I spent a couple of years working in Southern California and lived about about 12 blocks from Disneyland. I returned to Indianapolis couple of times during that period.
Once when catching my flight from Indy to Los Angeles, I was surprised to encounter Joe Spitznagel behind the counter at the TWA check-in area. Joe had been a good friend of mine for years. I handed him my ticket; he grabbed a boarding pass, smiled, stamped it first class and handed it to me.
This was an overnight flight, and I needed to change planes in St. Louis, where I had a two-hour layover. I noticed a couple of large groups near the boarding area. It looked like a person or two were allowed to board early.
When the flight was finally called, a uniformed soldier and I were the only passengers to enter the plane when first class was called. His seat was in the first row, and I think he was asleep before I found my seat.
I walked back a couple of rows and noticed another sleeping passenger: daytime television star Art Linkletter. Once situated in my seat, I looked across the aisle and was surprised to see Mary Tyler Moore smiling at me.
It clicked in my mind that they were the passengers who boarded early.
Moore and I began chatting. She was returning from Minneapolis, where she had filmed the opening credits for her new television show, which wouldn’t premier for about six months.
As soon as the seat belt light went off, she scampered forward to wake up Linkletter. Soon the three of us were looking out the windows trying to guess what city we might be flying over. She would then knock on the flight crew’s door to get the answer.
We ate, drank and laughed until told to sit down for the landing. After landing we laughingly walked arm in arm (me in the middle) through the airport. We grabbed our luggage and walked out the door, where two limos were waiting. My new friends climbed in them and vanished into the night. I waited about 20 minutes for a shuttle to my car.
Watching the tribute to Mary Tyler Moore brought back those memories. We had so much fun on that flight. It was amazing to watch them on television after that evening.
Oh, I’ve already ordered a copy of the tribute to Moore.