I was intrigued when he told me he was on the Ed Sullivan Show.
“Why did you contact me?” I asked.
“Well,” he said as he smiled, touched the rim of his cap and jingled his keys, “I’ve read some of your stuff in the ProJo and thought I would like to meet you.”
His wife Vicky nodded and said, “He’s always doing stuff like this. He has a million stories.”
Indeed, John Gartner did and had. He grew up in Rhode Island and made the rounds of teaching his love, Jiu Jitsu; so much so that he was a darling of the stars of fifties television and movies … Ed Sullivan, Lucille Ball, Jack Paar.
He has a picture standing next to Alan Ladd. Even though John has lost some height (he was 5’11’, 190) these days, he still seemed quite able. “No one could take me down,” he said with a bit of a wry smile and a twinkle in his eye. After shaking the strong hand of this 87-year-old, I believed him.
Arthur Godfrey signed him for a week of shows. Jackie Gleason hired him. He taught them and their children the art of Jiu Jitsu.
He also was a movie stunt man.
“What did you do after all this action, all this television, movies and stars?
“I was a social worker and a school principal.”
“My goodness,” I thought.
“I think I’ve had an interesting life,” John said.
“No kidding,” was my enthusiastic response. “You’d better write about it.”
“I will. You have given me incentive.” That pleased me.
C’mon… get going, John. We can’t wait for your memoir.