Fame by (virtual) association

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Fame by (virtual) association

Here are some rough ideas about how many virtual hand-shakes I am from some famous people.

Sarah Brightman

British actress Lesley Manville’s Wiki entry states, “After turning down teacher Arlene Phillips’s invitation to join her new dance troupe Hot Gossip…” Now, here’s a figurative handshake chain to me: Hot Gossip’s Sarah Brightman (her single, “I Lost My Heart to a Starship Trooper” was a big hit in Britain) is involved with Virgin Galactic and was at the roll-out of SpaceShipTwo, which long-time hang glider pilot Mark Stucky attended, being one of its test pilots (and now chief test pilot and, from December 2018, officially an astronaut). Some years ago Mark and I corresponded about hang glider technicalities, initially by post (snail mail) and then by e-mail.

Photo: MarsScientific.com/Virgin Galactic

Photo: MarsScientific.com/Virgin Galactic

Talulah Riley and Elon Musk

In August 1975 I met brothers Bob and Chris Wills, then current and previous year’s US hang gliding champions (respectively) when they came to Britain together with their parents, Maralys (the author) and Robert V. Wills (the outspoken lawyer). They are the family that founded Wills Wing, the world’s largest and longest established hang glider manufacturer.

Talulah Riley (Wikipedia image)

Thirty-five years later I obtained a life-size doll who I named Annabelle after the character in the 2007 movie St. Trinian’s, in which she was played by Talulah Riley. (However, there is no particular resemblance between Talulah and my Annabelle.) Talulah Riley was married to Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, principal rival of Virgin Galactic.

Annabelle Knighthorse in 2016

My Annabelle

Maralys Wills wrote the following about her landscape architect granddaughter Jamie, who carried out some work for Elon Musk:

…Jamie told us, “You can’t move from one room in Musk’s house to another without identifying yourself on each door with your fingerprints.”

I said, “Really?” and Rob said, “That would make it pretty slow going.”

Jamie grinned. “Everything about him is kind of mysterious.”

— quoted from It’s a Duck. And it’s Dead. A Trail of Adventure through Six Generations by Maralys Wills (2018)

Grace Kelly

Not too many came right out and said, “Oh man, I’d love to go fly a hang glider!” However, Princess Grace of Monaco (Grace Kelly) indicated such an interest at a party in New York City. She expressed an interest in flying tandem in Monaco, where hang gliding is popular.

— Hang glider manufacturer Larry Newman interviewed in Glider Rider, February 1980

Larry Newman and Princess Grace in Newsweek, 1978

Larry Newman and Princess Grace in Newsweek, 1978. Reprinted courtesy Ultralight Flying! magazine. (No larger image available.)

Although I never met hang glider and powered ultralight manufacturer Larry Newman (Electra Flyer/American Aerolights) I know several who have. He was introduced to Grace Kelly after his Transatlantic crossing (with Ben Abruzzo and Maxie Anderson) in the hot air balloon Double Eagle.

In addition, former actress Bettina Gray was one of the most prolific photographers of early hang gliding and was the mother of top pilot Bill Liscomb, who made the 2008 documentary Big Blue Sky. Twenty years before, Bettina Gray was a bridesmaid at Grace Kelly’s wedding to Prince Rainier III of Monaco.


A ridge too far, my review of the 1954 Korean air war movie The Bridges at Toko-Ri, in which Grace Kelly is the female lead

Life-size dolls

External links

Bettina Gray: See Photographers of early hang gliding in Hang Gliding History

Electra Flyer of Albuquerque, New Mexico (related topics menu) in Hang Gliding History for some of Larry Newman’s creations

Forger in Space flight and hang gliding on Hang Gliding History for more about Mark ‘Forger’ Stucky

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