It’s The Norm 03-26-10

As many of you are aware, this reporter has been very fortunate to meet, and get to know, many important people in this crazy world of ours. I rubbed shoulders and worked with some of the best, from former heavyweight champions Joe Louis to Muhammad Ali, to Presidents including George H.W. Bush (our 41st President) and Jimmy Carter (our 39th President). I’ve met and hung out with many celebrities, from Robert Goulet, Sammy Davis, Jr., The Man himself (Frank Sinatra) to Bill Cosby and Robert Culp.

culp8The unexpected death of Culp on Wednesday reminded me of a strange week I had in 1970, when I was working for a public relations firm in Las Vegas.  A group of investors from Boston had been given the rights to build the first gambling casino in downtown Athens, Greece. They contacted our firm and asked if we could handle the Grand Opening, and could we get some celebrities to attend. Well, of course, we could and we were given the contract. Our job was to get 20 to 30 celebrities and columnists to spend a week in Greece. How tough is that? We ended up with 23 big name stars and journalists including Culp, Cosby, Lloyd Bridges, Donald O’Connor, Tippi Hedren, Sheldon Leonard and Robert Ryan to name a few.

We chartered an American Airlines jet from Los Angeles to Boston, where we stayed for two days. A huge party was held at a major Boston hotel, where a real red carpet awaited the arrival of the stars. It was truly a gala! We also attended another private party at a famous fish house (can’t remember the name of the hotel or the fish house, sorry about that), where we were given the royal treatment and some of the biggest darn Lobsters I had ever seen. Culp and Cosby were still hot from their television series, “I Spy,” which had just ended after a three year run. And, two nicer people would be hard to find excep,t for perhaps, Mr. Bridges and his wife, Dorothy.

I remember waiting for the arrival of the various limos, which were bringing the celebrities to the Los Angeles International Airport. Cosby arrived, I believe with his wife, Camille, and Culp was with his wife, France Nuyen (a beautiful French-born actress). The Bridge’s arrived with their sons, Beau and Jeff (who had come along to see their parents off). It was quite an emotional scene, when both sons reached around their father, hugged him and then kissed him on the cheek. Lloyd returned the hug and kiss (this was absolutely a new experience for me, seeing two adult men kissing each other on the cheeks)

bridgesWhile in Greece, Bridges visited the United States Naval base in Athens, after the Gala opening, and took Culp and Cosby with him. From what I was told later, they (Culp and Cosby), had more fun at the naval base, than they had the rest of their visit in Athens. Everyone was housed in the new Athens Hilton Hotel and the Grand Opening was fantastic.

Oh, yeah, lest I forget, on the trip over from Boston to Athens, we flew on a chartered Olympic Airlines jet (owned by the late Aristotle Onassis). Believe it or not, we ran out of liquor midway over the Atlantic Ocean, and we were stuck having to drink the only booze left on the jet, a very powerful Greek drink, Ouzo. Needless to say, we were feeling no pain as we departed the jet to go through customs. But, I must say, everyone enjoyed their week in Athens.

One night, after the Gala opening, Mr. Onassis invited everyone to have dinner at a nightclub he owned, near a beautiful lake just outside of town. Entertainment included a band, singers and some dancers. Well, just as they started dancing, the waiters brought piles of white plates to all the tables (it was a private party by the way). We were told to start tossing the plates towards the dance floor. To this day, I have no idea how or why this custom was started. We did as we were asked, and the floor was soon a pile of broken plates. We were also invited, on another evening, aboard Onassis’ huge yacht, which was anchored in the harbor. Mrs. Onassis (Jacqueline Kennedy) was the most gracious hostess and greeted everyone as we boarded the ship from the motorboats.

Oh, yes, the casino was sold to a group of new investors after the third day of its opening. I also received a very nice bonus upon returning to Las Vegas.

I thought you would enjoy this little bit of my history. Let me know if you would like to hear more short stories about my many encounters, etc.

Robert Culp, August 16, 1930—March 24, 2010.

Well, gang, that’s about it for another week. I’m outa here!