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A Lucky Turn of Events - with James Caan, the actor

by Bette Jean (Blake) Herrmann

          I grew up in Sunnyside, Queens, on 40th Street on the south side of Queens Boulevard.  Both  sides of 40th Street were lined with small attached apartment buildings ending on 47th Avenue.  As a young girl I went to PS 150, JHS 125, and then by train to Long Island City High School in Astoria.


          As I grew up, I was introduced to James Caan by a young man named Gary Pace, whose father was a musician like my dad, and since they knew each other, we got to know each other too.  My husband also grew up in Sunnyside, north of Queens Boulevard on 39th Place, but he was four years older than I was and we had never met.


          After high school, I attended Queens College and became part of a wonderful class that included one of the great singer / songwriters of all time – Paul Simon.  As time passed, I became captain of the cheerleaders for the men’s basketball team.  

In those days, lots of Sunnysiders attended the men’s basketball games, and this is when “luck” intervened.

          During half-time at one of the games, in the middle of a crowded entrance area, I heard James Caan yelling across the floor to me, “Come on over – I want you to meet someone!”  So I made my way through the crowd, and met the two young men with Jimmy.  And one of them was, “Richie” Herrmann.


          As time passed, Dick and I started dating, and once went to see Jimmy in an off-Broadway show called, “La Ronde.”  As we now all know, Jimmy went on to Hollywood and starred as “Sonny” in the smash hit, “The Godfather,” and later on, starred with Kathy Bates in the movie, “Misery,” based on Stephen King’s famous novel of the same name.


          The night of the Queens College prom, Dick and I became engaged, and just this past June – 2023 – we celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary!  So – was my meeting “Richie” just “a lucky coincidence?” in a Hollywood movie, was it fate????

Bette Jean Blake, Queens College cheerleader.JPG
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