My Buddy, Santino

Another old friend rode off into the sunset yesterday.   The world won’t smile or laugh so much without Sonny Jim Bayliss.  He lived a full, rich, and fairly long life, and was taken away so suddenly he had dinner plans for the evening.  In fairness, a lot of Sonny left him when wife Sheri passed away nine years ago.


We met Sonny and Sheri through Shreveport tennis.  She was the better player, but very few were quicker than Sonny.  Not on a tennis court – he didn’t like running – but during happy hour few could match old Santino’s wit.  Not long after we met, a big group was enjoying a few cold ones in the bar at our old tennis club.  A big guy, who always carried himself like a tough guy, was trying to fix something with a quarter (a job that required a large screwdriver).   This fellow called out to the room:  “Has anybody got a fifty-cent piece?”   With timing that Jay Leno would envy, Sonny called back, “You’re married to one!”


Faces Have Changed, But the Scene Is the Same
The Faces Have Changed, But the Vibe Is the Same

He was an early devotee of Rush Limbaugh, which might explain why so much of his humor was politically incorrect.  He and I used to cook for our tennis group, usually 8 to 20 diners.  Cooking interested Sonny but he had not expanded his horizons beyond grilling.  We did Cajun, then some French, and now and then Italian.  He was strong at chopping and stirring, and as soon as he had nothing to do, he was all over the dirty pots and pans.  The process required a trip to Albertson’s for ingredients, bringing us back to politically incorrect humor.  Usually in Shreveport groceries we’d see people I knew and many more that he knew.  One day the shoppers were all strangers, and I nearly wet my pants on the return trip when Santino dryly noted “I didn’t see one SOB I know back there.  They probably think we’re a couple of old queers.”

Clay Court Mecca

Clay Court Mecca

He was a notorious fanny patter whom no one could rein in.  He is the author of the world’s worst racist remark, but 30 years ago there was a lot of that going around, and (white) people usually laughed.  He kept a famously manicured yard, and did all the work himself while wearing starched, pressed shorts, clean shoes, and a collared shirt.   He smoked two packs of cigarettes a day for over 60 years, and when they quit making Schlitz he just switched to Old Milwaukee.


The man was an American original.  All who knew Sonny will miss him.

Santino Sunset

6 thoughts on “My Buddy, Santino

  1. Jack, that is great! But who are the people in the picture taken at POTC? I tried to text Betty about this (don’t have a number for you) but I guess she didn’t get it? I need to verify numbers for you both. Anyway, the visitation tonight was rather cheerful…not somber…which was good. It’s just awful to lose Phil and Sonny so close together.


    1. Stock photos, as the news services say, JC. They have a website now; I wanted an image of the Loser Buys and maybe one of the clay. An acknowledgment to POTC is in order, but hey, I’m a lazy guy.

      Good to hear the visitation went smoothly. I’ll remember him whacking forehands and forgetting to seed the jalapenos for our Cajun Shepherd’s Pie,


  2. I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your friend. Please accept my condolences.

    That stunning sunset picture is a beautiful way to close your tribute to him.


    1. Kat took the sunset picture an hour before we got the news of Sonny’s passing. As she took this and a dozen others, we commented that this was the finest sunset we’d seen in over a year on the road.

      Talk about your coincidences.


    2. I’m a cinematographer at heart: mentioned riding off into the sunset at the start, and ended with a great one. B Movies need me! And we all needed Santino for a while longer. But our plans don’t always fit into the broad design.


  3. Perhaps not a coincidence at all, in some sort of cosmic manner.

    All things are connected.

    I did get the link from the comment at the start, and then to the picture.

    From what you said, it sounds like your friend would appreciate it. 🙂

    Since you are in the West right now, why not make your own brand of B movie?


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