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Great Moments

Winning Over A Father-In-Law To Be
Brenda L. Buttner
From the Print Edition:
Sylvester Stallone, Mar/Apr 98

I came to the "interview" well armed, I thought.

But neither my Harvard degree, nor my ability to recite Larry Bird's latest stats, not even the pecan pie I made from scratch because I heard it was a favorite--none of this made much of an impression. No, on a first introduction to a future father-in-law, such things don't matter if you are the reason an only son just announced he is moving 6,000 miles away. Yet 15 years later, I am one of the family, almost as at home in my in-laws' Los Angeles house as I am in my own. In the end, it wasn't my Ivy League diploma, love of the Celtics or culinary talent that won over Joel Klane. Another credential persuaded him that perhaps I wasn't all bad: the one in my well-stocked humidor.

Of course, Mr. Klane didn't realize at that first meeting that I was a cigar smoker, secretly loving nothing better on a Sunday morning than café au lait, The New York Times and a smooth Churchill. I didn't often share this fact--those were the days before a woman could readily admit that she didn't inhale and didn't apologize. And Mr. Klane was pretty sure that, besides a love for his son, Larry, we had little in common.

We were different, no doubt about that.

He came from an orthodox Jewish family who had called a bustling neighborhood in Boston home. A leather goods salesman with a broad laugh and ready handshake, he built a million-dollar business from nothing and traveled dozens of times a year to exotic locales in Asia and Europe. I was a red-haired, freckle-faced "shiksa," grown up in a tiny farm town in the "salad bowl" of California, who liked books better than parties and had never flown on an airplane before heading east for college.

As we sat down for that introductory dinner in a ritzy New York City restaurant, the crust of disapproval was heavy.

"Why England?" he asked, not waiting for idle chitchat. I tried to explain that you didn't turn down a Rhodes scholarship, but he interrupted. "And what's wrong with our last name? I hear you want to keep your own." I picked at the salmon mousse, watching this important beginning quickly go from bad to worse.

It wasn't until the chocolate soufflé had been served and cleared away that I discovered a chink in his armor. Not until the moment he pulled a slender corona from his suit pocket, not until I recognized the unmistakable rich scent of an unlit Partagas did I realize there was hope.

He patted his pocket, then his wallet. "Damn," he muttered. "I left it in the hotel room."

I saw my opening. Although I had been known to chomp off the end of a cigar when a Cuban called and a cutter could not be found, I understood instinctively that wouldn't be his style.

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