"Riding along in my automobile..."

Charmaine Meets the Legendary Chuck Berry

& The heroic St. Louis couple who saved my day! - May 2007  

                   Message Board          Salmon Guinea

Soon as our plane landed from Miami to St. Louis, I went outside to relax while Bill was getting our luggage.  Standing outside in a remote area where some work was being done but no workers present... I saw a man who reminded me of the late actor Richard Boone (remember the series "Have Gun Will Travel" Boone played "Paladin").  This man was very cordial and personable as he smoked his cigarette.  Just he and me and the asphalt... and the cars parked about 75 ft. away. 

We began talking about the weather... you know, yada yada yada.  Suddenly I looked up and beyond the parking lot... now walking our way through the underground parking lot... and getting closer...  I said aloud, "Oh hell no.  I know that ain't Chuck Berry."  I looked again like maybe my eyes were in error.

See, I'm not from St. Louis.  I have never been to "Blueberry Hill" or other haunts Mr. Berry frequents.  Others around here, I'm sure... have seen him often.  Not moi... remember, I live aboard a sailboat in the Florida Keys.

Paladin calmly says, "Yes Um.  It sure is."

See, he can tell when someone has not seen Chuck Berry and is diggin' on Da Duck Man like the plows ve do'in in Illinois cornfields.  {I just had a flash: Bill Cosby is sitting at home... loving this website... and then I go and do some Ghetto-Talkin' and it gives him a terrific headache.}  Mr. Cosby, my sincerest apologies... but you know what I'm talkin' about... YOU used to talk the same way when you wanted to (or needed to!).  LOL  No disrespect, Mister Cosby.  I was diggin' on you too when you was side by side with Robert Culp.  Turned me into an "I Spy"... no lie!  'Cept my club was the "Eye Spy" Club... I was only about eight or nine years old. 

Okay.. back to DA BERRY MAN:

Paladin continues, "We just got back from playing in Greece."  He pointed down to the most guitar cases I've ever seen in one place.  Oh my! 

  Have mercy!

As Mr. Berry approached I said, quite loudly, "I know DAT ain't DE Chuck Berry.  I know it ain't."

Mr. Berry didn't skip a beat.  He yelled right back, arms in the air... "Yes it is Girl!"  He then outstretched his arms.  Charming.  I thought to myself, "Bill is never gonna believe this."  Here I got the legendary Chuck Berry all to myself.  Not a soul around except the Paladin Man... and he's probably been with Mr. Berry for decades.  Hmmmm.  I'm kinda likin' this.

Mr. Berry got all the way up to us.  He was in a bit a rush but downplayed it.  I was duly impressed with his savoir faire.  He began to reach down to grab up his guitar (I'm sure it had to be the special one shown above)...   He said, "I just might have strength enough to pick up this guitar if I got a hug."  LOL  Boy, did HE ask the right person.  Miss World-Class Hugger herself.  Oh yeah!  Gave him a big, big hug and told him I am sure he tires of it...but my white husband is inside the airport and he just is not gonna believe this whole story.  I have my camera right with me and must get a picture... if Mr. Berry didn't mind. 

"Now hold on... let me go get my car.  I'll be right back," he said.

You know me.  "You BETTER be back."  Not like a fan who was being pushy... but just as I'd tease my own brother about keeping a promise.  Someone else may not have understood it... but Paladin did... and so did Mr. Berry.

He smiled that slow, wide smile... then turned to skip across the parking lot like a man fifty years younger than he.  I thought about his famous "Duck Walk..."  The photo below was taken by Robert Altman.  I hope he doesn't mind my using it here.

So Paladin and I waited together.  He says to me, "He'll be back."  Such a nice man this guy who works with Chuck Berry.  He's a musician too... yeah, pretty sure of that.  He says, "Is that yours," as he pointed down to the asphalt.

I snatched it up.  It was my camera battery.  Fell out of the camera bag.  DUH.  I thanked him profusely...  Oh no... what if it's damaged?  No picture!  Hurriedly, I stuffed it into the gaping mouth of the camera... which is rather a mystery, being located in the camera's bottom.  Bad design perhaps.  But the crowd that wasn't there goes wild....

SCREECH!  Here comes Mr. Chuck Berry.  Looked like a Lincoln Continental he was driving... and he had on a hat that Michael Jackson used to emulate... looks like a Cabbie's hat.  Mr. Berry got out of the car and walked back over to us.  Paladin and Mr. Berry began to pick up the guitars and load them in the massive trunk.  There still isn't anyone else around.  Where is everybody?

"Hold still..." Da Legendary Duck Man was moving fast.  How old is he?  He moves better than I do on a GOOD DAY.  Tall, thin, looking very refreshed for such a long international flight... (and skipping across a parking lot no less)  he told me, standing still {for a millisecond} "Now, I'm not gonna pose."  And he said it from beneath such beautiful skin too.  LOL  I would expect no less! 

Have mercy.  SO I told him... of course he's not going to POSE.  But this camera and I have just recently started our relationship... shoot... dammit... where is that fast action setting again.  Dayam!  I laughed.  But I stated my case and he took pity on me.... by slowing down.  LOL  That's like sort of a MIRACLE for Mr. Chuck Berry.  He moves faster and far more fluidly than the EVEREADY Bunny.

Okay, so I got two... almost three shots.  As I'm shooting the last one here comes a number of people and Bill with the grocery cart the airport's call luggage carts... I swear they were grocery carts in a former life... the wheels never go the direction you're trying to steer.  Bill sees me take the last shot.  He can't see who it is I'm taking a picture of... but he saw the guy duck his head into the car and then screech off.  Yup.  Just like one of my cousins.

I say to Bill, "You're not gonna believe who I just talked with and got a pic of."

He says, rather matter-of-factly, like "I'm hip."  "Well, it was obviously one of your cabbie cousins but I can't think of which one."

SHUT UP!  NO HE DID NOT!!!  AND LOUD.  Hahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa  OMG!

Do I know my man or what??!!

A very well dressed man walks up and says, "It's okay.  I know who it was.  That was Chuck Berry.  He was on our flight."  See... this guy ain't from St. Louis either.

Bill overhears the man and says, "Nah Uh." 

I say, "Yah Huh."

So I quickly put the camera safely in its case and help Bill get the luggage to the pick up stop where we'll ride to get our rental car.  I call our daughter Breighan as we are in the car and heading for Springfield.  I tell her the Chuck Berry and Palladin story.  She's a HUGE FAN and so is her boyfriend.  They're loving it!!  We're driving to meet she and her boyfriend, Carter (first name Ryan... I call him by his last name) at The Cracker Barrel.  The whole drive I'm telling Bill the entire story.  He is fascinated.  He's loving it.  I say, ever so smugly, "I got da pictures!"  He says, "Wait til you can show them to all of us (meaning our daughter and Carter too).

I once saw a picture of Chuck Berry that I love to this day.  He is ON IT here:

Yeah... and you didn't think Chuck Berry was sexy did ya?

Mercy!!  Now that picture is hot and you know it!

Anywho... on with the rest... 

So we pull into Cracker Barrel.  I jump out and hug our baby girl who is standing there waiting.  Here comes Carter!!  Life is good.  Sweet!  Now for the pictures.  Opening the back seat door of the car... "Honey, where's the camera?"

"It's in the back seat."

"No.  It's not."

"What.  Charmaine, it's in the back seat.  Here... I'll get it."


How does a camera disappear into thin air.  Now Breighan and Carter are helping, "Maybe it's in the trunk."  I didn't put it in the friggen' trunk.   Where's the dayam camera. 

People in the parking lot begin to stare.  No problem, I'm used to it.  That happens to LOUD people like moi.  LOL

Okay.  NO camera.  Still no camera.

Bill slaps his hand on his forehead.  A light bulb just went off.  It ain't a good light, I can see that... "Don't go into the light..." No problem.

Bill says, "Charmaine.  Be calm.  But listen.  Remember when we got in the rental car.  It wasn't like it used to be.  We picked out the car."


"Then you went inside to the restroom."

"Oh my goodness."  It's all making sense now... I think.  I say, "Bill, when I came out of the restroom you were in a different car.  The one I liked at first."

"Right."  He says.  "And when I changed cars, I moved all the luggage to this car.  But I must have not picked up the camera.  It's still in the other car at the rental place."

What's the problem??!!  We'll just call the rental place and get it back.  Oh hellllll no.  RENTAL CARS.  In ours we found a 12 pack of Colt .45 with only one left in it... and a pair of pink and white shag Yeti Girl boots ... these things were like an entity(it's the month of May!).  I'm quickly coming to the realization that I'm never getting my camera back. 

Somebody got themselves a nice camera.  And why should they?  I have no ID on it or in the case.  I shake my head in utter disbelief... because now that we're thinking it all through, there is absolutely NO association on record anywhere that we ever were even IN that other car.  This is baaaaad.  This is sooo baaaaaad.  Why can't my Chuck Berry moment be like actor Adrien Brody's when he surprised Ms. Halle with that passionate, albeit sloppy, spontaneous kiss when she was presenting him with his Best Actor Oscar.  EVERYBODY GOT TO SEE THAT!   "Where were you when Adrien Brody possessed Halle Berry's lips?"  I know where I was!

Talk about THE KISS...  Rodin would be pleased!  I gotta hand it to Halle Berry... Ms. Berry... I don't know her personally... but she handled it like a World Class Lady.  Hot as a firecracker and cool as a cucumber at the same time.  I should be such an oxymoron: "Fire Cool."

Anywho... bottom line after the diversions:  No Chuck Berry.  No camera.  No shit.

We decide to call the Car Rental place as we walk into the Cracker Barrel.  Big run-around.  They say they looked in the cars, I told them it was a gray Impala.  I remember it.  I thought it was small.  Color... that's all I know... what kind of gray is that?  This is NOT working.  Bill tells the woman on the other line, a young black female (obviously because  Bill kept mispronouncing her name... he'd say "Lakeisha" one minute and then "Latrickshay" the next.)  What the hell is a "Latrickshay?"  NO one names their child Latrickshay. 

Okay... so on with the story... so

Bill is pleading for some form we can fill out... something to document the loss and the call.  Bill then told her about Chuck Berry... Bill told her all about the camera... enough of the 411 that if she found it she might want it.  "Nice camera!" she says.  LMAO  And she's from St. Louis.  She probably thinks this white man she's talking to is an idiot if he thinks he's going to leave a camera like he's describing in a rental car and have the unmitigated audacity to think he can talk to me and get it back.  Where does he think he is... Shangrila?"  Little did she know that the white man on the line had a black woman starring him down to HELL.  I was NOT HAPPY.  LOL

Well, we're screwed.  It's gone.  NO where to be found.  The rental place would not even take a report of it.  No paperwork.  "Call back in 24 hours."  What?  Is this like "We can't begin searching for your daughter until she's been missing at least 24 hours."  OMG!!!  If that's what the police do with PEOPLE... I ain't gettin' any one to find my inanimate object EVER.  Fagedaboudit.  You get the picture.  What a pun.  THEY get the picture 'cause someone has my camera and my pictures.  Even if they thought they could turn it in... they won't be naive enough to just hand it over to someone at the Alamo Car Rental Desk. 

Will they?  Won't they? 

We eat dinner, nice.  Meet a nice waitress who reminds me of a good friend of ours, Jane.  Talks just like Jane... and no one else talks like Jane Stahlings.  Jane, did you get married again and I got the former last name, perhaps?  Jane, how is not-so-little anymore Tad?  We miss you guys.  I love you Jane!

ANYWAY... hang in there with me..  now I'm fuller, fatter, and even more disappointed.  I drink three diet A & W Rootbeers and decide that dessert is definitely a must-do.

We get to where we're going and my phone rings after two days of exhausting all hope from the rental company, Bill's cell phone rings.  I can hear bits and pieces but he's excited about something.  I get closer to the door... he says, "This is her husband.  Well, yes.  Is this possibly about my wife's camera?"

He YELLS.... "HONEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

An Angel surely watches over we mortal fools.  It was Andrew S. Miller calling from New Orleans.  He had rented the very car where we'd left our camera and he and his wife just really noticed the bag as they were unpacking.  He says, "I thought it was something of my wife's and she thought it was mine."  We then opened it.  They were from St. Louis and were at a Holiday Inn in Na'wlins.  Andrew said the receipt was still in the camera case with my name and phone number on it.  Warranty card, THE PRICE too.  He said, "I know if it were mine, I'd want it back.  This is a NICE camera."

He agreed to send the camera to us in Springfield.  We agreed to send him a check to cover his cost.  He trusted us to do that.  I tell you, this man and his wife are two of the most wonderful people.  You could tell they are just good people.  They didn't have to try to find me.  But they did.  And Andrew was smart enough not to turn it in... he wanted to make sure it got back to us.

I reminded Bill that since Andrew has the camera and won't be mailing it off 'til the next day, he may as well enjoy the pictures I took of Chuck Berry.

"I knew that was Chuck Berry!  I told my wife that was Chuck Berry!!"  Andrew was happy to be vindicated.  Hahahahhahaa.  I tell ya, it didn't hurt that Chuck Berry was on my camera.  I'd want to know who has these candid shots of this legendary man.

However, in the case of the Millers, I'm sure none of that really mattered.  Here's what Mr. and Mrs. Miller wrote to us on Holiday Inn Select (New Orleans) letterhead.  He enclosed a note inside the camera case:

May 4, 2007

Mr. & Mrs. Ladd,

We are returning your camera as promised.  William, I hope that this gets you out of the dog house.  We are presently looking to buy our first digital camera.  It was good to have one to get a feel for it.  So you have actually done us a small favor.  We included a picture of ourselves and our address is below.  If you ever feel like forgetting this great piece of equipment again, just mail it to us instead.  (SMILE!!)

Andrew Miller

So now I can PROVE I met Chuck Berry.  Here are the shots of this extraordinary Rock 'n Roll genius.  Even Michael J. Fox did a Duck Walk... remember "Back to the Future?"  I'm soooo diggin on you, Chuck Berry!  Thanks for your kindness and warmth... and you can have another hug anytime you want!!  You're a peach of a guy and I adore you!

So big thanks again to The Millers.  And because of THEM... YOU get to see my quick shots of the Legend Himself: The Legendary Trend-Setter of Rock 'n Roll: MR. CHUCK BERRY:

                                                                             - Copyright Charmaine Smith Ladd 2007

Thank you Mr. Chuck Berry and to the "Paladin Man too!"


OUR GOOD SAMARITAN HEROES Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Miller of St. Louis, shown holding my now famous camera inside its bag.  What a beautiful couple you are, in many more ways than one!  Thank you, thank you, thank you both!!  Next time we're in St. Louis we'll have to meet.

I sent them a note and told them we'd find a way to thank them properly.  We sent them a gift... but wanted to make a tribute to them right here... and they don't know this is here on our website.  I'll give them a call and make sure they get to see it.


  Bless you both forever and a day!  Big BIG Hugs and Kisses.