I've often been asked, when speaking of my flying career, if I ever had celebrities on my flights. I've had many. One in particular stands out in my memory. Vincent Price!
I was flying a Convair 580 Turbo-prop from Traverse City, Michigan to Detroit. During the summer Traverse City was host to "Summer Stock"- so often would carry actors back and forth from there.
This one particular evening my airplane that held up to 48 people had a little more than a dozen. We had just finished boarding these passengers in Traverse City when a very tall, slender, dark haired gentleman came up the stairs.
It was his voice that first gave him away. Before I clearly saw his face I heard him say "Good evening, young lady! And what a beautiful evening it is!" It was NOT said in a dramatic way, just a very pleasant greeting. The voice was deep, mellow, and familiar!
Once he got to the top of the stairs, two things hit me at once. First, how tall he was. I'm 5ft 9inches in heels. I barely came up to his shoulder! The second thing I noticed was how much more attractive he was in real life! Now, bare with me here, least you think I had an "fan's crush" going on.
|Vincent Price in "The Pit And The Pendulum"|
Most of the movies I had seen this man in were horror movies- NOT my favorite. Some people love them, but I usually would watch these when I was with someone who enjoyed that sort of thing. So- on he walks, minus the vampire makeup, the sinister cape and hat, and whatever other wardrobe prop I usually saw him in. He looked quite normal, and not the least foreboding.
When I looked up into his eyes, I saw dark, sparkling, KIND eyes. How can eyes be kind? I've seen eyes that looked intense and angry. His eyes "smiled", as if to say how happy he was to be in this place. It's a poor description, perhaps. But many of you know how the eyes can speak volumes.
As he walked through the aircraft, bent a bit because of his height, people greeted him- surprised people who were obviously his fans. He quickly shook hands and said he would come talk with them after take-off.
And that's just what he did! Once the seat belt sign went off, he took some photos from his brief case, walked forward to where the other passengers were, sat on an arm rest, and started the conversation by saying "So folks! Where are you from?"
After I did my service, Mr. Price insisted I sit down. I went back to the galley, not wanting to intrude on his time with who were obviously his fans.
He came back to the last row of seats, near the galley, and started asking me about myself. I also asked questions. Of course, since I loved the theatre and acting, we got on that subject. He asked if I enjoyed his movies. When I confessed I didn't care for "scary" themes that much- and found him quite the frightening figure in his films he laughed! I didn't want to offend him. And offended he was not. What he LOVED to do was Shakespeare, he said. The movies paid the bills. And if he scared the hell out of me, he must have done a good job.
His laughter was kind, he was kind. Graciously he talked with all the passengers who wanted to talk. He showed pictures of his wife, his life, and other things besides himself. When we landed in Detroit, no one wanted to deplane! They just sort of stood there, mingling and laughing with this wonderful man. Finally the agent climbed the stairs to see what the hold up was.
The reaction on the agent's face when he saw Vincent Price walking toward him was priceless. Just like me, the agent stood with his mouth open in a "OH!", slightly shocked, and mumbled a sort of greeting. The agent backed down the stairs, a smile slowly crossing his face. Ah! Recognition!
Mr. Vincent Price stopped at the top of the stairs, turned, shook my hand (one of the few men who's hands made mine look small), and told me I was beautiful, inside and out, and to please stay that way! For a brief moment, he made me a believer!
Sticking his head inside the cockpit, he greeted the pilots. Since we were also deplaning, he walked off the plane with the crew, chatting with the pilots as if he had known them for years.
Once inside the airport he shook the pilots hands and thanked them for a safe and uneventful flight. With that he walked down the concourse. We just stood there, watching him leave.
The Captain said it best. He said "There goes a genuine human being- a real gentleman!"
In life's adventures you encounter many people. Some etch themselves in your memory, forever held in those moments of laughter and happy exchange. Mr. Vincent Price, a prince of a man, was such a person.