by Jack Dennis
Ok. I’ll bite. Per request, here are 25 things most people don’t know about me. #20 is unexplainable.
1. In August 1989 three men sat at a table in downtown San Antonio and flipped a quarter each. I was the odd man (I flipped ‘heads”) against the other two. I won a 15-day trip to Switzerland and visited the Matterhorn, France and Italy while there in October 1989.
2. Not long after I turned 50, I walked on stage at a motivation conference at the Alamodome in San Antonio and competed in a dance contest against 21 others. The crowd of 18,000+ decided the winner by applause. I won a free trip, with lodging, etc. to Disney World in Florida for my family the following September.
3. When I had to go back stage after winning the dance contest at the Alamodome in 2006, I met and talked with comedian Jerry Lewis and former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani. I asked them both what makes them happy in life. They were kind enough to visit with me a few moments and their answers were outstanding.
4. We lived about halfway down W. Ansley Blvd. in South San Antonio when I was eight. One summer day I was down the street playing with a friend, Steven Price, when his mother told me my Mom had called and I was to go home for lunch. Mom was going to meet me half way.
Steven and I were in his back yard and I walked down their drive way to the street when a white station wagon drove up. The man in the car had his passenger window down and asked me if I knew “where the Hamners live?” I told him I didn’t. He got out of his car and had a piece of paper in his hand. As he walked around the back of his car he said, “Well, they left me a map and…”
I don’t know what it was but instantaneously something in my mind told me to scream and run.
I ran back to the Price’s house yelling as loud as I could. Mrs. Price and Steven came out the front door and onto their porch. The man quickly jumped back in his vehicle and sped off.
The reason my Mother had called was not so much for me to go home for lunch, but because my Dad, a policeman had called her and told her they were looking for a man who had been trying to abduct children on our side of town driving a white station wagon.
Vegas, San Diego & More
5. My son Jack and I went to Las Vegas in June 2010. He was very interested in magic so we saw David Copperfield, Chris Angel, Lance Burton, Mac King, and Nathan Burton perform. Jack was able to meet the latter two. We went to the old International Hotel (now the Las Vegas Hilton) because I wanted to see the showroom where Elvis Presley performed in the 1970s.
We opened an entrance door and saw a band rehearsing. They sounded familiar to both of us. We started to walk out and looked at a poster on the veranda wall by the doors. It was Aerosmith. We turned back around and reentered. No one stopped us.
We sat down and had our own private mini-concert for a few songs.
Ironically a few years prior I was able to meet them at a special Susan Komen Cancer fundraising event at the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay totally by accident.
6. In the late 1990’s, I was a founder and first elected president of the PRSM, the Professional Retail Maintenance Association (now CONNEX). Because of this role, I had the honor of dining with such notable businessmen as Stanley Marcus (Neimann & Marcus founder), Norman Brinker (Brinker International: Jack in the Box, Steak n Ale, Bennigan’s, and Chili’s), Fred Meijer and Hank Meijer, CEO’s of the regional American hypermarket chain in Michigan.
I also dined with Fred Gandy while at a PRSM convention in San Diego. Gandy was an actor in the role of “Gopher” in the TV sitcom “The Love Boat.” When I met him he was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from the state of Iowa.
“Why Don’t You?”
7. My earliest memory is being with my grandfather, Jack L. Dennis, Sr. and my father, Walter Dennis, at the Boerne, Texas Fairgrounds and Race Track in the late 1950s. A horse kicked a door of a horse trailer and it scared me. I ran to my grandfather who picked me up for safety. They tell me I was a little over two years old. Many years later I would live in Boerne.
8. In the early spring of 1976, my journalism professor Jeff Henderson, asked his class to write down the names of two people we would like to interview if we could. When he called on me to reveal my answers, embarrassingly, I said “Elvis Presley and Clint Eastwood.”
When my classmates laughed, he held his hand up and looked straight at me and asked, “Why don’t you?”
Superbowl & Astronauts
I thought of scores of reasons why I couldn’t. The question had profound impact. Within eight months I interviewed Presley and Eastwood.
9. I was fortunate to attend the first-half of Super Bowl XXI on January 25, 1987 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA. I had a plane to catch at LAX, but had the opportunity to attend the game, which included over 101,000 other spectators. I compromised by attending most of the first half before I had to leave in a cab. Neil Diamond sang the National Anthem and by the time I had to leave the score was very close: Denver 10 and New York Giants 9.
The quarterbacks were John Elway (Denver) and Phil Simms (New York). I also recall seeing famed Defensive End Willie Davis of the Cleveland Browns and Green Bay Packers toss the coin, as well as future Hall of Famers Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson and Bill Parcells.
When I was on the plane returning back to Texas, the captain announced the results: NY Giants 39, Denver 20.
10. I was showing my son Jack some of my autographs one day in 2006 and he was intrigued with the astronaut’s signatures. I told him perhaps someday I could take him to get some autographs from astronauts. He seemed very interested. I checked the Internet to see if there would be any upcoming autograph opportunities in the near future.
To our surprise there was a huge gathering of astronauts, cosmonauts and others associated with space travel and movies in San Antonio that same day at the St. Anthony Hotel.
We rushed to downtown from Boerne. Jack and I were able to meet and talk with Buzz Aldrin, Alan Bean, Dave Scott, Gene Cernan, Ed Mitchell, Walt Cunningham, Richard Gordon, Vanentina Treshkova, Bruce McCandless, Alex Leonov, Scott Carpenter, Wally Schirra, Al Worden, Gene Kranz and so many others.
11. I witnessed the launching of the last Shuttle Atlantis in May 2010 at Cape Canaveral, Florida. It was flight STS132.
12. Like many from the Alamo City, I saw President John F. Kennedy in San Antonio the day before he was assassinated in Dallas. It was November 21, 1963 when my mother took me out of third grade class. We drove to the corner of Military Drive and Zarzamora. When the President’s entourage came by, I was more excited about seeing my father, a policeman, on the motorcycle than I was JFK and Mrs. Kennedy.
13. I have shaken the hands of, and talked with three Presidents, Jimmy Carter at the Alamo, Bill Clinton at Mi Tierra Restaurant, and George W. Bush at the AT&T Center, all in San Antonio. I have seen Lyndon B. Johnson, George H.W. Bush and Donald Trump but did not get to meet them. I have interviewed First Lady Ladybird Johnson.
Being Elvis Before it Was Cool
14. In April 1973, I performed as Elvis Presley on our high school stage in front of 770 people. It was life changing. Prior to that date, I had never spoken or sang in public. The band and I performed several other times that year. Soon I was performing at local schools, venues and night clubs. I also performed at my high school reunions in 1983, 1993 and 2003.
15. I have given speeches in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Seattle, Nashville, Orlando, Atlantic City, Washington D.C., Dallas, San Diego, Grand Rapids, St. Louis, Memphis, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Boston, Hartford, and many other locations.
16. The largest group I addressed was to the National Retail Federation at the Kravitz Center in New York City in 1999. In the green room prior to the speech I met Joe Torrey, the successful manager of the New York Yankees and Walter Martinez, the CEO of Sears-Roebuck. The crowd numbered over 10,000.
17. Jay Leno gave me a cap and free steak dinner after winning a dance contest against five others during “The Tonight Show” warmup prior to the taping of the show. Evander Holyfield was on the show after his March 17, 2007 defeat of Vinny Maddalone by a TKO. Antonio Banderas was also on that show.
18. In 1977 there was a horror movie called “The Hills Have Eyes.” A poster, depicting one of the stars of the film, Michael Berryman, absolutely horrified me. I was afraid to even look at it, much less go see the movie.
Over 34 years later, while attending a horror film festival in San Antonio as a member of the press, I met Berryman. During our conversation he asked me to have lunch with him. We visited for over two hours. He was candid and answered all my questions honestly. I confessed how I was afraid of that poster.
Later, after he received an award, he came down into the audience and sat by me. He whispered for me to follow him to another part of the conference. Berryman pulled out an 8×10 photo of the poster and signed it for me.
19. In 1974, my father gave me a birthday card that read “Happy Birthday to a good looking guy.” When I opened it, it read “Now you can give me this card for my birthday.” I did.
For 37 years, we exchanged the card back and forth. After his death in 2011, it was in Ripley’s Believe it Or Not as the longest continuous exchange of the same birthday card by a father and son.
Who Was the Sailor Boy?
20. One cold rainy night in 2007, I was walking with Andres Lira, the supervisor of the custodian crew of the downtown headquarters for H-E-B Food and Drugs, a major retail chain based in San Antonio. I was the Director of Facilities Management at the time and periodically would visit with Lira and his crew as they performed their nighttime duties.
The headquarters is on the beautiful campus of a Civil War era U.S. Army Arsenal and to this day is called “The Arsenal.” Lira’s crew would often tell me about seeing ghosts in two of the older houses and in other parts of the Arsenal.
On this particular night I was walking along on the exterior walk way in the interior portion of the Arsenal when I noticed someone at the foot of the steps leading to the entry of the North Building. It was raining fairly hard and I wondered why this individual was just standing in the rain.
As I approached closer I realized it was a young boy of about seven or eight years of age. He was dressed in a sailor or Navy type suit that reminded me of the boy on Cracker Jack’s popcorn boxes.
Immediately, from my vantage point on the Western interior walkway looking out across interior campus, I scanned the North, East and South Buildings to determine if there was some sort of projection device and determine if someone was trying to fool me.
I began walking more toward the North Building and the boy faded towards his left into some hedges next to the stairs. I went to the stairs and looked behind and around the hedges, and then examined the windows along the first floor to determine if there was some kind of reflection.
I could not find the boy and decided to go back to the South Building basement where Lira’s office was. When I told him about the boy, he smiled and asked if it was “a sailor boy?” I said yes and he indicated that is what others have seen too. I can’t explain it, but I know it happened.
21. In the middle of watching a movie at the Rialto Theater in San Antonio I made a quick run to the restroom.
I started washing my hands and grabbed a paper towel on the way out. I grabbed the door handle, pulled the door open and was startled by a man I recognized wanting to enter.
He stood there anxiously waiting for me to exit. I was in shock and just looked at him.
Finally, with much disgust, looking me straight in the eyes, he said, “You need to move!”
“Yes Sir,” I whispered back and moved away so actor Tommy Lee Jones could enter.
22. One evening just as I was finishing up my shift as a golf marshal at Fair Oaks Ranch Golf Resort & Country Club, I received a phone call from another nearby resort. It was Tapatio Springs asking if I could come take photos (I freelanced as a side job) for a special event they were having.
“It’s a private event by invitation only, so we need to be quiet about it until you get here.”
I always kept a set of additional clothes for such events so I showered in the locker room and drove straight to the “secret” event.
It was a private concert and auction for elite donors to the Wounded Warriors charity organization. I recognized such well known personalities such as Mark Cuban the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks owner and from TV’s “Shark Tank”).
The show started with Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel and ended with country music icon George Strait.
I was able to interview both of them as well as band members, song writers and others. What a long but exciting day that turned out to be.
23. When I lived in an apartment above the Majestic Theater in downtown San Antonio for almost five years, I was able to interview such notables as B.B.King, Merle Haggard and Lou Diamond Philips.
During one pre-concert interview, I walked in a “green room” with several men in there but none I recognized until one of them spoke.
“Have a seat,” the man offered. I knew who it was by his voice, not his face.
This well known star had recently undergone a facelift that didn’t match my preconceived notion of how I remembered him.
It was a bit awkward start, but Kenny Rogers was the ultimate and patient gentleman.
24. During the world premiere of Shrek III at the Westwood Theater near Hollywood, I was placed in between Entertainment Tonight and a Japanese news crew along the red carpet.
Among those I interviewed was Mike Myers, Justin Timberlake, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, Julie Andrews, Larry King, Antonio Banderas, Terri Hatcher and more.
While I was waiting for Steven Spielberg to finish with Entertainment Tonight, an older, but attractive lady was talking with me, but I didn’t recognize her. She kept looking back toward other celebrities so I grinned and asked who she was looking for.
She laughed and pointed at my camera, “You had better get ready to use that, honey because Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz are about to see each other for the first time in public since their breakup.”
I quickly peered over just as they embraced and snapped a photo of their greeting kiss. That photo alone paid for most of my trip to LA.
25. When I found out who the lady was who hinted I should photograph the Timberlake-Diaz kiss, I was embarrassed. She is the mother of the wife of Antonio Banderas, who most of us know as actress Melanie Griffith.
And the mother?
I talked with her casually a good ten minutes not realizing she was one of my favorite childhood actresses, Tippi Hedrin of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds fame.