It was my first visit ever to a New York Subway platform, I walked up a stairway from the metro parking lot to purchase my ticket. The “platform” I climbed to was actually in Stamford Connecticut but I understood it would take us to the New York subway. That would be about 40 miles away.
I was with my cousin Richard who was a local Stamford teenager just graduated from high school. I was about 10 years older than Richard.
My visit to Stamford Connecticut was just beginning after my first night “crashing” at my uncle’s house there. My VW bus had been my sleeping place for most of the nights between the San Francisco Bay Area and Stamford. I drove to my aunt and uncle’s home in Stamford the afternoon before Richard’s and my New York tour.
I was excited to be about to be shown New York City by Richard. It would be fun to get to know him better along the way. And it would probably be far better than getting a different tour from his parents, my aunt and uncle, for sure.
Richard and I, tickets in hand, went through the turnstiles and we headed to the track area where our train would be arriving in about 15 minutes. It was early morning so business people were gathered for their commute to New York City offices it was easy to see.
Richard was a smart kid and seemed eager to show me around. I was all eyes and had my Nikon SP camera hanging from my neck.
We began discussing cousin Richard’s thoughts of where we would travel to first. A visit to Grand Central Station would be first and there were other options mentioned. Across from us a tall man in a dark suit broke away from his cluster of business men in suits. He seemed to be headed toward us.
Before he was far from his friends and not yet halfway to us, this guy was all but shouting and saying clearly to us “I bet you are really surprised to see me.”
There wasn’t any other person in our part of the waiting area, so it looked pretty likely that we must have been who he was shouting to. He got closer until he was pretty much ‘in our faces” and we heard him say “…bet you are surprised to see me here this morning.”
It wasn’t a question.
Richard was staring at the man’s face who was now about 5 feet from his and mine. He didn’t really need to continue to shout but he did. “What a surprise, to see me here.”
Being the older of the two, I suppose it seemed to me that I should respond. The man’s face was becoming increasingly familiar to me. I’d seen it before, probably. By now he had joined us and we were three people standing at the platform. Two people, Richard and me, were stunned and the other was expecting an answer.
Behind him I could see the group that he had left. And they were watching.
In addition, his voice was stunningly recognizable to this first timer in Stamford. I looked at Richard and then Richard looked at me.
Things were moving fast. In a matter of seconds it was pretty clear he would continue his questioning of us. So, being responsible for a reply, I mustered my best intuition to handle the situation. Intuition that I knew was wrong. Intuition that might only embarrass me later. I answered in a voice almost loud enough to match his. “Yes, you are Shelly Berman.”
His face flattened. His eyes looked me over, from my hair to my shoes. He quickly turned and walked away.
The cluster of his friends broke out in a big laugh. He walked back to them immediately.
I watched him return to his group and continued puzzling my brain for the right name of this imposing man. Richard offered no support. He was stone faced. That was probably best.
The awkward confrontation was over.
Then the man turned toward us again and walked nearly halfway in the little distance from his group to our duo. “You must be one of those wise asses,” he said clearly to me. Then he returned to his group. The group was still chuckling as he returned.
I didn’t see Howard Cosell again. Once on the train Richard gave me the name that I had wanted to remember.
Howard Cosell was taller that Shelly Berman I was sure. Younger too. Voice was definitely a giveaway to just about any clear headed traveler. Except me, in that instance. It was the voice I liked from Monday Night Football and he was the guy who made Mohammed Ali interviews so good.
It all happened so fast. That was 1970. A good year.
I have never had a clue as to why Mr. Cosell approached us that day. I think that calling me a wise ass just didn’t fit the bill. Who was more stunned? I can’t say.