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Tales of a Central Coast Limo Driver

Back in the day, as you may have read elsewhere on this website, I drove limos for transportation companies based in Santa Barbara County. This piece started as a list I made after a doubting Thomas, whose universe exists mostly way out here in the country a half hour southeast of Paso,  tried to poo-poo my limo stories. I thought this was going to be a lot briefer, but an unexpected walk down memory lane unfurled.

Much of our work came from high end hotels like the Four Seasons/Biltmore, Bacara, San Ysidro Guest Ranch, El Encanto (as it was known then- now Belmond), Fess Parker Double Tree, Santa Ynez Inn, Fess Parker Wine Country Inn, Le Corque, Hadsten House, the Alisal Guest Ranch, and so on. There were also the Montecito and Hope Ranch folks, who live up long driveways, behind walls and coded gates by the beach or up in the foothills. The level of service I provide to my clients today owes much to honing my limo skills working out of these Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez Valley hotels, and high end enclaves.

I’ve driven a broad swath of well-to-do’s from all walks of life, and witnessed varying degrees of super cool, cool, not so cool, and PITA…pain-in-the… Regardless of temperament or vibe, I ensure all my clients receive the best service I’m able to provide- be they rich or poor.

Reunion in the Town CarIMG_7849

Some clients were quite memorable, like the numerous times I drove Fess and Marcy Parker. Fess was always very friendly and unassuming, as was Marcy. I had a unique family bond with them- my great uncle Bob was best man at their 1959 wedding in Santa Barbara. In 1968, when I was a freshman in high school, we moved to Santa Barbara. I remember meeting Fess, Marcy and their kids, Ely and Ashley on Hope Ranch Beach around that time. I randomly re-connected with the Parker’s over 35 years later thanks to my limo gig. These were very special drives in a black Lincoln town car from Santa Ynez Valley to Santa Barbara, usually meeting their kids and family for dinner. It was so much fun talking with the only people I’ve ever met who were close with that side of my family in the ‘50’s. Fess and Marcy knew quite well my great aunts Helen and Margaret and their spouses, my grandfather Gene, and Uncle Bob’s wife my Aunt Nina. Fess and Marcy would reminisce about all the fun they had sailing and boating in Newport Beach, CA in that era- way less crowded and much simpler days. Bob was a yacht broker at Newport Harbor Yacht Landing in those years. It was located close to the basin, on the east side of the Lido Channel, not far NW of John Wayne’s house at the point in Bay Shores. My Uncle Bob was a legendary West Coast Star sailor, sailed to Hawaii, and I looked up to him. He and Nina met the Parkers through his brokerage, and shared their love of boating and the water. This was while Fess’s stretch as Daniel Boone for Walt Disney was in its waning years. Both Fess and Marcy were quite capable sailors and yachts-people. They would always ask how my parents were doing.

I mentioned once to Marcy that I met the pianist, James Briggs, whom she hired to do the wedding music at Fess Parker Winery and Vineyard in Foxen Canyon a few years earlier. Marcy convinced James to relocate from Seattle for the winery gig. By the time I met James, it was in the context of getting on with my day doing limo work, usually when I was refueling on a Friday morning at Derf’s in Santa Barbara after Thursday night’s regular gig, playing harmonica with my band the Harlequins at the James Joyce. We would chat over coffee while breakfast was coming. Not long after that Marcy called James, and next thing I know, James, his girlfriend Madelena, myself and my fiancé are sitting around a table with Fess and Marcy, having dinner at Restaurant Marcella inside Fess’ Wine Country Inn on Sing Along Night. In its early years, Sing Along Night was a big deal when it came to the talent that regularly showed up, yet was still somewhat under the radar and attracted a small group of mostly valley inhabitants. Santa Ynez Valley at that time was brimming with many retired studio people, and a couple stars who still dug flexing their chops in the casual, fun atmosphere of the Inn on Thursday nights. Retired screen star Jane Russell was a frequent participant, as was famous arranger and band leader Marty Paich (his son is David Paich of Toto). There was a long list of super talented, ex-show biz people Marcy would recite that I can’t recall.

Over time I had gotten to know pianist James and Madelena, who played trombone and sang. I occasionally would accompany them on their casual happy hour gigs with my harps, so I was comfortable playing with them when Marcy insisted we come down, dine and play at Sing Along Night. After dinner, the event began with the grand piano in the lobby as centerpiece of the evening played by a pro, who also lived in the valley. It was quite interesting seeing a different side of Fess and Marcy, as they flawlessly delivered a couple tunes each, mostly from the Great American Songbook. Their grandson Christopher also took a turn at the microphone. Along with many others through the course of the evening, we did our thing- a couple tunes to polite applause. We played there two different times, enjoying the pre-event meal with Marcy and Fess. Marcy invited me on another occasion, and I ended up sitting next to Frank Sinatra’s niece, who also happened to run the theatrical facility at USC, of which Fess was an ardent supporter. Fess once mused how he sang for the crowd at Disneyland on opening day 1955, and his Daniel Boone series sidekick, longtime friend Buddy Ebsen danced. Fess’ most prized worldly possession was a muzzle-loading flint lock rifle given to him by Walt Disney.

Speaking of Parkers

I drove bearded wine critic and Wine Advocate publisher Robert Parker, and his wife back and forth to Santa Barbara Airport when he visited Santa Ynez Valley to rate wines at Fess Parker Winery, and some other stops. Both he and his wife were friendly and approachable.

Hey Man, Got Any Tunes in This Limo?

Actually, when I drove music industry peeps in a limo or town car, typically there wasn’t any music playing. Kenny Loggins, whom I drove frequently in black town cars, was working a lot back then. Once we stopped off, on the way back to S.B. from picking him up at LAX, at recording studio in the foothills north of Ventura, which was owned by the son of one of the members of Super Tramp. Kenny wanted to finish off some vocal tracks to his 2008 album How About Now, I got to watch him from behind the control room glass- pretty interesting.

Alan Parsons, who recorded The Beatles and also created the Alan Parson’s Project, was a client. He likes to play the latest stuff he’d been working on. Record producer Ted Templeman’s group, Harper’s Bizarre, created the album Feelin’ Groovy, which contained the iconic Paul Simon-penned soft rocker “59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)”, and made #13 on Billboard’s Hot 100 as a single in the late ‘60’s. Ted was quite forthcoming when I asked him about his career as producer and the artists he worked with: Doobie Brothers, Van Morrison, Little Feat, Montrose, John Cale, Van Halen, Nicolette Larson, Eric Clapton, Aerosmith, Lowell George, Bette Midler, and Robin Ford to name a few. But as a died-in-the-wool jazz guy, I found the sessions he did with Miles Davis and other jazz luminaries to be by far the most interesting. I also drove former Geffen Records and GRP president, Montecitan Ed Rosenblatt and his wife Bobbi to and from LAX a number of times- he was quite cautionary about the music business as a career, and its many pitfalls. Also talked about Ellen DeGeneres being his neighbor.

Drove the Canadian band Sum 41 when they were in town for Avril Lavigne’s wedding to their lead guitarist and vocalist Deryck Whibley. I drove the band around SB the day before the wedding in a van- somewhat zany 20-somethings. Was a fun job overall- filled with the random spontaneity of a pop-rock group bordering on Monkee-esque behavior. The band- not the primates. The previous day I shuttled the construction guys, who were setting up all the lighting, stages, tables, drapes, decorative surrounds for the porta-johns, etc.- you name it. This was at the Hahn Estate off of Sycamore Canyon Road on a dead end lane, close to Westmont College and Lotusland in Montecito. The Hahn Estate is ten beautiful acres as good as good living can get in the first world.

So I’m hanging out in the driveway close to the street with orders, “Nobody comes on this property without clearance from me. Make them wait and I’ll come out.” “Okay,” I affirmed and nodded obediently. It was quiet for a couple hours, but then the garbage flies started showing up. Somehow word had gotten out to the paparazzi that this was the wedding location for these Canadian rock stars du jour. All through that afternoon they kept coming up the street from the out-for-summer school parking lot just down the road, watching and peering in from across the street. They all wore blue jeans, tee shirts, and sneakers- with hair that looked like they just rolled out of bed. Once in a while someone would ask, “What’s going on in there.” To which I responded per my coaching, “They’re setting up for a business meeting,” and expressionlessly stare through them from 10 feet away, like some power dude I’d seen in a movie. I didn’t need them complicating my gig. Groups of two kept wandering up, watching from the other side of the street, and quietly whispering to each other as if planning their strategy to get “the shot” on Saturday, then they’d turn and walk back down the tall hedge and wall-lined road to the school.

The Saturday of the wedding, I was assigned to drive the bride’s mom. The party had several bungalows rented at San Ysidro Guest Ranch– the whole deal was big time, big showbiz money. I took the mom of the bride and some other ladies to get their hair done mid-Saturday morning, with a couple other incidental quick stops, then back to SYGR, where I stood by for a while. I’ve done tons of high end weddings, and this one was no different.

It came time to collect Avril’s mom, and per the norm, I waited and waited, and then got instructions to go wait in front of a different bungalow. If a wedding is just an hour behind schedule, I consider that doing pretty good. It’s not my place to herd on these kinds of jobs- I just drive. Finally, the bride’s family side of the wedding party appeared- it was clear Avril’s mom was divorced. I opened the doors of the limo, saying, “Good afternoon.” We cruised that fairly new, silver stretch Lincoln through the backroads of Montecito over the hill to the venue, and on into the driveway with wedding planner dudes asking and waiving like we had no clue. As I got out to open the rear doors, the air chop of two hovering helicopters could be heard overhead. “Oh, jeese,” I thought. Thankfully I was directed down to the wedding contactor parking lot back at Cold Spring Elementary School- a big sigh of relief, and an exhale of stress fell away when I saw a couple of my limo buddies chillin’ with some cold bottled water, snacking, chatting, and leaning on their rides.

The big buzz going around was security found a guy that morning, who was hiding in full camo gear with a camera up on the balcony that overlooked the wedding site- and ejected him of course, after the sheriffs had collected all his personal information and his camera. Apparently the guy gained access in the very wee early morning hours, and tried to become one with the surrounding features of the estate. A couple others were also rooted out and sent away. The helicopters continued to circle, easily noticeable from our vantage. After the conversation ebbed, and anything interesting or entertaining to say had faded on that hot summer day, we sat in our respective rigs, reading, talking on the phone or listening to the radio, maybe catching a nap on the J-seat in the back of the limo. It was the slow time at a big, fancy, expensive wedding.

In the distance we could hear a siren approaching, and then it went silent when turning onto the lane- a fire truck. It was followed by an ambulance up the lane. “Hmm,” we collectively thought, all turning our heads toward the estate, and listening like the cast of Meerkat Manor erectly standing on their burrow trying sense what might be going on. Just listening, wondering, looking towards the estate, and waiting, with the helicopters beating above. About five minutes later my cell phone rings, and it’s my boss telling me to get the limo up there immediately. That’s all he said. I pull in the driveway, and there’s a wedding planner bot escorting commoner-civilian looking folks towards the limo as the ambulance is pulling out. The guy with the radio says, “Follow the ambulance.” “Will do,” I said.

About three or four minutes into the trip, my boss calls and tells me we’re going to Cottage Hospital. The people in my limo are members of Deryck’s immediate family- his grandfather, nephew and his wife. Grandma’s in the ambulance. It was an above average hot summer day in Santa Barbara- back in those foothills it’s not so ocean-influenced when there’s no wind. With the Santa Ynez Mountains facing due south, it can get downright hot in the foothills on a still summer day. After finding out Deryck’s grandma was feeling pretty funky in that heat, and due to her age, prudence ruled, with medical help being summoned.

It’s a bit of a jaunt over to Cottage from the foothills of Montecito. As we entered SB proper, grandpa opened up with, “I think she’ll be alright. It was just the heat. I think she’ll be okay.” To which the nephew reassured, “I’m sure she’ll be okay, grandpa.” I sat back and enjoyed the ride into Santa Barbara and Cottage Hospital. It felt great to be so far away from the circus over in Montecito.

With the urgency of the moment chilling down some, we got into light hometown talk, “Where are you guys from?” Just small talk about their lives, which centered around the southeastern-most corner of Canada that dips into the Great Lakes, and specifically their turf which lined the midpoint of the northwest shore of Lake Erie. They were nice, friendly, normal people, who probably showed up- 1) to experience California for the first time in their lives, and 2) to taste the specter of fame and abundance this combined media vacuum sucked in. Kind of a once in a lifetime thing to be mulled over, and periodically talked about in years to come, again and again. I pulled right up in front of Emergency’s sliding doors and let them out.

After parking the limo on the street, I checked in with the boss on the phone, and was told to stand by. No problem! After a while I went up to the emergency room to check status, and found out everything was pronounced okay by the attending medical professionals. It was like I was in the eye of the storm, but not anywhere near it- just relaxing, calling my friends, and waiting. This went on for three and a half hours. It was great! Hung in the waiting room reading Car and Driver Magazine for a while- so glad I was far away from the chaos a few miles away.

I had been driving limos long enough that I had developed a sixth sense when to make my re-appearance to clients. And sure enough, I had been back in the waiting room for less than 10 minutes, and my clients said, “Let’s head back. She’s staying here tonight.” “Okay, I’ll pull the car up.” A peaceful, uneventful ride back to the estate ensued- it was dark by the time we arrived. I dropped my people where directed and parked with the other transportation guys in the back.

I arrived just in time to watch the groom carry the bride around the grand house of the estate on his back, trailed by a flock of video cameras and their lighting squad, catching every moment for public consumption in time to make the Sunday morning TV shows, Entertainment Tonight, nighttime news the next day, and so on. I leaned on the limo watching the circus nonsense carry on, and was so grateful I was sitting on the sidelines blissfully missing it all a few miles away. Happily, I was assigned to drive more immediate family old folks back to their respective accommodations, and then back to the barn for me- absolutely ecstatic I missed nearly all of it!

How About Santa Barbara Star Power? Well, Sorta…

Drove some show business cats or cusp types- star relatives. Shuttled Cheryl Ladd, during an up-spike in her then latent career, from her Santa Ynez home to LAX and back a couple times. Producer Tony Thomas, Danny Thomas’s son, and his wife were nice, real folks. Peter and Ann Douglas, actor Kirk Douglas’ son, and brother to Michael Douglas were nice- they just wanted me to get wherever “there” was as quickly as possible, which meant going as fast as I wanted in their 750 Li Beemer. One time I drove them down to dad Kirk’s and stepmom Anne’s house in Beverly Hills. The house was an unpretentious, revamped ‘40’s bungalow-esque cottage just three short blocks off main drag Santa Monica Boulevard, as I recall. It was quite funny leaning on the fender of the sedan, watching a couple movie-star-homes tour busses drive by and announce the location of Kirk’s home. The topper was when Kirk came out after about an hour to go to dinner, and a bus happened to be passing. He gave a great big gregarious wave, as if it was just another day for him, and he was happy to see them. He was very friendly and full of verve, especially for his age. I drove Kathy Ireland, her friend and their broods to a Christian rock concert at Cal Poly once. She has lots of friends who are just plain folk in SB, and seemed quite well grounded.

Ever Drive Big Business Peeps?

From the world of big business, most know of Andy Granitelli, the colorful CEO/spokesman for STP lubricants who was frequently linked to his Mr. Indy 500 moniker. Andy took Tuneup Masters auto care from $300,000 to a sell price of $60 million ten years later in 1986. He lived in one of Santa Barbara’s most amazing beachfront homes on Mira Mar Cove in Montecito, just down from popular surf spot Hammond’s. A commandeering, somewhat gruff captain of industry, Andy seemed a soft touch to his wife Dolly, and his brother and family when I drove them and their copious amounts of luggage in a van with rear seat removed to and from LAX for extended vacations. Andy was quite large, and always directed from the front passenger seat. So large in fact, I was amazed to see when I looked him up on Wikipedia that he made it to 90 years, passing away in 2013.

An international businessman I drove was Mansour Ojjeh– always met them at the private jet terminal at Santa Barbara Airport. He is a billionaire of French Saudi Arabian-born decent, whose father made many shrewd business decisions and shared the opportunities he created with Mansour, who further became successful. He formerly owned TAG Heuer Watches, and currently owns 25% of McLaren Racing’s Formula 1 Group under McLaren Technology. With roots and holdings in Santa Barbara, he was a frequent visitor from his home in Europe on his Bombardier 20 passenger jet. Along with his family, I also drove his racing team- quite a funny, spirited group of guys. Two of his favorite restaurants were Ca’ Dario Italian, and Arigato Sushi. I was standing way off to the side just down the block at Ca’ Dario one night; he came outside for a smoke, and heard me playing my harmonica. He came over and said, “John- wow, cool. Hey, would you mind just driving and when we’re about a mile away from the restaurant, give me some tunes to get ‘em goin’?” I played Walkin’ By Myself, the Paul Butterfield version, which probably wasn’t that great, but it was one I could whip out on command. Mr. Ojjeh liked the Eucalyptus Bungalow at San Ysidro Guest Ranch, also Oprah’s favorite before she poured $20 million into her current estate on East Valley Road in Montecito. When I’d arrive for the run, Mr. Ojjeh would swing the front door wide open and say, “Welcome, John. Help yourself to anything in the kitchen.” He was a laid back, easy going guy- friendly, chipper, and very real, as was his wife. The Ojjehs were an absolute pleasure always, and excellent tippers. Mr. Ojjeh’s way was to get out of the van, and before going into the restaurant he’d ask me if I’d had anything to eat, to which I’d reply, “I’m okay, Mr. Ojjeh.” He would turn away, then turn back and put a $100 bill in my hand, saying, “Go get yourself something to eat.” Kinda cool, and different. Maybe that’s the way they do it in the old country. They have many, many friends in Santa Barbara still. Mr. Ojjeh did not like limos. He preferred passenger vans.

Rounding out the business group is Geoff and Allison Rusack. Allison’s maiden name is Wrigley- I’m sure you’ve caught on quickly here. She, being the great granddaughter of William Wrigley of chewing gum fame, has enjoyed the view from the one-percenter billionaire pinnacle her entire life. A nice enough couple several upward rungs removed from my station in life, they own Rusack Vineyards in Ballard Canyon, enjoy carte blanche the wide open spaces of Catalina Island, and during the time I drove them lived in one of Hope Ranch’s classic early Spanish style homes. To their credit, they’ve done an excellent job as curators of local and Catalina Native American and cowboy lore.

Eco-Warrior Goes in Style in a Black Lincoln Sedan

Jean-Michel Cousteau is an environmentalist, whose father was Jaques Cousteau, a developer and promoter of underwater breathing and diving apparatus, presenter of ocean exploration documentaries filmed aboard the research ship Calypso, and one of the first to campaign for ocean-related and waterborne environmental issues through his non-profit Cousteau Society. Jean-Michel lived on Campanil Hill, just south of Hope Ranch, with an awesome view of the Channel Islands. He followed in much the same vein as his dad, making water/eco documentaries through his non-profit Ocean Futures Society, producing high quality, eco content books, and promoting his cause worldwide, especially via PBS broadcasts. He was a really nice, interesting guy, who didn’t tell me nearly enough stories of his years on the Calypso with his dad and brothers. Our typical routine was for me to arrive at his place between 4:30 and 5:00 in the morning, drive to L.A. where we’d hit an uplink satellite studio in Cahuenga Pass off 101. He’d do a dozen or more interviews with local affiliates all over the U.S.- bam, bam, bam- then I’d drop him at LAX, where he’d begin his press-the-flesh, meet and greet campaign journey all over the U.S. and beyond.

Next Stop: Solvang…via CopenhagenClaudia-w-JZ-on-Her-Birthday

I guess I should throw in the Danish Ambassador to the U.S. at this point. He was on a goodwill visit to the most Danish town in America, Solvang, and I brought him to and from S.B. Airport. It was actually his second time enjoying the gushing hospitality of mostly wanna-be Danes. I thought, “Wow, this guy’s got a hell of a gig,” as he was always holding his tennis racket or kept it within arm’s reach. I ended up driving him in the Dodge Charger limo, complete with rear spoiler and cadet blue sparkle paint (shown in the photo)…the only option available that day…so much for pomp and circumstance in a black stretch. He was kinda sporty with that racket, so maybe the Charger was okay. On second thought, maybe the tennis racket was an unobtrusive self-defense accessory that made his portrayal of athleticism sexy? It would definitely deflect an egg off his blue blazer.

…And From the Limo Sports Desk…

Bill Bertka was a client several times. We shared mutual good friend- Alex, who was the bar manager at Harry’s Plaza in those years. Bill was an old time SB guy, who just happened to have a tenured decades- long assistant coaching job with the L.A. Lakers. He was always upbeat, friendly and just a great guy to be around. I drove Bill, his wife Solveig, and their daughter’s family to dinner a few times. On a couple occasions I was invited to freely browse through the incredible collection of Lakers memorabilia hanging on the walls of their house, also on Campanil Hill but on the backside facing the Santa Ynez Mountains and city of Santa Barbara. The house, large as it was, had a hard time holding all Bill’s Laker photos and commemorative plaques- of a pro-basketball coaching life well-lived- including Bill’s 10 NBA Championship rings! Bill is 88, and still works for the Lakers. Coaching runs in the family- his son-in-law Bill Pintard has coached the Santa Barbara Foresters’- baseball team for over 20 years, and led them to six championships. His other son-in-law recently joined Lakers head coach Byron Scott as assistant coach. I’ll never forget Bill’s amused laugh when I told him I remembered watching him do “Sports with Bertka” on KEYT-Santa Barbara as a high school kid on Saturday afternoons- some 35 years before.

Actually, my funniest Bertka story is about Bill’s wife, Solveig. I showed up for a jury summons in Santa Barbara on a very warm summer day with about 50 or 60 other people, who generally felt they could be putting that time to much better use. I was collected with a bunch of strangers in one room, and then marched across the street to Judge Ochoa’s courtroom inside SB’s historic Moorish motif’d courthouse, complete with Mex-style rough-hewn wood and leather hacienda chairs- so hated by the citizenry for the discomfort they cause while sitting for long periods. The Judge explained the parameters of the case to us: a transient started an arson fire that was caught and extinguished before it caused too much damage, and he was caught too.

The afternoon droned on, with people’s names being called, and the same questions over and over while they sat in the witness stand. I was pretty bored- and didn’t catch the name of the sweet, unassuming little lady, who had sat down on the stand, due to the Judge’s contorted mis-pronunciation. She settled, and readied herself to answer Judge Ochoa’s questions. There was the typical battery of preliminary questions: Are you capable of coming to an unbiased decision about the innocence or guilt of this party based on the evidence presented?…stuff like that. I’m thinking to myself, “She looks so familiar.” The questions and answers continued. After a brief pause Judge Ochoa asked, “Do you know anyone who’s ever been arrested?”, to which she replied in her soft European accent, “Yes.”

As the Judge studied this small-statured, well dressed early-70’s gal, his look of intrigue could not be stifled, “Who?” “Kobe Bryant.” Three minutes of absolute pandemonium broke out in an uproarious tidal wave of laughter. It was so amazingly funny, the Judge just let it flow- the best moment of levity in a formal setting I’ve ever experienced. Only two people weren’t laughing- the defendant and his lawyer, yet the look of sublime amusement on her face was hard to miss. The Judge had a hard time believing what he’d just heard, and pressed her with a couple more questions about the Lakers and Koby Bryant. The guffaws kept coming, a bit more subdued now, but pretty much unstoppable in this unexpected juxtaposition of odd associations at first view. By this time I was shaking my head laughing, having realized she was Bill Bertka’s wife. Finally, the Judge says, “Who are you married to?” And Solveig replied, “Bill Bertka,” which tore open another round of laughter. I still think about it to this day, and can’t help but laugh. On a later drive I did for the Bertka’s, I asked Solveig if she was retained for the jury, and she was. Her sense of civic pride was evident when she told me she was there for the whole case, and the defendant’s lawyer managed to wiggle her client into a new trial. We shared a laugh about what went on in the courtroom that afternoon, and she always remembered my name after that.

Reaching Amazing Heights of Everest- Then Diggin’ the Limo Lifestyle

apa-sherpaMy last story isn’t really much of a story, other than I was so amazed and awed by my client’s achievements, I just had to color outside the lines of what is considered standard limo driver etiquette. It was an easy job- pick up the clients at their hotel, and shuttle husband and wife to the Montecito Inn, where he spoke to a group of investors, or an industry group- I don’t recall. And then drop them at the airport. But what sets this job apart from all the others is that I did something which is very much a big no-no in the limo biz, the only time I’ve ever done it in my entire driving career- and so glad I did. My clients were quiet, and exuded an innocent, serene, humble sweetness. The man i was driving was Apa Sherpa, the only person in the world at that time who had climbed Mount Everest 17 times. He is truly a legend among those who fancies any type of mountain climbing. Apa Sherpa is now retired, and still holds the record of 21 Everest summits! I couldn’t resist and asked, feigning a little embarrassment, if I could please have my picture taken with them. To my great joy, they cheerfully obliged. You can’t help but notice the stature of these people- you don’t need to be a giant to climb a giant mountain. I treasure this photo, as it shows how great the human body and spirit are, and what they can achieve. Skill and determination, and a little luck will win the day. Make your own luck by working hard. Twenty one successful ascents of Mount Everest is no small feat, and I continue to take inspiration from that today and everyday.

So that’s my story of notable peeps- that I can remember anyway. I don’t think any of these folks would object to my recount of our shared experiences- this is definitely not a kiss-and-tell tabloid piece. Of course my lips are forever sealed- what happens in my sedan, limo or SUV stays there. I leave you with this: everyone who rides with me always receives Hollywood royalty treatment. Giving my best is what makes the job worth doing. Hope to see you soon. Ciao