Assault and flattery

While watching a new episode of “Better Call Saul” the other night, I recognized a guest actor immediately. Why wouldn’t I? I once gave him a ride to the airport.

More on that later in this column. (In TV news they call this a “tease.”)
Meanwhile, it seems that everybody can lay claim to some brush with celebrity.

My brother insists he’s met several U.S. presidents—among them, Reagan and Clinton. Of course, he doesn’t have any photographic proof of those encounters—but he does have a snapshot where he appears to be eating a hot dog with Calvin Coolidge.
My mother used to regale me with stories of how she used to play tennis with the singer
Andy Williams growing up in Chicago. “He even sang to me one time,” she’d say swooningly. For some reason my dad didn’t much care for the guy.

A catholic friend told me he once got an audience with the Pope. I always wondered about that. I mean, what is an audience with the Pope? An audience could include countless other people, right? By that definition I’ve had “audiences” with every major star and world figure you can think of—all while sitting in a La-Z-Boy using my TV remote.

I once traveled to Chicago to shoot some TV promos with Oprah Winfrey. She was very nice and accommodating—especially for such a big star. But we never kept in touch after that.

There are now TV ads for Weight Watchers featuring Oprah—where she states boldly:
“I love bread!” It is not clear whether she is talking about the baked product made from bleached flour—or the popular 70’s band, “Bread.” Assuming it is the former, she curiously does not offer an opinon on scones, English muffins or bagels.

However if she is referring to the band, I was hoping she would comment on “Bread’s”
woefully poor grammar in songs such as “Baby, Ima Want You”, “It Don’t Matter to Me”—and a lyric from their song called “Diary” where they sing, “I found your diary underneath a tree…and started reading about me.”

True, the word “myself” wouldn’t have rhymed as well with “tree”—but why couldn’t the diary just as easily been discovered on a “shelf?” Or been delivered by an “elf?”

I apologize for the digression.

Early in her Hollywood career, Sally Field was part of a movie shot near my hometown. I don’t remember how it happened, but my dad arranged for me to get into a photo with her. I protested wildly—embarrassed to be the dweeb, even though I clearly was.

I still have the photo somewhere locked in a dusty drawer. It’s a blurry Polaroid, but sure enough, there I am with the two-time Oscar winner—looking like the twitchy, insecure and geeky-looking wretch I was. Sally drew upon her already burgeoning acting skills to look tolerant. As for me, I waited for a trap door to open.
If only it had.

Now about that actor I took to the airport.

Ed Begley, Jr. had come to Seattle to take part in the town’s annual Seafair celebration. Begley’s dad—surprisingly named Ed Begley, Sr.—once won an Academy award. But now, Ed, Jr. was the big deal. He was one of the stars of a hugely popular show in the 1980’s called “St. Elsewhere.”

The show had to do with a teaching hospital in Boston—and Begley’s character was named Dr. Victor Ehrlich. I know that information because I just looked it up. I have never seen the show.

Begley shook some hands, took a few pictures—and then it was time for him to head to the airport for his return to home in L.A.. But his limo never showed up. So someone asked me if I would mind driving him to the airport. I did not.

While driving Begley to the airport I tossed in some small talk. I told him how much I loved his work on “St. Elsewhere”—and how it was among my favorite TV shows.

I laid it on thicker than double cheese at Papa John’s.
Finally, Begley asked me what my favorite storyline was.
I faked an answer.
He finally said, “You’ve never seen the show, have you?”
There was a long quiet.
Then we arrived at the airport.
“Thanks for the ride,” said Begley. He got out, grabbed his luggage and departed.
And now, even though it’s readily available on You Tube, I’ve never seen the show.
But I must say that Begley is terrific on it.