Archive for the ‘Equal Rights Movement’ Category

Image                Probably half of the celebrities I met in the very early days of my stage managing career are dead now.  I spent those first few years at Channel 5 in New York, back when it was still WNEW and owned by Metromedia.  Phil Rizzuto, Donna Reed, Rocky Graziano, Carroll O’connor, Gwen Verdon, Dizzy Gillespie, Jim “Catfish” Hunter.  I could literally go on and on.  People always ask me what celebrity I’m the most proud to have met and my automatic answer never fails to make me smile and start me reminiscing about my days at Channel 5.  I grow almost misty-eyed when I tell them:

Rosa Parks.

Sister Rosa, as the Neville Brothers so eloquently call her in their song about her.  She was old and frail already back then.  It had to be 27 or 28 years ago.  She was wearing a long cloth coat and wire-rimmed glasses and her silver hair was tied back and off her face, maybe even up in a bun.  There is no photo of the two of us together, unfortunately, but I can say that when I greeted her and shook her hand it was like shaking hands with history itself.  I was in my early 20s, a baby, but I knew it was a special moment and I will never forget it for as long as I live.  At least, I hope so.  I hope, if I do live a long long time, to be one of those feisty old grandmas, with a perfectly intact memory, who sits on a rocking chair under a blanket, sipping tea, and tells the best stories about the good old days.  You know, the ones who curse and tell it like it is, or was.  While all the grandchildren sit around mesmerized and their moms, my daughters, tell me to stop swearing and tone it down.

Rosa Parks was the most relaxed, most dignified, most patient celebrity I have ever met.  She traveled with a very small group of people, there was no fuss, she smiled and shook everyone’s hand and gave a great interview while the whole crew watched, amazed.  When the interview was over she smiled and graciously thanked the entire crew and quietly left with the same small group of people who had escorted her in.  I watched Rosa walk across the semi-dark studio, all the way to the door.  The image is etched right behind my closed eyes.  I am blessed to have made her acquaintance.