Only two years before that night, he had promised he would pull off this stunt, and back then people had laughed. But it must have occurred to him there, perched hundreds of feet above tens of thousands of his screaming fans, that he had gone and forced those scoffers to choke on their chuckles. And damned if his fans didn't love him for that dramatic flair, not to mention his string of country hits, including the chart-topping "Reno," and lesser-but-still-substantial smashes like "I Don't Call Him Daddy," "Honky-Tonkin' Fool" and "(Between the) Red and the Rio Grande."
Little could Supernaw have known then that his life would soon descend just as far and as fast as that spectacular entrance. Only in real life, there are no guy wires. In short order, the hits would dry up and he would lose his major-label Nashville record deal, and his comeback album Fadin' Renegade would prove to be aptly titled. He would be diagnosed with bipolar disorder and display symptoms of paranoia. Then he would get arrested, once, twice and then again and again. The venues would diminish from the Dome to the dance halls to the honky-tonks, all the way down to the four walls of his own shower.
The trouble, which by now rivals that of George Jones at his worst, started about ten years ago. Since nobody we called would talk to us about Supernaw, and the singer himself is very hard to find, we have had to rely on published reports from papers in Bryan, Corpus Christi and Amarillo to compile this column.
In September of 1997, Supernaw was arrested in Lubbock and charged with owing $135,000 in back child support. Five months later, he was picked up after a scrap in the parking lot of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and charged with public intoxication. (That charge was dismissed.) There followed a long, quiet interlude, which ended in October of 2001 when Supernaw was jailed ten days for contempt of court for allegedly screaming at the judge presiding over his child support trial. (Supernaw has numerous children with numerous women.)
Supernaw's problems kicked into high gear in September of 2002 when, on his 42nd birthday, he got into a fracas in a Brenham bar that ended with the singer allegedly attempting to head-butt a Washington County deputy. Supernaw was charged with resisting arrest, public intoxication and assault of a police officer, a felony that could have sent him to prison for 99 years. Supernaw skipped a preliminary hearing for those charges, so the authorities tacked on a felony bail-jumping charge. Supernaw went to Mexico for several months, and was met at the terminal on his return by numerous cops. ("I would expect no less for Osama Bin Laden," Supernaw later growled during the cross-examination stage of his trial.) In December, Supernaw was convicted of misdemeanor resisting arrest and sentenced to two weeks in jail. (The authorities tabled the assault-on-a-police-officer charge for the time being.)
In April of 2004, Supernaw was arrested for alleged marijuana possession twice -- first in Fayette County and then in Austin County. In May, a jury failed to convict Supernaw on the bail-jumping charge, and the trial was reset for the following month.
A couple of weeks later, Supernaw turned up in Amarillo. He was there as the traveling companion of the Coastal Bend Aviators, an unaffiliated minor league baseball team managed by Supernaw's golf buddy, former Astro right fielder (and Houston native) Glenn Wilson. According to Supernaw's testimony at a later trial, Wilson allowed Supernaw to wear a uniform and sit in the bullpen with the Robstown-based team, and would perhaps even let him get in a game. Supernaw traveled on the team bus, with disastrous results. According to accounts from two disgruntled former Aviators in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Supernaw allegedly smoked pot on the bus. "The guy was in the restroom for a while and when he got out, you just started smelling pot," said Coastal Bend pitcher Rey Chapa. "We were wondering what was going on. Everybody was freaking out that the guy did that."
Supernaw later admitted those allegations in an open courtroom, but added that he didn't toke on the field. In a trial in which Supernaw acted as his own counsel, he reminisced thusly in his opening statement: "I was on the field, in the dugout with the team having a good time. Not even smoking pot because I didn't want to jeopardize my chance to play ball."