Centerville resident and pharmacist Frank Reznicek likes to travel and over the past 15 years he has crossed paths with a number of interesting people. He got his first U.S. passport in 1990 and that summer he was on his first international trip to France.
One of Frank's most memorable moments occurred over 10 years ago when he was traveling with his sister in San Francisco. They were waiting for a small rental car to be picked-up at a nice hotel on Nob Hill when a big Cadillac SUV stopped eight feet right in front of them.
In a matter of minutes over Frank's left shoulder he heard the sound of high heels coming out of the hotel. He looked around and saw Oprah (Winfrey) and her friend Gail walking toward the Cadillac. As the two ladies jockeyed around their vehicle his sister moved to speak with Gail at the back of the vehicle. The driver was on the other side of the SUV putting bags into the back, which left Frank alone and only a few feet away from Oprah as she got into the back seat.
“Oprah is not that tall and I watched as she tried to maneuver four inch heels with low cut jeans and an orange waist level sweater into that SUV,” Frank said. “As she kept trying to get up into that back seat the gap in the back between her sweater and her jeans just keep getting wider and wider.”
Frank started to wonder what exactly he was going to see as this encounter unfolded. “For a second I thought I might help Oprah get into the vehicle since I was right there, but Oprah might have been offended, plus the physically fit driver might not have appreciate my hands-on help,” Frank recalled.
Reznicek had a camera in his pocket but just felt it would have been in bad taste to grab it and snap a photo of the TV star on that sunny day in San Francisco.
By the time Oprah had pulled herself up into that Cadillac Reznicek saw more than he wanted to and he knew without a doubt that Oprah did not wear any type of underwear.
On other trips to San Francisco Frank ran into Tony Bennett as he was walking through the Ritz Carlton. Frank didn't speak to Mr. Bennett but one of his friends chatted briefly with the legendary singer.
Frank had a moment with movie star Kathleen Turner in April 2007 on another trip to the city by the bay. Frank stopped into the bar at the Huntington Hotel for a quick, mid-afternoon Pepsi as he waited for friends to drive up to Napa Valley. A woman was sitting at the bar having a late lunch when she started to speak to the bartender.
“I knew instantly it was Ms. Turner once she spoke but I could not think of her name right away.” Frank recalled, “I spoke with her briefly about Iowa as she enjoyed her Merlot. Since I was the only one in this entire place besides the bartender I got her autograph as I departed.”
Another encounter Frank had while traveling includes sitting right across the aisle on a plane to Chicago with then governor of Iowa Tom Vilsack. “I was in a coach class seat but I was a little surprised to see the governor and his wife sitting in coach as well,” Frank said. It turned out that Frank and the governor had mutual friends from Mt. Pleasant. Reznicek was born in Mt. Pleasant.
While in New York City on a visit with a friend he learned that he was staying in an apartment located right next to the apartment of movie star Julia Stiles. Frank was introduced to the celebrity by the person who owned the apartment next door. Frank and his friend Teri stayed in the apartment next door for three nights in the big apple.
“We were actually asked by Ms. Stiles to have dinner with her at her place in the East Village on Saturday evening, but our host already had plans for us that night so we did not make it,” Frank remarked.
Other unusual encounters include meeting singer Debra Harry of the group Blondie and fashion designer Marc Jacobs at a book launch in New York City. He ran into movie star Kathy Bates in Paris at the Rodin Museum just before she was filmed in the Woody Allen movie, “Midnight in Paris.”
A few years ago on a flight back from Europe, Frank was seated across from drummer Ralph Johnson. Mr. Johnson is an original member of the six time Grammy winning musical group Earth, Wind and Fire.
Several years ago Frank bumped into actor Owen Wilson on a couple occasions in Washington, DC. Frank was visiting friends in our nations capital and it turned out that at the time they were filming the movie “Wedding Crashers.”
While in Italy at a small restaurant near the opera house La Scala, Frank and his friends sat right next to Italian film director Franco Zeffirelli and Italian actress Valentina Cortese on opening night of the opera La boheme in Milan.
In June of 2005 Frank was traveling with family in Lucca, Italy when they were celebrating the 50th wedding anniversary of his parents. He had arranged to meet a friend in Venice for a couple days during that trip. When he arrived in Venice Frank was surprised to find out that the international art show called the Venice Biennale was taking place. One evening on the way to dinner Frank and his friend Pam came across a small cocktail party at a nicer hotel along the Grand Canal near St. Mark's Square. “We sort of walked backwards into the gathering and Pam, who could strike up a conversation with anyone, started talking with a gentleman who turned out to be Bill Wyman from the rock group The Rolling Stones. I was introduced to the bass player and his small entourage and I was sorry we couldn't stay longer to listen to some of his stories,” Reznicek recalled.
Thanks to frequent flier miles in the spring of 2006 Frank sat right next to the three time world champion of mixed martial arts cage fighting, Bas Rutten, on a trip to Amsterdam. “He was a very nice person and had a good sense of humor,” Reznicek said. “ He was a good sized guy and he showed me his professional highlight reel on his computer during the flight. I really did not know who he was but after an eight hour flight across the Atlantic you can get to know someone.”
At the end of the flight Bas gave Frank his phone number and email and told Frank to call him if he had any trouble getting around Amsterdam.
Frank still has his information and had an email from Bas last year before another trip to The Netherlands.
Frank has become good friends over the years with a couple of the interesting people he has met on his travels. These include Sr. Helen Prejean, writer of the best selling book that later became a major motion picture called, “Dead Man Walking,” plus he is friends with former fashion model Teri Toye.
“Helen is just fun to be around. She is very lively and has a colorful way of telling a story. Some of my friends had a nice dinner with her in New Orleans last January. You would not know she was a nun unless you knew she was a nun, plus she loves a glass of good Bourbon,” Frank laughed.
“Back in the late 70s and early 80s model Teri Toye was a big deal in the fashion industry, especially in New York City. I was in Paris with Teri five years ago and she would just pick up the phone and call French designer Jean Paul Gaultier like she was calling Pizza Hut,” Frank explained. “It was Teri that introduced me to singer Debbie Harry in New York and Teri still has several designer dresses that she has loaned out to various museums for exhibits.”
Not many people have had Marc Jacobs send them a hand bag but Frank knows that not too long ago Mr. Jacobs personally sent a Louis Vuitton bag to Teri. Teri now lives in Des Moines and Frank plus a few friends dined with Teri this past New Years Eve to ring in 2012.
As a child Frank's parents demonstrated the importance of traveling, especially with regard to its educational value. Frank and his siblings spent many summer vacation days in the back seats of the family station wagon getting from point A to point B during the late 1960s to the mid 1970s.
Frank looks forward to his future travels and to all the people he might bump into. “It has been very rewarding and I have had lots of laughs along the way,” Reznicek stated.