Category: ‘Jason Robards’

Jason Robards Helps Me Smuggle – Conclusion

September 4, 2006 Posted by fairviewsue

I awoke the next morning in the Grand Hotel in Rome refreshed and ready to go home. Then I remembered that I was going to smuggle those earrings through Customs. A bit of tension crept into my bones then. My Ixspa tennis bag was packed and after a cup of the delightful cappuccino from across the street, I checked out of the hotel and snagged a cab to the Leonardo da Vinci Airport.

Once there, I paid the cabbie and entered the airport. I had never been there during the day and it was a mob scene. I mean wall to wall people. And chaotic to boot. People were pushing and shoving so I held my carry on and shoulder bag as tight to my body as possible as I tried to locate check-in. Many men came up to me asking to allow me to let them help with my bag, etcetera. I allowed myself to be rude just to get the message across to all of them that I was not looking for help of any kind. After much pushing I was finally able to read a terminal sign as to where I had to go and then I had to push my way there. When I got close there were airport security/military men in uniforms with machine guns sort of guarding the perimeter of where I wanted to go. They were pushing people away with the muzzles of their guns. (Keep in mind that this was years before 9/11.) That was a bit scary. But, they lowered their guns to let me pass and it was less crowded beyond them.

I located my gate and got in line waiting for business class check-in. I was second in line and could hear the conversation ahead of me. The deep cultured voice projected as if theatrically trained and was instantly familiar. I knew who it was before I saw his face. When he was finished checking in, he turned and made a dramatic sweep with his arm and said, “It is you turn, my dear.” He offered a big smile and made eye contact.

“Um, thank you Sir.” I met his eyes and grinned back shyly.

He was dressed head to toe in a white linen suit and was accompanied by a sophisticated lady friend who acted like she has seen this show before. They strode away together.

My check-in went without a hitch. Then I proceeded to the Value Added Tax refund center. I had packed my bag with the Piero Guidi hand bag and wallet on top for this and for customs. I presented my sales receipts to the Tax agent and he refunded the tax I had paid when I bought the items in Rome by placing a credit on my credit card. Dr. D had brought the ties for Sean with him so that I could surprise Sean with them at Christmas. We would figure out who owed what to whom when we returned. Also, if Customs did want to see what I had declared all of it would be handy right on the top. The total of what I would be claiming was well under what was allowed per person before any duty needed to be paid, so I hoped no one would need to be going through my bag. Uh, now I was nervous again. Deep breaths. Better.

I thought about going to the Admiral’s Club, but I would have to fight my way through the chaotic masses again to get there. I preferred to wait closer to the boarding gate and shop at the little stores there. I was glad I did. Right away I spotted millefiore earrings. Just then I remembered friends back at work that I had not yet bought anything for. See, this is the way it happens. You see stuff you want to buy and think of someone to buy it for. I have always loved millefiore. Anything that is made of glass can be made with millefiore canes in it.




But, I bought a set of red and green earrings to match my friend Magdalena’s auburn hair. It is a good thing I did, because Magdalena, Terry and I were all pretty tight, and Magdalena could have been jealous that I brought something for Terry and not for her, even though Terry asked for the medal. Friendships can be complicated like that.

Finally, it was time to board. As usual, I was the first passenger on the plane. (Does that tell you anything about me?) First class was in the nose of the plane, and then there was the stewardess cabin, then business class, then economy. I had a window seat. A tall, middle aged beefy former military man took the seat next to me. He seemed amiable enough. The flight took off on schedule and we would be at JFK by 3 pm.

The in flight movie was Immortal Beloved. I had seen it and loved it. The military man had not. So upon my recommendation we watched it. The story is that Beethoven, played by Gary Oldman, was an abused child prone to ecstasy only when he wrote music such as his Ode to Joy. It was a very emotional movie and the military man even cried (though he tried to hide it). He thanked me for suggesting he watch the movie and said that he really enjoyed it.

Then, the cabin crew handed out the Customs forms for declaration of goods being brought into the US. My nerves started up again as I filled out the form from my receipts and determined that I owed zero dollars duty. I believe my hands began a fine nervous tremor. I felt like a criminal. What if I was discovered? What would I say? Would they arrest me? My mind just reeled with the awful possibilities.

Our landing gear dropped and I came back to reality. We landed safely at JFK and taxied to our jet way. I couldn’t wait to get off and face my fate. Everything and everybody seemed to be moving in slow motion. Not too many people got off the plane before me. I strode ahead at my New York speed with my Ixspa bag under my arm and there ‘he’ was again.

He was alone. So I strode up to him and said, “Hi. I know who you are, and I don’t was to bother you, but I wish you health and long life. I am a great fan.”

He smiled gently and replied, “Thank you my dear. You are too kind.”

I continued. “I have seen you in many movies and also had the pleasure recently of seeing you live in a play at the Yale Rep. I think it was a Eugene O’Neill play with Colleen Dewhurst. The title escapes me just now. But you were fabulous. You had such command of the stage, as if the part was written for you.”

“It must have been Moon for the Misbegotten.”

“Ah, yes. I believe it was. You were absolutely terrific in it. It was such a pleasure to see.”

“Again, my dear you are too kind.”

At this point we had reached kind of a dead end to the hall we were in. One could go right or left. I wasn’t sure where to go. So I asked, “Um, I’m not sure which way to go here.”

“Do you have bags to claim?”


“Well, then see those Customs Agents standing right over there?” He pointed at some men standing at tables not far from us.


“Well that is where you need to go my dear.”

“Thank you ever so much and it really was a pleasure meeting you.” We smiled at each other as we parted company. He stood his ground and waited for his lady friend while I walked over to meet my fate with the customs men.

They watched me as I approached giving me surlier looks with every step I took. When I got to them, one of them barked, “Who sent you here?”

I meekly replied, “Jason Robards did.” With that I turned and pointed to Mr. Robards who was still standing not far off from where I had left him.

The agents’ faces went blank and contritely they said, “Oh. Sorry. Right this way.” One grabbed my duty declaration and stamped it without a glance as they all but pushed me through customs in their haste to process me through. Next thing I knew, I was free and clear.

And that, gentle readers, is how Jason Robards helped me smuggle gold into the US.


I continued to exit the airport to meet my limo driver. I was the first passenger to get to the exit area. When I saw the man holding the sign with my name on it, I said, “You won’t believe who I just met on my flight!”


“Jason Robards!”

“Does he need a ride?”

Jason Robards Helps Me Smuggle – Italy IV

August 29, 2006 Posted by fairviewsue

The next morning after my shower, I put on my long madras shorts and sleeveless blouse. I brought along a shirt with long sleeves so that I could get into the Vatican later in the day. I went across the street for the best cappuccino in the world and then was on my way to get those earrings.

Unfortunately, he was not for sale. Or was he?

The jewelry shop was near by and was open! Hurrah! So I went in and the lady proprietor was quite pleased to see me. She immediately fetched the earrings from the back and they were just as entrancing as I remembered them. But, I told her, “My big problem is that I can’t get these for myself and bring nothing home for my twin sister. I have already searched your entire store and have not seen any earrings my sister would like.”

She said, “No problem Signora. Uno momento, per favore. ” She went to the front of the store and locked the glass doors. Then she went to the back of the store and unlocked the wall safe. Once the big safe door was open she began removing the black velvet lined drawers. Each drawer was about 2 square feet (0.6 meters) and she took out three of them. Each was piled with glittering gold earrings. It was a veritable pirates’ treasure of jewelry and my dream come true! I had to paw through it all to find ones that my sister would like. Once my heart rate slowed to normal and I could take regular breaths again, I began to look seriously and methodically. I found them pretty quickly. What a disappointment; I was having so much fun. So, I bought both pairs to the delight of the lady proprietor. Then I wondered about getting them through US Customs. So I asked the lady if she knew what the duty would be. I mean, she must know, all she does all day is sell jewelry to foreigners.

She said, “Ah Signora, no problem. Just wear them home and tell the Customs agent that they are yours and you brought them with you on your trip to Rome.”

Oh yeah, I thought, they will believe that. Right. These are the biggest, most opulent earrings I own to date. They just scream, “Look at me; I was bought in Italy!!!” I am fair complexioned and petite and really have to dress up big time to carry these babies off. I don’t think so. So, I thanked her profusely, she put away the drawers, locked the safe and unlocked the door and I was on my way.

Some sights of Rome that I passed on my way to the Vatican

My next stop was the Vatican to get the Saint Theresa medal for my friend Terry. I decided to walk since it was sunny but it was also getting very hot. I crossed Saint Peter’s Square and was about to climb the steps, when two Vatican Guards blocked my path. I had donned my shirt, so I couldn’t understand what the problem was. They seemed to be trying to be somber and quiet, but I was confused and wondering what was wrong with my attire. After some gesturing, it seems that my madras shorts did not cover my knees enough.

You may be cute, but you ain’t getting into St. Pete’s dressed like that.

Fuck! I was so frustrated. I hunted through the souvenir shops for a flag or scarf to cover my knees, but there was none. I was not going all the way back to my hotel; too far to walk, too expensive to cab. So, I looked in the shops just outside Saint Peter’s Square. I found one right across the street from the entrance to the square that sold religious articles. I went in. The medallions there were nicer than in the Vatican, but were not blessed by the Pope. I felt that I had failed because I could not get one from the Vatican. But, I got a really nice silver Saint Theresa medallion for Terry. [She was very pleased with it and I admitted the whole shorts incident.] So, just remember if you go to the Vatican, that God does not want to see your arms or knees. He used to not want to see the top of a woman’s head either, but he’s over that now. See, how over the centuries God matures?

On my way home, I wandered into the Villa Borghese to see the views of Rome from the hill top. Of course the Vatican Dome is visible from every where in Rome.

From there I could also see the Piazza del Popolo, which I don’t recall visiting on my last trip, so went down to see it more closely. That is the thing with Rome. Everywhere you turn there is ancient history. I was fascinated by the Egyptian elements of the Piazza as described in Wikipedia:

“An Egyptian obelisk of Rameses II from Heliopolis stands in the centre of the Piazza. The obelisk, known as the obelisco Flaminio, is the second oldest and one of the tallest in Rome (some 24 m high, or 36 m including its plinth). The obelisk was brought to Rome in 10 BC by order of Augustus and originally set up in the Circus Maximus. It was re-erected here in the Piazza by the architect-engineer Domenico Fontana in 1589 as part of the urban plan of Sixtus V. The Piazza also formerly contained a central fountain, which was moved to the Piazza Nicosia in 1818, when fountains in the form of Egyptian-style lions were added around the base of the obelisk.”

I was in love with the Egyptian lions and wanted to take one home.

The heat was overwhelming me then. So I walked back to the hotel, window shopping all the way. Once I arrived, I took a very refreshing shower and nap. The whole week hit my like a train. The schedule itself, Dr. D and I had done so much work, touring, shopping, and socializing. I was truly overwhelmed. I just wanted to stay in and rest. So I ordered room service dinner; some pasta and proscuitto I think and it was fabulous. I watched Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman in Italian and was able to understand it. Not a Saintly miracle dear readers, just a simplistic script and plot.

Then I began to pack my one carry on bag for my flight home tomorrow at noon. I decided that I would smuggle the gold earrings into the US to avoid paying duty. I was almost broke just from buying them in the first place and I had saved for just such an expenditure. I wrapped the bow earrings in tissue and stuffed them into a metal band aid box, and put my sister’s earrings into an overly large plastic floss box (the floss was almost all gone anyhow) and left a string of floss trailing out of the top of the box as if the spool was still in there. If the earrings were found there would be no doubt that I was smuggling them since attempts were made to hide them. Having never smuggled anything before in my life I was really nervous, but I decided that that was tomorrow’s problem. So I slept soundly that night.

Jason Robards Helps Me Smuggle – Italy III

August 22, 2006 Posted by fairviewsue

As the cab raced across Rome to get to company headquarters, it passed various tourist sights:

The coliseum

The forum

The war memorial.

We also saw an atractive young couple on a bright red vespa, who when they had to stop at a red light, began to make out as if it were their last day on earth. Rome, a city of passion and romance!

Finally we arrived at headquarters and met our colleagues, Alfonso and Valeria. Alfonso was Valeria’s manager, but Valeria was most important to us, because she was going to show us where to shop monitor the study. We did manage to find some time for her to look at our maps and show us where we could find bed and table linens, men’s ties, women’s bags and jewelry, etc. She was very sweet and beautiful.

Alfonso called a cab to take us to lunch across the street from the American Embassy.

What is it with Italian men? He was a flirtatious bastard and married to boot. Not bad looking though. After lunch, we went to the hospital and met with the potential investigator and sealed the deal. Alfonso dropped Dr. D and me back at our hotel and we arranged to meet him for dinner later that evening. Dr. D wanted to make the most of the afternoon of shopping, since he was leaving first thing in the morning on Saturday. So we hurried to our respective rooms to freshen up, changed into our shopping togs and met up in the lobby with wallets at the ready.

Off we went. Just a half a block from our hotel, I saw them. They called to me, “Sue, Sue. Come buy us. You know you must have us on your ears…”

Dr. D spotted them too. In the window of the jewelry store there was a pair of exquisite 18 k gold chalcedony drop earrings. They were topped by a bow, then a link of a heavy chain, and finally a drop of a spiral fluted ball of carved chalcedony for a bottom. The full length was a wee bit over 2 inches (5.1 cm), the diameter of the ball is half an inch (1.3 cm), and entire piece was very heavy; thank goodness they had a clip post. They were very opulent and feminine. Of course we went in. Dr. D and I were both in love with them, but I had seen them first and had dibs. His wife never really wore gold that much; she was more into modern jewelry anyhow. But he really liked them. In any event, we had only just begun to shop and were just out of the gate, so to speak, so I had the nice lady set them aside for us and told her that I would be back tomorrow.

We charged ahead for the Via Condotti and made it to the Spanish Steps. They were closed for repairs. Bummer! We couldn’t even go on them.

We then went into shoppaholic overdrive. We bought ties at Missoni. I bought two for Sean, and Dr. D bought one for himself.

Dr. D bought an embroidered table linen for his dining room.

Dr. D and I bought three wallets, one for me, one for his wife, and one for our assistant at work.

I bought a Piero Guidi handbag.

Then we found earrings for Dr. D’s wife. They were more of a modern affair, but still very Roman and opulent. There was a large amethyst at the post and a huge drop oval mabe pearl on its side at the bottom. They were 18 k gold. He needed lots of encouragement to buy it. But, what are colleagues for?

We then found ourselves at the Piazza Novona, quite worn out. We took a quick breather and a couple of photos sitting on the side of the fountain and it was back to our hotel to get ready for dinner with Alfonso.

We met him at an out door fancy schmancy place surrounded by hedges. He was there with his tall and shockingly beautiful wife. She was wearing a gorgeous sleeveless shift dress with long pendent amber earrings. Simple and elegant. I should say something here about Roman women’s style. They wear lots of heavy gold jewelry with everything. Even with jeans and a tee shirt. You will see a woman wearing a heavy gold chain necklace, or ring you could choke on, or earrings big enough that if you fell into the water they would carry you straight to the bottom. Yet, no one looks overdone. They all have the dark and exotic looks to carry it off. I found myself eyeing all of the women’s jewelry all over town. You just know it is all real. It was embarrassing. Anyway, back to dinner.

We started off with a cold baby squid salad which was delicious. Then we had some angel hair pasta with shrimp and I was quite full. Then we ordered the meat. MEAT! I deferred, but Alfonso would not allow it. He worried that I would waste away to nothing. So I had some filet minion. They all ordered heavy desserts, but I ordered the three flavors of gelato: coconut, melon, and kiwi. They were so refreshing.

By the time Dr. D and I got back to the Grand Hotel, we were thoroughly exhausted. He was flying back in the morning, and I had the day to myself to wander Rome and pick up those earrings I had seen the day before.

Jason Robards Helps Me Smuggle – Italy II

August 15, 2006 Posted by fairviewsue

Click on any image in this post to see an enlargement.

Early the next morning, Dr. D and I met in the lobby and decided to cross the street to the local coffee bar for some cappuccino and fresh baked biscotti.

We ordered, “Due cappuccinos Signore.”

They repeated, “Due cappuccinos!” They bustled about getting our coffees ready. First they made the espressos and then they swirled the foam on top while we paid. They were presented without flourish.

“Grazie!” we declared in our nonexistent Italian.

Standing there in a coffee bar in Rome, it was the absolute best cappuccino I have ever had in my life. I wanted to savor the moment, but we had to hurry to make all of our commitments today. We rushed outside to grab a cab to the Sistine Chapel.

When we got there at 7:45, there was a line just forming for the 8:00 opening. What a pristine and beautiful morning it was. It promised to be a hot and sunny day. Then the line began to move.

First we entered the Map Room. We were told that no photos were allowed in the Sistine Chapel or museum. So what does Dr. D do? He whips out the camera and starts to take a picture! I couldn’t believe his chutzpah! At least he only snuck in the one. No one noticed. Anyway, here is one from google that looks very similar to the one he took. I did not remember the Map Room from my first trip so I enjoyed it.

Then it was on into the chapel itself. This I had seen before. I remembered it as a graying series of ceiling paintings. But now, holy cow! The difference was as if lightning had struck. The images were so bright and new looking as if they were completed yesterday. I couldn’t take my eyes off of them. I stood stunned gazing upwards at Michelangelo’s devastating work. The scope of it was awe inspiring. I just wanted to lie flat on my back and study it all day. The crowd was silent as we all looked: stunned and amazed.

Next we went to the gift shop. There were many Saint Medallions and rosaries blessed by the Pope. I was supposed to buy a Saint Teresa for my friend Terry back home, but somehow I wasn’t in the mood to spend money after seeing the Sistine Chapel and I knew I would have other opportunities. Plus, I didn’t see anything I liked and it was crowded. We wandered out onto the roof of the chapel where there were views of the Pope’s residence. I was very thirsty and drank from a fountain, worrying that I would get sick, but I never did. It was pretty up there and we took pictures of each other.

Then we came out and walked to Saint Peter’s Square. The scale and hugeness of this space is impossible to imagine. It was every bit as big as I remembered it as a little girl. There are a few places on earth where a design has power you can feel. This is one of them. The power is crushing like a hand of the size and importance of this space. The 85 feet tall center Egyptian obelisk was first constructed in 13 BC and brought to Rome in 32 AD. It was moved to its current site in 1586. The obelisk is the foci of the oval which is outlined by four rows of Doric colonnades, each 60 feet tall. It was designed to accommodate 300,000 people to receive blessings from the Pope. The oval is 650 feet across the long axis and the area enclosed is about 12 football fields. The plaza was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, completed in 1656, and can be seen below as it looked in 1909.

Next, we walked up the steps to enter the church (um, you know, Saint Peter’s Basilica). Even though it was hot, I put my jacket on to cover my shoulders as required by the quiet and solemn Vatican Guards. We had to be really quick to make our appointment with our Roman colleague. Only a quick glimpse and we were out of there. We literally ran up, respectfully of course, to look down on Saint Peter’s tomb beneath the spectacular black marble spiral columns of the altar (also designed by Bernini) and we had to take off.

We had no time to admire the many other great works of art within the Basilica. Each nook and cranny, or in this case, nave and apse, is literally crammed with masterpieces such as Michelangelo’s Pieta. I knew, because I had seen them the last time I was there. It was a sin to leave so soon. Sigh.

We got outside the Vatican and Saint Peter’s Square and hailed a cab. Off we went at a run. I really must say, that guerilla tactics are not the way to tour a city in Europe. Stay tuned…

Jason Robards Helps Me Smuggle – Italy I

August 8, 2006 Posted by fairviewsue

Dr. D and I flew British Airways from Brighton to Rome. On our flight we could see the Alps from out of the plane as the sun was setting.

It was fully dark when we landed at Leonardo da Vinci Airport in Rome.

The jet pulled up on the tarmac and stopped. I was wondering what jet bay we were going to hook up to, but we did not. They just towed the stairs up to the jet and we deplaned. There were very few people on our flight and Dr. D and I were thinking that we could go through customs quickly and get to our hotel without much ado. However, then we saw the Aeroflot jet unload a full cargo of Russian high school students on a visit to Rome.

There were had to be hundreds of them all chatting away excitedly in their native tongue and all but running for customs. What a bummer. We would be marooned in a sea of them. We all entered the building and it was just like I thought. Dr. D pushed valiantly through the crowd, but we were not able to make it to the front as the students knew how to push too. There were only three customs agents; one for Italian natives and the other two for foreigners. Good god, it was going to take all night. So Dr. D stood his full height of 6 feet 4 inches and waved the good old United States of America passport at the Italian customs officials and it worked! They waved us out of the mob of Russian students. Thank god! I thought we would be there forever. We cleared customs without incident or delay and as we headed to the taxis we were accosted by multitudes of people offering to help us with our luggage, rides, tours, escorts, what have you. We were cool like the native New Yorkers we are and ignored them until we made it out to the street. We chose a taxi from the stand and took off for our hotel: The Grand Hotel Plaza.

Our boss, Dr. R, a native of Italy, suggested we stay there as a reward for our busy trip and well, just because he likes us. What a reward! The Grand Hotel is described as:

“One of the oldest and most prestigious hotels to be found in the Eternal City. Situated in the heart of the historical centre of Rome and only a few steps away from Trinità dei Monti, otherwise known as the Spanish Steps – home to Via dei Condotti and the best shopping in Rome. Established at the time of Italy‘s Unification, 1860, it has been a theatre of important cultual and social events ever since. Throughout the years some of its’ guests have included: His Holiness Pope Leone X, Charlotte of Mexico, Pietro Mascagni, Ignazio Silone, Robbie Williams, Andrea Bocelli, Kathleen Turner and many other actors, authors, musicians and imporantant dignitaries. The Grand Hotel Plaza has also featured in some important movies.

The nineteenth-century ballroom and adjacent rooms with all their stucco-decorations, and magnificent chandeliers combine to produce an almost regal atmosphere or “Grand Fin de Siècle”.

Our jaws dropped when we saw the lobby and the rest of the interior. Opulent was the one word for the place. There were crystal chandeliers, gilt work, frescos, marble everywhere, and big fancy tassels. The whole place was decked out to say the least.

After we checked in we decided to reconnoiter in the lobby. Dr. D was quite excited by his room and as usual we had to compare room amenities. We both had marble baths, floors and sinks with fancy faucets and frescos in our rooms. Some of our moldings were gilt. His room was a bit fancier than mine and we decided that tomorrow I would check out his room. But, for right now, we were both starving. What would be open so late at night (it was around 11 PM)?

We decided to head for the Fountains of Trevi and see what we passed on the way there. The hotel had some free tourist maps and we took one each and since both of us had been to Rome before we found our way there quite easily. We had some pizza and some gelato (I had chocolate, yum!) for dinner nearby. Of course the food was fabulous.

The Fountain of Trevi was designed in the Baroque style by Nicola Salvi and completed in 1762.

The fountain was just as I had remembered it from 1966, when I was last there as a 10 year old. At that time, it was daylight and the crowd was so big we couldn’t get near the fountain to throw our coins in. But I, as well as my sister and brother, snuck in between the people and as I got closer I could see coins on the stones that had not reached the fountain. They were from all different countries. I picked them up and tossed them into the water. Then I found a Japanese Yen and kept it because coins with a hole in the center were a novelty to me. I wondered if God would be angry that I stole a coin from his fountain (I was a devout Catholic then) but kept it anyhow.

In spite of the risk of water borne diseases, I drank from a small fountain at the right of the main one that supposedly is an omen that one will return. And so I had.

But now, Trevi was packed with college aged kids chasing each other and drenching each other with water from the fountain and laughing. Mostly it was the boys chasing the girls. Let me just say that Rome is a city filled to bursting with life, love, sex and romance. You see it everywhere and the Fountain of Trevi was no different. The Roman people are beautiful, especially the young men. It was entertaining to watch the playful flirting until one youth splashed me on purpose with a cup full of water. I was flattered since the boy was cute, but didn’t feel much like playing that game on my business trip. I sure hoped that the water didn’t stain my silk skirt. (After dry cleaning it didn’t and I was awfully glad there was only one more day and I had a spare skirt.) So Dr. D and I walked back to our hotel for a well deserved rest. We got back around 1 AM.

The next day was Friday and we would have to earn our keep again. We were getting up early to be waiting in line to see the Sistine Chapel when it opened at 8 AM since it had just been repainted. Oh, how one has to suffer on these arduous business trips!