When I was a kid, about 11 or 12, I used to stay up all night watching the Jerry Lewis Telethon. That year, there was this great impressionist named Fred Travalena on and I was in awe. A few weeks later, he was appearing at the Riviera hotel in Vegas, where I lived.
Not knowing any better, I called the hotel and asked for his room. I wanted to meet him and that’s how I thought it was done.
I was put through.
I talked to him and told him how much I liked his act (I think that’s what I said, I don’t remember exactly). The upshot was that he invited me to see his show. He was opening for Shirley Maclaine at the time. My dad took me to the hotel and after the opening, he took me backstage (where he helped Maclaine zip up her dress).
I introduced myself to Mr. Travalena and he invited us to his dressing room where he spent several minutes talking to us, humoring my attempts at impersonations and gave me a photo, which he signed. He also gave me one of his signature silver bullets on a necklace.
After that, for the next several years, whenever he was in town he would call (or accept my phone calls) and would check up on me.
He was my first contact with real celebrity.
He passed away today of non-hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Maybe it’s the personal connection, but this one’s affecting more than the others.
Good bye, Mr. Travalena. Thank you.