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Danny Thomas, Humanitarian

I was very saddened to learn of the death of Danny Thomas. His passing brought to mind an encounter I had with him some 24 years ago.

Does anyone remember when in the late 1960s, in a “kinder, gentler” time, people hitchhiked daily and safely along Sunset Boulevard? As a student at UCLA, I regularly hitched a ride east toward home from the corner of Sunset and Hilgard.

One day, a driver in an enormous magenta-colored Imperial stopped and offered me a ride. When I entered the car, I was astonished to discover that the driver was none other than Danny Thomas. When I told him that I recognized him and admired this work, he shrugged modestly and said, “Thanks.” When I told him that I was aware of his many humanitarian and charitable efforts, he said, “Others do a lot more than I do; I do what I can.”

He was very quiet--didn’t talk much--didn’t crack a smile or make a joke, but was interested in what I was studying. When I told him film history and film criticism, he said, “We need more people concerned with film history--but fewer critics.”

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When he dropped me off at the appointed corner, I asked myself, how many Hollywood stars would stop their car just to give someone a little help?

Today, I find myself asking the same question. I mourn the passing of this great humanitarian.

ROBERT CUSHMAN

Los Angeles

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