Last Thursday I noted I had insisted having my picture taken with one and only one celebrity I have come in contact with in my long career. It is likely few of you guessed correctly. Back in 1986, this gentleman did a show at Bailey Concert Hall when I was the Master Carpenter there…
That is the one and only Cary Grant. He was a true gentleman, courteous and unassuming and still handsome as hell at 82 years old. He was performing a “show and tell” tour where clips of his many famous roles were projected, he came on stage and told stories from his career and then took a few questions from the packed audience. He was charming and self deprecating and a big hit with the sold out crowd. A couple of months later he was still on the tour when he died of a stroke during a stopover in Iowa. I was lucky to have had the chance to meet him. He was most kind to his many adoring fans, including me.
But enough about him, three things to note about me in this picture. I still had plenty of hair, I was in my familiar scuffed up boots. And I held my ever-present pipe in my hand. Yep, those were the days.
One final small connection. When I worked for Sotheby’s we were cleaning out old equipment as we built out and re-outfitted the auction headquarters. During the process I watched one of my favorite Cary Grant films on television “North by Northwest.” I pretty much know the film by heart but was shocked when I suddenly recognized a couple of things in the “Chicago auction house” scene. You may recall that as his character Roger Thornhill is fleeing across the country from New York to Mount Rushmore he is recognized by thugs trying to capture him. So he makes a scene so as to draw the police in to haul him out and away from his pursuers. Suddenly I recognized both the auction podium and one of the art handlers who looked exactly like an art handler on my staff at Sotheby’s.
The next day I inquired about it at work from a long time employee there who confirmed that in 1959 they had filmed at a New York auction house Parke-Bernet which was later acquired by Sotheby’s to establish an American presence in the 1960’s. And yes, that solid wood auctioneer podium had been in Sotheby’s all that time (this was about 1999) and was finally being replaced and that art handler had been new on staff during the filming. So next time you watch North by Northwest watch for that scene. I made sure I rubbed the podium surface for good luck before it was disposed of. If my small New York apartment would have been large enough, I would have kept it. Oh, well.