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The Events

Fun Ed
Carl Meade

Jim Lovell

  Photo Credits: Mine
Jim Lovell greets the public during the Fun Ed reception.
Lovell's lunar helmet sports a Navy anchor.
Jim Lovell mobbed at the Fun Ed recption.
Lovell's lunar helmet sported a Navy anchor
July 21, 1995

This is a write-up of the Jim Lovell lecture which I attend on July 21, 1995.  At that time, the movie 'Apollo 13' which was based on his book called 'Lost Moon’ had not quite been out for a month. The lecture was being put on by a company in Dallas, Texas called Fun Ed. Fun Ed was a company that sponsored adult education seminars on various topics. Without a doubt, the lecture was prompted by the success of the movie Apollo 13.  The lecture was scheduled between 7:00pm and 9:00pm at a hotel in Addison, Texas.

Fun Ed also offered the option of a private reception with Mr. Lovell between 5:15pm and 6:15pm at their headquarters.  This reception was limited to no more than one hundred people.  Over four hundred people were expected to attend the lecture.  The cost for the lecture was $35 while the reception cost was an additional $19.

I decided to attend both the lecture and the reception.  A friend of mine and fellow space enthusiast, Chris Seaman, also decided to attend these events. At the reception, wine, soft drinks, cheese, crackers, and grapes were available.  It was not a bad way to pass the time waiting for the arrival of Mr. Lovell. 

The room was set up with chairs along the walls and a few tables, for the refreshments, located in the center of the room.  After Mr. Lovell arrived he went to the center of the room and spoke for a few minutes about the Apollo 13 mission as well as the movie.  Following his brief talk, he fielded questions from the audience.  I would guess that there were about 60 people who attended the reception.

Jim's impression of the movie was very good.  He thought Ron Howard and the folks at Imagine Entertainment did a great job in accurately presenting his Apollo 13 mission.  He mentioned that many of the fine details of the movie were indeed accurate.  Even the scene from the movie where his wife Marilyn dropped her wedding ring in the shower drain really happened.  He did add that the ring was recovered from the drain trap.

There were several questions that I was hoping to have Jim answer. One thing in particular that bothered me from the movie was when they showed the Command Module separate from the Lunar Module Aquarius.

This scene had the docking probe still installed in the Command Module docking collar. It was my belief that after LM jettison that there would be no point in having the docking probe there, especially with re-entry coming up.  Well before I could ask this question, someone else in the audience did.  Jim's response was, "Well, here is someone who really knows his stuff!"

Rats, I missed the accolades of Jim Lovell by that much.  :^(  Seriously, I was glad that the question did get asked.  Lovell responded that indeed that was a technical error.  He said that the docking probe would not have been installed for re-entry.  Lovell said that the problem was that they just did not have enough time to sit in on all of the special effects work for the movie.  This allowed a few technical inaccuracies to sneak into the movie. 

Jim was a technical consultant on the movie.  There were times during the filming when Jim was not available.  During those times, Imagine Entertainment brought in Apollo 15 Astronaut Dave Scott to act as technical consultant.

The first question that I asked Jim was about the movie's portrayal of the crew attitude towards replacement astronaut Jack Swigert.  Swigert was brought in to replace Ken Mattingly who had been exposed to the measles.  I wanted to know if the apparent resentment of Swigert really happened.

Jim responded by saying, "What Ron Howard was really trying to portray in the movie was that there was concern with breaking the crew up. It was not so much concern about Swigert's abilities, but concern about a crew who knew each other so well that they could read each other's voice inflections."

Jim said, "Swigert did a great job on the mission." He went on to say, "If the crew with Swigert as a replacement was not ready, that the mission would not have flown.  They would have delayed until, everyone was comfortable with Swigert."

The intent of Fun Ed was to have Jim mingle around with the people at the reception.  In theory this was a nice idea.  In practice though, it was doomed from the start.  Of course everyone who was at the reception was there for one reason, and that was Jim Lovell. 

When the mingling period began, everybody in the room zeroed in on Jim.  So instead of having a nice organized group of people sitting down, where everyone could hear and see him, you had a packed crowd where very few people could see and even less could hear.

The Fun Ed management quickly saw the error of their ways and tried to get everyone to sit back down.  I say tried because even after they asked people to sit back down, about 15 to 20 people stayed standing around Jim. 

They repeated the request.  These 15 to 20 people ignored anything the poor lady had to say.  I felt really sorry for her and ashamed of the manners of the people involved.   The Fun Ed person resorted to standing up on a chair and shouting.  This and only this dispersed the crowd.  People finally went back to their seats and Jim went back to the middle of the room.

Wine, cheese and Jim Lovell talking about Apollo 13, it doesn't get much better than that.  One lady at the reception asked Jim, "What was the one thing that made him scared?"  She said, "Getting on top of a rocket or flying as a test pilot really would have bothered me, but since those things didn't seem to bother you, what did?"

Jim thought for a few seconds and then responded calmly but firmly, "It would have to be women!  That is why I wound up going to the Moon; it was to get away from women."  Needless to say, these comments brought the house down and Jim skillfully evaded a personal question.

The hour for the reception was now over.  It was time to head over to the hotel for the lecture.  On the way out I stopped to shake hands with Jim and to thank him for coming.  I also asked him how many times he had seen the movie 'Apollo 13' up to that point. 

He responded that he had seen it seven times.  I told him that he was doing much better than I was.  I'd only seen it three times.  He admitted that several of those times were fund raising events.

One of the benefits of attending the reception was that it guaranteed you seating within the first four rows at the lecture.  This was very nice. Chris and I casually strolled in, unconcerned about the large crowd that was already in place and took our seats in the center of the second row.

Fun Ed was also selling books that Jim was supposed to autograph once his presentation was over.  They had both the hard cover version as well as the paperback.  I had brought a paperback copy with me so I didn't need one of those.  However since they were only charging $20 for hard back copies, I went ahead and purchased three more hard back copies.  Christmas shopping came early that year.

Jim's presentation was very nice.  He showed a highlight film that was put together when he and the rest of the Apollo 13 astronauts made a presentation to Congress shortly after their flight.

After he finished speaking, Jim again fielded questions from the audience. Some of the questions that were asked were farther out of this world than Jim was on Apollo 13.  It is amazing what some people will ask.  The every popular question “how do you go to the bathroom in space”, always seems to come up.

Once again I was fortunate enough to have Jim field another question from me. This time I asked him about the Moonwalk sequence that was shown in the movie, Apollo 13.  I had noticed that when they showed Tom Hanks, as Lovell on the surface, that on his helmet sunshade in the middle of the red stripe was a blue anchor.

I asked Jim if that was an accurate portrayal and what was the significance of the anchor.  His response was, "That is a very good question! It points out the level of detail that Ron Howard and his crew went to, in order to portray the mission accurately.  Yes the anchor was on my helmet.  I asked NASA for special permission to put it there since I was a Naval Aviator.  In fact you can see the original helmet with the anchor at the Chicago Museum of Industry and Technology."

I was pretty pleased with being able to get two questions fielded by Jim in one night, especially with the turnout of people at his lecture. I would guess that there must have been 500 or 600 people that showed up.

Once the question and answer session was over, it was time to get in line for the book signing.  The only problem with being seated in the first to rows was that the signing was to happen in the hallway at the back of the room.  That meant that a huge line had already formed by the time that we made it to the hallway.  Several hundred people were in line.  Not the best of situations, but hopefully Jim would stay around to sign all of these books.

I had also brought with me a nice color photo of the Apollo 13 Service Module that the crew had taken after they jettisoned it.  I brought a nice silver pen for him to sign it.  As we approached the front of the line, it was announced that Jim would only be signing books and no other memorabilia would be allowed. 

This did not thrill be, because I really wanted to get the photo signed.  However all was not lost.  Jim said that he would sign one piece of memorabilia per person, if they would get in a new line and wait until all of the books were signed.  That was a compromise that I could live with.

About an hour and a half or two after the lecture ended, Jim finally wrapped up his signing session.  You have to admire him for signing that many copies of the books for fans.  Other celebrities that I have dealt with, have not been nearly so generous.

It was a very thrilling evening to say the least.  It was not the first time I had met Jim Lovell.  However it was the first time that I been able to listen to him in person discuss the Apollo 13 mission.  It also gave me the opportunity to ask questions of this legendary astronaut.

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UPDATED : February 12, 2007
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