Letter from Karl Hegman:  "I'd met the man himself."

Dear Diana,

I spoke to Jimmy Booth at a restaurant in London in 1988.  My late sister's husband's cousin--Julie--knew someone with the Theatre that knew him.  She was makeup and set design, props, that kind of stuff, you know?  We only talked for a couple of minutes.  He was eating dinner.

She talked to the Maitre D', who went to the table where Booth was having dinner with his business manager (or accountant or agentówe weren't introduced).  Then Booth waved at her, and she went up to them and Booth gave her a kiss.  She was a pretty and petite gal.  I was standing alone for a few minutes and then the Maitre D' came to me and said, "Right this way".  I walked up the steps to where they were, and there he was, in the flesh. 

Booth had a dark blazer with a tie on, sideburns down to the ear lobes, and his hair was real neat and cut, wearing a gold watch with gold cufflinks, and he was clean shaven but had a dark and heavy look to his beard.  I walked right up to her and she said, "Karl, I'd like you to meet Mr. James Booth."  He was still eating (steak, beer) but extended his right hand and said   "Pleased to meet you."   

Me:  "It's an honor, sir, I'm a huge admirer of your work, Mr. Booth."  "Mr. Booth's my father.  I'm Jim, sit down."  He turned to his manager/agent (?) and said, "They must tike me for a proper mug."   Then he laughed.  They had been talking business and now I felt a bit awkward.

The waiter came up and asked me if I wanted to order and I said, "Red Johnnie, water back."  The two were still chatting and I was thinking of what to ask him, if I should tell him about [my feelings about] Hook.  Here was my HERO right in front of me.  He dyed his hair, I knew that, but it was full and he had thick eyebrows.  I was thinking to when he touched me, and his hands.  He had large hands and a strong grip.  I've got little girl hands myself. He took a drink and then looked at me.  "Where are you from?" "Houston, Texas sir.  I'm in the Air Force at the present and I'm stationed in Alabama."  Then he said, "Fancy meetin' a bloke from Texas, you know? Have you a horse have you?"  I told him I didn't own one.  "Zulu is my favorite film and Hook is my favorite character, ever."  He smiled and then was taking a drink.  I continued, "Man, you played the best soldier ever.  I liked you in Brannigan too. You're my favorite actor."  Him:  "Well...I hope I don't disappoint you.  You know...them are just characters."  The guy brought my drink and I said "Cheers" and took the shot and chased it down with the water. It hit the spot. 

He was looking at me now.  "You play sports?" he asked me.   "Yeah, a bit of everything.  Football at the present.  Season starts in two weeks."   Him: "Your idea of football and our idea of football are two different sports.  You ever play rugby or soccer?"   "No sir, but I know they are real rough.  My favorite boxers are English--Stracey, Conteh, Alan Minter, Henry Cooper."    "Yeah...But they are retired now.  The big name is Frank Bruno.  You heard of him?"     "Oh yeah...What a build! He's awesome, I used to box myself, Jim.  Say...What was Sho Kosugi like?"     "Sugi's a nice guy. You know I wrote Pray for Death."  Me:  "Yeah?  That was a wonderful movie.  I've seen it twice. You guys had some good fight scenes.  I like when you play the Thug, like Limehouse.  How did you like playing Hook in Zulu?"   

"It was a lot of fun.  I was just a lad then.  The Zulus had never even seen a movie or watched the telly before. Baker had to show them an old black and white silent movie for them to get the idea.  They did and were wonderful."  

His agent said something to him and I sensed my time was up.  "I better let you tend to business sir.  Thank you so much for your time, and being tolerant with me while I interrupted your dinner."    Him:  "Thank you my friend."  He extended his hand again and we shook hands. He also said something like, "Don't go puttin' word on the streets where I eat, mate.  I gotta have me privacy, you know? "    I told the waiter, "My check," and I stood up to go.  "Your money's no good here, Yank." said Booth.   "Thanks again, sir."  He nodded and turned back to his manager and I left.   I'd met the man himself.