Posted by Editor: Erik Piro
April 4  2019
Robert Bentley and Everyday Miracles
Article by  Stacy Trevenon
Photos by: (no photos available)
Irwin Cohen introduced speaker Robert Bentley, who spoke of "Miracle at Kensington Palace," a biographical booklet he had written and of which he passed copies around. The booklet begins with these words by Bentley: "I write this not to brag but rather to share for the common good; heed and nurture others' dreams and in the process, joy and goodness will envelope your journey."
Bentley began his talk with his "Famous People I've Encountered" list, copies of which he had placed on our tables. This five-page list spanned England to America and beyond and many walks of life, including movie stars (Clint Eastwood,) other entertainment icons (Liberace,) political figures (President Dwight D. Eisenhower,) historical figures (Winston Churchill,) royalty (Queen Elizabeth II,) sports figures (Muhammad Ali,) names out of the headlines (Patty Hearst and her parents,) cultural icons (Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie,) beloved literary icons (James Herriot,) artists (Ansel Adams,) and many more. From Charles Schultz to George Schultz to names that gave us pause, like Hitler's cousin-- that's only a few.


He also presented an equally impressive resume, studded with items like: a graduate of Crown College (UCSC) with a degree in history and later a master's degree in education from the College of Notre Dame, a 1975 recipient of the National Teachers Medal and 39-year member of the Screen Actors Guild, producer and director of 27 major musical productions, author, consultant, bicentennial courier to the Lord Mayor of London, and correspondent with Queen Elizabeth II. But almost at once he turned the spotlight on Rotary, saying "I admire you and what you do for the community and the country."
The theme of his talk was miracles, and he set the tone by saying that he believes miracles happen every day. What do you need to create miracles? You need faith, he said, describing faith as when you have a yearning and you know it will happen and it is there. He told a story of parents of twin 7-year-old boys, one of whom was a pessimist and the other an optimist. As birthday presents, the parents gave the pessimist a gold watch and the optimist a pile of pony dung. The pessimist painted his watch gold while the optimist declared he knew that he must have a pony, somewhere. You've got to have optimism, Bentley said.
He spoke of Kensington, where Queen Victoria had been raised, of his mother Gwen, who was born in Yorkshire, England and emigrated with her parents to Canada at 14. Then the family moved to Burlingame. In the early 1960s, Bentley said, movie theaters were big deals, and he had worked as an usher at the Fox Theater in Burlingame, a popular destination for movie-goers. He mentioned that he had been a teacher for 25 years, and much of his success in that work came out of his experiences as an usher. Even that part of his life was sprinkled with stories: he recalled the gentleman who would come into the theater, seat himself, and then fall asleep. In time Robert learned that that man had seen action in Guadalcanal, and the only time he could get rest was in those naps in the theater.
He spoke almost casually of some of the famous people he had encountered. Such as Patty Hearst, Bing Crosby and his family, or Crosby's butler Alan Fisher, who had previously been butler to the Queen Mother and whom Bentley characterized in his book as "a true friend."
He spoke of being a guest at the home of Bing Crosby and spending time with Crosby's family, and of being invited to be Crosby's guests at the London Palladium, when Crosby did his world tour beginning in 1977. He almost didn't get in when an overly officious ticket agent refused to sell him the tickets --- until Alan stepped in and said he'd see what he could do. Word mist have spread, since when Bentley got to the ticket booth he found himself inspected by several of the locals, and there were two tickets in an important-looking envelope waiting for him. The next night, when went to the show, the theater was filled with black tie and tails -- because Princess Margaret was in attendance. When Crosby took the stage, he saw Bentley, and amid the standing ovation which followed his show, playfully shook a finger at him.
Bentley's interaction with Bing Crosby and family included sometimes keeping an eye on their children at the request of butler Alan Fisher, with whom he interacted during Fisher's 18-year tenure with Bing Crosby. During that time Bentley was working as a teacher, eventually winning the National Teachers Medal. At another point when Bentley and his mother were in London and phoned Fisher to invite him to have dinner with them, their conversation was momentarily interrupted by someone on Fisher's side of the phone -- another of those chance interactions that made his talk fascinating. As he related in his book, "I, Bobby Bentley, ordinary U.S. citizen,  -- Robert Bentley had just spoken on the phone to Alan Fisher, (Steward of the Household for Prince Charles and Princess Diana) and we were interrupted by HRH himself!"
Among other special moments that Bentley described in his talk was Bentley overhearing Prince Charles asking Alan Fisher how long he had known Bentley and his mother, to which Fisher replied, eighteen years ... which led to an invitation by Prince Charles, whom Bentley described as very gracious, to visit Kensington Palace. He and his mother were driven there by a cabby who grew more nervous as they approached the palace and passed several forbidding-looking signs. They were none too easy themselves; as Bentley put it in his book: "Mother and I exchanged glances that confirmed we were both contemplating serving time in the Tower of London." He told of how they were surrounded by several inquisitive policemen who, as soon as the cab driver pointed to Bentley who said they were there to see Alan Fisher, saluted and waved them in.
Time passed, and Bentley told the story of how, when his mother wanted to see the nursery where Prince William had been as a baby, Alan took them up through an elevator with a  door hidden in a bookcase, to a room decorated with butterflies and Beatrix Potter characters. Hiding the elevator door in a bookcase wasn't a James Bond idea, Bentley explained; it was done that way only because the elevator door was ugly.
He also spoke of Paul Robson, who overcame blacklisting to become a successful actor.
In his book, Bentley notes that he and his mother were only the second American couple to visit Prince Charles and Princess Diana's London residence (the first being Ronald and Nancy Reagan.) He also added a postscript thanking "H.R.H. Prince Charles for his gracious generosity in allowing my mother and myself the privilege of visiting at that time his private London residence."
Article by Bill Johnston
Photos by: (no photo available)
Greeters:  (names not available)
Pledge of Allegiance:  Big Dave led the pledge in his inimitable fashion
Inspirational Thought:  Sergeant at Arms for the day, Rosie, shared with us an inspirational quote from the poet Yeats.
Guests and Visitors: Barbara (Podiatrist Irwin's guest)
President Paul shared with us an anecdote from the Rotary Pilarcitos High School Life skills program. Charise’s telephone went off. Warren suggested a fine. Consistent with the Four-Way test Charise demonstrated her character and paid the fine.  Paul tried to resend the fine and Charise wouldn’t hear of it.
At President Paul‘s request, lawyer Bill told an absolutely wonderful story about an April Fool's prank that he and his partner played on their senior partner and past Rotary President Bill Muth. For those of you who missed this entertaining tale, it is set forth in its entirety below.
In the late 70s and early 80s, the law firm of Muth, Zanzinger and Johnston was a busy general practice with five attorneys handling everything from small business matters to divorces, criminal law and personal injury actions. Business was brisk and we were making a comfortable living but no one was getting rich. The prevailing fantasy was that one day the perfect seven-figure personal injury action was going to roll into the office and we would take it on a contingency and make enough money so that we could all retire at age 50. In those days, 40% of five or 10 million seemed like a lot.

One April Fools’ Day, Bill Johnston and Jerry Zanzinger were brainstorming on the perfect prank to play on partner Bill Muth. The perfect personal injury case requires serious injury [far more valuable than a death], clear liability, and a deep pocket. Bill Johnston called Bill Muth and, disguising his voice, he advised that he had just been released from the hospital after having spent the entire previous year bouncing back-and-forth from hospital surgeries and rehabilitation facilities. The accident occurred just shy of a year earlier (The statute of limitations was 1 year) and someone had advised him that if he was going to file a lawsuit it needed to be filed within the next week. He told Mr. Muth he had gone through the phonebook and ours was the first and biggest ad that he had come across. He explained that he was paralyzed and that he would never be able to walk again. Bill ask the usual questions regarding liability and the wealth of the potential defendant and he learned that this prospective client had been struck while crossing El Camino in the crosswalk with the green light by a utility company vehicle. In other words, the perfect case. Muth told the prospective client that he could see him immediately and he gave him directions to the office. Just before hanging up the prospective client asked if there was an elevator, since he was confined to a wheelchair. Of course our offices were located on the second floor of a building that did not have an elevator. Bill promptly assured him that his partners were very strong and arrangements would be made to carry him to the second floor. The call ended. We waited.

60 seconds passed and we heard the door to Bill’s Muth’s office open.  He came rushing into my office where we were sitting and excitedly started telling us about how our fortunes were about to change. We had made it into the big leagues. Everything was coming up roses. This went on for several minutes as the two of us tried to keep straight faces. When we finally lost it, he suddenly realized what had happened. I am guessing that at that moment, he did not see the humor in our prank. Of course, it evolved into an important part of our office lore. And, despite his best efforts, he was never able to extract is revenge and match our prank.
President Paul shared both his pride and his pleasure at having helped to distribute over 200 dictionaries to third grade school children in our school district.
Podiatrist Irwin introduced his guest Barbara whom he described as his left and right hand. Somewhere in that introduction there’s a joke when a podiatrist has a hand for an employee.
Warren reported on progress with the upcoming Magic fundraiser. He needs everyone to come up with auction items. He wants people to sign up to contact local restaurants for donations. He reports that the sponsorships total over $3000, so far. He announced a planning meeting to be held in the coming week.
President Paul reported that the board had expressed concern regarding people arriving late or missing meetings. Consequently, a new policy will go into place where people who arrive early will receive an extra ticket for the marble draw and discounted tickets.
John, our exchange student super cheerleader, reported that “Sweet Caroline“, our former exchange student from Belgium, will be visiting and hopes to have lunch with some of her Rotary friends. He also reported that the district has announced a new policy such that they will allow exchange students to participate in the graduation ceremony. Hallelujah!
smiley Happy News
Irish Catholic Bill reported on participating in his granddaughter’s bat mitzvah.
Rose Serdy is always looking for volunteers for Abundant Grace breakfast.   Rotary volunteers to run the breakfast on the last Wednesday of every month.
Marble Draw  surprise  Another week, another no winner  laughcrying
Our Monthly Rotary Day at the Community Free Breakfast (held at the Lutheran Church will be Wednesday, APRIL 24.  Please sign up with ROSE SERDY for a shift for future days (last Wednesday of each month.)
(Our photographer is missing...anybody know where he is?)