MENTOR. Webster's dictionary definition: "A trusted counselor or guide..tutor, coach."
I was lucky enough in my early shooting career to have one of the best possible.
His name was Alex Kerr. During the 1940s, 50s, and 60s he won 15 individual world skeet titles, a record only topped by four other gunners. In 1964 I was quick to learn to adapt his style of shooting to myself. Very aggressive, and down on the left leg more than normal. It worked for me and I was very fortunate to have the shooting records I obtained over the years.
Alex became like a second father to me over the next thirty years until his passing.
During World War II, Alex was a gunnery instructor for the Navy, and so was his actor friend Robert Stack. Stack won the World 20 gauge championship in 1936 as a 17-year-old member of the five-man team Alex shot with from California. He is mostly remembered for his role as Eliot Ness on "The Untouchables."
Alex's last name might ring a bell with you. Kerr Mason Jars. He was part of this family but left the business in 1937 to open what was to become the premier sporting goods store in Hollywood...Kerr Sport Shop in Beverly Hills. On any given day you might see any major Hollywood actor or actress shopping at Kerr's for fishing, hunting, or camping gear. Everything in the store was high grade, top-of-the-line quality.
AN ACTOR. I first met Bob Stack in 1965, and we were friends for almost four decades. When I was in the Los Angles area I would stop by his home near U.C.L.A. and visit on my way back to Bakersfield. And, we would shoot a round of skeet every so often at one of the local ranges in L.A.
As a result of knowing him, I had the good fortune of meeting other Hollywood celebrities on occasion. I was at Alex's wholesale shop one day when Bob called and asked if I wanted to meet him for a round of skeet at a small range located on an oil lease in Culver City near Alex's warehouse.
I said sure, and took off along with Alex's son-in-law Russ Long. Russ and I shot two man team often. When we got to the range, Bob was there already along with Robert Wagner and Steve McQueen. Wagner shot with us, but McQueen just watched because he had a bummed up leg as a result of a motorcycle accident a couple of weeks before during a race up in Monterey.
It was great meeting these guys, though. Another time when I was on my way home, Bob said to stop by and we would have lunch together. We drove from his house a short distance to the Beverly Hills Country Club.
As we walked into a small lunch area overlooking the putting green, someone at the bar turned to greet Bob. It was Joe Namath, the football player. Bob introduced me, and they chatted for a minute before we began to look for a table. Actually, there were no more than 10-12 people dining at the time, so Bob said lets go sit with these fellows that I know over by the window.
We approached the table and I immediately recognized Greg Kinnear, James Garner, Richard Crenna, and Dick Martin. Again, Bob introduced me, and for the next hour, or so, we just sat around and talked about sports, politics family and hunting.
You would never guess any of these guys were famous unless someone told you. Bob told me a few weeks later that Kinnear was being interviewed by the
others for membership in the club. To top the day off, as we were leaving we bumped into comedian Tom Poston, who Bob also knew. What a day.
ELVIS. Elvis Presley. "The King." A great narrative about him came from Jerry Knight, who was Alex's head man in the gun department at Kerr Sport Shop. He said that a few days before Christmas one year, Elvis was in the store buying guns for some of his friends as gifts.
There was a customer off to the side looking at a display case that held nothing but expensive Browning over-under shotguns. Presley went up to the gentleman and commented on how nice the guns were.
The man agreed, but said they were way out of his price range, since they were all probably in the thousand dollar plus area. Elvis asked the guy which one he would buy if he was purchasing, and the fellow said probably the Diana grade with the gold inlay. Elvis then went back to the counter where Jerry was, and as he left said to Jerry, " When that guy gets ready to leave, take that Diana grade shotgun out and put it on the counter and give it to him. Tell him Elvis said Merry Christmas."
Jerry said he did just that, and he thought the guy was going to faint when he received the gift. Awesome story about "The King."
And finally, I just want to wish all my readers the very best Christmas ever, and please remember whose birthday we are celebrating. May God bless you all.