The year was 1989. A local hospital was recruiting physicians and employees to play in the Franciscan games in New York in September. The CEO called me up and asked if I would play in the celebrity tennis. There would be other players and we would have to play with and against celebrities. They were, George Plimpton, Alec Baldwin (he was not a mega star at that time…just a young actor), Alice from Mel’s Diner, Franco Harris, Alex Trebeck, and a host of other names. I agreed to play. Except for George Plimpton whose books I had read, I did not know any one else. I knew Alice, whose name was Linda Lavin. I had seen Jeopardy on TV, but was not sure of the guy’s name.
Anyway, we went to New York. We were about twenty people from the hospital. Mohamed my husband, was playing some other game, there were others who played basketball, and Bowling and different other sports. The CEO and the other administrative staff came along too. We stayed at the Marriot Marquee in New York, which was on Broadway I believe. A huge place and very posh and upscale. We all registered and went to our rooms.
A couple of hours later, we had to attend an orientation meeting in a conference room. From there we went back to our rooms. When we opened the door to our room, we just stood gaping at what we saw. The place was loaded with the largest arrangement of flowers in huge vases, trays of snacks and fruits, balloons and you name it, we had it. At first we thought we had come into another room by mistake. I walked up to one of the flower arrangements, and the card said, “Welcome , we hope your stay will be very satisfactory”, signed by the management crew of Marriot Marquee. The trays of food were from some other people and they too were hoping we will be happy in our room.
The phone rang, and when I answered it, a very pleasant voice welcomed us and said that some big names (I forget the names that he told me) are expecting us for dinner at the Waldorf Astoria, and then for a show at some fancy place. I told the guy, “I don’t know anything about this. We are here to play in the Franciscan Games.” The man said, “Yes madam, and your privacy is most important to us. We will never jeopardize The Champ’s name by making it public!”
My jaw dropped. The hotel people thought that we were The Muhammad Ali of Louisville Kentucky! I told him that we were small people from a town in the Midwest, and my husband Mohamed Ali was the vice president of the hospital, and I was a physician. “Yes, madam, we know, and we shall guard your privacy!”, was the reply I got!
OMG! OMG! OMG! The fantastic invitations to different events just kept coming and the fruits and flowers and trays of snacks just found a way into our room. Finally I went downstairs before going to bed, and explained to the manager that this Mohamed Ali was not THAT Muhammad Ali! I told the guy, look at me. I am an Indian woman. My husband is from India too.
It took me almost an hour to convince them about our identity. It was funny and nerve racking at the same time. While I played tennis with Alec Baldwin and the others, I kept thinking, “God, I hope we don’t see any more surprises in our room when we get there!”
Some of you may remember reading this on Xanga where I had posted about it some years back. And now when the whole world is talking about the death of a great man, I cannot help but reminisce about the time ( and of many other times), when we had to face people who thought that we were the real guys!! 😉 😉