(Webmaster’s note – we are in the final stages of shifting Elden’s shooting articles to a new website completely devoted to the subject – stay tuned!)
When you are 83 years old like me, lots of little things pop up that bring back old memories. For instance, one day while looking through our local newspaper, the San Diego Union, I happened upon something mentioning Regis Philbin’s 86th birthday on August 25. With a smile I remembered that I was one of the first guests to appear on his 1960’s variety show in San Diego on KOGO-TV.
I wore two Smith and Wesson 4” Combat Magnums and performed some fast draw and fancy gun handling. I appeared on the show wearing my El Cajon Police uniform, something you’d probably never see nowadays.
Later in the 1960’s Regis hit the big time and moved to his first big market show in Los Angeles. He called me one day asking me to appear on his new show with a special request to bring some “real bullets” this time. I assured him I would, so on the day of the show I loaded my pistols, ammunition and bullet trap in the car and headed north for my second appearance with Regis.
During a short rehearsal before the show he asked for two things: he wanted to be involved in my performance somehow and would I please make it spectacular. I replied, “How about I shoot a cigarette out of your mouth?” He suggested, “How about a cigar?” I assured him, “At 15 feet I can put all the bullets in one hole, so I can promise you that your cute little nose will not be in jeopardy!”
Once the cameras were rolling, Regis asked for a cigar from the audience. No one had a cigar, but one guy brought up a cigarillo, to which Regis commented, “But that’s no bigger than a cigarette!” I said, “It is a little longer than a cigarette, so I’m going to remove the last 3/8ths of an inch for you.”
He agreed to give it a go, so I sat him in a chair in front of the bullet trap and took my position standing 15 feet away. I loaded my 4” S&W Combat Magnum with one 38 special wad cutter and asked Regis to place the cigarillo in the middle of his mouth, pointed straight forward in 90 degree profile, of course.
For safety reasons I had decided to employ the double action mode. I said, “Are you ready, Regis?” Suddenly the cigarillo began to quiver, which the audience responded to with laughter. I said, “You know, I’d rather shoot at a still target than one that is moving.”
Regis, with dramatic effect, removed the cigarillo from his mouth, looked at me for a moment, then returned to profile and put it back in his mouth. He sat calmly and waited. I took aim, squeezed the trigger and the end of the cigarillo disappeared.
For those of you who may be upset by this story, let me say that Regis and his audience loved every minute of the whole thing – as did I.
5/13/18 – Note – our editor Pat Rose did some online digging hoping to find a photo of this demonstration. While she did not find one, she did receive this photo and note from Mr. Philbin. Thanks Pat for your always great work!