I went to lunch with former quarterbacks Dan Fouts and Brian Sipe, coaching legend Don Coryell, and player-turned-actor Fred Dryer, star of the show Hunter.
It was an event at the Hall of Champions in Balboa Park, and although I crashed it, I would’ve paid $300 for this $30 luncheon.
When I walked in, I saw Fouts in the buffet line. I saw a few people ask him for his autograph. I wasn’t sure if that was proper etiquette, but he smiled and signed.
Coryell was walking with a cane, and neither he nor Fouts was able to eat more than a few bites without people coming over to talk with them. Though, neither seemed to mind.
The table I sat at was quiet while we ate our turkey sandwiches, fruit, and soup. Then we started talking Aztecs and Chargers football. Someone brought up quarterback Todd Santos, who was the QB when I went to State.
I thought a guy at the next table was former player and newscaster Hank Bauer. The black guy next to me said, “That’s another bald white guy in a blazer, but not Bauer.”
A guy at another table had a football poster. I noticed he wasn’t eating; he was just staring at Fouts, ready to pounce on him for an autograph. He was wearing a Kellen Winslow jersey. In fact, several people at the event had Chargers jerseys on.
The players eventually took the podium to tell stories. Dryer hosted the event and was funny. At one point, he made fun of one of the Aztecs coaches for wearing a leisure suit from the ’70s. And he took jabs at Chuck Long, the current Aztecs QB.
There was a track athlete from UCLA at the luncheon. I forget his name, but he was a local guy who is now tearing it up for the Bruins. But, the crowd was giving all their attention to the former NFL players, like kicker Rolf Benirschke.
During the charity auction, a Dan Fouts helmet got high bids. I was surprised because a few people brought helmets to the event and got them signed for free. The helmet ended up selling for almost $2000.
Dryer joked about why anyone would want Fouts’s helmet and how his helmet would sell for a lot more. Though Dryer made fun of all the players, he was respectful.
When Sipe’s helmet was auctioned, nobody raised their hand. I thought they should have auctioned his helmet off first. Fouts bid $50 for it. Then Chuck Long yelled out, “Five hundred dollars! He’s an Aztec!” A few others bid, and it sold for $700.
When the auction ended, the former pros took questions from the audience. One guy told Fouts that he brought his son to the event, but his son still holds a grudge for not bringing him when he flew to Cincinnati for a game. He was the same guy that bought the Fouts helmet. He asked, “What happened in that game?” I don’t think Fouts cared for the question. It was the only time he didn’t smile the entire day. Fouts said, “We lost. What can I say?” He then was ready to move on but added, “It was 34 below. Your son was crazy for wanting to be there!”
The players went to a table to sign autographs. Coryell, who said he was there with his daughter from Oregon, looked as if he was having trouble signing some items. But he always had a smile on his face. I talked to Brian Sipe, whom I had interviewed last year for a story. We chatted for a few minutes before I headed out.
* * *
I ran a few errands to kill time before heading down to a party for a French club at the St. Tropez Bistro. I knew there was one near Horton Plaza, so I parked at the mall and met my girlfriend nearby, and we walked over. When we got to the restaurant, the place was closing. I asked an employee what was going on, and the guy looked confused. When I mentioned the party, he said it could be at their other location. Luckily, it wasn’t too far down Broadway, so we walked.
I noticed several kids driving up to a hotel for their prom. One kid was lost and asked me for directions. He was a sweaty, pimply mess in his tuxedo. I wondered why he was by himself.
The theme for the St. Tropez event was ’70s and ’80s, and I wore my Wall of Voodoo shirt — they had the hit “Mexican Radio.” I had the T-shirt on underneath the blazer and dress shirt I wore to the previous event. As I walked in, a guy approached me and told me how much he loved that band.
He told me that he did a dancing Stormtrooper video that got thousands of hits and got him on the Jeff and Jer radio show.
“I shot it on a deck in Big Bear. I ended up buying the domain name, and we got, like, 12,000 hits after I was on their show. It was funny because usually there would just be single digits on the amount of hits it would get each day. It was just a Stormtrooper from Star Wars dancing a little jig.”
The DJ, Chris, spun all ’70s and ’80s tunes. He had a gorgeous woman with him the whole time. My girlfriend leaned toward me and said, “Have you noticed that a lot of these French women are really attractive?” I said, “Yeah, I’ve noticed.” She then elbowed me.
I walked over to a few couples who were engaged in conversation. When I heard them speaking French, I kept walking. I then saw three attractive women talking. In English. But, I didn’t want to stop there and get another elbow in the ribs.
I met Philippe, the president of the French club. He told some interesting stories about the town he grew up in and spoke about the differences between the U.S. and France.
When there was a lull in the conversation, we headed back to our Stormtrooper friend. I remembered my girlfriend collects Star Wars items and knew she’d like him. I asked him if he had any more Stormtrooper stories, and his eyes lit up.
He talked about visiting sick kids in the hospital. He once showed up with Darth Vader, and a kid going through chemo was so happy that he hugged Darth Vader’s leg.
All his stories didn’t involve Star Wars, though. He pointed out an area of the downtown trolley station where the movie Demolition Man was filmed. He told us about getting in trouble on the trolley once for filming out the window — “It was after 9/11, so...”
Looking at my girlfriend, I borrowed a joke from Family Guy: “The terrorists have changed everything.”
The guy nodded and there was a pause, so I said again, “Everything.”