Monday, December 26, 2011

More Notable People I’ve Met

After Putzi Frandl, the celebrity I’ve been best acquainted with, and the only other one I would call a friend, is James Whitmore.  When I moved to Mammoth in ’81 one of my Forest Service co-workers was Jim’s son Danny.  Danny’s aunt, Louise Klaassen (Jim's sister-in-law), also worked for the Forest Service there.  Through the two of them I met Jim and spent a fair amount of time with him.

Both of you boys have also often met him.  In fact he “baby-sat” both of you at least once that I can remember.  We were at some function in Bishop and Jim was also there.  This would have been about 2002.  I took both of you outside as you were both getting a bit antsy and needed some exercise.  Jim was also outside, smoking his pipe.  Jim and I talked for a while and then I remembered something that required me to go inside for a few minutes.  Jim agreed to keep an eye on you two while I was gone.

Jim always enjoyed seeing you two and he often commented how wonderful children were and said that he hoped that I would always treasure both of you as much as he treasured his children.  I told him that I would do my best.

I often teased Danny when he, Jim & I were together.  Danny also has two boys, but neither are named James, and I would say to Jim that even though Danny didn’t name his boys after him, at least I had (of course my friendship the Jim had nothing to do with us picking the name James for our first-born, but it was fun teasing Danny).


William Kelley is another friend from my Mammoth days.  I met him through his daughter Moira, who was a Mammoth local and friend.  Bill was a Hollywood writer who won an Oscar for the screenplay of the Harrison Ford movie Witness.

I remember watching the Oscar Awards show on TV that year and the feeling that I had hearing my friend’s name called out as the winner and seeing him giving his acceptance speech.

Bill was also a novelist.  I really enjoyed his book Gemini, and A Servant of Slaves: the Life of Henriette Delille is non-fiction and very interesting.

A few months ago, I discovered that Moira lived in Davis for much of the time we’ve lived here.  Unfortunately, I did not make this discovery until several years after she had moved.


Andy Mill is another person I met via skiing.  He was America’s premier downhiller for much of the 1970’s.  I met him at a US Ski Coaches Association clinic at Mammoth shortly after his retirement from competition.  I was really impressed with his skiing – I’d skied with a lot of fantastic skiers over the years, but there was a power and smoothness in Andy’s skiing that was impressive. 

I was also impressed by the relationship Andy had with the coach running the clinic, Harald Schoenhaar.  Harald had been the US Ski Team’s Head Coach for a number years during Andy's time on the team and the warmth of their relationship was evident.  There was a great deal of mutual trust and the respect between them was obvious.

I ran into him again a few years later at Breckenridge, Colorado and rode up the chair with him.  After I reminded him where we met I was surprised that he remembered me.

Andy later got into the news when he was married to Chris Evert, the tennis champ.


Shortly after I moved to California in ’74 I met a number of people from southern California.  Once I was visiting a friend and her family down there and I got talking to the "Lady of the House" and found that she had been in the Navy during WWII and had been an aircraft mechanic.  She showed me a picture of herself working on a Douglas Dauntless dive-bomber.  This really surprised and impressed me, and I mentioned that I was very interested in aviation.

She said, “Oh, if you like planes, you should meet Lloyd.  He lives just across the street (Sunburst in Northridge).  He used to be the president of Boeing and designed the PT-17, one of the US’s primary pilot training planes in WWII.”  Many people just call this plane a "Stearman."

So she walked me across the street and I met Lloyd Stearman.  Mr. Stearman was very pleasant and we had a nice, short talk as he wasn’t in good health.  That was the only time I spoke with him as he died a few months later.


Andrea Mead Lawrence, a double Gold Medal winner in skiing at the 1952 Winter Olympics in Oslo, Norway, is another acquaintance from Mammoth.  I met her through Jim Whitmore’s wife Nancy, who was the sister of my good friend and co-worker Louise Klaassen.

Nancy and Andrea became good friends when they met in Mammoth as they had similar backgrounds growing up back east and then moved west.  They started the Mono County Democrats Club together and Andrea was often at Nancy’s house when Louise and I visited.

I was one of the few people, Andrea told me, in Mammoth who had been to her home town of Rutland, Vermont.


When I lived in Shaver Lake (‘74-‘84) there were a number of celebrities who had vacation homes in the area.  I occasionally saw Ed Asner (The Mary Tyler Moore Show) and Richard Farnsworth (The Straight Story) around town, but never met either of them.  Pamela Sue Martin, best known for the Nancy Drew Mysteries TV show, also had a home there and I did meet her several times.  She was good friends with acquaintances of mine (in fact, she often stayed with them before buying her own place).

She skied at China Peak fairly often so I would see her around and often spoke briefly to her.  I can’t claim to know her well, but I did not find her very friendly.  She seemed to think very highly of herself, which maybe was justified considering how successful she was at the time.  I don’t think I ever saw her without a cigarette.   She is another actress who I think looks a lot better on the screen than in person.

Once in the summer I went to her home in Shaver Lake to do a fire inspection and issue a burning permit.  A guy met me and I mostly talked to him, although she did participate in the discussion.  She did not act like she remembered me, and we had met many times before.  I guess I should give her the benefit of the doubt as I was wearing my Forest Service uniform, so maybe the context was wrong for her as I’d mostly been in ski clothes during our previous encounters.


In June 1973 I attended the Jackson Hole Summer Racing Camp.  Due to a snow shortage in northwestern Wyoming, it was actually held at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area near Dillon, Colorado.

The Head Coach of the camp was Pepi Steigler, a former Austrian Skier and Olympic medal winner in both the '60 and '64 Olympics.  He was the Ski School Director at Jackson Hole.  It was a 10-day camp and we rotated with different coaches.  I spent two days with him, and talked to him a lot, most as a student to teacher relationship, but we did have adult to adult conversations too (I was 23 and he was about 40).

He was quite affable and modest.  He told me that when he watched film of himself skiing he was never very impressed and always thought he ought to be doing better.

He was, as you'd expect, very knowledgeable about skiing and ski equipment and it was a very enjoyable camp.


Robert Shapiro is the founder of, the online legal documents company.  He was also OJ Simpson's intial attorney during his spat with LA Law after getting in a spot of trouble for murduring his wife.

Shapiro was a friend of a client of mine when I was teaching skiing at Alpine Meadows.  Bill Shaw was an attorney from LA who had once worked for the LA DA, but had left that gone into real estate, in which he had done extraordinarily well (he lived in Beverly Hills between Steven Spielberg and Marvin Davis). 

He took quite a few ski lessons from me and we got on quite well.  One time when he was at Tahoe he brought a friend of his who he had worked with in the DA’s office.  It was Robert Shapiro.  Shapiro had also left the DA’s office and done well.  He was one of the premier defense lawyers in LA.  Shapiro’s son Brent was also with him and during the course of the day I mostly skied with Brent. Bob and Bill would take their own (usually easier) way down the mountain while Brent and I talked the more challenging runs and we’d meet at the chairlift.

About five or six years later I often saw Bob on TV due to his involvement with the OJ case.

Unfortunately, Brent later became heavily involved with drugs and died of an overdose.


Ben Abruzzo was a prominent Albuquerque Real Estate developer when I lived there.  He owned Sandia Peak Ski Area which I worked at in the winter of 73-74.  I often saw him there.  He wasn’t overly-friendly with employees, but he would say hello and I did ride the chairlift with him a time or two.  I skied with his oldest son Richie a fair amount.

Another person who I met at there, but later, during the following summer, was Larry Newman.  Larry was the first person I saw fly a hang-glider.  In fact I talked to him about taking lessons but we could never get our schedules together.

Abruzzo and Newman later became famous as the pilots of the Double Eagle II, the first balloon to cross the Atlantic.


For stories about other notable people I have met, click this link.



  1. Nice Stories, pretty cool you were in the middle of such happening epicenter locations while things were going of, however I'd much rather here about you skiing with Wayne Wong than meeting Ed Asner!!
    Being a core skier I am Sure you know exactly what I'm talking about. Pretty cool. Are you still in Mammoth?

    1. Thanks!
      No, I'm not in Mammoth - left in 1986, then spent 8 years in Turckee befor moving back to Bishop. Going to Mammoth in September for a reunion. Should be fun.