As the reigning Conductor to the Stars, I am always looking over my shoulder. There’s always seems to be some upstart trying to unseat me from my throne. Conductor John Murphy is one example of a coworker attempting a coup d’etat.
One summer, a few years back, I hit a severe celebrity dry spell and John took much pleasure in my frustration. He always enjoyed reporting his latest celebrity sighting and we soon entered a game of chess where the celebrities were our pawns.
One day he told me that Whoopi Goldberg was in the head car of our train, but instead of being boastful, he seemed a little taken aback. He said that when he first saw her, he started, "Hey, aren't you...?"
Whoopi put her hand up, as if to stop him, looked over her sunglasses, and said, “Don’t say another word.”
“ Huh! Show folk,” I said, “Go figure!”
I told John that as a potential CTTS, these things are to be expected. “Take this as a learning experience," I advised. "Why, I once had disco queen Donna Summer on my train, and she treated me the exact same way.” I wanted to say, “Hey honey, I work hard for the money too.”
That summer, John was my assistant on the 6:55 pm train from New Haven to New York on Sunday nights. This train, for some unknown reason, was like an episode of the Love Boat, where long forgotten celebrities, ( i.e. Jessica Tandy, Shirley MaClaine, Mariette Hartley, Charles Grodin, David Groh, Sandy Dennis, James Naughton, Frank Converse, Larry from Three’s Company,) regularly made cameo appearances. This was much to the delight of John and me. We started a friendly competition to see who would earn the coveted title of Conductor to the Stars.
I believe I drew first blood when I collected a ticket from Get Smart’s Barbara Feldon. I asked Miss Feldon to play along as John approached.
“John,” I said, “May I introduce you to my good friend Barbara Feldon.”
John crossed his arms then touched his hand to his face, “Oh, Max!” he said in mock indignation, doing an almost perfect imitation of Agent 99.
The next Sunday it was John’s turn. He had just collected a red-haired woman’s ticket and he gestured to me with the wave of his hand, “Conductor to the Stars,” he said. May I introduce you to my dear friend Marcia Wallace, you know Carol, the secretary from the Bob Newhart show?”
He thought he had me.
“Nice to meet you Marcia,” I said. “Oh, and John, did you happen to notice that Marcia is seated with Match Game’s Brett Summer?”
“Oh Brett,” John said in feigned embarrassment, “I didn’t even recognize you.”
“That’s why I’m Conductor to the Stars,” I said, “and you’re only the assistant conductor to the stars.”