There are moments frozen in time for all of us. This moment occurred when I was asked to be a bodyguard for Louis B. Mayer of Metro Goldwyn Mayer. He was visiting Chicago to meet Major General Julius Klein in 1952 for one day. In those years most people traveled by train and when in Chicago stopped at the Northwestern Train Station.
I had been working for General Klein while I was attending college. In those years I was one of the few male stenographers and typists. (Today my great grandson can type and he is only seven) Gen. Klein called me quite often on Sunday to take dictation, type and run errands. On this particular Sunday he told me he was going to meet Louis B. Mayer and spend an afternoon together. He asked if I would like be a bodyguard for the day. He further explained that another member of staff, older then I was, would be joining us. His name was Arthur P. and he was a big man.
Believe it or not I was excited and day dreamed about going to Hollywood as soon as I met Louis B. Mayer. Ok we can dream can't we? Sunday came. Arthur P and I were to meet at the train station around 10am if my memory is correct on the time. As they said in the Army I was Gung Ho to do my duty. So there we were Arthur P and I and my first question to the big fellow, "what do we do if something happens?" and Arthur P. with a serious face looks down at me and said "are you crazy, turn around and run the other way!"
What bodyguards we were. The moment arrived when the train pulled into the station and several minutes later out came Louis B. Mayer, one of the first Hollywood Moguls. Gen. Klein and he hugged and exchanged words of greeting, got into a limo and off they went to Mike Fritzel's restaurant. At that time Fritzel's, located on the corner of State & Lake was the place for the movers and shakers to be. Arthur P. had his car and off we went following the General and Mayer.
Now for me that was the first time I was in a "fancy" restaurant. Gen. Klein had reserved his usual table and escorted L.B. to it. Now where did Arthur and I sit? You guessed it. In the back of this beautiful restaurant with a table cloth, water already poured and silverware placed in the proper order. (You have to be older to remember a properly set table in a restaurant) I also remember Irving Kupcinet, columnist for the Chicago Sun Time sitting at a table with a house telephone set on it.
Back to my bodyguard duties. The waiter presented us with the menu so we could order. The menu was written in some other language as I didn't understand the different courses. Arthur P. took away my menu and said he would order. "Do you like prime rib?" he asked me. "What is it?" I responded and he said "that's what you're eating today" and called to the waiter. Using his hand to demonstrate to the waiter he said "we want two orders of prime rib only, no side dishes and make it fill the plate and thick". Several minutes later he returned with two steaming hot plates of prime rib. Wow. There was enough food on that plate to feed a family of four. So I ate my first bite of prime rib and found it to be so delicious I ate the whole thing. And, you guessed it, I got sick to my stomach! (I wasn't used to eating like that but it was worth it.)
Arthur then pointed to me and said "We have to go, General Klein & Mayer are leaving." Well, back to Dearborn St. Station. The two men hugged again and off L.B. went and General Klein hopped into his limo and left.
So to summarize my first job as a bodyguard: It was recommended to run the other way if something occurred, I had my first taste of society and prime rib and I enjoyed them both. Never met Louis B. Mayer so my vision of being discovered was shattered and oh yes never even said hello to my mentor the General. I asked Art "what happened?" He replied "you had a good time today, so go home and see you tomorrow." And thus, that was the end of my bodyguard career.
Memories light the corner of my mind and I hope yours too.
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