HEARING GEORGE RAFT – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Most of you who know me from these pages or my working days know I’m hearing challenged.

It’s a life-long disability that’s has gotten worse over the years. At this point, hearing in my right ear is all but gone. I still have about forty percent hearing in my left ear — with hearing aids.

I’ve had a bittersweet relationship with hearing aids.

I hated them as a teenager. These were the primitive “portable radio receiver in a pocket with a cord in your ear” hearing aids. It was worse than being called “four eyes” when I wore the aids. There were lots of jokes, smirks and knowing winks at me. Oh, right, I also wore glasses.

hearing aids

I was short, wore glasses and hearing aids — and was one of a handful of black kids in my classes. I was also painfully shy.

Fast forward to college and my discovery of radio. College radio would lead to a wonderful career and brand new alter ego, the familiar TV News Guy. I turned my hearing disability into an asset. Friends pointed out diction problems, and speech therapy followed. Presto, I became the black guy with great diction. Amazing!

A few awkward social encounters convinced me to wear my hearing aids regularly. The new models were smaller and less conspicuous. Eventually, they would be invisible, all inside the ear.

My hearing problems gave me certain advantages. Court clerks would make sure I had a good seat for cases I covered. Judges would admonish lawyers to speak clearly so that all could hear. Ironically, I understood more testimony in some cases than my peers with normal hearing. Yes!

My disability provided many laughs in my career.

In the early 70’s, Boston Mayor “Kevin from Heaven” White started a new program to assist senior citizens. It was called “M.O.B.”. Forgive me, I forget what the acronym exactly meant, but it was a PR blitz for seniors. They needed a spokesman for MOB. Someone who senior citizens would easily recognize.

MOB? How about George Raft??

I got the call to interview the legendary old-time star of gangster movies on Boston City Hall Plaza. We met just after Raft had a liquid lunch with the Mayor’s people. The veteran actor, wearing his trademark fedora, greeted me with a grunt. A brief exchange about the interview, then we rolled cameras. I asked the questions. Raft grunted.

George_RAFT_headshot
George Raft

I asked Raft about “Bolero,” a film where he displayed tango expertise which earned his keep before he was called to Hollywood. “Call me George, pal” he rasped with a smile.

I called him George and he said “What”?

I figured he was kidding with me. I tried it again.

“What, kid?” was the reply. Back and forth several times. I could hear the cameraman giggling.

“George”, I tried again, pointing to my hearing aids.

“What’s up, kid”? Then, it slowly dawned on him. Raft pointed to his ears and gestured. Cautiously, I took a look. I thought for a long moment before speaking.

“George”, I said slowly and carefully, “You need to turn on your hearing aids.”

Raft gave me a long look, then that familiar smile which typically preceded him mowing down guys with a machine gun. He snapped his fingers. A crony walked over, reached in and turned on his hearing aids.

“Thanks, Pal”, George Raft smiled with relief.

I couldn’t resist the moment. I pulled out a coin and began tossing it in the air and catching it. Raft stared. We shook hands. He smiled over his shoulders as he walked away.

Just so you know, I was half an inch taller than the guy who used to duke it out with Bogie and Cagney.

Thanks, Pal.

“What?”

26 thoughts on “HEARING GEORGE RAFT – GARRY ARMSTRONG

    • Garry Armstrong January 20, 2018 / 3:48 pm

      Thank you. It was cool and funny to meet Mr. Raft.

      Like

  1. swo8 January 19, 2018 / 2:56 pm

    A great story Garry, it definitely belongs in your book.
    Leslie

    Liked by 1 person

    • Garry Armstrong January 20, 2018 / 3:46 pm

      Leslie, thanks. THAT was a priceless moment for me.

      Liked by 1 person

        • Garry Armstrong January 20, 2018 / 3:56 pm

          Leslie, it really WAS terrific to meet those legendary actors from old Hollywood. Always the fan.

          Liked by 1 person

          • swo8 January 20, 2018 / 7:44 pm

            And that is what we want to hear about. You would have seen them in a more casual circumstance. You were up close and personal. What were these famous people really like?

            Liked by 1 person

            • Garry Armstrong January 21, 2018 / 12:04 pm

              Leslie, I recall meeting an old English character actor during a visit to London’s West End back in the 60’s. He couldn’t believe I knew who he was. He BEAMED! Now, 50 years later, I’ve forgotten the guy’s name.

              Liked by 1 person

              • swo8 January 21, 2018 / 1:30 pm

                Google it and you probably be able to figure it out Garry.

                Liked by 1 person

                • Garry Armstrong January 22, 2018 / 11:50 am

                  My brain just googled me, Leslie. The actor’s name is Maurice Denham. You’ve seen him in lots of Brit films. Literally came to me as I read your comment.

                  Liked by 1 person

  2. Marilyn Armstrong January 19, 2018 / 8:52 pm

    In case anyone is wondering, Garry is deep into reading “Fire & Fury” and he never managed to sign on today. It’s a really good book and it’s all MY fault!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Garry Armstrong January 20, 2018 / 3:47 pm

      Yes, your fault. “Fire and Fury” is a GREAT listen. As I keep saying, it reminds me of some bizarre periods during my working years.

      Like

  3. lwbut January 19, 2018 / 11:40 pm

    I know it can be a hindrance or annoyance sometimes – but there are other times when it would be distinctly advantageous to not hear things! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marilyn Armstrong January 20, 2018 / 12:52 am

      I used to think that way, but I think Garry would gladly deal with the annoyances to have real hearing again. BUT he might yet have it. We’re working on it.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Garry Armstrong January 20, 2018 / 3:50 pm

      Why, thank you, kind sir.

      I wonder if mowing all those guys down with gats and tommy guns hurt Raft’s hearing? Huh?

      Liked by 1 person

      • chandlerswainreviews January 20, 2018 / 4:05 pm

        Quite possibly, though I’ll wager being armed with a smoking tommy gun might have made him less prone to thinking he had to listen to the other guy’s opinion.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Garry Armstrong January 21, 2018 / 11:17 am

          Who needs thinking? A bullet is quicker and more decisive.

          Liked by 1 person

            • Garry Armstrong January 21, 2018 / 12:21 pm

              Chandler, I keep looking at your photo. You? Edd Byrnes? Young Richard Attenborough? Good looking fella.

              Liked by 1 person

                • Garry Armstrong January 22, 2018 / 11:53 am

                  Chandler, Connie Stevens still has your comb. And, I still have a huge crush on Cricket/Susan Slade after all these years.

                  Like

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