Why you should never be afraid to start your own business!
(Photo of Ethel Kennedy, Wiki Commons, estimated date 1968)
It was a lovely September day and I was wandering around the office when Lauré poked her head out of the back office and said, “Are you expecting a call from Ethel Kennedy?”
Three questions: A.What is Lauré doing answering the phone? She’s the bookkeeper. B. It’s probably just somebody named Ethel Kennedy; not the Ethel Kennedy. C. Which Kennedy is Ethel?
“No, but I’ll pick it up.”
“OK. Her assistant placed the call and she’s supposed to be picking up.”
Huh. Maybe it is Ethel Kennedy. Was she married to RFK?Or was she the Governor of Maryland?
So, I answer the phone and there is, indeed, a perfectly charming lady on the line who proceeds to explain that every year she hosts a golf tournament for the RFK Foundation, which supports human rights initiatives all over the world. OK. That settles it. It really is Ethel Kennedy, Robert F Kennedy’s widow. Now what does she want and how do I wiggle out of this? This is way out of my league!
In a startling burst of insight and wisdom I realize, for once in my life, maybe I should just shut up and listen.
Mrs. Kennedy proceeds to explain that they always have a nice gift bag for each of the attendees at the event, and she would really love it if each of them could get “one of your lovely Apiana soaps.” Wait a minute! …she actually means it. She uses Apiana soap! And, how many attendees can there be? Maybe I can actually afford this!
“Now Joe, do you play golf?”
“Oh, Ethel, that would be stretching it!”
“Oh, I know what you mean (gales of laughter). I used to play myself, but not anymore. But if you want to we would love to have you join us.”
“Thank you, but I really don’t think that would work out.” Wait a minute. How old is she? I mean, how old am I? Are we, like, contemporaries? No, we couldn’t be – I’m positive JFK and RFK were older than me. Weren’t they?
“That’s fine, but anyway, we would love to have you for dinner. I always have everyone over for dinner at my house the night before.”
Your house? At the, like, Kennedy compound? “Uhm…that sounds wonderful. Why don’t you have someone send me all of the specifics and I’ll see if I can make it.”
“Alright I will. Let me just give you my home phone number in case you have any questions.”
Your home phone number?!?!?
I dutifully copy down the phone number and then spend 48 hours thinking “What if I never hear from anyone? Am I really going to call Ethel Kennedy at home? What if somebody answers? Do I ask for Ethel? Mrs. Kennedy? I mean, aren’t there like hundreds of Mrs. Kennedys?” Not to mention, “Did that actually happen?”
By the time a perfectly nice young lady with the, thankfully, perfectly ordinary name of Christina Taylor emails me with the details, I’m A) a nervous wreck B) dying to attend C) wondering just how much of the conversation I am remembering correctly.
Turns out it’s all legit: They really just want our soap in the “swag bags.” The dinner invitation is genuine. I can even bring my wife. I don’t have to play golf. Life is good. I’m a soap mogul! A Democratic soap mogul!
Like all good stories, this one ends on a balmy October evening (in Ethel Kennedy’s house!) in Hyannisport, MA. The food is delicious. The beer is cold. The celebrities are larger than life (like Bill Russell or John Havlichek), or smaller than life, like actors always turn out to be (Martin Sheen, Matt McCoy, Bill Murray), and the politicians have really shiny smiles (Steny Hoyer).
Ethel Kennedy is just as gracious and sincere as she sounded on the phone. In fact, her hospitality extends to basically turning a herd of folks loose in her house where there are photos of Bobby and the rest of the clan around every corner. Hmm. Is this the bathroom door? Nope — that’s the broom closet!
A good time is had by all, and everyone hopefully has a nice bath when they get home.