Remembering Friends: Wilt Chamberlain

I can say having Wilt as my friend was truly one of the outstanding friendships in my life… I got to spend a lot of time with him and truly respected him as a friend and a man.

You ask how did I get to meet Wilt Chamberlain… Well, again I was setting in my shop this one on Havenhurst with my friend Bob Malone… when I got a call and the guy on the other end of the call said, “this is Wilt Chamberlin and I want to buy a saxophone”.. I gave him directions and he said he would be over soon…. By this time, I thought someone could have been named after Wilt and it was not the real Wilt Chamberlain… I didn’t know he lived in LA… Well, he showed up and it was the real Wilt Chamberlain… he had on workout pants, no shirt or shoes (as it turned out Wilt did not like shoes… he went bare footed as much as possible),

He said he wanted to get a tenor saxophone and one of his friends told him to call me… she had asked Gerald Albright and he gave her my number…. I was a YAHAHA dealer at that time so I showed him a YAMAHA Custom tenor… when he put it in his hands it seemed very small compared to his hands… I actually thought about how I could extend the palm keys for him (to myself of course) but then realized there would not be a case that would hold the sax with the palm keys where they would need to be…. So, I told him to push his hand over… he liked the tenor and bought it… on his way out the door he looked at a poster of a movie I had made while he was leaving….

About an hour later he called and asked me if I had made that move… I told him yes and he said would I like to get a bite to eat and talk about movies… like there would be a chance I hell I would not like to dinner with Wilt Chamberlin… of course I said yes… we met at the Marie Callender’s restaurant on Ventura Blvd. around 6pm…. And that was the start of one of the great friendships of my life…. We hug out at least 5 days a week after that until his death…

Wilt had just one simple rule with his friends… you could call him anytime during the week day or night but not on weekends…. Now, if he wanted to call you on the weekend that was different…

Wilt understood many things gout life and how it works.. For example… we were not in the same class group… he a famous millionaire and me a broke saxophone repairman… so, when we went to expensive restaurants for dinner he would pay and when we went to Marie Callenders’ for pie I could pay…

Wilt was a great tipper…. He would sometimes leave almost as much for the waiter or waitress as the meal…. 

One night we were having dinner at a Steak house with some sons of his friends from out of town… Wilt liked expensive wine and so did the people we had dinners with… so, he would fill my wine glass to the top.. I do not drink so it would guarantee him at lest 2 glasses from the bottle….. after he finished his glass he would say “do you want that wine” and take my glass…

The night is going slow… we had a very nice young Mexican waiter.. wilt always had 2 complete dinners at every evening meal… A complete Steak dinner and a complete Fish dinner… He ordered a Steak dinner and a Fish dinner…. The waiter thought he only wanted the Steak dinner so only brought one dinner to the table with the rest of our dinners…. When wilt asked why he didn’t get the other dinner the kid bot had  stroke and told him he would get it right out… Well, that was Wilts chance to start something…. He asked me if I wanted to have some fun…. and in the tradition of the stuff we did I of course said yes… he called the waiter over and said “I would like to meet the hostess” the young man just nodded and left… Keep in mind we are in a crowed restaurant where everyone I the place can see us… in a few minute the hostess comes over to the table… Wilt talks to her for a while and she leaves… Wilt looks at me and smiles…. Again, he calls the waiter over.. see the girl at that table… Wilt points to her… I would like to meet her…. In few minute she comes to the table… Wilt and her talk and she leaves… of course he get their phone numbers…. Wilt never carried cards… so, he would take on of mine and have then write there number of the card or he would write his number on the back and give it to them… this went on for couple hours.. every woman he asked to meet came to the table…

There was a giant body builder and his girlfriend (who was fine and looked to be in great shape) setting at a table across from us… Wilt told the waiter he wanted to meet the girl.. well, the guy goes to the bathroom and the waiter has her come to the table… now you would think there would be some risk in doping that… not for Wilt… I can’t tell you the number of times a couple would come up to Wilt and the girl would give him her phone number and say call me and the guy would shake Wilts hand and say it is so great to meet you Mr. Chamberlain… the first time it happened I ask if that happened before and he said all the time…. back to the story… she came to the table and was still there when the guy came back from the bathroom… Wilt motioned him to come over and introduced himself to the guy… by the way Wilt already had her phone number…. This went on until we closed the restaurant… the dinner with all the other stuff the guys ordered as around $1,200.00.. Wilt of course picked up the check and left the waiter a $400.00 tip… the waiter was very happy… we set there for a little longer… by this time we were the only guys left in the restaurant… the 2 guest had already left…. Wilt looked over at me and said the waiter was great.. he motioned him over and gave him another $300.00 tip…. Again, the kid was smiling from ear to ear… then we got up and left…. It was a very good dinner!

Wilt got to where he could play tunes on the tenor and he had a pretty good tone… I gave him my friend Lou Mallaro’s number and he took lessons from Lou until his death… Wilt had owned clubs around the world and loved music…. Smalls Paradise in Harlem known as Harlem’s Hot Spot was one of them.. it was open all night….

Needless to say I had a great time hanging out with Wilt….

©RheubenAllen2021 All Rights Reserved.

Wilton "Wilt" Chamberlain my friend