Newsletter 046 – September 8, 2023
Disclaimer: This newsletter and the four other remaining “Ramblings” were written in advance. I did that to allow me to focus on tasks I have to complete before I can publish my next books (Flood and Fire and Jagged Man).
Last year (see Ramblings – Part 01, Newsletter 039), an electrician asked me if I had met any famous people while I was an actor, and the answer I gave him was, “No, not really.” After thinking about it, though, I realized that (over time) I had met a considerable number of famous people, but didn’t think those were especially remarkable events. I’ll explain.
As far back as my college acting days (at Stockman University in Deep Springs), I was aware of celebrity, but not especially awed by it. My director, Alex Reeve, who came to Deep Springs following a theater career in England (or a theatre career, I suppose), told me that he was going to direct Hamlet at Stockman six months from then, and he wanted me to play the lead. The lengthy advance notice was to give me enough time to prepare for it. It’s a beast of a role. The full production (which we didn’t do — most theaters don’t) can run over four hours without an intermission. Ours was just under three. Also, Hamlet is onstage nearly the entire time, and he has an enormous number of lines. I was excited at the prospect but scared to death at the same time. I had seen Richard Burton’s film version of his Broadway performance of the play, and was impressed. I wrote him and told him I was slated to play the part and wanted to know if he could give me any advice. He sent me a very gracious note which just suggested that I trust my instincts — and learn the lines.
I have met a few authors I admired: Justin Cronin (briefly, at his book signing for The Passage), Phillip Craig (at a party on Martha’s Vineyard), and Joan Dempsey (in person at a week-long retreat in Maine, after talking with her on Zoom meetings she held for her online community (the Gutsy Great Novelist Writers Studio). Aside from Joan (someone I’ve been able to communicate with extensively), I don’t consider brief encounters of this sort as important because they don’t structurally alter my life. This will be true of almost all of the “famous people I’ve met,” who are listed in this and a few of the other upcoming newsletters, but here we go.
At one point I got a second job as a security guard at an entertainment and sports complex in Houston called the Summit (until they changed the name to the Compaq Center). Later it was closed and then sold. It’s now a mega-church. Teachers having second jobs is very common (even though they could probably teach better if they were just paid a larger salary to begin with — a totally different issue). I worked concerts at The Summit, and at the Rockets and Comets basketball games, the circus, and a few other events, so I was placed in proximity to a lot of well-known people.
There were always rumors floating around that Charles Barkley wanted to be governor of Alabama someday. I had taken a picture of Minay standing under the Alabama welcome sign on one of our summer driving trips, and replaced Governor Hunt’s name with Charles Barkley’s just for fun. I mentioned the picture to Charles at one of the games, and he said he’d like to see it. His wife, Mo, suggested that I not encourage him because they’d have to move to Alabama to live and Phoenix and Houston were bad enough. I printed a couple of copies, and gave them to him after a game against the LA Clippers in April, 1997. It would be pretty neat if one of the pictures ended up on the wall of the governor’s mansion in Alabama someday.
I worked at The Summit from 1993 to 1998. During the final game of the Rockets’ 1995 championship, I was assigned to guard David Stern, the NBA Commissioner, so I got to watch the game from the sidelines, about eight rows up from the court. Pretty sweet.
While I worked there, I met a ton of basketball players and other celebrities. Most are very nice ordinary people, who happen to have extraordinary jobs. One evening, I shook hands with Magic Johnson (shortly after he left the NBA because he had been diagnosed with AIDS) and on another occasion also happened to shake hands with former President George H. W. Bush (after he left office). Mr. Bush entered through the loading dock area, and passed by a group of us guards, shaking hands with each of us. I stayed at my post after talking to Magic, but asked for someone to come give me a break after meeting President Bush so I could go wash my hands. I felt tainted, somehow. What does that say about me, I wonder?
Sometimes I was able to actually meet the celebrities, but more often I was stationed close enough to see them but not speak to them. It all depended on where I was posted. Sometimes a wonderful concert was happening, and I would be stationed outside, guarding the perimeter to make sure people didn’t sneak in. Sometimes I would be right in front of the stage …or just to the side, in front of some of the band’s speakers. During those front of the stage assignments, earplugs were never optional. Sometimes I would be assigned to personally guard a particular individual, sometimes just a specific area of the building.
This newsletter has grown quite long, and I have more to say, so I’ll close this for now. The next newsletter will be another “in-betweener,” primarily about all of the things that, unfortunately, commanded my attention over the last month or so (cars, plumbing, fences, quilts). The Summit story will return in the newsletter after that.
See you then,
[“But who is to guard the guards?”
Decimus Junius Juvenalis, Satires, 1. 347.]
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