My dad, James Whitmore, Part Fifteen

Now that we’ve dealt with my kids and what my dad provided for them. Let’s get to the streets of Tehran, the capitol of Iran. At the time, 1970, under the rule of the Shah.

Flying in I remember the darkness. And I mean black as coal. Then, the lights out of nowhere. There was an oasis of light surrounded by the deepest black I’d ever seen. Strange.

Tehran – or spelled Teheran in some circles – back in 1970 was a very strange city. It loved westerners, especially white people. Isn’t that bizarre? Caucasians were beloved back then. I had no money. Hadn’t bathed in weeks. My hair was a huge ball of matted grease. I had only the airplane ticket my father had paid for and given me. He wanted to ensure I could get home. Still treated like a king.

I took my last piece of opium and hoped for the best. My travel mate was a nice enough fellow. Wasn’t crazy about his dryness but he said he knew people in Tehran – that’s the spelling I’m going with – and I was tagging along for the ride. Always going for the ride, I guess.

I don’t remember too much except everybody was nice. Too nice, like we were royalty because the color of our skin. I can only imagine how our brothers in arms of dark skin were treated? Why is it that white is such a sought after color? I’m not even white – yes, I’m pure caucasian – but the color of my skin is more grey, I think, than white. Who knows? Weird though. We were treated like kings, except we had no money. Kings of the bum world in Tehran.

We went to the Iranian center for Americans. My travel mate knew somebody there, he said. He said he lived there when he was younger. His dad was some kind of diplomat. Of course, the friend wasn’t there but we were kings. Right? Treated like special people.

I went out in the street. I don’t know being on the move has always relaxed me. Found a vender selling some form of hot dog I could afford. It was good. Streets are streets.

My travel mate’s friend ultimately did show up and we had a floor to sleep on. Somehow, we were invited to an uptown party that was being held by the Canadian ambassador. My dad was a movie star and I guess that got us passes to all kinds of things.

What I remember about this party is that there was an intense Iranian who ended up out in the street who didn’t particularly like Americans. He was pissed off. The cops came. Iranian cops then didn’t mess around. Off he went.

The gathering inside was dull enough but the Ambassador’s daughter took a shine to me and I was drinking a lot of their wine. I am a drunk after all.

I was opening a bottle of wine when I realized the corkscrew was going into my hand instead of the cork in the wine bottle. It went deep into my hand. Blood started spurting out every where and the ravine in my hand was prominent. The folks at the party attended to the deep cut, bandaged it and I was fine.

We ended up back at this room we were allowed to stay in. On the floor. No money just a plane ticket that would get me back to Los Angeles. But the Ambassador’s daughter was with me on the floor. Why? I don’t know.

She made the rest of the night palatable. I was bored. Restless. Discontented. Time to move on. My travel mate wanted to stay. Fine with me. I was off. Had to stop in London where a teacher on vacation took a liking to me but I wasn’t interested. She wanted to go out. See the sights. Maybe have a tryst. I wanted to be back home. I was tired. Time to go home. I hadn’t bathed in weeks. My hair didn’t grow long, like my mother always used to say, it grew out – Bob Dylan-style, and it was huge. I hadn’t washed my hair in weeks so it was matted, strangley, and street corn rolls. It was long. My head looked huge and my hair was a sight to behold. The only thing I would wear day-in, day-out was an Indian pharon, it was called. It was like a Mexican serape. It had a hole for the head, two holes for each arm and that was it. It was like wearing a huge blanket.

My dad, a movie star, was given the royal treatment upon my arrival. Customs let him into a special area where he could greet me in a royal fashion. Things were different in 1970. He was escorted through all the madness of people shoving about and had a custom agent with him at all times.

He stood watching my plane disembark and people go through America customs. The agent was standing next to my pop. There was a good looking young man in front of me with an athletic build and blondish hair.

Agent: “So, is that your son? The good-looking young man with the blond hair?

My dad: “No. My son is the one behind him without the spear.”

Part Sixteen: Back home and Square Root Blit Two


About stevewhitmore

Former award-winning newspaperman and broadcast journalist, both radio and TV, spanning three decades. Army-trained paralegal, court bailiff and prosecutor's lead investigator for the 8th Infantry Division's Judge Advocate General's Corp., Mainz, Germany. 1973-1975.
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