JIM DAVIS: A Few Chance Encounters With Celebrities
In 1942, when I was 12, my family went on a trip to New York.
We were walking to dinner one evening when I noticed a figure walking toward us with a jaunty swagger that seemed familiar.
It was Bob Hope.
As we passed him, I said something really original, like "Hi, Bob." He said, "How are ya?" and went on his way. That was my first chance encounter with a famous person.
Like most of us, I've run across a lot of celebrities out of their element. I don't mean in performances, but in meetings that happen by accident. On a long-ago family train trip, we sat across the aisle from Nelson Eddy, the famous singer of the 1940s, having dinner in the dining car. At a New York restaurant a year or so later, we saw two character actors from the movies, Allan Jenkins and Frank McHugh, eating at a nearby table.
Over the years, I've accidentally encountered such diverse characters as heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey, Svetlana Alliluyeva (Joseph Stalin's daughter), Brooke Shields, Kentucky basketball coach Adolph Rupp, President Dwight Eisenhower, Baseball Commissioner Happy Chandler, film stars Gregory Peck and Douglas Fairbanks Jr., radio announcer Ed Herlihy, and golf legend Arnold Palmer.
I once played golf with Ted Mack, the television and radio personality who hosted the Major Bowes Amateur Hour after Bowes died. It was in Carlisle, Pa., and Mack was appearing at the Cumberland County Fair. The chairman of the fair was a friend of mine, and when Ted Mack asked about playing golf, the chairman and I hosted him at the Carlisle Country Club. Ted wore street shoes, and his golf was worse than mine, but I was thrilled to play with a famous person.
Since moving to Pinehurst, I've encountered several people who achieved considerable fame in their chosen careers. I've met Sir Mohsin Ali, a very interesting gentleman who was attached to Reuters, the European news agency, during World War II. An author and a pilot, he flew missions over the Himalayas, and interviewed many famous people, including Winston Churchill.
Another very good new friend is Allan Jefferys, a well-known radio-television personality and theater critic from New York. He and his wife, June, hosted a morning television show in Washington, D.C. He knows everyone worth knowing in the American theater, and he now writes a regular column for The Pilot.
One great accidental friendship that has happened to me since we moved to Pinehurst is my relationship with Tommy Hamm and his wife, Marilyn. It began in 2005 when I wrote a column about the big band era for The Pilot. Tommy sang with a famous quartet in the 1940s and 1950s, The Mello-Larks. The group sang with the Glenn Miller Band and performed internationally on radio, television and nightclubs with such luminaries as Mel Torme, Mike Douglas, Jerry Lester, Dagmar, and Betty Hutton, to name just a few. When he read my column, Tommy knew he and I would have a lot in common because of my interest in swing music and the big bands. He wrote me a letter and the rest, as they say, is history.
Tommy and I are on the same page on just about everything. I remember more about show business than the average person, but Tommy knows much more than I do, since he lived it. His stories are always fascinating and funny. Sometimes we try to stump each other by mentioning some obscure musician or show business personality, but it's difficult for one of us to get one up over the other. We're so close that we sometimes finish each other's sentences.
If I hadn't written that Pilot column, and if Tommy Hamm hadn't read it, we might never have met, and that would have been a shame. Excuse me, but I have to go now. I just thought of something that might stump Tommy.
Contact freelance writer Jim Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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