Article from the 6/17/2016 Catalina Islander

Since I became "Catalina's Official Greeter", March 10, 2014, when the Chamber Of Commerce assigned me to greet the cruise ships and cross channel carriers, I have answered 48,035 questions. These are some of the most recent questions:
"Is the glass bottom boat that way?" (pointing to the mountains).
"How old do you have to be to come to Catalina?"
"Do the hotels rent hourly?"
"May I have the telephone number to rent a condom for the weekend?"
"Do you have public restrooms on Catalina?"
When I and my company, Catalina Island Odyssey, coordinated the celebration of the Casino's 50th Anniversary celebration, I realized then that the one regret that I had was NOT attending the Grand Opening on May 29, 1929. I vowed that I would not miss another spectacular event and that has now come by way of the MUCH anticipated and biggest "happening" since the building of the Casino and that is the official opening of the "Ada Blanche Wrigley Schreiner Building" of the "Catalina Island Museum", Saturday, June 18!!!  I am a member so will have the privilege of having a first sneak peek of this remarkable building on Friday, June 17, 10a.m-5p.m.  What a GREAT reason to become a member.  Come and join me so you won't REGRET missing this historic event!
For the following who thought I would reach my goal of answering 50,000 questions in May (I wish I had also):
Dr. Laurette DeMandel-Schaller, May 1
Lori Allen, May 10
Mitch Hammond, May 11
Gary Maeder, May 17
Lynn Wilkins, May 24 (my 69th birthday. Was hoping for this date myself!)
KC and Randy Boelsems, May 26
"I AM THE GREATEST":  A HUMBLE TRIBUTE (January 17, 1942-June 3, 2016)
Although I am not sure if he ever came to Catalina (I bet he did), I hope no one finds it inappropriate for me to tell of my evening with him.
When my brother, Bill, died on January 21, 1974, my father suffered a major stroke and heart attack in May. I then took care of him for the remainder of his life until March, 1981.  In 1979, after being confined to his home for all of these years, he was becoming VERY ANXIOUS to do some major cruising (he had been watching "Love Boat"), so, within less than a year, I took him on a 54 day cruise to the South Pacific, 28 day to the Caribbean, and 14 day to Alaska on the REAL "Love Boat", "Pacific Princes". On the last two cruises, I had the great privilege of serendipidiously running into a very special couple, Al and Edna Patton.  Turned out that he was one of the founders of the "Harlem Globe Trotters", and an aid to Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors,  Kenneth Hahn.  They had never had any children and was most impressed with how I was able to get Dad on these cruises.  They asked if they could "adopt" me.  As I spent many lonesome hours when Dad would sleep in his cabin, I agreed and we had many great times sharing each others' company. 
In 1980, I received an invitation to attend Al's 70th birthday celebration in an upscale part of Los Angeles.  I, of course, accepted, as I hadn't seen them for over a year.  When I drove up to the house, I had my van chauffer parked and when I got to the door, I was met by security who gave me a major check.  I had NEVER been to a party where I was patted down BEFORE I entered. Usually as I LEFT (didn't steal anything). I realized I was in for a most INTERESTING evening!  I entered the living room, which was empty, and took a peek into the den.  Almost EVERY black athlete that I had ever heard about had congregated there and I was soon made aware that I was the ONLY "whitey" there!  As I was beginning to feel a bit awkward, as I didn't know ANYONE, except Al and Edna, and I didn't see them, I adjourned back to the living room and started thumbing through "Jet" and "Ebony" magazines.  A few minutes later, Al came in and seemed upset that I was alone and away from the party. He grabbed me by the arm, headed into the den,  where he wanted me to "meet someone 'SPECIAL'!"  As we walked toward the center of the room, I noticed that there was a LARGE crowd gathering and Al, pulling me through, asked everyone to let us get in the center. There, in a very large and overstuffed chair sat the most handsome man I had ever seen (he was 38 years old).  He stood up and as he shook my hand (his went from my hand half way up toward my elbow), Al said, "Champ, I want you to meet my favorite 'honkey', Chuck Liddell!"  YES, IT AS MUHAMMED ALI and I was almost ready to pass out with that most "remarkable" introduction!  Just then Edna brought the phone to Al and said, "It's the Mayor and he said that he won't be able to come to your party."  Grabbing the receiver, he yelled into the phone, "NIGGER, GET YOUR ASS OVER HERE!!!!!" I had been talking to the "Champ" and I almost passed out again on hearing ths!  "Is THAT Mayor Bradley that Al is TALKING to!?!"  "Oh, yes.  Tom and Al go back a long way when they were on the track team together at the University of Illinois. They are GREAT friends!"  I CERTAINLY HOPE SO  WITH THAT LANGUAGE!!  I realized then and there that I was slowly becoming part of a VERY ELITE group of people and, believe me, "I wasn't in Kansas anymore."  We were called to a buffet dinner and then we took our food to the living room where rows of chairs were lined up facing a piano which was going to be the center of our entertainment.  
Ali was seated in the middle of the front row, I was at his immediate right, and then his wife and mother-in-law sat next to me. Then when the entertainment proceeded,  I sat just feet away from a stream of almost EVERY female "Motown" female groups I had ever heard of!!!!  Each time during the performances, Ali would leap up and start playing with them on the piano. Frankly, he wasn't all that good, but the ladies LOVED to be performing with him.  I asked his wife, who was knitting the whole time, "Do you mind your husband flirting with all of these ladies?"  She looked up, "He ALWAYS goes home with me and that is all that matters."  
When the program was over,  Ali turned to me.  "You know, Chuck, I HATE being such a BIG MOUTH, but when I got into boxing, it was DEAD and I brought it back!"  He was wearing a tuxedo and he was now bending over to tie his paten leather shoes.  For some UNEXPLAINABLE reason, I thought that I would see just how "fake" his persona was!  "You know, Champ, this only goes to prove that you can't believe everything you hear."  "What to you mean, Chuck!?!"  "Howard Cossell says that you are SO DUMB that you can't even tie your own shoe laces!"  Ali turned around quickly, putting his lips together VERY TIGHT, as if to say, "I'M GOING TO TAKE YOU OUT NOW!!!"
EVERYTHING SEEMED TO STOP!  My brain kicked in with a conversation to my mouth!  "Look around here, you IDIOT!  Every Black city councilman, county board, athlete, and judge in the world are here and you have just verbally insulted the "Heavyweight Boxing Champion Of The World", who is only inches away from you!!!!!  NOBODY KNOWS YOU ARE AT THIS PARTY.  You are going to be MURDERED, your body buried and there will be NO WITNESSES!!!"  Time then started up again as I went face to face, eye to eye, with "THE CHAMP"!  I was waiting for the death blow, when he sat straight up laughing.  "I LIKE YOU, CHUCK. YOU MAKE ME LAUGH! I WANT YOU TO COME HOME WITH ME TONIGHT!!"  Unfortunately, I didn't, as I wanted to help out after the party by helping to clean up.  I always wondered what it would have been like to "hang out" with Ali.
For over the next 10 or so years, Al, Edna, and I spent a lot of time together, primarily me coming into Los Angeles and having lunch or dinner with them.  Al let me drive his  Rolls, wherever we went.  He hinted that he was going to give it to me someday, but never did, THANK GOODNESS!  Wherever we went, I was introduced as their "son"! With Dad gone, Al made me feel like I had a father again and I know that he was proud to call me that.
For whatever reason, we slowly moved further and further away from each other.  I had moved back to the Island.  In 2003, I turned on the morning news to get the weather report, and the headline was that the murder of Al and Edna Patton had been found "guilty"!!!  FIRST I HAD HEARD!!!  They were MURDERED in their home in 2000, over a burglary. He was 90 and she was 85. 
When Ali died on June 3, I had a strange feeling. In 1960, when a young Cassius Clay was boxing in the Rome Olympics, his family wasn't able to attend so this 18 year old Black boy, away from his home for the first time, was now ALONE.  Somehow, Al and Edna, who were officiating with"Track and Field", found out about Cassius and "adopted" him at the events, which is why he and Ali remained such GREAT more than friends.  My only brother and father had died and now Al had taken over the role of my Dad and finding out that he had also adopted Ali, I guess that made us brothers.  I lost my brother first brother, Bill, on January 21,1974 and my second brother, Ali, on June 3, 2016.  I can't wait for the heavenly "reunion" when both of my fathers and both of my brothers meet and I will be there to introduce them!