Oddly, I found the exercise of noting 70 people in my life who have passed therapeutic. So, I figured I’d list some famous people I’ve met who have since died.
Rod Serling: When you grew up in Binghamton, NY, in the early 1960s, Serling, born in the Syracuse area but grew up on the West Side of the Parlor City, was a big deal. The Twilight Zone television series was chockful of Binghamtonian references, from a rundown bus station to a carousel, which looked much like Recreation Park’s merry-go-round.
In 1970, I, as president of the student government, was given the honor of introducing Serling at a schoolwide assembly. Rod had been the student government leader thirty years earlier.
His favorite teacher, Helen Foley, who was namechecked in a TZ episode, wrote me a too-long introduction that mentioned him being a paratrooper in World War II.
While briefly mortified then, I understood why he came out on stage during my introduction. After the assembly, he spoke to La Foley’s last-period public speaking class, which I got permission to attend. Rod smoked incessantly in the classroom. The coffin nails killed him five years later at 50; fame doesn’t immunize one from disease.
Earl Warren: My Constitutional hero., as recently noted. I never did figure out how my SUNY New Paltz professor, Ron Steinberg, managed to arrange for his class of about 15 students to meet a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
A former Weaver
When the Springboks rugby team from apartheid South Africa was scheduled to play at Bleeker Stadium in Albany in September 1981, with the approval of long-time mayor Erastus Corning II, there was a call for protests. I was at the demonstration, along with over a thousand others.
There might have been an even larger response, except it was POURING. But Pete was there, and we were standing outside the stadium getting soaked, umbrellas notwithstanding, while discussing the moral necessity to respond to racism and other evils.
Ed Dague: My favorite newsperson in the Albany market. Somewhere in the attic, I have the transcript of an April 1994 11 p.m. news broadcast on WNYT-TV, Channel 13, that I got to watch being broadcast while near the set.
Back when he had a mustache
Alex Trebek: My sense of the JEOPARDY host was that he enjoyed the show’s rhythm in the Los Angeles area—two or three shows, a meal break, then three or two more episodes.
When I saw him at the Wang Theater in Boston in September 1998, I sensed he was uncomfortable doing a series of interviews with the Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, and other media outlets. I got to watch him a lot because there was a lot of waiting around.
He was explicitly annoyed with not getting into our hotel, the Boston Park Plaza Hotel, quickly that first evening because of a Bill Clinton fundraiser, which followed a massive demonstration both against Clinton and against special prosecutor Ken Starr, who had put out explicit information online regarding the President and Monica Lewinsky. I don’t know if his irritation was political/cultural – he tended to be rather conservative – or merely the inconvenience.
Regardless, I’m disappointed I don’t have a photo with him because he was doing the bunny-ears thing with his fingers behind my back, which I saw on a monitor.