Unforgettable Meetings

Ever meet a famous person? A movie actress, a great writer, a Chuck Yeager, a John Elway, an Oprah or even a Ted Turner?  Sure, we’ve all met them or at least seen them in person, right? They lift us beyond our daily lives for a brief moment, they touch our lives with the larger, outside world, they assure us we’re a part of it all, all the glory, all the fame, all the enigma of being a part of what we feel is important … we get to be touched by them and be an integral momentary part of them. Those moments matter to us, and we never forget them.

They’re magical, whether they’re chance meetings or planned introductions. We get much pleasure in telling our friends about those special moments of our lives, those moments when we either touched greatness, or were, perhaps, a part of greatness. Who among us doesn’t want to be a part of that, doesn’t *need* to be a part of that? Well, I’m taking a lot for granted here… I certainly got energized and inspired by a few of the famous people I’ve met over the years, but that doesn’t mean everyone would. However, for the sake of this conversation we’re going to assume that all of us would at least get a kick out of running into an icon of some sort.

Let’s be real – our lives are, for a large part, a bunch of doing what we have to do and a little of what we love to do. And in that there is not much worldly adventure, unless you run into Will Smith or Julia Roberts on the beach at 6 in the morning.
Okay, I give a few of you that… this is for the rest of us, who had families, drove the kids to school every day, ate at a Taco Bell and weren’t going to sit next to Clint Eastwood at a PTA meeting.

And you know, some of the most inspirational people I ever met were folks like you and me… so-called average, every day people who did things that inspired those around them… all the time. They got no press, they got no star on Sunset Boulevard… they got no social recognition of any kind. Yet often they might have done much more for their fellow man than the most seemingly-important people we all know. Funny how that works, isn’t it? Because, ultimately, it isn’t about fame or money. It’s about who we touch… and how. Remember, it’s all relationship, after all.

Oops. Got semi-serious there for a moment. Not to worry, got ‘er under control again. Now comes the fun part – the game – the game?? Yes… the game called “Let’s Drop Some Names!!!
Wait now. You’re gonna love it, I know you are. Because we all do it, and we’re all reasonably good at it. Here’s how it works at the Sagebrush Chronicles. I drop most of my faves, with little liner notes and all, hoping to inspire you to remember your big names and big moments as well. If you care to send them to me, I’ll post them on an upcoming post… because they’re important to all of us, and they’re fun to hear about.

Sure, a question… will I not be bragging, crowing about whom I met, where I was, etc?? Hell yes I will. That’s part of the fun. Remember paragraph 2 of this post? That’s one of the beauties of having your own blog.  You can attempt to be the same (or even bigger) blowhard that I’m attempting to be here. At best it’s a hot air forum, after all. The only thing missing is the politics…

Okay, gang, here we go. I suggest you write down your personal faves as we go, because some of these come out of the mist at strange moments, only to disappear back into that same mist. Perhaps it’s an age thing… my most memorable are – Henry Mancini, a huge influence on my life and career. Ask me about him, I could write a whole blog about that man. A special star, Lana Turner. (Yes, I’m that old…)Then there’s Dianne Carroll, Merv Griffin, Jimmy Carter, Orson Welles, Susan Anton, Burt Reynolds, great cinematographer William Fraker, Hal Holbrook, Michael Douglas, former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell, who served some time… and believe me, there are stories to go with these names. I simply won’t bore you with them here. But ask me sometime…

Then, of course, there are the jazz musicians and entertainers who are total inspirations to me, and big names in the jazz world, even though it’s likely many of you have never heard of them. Names like Keith Jarrett, Lyle Mays, Pat Metheny, Russell Ferrante, Jeffrey Keezer, Ernie Watts, Emily Remler, Nigel Olsson, Barry White, Isaac Hayes…    Was there anyone I was afraid to meet, knowing I’d say something totally stupid? Yes. Herbie Hancock. Chick Corea. Nancy Wilson. Bill Evans. Oscar Peterson, Toots Thielemans.  All jazz icons. I would’ve been struck dumb, they were so brilliant. What does one say to someone like that? “Hey Oscar, like your work. And you’ve heard of me, right??”

Forgive me, but I must tell you of my very brief meeting with Orson Welles. The circumstances were so unlikely, so dreamlike. I was in L.A. in 1980, recording horns and strings on an album for Nigel Olsson, Elton John’s drummer. (See, even more name-dropping. It’s a virus…) We were recording at Crystal Sound in West Hollywood, where they had 3 separate studios and two voice-over studios under the same roof. A voice-over studio is basically a small, sound-proof booth where all the announcements that we hear on radio and TV are recorded. Anyway, I was walking down one of these dark, narrow corridors between studios with my recording engineer when a small, bent man wearing all black limped past us in the dim light. I nodded, and he said, “Good day, sir,” as we passed.

It took a moment, but then I turned to my engineer friend and said, “Hey, was that…”
“Yeah,” he smiled. “Orson Welles. He was doing a voice-over for a movie promo in studio e.”

Yes, those memories are precious. Sometimes they help define us, sometimes they help define the person we meet. Sure, I could tell my friends Orson Welles called me “Sir.” But that’s not the point, is it? This little man, at the end of his huge career, and his life, called virtually everyone “sir.” He died five years later. And I’ll never forget our momentary meeting.

There are people who exude such a powerful presence… I think it’s beyond personal magnetism, personality or our iconic perception of them… I think it’s simply a great person in our presence – a great person who exudes things that the rest of us don’t/can’t exude. But we can learn from them, and become larger… better.

Anyway, that’s the game. You’re most welcome to share with me your names and stories, and I’ll print them if you prefer. And there are more games… oh boy. Biggest moments, scariest moments, famous moments, most unlikely geographic moments, most romantic/geographic moments…

As far as this particular post goes, I’m aware there are friends out there who have a host of big names in their saddlebags, with no desire whatsoever to share them with us. G. in Atlanta, knows a bunch of heavy-hitters … D. in Bozeman could get your attention with the folks he knows. S. in N. Carolina knows half the jazz world at this point. T. in Pennsylvania could surprise us, I’m sure. E. in Helena knows the Montana politicos and far beyond, and K. here in V.C. knows more pertinent peeps in the TV business than we would believe.

And so ends our first round of “Let’s Drop Some Names!” I gave it my best shot,
I hit you with my biggest, most exciting meetings. To what end?? Why, just fun… just a little innocent fun. Did any of them change me? Yes… several. Henry Mancini, in a big way. William Fraker. Lyle Mays. Russell Ferrante. Nigel Olsson.  I’m different, better because of my meetings with these people. There are other famous people,
of course, who probably altered the course of my life in some way. Even Merv Griffin did, though he never knew it. But do you know the people who have affected my life in the best possible way, in a way that will last me a lifetime?? You, my dear friends, who continue to influence/inspire me every day. You are very effective and respected in your fields, though you’re not international names, by any stretch. But to me you are stars, heroes. Sure, you’re under the star-search radar, but are totally effective in your work and in your relationships. And you are the people whom I’m most grateful and proud to know, the people who raise the quality of my life every day, simply by your presence in it.
“Good day, my friends. Good day to you.”

Steve Hulse

2 Replies to “Unforgettable Meetings”

  1. Hey Steve,

    I’d like to join in on this game. I’ve been fortunate, and sometimes not so fortunate, to have meet a few “Big Names” over the years. But the one that always comes to mind first is Andre Watts (the famous Pianist).

    In my first year of college, as a music major, we were required to attend a series of musical performances. I chose to hear the San Diego Symphony. This being the first time I had ever attended a live performance of a symphony orchestra was certainly astounding in itself. But, after the performance, I met one of my professors who was playing trombone in the orchestra. He escorted me back to Mr. Watts dressing room and introduced me and I got to shake hands with this man who’s hands had just delivered a dazzling display of piano virtuosity. I was practically speechless but he was very kind and offered to sign my program. I’ll never forget the feeling of my hand being lost in the gigantic size of his hand.

    I can’t say that this changed the course of my life. But, it did inspire me to do my best and to appreciate the fact that Superstars, such as Mr. Watts, are willing to share a warmth and generous nature with total strangers.

    Thanks for sharing some of the “Big Names” that have crossed your path. I would like to say that you too have shown me that same warmth and generous nature and I will always be grateful for that.

  2. I know “S. from VC”. I think that’s my biggest brush with greatness.

    Well, maybe my brief brush with Ann Miller, a tap dancer known for movie roles in the 1930’s and 40’s. I was working the cashier stand at the Lake Hotel Dining Room in Yellowstone. She came by for lunch, and when she finished, she came up to pay and gave a graceful wave with her hand: “This is absolutely beautiful”.

    OK, one more… Old Faithful Dining Room, dinner… Man approaches the cashier stand and says “Hello Love”. I knew the voice, but didn’t recognize him… He opened his wallet to reveal a string of credit cards, wondering which one we took. On the card? Adam West (aka Batman). Pow! Wham!

    Oh, and how I was NOT going to be taken aback by Sting coming out on stage in Missoula a few years ago with his beat-up, old bass. Well, he made me breathless when he appeared, and he enjoyed playing for us so much. His mood improved as the night wore on, and at the end, he thanked the Montana audience for bringing him such joy in his music.

    Politicians aren’t so interesting. Well, maybe only in their own minds.

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