I have told this story many times, so I'll tell it here...
Many years ago (probably in the middle 1980s), My wife and I were in Atlantic City with our friend Randi. (You remember Randi...) We were at Caesars Casino on the famous Atlantic City Boardwalk. Atlantic City, New Jersey is a little over an hour away from Philadelphia, so it was not unusual to drive to the famed shore resort for a day trip. We would often go for dinner, a stroll on "the boards" and then into one of the casinos to try our luck at instant riches. That third one never quite came out the way we had hoped, despite our most courageous efforts.
I smiled to myself as this cross-section of society paraded by me. Then, in the crowd, I spotted a familiar face, one I had seen on television numerous times. It was comedian Charlie Callas. He was a staple performer on television in the 60s, 70s and early 80s. He made 50 appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, as well as The Ed Sullivan Show, Merv Griffin's show and the full roster of variety shows that were so popular on the 1970s. Charlie was a regular on the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts, often showing up in military garb and doing as dead-on impression of show biz patriarch George Jessel. Charlie was known for his rubber-faced mug and the barrage of strange noises that he would inject into his stand-up routines. Folks like Jerry Lewis and Mel Brooks loved his act so much, he was cast in films like The Big Mouth and High Anxiety just to play upon the recognizability of his stage act. On television, he was seen in The Monkees, The Flip Wilson Show and singer Bobby Vinton's short-lived series, in addition to a Carpenters special. He even popped up on an episode of The Love Boat and also provided the voice for the animated Elliot the Dragon in the Walt Disney film Pete's Dragon. If you are of my generation, you knew who Charlie Callas was.
Well, I certainly knew who Charlie Callas was. And there he was, walking past me wearing dark glasses and a terrycloth bucket hat pulled down to his brow. Evidently, he was trying to conceal his identity, but there was no mistaking that it was indeed Charlie Callas. Curiously, not a single person pointed or whispered or acknowledged him in any way. No one but me. I smiled to myself a little wider.
Soon, Mrs. Pincus and Randi emerged from the ladies room. As we continued to walk to the parking lot, I mentioned that I had just seen Charlie Callas walk past me in the crowd. They both stopped, and with jaws agape, simultaneously exclaimed, "NO, YOU DID NOT!," as though they had rehearsed it. Now, I stopped... and scratched my head.
"Why would I make that up?," I asked. "Do you think I'm trying to impress you? It's not like I said 'Hey, I just saw Frank Sinatra!' It was Charlie fucking Callas! The guy who sticks out his tongue and makes funny noises. That's not impressing anyone."
They both kind of sheepishly smiled. We found ourselves at the building's exit. I opened the tinted glass doors and we stepped outside. At a taxi stand, about ten feet away from us, wait for a cab, was Charlie Callas. I pointed at him. "See?," I said to my companions. Again, we were the only ones looking in his direction.
We didn't say "Hello" to him or ask for a picture (actually, in the days before cellphones, who carried a camera?) or even request an autograph. We just looked at him. And he was still Charlie Callas.
And then we went to find our car.