Friday, January 11, 2013

My Friend Bill

It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of an acquaintance of mine named Bill Tilley. He was bigger than life on so many levels.  He had so many great stories that he enjoyed telling particularly after he had a few cocktails. 

I have no idea how wealthy Bill was but he certainly lived a life that most people would have aspired to.  We had a common interest in San Francisco and on several occasions I would accompany him to the City by the Bay aboard one of his many private planes.  The last time I rode with him our flight was delayed so that he could walk across the tarmac and say hi to his friend Baron Hilton who's plane happened to be parked next to his at Van Nuys airport. The two Tycoons were duck hunting buddies.. a sport Bill loved. 
On the plane, Bill encouraged us to eat the Fritos and Lay's Potato chips  on board because he said, "They pay for the plane fuel".  He was a major stock holder in the Lay's Corporation.  It was almost a duty to eat snacks when one traveled aboard Bill's plane.

About a year ago we were coming back from an evening in San  Francisco and had taken off from the Oakland private air terminal.  We all had drinks ready to settle into the quick flight back to LA.  I remember I was holding a Vodka Tonic as I sat across from Mr. Tilley on the plane. I lifted my glass and said to the others, "Here's to Bill, Thanks for the plane ride today." 
Just as the others said, "Here, Here." and raised their glasses the plane hit a nasty air pocket at 38k feet. I don't have a clue how far the plane fell nor how long we were weightless, but it was very sudden and very quick. All conversation stopped as we prepared to see our lives flash before us. Fortunately everyone was wearing their seat belt so no one was hurt.  
I managed to hang onto the glass I held at eye level, but the contents emptied completely into the face and front of Mr. Tilley in one instant dip of the plane.  I toasted Tilley's kindness and threw Vodka in his face at the same moment.  Thankfully he started to laugh as did everyone else on the plane.  My humiliation was tempered by a boisterous guffaw.  It will now be the way I remember my times with Bill Tilley.
I am reminded of a quote by an unknown sage, "Time spent in Laughter is time spent with the Gods."
Rest in Peace, Mr. Tilley.
As you were,

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