The Duke, Rita And Me

In the “about me” section of my blog, one of my many employment positions in life was being a lifeguard one summer at a Marriott hotel just on the outskirts of Philadelphia.  My sister was senior management at the time and she got me the position, even though I had never taken and passed a lifesaving course. I was young and in great physical shape. I was getting a fabulous tan to go with my blonde hair and hazel eyes. My social life was never wanting. I had the extrodinary good fortune to meet John Wayne while he stayed at the Marriott for a few days promoting his latest movie. Each day I would have a lounge chair and a pitcher of ice water waiting whenever he arrived poolside and we chatted briefly each time.  The second day he invited the entire lifeguard staff to join him for dinner; I managed to finagle the chair directly across from him at the table, so I was part of all conversations. He was generous in both his time and his gratuities.

 Another Oscar winner I met through that job was Rita Moreno. It was a miserable, rainy, afternoon and I was earning my pay as a stand-in bellhop. A white stretch limo pulled up to the entrance, and she stepped out, dressed all in red, holding a white poodle in her arms; she accepted my offer to escort her to check-in. As someone else took her to her suite, I went back to the limo to get her luggage…all eleven pieces. When this woman travelled, she apparently did not leave much behind. After depositing the complete set of luggage in her bedroom, she gave me one of the smallest tips I ever received. but I got over this fact when it dawned on me thirty years later that being upset over circumstances beyond my control was not healthy.

That summer playing at the hotel was a hoot. Plus having opportunities to have dinner with The Duke and a life-long bitter-sweet memory one afternoon in Rita’s bedroom, guarenteed that being a lifeguard would be a very special experience.


About Alan G Billingsley

My career has been varied, including time as a newspaper deliverer, lifeguard, bubble gum maker, door-to-door detergent promoter, telephone book proofreader, short order cook, private employment agency counselor and owner, office and credit manger, infantryman, pots and pans salesman, Chinese restaurant cook, Chinese restaurant owner, public employment counselor, budget analyst, tax analyst, grant administrator, radio announcer, radio and television show host, disk jockey, automobile valet, child advocate, and now retiree. I've seldom been bored.
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