Music, Religion and The Military

Returning from our holiday, I got a call from Margot Fonteyn. She was alone as her husband was in Panama and she asked me to come to her apartment. I arrived and took her to a house that she owned but which was rented out. When she had lived in the house she had a lift built especially to take her husband to the first floor where the bedroom was. At the house there were four people waiting for us. We were going to the Festival Hall to a concert to see the greatest Cello player in the world, Rostropovich who was the soloist. Her friends at the house got into the car. One was young very good-looking lady in a wheelchair who sat by my side. They were talking and Margot kept calling me Jack as she was asking me to explain something. The young lady by my side said, “Oh that's what they call me.” Everything hit me in an instant. In a wheelchair, called Jack, going to see Rostropovich - I blurted out, “You're Jacqueline Dupre.”

I told them that I was honoured to be driving two of the of the worlds greatest stars in classical music, and that I would remember this day for the rest of my life. For them it was nothing, they were driven by so many drivers. Margot apologised to me for not introducing her. The other three passengers were, the nurse and Mr and Mrs Barenboim, the parents of the world famous pianist and conductor who was married to Jacqueline.

Whenever I drove Margot to where she was performing I was given a seat at the back or allowed to stand but on this occasion there was not an inch of room it was so crowded. I was told to wait in the players lounge. I sat at the far end and was reading. The bell sounded for the interval. At the other end was a bar for drinks. Suddenly the door opened and there was a rush to the bar. All the members of the orchestra made for the bar and seemed to be drinking as much as they could before the bell sounded for their recall. I mentioned this to a trombonist I knew. I asked if the orchestra performed better before the interval or after and what the conductor thought about the behaviour. He simply replied, “I wonder what the conductor was doing?”

Just before the concert was due to finish I went down to the car. I knew my passengers would be with Rostropovich some time. While I was waiting a lady came up to me as I was sitting and asked me if I could take her to her hotel as there was no transport. There were no taxis or buses. I said I was sorry but I was already engaged. The lady must have thought I was trying to get the best offer. She had an American accent. I told her I couldn't leave and told her to go to the road where she might get a taxi, but she wouldn't leave. By this time a few people had gathered. She thought she was being funny, when she said, “Oh yes, who you are waiting for?” I said, “As a matter of fact I am waiting for Margot Fonteyn.” The crowd became excited and decided to wait and get her autograph. As they continued to wait the lady became more agitated. She said, “I don't know why I am waiting. Margot Fonteyn is not a nice person.” When she was on holiday in Bermuda, the maid in the hotel had told her that Margot was not very nice because she hadn't tipped her. I said, “Go back to Bermuda and tell the maid she is wrong. She leaves all the tipping to her manager and besides she is a very caring person and I can vouch for it.” With that she walked away. When Margot came out she signed her autograph for everyone. She hardly ever refused.

The trombonist I mentioned told me he was playing in the orchestra when the Russian pianist Rubinstein was the soloist. He was an old man by that time. He started playing the first movement of a Grieg concerto and suddenly went into Mozart. The orchestra were baffled but the conductor got them to follow him and soon he went back to Grieg.

I got the blame for something I didn't do. I had to drive some of the backing group of the famous American lady singer Aretha Franklin to the theatre for a show. It was an enormous success. But one of the girls had her handbag stolen from the dressing room. I got the staff to look around but the search was unsuccessful. The poor girl was in a state of panic. All her belongings were gone. They said the English were the worst thieves in the world and I was one of them.

We all know that belief in faith causes people to behave in many different ways. I drove a couple who wanted me to take them to church in every town or village so they could pray for their safety. I spent more time searching for churches than I did touring. I began to think they were worried about my driving. I got them safely to the airport and they were looking for the small chapel there. So I realised it wasn't just me. I had a group that only wanted to visit sites connected with famous names who sacrificed their lives, Archbishop Thomas Becket, Sir Thomas More, Cardinal Wolsey, St Albans and many more.

There was a couple from Washington who became very good friends of my wife and me. We saw them often, sometimes in Washington, sometimes in England. The man had been in the army and received a medal for bravery. After the war, he and an army friend decided to try to go into business together. With the help of the government assisting ex servicemen, they borrowed money from the bank. They bought a plot of unused land and opened up a parking lot. They kept it open for twenty-four hours a day just between them. The business flourished. They engaged staff and bought other lots. They continued to do well and bought a hotel and turned the ground floor into an English style pub. Their wives also helped. They deserved to succeed. The couple had three sons. Two had finished collage and gone into another side of the business, boat trips and a wax museum. The third son also finished collage and after a vacation he had a talk with his father. He said, “Dad I know that you are putting money away for my future, can you tell me how much it is?” His father said, “Why?”

The boy replied, “Well I have decided what my future is. I have joined the Mormon Church and I must give them fifteen percent of all my assets including what I earn.” After his father got over his shock, he told his son, “When the church has finished paying back all my blood and sweat building the business in order to look after you, I'll consider it. If I were you I would think a bit more carefully about this and comer to your senses.” They were so upset; it was like losing a son. He thought he was becoming a saint, a Latter Day Saint.

As it happens I drove a couple on tour who were very friendly and were very interested in visiting stately homes and old buildings which had antique furniture, china and paintings. The lady was beautifully dressed in expensive clothes. She was very delicate. When the tour was finished they asked me if I ever came to America. I said, “Yes frequently.” They told me to come and visit them at their home in Sacramento. We did visit them. He had a house like a palace. His company built shopping malls. While we were there the lady couldn't stay. It was some kind of holiday. She was off to the Mormon Church. He was a multi billionaire and he gave fifteen percent to the Mormons. It’s no wonder how wealthy that church is.

I was back on Parade. I had to go to the American Navy who had offices near the American Embassy. Although they had their own little fleet of cars they occasionally needed an extra car. My orders were to go to the RAF Aerodrome to meet an Admiral. I got there early; you can't be late on duty. I wore my cap and stood behind the guard of honour and saluted as they presented arms as he came off the plane. He was taken to the office and I put his luggage in the boot of my car. After a little ceremony befitting an Admiral I drove him to the Naval headquarters and told to wait. An officer was waiting with me. He told me that the Admiral was a hero, and had many decorations for bravery. The officer told me to take the Admiral to a special building used by officers as a dinning and recreation facility. I parked the car and saluted as I opened the car door. As soon as we entered the building and he was spotted everyone stood up and applauded him. He was taken to a private room and given his lunch. I managed to get a bite or two. After lunch, he came out of the room and once again everyone stood up and applauded. I drove him to his quarters and was told to meet him the next morning. I was there nice and early. I took him to meet an old friend of his who had retired and lived in an apartment for high-ranking officers, reserved by the Navy. He had been Admiral of the fleet.

I had to go back to headquarters and wait until I was called. While I was waiting for the call the captain commanding the headquarters asked me to drive him to some office. When he had finished with me I had to go and get the Admiral. I took him back to his headquarters and I was told to come back for him the next morning. I did so and he had nothing special to do I took him for a tour of London especially to see the Naval connections. He was very pleased and friendly. I drove him to the RAF Aerodrome the next morning and in the car I gave him a book. He took it and turned the pages, it was called the Treasures of Britain. He thanked me, shook my hand and said the book would give him much pleasure when he was at sea.

At the Navy Headquarters I got to know all about the Captain and commander. They were also great heroes. It seemed to me that they were there because of their fame. The Capitan was a Navy pilot who had shot down several planes the commander was a hero leading the Seals on many commando raids. I became very friendly with both and we met socially with their wives. They introduced me to a drink called Sting, which nearly blew my head off.

A couple of days later I went there again to take two men, dressed as normal Americans, on a short tour of London. They wanted to see some of the bombed sites, especially an old church which had some significance for them. They wanted lunch so I took them to a famous pub in Fleet Street. They loved it. Dr. Johnson would have approved; he visited it himself. When we got back to headquarters they asked me to wait. One of the men came out with a book in his hand, handed it to me, shook hands and went back in. I looked at the fly leaf and it had some writing on it. There was a date and a dedication to my friend, Jack Mindel, with many thanks for a gracious tour of London, his name and below his title Assistant Secretary of State for Defence, USA. I still have it and treasure it. He had been stationed in USSR for a time and he had written the book comparing the life of an ordinary Russian and an ordinary American.