“Tell me a story, grandma,” she said looking up at me with those big brown eyes that could make me do anything she asked.
“Which one should it be this time?” I responded, and without hesitation she answered, “The one about how I was almost not born because once a long, long, long time ago you met a famous man and nearly married him.”
Like all family stories this one had grown way out of proportion to the facts. And, yet, we will never know what might have been had I stuck around that fateful day and continued to talk to that twerpy looking guy with pock damaged skin and hair the color and texture of used stable straw.
Our tale about a grandchild who “was almost not born” unfolded less than a year into the Kennedy administration in a time when there were only three television stations and no remote controllers.
What follows is the retelling of a family legend and a reader favorite of 15 years ago. Hand to God, it is true.
It began with an article in the big city daily announcing a popular television series – “Route 66” – would be filming in Cleveland and it gave the dates, approximate times and locations.
I reasoned if all this information was printed in the newspaper then Route 66 folks wouldn’t mind if people stopped by to watch a TV show in the making. And I wouldn’t mind catching a glimpse of heart throb George Maharis.
He and the less-hunky Martin Milner played buddies on the cross-country road trip adventure show that had them in one sticky situation after another on a weekly basis.
On this particular day of filming, the location was an undeveloped wooded area of the Cleveland Zoo. I got there early, viewed the set up and figured the best place to catch a glimpse of George would be near the trailers.
I leaned casually against one of them trying to look like I belonged there. In no time at all, the trailer door opened. My heart actually fluttered. Was it George? I turned around and cannot tell you how disappointed I was to find this twerpy looking guy standing there.
He was friendly and I was as polite as I could be to someone who would not stop talking and getting in the way of my chance to see a real TV star up close.
Then, after several minutes of this, twerpy guy said something every female will recognize as prelude to being asked out on a date.
“So what do people do around here at night,” I recall him asking.
I’m out of here, I thought, and made an excuse to leave to get closer to the action. To this day I don’t know why, but I turned around to ask twerpy guy his name “just in case you get famous,” I had told him. Maybe I felt guilty about leaving him standing there alone.
He told me his name and I filed it in away in the back of my mind. Some years later, after the George Maharis star had faded, twerpy guy did get famous and his name shook loose from my memory. But could I trust it or was I telling myself a fairy tale?
Google had not yet been introduced, but computers were being widely used so I looked up Route 66 online and put the now-renowned actor’s name into the search field and there he was named in then the cast of an episode of that TV series filmed in Cleveland during the first year of the Kennedy administration.
I had given the bum’s rush to Robert Redford.