a remote corner of the
estate, parked the car, walked about fifty feet away, and called Candy over next
to me. I took out my .45 and proceeded to take careful aim at the Fiat.
I stopped and thought for a moment about whether shooting the car was
really the right thing to do. While I was reflecting, I visualized the car exploding
like in an action movie, at which point a little voice in my head said, “Oh fuck
it, just do it.”
Instantaneously I was pulling the trigger. I proceeded to empty one seven round magazine
from my .45 into the Fiat, reload, and fire the entire second seven-round clip into the
little convertible. I hated that car and everything it stood
for. Sadly, it never exploded, but there were a lot of holes and broken glass. The
metallic blue Spyder 2000 convertible sustained what was later assessed as total
Having fired all available ammunition, I left the Fiat, and Candy and I
walked up to the house to see Judi and Jeanna, who, unbeknownst to me, were
Upon seeing me drive onto the estate, and after hearing gun shots, Judi
had placed several panicked phone calls. Shortly thereafter, my parents and
Brian arrived, totally overwrought, and with Judi and Jeanna near hysteria, they
all confronted me about what had just transpired.
A violent argument ensued, at which point, being surrounded by friends
and family, and as an act of good faith and contrition, I offered to surrender my
gun. For dramatic effect, I nonchalantly tossed it onto the front seat of Judiʼs
green Mercedes sedan.
The days preceding this incident had been hell for my parents and friends.
On the morning of February 16, at my apartment, I began drinking cognac with a
vengeance. I called Brian at his office, told him I was drinking, and complained
vehemently about my relationship with Barbara. Brian realized I was in deep
trouble, and he immediately left his office and drove to the apartment.
When Brian arrived he found my pickup in the parking lot with the driverʼs
side door open, and the door to the apartment unlocked. He opened the door to
find me face down on the living room floor, an open bottle of cognac still firmly in
Brian got me up, helped me into the upstairs bathroom at my request, and
returned to the first floor to wait for me. While on the toilet I had a syncopal
episode, blacked out, and fell over onto the floor. From downstairs Brian heard a
loud noise, ran upstairs and found me on the bathroom floor, a complete mess.
With great care, he managed to get me cleaned up and drove me to the
emergency room at San Antonio Community Hospital where I was examined,
tested, admitted for the night, and released the following day, February 17. My
parents came to my rescue and helped me home from the hospital.
On February 18, the day after being discharged from the hospital, Larry
and I began a series of one-on-one games of Texas Hold ʻem. During one of
those games the conversation turned to my current paranoia. Larry said he had
just the item for me, and he pulled out a Colt .45 semi-automatic handgun. I
began to handle it, remove and insert the clip, operate the safety, pull back the
slide, cock the hammer, pull the trigger–it felt really good. Seemed like a great
idea to me, and for five hundred bucks the gun was mine.
Now I needed some accessories. On February 19, Larry and I hired a
limousine and made a trip to OʼBars Guns in a nearby strip center where I got
completely outfitted with shoulder holster, ammunition, extra magazines, and a
gun cleaning kit. The conversation in the back of the limo was peppered with
colorful language, alluding to all sorts of wild, nefarious activities. The limo driver
was not at all sure what to make of these two characters and their trip to the gun
With all my new firearm gear, and Larry and my parents tired of my
company, I needed a new place to stay. I chose the San Antonio Airport Holiday
Inn. When I checked in, I was wearing the shoulder holster and carrying a quart
of Jack Daniels.
Upon arriving in my room, the phone rang. It was the front desk calling to
inform me that I would have to bring my pistol down and check it with the
management as it was illegal for me to have a gun in the hotel. I complied with
their request and returned to my room, to drink and make phone calls.
The following day, needing to leave the Holiday Inn, but too wasted to
drive, I once again enlisted the aid of my dear and well-meaning parents, this
time to rescue me from the hotel. When my folks came to retrieve me on
February 20, I checked out with my new .45 and my bottle of Jack Daniels, much
to their horror.
With my brief Holiday Inn vacation completed, and no idea of where to go
or what to do, my next brainstorm involved returning to Larryʼs to hang out, play
poker, drink and do drugs. After reviving myself, I left my parents and made it
back to Larryʼs house with my gun and my bottle of whiskey, and the gambling
Within twenty-four hours of being back at Larryʼs I received the early
morning call from Barbara that sparked the trip to Brian and Judiʼs.
After fighting with Brian and my parents at the estate, the scene became
awful for everyone involved. I had to get out of town and return to the sanctuary
of Las Vegas and the crowd Iʼd been hanging with during the preceding month; it
was a group that didnʼt question my behavior as long as I had money, booze,
drugs, and a limousine.
I demanded that my mom and dad take my huge dirty Rottweiler and me,
in their nice new Oldsmobile, to the San Antonio International Airport.
By this time my behavior had become completely incomprehensible to my
parents. My mother, distraught, said she barely recognized me; it was like I had
become a completely different person.
My father was definitely not happy. It wasnʼt bad enough that I had been
shit-faced, out-of-my-mind loaded on booze and drugs for weeks, but I had just
shot up a brand-new expensive sports car.
And now, to make matters worse, I wanted to put a large, dangerous-looking dog,
that had been out trampling through a field, on his pristine cloth upholstery.
It was the last thing my father wanted to do, but under the
circumstances, he went along with it.
Arriving at the airport, I told my parents to drop Candy and me off at the
curb. Once inside the terminal, Candy and I began to peruse the ticket counters
looking for flights to Las Vegas, until we were confronted by an authority who
explained that the dog was not allowed in the airport.
I came up with some wild story about why she was there and negotiated to
use my belt as a leash with which to walk her through the terminal. The authority
capitulated, and Candy and I returned to checking flight schedules. I figured out
that there were several Southwest Airlines flights leaving for Las Vegas during
the course of the afternoon.
The next crucial part of my evolving plan was to return to the apartment
where I had fought with Barbara. Though Iʼd left her without a car, I knew she
wouldnʼt be there when I returned. At the apartment I could change clothes, pack
some things, drop off Candy, and return to the airport to catch my flight to Vegas.
The immediate question was transportation from the airport.
As luck would have it, the moment Candy and I stepped out of the
terminal, a long black stretch limousine pulled up and dropped off its passengers.
Having had weeks of experience riding around in rented limousines in Las
Vegas, Los Angeles, Denver, and San Antonio, the appearance of the limo was
I approached the limo driver and asked him if he were available. He said
yes, but he objected to taking the huge dog. I told him another far-fetched canine
story, something about needing to take her home, and that I was going to return
to the airport to catch a flight. The driver accepted the story, and we agreed
upon a rate of $100.00 for the round trip.
Negotiations complete, we left for the apartment and arrived there about
fifteen minutes later. In a big hurry, I changed my clothes and packed some
I had several items to take on my trip: a small black leather suitcase, a
green Polo hanging bag, a Smith-Corona portable typewriter, a brown vinyl
cassette case, and a bright blue camera bag with the name “Hasselblad” in white
on the sides. I continued to carry these five items around for some time to come,
though managing the unwieldy five-piece load was always a challenge.
Now I was really ready to travel, wearing jeans, the blue anteater boots, a
pink and charcoal 1950ʼs style short sleeve rayon shirt, a red cotton scarf from
India, and red and black mirror sunglasses.
I locked Candy in the apartment and rejoined the limo driver, who was
prepared to return to the airport and pick up a quick hundred bucks. Our drive
back to the airport took about fifteen minutes, and we returned to nearly the same
spot at the curb where my parents had dropped me off earlier.
We parked, and I asked the limo driver to grab some of my stuff and walk
with me directly to the Southwest Airlines ticket counter. Once inside the
terminal, the driver and I began walking hastily toward Southwest which was in
plain view just fifty feet ahead.
Moments later the shit hit the fan – a bunch of people in dark blue uniforms
were converging on us from all sides. Members of the San Antonio International
Airport Police Department surrounded us and asked me if I was Paul Halperin. I
answered, “Yes,” and the police immediately grabbed me and dismissed the limo
driver who protested that he hadnʼt been paid his hundred bucks.
The police took me into custody in their office. I wasnʼt allowed to use the
phone. I wasnʼt allowed to use the restroom. I was detained without any
explanation and confined to one room.
I heard the words “murder” and “homicide” coming from outside the room
where I was held, and I feared the worst. I could never confirm why I was
detained. About three hours later, the police said I could go, no questions asked.
Following is the actual report of the airport incident written by Brian P
& Associates, a San Antonio private investigation firm:
3/8/83 Telephone request by Van (lawyer) to check out the facts of an
incident that occurred at the San Antonio International Airport, involving one of his clients,
PAUL HALPERIN, currently involved in a divorce proceeding.
Incident occurred 2/21/83, at approximately 1:45 pm.
3:30 pm Departed the Courthouse and drove to San Antonio
Airport. Upon arriving, I went to the Airport Police office and requested information about this matter.
I was advised that this matter was handled by the day shift.
4:30 pm Returned to Courthouse. No warrants located on the
3/9/83 9:00 am Departed office enroute to San Antonio Airport.
Contacted Airport Police Chief Vincente and Sgt. H. They advised that they received a
telephone call from someone identifying himself as the client’s attorney, who with the
client’s father wanted the client stopped, so that the client could be committed to a
mental institution. They stated that the client would have a large dog with him.
The officers checked with the various ticket counters and found that the American Airlines
representative recalled seeing him.
The client was seen leaving the airport with the dog in a private limousine.
The client returned without the dog and the limousine driver complained to the
airport police that the client owed him over $100.00. Police took no action on this
The officers advised that a private investigator, later identified as
Thomas, contacted them and pointed the client out to the police when the client
returned to the airport. Thomas advised the airport police that charges were being
filed and requested that the client be held. Client was held by the airport police
while attempting to verify with the San Antonio Police Dept. No charges or outstanding
warrants could be located and the client was released after approximately 40 minutes.
10:30 am Returned to office.
End of Brian P & Associates report
It turned out that the party placing the call to the Airport Police
Department, identifying himself as my attorney, was in fact, Barbaraʼs attorney.
The private investigator, Thomas, was acting on Barbaraʼs behalf also.
My father and my attorney had no knowledge of the call or supposed mental
By the time I was released from police custody, all the Southwest flights to
Las Vegas had departed. I went to American Airlines trying to get a ticket to Las
Vegas. At that time the only seat available was in First Class, and I gladly took it.
I paid with a one-ounce Krugerrand, keep the change.
I boarded the flight to Las Vegas, with a stop in Dallas. Upon taking my
seat I ordered two cognacs. I passed out immediately, and woke up an hour later
upon landing at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. The two little cognac bottles were
still neatly placed in front of me, unopened.
Waking from my nap, I was disoriented and hungover from the recent
events – fact is, I was completely out of it.
After a short time on the ground at DFW, my seat assignment was
changed to an aisle seat on the right side of the plane. New passengers began
to board and a sizable, sharp-looking black man in a black leather jacket and cap
took his seat next to me.
Having been up and back to Las Vegas on several occasions in the
preceding weeks, I coolly and confidently started up a conversation by asking the
man next to me if he was a “player,” meaning black jack, craps, or baccarat.
He answered “Yes,” and when I pursued the issue asking what did he
play, he answered, “Guitar.”
Iʼd been a blues fan my whole life, and I thought to myself, “I can easily
figure this out,” so I pressed on asking what type of guitar, and he told me,
Still oblivious as to his identity, I asked what model, “Flying V or…?” at
which point the gentleman mercifully said something like, “Let me just tell you, Iʼm
At that moment I just wanted to disappear, but the flight was only
beginning, so I went through a nervous explanation of my life, how I was a big fan of his,
how he had influenced me, and how I had been a blues player for the last 12 years.
Still feeling completely embarrassed, I excused myself to the restroom.
Once inside the lavatory I took out a Krugerrand, and with my pocket knife
I carved an inscription in the soft, twenty-four karat gold: “2/21/83 TO B.B.KING
FROM PAUL HALPERIN”.
I returned to my seat and told B.B. that I wanted to give him something to
show my appreciation for his music and because of how bad I felt for not
recognizing him. I held out the Krugerrand, and he graciously accepted it.
I also asked B.B. for an autograph; however, the only thing I had available
for him to write on was a document with the legal description of the house that
Barbara and I owned in Santa Fe. He wrote me an autograph on the document,
and he wrote his Las Vegas address and phone number on his American Airlines
boarding pass and gave both to me.
A little over a year later, in June of 1984, I had my second meeting with B.B. King. It was at the
Celebrity Theater in Phoenix, Arizona, where my blues band, Texas Red and The Hartbreakers,
was the opening act for his concert.
Backstage I introduced myself and brought up the incident of the previous year. As we talked,
I inquired about the Krugerrand, to which he replied, “Oh yea, Iʼve got it put up at home.”
Reminiscing about that day, sixteen months earlier, B.B. looked at me and
recalled, “Yea, Paul you were really messed up that day…Iʼm glad youʼre doing
so much better now.”
Paul Halperin has had a diverse career in the entertainment business including working in film, TV, concert production, and leading a traditional blues band for 15 years. The other side of his story is about alcoholism, drug addiction, and recovery, which produced some bizarre stories including the above story, which a Grammy-winning recording artist insisted that he write years ago.