A Bizarre Encounter with Richard Burton

My friend Jessie recently died at the age of 80.  Jessie was not her real name, nor was her sister named Libby.  The reason for these aliases will become apparent as you read.

In 1980 Jessie was divorced, and regularly went to plays and concerts with her older widowed sister, Libby.  This particular night the sisters went to the Arie Crown Theatre.  Richard Burton was reprising his starring role in the musical “Camelot.”

After the show Jessie was driving up Michigan Avenue, on the way to dropping off Libby on the Near North Side.  At Roosevelt Road Jessie stopped for a light.  She glanced over at the car next to her.  Sitting in the back seat was Richard Burton.

Jessie thought this was a great opportunity for an autograph.  She grabbed a book out of the back seat, and the pen she kept attached to the visor.  Lowering her window, she waved them at Burton.  But by then, his car was already driving away.

Undaunted, Jessie sped up, and made sure she stayed next to Burton’s car.  At Balbo a light again stopped the two cars.  Jessie again waved the book and the pen at Burton.  This time, Burton saw what she was doing—and turned away.

Still undaunted, Jessie continued to track Burton.  They stopped again at Van Buren.  This time, Burton didn’t even look up.

Now Jessie decided that desperate measures were called for.  As she drove up Michigan, he steered the car with one hand, while making certain clothing adjustments with the other hand.  When the cars again stopped at Washington, Jessie was ready.

Engaging the hand-break, she lowered the car window and arranged herself in it.  Then she banged on her horn.  In the car next to her,  Burton instinctively turned his head toward the noise.

Jessie was mooning him.

With that, Burton burst out laughing.  He ordered his driver to wait, lowered his own window, and nodded at Jessie.  She passed him the book and pen, he signed his name, then passed the book back to her.  “I love Chicago,” he said.  Then his car sped away.

Jessie told us the story a few weeks later, after Terri and I mentioned we had gone to see “Camelot.”  We were at Jessie’s house, and she showed us the book with the great actor’s signature on the title page.  It was the only book she had in the car at the time, and that made the story even more bizarre.  But Jessie always swore everything was true.

Richard Burton had autographed her Bible.


1 Response to “A Bizarre Encounter with Richard Burton”

  1. 1 benson November 21, 2020 at 8:13 am

    That is a great story. Thank you. And to “Jessie” for the great laugh. RIP.

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