It’s hard to talk to a Hollywood star when you don’t realize he was one of your heroes


Throughout my career I have interviewed or at least spoken to several people who have been in the national spotlight. Marquette’s basketball coach Al McGuire; former Bulls stars Michael Jordan, Jerry Sloan, Norm Van Lier and Artis Gilmore; actress Michael Learned of “The Waltons”; presidential candidate Bob Dole; comedian Jim Belushi; rock star and Steppenwolf frontman John Kay; Sun Records owner Sam Phillips (he of Elvis Presley fame); Cubs features Randy Hundley and Billy Williams; and White Sox star Tim “Rock” Raines. There are probably others, but the thing is, you meet some interesting people when you’re a journalist.

But imagine talking to a Hollywood star and not realizing he was actually your childhood hero. It’s frustrating to realize this years later.

And I’ve been frustrated before. After all, I had the opportunity to visit another hero, Larry Fine of the Three Stooges, in 1974 while he was at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center near Hollywood. My friend’s grandmother worked at the hospital and arranged our visit.

We pulled into the hospital parking lot and chickened out, under the guise of not wanting to see one of our beloved Stooges in bad shape. Larry died in January 1975, and Moe Howard of the Stooges wrote in his book that Larry was disappointed that fans never came to visit him. I regret it to this day.

So who was the childhood hero I spoke to who didn’t make the connection? It would be James MacArthur, who played Fritz Robinson in the Disney adventure thread “Swiss Family Robinson” in 1960. As a 7-year-old child, it was easy for me to believe that this was the greatest movie ever. realized.

It turns out that MacArthur, whose mother was theater legend Helen Hayes, was a distant relative of the late Skott Zimmerman, a St. Charles golf shop operator who sponsored and organized the Midwest Golf Pro-Am event. every summer at the Royal Fox Country Club for the benefit of Special Olympics.

MacArthur has been to St. Charles a few times for this event which I was lucky enough to attend. I never played with MacArthur, but I spoke to him in 1998 at the dinner following the event.

I only knew him as a famous actor on “Hawaii Five-O” as Danny “Danno” Williams, with the famous “Book ’em, Danno” line closing many shows after a criminal has been arrested.

He was a nice boy. We shook hands and talked about golf, because I didn’t know what else to talk about. I haven’t watched “Hawaii Five-O”.

James MacArthur, right, reviews his script with actor Edward Arnold in preparation for MacArthur’s first professional acting job on a national television show (“Climax”, CBS) in Los Angeles, California August 25 1955.
-Associated Press Photo/Ellis R. Bosworth

Last month I came across an old VHS tape of “Swiss Family Robinson” in a box at home – and there it was. James MacArthur played a huge role, along with other Disney child stars – Tommy Kirk, who died late last year, and Kevin “Moochie” Corcoran, who died in 2015. And it all came back to me that MacArthur was my favorite character. , a kind of Errol Flynn type swashbuckler, battling giant snakes and pirates and ultimately winning the love interest for the movie.

I pulled out the printed schedule for that 1998 golf event (yes, reporters don’t throw anything away) and read the article about MacArthur, and it didn’t mention the movie.

It’s hard to believe I missed the chance to talk to him about what it was like to make this cool movie. It would be like someone talking to actor Tom Hanks when he was in downtown Geneva in 2001 filming ‘Road to Perdition’, but not realizing he was the star of ‘Big “, one of your favorite movies when you were a kid in 1988.

I didn’t make that mistake when I met Jerry “The Beaver” Mathers and Tony “Wally” Dow at an autograph signing event at the DuPage County Fairgrounds two years ago. I knew what I wanted to ask them in advance, knowing almost every episode of “Leave it to Beaver”.

Turns out I never saw James MacArthur again – and he died aged 72 in Jacksonville, Florida in 2010.

Getting the chance to talk to a famous person is not uncommon in the Tri-Cities area. We’ve had our fair share of Hollywood, music or sports royalty; Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys lived in St. Charles for several years, and Donnie Wahlberg and Jenny McCarthy call St. Charles home now.

The Arcada Theater has so many music icons performing here that you might bump into one at any time – like seeing Graham Nash at a nearby car show before his gig or, before he passed away, seeing Davey Jones from The Monkees walking around town.

I don’t know what the moral of this story is. But don’t pass up the chance to talk to a movie, sports, or music star if you ever get the chance. At the very least, be sure to remember if this big star was one of your heroes.

Let’s meet at the bakery

Like most teachers, Sandra Ranney of St. Charles likes to see her former students succeed. In the case of one of her former third-grade students at Fox Ridge Elementary, Deanna (Pieniazek) Keilty, it also comes with the benefit of trying delicious baked goods Deanna and her husband, Eric, prepare for various markets.

Eric and Deanna lived in Chandler, Arizona, where they opened a home bakery called “GingerBrick”, selling sweets at various markets in Phoenix.

Because her family is still in that area and her mother, Donna, a former substitute teacher at St. Charles, was very ill, Deanna and Eric moved and ended up in Rockford.

After Donna passed away, they changed the bakery’s name to ‘Gather’ in reference to getting together with family and friends again – and they started selling at local markets.

Gather Bakery has a stall on Fridays at the Baker Community Church Indoor Market in St. Charles and on Saturdays at the indoor Farmers Market in downtown Batavia.

While visiting friends in Arizona, Ranney said she would sample some of the couple’s baked goods — Jalapeño cheddar bread, danish, bagels, focaccia, scones, croissants and fudge.

“My friends here were begging Ken and Donna to bring treats when they came back for visits,” Ranney said.

As a longtime resident of St. Charles, supporting local businesses is in Ranney’s blood. After all, her father was George Worthley of the Klick and Worthley Drug Store, which is now the site of the ZaZa Trattoria restaurant.

His grandfather was Carl Soderquist, whose construction company built the original Illinois Street Bridge, among other sites in the area.

“It’s a reason I love supporting local businesses and giving a shout when someone like Deanna and Eric brought their future to our area,” Ranney said.

A recovery of tiles

In case anyone wonders what happens when they see work crews on the site of Binny’s old beverage depot in St. Charles, you may soon see builders and handymen visiting the site. ‘place.

The city doesn’t have much to share on this just yet, but preliminary information indicates that the old Binny’s at 1950 Lincoln Hwy. is being cleared to make way for a tile store.

Binny moved to the House of Commons from Geneva almost a year ago.

The city didn’t yet have a name to share on who might take over the St. Charles location, but Floor & Decor comes to mind as a guess, since it’s a fairly large tile store.

It’s almost movie time

I’m not really in a movie-going state of mind yet, but it’s hard to see the Randall 15 complex in Batavia empty since last March.

Michigan-based Emagine Entertainment is set to take over the complex and include Emax, a 94-foot-wide screen. Anyone who fancies going to the show at this Randall Road site has reason to hope to do so in 2022.

Emagine is also seeking a liquor license for the theater complex.

Oh boy, another place where I can have a drink and fall asleep watching a movie.

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