Sunday, February 3, 2013

Brief Encounters With The Rich & Famous

I was watching some of the pre-Super Bowl coverage today.  It seems that many of the rich and famous are in New Orleans this week, either participating in some of the entertainment or just coming in to join the fun.

That got me to thinking about my own brief encounters with the rich and famous and I realized that, collectively, I've been fortunate to have met many of them over the years.  I don't count the great music concerts I attended as a teen, or all the celebrities who came to entertain us in Vietnam because there was no direct contact with them.  (Except for Ricardo Montalban whom I used to provide security for as he came to Saigon once a month to visit his army son; a charming and very kind man)

I guess the first of the famous I met was when I was about ten years old.  The great Bob Mathias, who had won the gold in the Olympic decathlon, had set up a kids camp not far from my home town.  I can't remember if the event was sponsored by a church group, or if it was through the Boy Scouts, but I was lucky enough to attend and hear Mathias and L.A. Rams kicker Danny Villaneuva talk about fitness and good sportsmanship.

The vast majority of celebrities I've met was during my Air Force service in Hawaii.  Just a mid-grade enlisted man at the time, I needed to work a part time job to make ends meet.  Because I was an Air Force Security cop I was easily able to secure a private security job at Honolulu International Airport.  Because of my experience I was assigned to a VIP gate at the airport.  At least at that time celebrities were able to access their flight directly from my gate, thus avoiding the public.   I worked two consecutive 8-hour shifts at that gate, from 8am to 12 midnight, both Saturday and Sunday.  Fortunately, I had the opportunity to meet most of the celebrities who vacationed, or lived in Hawaii at that time, and that helped to ward off the exhaustion of working 16 hour days.

The great New England Tight End, Russ Francis lived in Hawaii in the off season and was a frequent airport visitor as he greeted his guests, or was departing for the mainland.  That was also true for Tom Selleck during his Magnum P.I. days.  Both were polite and friendly.  Each Sunday evening I had two "regulars" at my gate.  One was long time Hawaii Senator Daniel Inoue, who would arrive at the airport, outbound for a flight back to Washington.  The other was Jack Lemmon, who was apparently living in Hawaii at the time.  Each Sunday night a VIP limo would pull up and park near my gate, while Lemmon sat in the back and awaited the arrival of his wife.  Jack was always polite but he always seemed depressed, not the happy guy one sees on the screen.  It would not be until twenty years or so later that I would learn that Jack was an alcoholic.  Maybe that was the reason for the morose face.

Other celebrities that I spent a little time with included Rod Stewart (and his new then wife Alana), Earth Wind and Fire, Tom Jones and, each Christmas, author Joe Wambaugh would stop by my gate, exchange pleasantries, and drop off a case of Scotch for the HPD cops assigned to the airport.

We also had week long chaos at the airport when Charlie's Angels came to film an episode in Hawaii.  The TV series was a hot commodity at that time and folks were creeping out of the woodwork trying to get a glimpse of the girls.  I have to admit I was enthralled by Cheryl Ladd and Jacuiline Smith and really enjoyed the eye candy during Angels week in Hawaii.  Learned that the fellow who played Bosley was in real life a total asshole.  He was the only celebrity I met who was both rude and arrogant.

The most personable celebrity I ever met was Loretta Switt, "Hot Lips" from MASH.  She had sprung for a Hawaiian vacation for her parents for their anniversary.  While waiting for their arrival she spent ten minutes with me, and for those ten minutes her total concentration was on me.  She asked questions about my service, and thanked me for it, asked about my family, and seemed sincerely interested in everything I had to say.  A lovely lady indeed.

The most beautiful lady I have ever met while working that VIP gate was not a celebrity at all.  She was a French- Polynesian lady, who worked in the United Air Lines VIP lounge in the airport.  Her uniform was not much different than what the airline stewardesses wore at that time, a conservative blouse, skirt and jacket.  In her mid twenties, my VIP lady was tall,  had curves in all the right places, had a flawless coffee and cream complexion, with azure eyes just about the shade of the Pacific at mid-morning.  Each Saturday and Sunday she parked her little red Audi next to my gate shack, perhaps so I could keep an eye on it for her.  She always stopped to talk for a few minutes and, after a few months I could actually carry on a conversation with her without a slack jaw silence at her immense beauty.  Each evening when she finished her shift she would stop by and bring me a coffee and some delicate little pastries and petit-fours from the VIP lounge.  I was always a bit in love with my French-Polynesian goddess and still am to this day.

Just a few musings this morning on Superbowl Day.

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