Posted November 17, 2016 – Narrated by Jim
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It’s kind wild how full-time travel brings up snapshot memories of people, places and past events.
As we continue on this drive-about in our Airstream, we’re learning to follow our instincts. Sometimes, a signal comes out of nowhere and if we pay attention, then the road we were looking for, mysteriously opens up before us.
C’mon. Let me take you for a little trip down Memory Lane.
When I was 19, the booking agent for my entertainment business called me about a rather peculiar client request for a job. No, this wasn’t a magic show for a 1000+ convention audience with large illusions, or a cozy table-magic, sleight-of-hand gig for a swanky cocktail party at Rancho Santa Fe … it was a skilled acting job involving a bit of misdirection for a single client in his office. I was intrigued, and since I was thinking about getting married and moving out of my parents house, I needed to accept almost every opportunity. So, I requested the details.
I was to pose as a starry-eyed, recent benefactor of a rich uncle’s fortune, looking for a place to invest my new wealth. The ruse had me call and schedule an appointment with a certain commercial developer, indicating my desire to invest a considerable amount into a solid real estate venture. The client intended this to be a practical joke on his friend and business associate. Assured the shenanigan would be harmless, I accepted the job.
A few weeks later after being coached by the client on exactly what he wanted me to do, I dressed in my best suit and drove to Mission Valley.
Expecting my arrival, the receptionist graciously showed me into the office. The developer greeted me, shook my hand, and as he returned to his desk, he offered me a chair. I carefully placed my attache on the floor and took a seat.
As rehearsed, I told him the details about my recent windfall and then created an excuse to fetch something from my attache, out of his line of sight.
The moments passed…at first, it was one … then two … then more, many more. It didn’t take long because the shades were pulled open to the bright San Diego sunshine. Shortly, several thousand Coccinellids, (better known as ladybugs) that were contained in my attache were released to swarm throughout the office, landing in hair, coffee cups, chairs, desktops, window blinds, everywhere… As the developer and my client regularly played jokes like this on each other, he quickly realized what was happening, laughed about being caught off guard, and politely excused me from the mayhem taking place in his office.
Later, the client told me that the commercial developer was almost evicted from his office since the ladybugs infested the central air-conditioning system and would drop out ‘en masse’ throughout the building – for several days following the event.
That client who hired me was John Bradley, one of the owners and managers of the Love’s Wood Pit BBQ restaurants in San Diego county, whose slogan was “When you’re in Loves…The whole world’s delicious.”
A few weeks before I retired, I was reminded of John Bradley as Carmen and I digitally scanned thousands of old photographs and memorabilia and saw two images from Love’s BBQ advertisements from the mid-1970s.
You see, after that practical joke, John and I became friends, and a few months later, he hired me to perform table-to-table close-up magic at all six Love’s Wood Pit BBQ San Diego county restaurants, for almost three years from 1974 to 1976. Back then, I worked seven nights a week, traveling to the various Love’s locations and spent a few hours at each restaurant entertaining diners.
As a side note, the only reason I’ve had a beard since I was 19-years-old is so I could look older while performing magic in the bar area of the restaurant.
Not having seen or spoken to John since 1976 when I was 22, I wondered where he might be – so, I began searching for him on Facebook. When I thought I might have found him, I sent a Facebook message to John on the day I retired, July 1, 2016.
Weeks passed and nothing came of it.
Then, in August, while we were staying in Lake Tahoe, John responded to the Facebook message.
I’d found him! We messaged back and forth and he said we should get together when he came through San Diego in a few months. I told him how I’d left San Diego in July and was now traveling full-time in our Airstream and was currently camping near him in Lake Tahoe.
We arranged lunch at a great sushi place and spent a long afternoon catching up. What a great time – talking about the 1970s, Love’s BBQ, the ladybug practical joke, our lives, loves, journeys – and we made plans to stay in touch from now on.
I tip my hat to John Bradley, a man I have admired since I met him in 1974, who gave me a chance at success by believing in me and hiring me for one of the most exciting jobs in my life when I was only 19 years old. His letter of recommendation in 1976, handed to my banker at age 21, was the reason San Diego Trust & Savings gave Carmen and me a 30-year mortgage on our first home. A 21-year-old entertainer given a 30-year home mortgage? Unheard of at the time.
John, Thank you!