In a very strange way, I still mark this meeting and this particular picture as the last celebrity picture I took. It was, in the set of photographs of celebrities that I met at LAX anyway. Let me explain.
Jim Nabors got off the flight from Hawaii where he was actually spending time with his good friend Carol Burnett. I never really realized this about Gomer, but at least this night he seemed well….how do I put it delicately…a bit light in the loafers…as Jerry Seinfeld would say, “Not there’s anything wrong with that!”
I must say that for the several minutes we talked while coming from the gates and getting his baggage, he was very kind, even went so far as to say that he bet my mom and he would make great friends after I told him why I wanted his picture. Still, the whole encounter left me with the impression that his was either inibriated or bordering on flamboyant. Looking back on it now, it may have been both.
The other very strange thing about this is what happened after I took this picture. It was the last picture on this particular roll of film, and after I snapped the photo by the Traveler’s Aide Desk, a thought came to me that said, “OK, your done.” It was a very overwhelming thought, and it puzzled me for several hours while on post. Then, at about 12:30am, as I was walking from baggage to ticketing at United’s old LAX terminal, I stopped dead and my tracks, as if (to go Star Wars on you here) there was a disturbance in the Force. It came over me at just about the same spot as I took the picture of Jim Nabors. At the time I couldn’t figure it out.
I mentioned it to some of the other people with whom I worked, and it kept nagging at me all night long. When I got off at 5 in the morning, I caught the shuttle bus over to where the regular RTD bus lines and Airport Express Buses waited at their layover point, caught the first RTD that ran East on Century Boulevard to downtown LA, all the time thinking about that “disturbance”. I got off to change buses at Crenshaw Boulevard not too far away from the Crenshaw Christian Center (Dr. Frederick K Price’s Faith Dome) and waited for the bus to take me North onto Vine St, and my stop several blocks South of Hollywood and Vine.
So there I am, at dawn, most of the sky above me clear, with some very cool pastel morning shades as I was just gazing out, looking west. There up in the sky, just like out of a cartoon, was a single puffy white little cloud, flat on the top, and just a bit rounded on the bottom. The thought came to my mind that it looked just like one of those clouds where you’d see a dead Elmer Fudd angel playing a harp on his way up to heaven. It was the only cloud in the sky. It made me raise an eyebrow and say to myself, “I bet that overwhelming feeling meant maybe someone died.”
The trip from Century Boulevard and Crenshaw all the way up to Hollywood was a long one, and I was exhausted, and wound up falling asleep. I don’t remember my dreams much if I ever have any, but this one was vivid. In the dream I remember seeing my then dead grandfather and grandmother together, their faces not too far away from me as if they were sitting across a coffee table from me. As the dream went on, Uncle Henry, my grandfather’s brother, and my mom’s only surviving “older generation” immediate family member, came in from the side, and then all three were together looking at me, more or less reassuring me that everything would be OK. It puzzled me at first, but after waking up I kind of put it all together. By the time I got off the bus and started the block and a half walk home, I pretty much knew what happened. The last part is even stranger.
Every night as I left my garage apartment I check the front house’s utility room window where they usually put my mail. That previous night I checked it and got my mail. But this morning, just as I passed the door to that room, I stopped dead in my tracks and without looking over, I said to myself, “Check your mail!”. I replied to me, “I did, I have it in my little bag I take with me to work.”. “Check it,” the other side of me says, so sure enough I looked to my left and there was a letter in the window. It’s from my brother who was on a mission for the LDS Church in Chile at the time. I then figured out that Uncle Henry passed on. So I walked back to my apartment.
As I approached the door, I heard the phone just start to ring, it was on the edge of the couch just inside the door, so I quickly opened the door, picked up the phone and said, “Hi mom, what time did Uncle Henry die last night?” (Keep in mind this was in 1982 before caller ID) Baffled, she said, “What? How did you know it was me?” I said, “Never mind that, did Uncle Henry die last night at 1230am?” She said, “No…he died at 3:30am.” “Mom, 3:30 your time IS 12:30 my time. Nailed it! Don’t worry, I know just what to do. Your going to get something in the mail in a few days that will help distract you from this loss.”
The reason I said that I nailed it is because I had a similar experience the year before when my grandmother passed away, and it woke me up at just after 3 in the morning. Before leaving for California I asked my mom to tell me, if anything did ever happen to Uncle Henry, get the exact time of death. A morbid thought, but I got the time right. By the way, Uncle Henry died on the 6th of December, one day after my grandmother’s birthday. who died a year earlier. I’m sure he missed her.
So later that morning, I went and had that last roll of film developed, bought a photo album, put the pictures of all the celebritiesin with a little story of how I met them, and sent the book off to my mom, who kept it on her coffee table until the day she died in 2002, two months after my older brother passed away from complication related to Aids.
And while Jim Nabors was the actual last picture for that part, he was not the last celebrity I met. As a matter of fact, there were plenty of others to follow. I just kind of got out of order in how I bring up their names. So stay tuned…there’s plenty more to follow.