The great comic, Dick Gregory died yesterday, August 19th at the age of 84. He was a great man. You can read about his life here.I only meet Dick once. It was March 1964 at the San Francisco Palace Hotel Sit-in. It was one of a series of protests on behalf of African Americans who were systematically denied good jobs in San Francisco. I was just 19. Dick was 12 years older which made him 31. It started out as a peaceful protest in the lobby but eventually we sat in front of the hotel’s entrances. Then the police came and arrested us in a pretty brutal and forceful way. They threw us into police vans and took us to jail. After awhile, they booked us. The police organized us alphabetically. In those days, my name was Arnie Goldfinger (see here for an explanation of that).
I ended up standing in front of Dick. He could over hear my discussion with the police clerk. I was asked a number of standard questions. I was then asked to give my finger prints. The clerk would name the finger. I first gave my thumb, then my pointer finger, and then my fourth finger followed again by my pointer finger and fourth finger. Dick certainly noticed this. Finally, I was asked if I had any scars or incisions. I answered yes and explained that I had a major scar on my back as the result of a lung operation (true). I was then asked if anything was removed. I replied that both my lungs were removed. The clerk made a note of that and asked if it bothered me. I replied, “only when I cough.” Dick almost died laughing. We only spent a few more hours in jail together but we were friends during that time.
After that, I always paid attention to Dick and what he was up to and count him as one of the many fantastic people I have been lucky enough to have encountered.
It is so hard to imagine that some 53 years later, the battles that we fought then for civil rights are still going on. I am sorry for Dick that he had to see Donald Trump become President of the USA. That certainly is not a joking matter.
Here is some film from the sit-in. Just think that all the kids like me are now in their 70.