Extracts from a talk by Richard Field to the Ladies Group

'Go West Young Man' - that's the advice I decided to follow

I was a bit laggardly in answering this call made by American Editor Horace Greenley to 'Go West Young Man'. That was in 1850.
By delaying things a bit I travelled to America in a bit more comfort aboard the Queen Elizabeth in a steerage cabin with four berths, costing me £72.
And then I avoided having the discomfort of travelling across America in a covered wagon by driving myself over 3,000 miles from coast to coast in a old Chevrolet I bought for $300 .....

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Meeting a future President

I landed in New York and quickly moved on to Boston, Massachusetts. at the start of the Kennedy years.
John F Kennedy was standing for the Senate, and in my new job as a reporter for the local newspaper I went along to report his meetings and had a chance to have a few words with him. Even then he was an imposing personality, and someone you knew would be going places. Next year, of course, he was the Democratic candidate for President and I remember watching him facing Richard Nixon in the first ever Presidential debate shown on TV.
Our paths were to cross again several times in the four years I spent in America.

 


Sparring with Cassius Clay

A year later I moved on to Louisville, Kentucky, on the fringe of the Deep South. Here I met Cassius Clay. I went to report his welcome home party when he returned from the Rome Olympics with a gold medal for boxing.
Here again was someone you knew would be going places. He was not only a phenomenal boxer but also 
a great personality. 'I am the Greatest' he proclaimed and nobody could deny it.
In his career he had 61 fights, won 56 times, and by a knock out on 37 occasions. He became undisputed world heavyweight champion.
He converted to Islam and changed his name to Mohammed Ali because he said Cassius Clay was his slave name. He then refused the draft which would have taken him to fight in the Vietnam War. He was stripped of all his titles, jailed and was in the 'wilderness' for four years before the case against him was dropped, whereupon he returned to boxing to win even more World titles. 

 
 












 



Walking across America - well almost!

I saw Englishwoman Barbara Moore on American TV when she embarked on her 86-day 3,000 mile walk across America from San Francisco to New York City, so I decided it would be good fun to join her.

I met her on an interstate highway in Illinois and and we strode off eastwards along the centre reservation, with cars honking as they drove past.

She suggested I might like to join her on the remaining 1,500 miles of her walk. But she warned me I'd also have to survive on nuts and the odd carrot which was all she'd eat along the way.

Apart from, being a vegetarian she was also a breatharian which meant she really didn't need those nuts and carrots but could live just on fresh air.That really decided me it was time to leave. So I bade her farewell and headed for the nearest Macdonalds!

By the way, she expected this diet (or lack of one) would enable her  to live to be 200 years of age. Sadly she didn't. She died in 1977 bankrupt and near starvation.

              

Stopping the clocks to meet W H Auden

                    
 

I met and interviewed W.H. Auden in a rather seedy bar somewhere in the Mid West at 8 30am one morning. He had a double whisky in front of him. It wasn't his first of the day.
What struck me was his very worn looking face and the deeply etched furrows on his brow.
Writing poetry had obviously taken its toll.
He, like many other poets and musicians, had moved to America at the outbreak of war, and he had since become an American citizen. I think he liked the idea of talking to someone from England and catching up with the news.
He would have been amused to have been told that years later it was his poem 'Stop All the Clocks' used in the film 'Four Weddings and a Funeral' for which he would be most widely remembered.

The poster I ogled outside our local cinema

As a schoolboy in short trousers about the age of eight I still remember the poster which appeared outside our local cinema for a film called 'The Outlaw', starring Jane Russell, I learned later she was the sex symbol of the day rivalling such later manifestations as Marilyn Munroe, Brigitte Bardot, Jayne Mansfield and others.
But Jane Russell was the first, and the picture of her (right) was what attracted a group of excited schoolboys crowding round ogling her picture after school every day. This was far better than homework!


And now I had a chance to meet Jane in Hollywood!


Now I had the chance to meet Jane in Hollywood. She was still a big figure and an imposing lady as you will see from the photo of her with me (right). I was relieved to see she did not bring a revolver! She was very amused to hear how I had ogled her as a schoolboy. How sweet! she said.









Meeting the world's
biggest showman!


Next came my meeting in Las Vegas with Liberace, then the highest paid entertainer in the world. He'd invited me to drop in to his glitzy club/casino where
I found him seated at his huge gleaming white grand piano, with a gold candelabra perched on the lid. He was dressed in an outrageously loud brightly coloured cloak with sequins on his red  pants. He had huge rings on every finger. He flashed his whitened dentures and bade me sit down beside him.
 'Hi, so you're from jolly old England. I love it and everyone there. They gave me a great welcome when I was last at the London Palladium. Next time I come I hope to play for The Queen. She will love me'.. I said she could hardly wait. 'Guess not' he replied.
 I complimented him on his attire. 'I had it specially made for your visit'. he confided. 'Very English, I  guess' He chatted about his other costumes (about 40), his recent big hits, how he loved everything English - you are English aren't you?'  
Then he started playing the piano, bouncing up and down on his piano stool, flashing a smile with his rings sparkling on his fingers and his sequins dancing on his pants in time to the music.
 When he had finished he shot out a hand 'Great to meet you' he said. What a character! What a showman!   What a show off!




 
   

















My invitation to attend an execution
In early August 1962 shortly after arriving in Oregon I received a rather unusual invitation. It was to attend an execution at the State Penitentiary in Salem, the Oregon capital.The man facing the gas chamber was Leeroy Sanford McGahvey (left). a 40-year-old logger, convicted of brutally murdering a 32-year-old woman and her two-year-old daughter.This was one invitation I turned down. It seemed to me to be a bizarre intrusion into private grief which might haunt me for the rest of my life.


One day I'm a cowboy and the next a TV star!

(I'm advised not to give up my day job!)


Now I'm in the Wild West and plan a career change, but I'm not much good at lassoing things! 

 

Better as a TV star in my new togs with my Rolls Royce waiting outside!


Meeting one of the world's great philosophers


Another fascinating person I had the chance to meet and interview was the great philosopher Bertrand Russell (no relation to Jane, I can assure you!) This involved a trip back to London where I met Lord Russell at his London home. It was a daunting experience to meet one of the world's greatest living philosophers and hard to think what to say or ask such a person. Before I visited him I had read the he had written his own obituary and had already sent it to The Times for publication at the right moment.

I asked him, about this. Was this true? Would he like to amend it? No, he said. It was what he thought should be said about his life, and surely he was the best person to know! So that, I believe, was what appeared in The Times when the great man died in 1970.


The Cuba Crisis - get ready to join the American Army!

This picture of an American plane buzzing a Russian ship laden with nuclear weapons and heading for Cuba tells its own story. This was when America and Russia came within hours of setting off World War 3. I was in The Oregonian newsroom that day, and the whole staff got a call to go to the managing director's office where he was glued to a TV set which was showing a picture much like the one above. 'You'd better all get ready to be drafted - this is war', he told us and that included me!  Happily Kennedy threw a blockade round Cuba and the Russians decided he had called their bluff, so the ships turned tail and war was averted. Back to morning coffee!


The President is assassinated - I get a call from America to report reaction from England


This was the scene in Dallas,Texas on 22 November 1963, with President Kennedy and Jackie in the back seat of the lead car of a motorcade through the city, and seconds before a fatal shot rang out which sounded around the world. I was back in England by that time, and at a dinner party when my host came over and said 'There's an urgent call for you from America, Richard'.

My old American paper wanted me to write an article about how England was reacting to news of the assassination. They wanted 500 words and it had to be with them by midnight Pacific time.  No time to finish my dessert!

Phoning over my report .....


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I lived in America from 1959 until 1963 when I returned to England to resume my career in newspapers in this country.

But I will always remember my four adventurous years in America!

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