Ben Stein's Diary

On the Road to Napa

If only I could have trusted my driver.

By 4.9.14

UPI
Send to Kindle

Tuesday
Here I am in the Napa Valley at a hotel called the Carneros Inn.

Yesterday, I went to LAX to catch the plane to SFO. In the waiting area, I saw an astonishingly beautiful young redhead. The sun was shining through her auburn tresses and she looked like an angel. By one of those coincidences that rarely happens, she sat next to me in seat 6F.

She was even more lovely close up. She turned out to work for a super luxury brand called Burberry, heading a staff of personal shoppers who help well-to-do men and women buy things at Burberry. We had a great talk and I just could not believe how beautiful she was. A goddess. And down to earth and talkative. Just a dream.

She’s engaged to a successful businessman and I wish her well.

At SFO, as I was staggering out with my suitcase, I saw a stunningly gorgeous young Eurasian woman lying face down on a padded bench. I talked to her. She said I reminded her of Ben Stein, so we had a nice talk. I never do anything but talk to these girls: I am married and I am old and fat. Occasionally I find one who is a keeper for a lifetime as I did recently in DC, but that’s another story. Usually, I just say hello and am on my way.

This Eurasian girl was — she said — half-Vietnamese and half-Dutch. She haunted me as I rode over to see my dear friends, Al and Sally Burton, in the nearby burg of San Mateo. My driver was high or exhausted or distracted. He could not find an easy landmark, but finally we got there.

Al and Sally are saints. They are each 86. They were incredibly good to me when I moved to L.A. When I needed minor surgery in 1977 and had no one to care for me or even see if I survived the procedure, Sally said, “I will go with you and just sit outside the O.R. door until they wheel you out.”

In the event, she did not need to. My parents came — quarreling the whole time — and helped and then a charming girl named Mary Beaudoin became my nurse. She later became a highly anti-military, pro-Islamist writer, but that’s another story.

Al invented Win Ben Stein’s Money and was ever helpful throughout almost 900 episodes. He was as good a friend as I could want. Only a few like John Coyne and Phil DeMuth are in his league.

He and Sally moved up to San Mateo to be near his glorious daughter, Jenny, and I rarely see them. It is emotional when I do. They just have been saints. Sid Dauman was too, but he’s gone.

We talked about Norman Lear, Al’s former boss and my friend and mentor. Sally gave me a piece about Norman in the New Yorker (actually a review of a book largely about Norman). Then I got into my car and headed up to the wine country.

My driver got very lost and I was extremely upset and sick by the time we finally found the hotel. The driver had wanted to drop me off at a warehouse, insisting it was a hotel.

By the time I got to my room, I was FRANTIC and ill and hating that driver.

But I languidly watched Real Housewives of Orange County, an amazingly good evocation of women in California, and then a simply brilliant show on Bravo that just shows people watching TV and making hilarious comments about what they watch. Oh, I also watched a show called Southern Charm about drunk rich people in Charleston. It is a scream and I love it a lot. Bravo has hit the mother lode of humor and human insight.

Then a long sleep. Today, I awakened, lay out on a chaise and watched birds fly against a daytime moon, and then felt immense surges of gratitude to be in America. I called Norman Lear, uber war hero of WWII, flew 50 — yes, 50 — missions over Europe. This man is a huge liberal but also a huge mensch with great big steel cojones. I cannot even start to say how I admire him. He put on All in the Family, my Pop’s favorite show. I adore him.

Politically, we are on different planets. But he’s my hero.

Then, off to cocktails with a great group of clients of Wells Fargo and executives of Wells Fargo. I had met some of them before and they are friendly, cheerful, self-confident, talkative people. My favorite was Mr. Wells of Iowa who brought me a delicious Blue Bunny ice cream sandwich all the way from Sioux City, and a spectacularly handsome couple from the South, Mr. and Mrs. John K. Hudson, Jr. I am going to help them with a little Scandinavian problem. My neighbors at dinner, Mr. and Mrs. Vold of North Dakota, Mr. Edelman from Kenneth Cole, and the breathtakingly intelligent Mr. and Mrs. Killinger from Maryland were all memorable. The whole group was memorable. These are amazingly smart, outgoing people.

Interestingly enough, there were many spouses at the event and close to half of them were men whose wives were the business players and executives in the family. The world is changing.

The speech went fine and I just fell in love with my audience.

 I hated to leave, especially to come back to a story in today’s Journal about some lunatics “occupying” the President’s office at Dartmouth and demanding more blacks and transgenders and communal bathrooms at Dartmouth. Amazingly, the President spoke respectfully to them. This follows a horrifying incident at Vassar where students who had visited Israel on a field trip were apparently terrorized by Palestinian and pro-Palestinian thugs — while the Vassar administration did nothing.

Oh, how sad and how crazy the academic world has become. Thank God for Pepperdine and Liberty and Sandpoint and Beverly Hills.

And for Mr. and Mrs. Hudson, who made me feel so welcome tonight.

Now, to bed. Unless Bravo has something I need to watch.

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article
About the Author

Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes "Ben Stein's Diary" for every issue of The American Spectator.