Jackie Gleason

Jackie Gleason Feared of Flight

When Jackie Gleason needed $200 for a train ticket to New York (he was afraid of flying), he went to a local storekeeper and asked for a loan. When the shopkeeper asked for ID, Gleason took him to a movie theater to watch a movie he was in. Gleason got the loan, and paid it back promptly.

John Gleason was an American comedian, actor and musician. He was known for his brash visual and verbal comedy style, exemplified by his character in  Ralph Kramden in The Honeymooners. Among his notable film roles were Minnesota Fats in the 1961 drama The Hustler (starring Paul Newman) andBuford T. Justice in the Smokey and the Bandit series.

Fear of Flight

For many years, Gleason would only travel by train; his fear of flying arose from an incident when he had only minor movie roles. Gleason would fly to Los Angeles for movie work, then back to New York when his roles were completed. After finishing one of his movies, the comedian boarded a plane for New York. Two of the plane’s engines cut out, and the pilot made an emergency landing in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Jackie Gleason

While another plane was readied for the passengers to continue their journey, Gleason decided he had enough and made his way from the airport into downtown Tulsa. He walked into a hardware store, and asked its owner to lend him $200 for the train trip back to New York. The owner, amazed, asked Gleason why he thought anyone would lend a total stranger that amount of money.

Gleason identified himself and explained his situation; when the store owner learned of Gleason’s movie work, he said he would lend him the money if the local theater had a photo of him on display in his latest film. Since Gleason was not yet a major film star, the publicity shots the theater had were only of those with principal roles in the film.

Gleason then proposed that he purchase two movie tickets and that they both see the film; the owner would certainly be able to identify him from that. The two men sat in the dark theater for an hour before Gleason appeared on screen. Gleason got his loan, and boarded the next train back to New York. Returning home, he borrowed $200 to repay his benefactor.