Following my stagnation on Kwajalein Island in the Pacific, I returned to Southern California. In El Segundo, an exclusive radiotelephone company, a pioneer in mobile radio, hired me on the spot. I had been advised by the U.S. Department of State that my application for the Foreign Service could take over six months, and even then I might not get selected. I put it on the back burner…
<feature photo by bostonglobe.com
Barbara Streisand and the Mysterious Japanese Millionaire
Barbra Streisand and other notables represented our clientele. My job was to install and repair the units in the trunk of their Mercedes, Rolls Royce’s, and the like. Usually a driver would bring in the vehicles, but I remember going to the Max Factor residence for an installation. The maid brought me a tall iced-cold glass of lemonade.
A secretive Japanese millionaire watched me install our radiotelephone in his Rolls Royce at his Beverly Hills mansion. When I finished he asked me if I wanted to go to Japan and start up a company in Tokyo using this same technology. I gulped and told him I would have to pass this on to the sales team. He gave me a sly smile and shook his head.
Dragline–Cool Hand Luke’s Sidekick
Actor George Kennedy rolled his Winnebago into our shop in mid-June 1976. After installing our unit I showed George how to operate it. He stowed the operations pamphlet in the dash and offered his Dragline chain gang smile from the movie Cool Hand Luke (like Luke, Paul Newman, had just consumed fifty hard boiled eggs on a bet). George took our sexy secretary and me out to lunch at Stick & Stein, a bar & grill in El Segundo.
The actor garnered my admiration from the get go. He had joined the Army Air Corps at eighteen, during WWII. “I was six-foot-four and two hundred ten pounds,” he said with a broad grin. “My C.O. said if he had a choice whether to put me or a two hundred pound bomb onboard a plane, he’d choose the bomb.”
The ex-soldier frowned when he mentioned that he had ended up in Europe under the command of George Patton (“Old Blood & Guts”). A regular guy, Captain George Kennedy enjoyed a sixteen-year U. S. Air force career before he hurt his back and rejoined the civilian world.
The busy actor eyed his watch. He had an appointment regarding another “Airport” movie, in Santa Monica. The secretary and I would have loved to hear how he conquered Hollywood. Before leaving, George, the aviator, joked that he wanted me to install another radiotelephone in his Cessna airplane.
Visits from Men in Black
All charged up after George Kennedy’s visit, a phone call electrified me. My mom reported that neighbors and relatives had been fielding questions about yours truly from men in dark suits. State Department agents were performing a background check for a top secret security clearance. An appointment in the Foreign Service had become more than just text on an old brochure!