Wednesday, April 29, 2015

My Evening With Charlton Heston

Hi Bill 

Today I’ve been thinking about the grand opening of the refurbished Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts in Pittsburgh. It was originally Loew's Penn Theater, built in 1927 as an opulent movie house, which closed in 1964. After many years of deterioration it underwent a three-year renovation and reopened as Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts in September 1971. It remains a luxurious venue for symphony concerts, ballet, opera, theatre, and other artistic events.

I know you are probably wondering what this has to do with me and Charlton Heston. I’m getting to that. A good friend during my college years, Jorge (from Venezuela), landed a part time job as an usher at the Heinz Hall Grand Opening concert. Jorge was (and I hope he still is) a very entertaining fellow who loved to party and hosted many great ones that I somehow lived through. Anyway, Jorge got the job as an usher at Heinz Hall and he contacted me and another of our good friends, RG (from Jamaica). RG and I also got usher jobs and we reported for training a week or so before the Grand Opening. They provided tuxedoes for us, but we had to buy our own black ties (clip-on of course and I still have mine). We all went through training, which most of us did not take too seriously, but we were ready for the big Grand Opening show.

Of course the Grand Opening included local dignitaries and an ostentatious reception with bountiful and sumptuous food and drink in the lobby at the bottom of the grand staircase. However, we were most excited when we learned that Charlton Heston and his wife would be there. We all looked forward to the event, which turned out to be quite different than we expected.

On the evening of the Grand Opening, all the ushers, including Jorge, RG and me arrived early, put on our tuxes and took our positions.  Then, we were called down to the fabulous lobby for the introductions of the dignitaries (including the Hestons) and speeches,. We actually were introduced to the Hestons as a group and they were very cordial with us. Shortly after that the refreshments were unveiled and we were invited to partake of them. Of course we were pleased to enjoy the tasty food, but we were extremely pleased that we (the lowly ushers) were able to enjoy the champagne – and really enjoyed it we did!  

About a half hour and several glasses of champagne later there was a very happy group of ushers in the building. I mean very happy! Extremely happy! And what do you know - some of us were very sociable and talkative, and it was wonderful that all these rich and powerful people were there to talk to, especially Charlton Heston and his wife. I will never forget seeing Jorge skipping down the grand staircase with an attractive woman while sloshing a glass of champagne around. I also found RG conversing with the Hestons in his deepest voice and most charming Jamaican accent, while trying to hold his glass of champagne in front of his usher nametag. I joined him and we had a most enjoyable conversation with the Hestons. At least that’s how I remember it. I must say that Mrs. Heston was very charming and extremely tolerant. Mr. Heston was civil, but I can’t help but wonder if he was thinking “Take your stinking paws off me you damn dirty ape!”

The evening was a fun-filled debauchery, but somehow we managed to keep our jobs.

Sincerely Clark

Charlton Heston


  1. this was funny! i love the, "damn dirty ape" bit. i am sure Charlton Heston thought you and your friends were great. how could he not? :)

  2. I don't think Mr. Heston we too thrilled with us, but he didn't use the "damn dirty ape" quote. I've gotta give him credit for tolerance.