Friday, April 18, 2008

Parents and stars

Relative Esoterica's wonderful post about Mildred Bailey got me thinking and writing about a wonderful James Schuyler poem, which in turn made me resolve to ask my wonderful parents about their various brushes with the stars during their years working in New York City. Here are the goods:

My mom once saw Rex Harrison and Lilli Palmer together. My mom also rode in Rockefeller Center elevators that carried Christine Jorgensen and Nancy Walker.

As I noted in my Schuyler post, my dad once said hello to Groucho Marx. And he once met Doro Merande, who asked "What are you building there?" My dad also said hello to Walter Abel, Hans Conried, and Abe Vigoda on the sidewalks of New York.

And he once saw Roy Eldridge and Maxine Sullivan leaving a building on Broadway. "Hi, Maxine," said my dad. "Well, how did you know?" asked Maxine Sullivan. (Because my dad was and is a jazz fan; that's how.) Roy Eldridge kept to himself, looking off somewhere behind sunglasses.

Best of all: sitting with fellow construction workers outside a jobsite, my dad was granted a fleeting vision of Katharine Hepburn, driving by in a convertible. "Hello, fellas," she said.

I've met and talked with many great people in the worlds of music (mostly jazz) and writing, but stars? Not many. I once saw James Coco in a Greenwich Village grocery store, and Gene Shalit in a midtown theater lobby. I watched Nancy Walker rehearse a commercial for Bounty paper towels at a discount department store (the Rosie's Diner of those commercials was close by). And I once talked with André Gregory (as in My Dinner with André) in the lobby of the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Elaine encouraged me to introduce myself (I'd seen My Dinner with André seven times). André Gregory had seen the movie six times.

Reader, feel free to share your constellations in the comments. If you have recollections of parental brushes with the stars that would take us further back in time, those are most welcome too.

(Hi, Mom and Dad! Happy birthday, Mom!)

comments: 8

Elaine Fine said...

I once rode in an elevator with Mikhail Baryshnikov. That was exciting.

Michael Leddy said...

Elaine's account of that elevator ride: Take Me Back to Manhattan.

Tom the Piper's Son said...

I once saw Boris Karloff on the golf course of Holmby Hills LA. His gait was not at all mummy-like.

toddler going back on a plane to NY with my father, June Lockhart saw to my comforts and helped to put me to sleep. I hope I treated her respectfully.

brownstudy said...

In college, I had a group dinner with Mel Blanc (he talked to the waitress using his Porky Pig voice). He told us all the stories he repeated at the lecture later.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful stories, everyone, especially Brownstudy’s evening with Mr. Blanc. I'm afraid my brushes with greatness are a little obscure, but Jeff Tweedy of Wilco once stayed overnight at our apartment in Chicago (he was much less famous then and still in his first band), and we met Richard Butler of The Psychedelic Furs on Green St. in Champaign, IL back in the 80s. He was very polite, gracious, and funny.

Michael Leddy said...

Tom, I'm wowed that you had "Ruth Martin" (i.e., Timmy's mom) caring for you.

Brownstudy, what a memory to have. I looked up Mel Blanc's grave once — "That's All Folks" is engraved on it.

Stefan, you'd barely know Green Street now. The Record Service, Figaro's, and Acres of Books are gone, along with the buildings that housed them.

Elaine, I'll see you in a few minutes for the movie!

JuliaR said...

In 1979 I was a student of art in Padua and I watched Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Gore Vidal and Northrop Frye all enter the Arena Chapel at the same time. I didn't go over or say anything as their son had just committed suicide and that's probably why they were getting away from North America.

My father had a private 10 minutes with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in 1963 or so, when he arranged the security for their visit to Quebec City on the Britannia. They gave him a signed photo and a nice pair of cuff links. Since his name is Bob but his last name starts with an "R", those who don't recognize the royal crest sometimes ask him why the cuff links say "ER".

My mother went to nursing school in 1950-something with Margo Timmins' mother. They remain good friends to this day but my mother has no idea (i.e. doesn't care) who Margo is.

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks for sharing these stories, Julia, of metaphorical and literal royalty. Your Italian quartet is amazing.