A Day with Jimmy Carter
By Cecilie Keenan
I've always liked men who are bears. I obviously knew of and watched Greg Palmer on TV with the other Seattleites of the 80's in a blessed time when TV actually did review stage plays. But I was more than thrilled to be cast in his Panto version of Puss in Boots
—my very last appearance as an ingenue... actually my only appearance as an ingénue. So I got to know and love Greg. It was a fluke of timing that soon after Puss in Boots
, I was unemployed for the only time in my life and had a pretty terrible accident involving my thumb. Up popped Greg! He had some bucks at KING to hire a Production Assistant for himself and Lucy Mohl. How we fit in that very tiny office, I'm not sure. But for about two years, I got to schlep, sort, file, call, clean and most importantly, got to be an assistant, script consultant, runner, ball wrangler, fire starter, on Snow White
and The Falcon
, and became a true member of the friends and fans of Palmer.
Ah, The Falcon
. A trip of a lifetime. My fondest and most lasting memories of Greg will remain that trip to Soviet Georgia. The day we took the Soviet Cold War issue helicopter will remain a highlight till my own dying day.
There was a crew of 2 or 3, Greg, Fenster, Erika, Liz and myself. We flew out of Tbilisi with Jimmy the pilot...who mostly could say "my name is Jimmy, as in Jimmy Carter." We flew to god knows where on the countryside, we weren't sure where we were going and stopped and picked up 2 men in traditional Georgian Dress and a VERY LARGE (3 feet tall probably) drum-looking thing. Then we flew again and landed in the Caucasus Mountains, nothing around but snow and a few, what looked like, out-houses, and about 20 people, who had made a makeshift table over a large open gas flame. There was an animal roasting over part of the flame and some pretty scary looking men and very few women. Well, it turned out that the drum-looking thing was a kind of cask of wine that tasted a bit like pure grain alcohol. Well, the group of Georgians all gathered in a circle around the open gas flame and began to pour shots of this stuff. It soon became apparent that we could not leave till the cask was empty. Thank God our pilot, Jimmy, only took a sip or two. Well, we did what we could and the party of people kept getting louder and happier; soon the men didn't look so scary and everyone had some lamb and suddenly there was food that was brought out of somewhere....well, we finished the wine...some of it sloshed down our fronts and our faces, we ate the food, which always in Georgia is exceptional, and we got back in the helicopter, and flew up to one of the highest points in the Caucasus mountains. Below us was an old fort where some gangsters were said to have held out during the past decade or so! Anyway, Jimmy didn't know if he could land in the snow...there's no telling how deep it is and where there is actual rock and where there is just snow is impossible to tell. So he hovered about 8 feet above the mountain and said...JUMP, JUMP!
So we did...I just remember landing in about 4 feet of very soft snow... it went up to my waist...and as I tried to move forward so the next guy didn't jump on me...I think it was Greg...my sunglasses got hit by the prop wash and flew about 25 feet off my face...for a moment I was completely snow blind!
Anyway...we all jumped down...found where the little bit of rock was...got Erika ready...had her do some walking while Jimmy Carter flew in circles around us with Fenster shooting....now folks, just remember, if this pilot had crashed...we would never have been seen again. There was nothing for hundreds and hundreds of miles!
So Fenster took his glorious shots...and now it was time to get back in????
Jimmy Carter had someone lower a rope ladder over some of the rocky area, and again, while he hovered, we reached up about 5 feet and hauled ourselves up and back into the helicopter. And when I arrived...the one and only time Greg Palmer, who once told me that hugs should be for family, grabbed me, hugged me and literally picked me off the floor he was so excited! I will never forget the joy on his face and I'll never, ever forget that bear of a hug.
Thank you Greg, you were there so many times when I didn't even know I needed you till it was done.
A Piece of my heart is always with you.