Camping at the Waldorf Astoria

“An unusual conveyance,” thought the door man at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel to himself. Like most New Yorkers of that day he had never seen a half trailer hung over the bed and cab of a pickup truck. But with his usual aplomb, he opened the truck doors and welcomed a dignified Harvard trained university professor of philosophy and his attractive wife. “The caliber of people one would expect to greet at one of America’s finest hotels,” he probably thought.

The door man signaled the valet to come and park the strange vehicle. But laughter and talk inside the camper sent him scurrying to the back door. Before he could perform his doorman duties, the door swung open and out popped a notable writer/editor and a couple of country boys blinking into the bright lights of the Big Apple.

Doctor/professor/president Truman G. Madsen had arranged this dinner at the Waldorf for us and writer/editorElaine Cannon to show his appreciation. We were doing performances and speaking engagements at youth conferences in New York, New England and Eastern Canada. He was president of the New England mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and most of our performances were under his jurisdiction.

Truman Madsen was a man of consummate charm and charisma, comfortable in any society. A gifted speaker and writer, he represented the Church ably among the cultured society of Boston and similar environs. He also struck righteous fire in the hearts of the youth and the humbler folk of New England.

He also had a puckish sense of humor tucked inside his impressive cerebral cortex. It was his idea to come to the Waldorf Astoria in our camper, and he enjoyed immensely watching the doorman scramble to find and open all the doors of this truck thing that seemed to be disgorging people like the clown car in a circus.

Door men, bright lights and elegance were not typical accouterments of our meals on the road. Fine dining for The Three D’s was usually a truck stop, a burger to go, or in a pinch (we were often pinched) heating a can of soup on the camper propane heater. (Hints for homemakers: An elastic band hooked to the heater door will hold the soup can in place on paved roads. For bumpier trails use more elastic bands. Your standard can of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle will be hot in about 40 miles of freeway. Much longer than that and the can may explode and redecorate your camper interior and your singing partners.) The three of us dining at the Waldorf was about as likely as our truck and camper winning the Indianapolis 500.

Speaking of the epicurean aspects of The Three D’s, I remember one of the best introductions we ever got. At a big Boy Scout function the mc said, “We are in for a great treat. The Three D’s will now perform for us. I’ll tell you. I would rather hear these guys sing than eat. I’ve heard them eat.”

The dinner at the Waldorf was delicious, and we enjoyed the floor show, more accurately the street show. Having missed his cue at the back door, the doorman returned to the front of the truck to unruffle his dignity. Also to be ready in case the hood popped up and more people jumped out of there.