I HAD FORGOTTEN ALL ABOUT MY ENCOUNTER WITH JOHN WAYNE UNTIL...
She continued. Bond said,"Sure, he's in the bar, want me to get him for you?"
"Yeah, wouldja," I said.
Ward went into the bar and in a few minutes John Wayne walked into the lobby, right up to Dorothy and me and to this day I can hear his booming voice and distinctive way of talking, "You kids want to see me," he asked.
I shook his hand...the biggest hand I had ever seen. And, the nicest guy you'd ever hope to meet. I explained that we were high school reporters and we would like to do an interview. He invited us to sit down right there in the lobby and we could just ask him anything wanted...take as long as necessary.
I can't remember the questions, much less the answers. I spent an hour asking everything I could think of and then I was dry. Dorothy asked for his autograph, which she still has. We thanked him and he went back to the bar.
All I really remember was his patience and kindness to two high school kids. What a guy.
He invited us out the the set to watch them make the movie. Dorothy didn't want to cut class, but, of course, that didn't bother me, so a buddy of mine, Gary Palant, and I went the next day. "Guests of the Duke," I said. The day we were there they were doing the funeral procession scene. I helped chase some of the chickens across the road in front of the casket. One thing I learned was how boring it was to watch them making a movie. All that action on the screen, but they just did one scene, over, and over again. We left after a few hours.
What happened to the story we wrote for the school newspaper? It was rejected. Another kid had an interview with Dr. Joseph Wood Krutch from the Arizona State College at Flagstaff. and they didn't have room for two stories. The journalism teacher thought ours "wasn't eductional enough, it was only about a movie star."
an old high school friend, Dorothy McCutcheon stopped to visit me in Laughlin recently. We had lunch and talked about some fun times at Catalina High School in Tucson.
She was 2 years younger than me (still is, probably), and we had journalism class together as well as working for the school paper, The Trojan Trumpeteer. One spring day in 1958 we were given the assignment to interview someone; a life story type of thing.
I told Dorothy that we ought to interview one of the stars in Rio Bravo, a movie they were filming then at Old Tucson. And, who better to go after than the biggest star of all, John "Duke" Wayne. I had just gotten my driver's license and so I drove us down to the Santa Rita Hotel, where the stars were staying.
Dorothy said, when we walked into the hotel lobby, there right in front of us was great charactor actor Ward Bond. I strolled up to him and said, "Hey Ward, you seen the Duke?" She told me she was surprised at how bold I was. To tell the truth, I didn't even remember it.
Ray's Story Page...
The tales I like to tell. They are all true, aren't they? Of course.
On arrival at the agency I was put in the care of a young guy named Ron Zeigler. I was really impressed because he was only 2 years older than me and already was a full fledged account executive working on French's Mustard and the all new, at that time, Sea World. This was Mr. Ivy League to the max. Striped blazer and smoked a pipe. In his office the first thing I noticed were autographed pictures of Former Vice President Richard Nixon. We talked politics.
He told me about working on Nixon's California Gubernatorial Campaign that he lost in 1962. Immediately after the loss Nixon sourly blamed the press, claimed he would not run for anything ever again, and uttered the famous words, "You won't have Richard Nixon to kick around any more."
Of course, in my astute political judgement I told him that Nixon was finished; we'll never see or hear from him again. Ziegler begged to differ and said he thought he would make a run for the Presidency in 1968. Well, he did, and he won, and took Ziegler with him to the White House.
I spent the day with him. He told me he had just been to the NBC preview of new TV shows, and, "there's this hilarious new spy spoof where the agent has a phone in his shoe." He was talking about Don Adams and Get Smart. I also met and talked to future Nixon aide Dwight Chapin. He was MY age. I wondered how these people got so far, so fast. Later he told me he worked on the Nixon 1962 campaign, too.
At the end of the day I was ushered into the office of the head man at the Los Angeles J. Walter Thompson operation. It was somewhat spooky. Very dark, except for one light on the man's desk. I was nervous because here was the guy who would decide whether to hire me or not.
We briefly spoke in pleasantries. He asked about my experience. I talked about my radio and tv jobs. He explained that all the people who start with them in management training become assistants in the media department and I would have to move to New York. He asked how much money I would want to start. I said $700 a month. He said that was way more than they were willing to pay. Around $500 was usual. I explained that I deserved more because of my extensive background in broadcasting. He thanked me for my visit and that I would hear from them in a few days.
And, I did. A nice letter thanking me for my time, explaining they decided they did not want to hire me, and wishing me good luck. I still have that letter. It was signed by H.R. Haldeman, the man who conducted my final interview, and who would go on to be Nixon's chief of staff in the White House and actually serve time in prison for his participation in cover-up of the Watergate burglary.
I never forgot that day with Nixon's future henchmen. How different would my life have been if they would have offered me that job! But, of course, they never would have because I would never have fit in. I was just a little too independent for that.
He was President Nixon's press secretary and is known for coining the term, "It was just a third rate burglary," when referring to the Watergate break-in before we all knew what happened. He stuck with Nixon even after he resigned from office in disgrace.
News of his death reminded me of the day I spent with Ziegler in 1965 in Los Angeles. He was an account executive with J. Walter Thompson Advertising Agency. I had been flown over from Tucson as a prospective candidate for their management training program. I was just about to graduate from the University of Arizona and had been interviewing with various companies. They liked the fact that I had media experience and decided to look at me more closely.
I SAW ON THE NEWS
THAT RON ZIEGLER DIED.
President Nixon with Press Secretary Ron Ziegler in the late '60's.
AN ODD COINCIDENCE...
A VERY ODD COINCIDENCE.
There are some things that happen in life that are just plain odd. Unusual. Bizarre. Not earth-shaking or life-changing, just crazy, like coincidences. Like this.
In 1985 I was on a boat in the Galapagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador, traveling where Charles Darwin came up with his theory of evolution. It was a small ship, held about 30 passengers. One day in the lounge I met a small group of people, and naturally, the first thing you ask is, "Where are you from?"
We all divulged our places of residence, and of course with each one, you would make some comment. "Lovely spot." "Been there several times." Like that. Now if you know somebody in that town, you might say, "Oh, yes, I know a guy named so and so from there." Which is pretty silly, because if the town is 50,000 or more, they never know who you are talking about. But, that didn't make any difference to me. I was still going to ask the idiotic question.
In 1985, the only dealings I had in the city of NEW YORK was with a book wholesaling company where I bought discount books for a chain of stores I had in Phoenix. So in fact I only knew one person in New York...the guy who sold me the books.
So, one woman at our table on the boat said she was from New York. What is the population of New York? 8,000,000? And, I know one person there.
Idiotically I say, "I know only one person in New York, a bookseller named Fred Weitzen."
She responded, "That's my husband."