Fiction Saturday – The 5 People I Almost Killed
This “Fiction Saturday” posting differs a bit from the usual format – in that it is (How shall I phrase this?) – embellished truth. Just look at it the way you approach things in your local newspaper.
“The 5 People I Almost Killed” – Part One
I think it is important to stress that in the title of this piece I say “almost killed,” and not “killed.” To the best of my knowledge I have never actually killed anyone. I just tend to come close. Sometimes very close and I’ve done so five times – so far. The five nearly “dearly departed” have all shared one characteristic: they are, or to a large degree were, famous. Let me explain.
Neil Sedaka -A pop singer and songwriter and almost the filling for a chalk outline on the pavement.
I was driving on California Street in San Francisco up the steep grade to the top of Nob Hill. While motoring legally, staying in my lane, I noticed a fellow in a bright orange track suit jogging down the sidewalk. Under other circumstances, dressed like that, one could easily have mistaken him for a small-time Mob Soldier with poor taste in casual wear. The way things were progressing there should not have been any cause for alarm. Then Mr. Sedaka made his almost fateful move.
Without warning or, I suspect, even a sense of awareness of his heavily urban surroundings, Neil Sedaka, early Rock and Roll icon and current attraction at the Venetian Room in one of the swank hotels on Nob Hill, decided to make a sharp left turn. He veered from the safety of the sidewalk out into the street and directly into the path of my three thousand pound piece of American Steel.
I slammed onto my brakes and my Ford began to slide on the steel Cable Car tracks. That wasn’t helping the situation. When I at last managed a complete stop and unclenched my teeth I was able to enjoy an extreme close-up of Neil Sedaka, who stood no more than six inches in front of my front bumper. I have to admit that I’ve never seen eyes that wide open on anything this side of seafood. His mouth was drawn into a grimace that was probably halfway through pronouncing something like, “Oh, crap,” or “Please God, not while I’m dressed like this.”
To say we made eye contact would be a severe understatement. I imagine that in his eyes I looked pretty scary too. I do recall that we both made a quick Sign of the Cross and I’d wager that we both pinched a sphincter as well.
After what seemed to be several hours, but was probably no more than three seconds, Neil Sedaka, the great, and nearly late, singer of 1950s popular tunes, finished crossing the street and headed back to his hotel, no doubt for a stiff drink and a change of clothing. I continued on down California Street. I have no idea where I was headed after that. All I knew was that I came very close to having my name finally appear in the pages of Variety.
And then there was the time that I almost killed Hollywood legend Henry Fonda.
I was in New York City for a long weekend. I flew in to catch a few shows and see some old friends. I was not there to end the life and career of one of this nation’s finest actors. I just came close, that’s all.
It was Saturday night and I was attending a performance of “American Buffalo,” starring Robert Duvall. The theater was just down the block from Times Square. My seat was in one of the side boxes up above the sold out orchestra section. It was a good place to scan the audience for celebrities. I spotted both Kevin McCarthy of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” fame and Henry Fonda. Both were resplendent in very handsome tuxedos. I was not. Put me in a tuxedo and I begin to resemble a black-tie bowling ball.
After the final curtain, as the audience was shuffling out, I was directed to join a flow of other folks and exit the theater by a side door. I guess they didn’t want us mixing with the better dressed people who were probably heading off to the Rainbow Room or some other fancy nightspot – not to Howard Johnson’s for fried clams.
When I got through the exit door I found myself on a very crowded sidewalk, filled to overflowing with happy theatergoers. I turned left and quickly headed up the street. I hadn’t gone more than fifteen feet when I collided with another impatient audience member who was hurrying to get into the long black limo parked at the curb. We slammed into each other with enough force to rock us both back on our heels. Instinctively, we both reached out in an attempt to steady ourselves and prevent falling to the ground. I grabbed onto the nearest person, as did he. I grabbed onto Henry Fonda and Henry Fonda grabbed onto me.
When we steadied a bit we both shouted, “Are you alright?” After all, Mr. Fonda was getting up in years, speeding toward his role in “On Golden Pond.” He had his entourage behind him pushing him back to a fully upright and locked position. I had him.
I’m sure the look on my face must have been a mixture of pain, shock, and “Uh-oh, I will be hated by the movie-going public forever if he dies.” The look on his face also reflected pain, shock and, “Uh-oh, this could cost me a bundle if this guy sues.”
For a remarkably skinny older gent he seemed pretty strong. He had a firm grip on my jacket with both hands and pulled me back up straight.
We stood there just looking at each other for a few seconds until our eyes stopped rattling. We both apologized for the collision and then we shook hands. At that point his “People” hustled him to his limo like they feared I was some sort of clumsy assassin with three names.
Kevin McCarthy was nowhere to be seen. I guess his body had been snatched safely out of my reach.
And then there was the time…