I had an uncle named Al Burns. He changed his name from Kaplan to Burns because he was in vaudeville and he and his friend George decided to name their act "The Burns Brothers." Yes, his friend and partner was George Burns.
My Uncle was the celebrity of the family. He moved to Hollywood with George and their mutual friend Jack Benny in the thirties. Unfortunately Uncle Al's wife Aunt Vi hated Hollywood and missed her relatives in New York so they moved back. Burns and Benny became superstars on radio and TV and my Uncle Al became a door-to-door Fuller Brush salesman.
My Aunt Audrey (Uncle Al's sister) had a charity that raised money for assisted living apartments for the elderly (In those days we called them old age homes.) One of her big fundraisers for the year was an annual trip to a Broadway show in Manhattan. My Mother bought two tickets for herself and a friend. The day of the show arrived and the friend bailed on her. Stuck with an extra ticket to a Wednesday afternoon matinee of "George M", a musical about George M Cohan, she decided to give me a day off from school to go to the show with her. Although I really had no interest in seeing "George M," I was absolutely thrilled about missing a day of school and going into Manhattan.
We got to the Palace Theater and took our seats about fifteen minutes before the curtain. Suddenly my Aunt Audrey spotted me, ran over and grabbed my hand, pulling me out of my seat. Why she picked me, I'll never know, but choose me she did. "There's someone I want you to meet," she said as she dragged me down the aisle of the theater. Being a pathologically shy youngster I squirmed as she stopped in front of an elderly gentleman. She pushed me toward him. Being only eleven or twelve at the time, I really didn't know who the gentleman in the horned-rimmed glasses was. His name was Jack Benny and he was sitting on the aisle. "Jack, I'd like you to meet Al's nephew Stuart" she said as she shoved me closer to him. He smiled weakly. I smiled weakly, We were both embarrassed but he held out his hand to shake mine. "Hello" he said, smiling slightly. My Aunt elbowed me in the ribs. "What do you say to Mr. Benny?" she prodded. I smiled shyly and mumbled "Nice to meet you." Benny acknowledged me with a nod and my Aunt dragged me back to my seat.
Years later I was a page at CBS in New York. Word went through the Broadcast Center that Burns was there to tape an appearance on a local talk show. Taking a page from my Aunt Audrey, I found out where he was filming and snuck into the studio. I waited until there was a break in the filming and approached. Before anyone could call security to have me tossed I blurted out to George Burns that I was Al Birnes's nephew (Uncle Al changed the spelling of his last name when he returned form Hollywood.) George dropped what he was doing and hugged me like a long lost son. He asked how my Aunt Vi was doing and said he would try to get in touch with her. We had a nice little talk and I made sure another page was there to see the interaction because nobody ever believed my story about Uncle Al. I showed them but good.
If it weren't for my Aunt Audrey I never would have met Jack Benny and George Burns. Sometimes it's nice to have pushy relatives even if they embarra** you in front of strangers.