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When Charlton Heston came to Chester

I had five minutes of Charlton Heston's undivided attention.

Heston talked with me in Chester on July 10, 1983, after he and other actors read from a podium in the War Memorial Building to help raise money for a new library.

The actors were in Chester that summer to film the CBS television miniseries "Chiefs," about a serial killer in the fictional Southern town of Delano. They included some big names: Wayne Rogers, Tess Harper, Paul Sorvino, Keith Carradine, Billy Dee Williams, Brad Davis and Stephen Collins.

The memories came flooding back upon learning of Heston's death on Saturday at age 84.

In Chester, Heston read a passage from the novel "Moby Dick" by Herman Melville. I sat in the audience maybe 25 feet away, and I was in awe of his powerful voice and presence.

I was a young reporter for a small-town newspaper. He was an acclaimed film star who had won a Best Actor Academy Award for the movie "Ben-Hur." I was nervous about what I might say to Heston. But he was warm and personable, easy to talk with.

I remember telling Heston that I was impressed with his raw talent, unfiltered by a TV or movie screen. He seemed grateful for my inadequate and unneeded critique.

He autographed my copy of the program, "An Evening With Charlton Heston."

It was a fun summer for a young reporter who was lucky enough to cover Chester at the time. I got to know the mini-series producer John Quill, who worked for Highgate Pictures out of New York. He allowed me access to many of the sets.

Quill got me a private interview with one of the stars, Davis. He had starred in the movie "Midnight Express" about a man in jail in Turkey for smuggling drugs. I took a photograph of him on the motorcycle he used as a police chief in "Chiefs." I remember him saying that he missed his family in California.

One day after filming, I ate with Quill at the Pizza Hut on the J.A. Cochran Bypass in Chester. He insisted on paying.

Another evening, I was driving from Chester back to Rock Hill after a day's work, and I stopped at Campbell's Truck Stop on S.C. 72. There was Quill, at the counter, eating a piece of cake and drinking a glass of milk. He insisted that I have the same, again on his dime.

Quill promised to get me a part in the mini-series so I could write a first-person story. I gave a photo of myself with contact information to the casting folks.

I got butterflies big-time when a rep called me at the newspaper to say I was being considered for a non-speaking part as a police detective. He called back shortly afterward to say I looked too young.

But I did get a part cheering in a crowd scene at a traveling carnival in the miniseries. After being fitted for a 1940s outfit early in the morning, I remember spending most the long day waiting as crews prepared for brief segments of filming.

I can honestly say that my face is in that same mini-series with film icon Heston, even though I am in a carnival crowd scene for just about one full second. Heston played Delano town banker Hugh HoImes and got more on-screen time than me.

The one regret I have is that I wasn't around for the auction of mini-series props after the filming ended. I was out of the country at that time.

But I guess Heston's autograph is a nice reminder of that one short but pleasant conversation I had with an all-time legend of the big screen.

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