In countless hours spent hanging out at airports over 45 years of flying corporate flying I have encountered the occasional celebrity. One night in Nashville I remarked to a collegue about the "farmer" with stringy beard whose blue denim overhauls seemed out of place in the Executive Lounge but who'd just boarded a Lear Jet. "Didn't you recognize Willie Nelson?" he asked. No, I had not.
One afternoon in Prescott, Arizona I did recognize Bob Hope when he deplaned from an old Lockheed Jetstar and walked over to a nearby phone booth for a long conversation. And it finally dawned on me that the tall, gray gentleman travelling with Mr. Hope, standing silently by the passenger stairs while the jet was refueling, was none other than Jimmy Stewart. Oh, and one time Jane Fonda walked right past me at Chicago's Midway, though she she looked some different from the starlet I remembered.
Then there was that time I met the President. No, really.
In 1978 I was living in the rural town of Calhoun, GA, flying a small Christian denomination's regional headquarters staff around the Southeast in a 6-seat twin Cessna. One day in early November, my boss, the organization's President, called me to his office and told me to plan a flight to Washington. He and his wife had been invited to the White House for Thanksgiving dinner! I immediately inquired as to why he, an outspoken Republican, would be interested in dining with a peanut farmer from Plains, but he cut me off: "It's the White House! Lois and I are going to the White House!" He explained that in recognition of National Bible Week the President and Mrs. Carter had invited 150 prominent religious leaders and their wives from across America to Thanksgiving dinner at the White House. The pastor of the First Baptist Church and his wife had also received invitations and we would be inviting them to fly with us to Washington.
I asked how it happened that the president of a medium-sized regional conference of a minor denomination came to be numbered among the Nation's top 150 religious leaders? My impertinence was duly noted, and he said he wasn't sure but it had something to with the wife of the local bank president. "Mrs. L" was the wife of the local bank president and mother-in-law of President Carter's eldest son Jack. She had a friend in the protocol office of the White House who had asked for her help with the list. My boss had become acquainted with the bank president at Rotary Club meetings and, well maybe that had something to do with it.
There was just one issue; my boss, a consumate praticioner of church politics in his own right, was concerned that members of the hierarchy above him might not be pleased that he had been "chosen" to represent the organization at the national level. So he was going to ask "Mrs. L" if she could somehow add the president of world church and his wife to the list. Just to cover all bases, you know. Speaking of covering all bases, I pointed out that while he would be feasting at the White House I'd be dining on vending machine cheeze crackers in the transient pilot lounge at National Airport. Since he had so much pull at the White House, why not address that injustice?
Imagine my suprise when this appeared in my mail box three days later: