How I Met My Hero James Garner
A few years ago Hollywood and the golfing world lost one of it’s biggest supporters and stars, and my hero, James Garner, aka Maverick. He was a great actor, a rabidly avid golfer, and by all accounts a genuinely nice guy. He was more than all that to me because he gave me one of, if not the most, cherished memories of my life.
It happened when I was 3 or 4 yrs old so it would have been 1959 or 60 when Garner was riding high on the success of his TV show Maverick. I was probably the biggest fan in the entire world. So much so that I wouldn’t leave the house without my cowboy boots on (no real cowboy would be caught dead without his boots). Maverick was my hero. As it happened he was going to be playing in a celebrity exhibition golf tournament in Kansas City where I’m from. My Mom and Dad being avid golfers themselves got 4 tickets for the event. So it was to be Mom, Dad, my older sister Judy and myself. You might think it strange to take a 4 yr old to a golf tournament, but to me, it wasn’t golf, it was James Garner, “Maverick”, and my parents knew better than to try and go without me. My sister was drafted presumably to keep an eye on me. So off we went. At some point, Garner’s group was on the green preparing to putt and the crowd was dead silent. To my mind, it seemed that since no adults were talking it was the perfect time to talk to Maverick. I reasoned that since the adults weren’t saying anything I wouldn’t be interrupting anyone. I started to the green and my sister grabbed my shoulders, pulled me back, and wouldn’t let go. It occurs to me that even at 3 or 4 yrs old a kid can yell pretty loud. To hear my Mom tell it that scream cut through the gallery like a giant knife! And as I was about to find out I had attracted the attention of my hero Maverick who proceeded to stop play, walk off the green, step over the ropes and walk up to me and kneel down beside me and ask what all the commotion was about. And like any two cowboys would do, we discussed the situation. Reasonable enough to me. I explained about my horrible sister that wouldn’t turn me loose etc. Then he asked where my parents were. If you can picture in your mind James Garner kneeling next to this 4 yr old kid wearing shorts, a t-shirt, and cowboy boots, with one arm around my shoulders, I turned and pointed at Mom and Dad and the Kansas City Kansan newspaper photographer chose that exact moment to snap a picture.
The next day on the front page was James Garner kneeling, a putter in one hand, the other around the shoulder of a little squirt in shorts and cowboy boots pointing at something with a caption in bold type that read “They Went That-A-Way”. Perfect! Of course, it also had my name and my parents names in the caption as well. Not long after all of this my Mom and Dad got over their debilitating embarrassment. They realized that all of their friends thought it was great and that they weren’t being shunned by society. I can’t imagine a better childhood memory than that. So I’ll raise a shot of whiskey in honor of Maverick who is no doubt dealing cards at that great poker game in the sky, and say from one cowboy to another, “see you at the big roundup, pardner”.
About that picture: over the years the black and white glossy photo the newspaper sent us and the clipping from the paper was lost. My Mother looked and looked but it just couldn’t be found. Unfortunately, she passed away so the search is over unless you or someone you know just happens to be a Garner fan and has that image in a collection. If so, it would mean more than I can put into words if I could get just a copy of it. Send a message through the contact page and let me know.
And remember what another avid golfer, Dean Martin once said, “If you drink, don’t drive, don’t even putt.”
Do you have a funny or interesting celebrity story? If so tell us about it in the comments below.
Guest post by Russ Jackson