BITS and PIECES # 54

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November 1, 2014 by palamow

BITS and PIECES # 54

Hello again from Luquillo,

I’m still hard at work ‘polishing’ the final installment of ‘Paranormal Intermezzo’ and don’t expect to finish it for a week or so…

For those of you who are breathlessly anticipating the exciting denouement of this tale (I’m certain there’s at least one, possibly even two of you out there) I apologize profusely for my sluggishness…

In the meantime, I offer the following short tale for your amusement…

Please stay tuned…

A FEW DEGREES LESS THAN SIX

The concept of ‘Six Degrees of Separation, originally postulated by Frigyes Karinthy in 1929 and popularized in the 1994 trivia game ‘Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon’ is intriguing; for example, I’ve never met actor Sally Field, and probably never will — yet, in a way, I feel that I know her…

Let me explain…

Karinthy’s theory was that everyone is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world – simply stated, a chain of “a friend of a friend” statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps – for example, in 1965, my father was introduced to Prince Philp of England – ergo, I am but three degrees away from Queen Elizabeth (I waved at her once when she was visiting Boston, but, I suppose that doesn’t count in this context – besides, she never calls, never writes)…

But, I digress…

Jock Mahoney was an accomplished film and television actor and a legendary Hollywood stuntman. Hundreds of his daring and dangerous stunts were recorded on-screen. He was also actor Sally Field’s stepfather…

I first met Mr. Mahoney in 1948 while riding with a movie crew in a studio bus that would take us to the oaken woodlands of Corrigan Movie Ranch in nearby Simi Valley. I was thirteen years of age and on summer vacation, about to enter high school. I was on the bus because my father, who was playing the role of the friar in Columbia Picture’s film ‘The Prince of Thieves’ had invited me to come along for the day and watch the filming…

Mr. Mahoney had been engaged as the ‘stunt-double’ for actor Jon Hall who was playing the role of Robin Hood in the film…

We had been on the road for a while, when dad, who had been sitting next to me, got up and walked forward to chat with fellow British actor Syd Saylor, who was playing Will Scarlet in the film. He had just left when Mr. Mahoney, walked down the aisle and stopped to ask me how things were going. When I hesitantly replied “OK sir”, he plopped himself into the now vacant seat next to me. “I’m Jocko”, he said, offering his hand, “What do they call you?” “Well, my name is Alan, but my parents call me Butch” I replied reticently. “Butch it is then” he responded, “And what brings you to this happy band of rogues and ladies?”

I explained that my dad was the actor playing the friar and he had invited me along for the day. “I’ve worked on a few films with your dad – he’s one of the good ones”, Jocko offered, and continued “Do you want to become an actor like your dad when you’re grown up?” “Oh no”, I replied quickly, “I’d like to become a military aviator”. Mr. Mahoney smiled broadly and said “A worthwhile ambition – I was a Marine Corps pilot during the last war”. I spent the rest of the trip listening avidly as he recounted his many wartime flying exploits…

That afternoon I watched as my new friend Jocko swung from a tree to un-horse a knight in armor and performed other daredevil stunts. Too soon the day’s shooting was over and we were back on the bus, headed to Hollywood. As dad and I left the bus, I stopped to shake Jocko’s hand and thank him for sharing stories of his wartime experiences with me…

In 1963, I crossed paths with Jocko once again – in the Philippine Islands…

By then, I was an engineer with the System Development Corporation, a RAND spin-off, temporarily living in Manila while working on a project for the Air Force. I was staying at my friend John Shipe’s rented ‘mansion’ in the posh suburb of Forbes Park. John, an Air Force Captain, was the assistant air attaché at the U.S. Embassy…
He had heard through the embassy ‘grapevine’ that a new night club – the ‘Velvet Swing’, on Manila’s fashionable A. Mabini street, had a floor show that shouldn’t be missed, so we decided to take it in on a Saturday night. Around nine o’clock, we cruised down A. Mabini Street in John’s Cadillac convertible, and found a parking spot across from the nightclub. The club was packed with patrons, and all the tables seemed to be taken, so we headed for the bar. We were avidly taking in the club’s main attraction, a rather scantily clad young lady soaring over our heads in (you guessed it), a red velvet swing, when I noticed a familiar face a few stools away – it was Jocko Mahoney, in deep conversation with actor George Montgomery…

I waited until their conversation ended and Mr. Montgomery had moved away, and then walked over, tapped Jocko on the shoulder and said “I’m quite sure you won’t remember me, but I met you a long time ago when we rode together on a bus”. Without blinking an eye, he replied “Why hello, you’re Butch, Mowbray, right? – so, tell me, did you end up in military aviation like we discussed, or did you find some other outlet for your talents?”

I was astonished that he would remember, after all it had been fifteen years since we first met. I told him that I had graduated college and was presently working as a systems engineer, but I flew on weekends with the Hawaii Air National Guard while living in Honolulu. “Sounds as if you’ve got it together” he said, “How’s your dad?” I replied that he was doing well the last time I saw him a few weeks before…

I introduced Jocko to my friend John and we watched the floor show, and then left together, planning to stop at the Army-Navy club for a nightcap before calling it a night…

It was around eleven o’clock when we emerged from the Velvet Swing – as we were about to cross the street we were jumped by thugs who tried to force us into a taxi – Jocko reacted instantly, disarming one thug who was brandishing a pistol, while kicking his accomplice into the gutter. Three other thugs had surrounded us at knifepoint when a Philippine Constabulary squad car squealed to a stop and three PCs jumped out, guns drawn and put a stop to the festivities…

John flashed his diplomatic immunity documents and the PCs advised us to leave immediately – we were quick to comply, jumping into the Caddy and heading for the Army-Navy Club…

I never saw Jocko again after that night, but even now, I recall his quick reaction to our dilemma – he wasn’t merely an actor/stuntman – he was tough and resourceful – the real deal!

So Jocko is my claim to a degree or so of separation from Sally Field…

But wait, now that I think about it, I can add (or is that subtract?) yet another ‘Degree of Separation’ between Ms. Field and me – in 1969, my father guest starred as Father Duffy on ‘The Flying Nun’ a popular TV show – starring (you guessed it) Sally Field…

I suspect that gives me definite ‘Degree of Separation’ bragging rights, at least as regards Ms. Field…

Copyright 2014 – Alan Mowbray Jr.

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