My apologies, Sir Bygber, if I've already told you this story, and to others, if I have in the past. It is my last REAL Orson Welles story, and may stand as a metaphor for the lost opportunities of ones life, in general.
Sometime in the early 1970's, no earlier than 1972, no later than 1975, I was in the crowded downstairs bar of the Hilton Hotel, in San Francisco proper. I had come there to meet my wife who had a friend delivering a paper at the Convention of the American Sociology Association(?), up on the mezzanine level, and I was waiting for them.
The man next to me, a sociologist attending the Convention, struck up a conversation with me, as people will, visitors in particular, and just as he launched into a description of his specialty (sewerage in the City of Syracuse, New York), above the rim of my glass of gin and tonic, in my line of vision, passed a shadow from the sunlight outside, followed by a giant human. I adjusted my field of vision past the fellow talking about sewage flows, and confirmed what I already instinctively knew. The giant who had cast the shadow was unmistakably Orson Welles.
He did not seem overweight, in any conventional sense, but just a tall, immense man, tilted slightly forward, like leaning barn door.
Welles sat on a stray stool about 15 feet from me, and in a low conversational voice, with only an ironic hint of that famous timbre, ordered a short drink. I continued to watch him, losing track of what the New York Up-Stater was saying. Shortly, he turned his head and looked directly at me, and I gave him a tentative half-salute.
I reasoned that my erstwhile companion would be done with his story shortly, and I might go greet the genius I had heard and seen all my life, but the sociologist droned on with his statistical report, and I began to ask him leading questions to help him get to the sea with it -- or to the St. Lawrence, as it were. Finally, in desperation, I almost shouted: "You know, I'm almost sure that big man is Orson Welles, down there."
He flicked his head for a quick glance.
"Oh . . . yes," he said. "I think you may be right."
He resumed his story.
I stood up, and at that point, Welles happened to turn his head toward me, and he nodded, as if in recognition.
Edging away from the sociologist, I put my hand on his shoulder, saying something like, "And so, that was it. People flushed more often, during the commercials?"
"No, you don't understand," he said, his eyes blazing with truth; he took my arm in a firm grip. "That was only in the second cohort of the study. The other data in TS 1,3,4 and 5, amazingly . . . "
I looked up and away from him. Welles was on his feet, too, tilting back the last of his drink. He stalked toward the door like a man with an aching back, out into the sunlight, his giant shadow cast backward, and he was gone.
"Sorry," I said to the worthy academic, sinking back on my stool. "For some reason, I've lost the significance of your point."
Why Welles was in San Francisco I cannot say, but I learned long after that, supported by Welles, his brother had been living in the City for several years, and that he died here in 1975.
Given your interest in marcoshark's interesting contribution, Sir Bygber, I thought you might like that story.