What do Charo, Gallager (the watermelon-smashing comedian), Mohammed Bello Adoke (the Nigerian Minister of Health), Mario Cuomo, Henry Mancini, Bob Hope, Joe Namath, Willem Dafoe, Lynn Swan, Myron Cope, Franco Harris, the Kingston Trio, Woody Herman, Phil Collin’s ex-wife, Orianne, Count Basie, Buddy Rich, Maynard Ferguson, Myron Floren, The Lettermen, Johnny Carson, Doc Severinsen, Florence Henderson, Randy Grossman, Karen Allen, Vice President Joe Biden, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Ethel Kennedy, David Letterman, Richard Nixon, Stan Kenton, Bill Clinton, What’s his name and Elizabeth Edwards, Carl Rove, Bruce Cryer, Victoria Gotti, Dave Brubeck, Dick Thornburgh, His Royal Highness the Crown Prince Alexander II of Serbia, Melania Trump, and Gen. Colin Powell have in common?
Not one of them knows me.
I’m so sure of that; if you tied the guys to a chair with a hole where the seat should be and whipped them with a knotted rope (like they did to torture James Bond), or if you threatened to cut out the ladies’ tongues if they didn’t admit to knowing me, there would be a lot of hurtin’, partial-tongued notables hobbling around.
I’m sure that every one of us could make a list like this. Let’s call it brushes with greatness. We need, however, to clear up this part. These were MY brushes with greatness, not theirs.
I’m sure that when Doc Severinsen, the former trumpet-playing leader of the Tonight Show Orchestra, was teaching me a lesson when I was a teenager, he wasn’t thinking, “Man, this kid is great!” It was funny, though, when then Vice President Nixon was campaigning to become president, after his speech he told all 15 of the band directors present (one-by-one) that their band was “The very best band he had ever heard.” Right, Tricky Dick!
Unfortunately for them, many of these rich ‘n famous were just trapped in airports where I happened to be, seated near me in restaurants, or suffering from my trumpet playing back in the day. I never wanted to hurt Dolores Hope’s feelings, but now that she’s gone, I can tell this story: When her late husband, Bob, performed in Johnstown back in 1989, he looked at me as I was directing his back-up band for rehearsal, and he said, “Well, I see that the band that you put together is made up of musicians who have a day job?”
When I asked him what he meant, he replied, “They play like butchers.” So, obviously, that was not a brush with greatness for me or my buddies. (Cranky ole man.) The very next year, Henry Mancini went on and on about how great the same players were, and he was a real musician, so take that, Bob!
In 2009, I was talking to this very articulate man by the name of Bruce. After telling him that I was once a trumpet player, he smiled and said, “Well, I was an actor Off Broadway in the musical, The Fantastiks.” Well, the year that I saw it in New York City, Bruce was in it. Wow, a star!
In my various brushes with fame, Buddy Rich, the drummer, yelled at me because the Howard Johnson’s was too far from Somerset; Charo kissed me on the cheek; Maynard Ferguson acknowledged me for hiring him, David Letterman’s assistant cut me from his show for being too funny and Melania Trump asked for more security. So, that’s my story. Oh, yeah, when I met Vice President Joe Biden last year, he stopped my introduction to him by saying, “Nick Jacobs? Don’t introduce me to Nick Jacobs. I’ve known Nick for 20 years.” (I had never met him?)
(Nick Jacobs, Windber, international director for SunStone Consulting, LLC is the author of the blog Healinghospitals.com.)