I don’t know what year it was, but my Sheltie Tasha was young, so I’d have to guess mid 1990s. We were walking on Coast Village Road in Montecito one day, and Jonathan Winters came up to us. I mean I saw him nearby, recognized him, but intended to leave him alone. That’s what I usually do when I see a celebrity: I leave them in peace. I could claim that it’s because they have a right to a personal life when they’re not working. But famous people make me nervous. Still, Jonathan Winters changed his course and walked up and started talking to me about my dog.
Tasha was exceedingly cute. But that’s not why we talked for awhile, about dogs and what a nice day it was, etc. We did because Jonathan Winters was simply an uncommonly nice guy.
My parents have a good story about meeting Winters one evening years ago, in the Carrows restaurant in Carpinteria. They struck up a conversation, he sat down at their table, with his wife, and they talked for a long time. He was so friendly and likable; not a molecule of the self-importance or conceit that it’s so easy to associate with celebrities.
Tasha and I saw Jonathan again in Montecito on another day, and we chatted again. I think I said something like, “Thank you for making us laugh.” I hope I did. Because it’s not as easy as it looks, to get that reaction. I imagine it’s something you have to be good at, without the effort that would make it false. And it’s even harder – just by being yourself – to be remembered for being openly, spontaneously gentle and friendly.