When I was a kid growing up, nobody I knew had any more interest in baseball history than I did, but if you had offered me an opportunity to meet an aging Ty Cobb or a most thoroughly in her prime Kim Novak, I would have opted for the latter and never looked back (at Ty, that is).
Murray Garrett, the subject of my column this week in Sports Collectors Digest, got to meet both of them and a whole lot more folks in an almost mythical career as a celebrity photographer in Hollywood. Quite properly disdainful of the modern uber-aggressive paparazzi, Garrett traveled in Hollywood’s elite circles that included the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope, to name a few of his subjects in a career that spanned from 1946-73.
I had a ball interviewing the 84-year-old Garrett a couple of weeks ago, initially tipped off about three fascinating photos of Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb that Garrett took when he was a teenager. But when you talk to the genial California resident, it’s hard not to focus (pardon the lame pun) on his Hollywood photography, which is understandable enough, since it was that work that gave life to a pair of elegant coffee-table books and spectacular prints that he offers on his website (www.murraygarrett.com).
I enjoyed the interview as much as any I’ve done in more than 30 years in the newspaper and magazine business, and I was particularly tickled when he talked about Hall of Famer Bob Lemon, whom he talked about as one of his closest friends. Garrett reminisced about being Lemon’s designated driver, though of course he didn’t use that term.
I had understood his affection for the great pitcher and manager, who died nearly 10 years ago, since I had done a lengthy interview with Lemon several years before his passing. For the life of me, I can’t remember where it took place – what city, that is – though I do recall it was at a card show on the East Coast, maybe in New York somewhere.
Lemon had the same easy mannerisms – and bulbous red nose – that I had known from a lifetime of talking with guys who loved to tell a good story and did so often … and virtually always under the influence. Lemon was one of the nicest guys I ever interviewed. And it didn’t hurt that he reminded me of my dad, bulbous red nose and all.
Still, I would have traded that interview for a chance to meet Kim Novak.