Remembering Wilt Chamberlain

Remembering Friends: Wilt Chamberlain

I can say having Wilt as my friend was truly one of the outstanding friendships in my lifeā€¦ 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 Chamberlainā€¦ Well, again I was setting in my shop this one on Havenhurst with my friend Bob Maloneā€¦ when I got a call and the guy on the other end of the call said, ā€œthis is Wilt Chamberlin and I want to buy a saxophoneā€.. I gave him directions and he said he would be over soonā€¦. By this time, I thought someone could have been named after Wilt and it was not the real Wilt Chamberlainā€¦ I didnā€™t know he lived in LAā€¦ Well, he showed up and it was the real Wilt Chamberlainā€¦ 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 meā€¦ she had asked Gerald Albright and he gave her my numberā€¦. 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 beā€¦. So, I told him to push his hand overā€¦ he liked the tenor and bought itā€¦ on his way out the door he looked at a poster of a movie I had made while he was leavingā€¦.

About an hour later he called and asked me if I had made that moveā€¦ I told him yes and he said would I like to get a bite to eat and talk about moviesā€¦ like there would be a chance I hell I would not like to dinner with Wilt Chamberlinā€¦ of course I said yesā€¦ we met at the Marie Callenderā€™s restaurant on Ventura Blvd. around 6pmā€¦. And that was the start of one of the great friendships of my lifeā€¦. We hug out at least 5 days a week after that until his deathā€¦

Wilt had just one simple rule with his friendsā€¦ you could call him anytime during the week day or night but not on weekendsā€¦. Now, if he wanted to call you on the weekend that was differentā€¦

Wilt understood many things gout life and how it works.. For exampleā€¦ we were not in the same class groupā€¦ he a famous millionaire and me a broke saxophone repairmanā€¦ so, when we went to expensive restaurants for dinner he would pay and when we went to Marie Callendersā€™ for pie I could payā€¦

Wilt was a great tipperā€¦. He would sometimes leave almost as much for the waiter or waitress as the mealā€¦. 

One night we were having dinner at a Steak house with some sons of his friends from out of townā€¦ Wilt liked expensive wine and so did the people we had dinners withā€¦ 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 bottleā€¦.. after he finished his glass he would say ā€œdo you want that wineā€ and take my glassā€¦

The night is going slowā€¦ we had a very nice young Mexican waiter.. wilt always had 2 complete dinners at every evening mealā€¦ A complete Steak dinner and a complete Fish dinnerā€¦ He ordered a Steak dinner and a Fish dinnerā€¦. The waiter thought he only wanted the Steak dinner so only brought one dinner to the table with the rest of our dinnersā€¦. When wilt asked why he didnā€™t get the other dinner the kid bot had  stroke and told him he would get it right outā€¦ Well, that was Wilts chance to start somethingā€¦. He asked me if I wanted to have some funā€¦. and in the tradition of the stuff we did I of course said yesā€¦ he called the waiter over and said ā€œI would like to meet the hostessā€ the young man just nodded and leftā€¦ Keep in mind we are in a crowed restaurant where everyone I the place can see usā€¦ in a few minute the hostess comes over to the tableā€¦ Wilt talks to her for a while and she leavesā€¦ Wilt looks at me and smilesā€¦. Again, he calls the waiter over.. see the girl at that tableā€¦ Wilt points to herā€¦ I would like to meet herā€¦. In few minute she comes to the tableā€¦ Wilt and her talk and she leavesā€¦ of course he get their phone numbersā€¦. Wilt never carried cardsā€¦ 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 themā€¦ this went on for couple hours.. every woman he asked to meet came to the tableā€¦

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 usā€¦ 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 tableā€¦ now you would think there would be some risk in doping thatā€¦ not for Wiltā€¦ I canā€™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. Chamberlainā€¦ the first time it happened I ask if that happened before and he said all the timeā€¦. back to the storyā€¦ she came to the table and was still there when the guy came back from the bathroomā€¦ Wilt motioned him to come over and introduced himself to the guyā€¦ by the way Wilt already had her phone numberā€¦. This went on until we closed the restaurantā€¦ 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 tipā€¦ the waiter was very happyā€¦ we set there for a little longerā€¦ by this time we were the only guys left in the restaurantā€¦ the 2 guest had already leftā€¦. Wilt looked over at me and said the waiter was great.. he motioned him over and gave him another $300.00 tipā€¦. Again, the kid was smiling from ear to earā€¦ then we got up and leftā€¦. It was a very good dinner!

Wilt got to where he could play tunes on the tenor and he had a pretty good toneā€¦ I gave him my friend Lou Mallaroā€™s number and he took lessons from Lou until his deathā€¦ Wilt had owned clubs around the world and loved musicā€¦. Smalls Paradise in Harlem known as Harlemā€™s Hot Spot was one of them.. it was open all nightā€¦.

Needless to say I had a great time hanging out with Wiltā€¦.

Ā©RheubenAllen2021 All Rights Reserved.

Wilton "Wilt" Chamberlain my friend