The man who played Moses, Charlton Heston, passed away over the weekend. Because I met him once, a sense of special bond has remained. Oh, it was only that one time I got to meet him, so we were not friends for more than three hours. But I'll not forget those three hours.
I emceed a banquet Heston spoke at in Louisiana a few years back. The evening evolved into a special treat as those sitting at the head table were all couples from the area except for two whose wives were not at the event; Heston's and mine. The two of us sat in the center of a long table and it became apparent I was to keep the chit-chat going with the film star. Easy to do.
First I welcomed the crowd by telling a hilarious joke that brought the house down. Heston really liked it. He wanted to talk about it as soon as I got back to the table. We discussed "movie stardom" and he rehearsed a couple of times what Jimmy Stewart and Gary Cooper did by mentoring him in his earlier years.
I had a baseball which I had intended to have him sign. But my instructions at the beginning of the evening included telling the audience not to ask for autographs. What to do with the ball? I hid it behind my water and tea glasses. As the evening went on he inquired about the ball. I told him its intended purpose and why it was now in hiding. There was neither expression nor comment.
We continued to visit about various matters. Later he leaned over in sort of a whisper and said, "Get me the ball." I didn't say, huh? He took the ball and put it under the table cloth under the table and signed it for me. I may have the only Charlton Heston autographed baseball.
Mr. Heston had some eccentricity about him. He was quite rigid. This made it more meaningful to me because I could tell he liked me. His podium had to be specially built according to specific requested dimensions. He was awkward as he seemed intentionally cold and formal toward the crowd. But I must say I enjoyed spending time with him when he seemed, at times, to forget his role of fame and venture into conversations which seemed to warm his heart. I liked that part.
As we wrapped up the evening I presented him with a plaque of honor. He had warmed up during the evening. As we parted from the table he asked me to be sure to stop by his book booth before I headed back to my room. For a few minutes, Moses and I were good friends. It showed in his eyes.