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My Brush with Greatness

When I was a mere lad of 19, on and off, until I was 23, I was a waiter at a
vegetarian restaurant in St. Louis called the Sunshine Inn. I met lots of people,
including, as Mel Brooks used to say when playing the 2000-Year-Old Man,
the great, the near-great, the not-so-great, and the losers.

St. Louis got, and still gets, summer stock musicals and plays at the Muni in Forest Park.
As someone who's familiar with the town, I'm sure you recognize those landmarks,
still in existence today--but sadly, not the restaurant.

I remember seeing Arne Johnson of "Laugh-In" fame, the German soldier in the palm trees
famous for saying "Very interesting...but stupid", in the other waiter's section. I didn't wait
on him, but he did flag me down (sort of an impolite but efficient way to get service) for a
refill of water across the entire floor. He said he was afraid he would be late for rehearsal.

I was lucky enough to meet and shake the hand of the late great union organizer and
immigrant activist Cesar Chavez. He was humble, he smiled and greeted me back,
and seemed very grateful to have himself AND his cause recognized as well as appreciated
here in the Midwest, far from the California lettuce fields. Talk about greatness...

I had a similar encounter with William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the sex scientists,
whose offices were right down the street from the restaurant. They were gracious and polite.
I am surprised I never saw them more than once, they were so close.


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