Friday, June 6, 2008

Famous people I've met ... ...

While driving a taxicab ...

Reba McEntire

I wasn't sure of the spelling of her last name, so I Googled it. Seems that there are a ton of other people out there who don't know how to spell it, either. Funny! It was good to know that I wasn't the only one.

The one time I drove her was when she was performing at a local club. I didn't drive her to the club, but I was asked -- upon dropping a guest off at that club -- by one of her co-workers to come by later to pick her up and take her back to her hotel. I did, and found her to be just delightful -- very warm and friendly. The picture at the front of her website says it all.

She has a unique and distinctive singing voice. I'm not much of a C&W fan, so I don't listen to her much, but I happened to catch her singing the part of Nellie Forbush in a live performance of South Pacific at Lincoln Center, I believe. PBS carried it. Initially, I was somewhat skeptical of her in this role, but I was wrong.

She also has (or had) a series on television, but I almost never watch sit-coms ... can't stand canned laughter.

Al Hirt

When I drove a Yellow Cab, I worked the Medical Center a lot. This one morning I was dispatched to Methodist Hospital to pick up "Al". I arrived at the front door, where this gray-haired bearded gentleman and a woman companion were waiting. I rolled down the right front window and said, "Al?" "Yes," he replied, and they got in.

He told me which hotel they wanted to go to, but first they wanted to stop by a tobacco shop if at all possible. Was there one in the area by any chance? Well, as luck would have it, there was one within two blocks of the hospital. (Not there any more, tho. It's now a parking lot.) We went there first.

Along the way I said, "You sure do look familiar. Have I driven you before?" "I don't think so," he replied, but then added, "Do you like jazz?" I answered that it was one of my favorite kinds of music, and asked, "Do you play?" (HA! Don't you just love it?) "Well, how about New Orleans jazz?" With that, I turned around to get a really good look at him and yes, it was indeed Al Hirt, many pounds lighter and somewhat older, of course, than when I'd last seen him perform.

What fun! We had a most enjoyable trip downtown to his hotel. It seems he was in town to perform that evening with the symphony in Jones Hall. Would I pick him up afterwards and take him and his lady friend to a good restaurant? I asked what they liked to eat. He told me, and asked if I had any recommendations. I said that yes, I did. In fact, I told him that I would stop by the restaurant beforehand to make sure that they would serve at that hour and to alert them that Al Hirt would be coming in.

Later that night I was waiting by the stage door, as suggested by Al, when a young man in an usher's uniform came running out. He asked, "Are you waiting for Al?" I said that I was, and he told me that Al had sent him out to tell me that Dr. DeBakey had invited Al and his friend to be his guests at dinner. He said that Al was very sorry, but that he had felt obliged to accept. (Well, I guess!!)

It was a little embarrassing to have to go back to my chosen restaurant and tell them that Al would not be coming after all, but they took the bad news graciously.

John Connally

Again while driving a Yellow Cab, I was dispatched to a hi-rise condominium to pick up a "Governor Connelly" and take him to IAH. The computer message read "ASAP". I figured that a Towne Car had initially been assigned this trip, but had failed to pick up for some reason or another.

I was not looking forward to the trip. I knew who he was, that he had switched parties, that he had been shot, and that he had been one of Texas' governors. I anticipated a silent, perhaps even frigid, trip. I 'knew' that I had nothing to say to him, and figured that he'd either have a crony or two traveling with him, or he'd be on his cell phone the whole time. Whatever.

It didn't take me very long at all to get there. Governor Connally was waiting outside with his luggage, along with the concierge. We loaded and left for the airport.

This trip was full of surprises!! First of all, there were no cronies. Second, no cell phone made its appearance. The third thing was his height. I'd always assumed that he was tall. He wasn't. About my height, I would guess. An extremely good-looking man with wavy silvery-white hair. I knew how good-looking he was beforehand. The height threw me!

The thing that finally blew my mind was that he wanted to know how it was that I was driving a taxicab. I told him that I had gotten myself into financial trouble some years ago, and was trying to get myself out of it. He said he understood about financial trouble. (He'd had to declare bankruptcy a short while back.) We snorted in complete understanding of each other's situation. No more needed to be said about that subject!

Before I knew it, we were at the airport. The time had simply flown by! I really don't remember the rest of our conservation. It was probably full of trivialities. What I DO remember is how much I 'took' to this man. A down-to-earth person, and one that I sincerely hoped I would get the opportunity to meet again.

We unloaded his luggage, and I reached out to shake his hand. He reached inside his jacket pocket to get a pen, anticipating that I wanted his autograph, I guess. No, I just wanted to get a good grasp on this man's hand and tell him how glad I was that whatever vehicle had been initially dispatched to pick him up had not arrived.

It was not many months after that that Governor Connally died. His wife, Nellie, still lived in that condominium, and I thought many times that I should write her a note telling her of my one meeting with her husband and how much I appreciated the chance opportunity. I never did write the note (no excuse), and I regret it.


Chuck said...

Great stories for us to read and obviously wonderful memories for you to recall! It's always nice to hear that those who we might put up on a pedestal are really down-to-earth people, though I have to believe that a lot has to do with your ability to relate to people and "pull them out."

Tammy said...

Great post and great stories.

The John Connally one took me by surprise.

Nancy said...

Great stories! I really enjoyed this post. I've had that experience, too, of taking to someone in person that I'd had a bad opinion of before.