It is with pleasure and delight that I introduce you to a man of many talents: Jim Klobuchar – the daily columnist for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune for over 30 years (and probably the best-known name in the whole upper Midwest), named the nation’s top columnist in 1984, finalist in NASA’s Journalist in Space project (a program cancelled after the Challenger accident), and up for the Pulitzer Prize in journalism in 2003. The man obviously just cannot stop writing : he is the author of 23 books on Amazon over the years. Twenty-three (!) —which makes me sometimes think that Jim Klobuchar does not have time to sleep.
Pastimes? You could always find him in the world’s far reaches, mountain climbing some of the world’s best-known peaks, leaving his readers in total awe with stories that have kept us at the edge of our seats for decades.
I can’t resist sharing a glimpse of Jim and his then teenage daughter, Amy, at the beginning of a 1000 mile bike ride from the upper Midwest to the high Rockies, naturally done in record time. (You may know Amy Klobuchar now as our senior U.S. Senator from Minnesota).
But, in a special place in Jim’s heart, that day that he danced and dined with the unforgettable Ginger Rogers remains a moment in time that will always stand apart. . . as you will soon see.
– Joan Larsen
Whenever I walk through a video rental shop, I slow down in the section usually labeled “Old Favorites.” I’m rarely part of a stampede in that part of the shop. Cary Grant and Madeline Carroll don’t draw salivating hordes in the 21st Century.
I read all the titles carefully when I reach the “I’s” as in “I’ll Be Seeing You.” It was a movie. It was also a song. And it’s never on the shelves.
But I do remember Ginger Rogers, with a slight ache and a smile. “I’ll Be Seeing You” was a film of the 1940’s, and I saw it, but that is not what the newspaperman in me remembers. And when friends ask what celebrity I remember most vividly I usually skip through presidents, generals, kings and quarterbacks and tell them about Ginger Rogers.
Remembering my adolescent years and the world-as-theater all mesh sometimes and lift me into a small reverie, which I suppose requires a little forgiveness. I settle back to a table at the old Sheraton Ritz Hotel in Minneapolis, ready to sing a song, which thank God I didn’t at that particular moment. . . Ginger Rogers sat across from me at the chic little table and seemed bemused.
She was in Minneapolis to appear in a style show for which I was a co-host. A Hollywood star was usually brought in to talk fashion and spruce up the show. This was in the early 1970s; Ginger Rogers was then in her late fifties, having concluded her sixth divorce.
She was chatty and lovely, still dancing and playing dramatic roles in films and in the middle of a physical fitness surge. During our conversation backstage she mentioned staying over in Minneapolis for two or three days to do some clothing promotions. She asked if it would be safe to jog through downtown Minneapolis and what were the best routes. I said it was safe and asked if she planned to jog alone. She did, but she preferred company. She smiled in a way that invited a gesture of chivalry. So here was a cue from Ginger Rogers, dancing partner of Fred Astaire, actress known to millions, but particularly by me from the old Ely Theater on the Iron Range of northern Minnesota. It didn’t seem the time to be fumbling lines. I said I’d be delighted to be her partner. I showed up at the registration desk of the Sheraton Ritz on Monday morning at the designated nine o’clock, wearing my running shorts and burgundy T-shirt. I asked the clerk to call Ms. Rogers, explaining that we had an appointment.
“Ms. Ginger Rogers?”
He phoned her room and seemed surprised when she emerged from the elevator a few minutes later in her running togs and her buttermilk hair. We ran up the Nicollet Mall, past the storefronts and through pedestrians who predictably gaped at the sight of a celebrated movie star running through the streets of Minneapolis. We diverted to Loring Park and came back through the city. The sun was out and she was relaxed and talkative and slightly exuberant. And then she asked, “care to do a couple of steps?” Meaning dance steps. I nearly froze. I dance like a sore-legged rhino. Here was Ginger Rogers asking me to dance in the middle of the sidewalk in Minneapolis. She extended her hands.
“Be kind,” I said. She was. She led and glided and did a turn, swung her arms and her hips effortlessly, bent her knee and it was over. The crowd applauded. I offered a prayer of relief. At the Sheraton Ritz before she went up to shower and change, we had a light breakfast. She was thoughtful. She asked about my work and Minnesota and a little about my life, and then I had to tell her about the Theater in my small childhood town. “The movie of yours that I liked best…” I started to say.
She finished…”was ‘I’ll Be Seeing You.”
How did she know?
“Fellows your age always remember it,” she said.
I’m sure they do. It was threaded into my growing up and all of my moony notions of romantic love. And that somehow wrapped Ginger Rogers and a song into my life. She played a woman convicted of a crime that wouldn’t get her two weeks of probation today, but it put her in the slammer then. She was out on furlough and met Joseph Cotton. The story was sweet and wistful and weepy, and the lyrics of the title song drew a picture that no teenage romantic of the 1940s is likely to discard.
Ginger Rogers teased me. “I suppose you remember some of the words.”
“I do. ‘In that small café, the park across the way…”
She broke in, half-singing, “the children’s carousel, the chestnut tree…”
The wishing well.
When she left she thanked me for the run and for the company, lightly gripped my arm, half teasing again. When she died 20 years later, I dipped back into that little scene and remembered her words as she left the table, giving her jogging partner a droll wink.
She said, “I’ll be seeing you.”
And perhaps she will.
Jim Klobuchar was a daily columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for more than 30 years and subsequently has written for many years for the Christian Science Monitor, which in 2003 recommended him for a Pulitzer Prize in journalism. He was voted the nation’s outstanding columnist in 1984 by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and in 1986 was a finalist in NASA’s Journalist in Space project, a program later canceled because of the Challenger accident. He is the author of 23 books, the latest being “Pieces of My Heart,” recalling his experiences as a mountaineer and in related outdoor ventures, and “Always on Sundays,” in which he compares the pro football he covered for 20 years with the billion dollar colossus it has become today. He has also co-authored with his wife, Susan Wilkes, “The Miracles of Barefoot Capitalism,” dealing with the worldwide phenomenon of microfinance that has uplifted the lives of millions of the ambitious poor.
“Jim Klobuchar is the kind of professional who makes other professionals admire him and envy him in some manner. He is good when he is light-hearted, but he does not have to be light-hearted to be good. If he seems to be having fun when he is writing, it’s no doubt because he is having fun. But there is plenty of depth in him.”
–Abigail Van Buren (Dear Abby)