Close Encounters of a Special Kind.
Hawaii has always attracted celebrities. Back in the 1970s, it was quite common for some of the celebrity visitors to pay courtesy calls on Honolulu’s mayor at that time, Frank Fasi. For those of us who had reason to meet with the mayor several times a day, it meant we never knew who might be sitting there when we walked into his reception area.
On one of those occasions, it was Red Skelton. In addition to being a famous funny man in films and on television and radio, Skelton was an amateur painter who became well known for his colorful portraits of circus clowns. He was in Honolulu to promote an exhibition and sale of his clown paintings at a local art gallery. (Yes . . . THAT art gallery!)
I had the chance to chat with him while waiting for whoever was in the mayor’s private office to conclude their business. I said something about how this kind of activity must be relaxing and enjoyable compared to the stress of a weekly TV or radio show.
“It’s actually just the opposite,” he said. “When I’m in public, everyone expects me to be funny all the time. That’s an awful burden to bear.”
Award winning veteran news correspondent Martin Agronsky was sitting there one morning and, while he waited to see the mayor, we had a very interesting conversation about major stories he had covered for all three of the major networks. In fact, I actually ended up having dinner with him and his wife that night.
As Mayor Fasi began to make a name for himself beyond Hawaii, reporters and writers of national prominence started arriving in Honolulu to interview him. One of those with a heavyweight reputation was Lou Cannon, who was Chief White House correspondent for the Washington Post for a number of years and ended up writing several best-selling biographies of Ronald Reagan. After spending two full hours interviewing the mayor, to my great delight, Lou accepted an invitation to join my wife and me for dinner that night at our home on the Windward side of Oahu. We invited another couple to join us—both of whom were very involved in government and politics—and we had a fascinating dinner conversation that lasted until almost 11:00 o’clock.
And I was actually paid to work there!