Ã¯Â»Â¿to introduce us to. He was always telling everyone what good friends he had in Miss Gabor and Bob Hope. Once on a trip to Hopkinsville, Ky., Happy talked freely of these friendships, especially the one with Miss Gabor.
Not wanting to get ahead of myself I suppose it would be best to discuss the Hopkinsville trip in its chronological order. I had been told prior to the trip that I was to drive Happy and one of our V-P's to the grand opening of the Hopkinsville DB restaurant. Usually Happy's chauffeur drove him on these trips, but somewhere around this time his chauffeur (who was indeed a good Negro who dutifully wore his fringed leather jacket and coonskin cap, naturally) was busted for possession of the killer weed, marijuana. Thus, I was told to be at Happy's house at 7 a.m. sharp, and if I were not sharp he would be. At 7 a.m. 1 was sharp; he was asleep. I had skipped breakfast to be on time, so "Mama" Chandler gave me a coke while Happy ate his bacon and eggs. I felt grateful to be sitting in the same room.
In no less than 40 minutes we were on our way. Happy was in a good mood and sang most of the way. I envied his voice and his recall of old ballads, many of which I had never heard. I complimented him on both his voice and his memory, remarking that many of the songs must have been a half-century old. Happy replied that not only was he familiar with the songs of the past fifty years but that he had also met every truly important person in the last half-century. I was astounded; I didn't even know who had been truly important. I felt grateful to be sitting in the same car.
I was even more grateful and astounded when Happy told me of the lucrative offer he had to sing in nightclubs in the days when he was a senator. But he felt his country needed him and he refused the offer in order to be a champion of justice, liberty and especially the Gabor sisters and their mother when the immigration office denied them entrance to this country. How or why he came to their aid he never fully explained, but I never for a moment doubted him. He always seemed to rise to the occasion.
Much of the rest of the drive was devoted to a historical recounting of people such as Alben Barkley and FDR. Out of respect for Happy I didn't ask him if it were true that Barkley had once ridiculed him as the only senatorial candidate who owned an imported mahogany commode seat. Besides, I really couldn't believe Happy would have anything to do with another country's products.
Happy smoothly changed from his role of historian to that of the economy-analyst. Unfortunately, I am very unlearned in these affairs and I found myself unable to follow his explanation of the necessity of having tax loopholes for the wealthy who would thereby grow wealthier and be in a position to buy the roadbonds which no one else could afford, not even the
state. But even in my confusion I was grateful for the roadbonds that made the road to Hopkinsville possible.
Try as I might I suppose it just wasn't in my blood to be a good chauffeur, because by two that afternoon I had made Happy quite angry. You see, while he was visiting with one of his former state employees I took the liberty of driving to a nearby restaurant and eating my first meal of the day. When I returned I learned that a good chauffeur does not take such liberties; he eats only when his master tells him to. Happy dealt with me firmly and for a fitting punishment deprived me of the privilege of driving him back to Lexington. Instead, I was ordered to fly back on the company plane, the ordeal being that the quick flight gave me a little time to reflect on where I had gone wrong.
I was now somewhat tremulous that I had been made an entry in Happy's little black book, the one which he supposedly started while a student. It is said that he used to record and categorize in this book all those he met as either friend or foe. In time, he felt that since he didn't need to worry about his friends he would record only his enemies. But, like several things I heard about him from his acquaintances, I had my doubts and wished to reserve judgement. I could never be sure that even if such a book existed these acquaintances would not themselves be recoreded therein, making them, of course, foes of the former gover-
nor and therefore prone to tell lies about him. For instance, one of Happy's acquaintances told me, with what might have been feigned admiration, that as governor Happy had allowed twelve men to die in the electric chair, and he had absolutely no regrets. Even if this assertion contained a shred of truth I reminded myself that we all have to make allowances.
For instance, I was told that Happy was once put on the spot when he asked a young girl how her mother was, only to be remined that he had been a pallbearer at the mother's funeral. But we can be sure Happy has had a hand in burying may people and could not possibly be expected to remember them all.
Although I doubt the existence of this famed little black book I do feel that I must have never really come into Happy's generous favor. One knew immediately that he had been accepted into that inner circle when Happy gave him a phonograph record of his songs and a large picture of himself when he was in his first term as governor.
My disappointment is all the more because in anticipation of being recognized as one of his admirers and being rewarded with his famous photograph I had already chosen and paid for an exquisite, imported mahogany frame, a frame that would never be appropriate for just any great and famous man.