Beachcombing

By: 
Jay Beeler

A few weeks ago we noted the passing of Ronnie Spencer, lead singer with the 60s trio of The Ronettes, who gained fame with songs like “Be My Baby” and “Baby I Love You.” As a 21-year-old weekend disk jockey at KCJB radio in Minot, ND in 1964, I found myself crowded into our six-foot square announcer booth with the same-age trio, seeking to have me play some of their hit songs.

Weekdays my job was with the U.S. Air Force, planting Minuteman missiles in the North Dakota tundra and targeting some in the general direction of Russia. Being a deejay was much more fun.

Around that same time “Oh, Pretty Woman” singer Roy Orbison made an appearance at the Minot Arena as part of our radio station’s series of bringing big-name entertainers to town. Instead of watching the show, I choose to hang out with Orbison’s father in their stage-entrance motor home and eventually met the star following his performance.

Over the next few decades my line of work in public relations offered the opportunity to meet a few dozen persons who gained national and international fame. Among them were future vice presidents Nelson Rockefeller and Dick Cheney as well as presidential nominee Ronald Reagan in 1980. Our client was Santa Marta Hospital in East Los Angeles and my exclusive photo assignment was to “shoot” Reagan as he toured the facility with the nuns responsible for the facility’s day-to-day operations.

That Secret Service, police and admiring public “circus” was on the same scale as when G7 Summit attendees Bill and Hillary Clinton stayed at the same Okura Hotel in Tokyo where my International Insurance Society client was holding its annual meeting in July 1986. Although I did “shoot” the power couple, I did not share the same elevator or dining room with them. The “who’s who” of international news media were everywhere, broadcasting their stories adjacent to my first-floor hotel room balcony.

Around 1969 I took Radio/TV/Film classes at Long Beach State with the likes of Steven Spielberg. He wasn’t famous – yet – and dropped out of school to pursue a career while I went on to graduate. Guess which one of us became rich and famous.

Shortly thereafter, while managing an 18-apartment complex on Anaheim Road, we rented to brothers Doug and Denny Strawn. Doug played lead guitar for The Carpenters, so those young stars-to-be would be occasional visitors while those musicians were attending classes at Long Beach State. One time, when Denny played selections from their first album for me, I thought their music was too behind-the-times to become popular – in comparison with the likes of Elvis Presley and The Beatles. I was very, very wrong.

Hotel lobbies were always a good place to meet the rich and famous. Among those that I came across were Alfred Hitchcock at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, Red Skelton at the Irvine Hilton and Danny DeVito at the Queen Mary. DeVito is the shortest male movie star that I’ve ever laid eyes on.

When I was director of communications for Hyatt Corporation’s medical division, I had a request from one of our visiting hospital administrators from Ohio to meet Gene Autry. I had connections, but not that good, I thought. Wrong again.

Thanks to my friend and KMPC traffic reporter, Paul “Panther” Pierce, I found myself meeting with and taking photos of the hospital administrator and Autry at his Golden West Broadcasting offices in Hollywood. As a bonus, we ran into Autry’s motion picture sidekick, Pat Buttram, in the parking lot as we exited the facility.

That’s all the name dropping that I can conjure up at this time. My apologies if you have international fame and your name does not appear above. Send me an email, buy my lunch and document the occasion by autographing something of value and I’ll add your name in a future, pathetic, name-dropping column.

 

Which Garcia do you favor as our next representative in Congress? Thus far, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia of Bell Gardens is besting Mayor Robert Garcia with 59 percent of the vote. Go to www.beachcomber.news to vote at the bottom of the front page.

 

Job Interviewer: “So, tell me about yourself.”

Me: “I’d rather not. I kinda’ want this job.

 

publisher@beachcomber.news

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