My father spent the majority of his career in TV and radio broadcasting, behind the scenes. For many years, he worked at KYW-TV in Philadelphia and was there during the days of The Mike Douglas Show. As a result, he met many celebrities and movie stars. This is the story of one such meeting — a story some of you on Facebook have already read — and about holding on to your dream, no matter what.
Dad grew up in Donna, a small, impoverished town in South Texas. As a little Mexican-American boy, he helped his father in his grocery store — la tienda — after school. But on weekends, as a child of 7 or 8 years old, when he could afford it, he would go to the movies.
One of his favorite movie stars was Shirley Temple. He would walk out of the sultry air and blinding sun into another world, a shadowy, air-conditioned theatre with black-and-white images on the screen of Shirley singing “Good Ship Lollipop” or tap dancing with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson.
Dad was smitten. And in love. Sitting in that theatre, he made himself a promise: One day he would meet and kiss Shirley Temple.
Fifty years later, he was the station manager at KYW and was in charge of all the producers and directors, for the news and for The Mike Douglas Show. He would come home from work and tell us how Bob Hope needed some new shirts, so dad walked him through the streets of Philadelphia and found a store.
Or, how dad — who used to love to give one silver coin to the guests of the show, dad’s signature gesture of welcome — gave one coin to Yul Brynner who said, “Nobody ever gave me anything. Everyone always wants something from me.” Or how he gave a coin to Lawrence Welk, who said, “I’ll take it but I have to give you something in turn” and gave dad his pocket knife.
One day, dad walked in the studio and found out Shirley Temple Black was appearing on the show. Dad waited in the hallway and when she came in, he went to her and said, “I’ve been waiting 50 years to do this,” leaned into her and gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
She was flustered and taken aback. But when dad explained his story, she was deeply touched. “Really? You’ve been waiting 50 years to kiss me?” she asked. “You really don’t give up, do you?”
And dad never did. Nor does he now, even with the stroke. This morning on the deck as I sat with dad, I was reminded of this story. I often try to get dad to talk, to help with his cognition and speech skills. Sometimes he responds and other times he doesn’t. But I asked him about meeting all those famous people when he worked at KYW and who he liked the best. It took him a few minutes, but he beamed and said, “Shirley Temple, of course.”
Sometimes we have dreams and we let go. Life gets hard. We get discouraged. Sometimes we give up too soon when a dream is just within reach, and had we waited, we would have realized our dream. And sometimes, we hang in there. We believe. We dream. We wait. Even if it is 50 years. And we kiss Shirley Temple.