Saturday, June 30, 2007

Today's Trip Down Memory Lane

I met Stedman Graham once. Aside from being Oprah's boyfriend, I knew very little about him except that he had a PR firm or something. Once in awhile you'd hear rumors that he was dating someone else on the sly, but that stuff would fade away as quickly as it started.

Then a few years ago I was invited to some event for athletes and didn't know he was the honorary chairman of the evening. I was invited by a woman who has since become a former friend because she put the soup in superficial. She invited me because she claimed to be friends with Juanita Jordan and she wanted me to meet her. Even though the event was being held at one of Michael Jordan's restaurants, Juanita never showed. 

There were a bunch of ex-Olympians like Bruce Jenner and Willie Whyte hanging around, along with some second tier TV people, like Angela Lansbury's sidekick on her Miss Marple show.

In those days I always had my Nikon with me, so I snapped a bunch of pictures. Because I was using a fancy ass camera people thought I was shooting pictures professionally, so they would line up happily with very little encouragement, thinking the pictures would be in the paper. Instead they have been in my house all this time. I've got a bunch around here somewhere.

At one point, I spent a lot of time talking to an attractive woman who was with a relatively famous athlete turned actor, not O.J.  She was soon telling me that they had been married for over twenty years and he beat her up a lot. We talked about about why she didn't leave him, as well as a number of other battered women's issues.  In fact, we talked so long and confidentially that her badass spouse came over to see what the heck was so important that she wasn't by his side. Haaaaaa. Since his wife and I couldn't speak freely anymore, I asked him if I could take a picture of the two of them together. Those photos are also around here somewhere. But I wouldn't post then, so it doesn't matter.

Surprisingly, a high school principal I knew was also there. I had done a very successful fundraising ad for his school years before. He had singlehandedly kept the place open with his own hard work and a dogged dedication to his students, after the Archdiocese of Chicago shut the doors. I hadn't seen him in years. Several other people had written ads for the school before me, but none of them had actually gone to see the place because it was in a really tough Chicago neighborhood. So he never forgot me because I got out of my ivory tower and went there. I remember at the time how surprised I was to discover that I was the first person from the ad agency who spent time at the school instead of writing about it from a distance.

Under his leadership the school had come a long way from wondering where they were going to get money for their next paycheck. Oprah had just given them a million dollar endowment and Stedman Graham was on their board of directors.

Back when I was hanging out there a lot, they asked if I would coach a girls' volleyball team for them, but I had two little kids of my own at home and had to turn them down. So it was nice to hear about all their recent success.

Eventually Stedman arrived at the party and I was introduced. Holy crap is he tall -- at least 6'8". Two other things struck me about the guy -- he not only shook my hand, but he grasped it with both of his hands, looked me right in the eye and said how nice it was to meet me. His hands are HUGE by the way and he seemed like he was trying to be careful not to accidentally crush mine. The other thing that struck me was how soft spoken he was.

I was actually impressed with Stedman. I could see what Oprah liked. We didn't become best buddies or anything. He continued greeting other people and I didn't talk to him after that.  I think I was supposed to donate some money to whatever cause I was there for, but I didn't do that either.

Well now, aren't you glad I could answer the one question that's been burning a hole in your pocket all these years -- what is Stedman Graham like anyway? 

I'm here to help.

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