Sunday, June 5, 2016
In Memorium (My Brush with Greatness)
(The world lost a very special individual yesterday whose life cast a long shadow in the world of sports, politics, human kindness and culture. He will be missed.)
Back before marriage and children, when my life revolved around photographing for clients, looking for work and trying to enjoy singledom in New York City, I got hired to cover a press event where Mohammad Ali was to introduce a commemorative coin in his likeness at the Waldorf Astoria. The proceeds from the coin's sales were going to a fund he had created to help end world hunger. I headed up to the hotel and met my friend David who had also been hired to create the promotional materials for the launch. I wasn't sure what to expect except that it would be well attended and I would get the chance to photograph a world famous athlete whose position as a pacifist I had long admired.
Stepping into the elevator I was aware of footsteps behind me and riding in the same car was Ali himself. He had a few people in his entourage- at this point in his life (the mid 80's) he was in good health and immediately started chatting up his companions. He was imposing in size but his manner belied a caring soul and I knew I was in the presence of greatness.
Later, signing autographs I stationed myself at a much closer spot. Ali gestured to me and my friend.
"Is this your boyfriend?" as he pointed to David. Bearing a mischievous smile he said "Well, I am going to kiss you and make him jealous!" He stood up, put his arms around me and gave me a polite kiss on the cheek. Releasing me as quickly as he had embraced me, he sat down, gave me a wink and went back to the business of meeting his fans.
And I floated away on some kind of celestial cloud. For days I felt a magic from having been near him and the delightful aura of his charm. I have met some notable folks since then, but as yet, none can compare to how special, in those few brief moments, he made me feel.
Labels: Mohammad Ali