Thursday, March 03, 2005

Famous People

I guess the Academy Awards show was responsible for my reminiscing about famous people I have met or spent time with. The tribute to Tony Randall brought back a delightful evening spent in his presence while running a fund raising event for the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. He was such a remarkable man, very organized and completely at ease with people he had never met before. It was almost hard to imagine that he was a very famous person, because he was so friendly and unassuming; totally down-to-earth. I was working with him personally, as I was very involved with the proceedings of the evening. I was a paid employee, and also a volunteer, for the orchestra. There were many very well-known local people of prominence manning the phone bank in the lobby of Kleinhan’s Music Hall, and the whole evening was one of the happy memories in my life.

While I was living in Buffalo, and involved in the music scene, I met many world famous people who came to perform either with the Buffalo Philharmonic, or in concerts alone, and I spoke with them before the program started. Many were in the classical music world, but some were popular music artists. Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, Beverly Sills, Itzhak Perlman, Carol Lawrence, so many personalities that they all blend into a swirl of wonderful musical memories. I was even invited to attend a party with the members of Carol Lawrence’s band, but decided against that. I wasn’t sure of what I would be getting myself into.

I also was an usher at Studio Arena Theater, and Shea’s Center for the Performing Arts, a huge movie palace which was totally refurbished while I was living in Buffalo. It is a magnificent edifice, and is used for opera, ballet, and concerts.

At Studio Arena, I saw a play with Peter Falk in the lead role. It was rather shocking at the time, as he showed his bare butt while hanging out a window. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, I can’t remember the name of the play. I took an enrichment program group of kids to see the theater and stage set for the play, but luckily they didn’t see the play itself.

When I was a junior high school student, I met Gary Crosby after a concert at the Officer’s Club at Sampson Air Force Base. I attended the concert along with a couple of girlfriends. One of them was the daughter of a Lieutenant Colonel, and lived on the base. We were talking to Gary in the hall and acquired his autograph. I walked on cloud nine for quite a while after that and I was giddy.

After I graduated from high school and worked in my home town for a while, I went to New York City to work. I saw Rock Hudson shopping in the fabulous store where I worked, in the fishing department, near the rods and reels. I wasn’t supposed to be there, as I worked in the offices upstairs, but my little buddy in that department called and gave me the heads-up about Rock’s presence. That was a definite no-no, but I took a chance anyway. Rock Hudson was very tall, by the way.

I had been living alone in Manhattan, but eventually moved in with a girl from Lithuania who was a model. I had been working with her roommate, but that girl decided to move back home to Ohio, and Skira needed someone to help with the rent. She was rather a party girl, and through her I met many interesting people who owned their own companies, or were involved in the arts. We met the owners of Puerto Rican Rums, who had offices at 666 Broadway, and became real buddies, going to parties. As a result of our friendship, we were invited to a press party introducing the daiquiri. At that party, we met a woman who was the food columnist for Parade Magazine and established a lasting friendship. She, Skira, and I would meet for lunch at interesting restaurants. The brothers who owned Goya Macaroni Products were also our friends and we spent hours with them, riding around the city and enjoying New York.

After I left New York City, I started raising a family, therefore I was no longer out in the world meeting all of these interesting people. I have come close, but not quite. While living in Texas, I had a close friend who was buddies with Willie Nelson, and I was invited to a Christmas party that became a jam session at Willie’s place, but I was at another party and chose to remain there. I have always regretted that decision.

Since I have been in California, I can only say that I was having lunch at Neiman Marcus when Sharon Stone appeared, walking past my table, then standing near-by for quite a while, waiting for her table.

When I take Amtrak back and forth between here and the East Coast, I always meet very interesting men and women. I have shared a breakfast table with two different published authors. The first writer I met, Dr. Gray Brechin, wrote Farewell Promised Land: Waking From the California Dream, and Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin. He was taking the train to the East Coast, and would travel from there to Norway to work on another book. We had a fine time having breakfast together, and ran into each other a few times before our trip was over.

On the next trip that I took, on a train between Chicago and Washington, D.C., I had breakfast with Lenore McComas Coberly, author of The Handywoman Stories. She was born and raised in West Virginia, which we were traveling through, and her stories are snippets of life in the mountains and valleys of that area. The purpose of her train travel was to appear in several cities for readings from her newly published book. It was a coincidence that I shared a meal with these writers, as the Dining Car Steward seats the passengers.

I have also spent hours on two different days having involved conversations with Mike Dukakis, former Governor of Massachusetts, who was on the Amtrak Board of Directors. There were many times in the lounge car in which he and I were sitting alone sharing the scenery, discussing the areas that we were seeing, and talking about Amtrak’s future. Mike told me to have my Greek granddaughter visit him at Northeastern University, where he teaches. That was before she had decided which university she was going to attend. He later sent an article to my son to publish on his conservation website, regarding high speed train travel between San Francisco and Los Angeles. He is a very personable, interesting man. It brought back memories of my involvement in the political scene in Buffalo.

My interest in famous people has always been a part of my life. I do not have the opportunity to meet them now as I did in the past, but the desire is always there.


  • At 2:28 AM, March 08, 2005, Anonymous Craig said…

    The tribute reel for actors who have died in the preceeding year is the only part of the Oscars that I like. They should put the ones for all the different years out on DVD or something.

  • At 2:14 PM, March 08, 2005, Blogger Rita Xavier said…

    Yeah, I get teary-eyed during the tributes. That is a good idea you have. Maybe you could suggest it to someone, and even get a tiny stipend for the idea.


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