In the universe of partnerships, you find outliers in all fields. Bill Gates and Paul Allen changed the world of technology, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis entertainment, and Harry and Marv reminded us of the brilliance of stupidity. But none could rival the collaborative genius of what began two years ago in Lawrence with Big Red and Tommy Keenan.
College is one place you need a wing man, a soul mate, a BFF through thick and thin. Red is always there for Tommy and his fraternity roommates, which varies between three and nine people. He serves as a worthy adjunct to drinking, laughing, drinking and more laughing. This was a match straight from Animal House. But if you think this story resembles Bluto or his band of social rejects, well, you’d be right.
Like all buddies, Red is a keeper of secrets, wallets and is always there for you. Red, you see, is an oversized leather couch. When the Swine Flu swept through campus two years ago, he doubled as an infirmary. College is hard these days. Two classes a day, late nights, beer pong, headaches, hangovers, Chipotle. You need good furniture. Something that repels spills, stains and other things no mother should know about. College kids need a soft landing, a pillow pal, something to bounce them on their way to that ‘hard to make’ 2 p.m. class. Like a dog that never needs feeding or house training. Serving as a gathering spot, meeting place where decisions are made, which for a fraternity includes the date of the next Toga party. Red’s friendship extends in other ways. In fraternities thing go missing. People take stuff, something called brotherizing. Important things like beer steins, pledge paddles, church keys, Ping pong balls. Not Red. He’s always there.
But it’s how this friendship came about that makes it worthy of 913. If Hollywood turned it into a screenplay, critics would declare it a cross between the Blind Side meets Old School, except that no one went streaking. As far as we know. Red, you see, came from the fringe of Lawrence neighborhoods, barely on the grid to the epicenter of the social scene, a Tennessee street fraternity just a couple hundred feet from The Wagon Wheel. Paths that came to intersect thanks to an obscure ad noted on Craigslist – For Sale – Couch. $600. Its owner was a polite lady whose furniture had no idea that tequila could leave a permanent stain.
And when dudes 1 and 2 drove to west Lawrence to inspect the property, there was something that clicked. “I wanted it the second I saw it,” Tommy said. An hour later they moved him into the room and a relationship started.
Some furniture requires the action to come to it. Not Red. When KU made its run to that little game in New Orleans, Red couldn’t stay in the house. They took Red to The Wagon Wheel on Saturday evening and gave him a front row place in front of the big screen TV in the outdoor patio. Naturally, KU won.
Red’s seen it all. “One time he held six people, and then doubled as a late night dance platform.” Not that it’s been all smooth sailing for Red, of course. “Red lacked structural integrity necessary for frat life. He’s required constant fixes,” says Tommy. Poor guy.
“Red doesn’t go to parties. Red is the party,” Tommy says. Despite Tommy’s pending graduation, Red’s future remains bright. He’s headed for another room prone to late nights and large gatherings on his cozy cushions.
Keenan boy No. 3 has dibs.
Matt Keenan’s book, “Call Me Dad, Not Dude,” is available at Borders and online at thekansascitystore.com. Write to Matt at his Website, matthewkeenan.com.