It happened about 25 years ago, when I was working as an associate pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. Since many church members lived in the San Fernando Valley, I would often meet them at Paty’s Restaurant in Toluca Lake, a neighborhood in the Valley that was fairly close to Hollywood. Toluca Lake was known as a hangout for lots of movie stars, including Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Jonathan Winters.
During my breakfast meetings at Paty’s, I occasionally saw Mr. Winters. We was truly the life of the party, cracking jokes, teasing the waiters, and entertaining the guests, all free of charge. One morning, after I had ordered, Mr. Winters jumped behind the counter, grabbed the chef’s hat, and began cooking. He was telling jokes, flipping pancakes, scrambling eggs, doing impersonations, and filling Paty’s with his contagious laughter. After a while, he let the chef get back to work. I don’t think Mr. Winters actually worked on my breakfast, but I couldn’t be sure.
If you’re too young to know Jonathan Winters, just picture an older version of Robin Williams, a man of endless energy and laughter. He will be missed.
For a more reflective treatment of Winters’ life and death, see this post at The Deacon’s Bench.