I wanted to take a moment to pay tribute to an American Legend; Charleton Heston, who passed away this last Saturday. Charleton Heston was an American Icon, who was a larger than life man, who played larger than life roles.
I grew up fascinated by his movies. Ben Hur and the Ten Commandments were two of my all-time favorites. I still enjoy watching these epic movies. In my mind, they just don't make films like those anymore.
As an adult, I had a wonderful opportunity to spend one day at his house with him. It was a once in a life time experience. I was supposed to show up at his home in Beverly Hills at 8:00 in the morning. Realizing that this was a once in a lifetime experience, I did not want to be late. I left my hotel early, leaving plenty of time for any disaster that might occur on the short drive over to his house. Well, the drive over went relatively smoothly, so I ended up arriving at his house at 6:30 AM. Now, I did not want to disturb him, and did not want to show up so embarrassingly early, so I parked down at the end of his driveway. His house was up on a hill, and he had a long driveway leading up to his home. I pulled the car over, and just sort of parked out of the way at the bottom of the driveway.
I can remember that the morning was very foggy. As I sat in the car, and looked up the driveway, I could not even see the house. The driveway just disappeared into the fog. As I sat and watched my watch, and watched the driveway, I suddenly saw a figure emerge from the fog. It was a very tall man, wearing a bright red robe. I swear, it looked like Moses coming down Mount Sinai. It was Charleton Heston.
I sort of panicked. Since I had gotten there so early, I was worried that he would not know who I was, and was coming down to "run me off". Well, sure enough, he walked right up to the car, I rolled the window down, and he asked if I was Paul. I said yes, and he extended his hand and welcomed me. I apologized for showing up so early, but he said, "Oh, no problem at all". He told me to not wait in the car, but to come on in to his house, and that I could sit in his living room as he got ready.
I was so totally intimidated. He was larger than life, and I was a nobody. But you know what . . . I never had anyone make me feel more welcome than he did that day. It was as if I was visiting my grandfather. He was a gracious host, and never did anything to indicate that he thought of himself as anything other than just a normal guy.
One of the things that I remember about him that day is how he acted around his wife. He acted like a school boy with a childhood sweetheart. He did not do anything without checking to make sure it would not disturb her. I never saw a man show a woman more respect than what he showed his wife. Perhaps the greatest tribute to his character is that in a city, and in an industry known for short marriages, he was married to the same woman for 64 years.
As the day was coming to a close, I really desperately wanted to ask him for his autograph. I knew though that that would not be very professional. I would not ask him for anything, as I felt honored to have had the opportunity to spend that day with him. As it was time for me to leave he said, "You know, I always like to have my picture taken with my guests. Would you mind having your picture made with me?" Wow, what grace, what charm, what a gentleman. You see, he knew that I would desperately want to have a picture with him, and he knew that I would not ask, so he suggested it as if he wanted a picture taken with me.
Someone snapped the picture, and then about a week later, the picture above showed up in my mail . . . he had autographed a copy, and sent it to me.
Is there anyone else in Hollywood like this? Mr. Heston, you will be sorely missed. Who will fill your shoes?