Site visitors often ask "have you ever met any celebrities?" so here is an overview of my misadventures with some notable, and some not so notable, personalities.
My first blunder with a celebrity was as a youngster visiting WCAU Radio Station in Philadelphia where my mother was the "voice of Yellow Cab". Betty Grable and Harry James were waiting to see the boss and I candidly asked my mother why Miss Grable's hair was green - within earshot of them!
When a young Frank Sinatra visited Philadelphia and met with a group of school newspaper editors he stopped in the aisle, leaned on my shoulder and started chatting with a nun sitting behind me. My comment to him was if you're so tired that you have to lean on me why don't you sit down.
In 1954, as a student at Mexico City College, hanging out in Mexican restaurants was my idea of learning Spanish properly. In one particular restaurant the owners took a liking to this "gringa" and invited me "behind the screen" with the preferred customers to practice my Spanish. They introduced me to "El Senor", a regular patron who rated VIP service and who said he would teach me the proper way to pronouce words - if I asked no questions about him. We met regularly and he was a hard task master - far worse than my professor at school. But he was also very funny and used humor to correct any atrocious mispronunciations - which made learning fun. Then without a word he simply stopped coming to the restaurant - the message that the owner gave me was that Senor Reyes had to go away. Not until years later did I realize that the charming gentleman helping me learn Spanish was none other than Mario Moreno Reyes - better known as "Cantinflas" from "Around the World in 80 Days"!
In the late '50s one of my first plush assignments was as a WAF recruiter. Mitchel Air Force Base on Long Island was where we conducted physical exams for new WAF enlistees and it was my job to escort them through the exam which were routinely scheduled for Wednesday mornings. Upon arrival with three prospective recruits I was told that the dispensary was closed due to a VIP physical. This was not acceptable to me as the girls had travelled long distances to get there. I barged into the front office and confronted the NCOIC - who happened to be dating my roommate at the time. Even though I pleaded with him as to who the VIP was he wouldn't tell me - so I said I had to use the restroom down the hall. I found the visiting dignitary resting in an exam room, his physical completed. I introduced myself, explained the situation with the recruits and asked if we could at least start the physicals. He was puzzled at first, then started laughing, and finally said sure -he wouldn't want to keep anyone from enlisting in the Air Force. With that two men came into the room and whisked Air Force Reserve Colonel, and famous flier, Charles A. Lindberg out the door and into a limo.
Being an Air Force Recruiting Sergeant in New York City in the '50s was a great assignment and with it came exposure to everything from Broadway openings to being on live television game shows. It was just part of the job - sometimes it was annoying, other times a lot of fun and on one occasion almost catastrophic. The huge striped tent theater - The Westbury Music Fair - opened on Long Island and the play "No Time for Sergeants" with Andy Griffith was next on the schedule. I was "invited" to open the play - the theme being "No Time for Sergeants" has time for this sergeant. A large cardboard cut out of an Air Force jet was mounted on the stage and behind it was an 8 foot ladder. I climbed up the ladder so that from the audience I appeared to be in the cockpit of the jet. Full uniform for a WAF recruiter meant three inch steel heels - one of which got caught in a wooden ladder step! I managed to blurt out my one line welcome, salute the audience, and then as the curtain closed, look down to see the ever charming southern gentleman Andy Griffith extricating my shoe!
Going home on leave was supposed to be a break but one year my mother had other ideas and asked me to drive her to a convention in Washington D.C. - and take my uniform. Grudingly I complied and the next day we ended up in The White House having tea with First Lady Mamie Eisenhower - who incidentally was a charming and gracious hostess. And to the chagrin of the other guests was a tad more interested in asking me all about being a woman in the Air Force!
On another supposedly restful weekend, thanks to some manipulating on the part of some Philadelphia bigwhigs, I ended up in the reviewing stand at an American Legion parade, standing next to General Douglas MacArthur. Though he was a bit gruff at first, he warmed up when I began mildly teasing him about all the saluting we had to do. In fact he became so pleasant that his aide de camp was obviously concerned - probably because we were laughing instead of being somber.
New York in September was hectic for recruiters as school is open and the career days begin. On September 21st, 1958 the other women recruiters and I were notified that we had to be at the Brooklyn Army Terminal before 0900 the next morning. Not another clue did we get. Next morning on the way to Brooklyn the WAC recruiter told us that some singer was going overseas and we had to be there for his press conference. We were hustled in a side door, whisked up to a young man in an Army uniform, and instructed to kiss him goodbye, with two of us on each side - the WAVE, WAC, Woman Marine and WAF (me). It was a photo disaster from the gitgo because we all had on dress hats including the very polite Private Presley!
Other New York City media meanderings included jumping around in sneakers on "Music Bingo", and missing the answers on "Name That Tune"; visiting the sets and meeting the casts of "What's My Line', "I've Got a Secret" ; and getting royally ticked because we had to sit through an entire cooking show smelling delicious Italian food - which was literally whisked away from us when the cameras were turned off and we never even tasted a bite!
When your office in NYC is on the 4th floor of a building and you're still on the elevator at the 5th floor the reason is that full time movie star, and part time Air Force reservist, Col. Jimmy Stewart, in uniform, is not only on the elevator but is chatting away with you about the Air Force.
The general who ran Lockbourne AFB in Ohio in the '60s was always inviting celebrities to the base and during that tour I managed to step on Vince Edwards foot, accidentally sit on Captain Eddie Rickenbacker's lap, argue with Woody Hayes about the running game, and almost lock Rusty Warren in the ladies room at the Officers Club. Captain Rickenbacker was charming as he whispered to me -"I can honestly say I've never seen curved campaign ribbons before." - referring to the military ribbons on over my left uniform pocket.
At McGuire AFB, New Jersey, in 1968 we celebrated the 20th Anniversary of Women in the Air Force and invited the legendary actress/comedienne Martha Raye to be our guest. She arrived as "Colonel Maggie" in her honorary Green Beret uniform and was a huge hit with the young women in the squadron, generously spending the entire day with us. For the next 15 years whenever Martha Raye was on the east coast she would invite me backstage after her performances and often introduced me to cast members. Always pleasant and gracious she was never too busy to spend time with her "G.I. Buddies" as she called us.
In 1982 the "New Girls 4" musical show played Atlantic City, NJ and after the performance two friends and I were wandering around the casino when we encountered Rosemary Clooney on a back staircase. She asked if she could help us, we showed her our backstage pass and explained that we were visiting Martha Raye. Not only did Miss Clooney escort us back upstairs, she then introduced us to the other singers - Kay Starr and Helen O'Connell - offered us food, beverages, and sat down and chatted with us for quite a long while. Every inch a lady and every minute exuding sincerity Rosemary Clooney's charm was a mixture of elegance and grace - she was far more than a diva.
And there you have it - of course there are some others from long ago and some from recently - Tea with Stock Exchange Head Mary Roebling; Accidentally guarding JFK with the Secret Service; Governors, Mayors, Ambassadors, Senators, Congressional representatives, Larry Hagman at my Flea market table; Marilyn Quayle at a press conference in St. Augustine and many more - to be added sooner or later.
Please note: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is displayed without profit or payment for those who have expressed an interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. Photos and images are from the National Archives, The Naval History Center, The U.S. Army, USMC, U.S. Navy, USAF, U.S. Coast Guard, the Defense Visual Information Center, The Army Nurse Corps, and the personal collections of this author. Nothing on this site is for sale nor is it a commercial venture of any kind - it is a one person page for, and about military women - by one retired military woman - who receives no remuneration for this site.
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