Wednesday, March 31, 2021

And the answer is...

If you didn’t see yesterday’s post, go back before you read today’s.

NO ONE got the correct answer. 

One day about twenty years ago at about 5:30 in the afternoon I went to Bob’s Big on Van Nuys Blvd. and there at the counter, eating a Big Boy all by himself was Muhammad Ali.  I was going to take a table but chose to sit at the counter a seat away.  We exchanged smiles.  I was still too much in awe to speak to the champ.

A musical I was involved with was being workshopped in New York.  Stephen Sondheim came to watch it.  He sat right next to my daughter, Annie.

When we filmed the “Heeeere’s Cliffy” episode of CHEERS at THE TONIGHT SHOW, we did it immediately following an actual TONIGHT SHOW taping.  During the show I sat in the green room and had a lovely 20 minute conversation with Elizabeth Taylor.   She was great fun, by the way.  

O.J. Simpson had finished a game of tennis at the Beverly Hills Hotel and stumbled upon an outdoor wedding.  So he stood in the back and watched the wedding.  It was mine.  No gift from him though.  

In doing research for an ABC pilot, I was able to join the White House Press Corps for several days and was in the Rose Garden with President Jimmy Carter.  Years later when I was broadcasting for the San Diego Padres I met him at Fulton County Stadium before a Braves game.   He would sit way down by the Braves’ dugout on the aisle and kids would come down to get his autograph.  He was approachable and lovely.  

I was picking up my daughter from a Bar Mitzvah reception at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills and bumped into Robert Duvall.  Him I talked to.  

In 1980 I had an office at MGM and snuck onto the soundstage where Billy Wilder was directing his last film, BUDDY BUDDY.  I got to meet him and spend 15 minutes with him while they were setting up a shot.  Talk about an unbelievable thrill.

Before she became a huge star, Taylor Swift sang before a game at Dodger Stadium.  I then met her in the Press Lounge during lunch.  She could not have been nicer.  I was super impressed with her talent and drive.  She worked very hard to get where she is.  

I met Prince Charles on the set of MASH and asked him what advice he would have for young people thinking of going into his profession?   His people were aghast but he found it funny.  Oprah is welcome to interview me.

So that leaves out… Julia Roberts.  Never met her.  But I’d like to. 


George Kaplan said...

How did Frasier afford that apartment?

Scottmc said...

The posts yesterday and today are among the most engaging things that I have read in some time. Your encounters were often by chance but each were memorable . Ali, Sondheim and President Carter would also be on my list but I envy you for having had the opportunity to meet/speak to Billy Wilder.

Arlen Peters said...

Great stories Ken! I hope that you get to meet Julia Roberts one day too. I have spent a lot of time with her over the years, just hanging out and also with some interviews mixed in. First met her on FLATLINERS and first interviewed her then. If you recall, she met Kiefer Sutherland on that film and a romance ensued. So happened I worked on a film called YOUNG GUNS II which starred Kiefer ... and we shot outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico ... and there was Julia, just hanging out with Kiefer ... I spent a lot of chatting time with her then, away from press and paparazzi! Also worked with her on MARY REILLY, HOOK, STEPMOM, and at the crazy film premiere of ERIN BROCKOVITCH in Westwood. Did a brief interview with her over the screaming of fans. She's smart, funny, a great interview ... and doesn't suffer fools easily! All good!

Mike Barer said...

Well played!

Wendy Wednesday said...

Ken, where do you think you fall on the continuum of regular joe------celebrity? On the one hand you're regularly working and friendly with full-on red-carpet celebrities, but people like Alan Alda, Ted Danson, or [insert some baseball megastar] are the on-air talent while you...toil in the sidelines. And yet many of us probably won't ever attend receptions at the Four Seasons or Beverly Hills Hotel. I'm sure you're friendly and genuine wherever you fall on that spectrum, but if it were me, it would mess with my head: some days I'm a schlub buying toilet paper at Target; other days I'm having a power lunch with people who drive Maseratis.

tavm said...

Speaking of Ms. Taylor, I just saw two of her movies for the last couple of days-Father of the Bride and Father's Little Dividend. She was 17 in the first one and 19 in the sequel and she was beautiful as all get out in both!

Tim G. said...

Thanks Ken. I've never gotten Taylor Swift (definitely not in her demographic group). Your appraisal has helped me feel a little more open toward her. You maintain a superb balance between being a curmudgeon and having an open heart. My encounters include

William Devane (replied to me with an animated How you doing?)
Dancer from Laugh-In
Princess Diana (still can't believe that magic 4 seconds)
Jamie Lee Curtis
Roger Ebert (might have been a bad day)
Patrick Duffy

kcross said...

I could almost play this game from the night we went to the opening of Ken's play "A or B". First, we talked with Ken in the lobby. I think that was Annie who walked away just as we came up. Garry Marshall called us over to talk with him when we were shyly eyeing him from afar. I shook hands with Armin Shimerman, talked with that writer from that Fox drama we really liked. Had a great conversation with David Issacs during a break, and we're still arguing if it was really that lady from SNL (previous cast) seated in the middle. For an engineer from the burbs, it was an overwhelming evening.

Oh yes, and Colonel Sanders was there. Really. The chicken guy. Now you pick out which one is a lie.

CJMiller said...

Speaking of Colonel Sanders, I was at the 1973 Boy Scout Jamboree in Idaho, and we're walking down a dusty country road when a giant black limo (think final scene of Blazing Saddles) comes roaring towards us, stops, and Colonel Sanders (the real one)gets out. He shakes our hands, gives us each a cheap plastic pen with his head as the clicker, gets back in the limo and is gone in an instant.

We're standing there clicking our pens and wondering WTF just happened, but in hindsight it was probably the highlight of the Jamboree.

Dave said...

Re: Ali, that is an amazing story, both because it was Ali, and the circumstances.

I would have been in awe as well, and would like to think I might have had the presence of mind to offer to buy him a piece of pie. But I doubt I would have had the stones.

The man was a giant. (Beats my Gandhi in Arbys story all to hell)

Mike Bloodworth said...

I think I asked this once before, but at any time in your baseball career did you ever encounter Morganna the Kissing Bandit? That is, did she ever give you a big, wet one?


By Ken Levine said...

Mike Bloodworth,

I encountered her at Dodger Stadium and also Jacobs Field, Cleveland on their first opening day.

Jay Thurber said...

It's nice to learn when famous people are approachable and friendly. So often we hear the opposite. (Although to some extent, people who become famous often find success in their fields because they're approachable and friendly. HRH Prince Charles excluded.)

"It's nice to be nice ... to the nice." —Frank Burns

Dave-El said...

I have a MASH related Friday question. I was recently watching the "Fade In, Fade Out" episode that wrote out Frank Burns and introduced us to Major Winchester. I noticed for the first time that Larry Linville's name was still in the opening credits even though Frank Burns is never on screen. How did that happen?

Jeff Maxwell said...

Awww, I was gonna say Julia Roberts.

I met Ali at the park across the street from 20th Century Fox. I don’t remember exactly when, probably 1968 or 9, but there was a protest/demonstration going on against the Viet Nam war. An old truck with tall wooden sides sitting in the middle of the park caught my eye. There was no one around it, but there was a very tall man standing all alone in the back watching the demonstrations. I suddenly realized it was Mohammed Ali.

I reached into a garbage can, pulled out a scrap of paper and headed for the truck. He peered over the top rail at me as I arrived. I looked up and asked if I could climb up the side. He nodded. I nervously made it to the top so we were eye to eye. I held out the dirty paper and a pen and stuttered out my autograph request. He signed the paper, smiled that big Ali smile and said, “Now you be careful goin’ back downnnn.”

Life got in the way and his autograph disappeared. Hate that to this day.

D. McEwan said...

In 1984, I was living just off Gower, three blocks south of Santa Monica Blvd. Some show called Cheers was shot mere yards from my apartment. There was a self-service gas station at the NW corner of SMB & Gower. One evening that year, I was strolling past that gas station and saw a dark Mercedes at a pump, and there was Muhammad Ali at the pump, pumping his own gas. I was only ten feet away so there was no mistaking him. But being one who loathes boxing as a revolting "sport," he is not someone I admire, so I said nothing, just continued on my way.

On another occasion, in 1974, in conjunction with some writing I was doing for - no joke - a Bob Hope project, I was introduced by Bob Hope to George Foreman, and shook hands with the man. He was at his physical peak, and I noticed that his biceps were larger than my head, and his skin looked like polished black marble. There was no conversation beyond "How do you do?"

The list I posted yesterday was:

Richard Nixon
All Beatles except Sir Paul.
Tennessee Williams
Gore Vidal
Groucho Marx.
Zeppo Marx
Gummo Marx
Victor Borge
Johnny Carson
Alfred Hitchcock

The lie was Tennessee Williams. I once played him onstage in a play about his life, but I never met him.

thomas tucker said...

Princess Diana
John Cowsill
Goldie Hawn
William F. Buckley, Jr.
Keanu Reeves
Billy Joel
Ann Richards
Captain Kangaroo
Willie Nelson
Luciana Paluzzi
Brian Wilson
Leonard Nimoy
Zsa Zsa Gabor
Cindy Crawford

From the above, the lie is Captain Kangaroo.

Mibbitmaker said...

The lie in my list yesterday was actually a half-truth. It was Tip O'Neill.

It was 1978. He was at the parade, but we got there too late to see him. I had this poster-size cartoon I drew of him and President Carter that I was going to hold up as he went by. My mom had the idea to mail it to him, explaining what happened. Later on, I received a letter from him, with his letterhead on top of the stationary, complimenting me on the cartoon, etc. Definitely a prize possession!

Anonymous said...

O.J. would’ve broken into your home and taken the gift back, anyway.

Brian O.

Jahn Ghalt said...

Wendy wrote:

people like Alan Alda, Ted Danson, or [insert some baseball megastar] are the on-air talent while you...toil in the sidelines.

I must proTEST!

Go find the podcast where Ken recounts dining on vacation (remote South PAcific resort location) with his fairly new wife and promotion to Head MASH Writer.

Their dining companions had not believed Ken when he answered the "what do YOU do?" question.

Up walks Alan Alda - dining companions gobsmacked.

Tom said...

I never did this, though I knew a guy who did... when Ali had a house in Chicago in the 70s, not only was he listed in the phone book but he would hang around outside the house and chat with whoever came by or rang the doorbell. I always wish I'd done that; he lived walking distance from my place...