In contrast to my many pleasant meetings with John Ritter, there was one night, after a late game that the Los Angeles Rams played, that Howard Cosell came through the airport in a fury. The game went into overtime, his limo was late, and Howard was not in a very good mood at all. As a matter of fact, in the entire time I spent at the airport, no one ever demanded the kind of respect that Howard did. The flight was delayed…not because of mechanical reasons, but instead, they were holding it just for Howard. So, I knew already that I wouldn’t be able to have the time needed for a picture of him, but what I was not prepared for was just how rude and cantankerous he would be. Some people that you meet in life stand out for some reasons while others you would not mind not having met at all. I don’t have to tell you which category that Howard Cosell fit into.
The first time I met John Ritter was in the area in between ticketing and the baggage claim of United Airlines at Los Angeles International airport. He and his family had just returned from a trip and everyone looked like it was a really long flight. I did politely ask John if I could take his picture, and he quietly said no, explaining that his family was pretty beat from their flight. I told him that I was taking pictures of famous people so I could send them back to my mom, not to sell them to the rags.
Over the many months that I was posted there at the airport, I saw John Ritter more than any other celebrity. It got to the point where he eventually knew me by name, and then he would even seek me out if I didn’t spot him first at the airport. Each time he passed through he always had a very valid excuse for me not to take a picture of him for my mom. After all if he didn’t want his picture taken by me, why would he go out of his way to not only remember my name, but seek me out along his travels?
However, one week he came to me and said that he was going to some big event at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City and he promised after the event that he wouldn’t change and I could look for him coming down the hallway in his tuxedo, making a great picture. On the next night, there he was, all decked out in his “regular” clothes, looking again like and his clothes could use a good pressing. He came right up to me, put his arm around me and shook my hand and said, “Dean, I’m sorry I let you down again, but I’ve been thinking about this. I think it’s more important that you keep the memory of me from our friendship and not an image on film that will fade with time.” After a bit more tighter squeeze on my shoulder, John said, “A hug and a hand shake make for a better memory, don’t ya think?” How could I disagree?
Now I am actually honored to say that I never got John Ritter’s picture. The picture at the top of this entry was found on the Internet. And on September 11, 2003, two years after America lost so many lives in the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, DC, and in a field near Shanksville, PA, America lost one more hero.
A tear streams down my cheek now as I write this, because while John Ritter was like a friend to many Americans who brought him into their living rooms through their TV’s, for me, during that time in the early 1980’s, John Ritter was a friend. A friend whose memory I will always cherish more than any picture or rerun could.
Now, you can see pretty much up to this point that, as an ordinary guy, I’ve been fortunate enough to have run across a nice handful of celebrities. But this encounter really got me thinking. I went from commercial space to outer space all in one day!
While working the swing shift at the Max Factor Building one night just after the maintenance crew had locked the back entrance that led to a parking lot that people going to the Chinese Theater (which was right across the street from the Max Factor building)used, George Takei strolled up to the main lobby desk and asked if he could cut through the building to the parking lot. His voice was low, and having been a Star Trek fan for years, I recognized him immdeadiately. I appologized for not being able to let him through to the parking lot. He wanted to avoid the crowds. I told him I understood.
We spoke for a few minutes, and as we were speaking, I had remembered that I had my camera with me in the small backpack I carried with me that held my lunch and some other things to do during the slow times at the post. I asked George if I could take his picture, and he said sure. When I went to snap the picture, it froze. I was shattered and embarrassed. Just earlier on the same day I had snapped what turned out to be the last picture on the roll of film on the Chuck Wagon Dog. No more than 30 feet to one side of me was a gift shop that had a gate across it. I asked George if he couldn’t get Scotty to beam a roll of film to me, as we both laughed. He could tell I was trying to make the best of an embarrassing moment and told me, “That’s ok…even though you didn’t get my picture, I’m sure you will remember meeting me more now. And to tell you the truth, I cherish those moments more than keeping them on film. I have them in my mind.”
He was absolutely correct. However, I still felt embarrassed because I ran out of film, so I made a promise to myself that I would always keep an extra roll of film and extra batteries in my backpack. That way I would never miss another opportunity to get a picture. I had no idea what luck I would run into and how many pictures I would end up with.
Another day posted at the Max Factor Building I met a celebrity that would have never dreamed I would ever run across.
It was late in the day when an old man came into the lobby of the building with a small dog. I started out by reminding him that animals were not allowed in the building. The old man told me that this wasn’t just a dog, but he was a true celebrity. He said his dog was the very same dog that scampered through the house and into the cabinet under the kitchen sink in the Chuck Wagon dog food commercials. The old man told me, for all the money the dog has made, WE are the ones that should be on leashes.
I did indeed recognize the dog from the commercials and was able to get a picture of him. You’ll have to remember that this picture was taken in 1981, and at that point the commercial was old. I’m sure they have used another dog for the commercial by now. Like I mentioned, I never dreamed I would have met this particular celebrity. That is the legs of the dog’s owner in the background.
Eventually I wound up back in Hollywood. What happened was I got a call from Ken Marks saying he wanted to team up for a morning show in Chino, CA. I found myself jumping on a plane to rush out there, and then the job fell through. I found myself back in the security guard business again.
One of the posts I had during 1981 was at the Max Factor Building on Hollywood Blvd. Since Kate Jackson was one of their models, I actually got to see her a number of times in the lobby of the building. I never did get her autograph, never did take her picture, but I saw her enough times that she eventually knew me by name. For the young man that I was at the time, that was more than enough for me.
For all the interactions that we had, I’d have to say it was pleasant but not overly friendly. She was very much a lady…and me…well…I was the security guard. I’m sure that a couple of days after I left the post she forgot my name and probably wouldn’t even remember meeting me. But why would she? My name is not Charlie. 🙂
James “Chip” Carter III, as shown here in a picture from 2001 was campaigning for his father Jimmy Carter in 1980 when he came by the radio station I worked at in Long Branch, NJ.
My guess is that this was one of those “whistle stops”, because the amount of time he spent with us was less then the time it takes to pucker up and whistle.
None the less, I vividly remember noting that his smile was just as big as his dad’s and I could also recall that he definitely bore a family resemblence.
As I recall, I may have indeed voted for Chip’s dad that election year, but meeting someone like that now could never sway my vote. Primarily because I don’t vote. Every time I’ve put myself in for a vote, I also wound up on jury duty. Ever since I started paying child support, I can’t afford to pay anything else. Not that I have anything against paying the child support, or for that matte, I don’t have any specific voting habbit. It’s just I can’t take the risk of losing the money.