Back in the 80s, when I was living on Kauai, I got to hang out with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for an afternoon. The house we were in had a low ceiling with an accordingly low ceiling fan, and I remember worrying that he was going to get done in by it. Anyway, a group of us went to the beach and while he and I were wading in the shallow surf, Kareem spent a fair amount of time telling me about a book he was writing on Oriental rugs. He had a real passion for them, and an esteemed collection.
The manicure station is close to the door leading to and from the main lobby, and it’s always fun to sit and watch the steady stream of fit figures come and go.
Here’s an excerpt from an article in Sports Illustrated to illustrate (sorry) my point, talking about Kareem’s role in the movie Airplane:
Jerry Zucker: When we offered the role [of Murdock] to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, I think we offered him $30,000, and then the agent asked for $35,000 because that’s how much this rug cost that Kareem wanted to buy. It was an oriental rug—an art piece, not one to walk on, I don’t think—so our initial reaction was, “That’s got to be the best line we’ve ever heard from an agent.” It was like, “Boy, this guy’s really creative!” But then a couple of weeks later, there’s an article in Time with a picture of Kareem standing in front of the oriental rug that he’d bought for $35,000 after we’d paid him.
Fast forward maybe five or six years, and I’ve moved back to California and, in a fit of resolve to get and stay in shape, have joined The Sports Club L.A., a ridiculously high-priced gym. I’m way out of my league, but I figure if I pay enough I’ll be sure to go regularly. My first mistake. Complete with valet parking by attendants in all white with pink neckties (who will even, for an extra fee, wash your car or change your oil), a gourmet cafe, an extensive juice bar, a spa, a basketball court, an Olympic pool and rooftop track, there’s even a full service salon where I have a standing appointment for a mani-pedi. The manicure station is close to the door leading to and from the marble lobby, and it’s always fun to sit and watch the steady stream of fit figures come and go. So there I sit, my feet in warm, sudsy water while French tips are being applied to my fingernails, glance up, and here comes a very tall Black man heading for the lobby who can be none other than…
”Well hello, again,” I call out, “it’s been a long time!”
“Hello,” he says, pausing mid stride with an uncertain smile.
He doesn’t remember me. Well, he does meet a lot of people, and it has been a while, so I press on.
“We met at the Nashes’ on Kauai, and then we were wading at Tunnels Beach and you told me all about the book you were writing on Oriental rugs, remember?”
“Oh yeah, I think I remember,” he nods, with no recognition whatsoever. “How have you been…good to see you…you take care now,” he says as he continues towards the door.
Then, right before he crosses the threshold into the lobby, my manicurist waves, “Bye-bye, Magic…see you next time.” Oof.
In my defense, I’m (clearly) not a sports fan (see my Super Bowl story, “Stupor Bowl“)…I just knew he looked familiar. A totally lame defense, I know, particularly in these racially-charged times. At least give me credit for having been brave enough to post this story.
Postscript: Although ostensibly no one was wise to my faux pas since I hadn’t mentioned a name, I sometimes wonder if Magic might have realized it was Kareem I was mistaking him for and didn’t say anything to save me from embarrassment. Still, I’m embarrassed to this day!
Artist, writer, storyteller, spy. Okay, not a spy…I was just going for the rhythm.
I call myself “an inveterate dabbler.” (And my husband calls me “an invertebrate babbler.”) I just love to create one way or another. My latest passion is telling true stories live, on stage. Because it scares the hell out of me.
As a memoirist, I focus on the undercurrents. Drawing from memory, diaries, notes, letters and photographs, I never ever lie, but I do claim creative license when fleshing out actual events in order to enhance the literary quality, i.e., what I might have been wearing, what might have been on the table, what season it might have been. By virtue of its genre, memoir also adds a patina of introspection and insight that most probably did not exist in real time.