“Way back when I flew the red-eye from Vegas to Boston with Magic Johnson. I was coming back from LA and during the layover in Las Vegas, I noticed two very large men standing with their backs to the gate desk, with one only-slightly-smaller man hunkered-down talking to the gate agent. About the time it registered in my mind that it was Magic, there was a murmur of his name and an absolute surge of people toward him. The first two guys were his bodyguards/companions, and they earned their money in the few minutes it took the agents to deal with him and hustle him off to wherever it is they keep their VIPs.
Before they pre-boarded the flight, a scrum of Delta people and Magic’s friends appeared and boarded the plane, then reappeared. I never actually saw him board. Then they began pre-boarding, first-class, Delta preferred, with an announcement that we would be boarding from the center door and NO ONE WOULD BE ALLOWED IN FIRST CLASS WITHOUT THE PROPER PASS. As we were queued, a good number of people were stopped and sent to the end of the line. A snooty woman right behind me asked, ‘First or preferred?’ assuming I was neither. I got to answer, ‘Both.’ As luck would have it, my seat was right next to him.
As I got seated, I told him I wouldn’t bother him, and he asked me my name and shook my hand. This was before cell phone cameras, but I probably wouldn’t have asked him for a selfie anyway. We briefly chatted about why we were in Vegas (he spoke at a conference for minority franchise owners) and what we were doing in Boston.
Shortly after I arrived, he asked one of the flight attendants to collect any autograph requests and tell people he’d take care of them. The flight was uneventful. He listened to his Walkman CD player and slept. I read and slept. In the morning, I awoke to watch him signing some 250 boarding passes and slips of paper. When we deplaned, we finally stood together and I realized how tall 6’9″ really is (I’m 5’10”).
On the way out of security, my wife and I met eyes, then her head tilted up. Magic clapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Great flying with you, Tim!’
I was really impressed. Not only that he remembered my name after such a short interaction so many hours before, but that he spent a significant portion of his morning signing all those autographs.”