“Lisa, Bobby Orr is on the line.”
My palms got sweaty and I took a deep breath. I was organizing an event that the former Boston Bruin was involved with, but I never expected him to call me. Several colleagues gathered around my cubicle, incredulous that a junior level PR girl was talking to the living legend. I hung up and swiveled my chair around. “I’m going to Bobby’s house tomorrow to bring him to the event,” I told the group nonchalantly.
I was cool on the outside. Inside, my mind raced. I imagined the look on Bobby’s face when he saw my old Honda Civic croak up his manicured driveway. What if the car broke down on the way to the event? Worse yet, what if we got into a crash? But talk about the publicity! (As long as no one got hurt, of course.) I thought about putting the client’s banner on my bumper. Fortunately, I emerged from my panic stricken mania and good sense kicked in. I dialed a car service, but before I could say, “Do you have a car available tomorrow?” I got buzzed on the other line. This time, it was an assistant. Mr. Orr was all set, no need to pick him up. To say I was relieved would be an understatement.
The event was being held to promote a local real estate project. Bobby had been asked by his friend (the developer and my client) to come and sign autographs. When the event was over, he signed an autograph for me.
Just before he left, told him how my grandmother worshiped him. How she and I watched the Stanley Cup playoffs for hours. That she cried when he got traded to the Chicago Blackhawks. He must have heard these stories on a daily basis. As Bobby listened politely, I quickly grabbed another photo for him to sign. “You can make it out to Ethel,” I said excitedly.
I was crestfallen when Bobby asked for her address. I preferred getting his autograph then and there. “Thank you so much, but that’s alright, I said. “My Nana will be so happy to get this one.”
Bobby still preferred to send Nana a color photo. As I wrote down the address, I thought, “Oh well, I tried.” I imagined the golden opportunity was lost. Who could blame him if he forgot? He has hundreds of fans. Sending an autograph, to a little old lady he never met, wouldn’t stay on his radar. So I didn’t tell Nana about my interaction with her hero.
Weeks later, Nana called. “You wouldn’t believe what I got in the mail today!” I played dumb but was hoping it was from the famous athlete. I was elated when she confirmed this. “The greatest hockey player who ever lived remembered Ethel!”
Bobby Orr is unique. In a world where many celebrities behave badly and shamelessly promote themselves, he does things for all the right reasons. He recently told the Boston Globe’s Bob Hohler,
“If you’re going to help someone, you sneak in, you sneak out… I don’t do things to get ink.” He also said athletes should live up to a special code of conduct. “Once you’ve turned pro and you’re making the big bucks and kids are buying your sneakers and your skates and your gloves and so on, you are a member of that role model club.”
Years after my client’s event, I attended a function where Bobby was the guest of honor. After waiting in an endless line, I got to shake his hand once again. I asked if he remembered me. Graciously, he said, “Of course I do. ” He agreed to a photo that I treasure to this day.
His new book, Orr: My Story, comes out this week. I do not represent Bobby Orr, or his publisher, and have no stake in whether or not it sells. I have no idea whether or not it will reach the wide audience it deserves. What I am sure about is that this bio should be read by actors, kids, young adults, parents, teachers and anyone in a position to influence others, or be influenced themselves. Bobby Orr is the consummate gentleman and an example of how everyone — famous or not — should be.
Come to think of it, he probably wouldn’t have minded my old Honda Civic after all.