The car went by, just thirty feet away, carrying John F. Kennedy on his rare visit to Brooklyn in 1960. I thought that it was a close encounter. Nothing compared to what occurred later in my life.
We were at the rear entrance to the U.S. Open Tennis Center in 1980 hoping to pick up four tickets from a friend, but not able to gain entry. I spotted Arthur Ashe completing a T.V. interview nearby. We had met two years earlier at a tennis sporting goods show. Recognizing me, he put his arm around my shoulders, walked me through the gate saying “He’s with me!” I was able to get the tickets. Arthur died in February 1993. I will miss his poise.
I was photographing tennis pros at Sherwood Country Club in 1995 when I met Bjorn Borg. He agreed to take a photo with me, extended his hand, grasped mine firmly and smiled. Bjorn was the only tennis pro to have done this. A true gentleman. He has retired and lives in Monte Carlo. I will miss his classy personality.
Attending a golf tournament in Southern California in 2000, I saw Arnold Palmer coming off the 18th green. Rushing towards me, he quickly autographed my score card and began complaining about the penalty he had been assessed for using the wrong tee! Arnold died in August 2016. I will miss his ferocity.
We were at a dog show in Long Beach around 2010. I heard an announcer introducing the next competitor. I was taken aback with what I thought I heard and said to my wife “Why would anyone name their dog Greg Louganis?” With that a trim, handsome, middle-aged man sitting directly in front of me replied, “I’m Greg Louganis and that’s my dog!” I laughed and shook his hand. Greg is known as the greatest platform diver of all time!
Flying to Indianapolis earlier this month we heard that a famous race car driver was on the plane and arriving for the Indy 500 event. The mention of Parnelli Jones was vaguely familiar but since he was in the first class section we did not see him. Three days later and a day before the big race we were once again at the airport terminal. There were very few seats open at the gate area and a neatly dressed, older man sat down next to me. We began a light conversation and I asked him his name. “Parnelli Jones, “he replied in a quiet, modest way. What a coincidence I thought. He admitted that he would rather watch the race at home on T.V. than in the luxury suite!
When I look back at these Close Encounters I wonder what is in store for me in coming years. I’m ready for those eventualities.