Sunday, June 24, 2012

Chewed out by Sgt. Bilko

Seeing this picture of actor/comedian Phil Silvers in an old issue of Time magazine brought back a specific memory.

Fifty years ago Dad took my mother, brother and me to Hollywood. He had a business meeting in nearby Inglewood, and thought it would be fun to stay in Hollywood. When we got to Hollywood Dad was unsure of where he was supposed to go. He was on a main boulevard when he realized he needed to turn left. He started making his left turn without checking oncoming traffic. It caused a driver going in the other direction to slam on his brakes. Dad slammed on his brakes, also. The driver of the car who’d just avoided a collision with Dad pulled up so he was eye to eye with him. The driver yelled and called Dad a “goddamned idiot,” then told him, “watch what the hell you're doing.” The whole exchange took a couple of seconds, then the driver, in a large car which my memory tells me was a new Chrysler Imperial, pulled ahead and drove on. Dad, with left turn signal blinking, waited for traffic to clear so he could go. He turned to my brother and me in the back seat. “You kids see who that was? It was Sergeant Bilko!” Bilko was the chiseling character Phil Silvers played on television, a role which had turned him from an old vaudeville-style comic to a full-fledged star.

“Boy,” continued Dad. “Sergeant Bilko...”

I injected, “Phil Silvers, Dad.”

“Yeah, yeah, Phil Silvers.”

“Just be careful,” my mother said. She always chirped in after the fact with the obvious.

We didn't speak of the incident again but maybe Dad brought it up in his business meeting. “Hey, guys! Guess who chewed me out this morning?”  None of us thought of getting yelled at by Phil Silvers as a bad thing. It was enough to have a brush with celebrity. This is what people went to Hollywood for, yes? To see stars. We saw what we came to see in an unexpected way.

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